HUG the nearest overseas worker!

A year ago, a Palestinian friend asked me if I have any brothers. When I replied with, “I have two sisters, no brothers.” His eyes grew empathetic. “That’s so sad” he said, “you must have at least one brother to look out for you, someone who will take care of things in the house too. You should have a brother.”

I chuckled. Though accustomed to the male-centralized culture, the deep sorrow and hint of injustice in my friend’s voice surprised me. “Elias, I like just having sisters. And we can all do things on our own. It’s okay. I’m not sad I don’t have a brother.” He shook his head, surely pondering the fragility of what it is to be a woman without a brother.

Yesterday, over a year later, I was praying with a friend and she said, “like our big brother Jesus.” Aha! The uncorking reality of Jesus as my brother, my BIG brother, set in. He always looks out for me. He always helps me to get things done. He is my protector, my advocate, my good friend. He even beats up the playground bullies and their demonic leader. He loves me. Perfectly. And he has taken a lot of blows on my behalf, for my honor, for my purity, and for my access into the family inheritance.

He’s the best big brother a girl could have. Looking back at the conversation with my friend, I would add, “Jesus is my big brother. I have two sisters and one BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG brother!”

And wow. I know His bigness infinitely better today than I did three years ago when I moved to Israel!

Much of that awareness is born of loneliness. Painful loneliness. Knowing the Lord and hanging out with Him out of desperation, even out of lack of anyone else to relate to. And really, there is great accuracy and great training in that statement because ultimately, HE is my beloved. And I long to live in a place of constant intimacy with Him. I want to know what is on His heart daily and I want to share with Him what is on mine. It’s a discipline. Sometimes, being vulnerable is exactly what I don’t want, but it’s still what He beckons me to.

I am blessed with a tiny community of overseas workers here – a circle of less than ten people. And I cherish them. We represent many nations: England, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the USA. We all know the purging reality of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” It’s not that we take pride in it, it’s that we know the painful, private, powerful secrets that come from that sacrifice. We know the way that this isolation cultivates inner strength and a global perspective so dear to God’s heart.

We also know that it’s weird. It’s a weird life. The ten of us likely wouldn’t be close friends in another setting. Our personalities, foci, hobbies, sense of humor, and even our callings are very different. Yet, we understand each other more than most of our families do. We are each other’s advocates. And we often hold many things in common possession a la Acts 2. We share cars, movies, travel plans, ministry, books, and, at times, our very homes. For example, I will have stayed in the homes of 4 of them by the time I move September 2. When one of us is on vacation we’ve watered plants, started cars, paid one another’s bills, and checked one another’s mail. It’s a great blessing.

Still, the freelance, non-set hours nature of our lives often means we don’t practice the solid disciplines of fun and fellowship. Of the ten of us we attend 5 different churches. We easily get isolated in our own ministry places and since most of us don’t have cars, it’s challenging to arrange to get together. And those ministry places are often very involved and easily extremely draining if we are not attentive to maintain fullness in the Holy Spirit, rest with God, and community with others.

Many of us have Palestinian friends, but many are new believers or immature believers and while they draw strength from us, they are not people we confide in, seek counsel from, or dream big with. And I admit that often, at the end of the day, I prefer relaxing and sharing life with those who are more culturally similar to me. I don’t want to have to be aware of how I should accept tea, or how I should interact with men in the house, and really, I want a break from feeling SO foreign, so different. I want a break from being conspicuous.

And so, it becomes increasingly paradoxical that surrounded by people, we often find ourselves acutely lonely. We find that those in our first countries, our friends and family, have moved on in life – they’ve married, had children; they’ve moved and changed careers. We feel that we are out of sight, out of mind. And to a degree, that’s natural and part of growing, but it also can increase the sense of foreign-ness. The country one is theoretically supposed to most fit it, now feels like a futuristic film taking place in 2034, where so much has changed in the place and in you, and you are so very unfamiliar with what used to be as natural as blinking, you feel eerily alone. You know that you look and sound like a native, but you have no idea how to use a debit machine at the supermarket, nor do you remember that you must stop when a school bus has its lights flashing. You are disoriented, almost like you’ve been in a coma for years.

I’m sharing this, not to make anyone feel badly or to complain (on the contrary, I love the honor it is to serve overseas!), but rather to give a glimpse inside the life of an overseas worker – in particular in the Middle East. I want to encourage people to ENCOURAGE and support overseas workers – to write to them, to send them care packages, to give generously, to invite them over for tea when they are in-country and really listen to their hearts, to welcome them as part of the family – because they are, we are.

I sometimes think I would never commission one of my sisters to live overseas and then not encourage her, hear her stories, ask how she is doing and what I can pray for, or send her surprise packages. I would remain actively her sister. That goes without saying for: we are family.

As I wrap up my time here (3.5 weeks left!) I am asking these kind of support questions of other overseas workers here. And I see this puts me in a good place to share what I’ve learned. And my heart burns to see the body of Christ re-configure their approach to overseas worker support. One woman I spoke with has lived here 12 years, she remained through the second intifada when the streets were speckled in tanks and curfews went on for months, she remained through intense bouts with fibromyalgia (she’s now totally healed!), and she just took her first sabbatical (6 months in her first country).

She said, at one point, “that’s just part of all this, isn’t it? loneliness.” Perhaps it is, but we should all give one big group hug to every overseas worker we know. We should ask the Lord which overseas workers we are supposed to focus on supporting and then ask Him “what does this person need right now?” And whether it’s a simple postcard with a Holy-Spirit prompted verse on it, or the person’s favorite spice she can’t find in the place she lives, or an extra $25 to help with the higher cost of water in the summer, or a group email from his former cell group proclaiming breakthrough, or an envelope full of photographs that will make her smile – we must loose the purse strings on our generosity and our love and bless the socks off those who have dropped their nets to follow him across oceans and continents to the place the Lord has knit in their hearts.

And as we loosen generosity, we break the spirit of poverty – not only in our own lives and families, but in the life of the one we are giving to, AND in the people she is living amongst. Moreover, we are actively tilling fields of the Great Commission, we are agreeing with heaven’s mandate to “Go into all the world” and we are doing it in fullness of faith, fullness of hope, and fullness of LOVE – loving the sent and loving those she is sent to. We must move into a higher revelation of love in the body of Christ. We must think of one another higher than ourselves and live out radical service.

