The Excavator

Today is our last day to spend here in Israel.  We are trying to go to Lazarus’ tomb in Bethany and then over to the old city again to where Herod’s palace was and walk the walk that our Savior took out to where He was crucified.. then to see what they think is the tomb.  The buildings and cities here are kind of like our lives.  There are things way down in our lives, layers of different “conquerors” so to say, that have covered the original intent God had for us.   I am thankful for archaeologists that want to “dig down” and get to the things underneath that we can see today that proves what was here.  God and His word is an expert excavator.  His word, we find in Hebrews, is alive and quick, sharper than any two edged sword, and it divides between soul and spirit, between bone and marrow, reaching down even to the intents of our hearts.  God is precise, accurate, has perfect timing, and a sharp/clear word that will get down to our very foundation.  We are finding why David built this certain wall in a specific place, and why he had his watchtower here or there. God has made you, called you, placed you where you are for a specific purpose.  Let’s be alert not to let conquering enemies come over our walls, destroy what God constructed, then build a layer of their “stuff” on top of it.

God is a God of love, forgiveness, second chances (third, fourth, fifth…..)  He is merciful and would that none should perish but have eternal life.  I’m so happy we serve that kind of God that can do “all things.”  He truly is all of His names…again, the many faces of God.  Which one will we see today? Which one will you see today?

Wake up Call

They told us when we got here the first day that they had an “automatic” wake up call set for 6 am for all of us.  If we needed earlier then we could set our own alarms.  Night before last I had not two wake up calls, but three.  Let me set the stage a bit before explaining what happened.  I had shared in my previous blog about the cities on a hill and us being the light of the world that Jesus spoke about.  I have been carrying that and it really rang true as we drove into Jerusalem.  It is the land of hills with cities built onto them.  Jesus made good use of His surroundings to teach and bring revelation into everyday life… city on a hill, birds of the air (there is a huge migration that happens at a certain time over Israel and the air is full of birds), vineyards, fields of wheat, etc.  He had an uncanny (and anointed) way to bring what was natural into a spiritual parallel for His people to understand.  Lord, give us the spirit of understanding in these days we are living in.  P.S.  I can’t wait to tell you about the olive press.  Amazing spiritual parallel there.

Back to my “wake up calls.”  Last Sunday before we left we were being prayed over.  After service we had several people give us exhortation and words that the Lord had spoken.  One of those words was that I was going to have some experiences at night with God.  This put my spiritual antenna up to be alert to those promptings.  The first night we arrived I woke up at 2:30 and felt like I should go ahead and get up and pray.  Sure enough, God met me there.  Pastor Greg and I had a sweet time of weeping, revelation, and understanding.  Night before last I was awakened again at 4:30.  I looked at my phone and saw what time it was.. I thought, “Hmmm, I could sleep one more hour until my “first” alarm goes off.  As I began to turn over (like a slough on my bed Proverbs says… lol), my hand hit the lamp switch accidently and BOOM the light was on and in my face!!!  CAN WE SAY WAKE UP CALL?? Immediately He said, You are the light of the world, a city on a hill…   Needless to say I got up and, again, God met us with His goodness, wisdom, and encouragement.  He has so many things to say to us all.  Let’s get our antennas up, our ears sharpened, and our hearts willing.

 

Scratching the Surface

For us it is Thursday, 8:35 pm but for most you I believe it is still around lunchtime!!  As Pastor Greg and I prayed this morning before we headed down for breakfast he said the words I was thinking, “We haven’t even scratched the surface..”  Isn’t that the truth?  We have toured all of two days and have already gained so much, wept so much, and felt so much.  Today we went  to the Mount of Beatitudes, Magdala (a recently discovered 1st century synagogue and city ruins where Mary Magdalene was from), to take a ride and have lunch on the Sea of Galilee, and then headed to the Jordan river for baptisms. Wow!! It was quite a day!  I can’t even begin to put into words what we are experiencing.  It goes so much deeper than seeing the sites.  God Himself is speaking to us, using us to minister, breaking us for His chosen people, and showing us some of His different “faces” as Orna Grinman (our missionary to Isreal) taught us on her first visit.