This clarion call is ringing the doorbell in my own heart too. It’s drawing me to more laid-down love for Jesus and my neighbor. It’s asking me what my place is in supporting overseas workers. And it’s inviting me to be a stronger support to the body of Christ. I’m excited! I love it when we get stretched to live higher and freer!

In a way, I wish the support networks of my ten friends could read this blog. I want them to know how to encourage these precious, valiant friends of mine. I want my friends and every overseas worker on the planet to feel an increase in love and encouragement. And I want every church in the world to better know their overseas workers. And every overseas worker to better know her sending churces. So we can celebrate victory together, declare healing together, journey and mature together, and fulfill the Great Commission with ease and radical love.

What wondrous partnership the Lord has set-up! My heart, like a bottle of soda water, wants to burst for joy and thankfulness for all the overseas workers around the world and for those who sent them! wow! I love the family of God! We are the materials of the impossible turned possible. Hooray! The Lord be glorified in all the nations! <Jesus, thank you!>

for water or for worse, for richer or for poorer

The Judean Desert has never been known for its abundance of water. The same goes for Bethlehem which sits on the perimeter of the Judean Desert. And so it is that every summer in recent history Bethlehem experiences a water shortage. The people of Bethlehem expect it and especially those living in the refugee camps.

I think I was short on water for a day or two last summer, that’s it. Well, this year I had the privilege of learning a deeper lesson – the lesson that came from a week without water.

It began one normal day when a father and his son from Aza Camp in Bethlehem showed up in their worn out white four-door Datsun-ish car that certainly predates my 30 years. It was around noon and it was quite hot – around 90 degrees with the fiery desert wind pushing the  flame into my eyes. The father explained they were without water and asked if they could take some of mine. I know the family, all 8 or so of them, and I was happy to bless them with water. Moreover, I’ve never known of a water shortage in my building.

So, they emptied their car of its many canisters and began to fill them up. The image reminded me of Elisha filling the jars with oil in 2 Kings 4. As they filled their “jars” I went inside to grab leftover eclairs that a friend brought the night before from the fridge. I put them on a paper plate and handed them off to the son. He smiled big. I was reminded of months ago when he and his friend (both 12 years old) spontaneously showed up at my apartment to ask for help studying for their English exam the next day. His face carries delight like a ripe apple carries the glow of the sun.

Well, they went on their way and I was so thankful to the Lord for the easy chance to serve this family. Easy took a turn the next day when I turned on my faucet and discovered I was out of water. Neighbors in my buiding assured me the tank would refill itself within two days so, since my landlord is out-of-country, I waited. Two days later my friend Natalie and I were on the roof of our four story building trying to siphon water from her tank to mine using a garden hose! Two hours later, gravity still stood in our way: the tanks were at the same height so, the water would begin to transfer and then halt.

So, I called the building handyman. And a few days later he showed up. Unable to determine the problem, he left saying he would return in an hour. Three hours later I called him. Despite saying he was on his way, it wasn’t until the next evening (Sunday) that he returned and the water returned with him. Granted, the hot water still has yet to makes its appearance, but I’m honored to have water again!

And it was amazing to me the thoughts that went through my head in my waterless week. It was amazing how the lack of water threw me off-balance. Sure, I could still shower by going upstairs to my friend Natalie’s place, and sure, I could still water the flowers using the building’s outside faucet, and sure I was touched when a friend came over to use my computer and ended up filling up my plain ol’ store bought water bottles with water. I was happy to have different sorts of blessings that the usual, but I was also off-sync. There was a large pile of dishes next to my kitchen sink because I had a game night at my place the day before the water left. I was washing my hands with water-bottle water. And my showers had to be planned ahead.

I felt like I was on a long walk with one barefoot and one shoed foot. I talked with God a lot: “Father, I must be able to be unaffected by my surroundings. I must be able to live without water, or electricity, or internet, or even in a time of war. I must be able to keep my peace, YOUR peace, in all circumstances. Help me understand how to better keep my peace. How to have your anointing IN, ON, and AROUND me ALL THE TIME regardless of the detours in my life. Help! Holy Spirit, teach me!”

I kept thinking of Sudanese refugees who trekked from Sudan to Israel in search of home. I kept thinking of the sacrifices they made, the strength they exhibited to simply keep their families and their own psyches in one piece, and how they lived in tents, in the open, in the homes of strangers for years. I thought about what my peace would look like in that environment. As much as my peace has grown in steadfastness over the last three years through overcoming: language gaps, culture gaps, financial stretching, lack of close friends, experience gaps from friends and family in the USA, physical hardship, and living in a place known for it’s lack of peace – I have so much more I desire in His anointing and the Holy’s Spirit’s habitation.

A week without water made me insanely thirsty. For more of the Holy Spirit.

I want to always surrender to the Holy Spirit, to always make a place for Him, to live in the righteous, joyful, fullness of John 7:38,

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

I believe the Holy Spirit within me makes me a well, for myself and for others. I believe my joy as the bride of Christ in my wedding vows to Him, include “for water or for worse, for richer or for poorer.” I resolve to perpetually be filled and re-filled by the Holy Spirit – always flowing with water – even when my apartment, my city, my nation are not. Thank you, Holy Spirit that you make the impossible possible! Thank you for carrying out the Father’s faithfulness and Jesus’ atonement! I will spend the rest of my life getting to know you and surrendering to your wind.  I love you, Holy Spirit!

Andrea and I on Herodian: Herod's summer palace (2006)

Andrea and I on Herodian: Herod's summer palace (2006)

active / نشطة

“I have an idea”

“I have another idea”

And so Keyla’s* walking cadence blends with her thinking cadence and her rhythm of new ideas, always new, never old, comes and tells me (in Arabic – aren’t you glad I translated it for you?):

Keyla: Dawn, I have an idea.

me: yes, Keyla?

Keyla: You can stay in Bethlehem. Don’t move back to the US. Stay here.

me: (laughter) Thanks, Keyla, but God has said to go. I will miss you. And I’ll see you again.

Keyla: but even my mother cries when she thinks of you leaving. (pause) I have another idea.

me: yes?

Keyla: go to the US, get your husband, and bring him back here.

me: (chuckling) that’s a nice idea, Keyla, but I must go back for a time. I don’t know if I will live here again.

Keyla: but we will miss you so much. Who will dance with Jesus with us?

And so the conversation floats and glides each evening. For over a month I have walked three evenings weekly with three MBBs from a camp in Bethlehem. Keyla, Zaara, and Lydia. It is their initiative that established the habit. And it is a gorgeous time for discipleship as we walk up and down the hills of Beit Jala, through orchards and around wadis (empty river beds). They stop and pick figs, grapes, apricots, cucumbers, apples, plums, pears, sunflower seeds and the regular free bottle of water from the restaurant 2/3 up the mountain. We also gather spiritual tasty treats: Joseph’s overnight journey from the prison to the palace, what it means to wait on the Lord, how to maintain one’s peace, what to do about those who are violent against them, what GRACE is, and how we train our hearts to love EVERYONE just like Jesus did. Of course, the girls do not speak English so, I find myself getting a mental workout that exceeds the physical workout as I fold together Arabic sentences like an origami paper swan in my mind.

It’s amazing to see the way these women encounter Jesus. Since they are from a M family in a very M camp in an 80% M city amongst a 99% M people, they do not have a rubric for what walking with J looks like. They also are without a community of believers. Moreover, because of potential persecution, they remain low-key about their faith. ALSO, they are women and thus, they are their family’s honor – if they do something to dishonor their immediate family or their extended family their lives could be in danger.

One day I was gleefully dancing along our walking path, singing to my Beloved and they began laughing. “Who are you dancing with, Dawn?” “Jesus!” I shouted back. And thus, it began… they have all begun spontaneously dancing with Jesus as we walk and even after they return to their house. Zaara says any time she feels sad if she starts to dance with Jesus a huge smile comes on her face! And she remains happy. And when she sings praises to Him she feels His presence! haha! One day she said, “Dawn, I have a question.” “Yes?” I replied. “Whenever I go to a meeting and sing songs to Jesus, when I go home I can’t stop singing and often I wake up in the middle of the night singing songs to Jesus!” She looked at me expectantly. “Um, Zaara, what is the question?” I asked. “Why?” she said.

I grinned a cheshire grin and winked at the Holy Spirit. And thus began another talk about the Holy Spirit and the things He gives us. : )

I love these women. Every evening as we scale the hills, when they tire and I maintain steam, they say, “Dawn, you are ACTIVE!” haha! I suppose a more exact translation would be energetic, but active (نشطة) has a different connotation in Arabic. Yet, somehow the Holy Spirit stirs in me in the midst of their observation – the joy of the Lord is my strength! (Neh 4:12) Even physically as we scale large hills.

One day recently I suggested we replace our walk with a journey to King Herod’s summer palace, Herodian, about 30 minutes outside Bethlehem. The girls had never been. We had a joyous time! We even got to see the remains of Herod’s tomb which was discovered only two years ago! As we were atop the mountain, we spied an Israeli Army outpost with many tanks outside. The girls were intrigued. One of them blurted out, “I love the Jews!” And the others chimed in, “yes, Dawn says Jesus loves all the people so we must also. So, WE LOVE THE JEWS!” I was happy-struck! WOW! To think, when I picked up the girls at their house that day they were tired because they hadn’t slept much due to the Israeli Army barging into their neighbors’ house in the middle of the night and the confrontation that ensued. They said they were very scared, but nevertheless, later that day they were atop Herodian proclaiming their love for the Jews!

” For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier,

THE DIVIDING WALL of hostility,

by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:14-18

From the Herodian we journeyed to Kheritoun – the largest cave system in all Israel/Palestine! It’s over 2 miles in length! After we poked inside one of the rooms the girls said, we should come back here again and sing worship song in English, Arabic, and HEBREW! (Mind you, the girls don’t speak Hebrew, but it’s remarkable to see the way reconciliation grows from their hearts!) They understand that, though it’s a hard call, they must love those their culture says are their “enemies.” They are living out a radical call to LOVE, to forgive, to approach those who have hurt them, and to sing praises to the Lord through a new river of unity!

I would say, that these women are ACTIVE! Active in love, in learning Jesus’ ways, in learning to calm themselves and listen to the Spirit despite what their environment says. And they are paving an irresistible revolution! They are forerunners! They are making the way for their entire camp and their entire people group to follow Jesus in passionate pursuit! It is a high honor to know them! I can hardly wait to see what the Lord does in them in the years to come! WOW! WOW! WOW!

* names have been changed

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Palestinian Dress

YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN

Okay. If you watched my first video update, you already know the skeleton to Joseph’s story. (Joseph is not his real name.) Here is the whole story from March until the beginning of June when he fully decided to FOLLOW JESUS! yeah!

a couple months ago my friend Peter, an American, met a guy, a Bedouin guy, from a nearby village – I’ll call him Joseph – and one evening while Peter and others were having dinner at my place, Peter got a call from Joseph asking him to come to the hospital to pray for his friend’s father who was on his deathbed. Peter asked if I wanted to go. I did. And so, 4 of us went. Peter and I prayed and sang over the dying man, talked with the family, and then Joseph invited us to his home outside Bethlehem. We went. Then we went to his cousin’s house nearby.