 

Pastor Greg did the devotion at the Mount of Beatitudes today and baptized people in the Jordan river.  It’s a bit overwhelming for us both but for him to get these opportunities to teach where Jesus taught and baptize where John the Baptist baptized is a bit undoing to say the least.  There is still so much to see and it makes me think of John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t bear it now.”  We are praying to retain all we are learning and let the burden we are getting grow stronger and move us to action.  We have met some of the sweetest people.  Of course Pastor Greg has been the hero gentleman and helped all the elderly people up the steps, off the bus, give up his seat in the shade, etc.  It makes me love him all the more to watch Him. Let me tell you that this trip is not for the faint hearted (or bodied.)  It is a strenuous schedule and the temperature reached 110 degrees today.  Thank the Lord for the breeze that was blowing over us.

 

We met one of the men from our bus yesterday while sitting in the theatre that Herod the great built .  As we were waiting for the Isaacs to come up and sing we introduced ourselves to the man behind us.  Jerry is sweet and has such a precious countenance.  We had not talked more than a few seconds and he pulled a necklace from his pocket and showed it to us.  As I looked at his hand at the heart necklace he said, “My wife died in October but in heart she is here with me. “  They had wanted to come together but he is here alone and enjoying himself.  He said he had never heard the Isaacs before but loved music and found the trip online.  It didn’t take him long to realize that he was with the right group to hear good singing with the Isaacs and Karen Peck and New River.  This morning I scanned the crowd to “find” Jerry sitting at the top of the assembly at the Mount of Beatitudess.  As The Lord’s Prayer was sung with perfect harmonies and hearts that were so full I watched him (as well as I could with tears in my eyes.)  He was singing along and had such a look on his face.  Afterwards I asked him how he was enjoying Israel and how he liked the Lord’s prayer.  He said, “I got so excited I was singing along but thought I better not get too loud because the woman beside me was video recording.”  Haha   I could give you a “profile” on all these people we have gotten to meet from all over the place and share meaningful stories of each one like Jerry’s.  The truth is, ministry is in front of you wherever you go.  Remember that ministry is “issuing forth the fragrance of Christ wherever you go.”  That is what we are trying to do this week.

 

One thing I have deducted… Jesus and his disciples were not weak (obviously).  They traversed this rocky, hilly terrain from town to town.  These towns are not as close together as I had always placed them in my mind.  They would sometimes travel for days in the hot weather to get from place to place while get to do it on air conditioned buses.  Just getting out a bit here and there to see a site in the heat is draining on the body.  We can’t wait to share all the things that God is revealing and showing us.  I am just highlighting  a bit until we can see each other again face to face.  We miss you all and pray that you will know Him like never before, seek Him like never before, and serve Him like never before.

 

Seeing is Believing

You know how the old adage goes, “You have to see it to believe it!”  Well, we are here in Israel and seeing things with our own eyes.  It’s surreal to even think that we are really here where Jesus performed amazing miracles, called His disciples, walked on the water, and so many other things that John tells us that the world itself couldn’t hold all the books that would have been written.  John 21:25

 

Greg and I both like to observe and learn.  We have had the opportunity to experience a lot of culture today.  It was a wide variety of personalities and nationalities.  We saw people being forceful, patient, non-interested, ignorant, helpful, rude, loving parents and so many other things.  I am reminded once again of the scripture that most of us have all been quoting since we were young… “For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”  This trip is, thus far, giving us a vision of “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure….” I want to love like him and catch a burden so deep that it moves me to pray, to act, to respond, to give, etc.

 

When we were landing in Tel Aviv, pastor Greg and I joined hands and prayed for this trip, for the people on this trip, for the land of Israel, and for us to grasp all that He has for us this week. After descending the escalator to the bottom floor of the airport after we had been through customs, a sweet man greeted us with a smile and a precious accent and said, “Welcome to Israel!”  I immediately teared up and the reality began to set in on me of the magnitude of what we are about to experience for the next several days.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, it hasn’t even entered the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  Scripture is popping up like microwave popcorn as I see and hear things.  As we drove to Tiberius, our taxi driver pointed out several things.  As he would point out the cities I noticed that a lot of them were and are still being built into a hill/mountainside.   At night when they are “lit up” he said it was amazing.  Again, I was reminded that Jesus told us that we are the light of the world and that a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  WE, likewise, are to let our lights shine bright so that He is not hidden to those that need Him.

 

We are staying on the Sea of Galilee for a few days.  It is beautiful!!  One thing we are for sure of already that is blaring is that God’s chosen people need the veil removed from their eyes so they can truly know Him and know Jesus as savior and Lord.  There is apathy, legalism, irreverence and distance from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Israel, as we all do, needs a revival!!