While Joseph and I were talking in the house, God gave me a word of knowledge about an event in his childhood. And so Joseph, shocked, began to tell me how his life changed from that moment on. This opened the door to lots of questions about God, His voice, His love, His presence. : ) And Joseph, eyes shiny, told everyone in the room what just happened and asked me if I would pray for his cousin – who is in his 40’s and really wants to get married. Well, the guy wanted prayer so I hopped over to him and prayed. I felt led to break some curses off of him; and I did, and he felt better AND he got engaged the following week! The family directly attributed this to the breaking of curses! (sadly, the engagement was broken a week ago). Regardless, this family really felt that God was moving in freedom and new patterns. <Praise the Giver! I love when God moves powerfully in Muslim homes!!! He’s a gorgeous lover! Overflowing in winks, hugs, and joy for who we are! He loves us SO much!>

Moreover, after praying for that man that evening, we prayed and prophesied over two of the other three people in the house! <C’mon Lamb of God! Revelation of atonement!>

Then, a few days later I got a phone call informing me the man we prayed for in the hospital died ten minutes earlier. I went to the hospital. He was already taken to his family’s home. He was sixty years old. His body lived through 4 heart attacks and many years in prison. His youngest child is 27. And despite his death, there is LIGHT beaming into his family. Though many Palestinian die early deaths, God is turning the tide. And I am thankful I was invited to pray over Hassan two days before his death. The Holy Spirit’s presence was energetic there in his hospital room, as I stroked his white hair and kissed his cheek while Peter knelt on the floor, interceding for this beautiful image-bearer of the King.

That evening, outside the hospital, Joseph informed me that he had a dream about me that I needed to explain to him.

Here’s the dream as told by Joseph:

I was inside a building, maybe a house, and I could see you outside walking on a path. I couldn’t see the end of the path, but it was well-lit. I wanted to be on the path. You spoke Arabic fluently and said to me, “It’s not that far away. Come with me,” but I was lying on the ground, I felt like I couldn’t move, like it was too difficult to get up and get on the path. You said it again, “It’s not that far away.” And you were wearing a traditional Palestinian dress, but it wasn’t a dark color like usual, it was light, maybe white or yellow, I don’t remember. And your hair was black. I wanted desperately to be on the path, but I was very anxious. I felt like it wasn’t easy.

And then I awoke. It was exactly 3:30AM and I was extremely thirsty. So I got up and got a drink. I didn’t go back to sleep. I couldn’t. I didn’t go to work that day. I just thought about the dream. I felt I had to talk to you in order to understand it and I called Peter to reach you, but his phone was off. What does it mean?

I explained to Joseph that in the dream the path is the Truth, the only way to God, which is through Jesus. And it’s not that far! It’s always close. It’s simply a decision away. When Joseph decides to say, “God I give you my life. I want Jesus to live inside me” God will pick him off of the ground and set him on the path. It’s Jesus’ strength. We talked for a long while about all of this. And He clearly wants very very much to follow Jesus, but he was afraid. I told him to talk to Jesus about it – to ask Jesus to reveal Himself to him.

He went on to say, “That night I asked Jesus to show himself to me. I didn’t feel anything happen and I don’t remember having any dreams that night. Yet, whenever I think of you or your name comes up, I am filled with deep peace. And I see something white. And I’m really happy. Once I even cried.”

“Today even though my friend’s father died and I was sad and thinking a lot about death, when I think of you or now when I look at you, I am filled with joy. I am overwhelmed with peace. I feel something stirring inside me now as you are speaking. I believe in you. I see your white heart. I know you are honest, I trust everything you say.”

“I need you in the next few days. I am thinking so much about this thing, but I don’t exactly know what this thing is I’m thinking about. I feel like I need your help so much.”

“I feel like I have this thing in one hand and in the other hand is my family, my friends, my girlfriend, my culture. I feel like everything would change if I choose this thing. I am scared. My family would be angry. My friends would think I am very weird. Maybe they would reject me. I feel like I would be totally alone.”

Joseph and I dialogued about his concerns, Jesus’ faithfulness and power, and the liberty he was getting a taste of. By the conversation’s end he said: “I think I will make this decision to follow Jesus this summer, but I need some time.”

Well, then he had another dream:

All I could see was a huge mountain in front of me. It was gigantic. And I felt like I had to get passed it, but it was impossible. I couldn’t go over it or around it. I was overwhelmed with despair. THEN, all of a sudden I realized there was something inside the mountain making it shake! And I knew it was YOU! And you suddenly ripped the mountain in half! I could see your head above the mountain and your body was inside. I could now walk straight THROUGH the mountain!

Joseph, like a kid with too much candy, recounted this dream with zeal, exuberance, and spurts of laughter. He was ecstatic. The previously “impossible” became not only possible, but in some way already DONE. He could go through the mountain! When Joseph told me the dream, I explained that it’s because Jesus’ power is inside me that I can rip mountains in half- and that anyone who has decided to follow Jesus has this same ability. Joseph was tickled. It was evident he was encouraged that though the obstacles looked insurmountable, he too could have the ability to move mountains once Jesus lives inside him. (My friend David calls this dream “Dawn Richardson Action Hero” – haha.)

Not long thereafter Joseph broke up with his almost-fiancé because he saw that she and her family were too religious and they stood in the way of his decision to follow Jesus. And on his first Friday in over a year, he wasn’t with his girlfriend and her family – instead he was in Jericho with us, visiting and praying over an elderly woman whose demon-possessed son killed himself in September by throwing himself off a building. (David and I met both woman and son last summer.) Joseph said he was anxious all morning because of breaking up with his fiancé and because many family members were beginning to tell him, “you are changing. You are acting strange. What’s going on?” Yet, as we prayed for the elderly woman outside her house, a deep peace and joy enveloped him and once again, he felt confident to continue walking toward Jesus.

Days later, while shopping for a Mother’s Day gift for his mom, he noticed a traditional Palestinian dress much like the one I was wearing in his dream. And he bought it for me. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit made it clear I could receive the gift; and I was delighted because of both its prophetic significance AND the fact I was told by the Joseph’s family that when his 40-something cousin gets married, I should wear a traditional dress (which I didn’t have). Perfect. Revelation 19 wedding supper of the lamb images everywhere!

So, April 28, the day before I left for America, Joseph asked to see me. My friend David came along. Joseph asked me to go with him to his cousin’s house to pray for her. “Why?” I asked. “My cousin has cancer in 72% of her body” he replied. “Oh! Well, let’s go then!” I said, delighted that Joseph easily believes God heals people. : )

We went to her house. And from the moment of eye contact, I saw it: demon possession – not just the presence of the demonic, but some kind of willing pact existed. It was going to be a long night; and I was thrilled that Joseph had brought us and excited for Jesus to begin to set this woman free! Well, it was almost two hours before her kids went to bed. She had not mentioned cancer. I asked, “how are you doing really?” And she explained her two year battle with cancer: four surgeries and still a bleak outlook. I told her stories of Jesus healing people. And I asked if we could pray for her. “Yes.”

Well, the next 2 hours were pretty involved, but easy because of Jesus’ presence. The woman first heard an angel tell her to place her hands palm-up on her lap – a good sign, but the demons got fiesty and she began to move her arms around, slowly and strangely – which she continued for nearly all of 2 hours. I asked God about it and felt okay ignoring her movements. God led clearly. I prayed and placed my hands where He said, and with each re-location of my hands – the part of her body I was touching would shake violently, then she would feel “something” leave that part of her body. YAY JESUS! Then God told me she welcomed witchcraft into her house. “Do you have witchcraft in your house?” I asked. “Look on my window,” she answered. David pulled back the curtain to discover a plastic bag containing vinegar and a mirror shard. “We need to destroy this,” I said. “What else do you have?” “The bowl on the counter,” she replied. David picked up a glass bowl containing water, salt, and a strip of fabric from the woman’s clothing. “Anything else?” I queried. “Yesterday the mirror in my bathroom was glowing on its own so I broke it off the wall and threw it away.” “Okay, is there anything else?” I questioned. “No, that’s it” she stated.

I explained how welcoming such things gives them authority, but Jesus is the highest authority and so, He is the only one that can defeat all these things and bring total freedom. Then God said to sit down and tell her the gospel. In classic Jesus-sync, the moment I sat down David began to tell the woman the gospel. : )

I asked her if she wanted to surrender. She said yes. I saw it wasn’t a full surrender, but God said to go ahead, so I did. And she repeated a prayer after me. And then her whole body went limp in the chair. I was so happy for her to have that deep moment of release. : )

So, God told me to prophesy some things over her and to blow into her hands. I told her what I was going to do, and I did it. And with each breath of mine, her body went limp and she said, “something just rushed out of my arm!” hip-hip-hooray for our Warrior-Lord!

Before I left I told her I was leaving the next day and would be away a month, but she should call my friend Pastor Khader in Beit Sahour the very next day because he works with Jesus to clean people out and set them free. And I asked Joseph to make sure she did.

She felt bales of hay lighter by the time we got up to leave. Her eyes were clearer. Granted, she did try to give me a pinch of salt to sprinkle on the stairs as I left, which I strongly refused with, “You don’t fight witchcraft with witchcraft. Jesus is the only One who really brings FREEDOM.” Anyhow, we all left jubilant. We know it’s the start of her eyes being opened and we are excited! Woohooooooo! Let things in darkness be brought in the Light!

The next day I called Khader to give him a heads-up and he explained she already called and she said to him, “I see that you have many spirits who obey you. I want to exchange power with you.” Oh boy. Also, the woman admitted that she got cancer right after she began practicing witchcraft (which God showed me the night before so, good group confirmation!) Well, Khader and I had a nice chat and I asked him to get 2 women in his church who would pray weekly for SALVATION breakthrough for this woman. He thought that was a great idea and said he would do so. (Three cheers for TEAMWORK!)

Moreover, in all of this, my joy bubbled because Joseph was able to be a part of deliverance, healing, prophecy, faith, hope, and love in a variety of venues. And he was thrilled to have all these “date nights” with Jesus. Haha.

Weeks later, while I was in Cyprus, Joseph sent me a text: “when will you be back in Bethlehem? I have great news! And I am so happppppppppppppppppppppppy!” Initially, he refused to spill the beans, but a week later, while I was in Jordan I asked him if he was happy because he found gold in the ground. He responded with, “Yes, but don’t tell anyone.” Which, naturally, prompted my response of, “what? How could I tell anyone, I don’t even know what you are really talking about!?”

And then came my favorite text message of all time, which is still saved in my phone:

“i w i l l f o l l o w j e s u s”

I broke open the jar of my praise. I yelled. I danced. I sang. And the Holy Spirit tickle-tackled me. That single sentence left me glowing, positively radiant inside and outside, for days. Moreover, the YWAM friends I stayed with in Jordan were pretty encouraged and happy too!

So, right after my return to Bethlehem, Joseph explained it like this, “I don’t know what exactly happened. I just, how do you say it? Surrendered. And I am so happy all the time now.”

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah JESUS!

Haha. I love it. I love the whole story.  It is absolutely beautiful when one gets to be part of a story in which you simply lean back, moment-by-moment into Jesus and He moves powerfully. One’s lean into Him, is a YES and AMEN to the YES and AMEN of who He is. He only did what He saw the Father doing. He did YES and AMEN. He was YES and Amen. Sometimes I think that if all Jesus’ acts were recorded and they did fill all the books in the world – like John’s idea in the last verse of his book – all of the books would simply say, “Yes” and “Amen” over and over, endlessly through all the books. Zillions of books blanketing the earth in two words: “Yes” and “Amen.”

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 1:20

<Jesus, teach my spirit this constant song. Teach me to lean into your example.

Teach me to YES and AMEN all the time.>

YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN YES AMEN

the wind blows (breathes) where it wills…

When I was a little girl, my family occasionally journeyed up to Santa Cruz, California – to the infamous beach boardwalk. There were rollercoasters, cotton candy, skeeball, and the glorious carousel. The carousel was grand not only because of the vast array of options in every color Crayola himself could dream of, but because of the CLOWN’S MOUTH. The clown’s mouth is the hole, the bull’s eye, through which those seated on the outside circle of the carousel can throw steel rings with the high hopes of aiming well and watching the clown swallow the ring. 

http://www.beachboardwalk.com/carousel/index.html

As one’s horse-in-motion approaches the clown, it becomes increasingly apparent that TIMING is everything. Moreover, there’s something to the juuuust right fling of the wrist which brings success. It may feel a tad stressful initially, but once one gets the rhythm, it’s simple to follow. 

In 1 Chronicles 12:32 there is the mention of the “children of Isaachar” apparently known for their ability to not only see the times, but to understand the times as well. 

“And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”

They were gifted in following the rhythm of the Spirit. I’m sure they would have excelled at getting the rings in the Clown’s Mouth, spiritually speaking.