 

Tomorrow we will start bright and early to head to Mt. Carmel and surrounding area.  Pastor Greg was already trying to get us to drop him off today and leave him there.. Elijah is one of his favorites (no surprise there! Lol)  Anyway, tomorrow is jam packed with places to go, things to see, the living God to hear, awe to feel, and history to take in!!  That sounds like my kind of day!! Till tomorrow evening!!

Just Days Away

We are so excited to have this amazing opportunity to go to the Holy Land this upcoming Monday. My bags are 98% packed and ready for departure. One thing I keep reminding myself is to make sure I have enough storage on my phone for pictures and videos. I always have enough storage until “that” moment I really need it for an important happening… then I get the message about not enough storage!! Ugh!! Not only am I making room on my phone for all the things that I will want to “capture” but also, making sure I have enough room to hold all that God wants to “download” to my soul/spirit. This morning in my prayer time I asked God to cleanse me, prepare me, and make me ready. A few months ago God was speaking to us (the church) out of Isaiah 54:2-3 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.” I was reminded of this scripture again to enlarge, stretch out, do not spare, lengthen, and strengthen. Expansion is coming in many areas. In our personal lives, our church life, our relationships, our revelation, and our “capacity” level. To have enough storage on my phone I had to “DELETE” some things and run a backup. Again, the spiritual parallel rings loud and clear!!!

 

Although my bags are ready, I’m still weighing through some “mom” emotions of being away from the children for ten days. This past week I made a calendar for them to follow our touring schedule. That is one way they can be a bit more connected to what we are doing. Abby (big sister…aka soccer mom) has it all planned out and will keep them busy and having fun I’m sure. Thank you for praying for us all as we are away from each other. Greg’s mom always says MIZPAH which is what we are declaring.. Genesis 31:49 tells us the story of Jacob and Laban (his Father in law) when they parted ways. Laban set up a heap of rocks and a pillar and called the place MIZPAH which means “Watchtower!! Your spirit watch between us while we are absent from one another.”

 

Stay tuned for updates via blog and facebook live!!

 

 

Small Town America

A couple of days ago Greg and I left home with our youngest four to go on a trip to Iowa with Greg’s mom. We have been saying that we were “Driving Ms. Connie.” We had the opportunity and a few days that would work for us to drive her up to New Hampton, Iowa and visit some family so we jumped on it.

 

The more I travel to different parts of the United States the more I love it. Our nation has been blessed with beauty. The vast differences in landscape that you can find in the US is truly amazing. The beauty we have experienced just these past two days has been breathtaking. The cornfields are so green and they are like looking at a “sea” of corn on both sides of the road as far as the eye can see. Barns and silos are everywhere and are sure to have a “homestead” very nearby peeking out of the midst of mature, towering trees. As you roll into the town, the houses and yards in the quaint neighborhoods are meticulously taken care of. Healthy flowers, lush green grass, and flags!!! Oh the flags I’ve seen. Allow me to take a quick detour off of what I’ve seen and tell you what I’ve felt for just a minute. The spirit of America seems more alive than I have felt in awhile. The first morning in Iowa (July 4th) we stepped into a diner that had streamers, lanterns, flags, and a banner that said, “United we stand!” As the hostess took us into the back dining room for a larger table she reached down to plug something in. I looked up to see a flag light up on the wall that seemed to scream “I’m proud to be an American!” The food was great and plenteous. Spending time with the generation before us that are hard workers, hospitable, appreciative citizens, and proud Americans has been refreshing. Tears come to their eyes when they speak of the flag or the military or “what was.” We had a great day, took the children to the community pool (built in the 1930’s) and finished the night of the 4th off enjoying fireworks in a rural neighboring town. We sat on blankets behind some large grain/corn silos which made for a great Midwestern firework show. Wherever we have the privilege to travel to I always encourage the children to “take it all in.” Soak in the culture, the beauty, and the differences that are all around you.

 

The next few days met us with history and inspiration. Not only did we learn more about Greg’s family tree and get to spend some time with “greats and great greats” including some aunts, an uncle and some cousins, we got to experience some local history as well. After a visit to the old library that has been turned into a museum we got to see “the mantle.” Greg’s great grandfather (Leslie Treat) and his great great grandfather (Amasa Treat) owned a marble and granite business there in New Hampton. They made most of the memorials in the cemeteries in Chickasaw County as well as statues and other things. They made a mantle in 1893 for the World’s Fair in Chicago and won a prize for their craftsmanship. It is located now in the Courthouse on display and is beautiful and so detailed.