So, in learning to be still and listen, watch, and sense the Spirit’s movement, I am humbled and I am strengthened. Over the last few months, I have found myself profoundly in the middle of a great orchestration of God’s love. I mentioned in previous posts, the American woman I met after going outside to find a screw on the ground. From there my life became a very hands-on, intense, but lovely journey in living in unshakable peace and in sharing that peace with someone in desperate need of love. 

Shortly after I met this woman, God spoke to me that she was part of the reason I had not established ministry at the mental hospital yet: 1. I had more time and a relatively open schedule to simply be present for this woman’s ever-evolving, ever panicked needs. 2. Serving this woman and listening to God on her behalf – speaking His truth to her, talking her through moments of anxiety, maintaining boundaries, listening to her heart, and being a safe place for her to take refuge was to be an intensive training for me for ministry in the mental hospital and beyond. 

And surely I grew leaps and bounds in those two weeks! God gave me new wisdom and higher love. Moreover, I can confidently say that my peace never left – despite 4am phone calls, yelling, her sleepless nights, her phone’s endless ringing, and being placed on the phone with numerous friends of hers as an intermediary in times of conflict. It was a blessing. I saw so plainly the intervention of Jesus on a daily basis in her life. 

Well, after weeks of attempting to meet with the medical director at the mental hospital, to no avail due to scheduling conflicts and the director’s travels, a meeting was finally set up: 1230 on Tuesday, April 14. And lo-and-behold, my American friend decided to leave Bethlehem that very day. Thus, my friend Markye and I dropped her and all her luggage off ON OUR WAY to the mental hospital! The evident hand-off was unmistakable. God’s timing was palpable. From one mini-season of ministry to another. : )

Off to the mental hospital we went. 

Now, I should mention that in December when I was asking God what to focus on in the season ahead: first He said, “I want you to establish my kingdom in the mental hospital” and as I continued to dialog with Him about what that should look like, He assured me with, “I will give you the blessing of those in authority.” So, I knew that some surprising favor was not-so-surprisingly on its way. Moreover, God had me read through the book of Joshua for strategy and insight in “taking the promised land” of the mental hospital. And WOW that book really equipped me and the Holy Spirit breathed a lot of fresh revelation therein. One of the key instructions from the Holy Spirit was to be COURAGEOUS, to speak boldly. 

Hence, in the weeks leading up to our meeting with the medical director I asked the Lord for scripture to be meditating on. And again, the morning before we went, I clothed myself in those verses and asked for His clear guidance for what verses to share with the medical director. By the time we met with her, I was chewing on a few selections in particular. Yummy.

Incredible. For nearly two hours we had her undivided attention. No phone calls, no knocks on the door, nothing to tend to. Maryke, who has sat with her many times, observed that this was amazing – she is typically interrupted every few minutes. YAY GOD! And so after perhaps 20 minutes of catch-up and getting to know  her, she asked me what I want to do exactly in the mental hospital.

“Mainly, I want to pray. I know that Jesus is the only One who can truly set people free and I want to see people set free.”

She froze mid-coffee-stir.

“You want to pray?!? hmmm… well, okay. I suppose that’s fine, but let’s keep that focus mainly between you and I. I don’t know how others will feel about that.” 

haha! And from that initial move of a piece on the chessboard, many other pieces were soon moved into place. I explained we’d like to bring in instruments and teach the women songs. We’d like to talk with them. We’d like to laugh with them. And maybe we could facilitate someone teaching English to patients and/or staff. The director was pleased. I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge to read a certain passage. So, I asked if I could read something from the Bible to her. “Yes, sure” she replied. 

And out came Ephesians 6:12

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

TWICE. 

She said it was interesting. And her eyes were wide and open, like those on an oversized dancing dragon at Chinese New Year. 

We talked more and I asked if we could pray for her. She said, “yes, I would like that.” I got up and put my hand on her shoulder and prayed. God led. Stomach problems and several other specifics were highlighted. And then I saw a prophetic picture, which I shared with her: she was standing in a building, maybe a house, with limestone walls and blue shutters, and she when she opened the shutters ever-so-slightly to see what was outside, a large gust of wind blew through the room and threw the shutters completely open. She could then see everything. 

With tears in her eyes, she said, “thank you. I agree with everything you said, except one thing. You said I am a leader and I don’t see that.” (concrete proof, yet again, that we often undervalue ourselves – for surely to anyone else this woman, the DIRECTOR at a mental hospital, is a leader)

Well, the Lord plunked Harriet Tubman in my spirit. And I shared that story with the director. “You are like Harriet Tubman,” I said. She was glued to the tale. She asked for more details and “can I find this woman on the internet?” “Yes, search for “Harriet Tubman” and maybe “Freedom Train” and you will find the whole story.”

I love God. haha! He is amazingly, gorgeously, sweetly good at His job. : ) And what love He has in pursuing us in just the way that we individually need to be pursued! 

Well, that day we not only got her solid approval, but also that of the General Director of the hospital. They asked that we write a letter to the Palestinian Authority (the government) requesting permission to take a team in to the hospital regularly. Admittedly, there was a brief moment when I thought, “oh no, another hoop to jump through” but I instantly recalled how God said I would get the blessing of “those in authority” and I laughed — I never considered He also meant THE Palestinian Authority! Awesome. I know that with the blessing of leadership, more breakthrough will come. And what-do-you-know? On April 29, the day I left Israel to be away a month, we got approval from The Palestinian Authority to basically do whatever we want to do in the mental hospital! YYYYYYYYYYeah!

 

Timing. Sweet timing. The turns of this journey, the spins of this carousel, were magnificently Spirit-led – magnificently out of my hands and yet, I could feel their sway in my heart. Because of His great grace and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, yet another ring went miraculously into the Clown’s Mouth! In moments I felt a twitch of impatience and I found the journey strange, but it all came together — and the bell is sounding, the lights are flashing. My heart is rejoicing! 

What a joyous ride! And what a right and true rhythm to follow. <Jesus, thanks for leading!>

 

“The wind blows wherever it pleases.

You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.

So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

(John 3:8)

 

 

 

“When God speaks, it is as a nail in a sure place.”

Being clearly pursued is humbling. I am in awe of the Father’s resolute pursuit of us. Like a cat after an unravelling ball of string, the Lord zips to catch us.

After my slamming encounter with my neighbor, as a result of my going outside to pick up a screw as God said to do, a life is being transformed. Friday morning I awakened an hour and a half before my alarm. Frustrated, I laid in bed and asked God to help me fall back asleep. The Holy Spirit stirred. “There is a reason you are awake.” Ah, okay, so I got up and began to spend my morning with the Lord. Hours later, around 9:30 my new friend invited me over for breakfast. At first, I turned to God and said, “Lord, I’m not sure what to do. I know I am supposed to protect my morning time with you and I want to honor that.” Then the clarity came, “This is why you woke up early. This is timing. She needs you now.” So, as lovers do, in a small act for big love, I put my shoes on and went outside.

I walked into her apartment and she gestured at an open notebook on the table and said, “I want you to write in there whatever you hear God saying to me so, I can keep it and read it when I feel like crying endlessly.” WOW. Such openness. Well, I didn’t write in the notebook immediately, but expressed a desire to talk first. First, she asked if I mind if she drink a beer – the beer she hid under her bed when I arrived because she was embarassed. I told her, “you can do whatever you like.” And so she gave me a tour of her apartment and retrieved the can from below her bed. Then we sat at the kitchen table.

God said to me, “ask her when she feels like she became broken.” And when I asked the question, out came a rough and tumble story, like a shoe in a dryer – unsettling simply to listen to – of some of the hardest experiences imaginable. Extreme pain, extreme abandonment, extreme self-destruction. Then she abruptly stopped and blurted, “Did you know all of that when you saw me on the street?” “No, I didn’t know all of the story, but God did show me a few pictures. Sometimes he shows me pictures from someone’s life.” I answered. She suddenly thought to call her ex-boyfriend who was supposed to return to Bethlehem from Germany that week. She had not seen him for three years. Lo and behold! he arrived late the night before. She was ecstatic! She apologized and said she’d like to go see him in an hour. She still loves him. I was feeling more and more like a stage manager for a great production starring the Holy Spirit. What timing! So, she was readying to leave and I took the opportunity to write a letter from God to her in the notebook.

When she reappeared I asked if I could pray with her before she left. She liked that idea. And the Holy Spirit won an Academy Award for the starring role. I listened to God and I prayed a few key things. And when I prayed about God knowing her favorite things, her favorite song began to play on the stereo. And when I commanded her ears to be open to hear God’s voice, she heard him say, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” And when I told her she would feel the wind and be reminded of the breath of God, she explained that anxiety gave her trouble breathing, but she could feel the wind coming in the apartment and she knew God was going to be reminding her to relax and breathe. THEN, since I continuously heard God say, “Ann . . . Roosevelt” I asked her if she knows an Ann Roosevelt. “No.” “Does the name Roosevelt mean anything to you?” I questioned. “Roosevelt High School,” she stated. “IN FRESNO!?” I exclaimed – she did not know I am from Fresno. “Yeah, my best friend graduated from there” she explained. “What’s her name?” I asked. “Annette.” “Oooh, that’s why I was hearing Ann,” I realized. “So, tell me about her.” “Well, she’s one of my closest friends, we’ve had a lot of crazy adventures. Hey, I’ll call her now.” Annette didn’t answer the phone, so my friend left a message detailing her meeting of me and the fact that I’m from Fresno.

We then moved into the other room so she could show me videos of her and Annette. Wow. It’s incredible how the Holy Spirit unearths things to display the love of God and to pull content and revelation from our lives.

Eventually, we parted ways, but as we parted I heard God say, “call her Princess _______” So, I did while we hugged. She froze. “That’s what my dad always called me, but mainly when he thought I was spoiled.” “Well, God calls you Princess and He wants you to know that He is going to spoil you” was my instant reply.

Tears in her eyes, she hopped in the cab.

Later that day she called to tell me two things: 1. She read what I wrote and she couldn’t believe how I could see inside her. “It’s God,” I explained. 2. She and her ex-boyfriend got back together and she bought a ticket to return to Germany with him on April 23.

That night I invited her to join my neighbors and I for dinner and a movie. Delighted, she came. Drunk, but delighted. My friends welcomed her and loved on her – watching her homemade movies on the internet and attending to her needs. Sweet. Unfortunately, she left early on account of wanting to see a friend she thought was leaving for the USA the next day.

That night she made the mistake of having two male friends stay the night in her apartment, which got her kicked out the next morning. By the time I saw her later in the day she was a mess. Yet, she did join us for the engagement of friends. (In Bethlehem, “engagement” is an official ceremony at a church.) Thereafter, she came along for coffee. And a few friends and I went to hear her sing at a club in Bethlehem that night.

As the night rolled on, and her need for a place to stay became urgent, she informed me she would stay with a guy friend in Jerusalem. “I want you to stay with me,” I said. She said I was the person she really wanted to stay with. “Well, I need you to agree to no alcohol in my place, no smoking inside, and no one else can come over.” “Yeah, sure. Of course. I understand,” she replied.

I went home and some time after 3am, my phone rang. She was outside the building. And in a tottery, loud stumble she came into my apartment. Being manic depressive, she claimed she couldn’t sleep. So, we talked until nearly 6am: in the family room while she uploaded videos, on the balcony as she smoked, in the spare bedroom as she ate cereal from our last big red bowl. Eventually, I went to bed. And at 7:30 I woke up so I went out to check on her — sound asleep on the floor in the family room in the midst of an online chat with a friend (last comment around 6, so she did get some sleep). I picked up the laptop, turned it off, and went back to bed. Less than an hour later she was knocking on my door, panicked, and saying that she had to go get her stuff from her old place. I convinced her to wait and stay. She made coffee then went outside to smoke.

A few hours later she left. After several dramatic phone calls from her throughout the day, she came with me to church that evening. Upon arrival she got a call from her neighbors, worked herself into a tizzy, and implored that she had to leave immediately. Thankfully, she permitted us to pray for her first. And we did. Ahhh… what a blessed calm, love, and redemption was blossoming in that room.