 

That afternoon we went to a site I’ve been wanting to visit. Have you ever heard the song, “The Church in the Wildwood?” Or it may be better known as, “The Little Brown Church in the Vale.” The little brown church sits amidst beautiful trees and flowers in Nashua, Iowa. I won’t take the time to expound on the whole story, although if you are a history buff you should look it up sometime. It was so cute! Led by a persistent pastor, the church was built during the Civil War by people in the community who were able to work on it. It took longer than expected to finish it with the challenges they faced. Being that white lead paint was expensive and hard to obtain during the war, they opted for mineral brown paint for the “little church.” It is as charming as ever and the whole story surrounding it is interesting.

 

This next historical site we experienced I will have a hard time describing. It’s one of those things you “have to see.” To make a real long story short, the Bily Brothers (Joseph and Frank) had a hobby… wood carving. Well, when they couldn’t carve their school desks (they had a 5th grade education) or the fence posts anymore because Iowa farmer Dad needed the fences, they began to carve other things…. Clocks! And not just any old clocks! These masterpieces are truly works of art. And not just beautiful uses of all types of wood, but stories, and history, and bible stories, and all that was ingrained in them through the obvious study of books. It had to be books and anything they learned in those 5 years of school or from their parents because these guys never traveled more than 35 miles from Spillville, Iowa. AMAZING! Again, words cannot even begin to explain the God given talent these guys had. The clocks are fitted with music boxes, moving parts, and a story… each one. I wept as the lady was showing us each clock and telling us about them. (She probably wondered what my problem was) Maybe because I am a teacher and want to make sure everyone learns beyond themselves, maybe because I know that greatness is in people if they will act on it and let it out, maybe because they made these clocks for their handicapped brother to “play with” and listen to, or just maybe because they did it simply because they loved it!!! They never sold one clock!! They are all there in the museum. In fact, Henry Ford himself traveled there to Spillville and offered them 1 million dollars for their “history” clock and they refused it. I know!! It blew me away too! They had to be some interesting fellows to be sure. God seems to use interesting things or people in our everyday lives to inspire us, spur us on, encourage us to “keep fighting the good fight of faith.”   You just never know but what you say or do will end up touching the generation that comes after you. What I sum up from this whole trip is this. I want to leave a legacy. It goes back to Greg’s sermon this past Sunday. www.thewellfwc.org You can push the media button and the message was called.. Bigger than me!! I really do want to do something bigger than me, which requires God to be in the middle of it!!! My hospitality, my being a neighbor, being a friend, writing that book, building that table, painting that picture, whatever it is…let everything be “of Him, through Him, and back unto Him, to Him be glory forever, Amen.” Romans 11:36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prep Work

In just twenty-two days Greg, my beloved husband, and I will be embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.  Our life has been full of adventures these past twenty-seven years as we have tried to follow God wholeheartedly wherever He leads.  Greg has traveled far and wide all over the US as well as the world.  I, myself, have ventured out of our US borders to Mexico and Canada but have yet “crossed the seas” to a foreign country.  Two places Greg has always said he would never go without me (because I wanted to go so bad) were Hawaii and Israel.  WELL!!!!! Israel, here we come!!! A few months back we had the awesome opportunity to host The Isaacs family at our church, The Well Family Worship Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.  The Isaacs are a singing group that are extremely talented musicians and singers that are as genuine as they are gifted.  Another very special fact about the family (other than the amazing and tight harmonies that they produce) is that Mrs. Lily Isaacs, the matriarch of the family was born into a family of Polish Jews.  Her parents both endured and survived concentration camps during the Holocaust.  God tells us in His word (Psalm 122:6) that we are to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.”  I have always longed to go to Israel and see the very places that Jesus walked, ministered, and ultimately died for all of us. The Isaacs have hosted tours to Israel for several years and they informed us of this upcoming trip in July. Greg and I prayed about it and have been blessed so richly to be able to go.

I have never been away from our children for ten days so this will be a “first” for me in that area too. Greg and I are praying and preparing our hearts for what the Lord will teach us, reveal to us, and impart to us while visiting the Holy Land. We have been weeping just reading the tour book about the sites we will get to experience. I’m sure we will be overwhelmed (in the best sense of the word) not to mention The Isaacs singing at the sites as well. Needless to say, we are excited and expectant for all God has for us during this adventure.

Please pray for us and our children as we are away. They get to stay with big sister Abby and brother (in love) Ryan,  as well as go to Difference Maker camp while we’re gone.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, AMEN

Gretchen DeVries