As I was praying for her earlier Sunday on my own, I was reminded of a pastor in Germany that I met at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in February. I realized he might have connections in the city she is headed to – people who can parent her, love her, and walk her through deliverance and restoration. And maybe even someone she can live with! Well, I emailed him and explained the situation. Sure enough! He has a great friend, a woman, in that city who is part of a church plant. He emailed her and she should email me soon.

Now, my friend is staying with someone in Jerusalem, but I expect she will come to church with me Wednesday, Passover dinner in Jerusalem Thursday, and back at church on Sunday.

She refers to me as either “my savior” or “the girl God sent to me.” She thanks me for showing her Jesus, and I say, “it’s Jesus who showed me you. It’s Jesus who is pursuing you. He loves you more than you can imagine.” Every time I tell her I love her she gets choked up. And she hugs me so hard I get choked up (literally). God is doing something radical. Bondage and lies are being broken off of her. I see it. And I know she feels it.

I am humbled beyond words. God told me to pick up a screw off of the ground and what I found is a treasure of a woman who God is passionately, creatively, resolutely pursuing. What LOVE this is!  What beautiful LOVE! How wonderfully he stakes out each of us. How masterfully He shows us His love! The Pursuer is going to sweep my friend off her feet. He is showing her a love beyond compare! A purpose full and eternal!

This month I am reading a 30 day devotional of Smith Wigglesworth’s writings. Wigglesworth was an English plumber who became a forerunner of healing ministry in the early 1900’s. Today’s Healing Principle is, “When God speaks, it is as a nail in a sure place.” I laughed when I read that. haha! How about a screw in a sure place?! I love His voice!

AMEN! His words are %100 sure.

<Jesus, thank you for being our intercessor. Thank you for loving my friend so profoundly. I am thrilled and toe-tapping excited for what you will do in her life this month! I LOVE YOU!>

Tiny Obedience: the infamous “screw” story

Two days ago I was listening to a teaching called “Learning to Think” by Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church in Redding, CA. In it he was talking about small obedience: like when God asked him to pick up the trash along a lengthy stretch of highway by himself. It took a few hours. And he grumbled to God as he undertook the task. I laughed and listened closely. God frequently asks small obedience of me too. In fact, in this new season it is one of the things I am most excited about – learning to  walk in obedience with tiny things.

So, I had an “oh!” moment as I was listening because earlier in the day I was walking on the road adjacent to my apartment and I saw a 2″ screw lying on the ground. The Lord said, “pick it up, throw it away. Love this city.” While it is always nice to clean up your city, when the Holy Spirit really prompts you, you listen up. Well, God has been speaking to me for at least a year now about taking ownership and authority in the city I live in. ESPECIALLY in minute acts of service. Yet, whether it was the man in the nearby doorway or my own laziness, I didn’t pick up the screw. Hence, when I was listening to the teaching I immediately thought, “I have to go pick up that screw!” At that point it was approaching 11pm, I was dressed for bed, and I thought, “okay, I’ll go when I finish listening to this teaching.”

Of course, I forgot. So, the next morning as I nestled into His presence to spend my morning with God, I was immediately reminded of THE SCREW. “Oh, Lord, I’m sorry. I really want to listen and respond to you in tiny obedience.” I hopped up and went outside.

As I gazed at the ground in search of the forlorn screw, a young man approached me, an American. I explained I was looking for a screw that God just reminded me of. He was curious. And he asked the usual, “how long have you been here?” “what do you do here?” “are you married?” line of questions. And I answered. In my answer, I mentioned the soon-to-start Bible Study I will be leading. And he said he would drop by some time! “Oh, well, actually it’s for kids,” I explained. I queried as to who he was waiting for, “oh, I don’t remember her name. An American girl I met yesterday. She lives here in this building near yours.”

Moments later she appeared. Dressed conspicuously – explained by her answer to my question, “What are you doing in Bethlehem?” Her answer: “I’m going to find a Palestinian husband. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve known people from many cultures, but Palestinians are the best. And they are so close to their families. I didn’t really have a family growing up, so I want that.” Her directness made me laugh. And she asked where I was headed. “Weeeeell, I actually just came outside to pick up a screw I saw on the ground yesterday. I was spending time with God this morning and He reminded me of it.” “I need Jesus” was her instant response. And she proceeded to ask for my phone number so we could get together some time. The guy got it too. Both were salivating from this Jesus encounter now underway.

They had to be on their way and invited me along, but I explained that my mornings are spent with God. They smiled and said they look forward to getting together soon. And I half scampered, half danced my way back to my apartment. “Jesus! You are so GOOD!” I yelled. And I dance, dance, danced throughout my apartment laughing and praising the Lord. What a wonderful gift! The screw was apparently long-gone (probably picked up by the glass factory workers next door), but in its place was a wide open door for loving some new friends: a man and a woman that God is madly in love with. What an honor to be introduced to them so poignantly! Like a ride at Disneyland, I can hardly wait to see what sits around the corner for these two!

I love Jesus! His ways are positively ingenious!

Welcome! / ! أهلا و سهل

Hey friends.

As many of you know, a lot has shifted in my life this month. I returned to Bethlehem after 3 months in the USA. Two days later, my ministry partner and housemate of over 5 years, moved to Cyprus.

It is a NEW season.

One of the most powerful, catalytic prophetic words I received right before my return to the Middle East was,

“Your life is like a slingshot. Up until now it has only been pulled back, it has yet to be released. And it is about to be released.”

In my own words, “It’s time.”

God told me about a month ago He was giving me “balloons” and “mixing cement” to take back to Bethlehem with me. “For what?” I asked. “Building foundations with joy and celebration” was the reply. And the Holy Spirit tickled me as I sat there in an armchair in California. I giggled. I like God’s words so much.  And that image is powerful.

So, in this new time, I’ve closed my myspace account in favor of a private blog. People have asked for years that I blog, but due to the region I live in and those I work with, it is better that I have a private blog. Plus, I can be more forward with my words.

I am glad you are here. Thank you for being on the journey with me. Your encouragement is a prism reflecting rainbows of His promises. You are gorgeous. I love you SO much!

the Holy Spirit sent invitations to my birthday picnic to this family of ten

Holy Spirit sent invitations to this family of ten for my birthday picnic in October of 2008