My husband had been to Israel several times, leading group tours. It was my first time. In addition to my fear of flying, I was afraid that I would not have the life changing experience others seemed to have had. What if it didn’t happen for me?
Each day brought new experiences, yet identifying with Jesus in the place of His humanity still eluded me. Until we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
Seagulls soared overhead, crying with their “peacock like wail…” as water lapped about the boat. A crew member cast his net, much like Peter when Jesus told him to cast his net on the other side. Onboard, worship music bellowed from loud speakers, as we wandered about looking east, west, north, and south, singing softly or silently in our hearts.
In that moment, Jesus showed up. He had been in this place two millennia ago with His disciples. He had been here at creation with the Father, with the Holy Spirit. He was here on this day. With me. With us. Listening to the same sounds. Gazing up at the same landscape. Glorying in His mountains. Soothed by the same soft breezes coming down from the Valley of the Doves. Worshiping the same Father God. The seagulls may have reminded Him, as they did me, of the Spirit, Who like a dove had descended on Him at His baptism by John. There was peace. Now. Then. Even in another time when the winds raged down between the mountains bringing a vicious, terrifying storm. Jesus slept peacefully then. Until His terrified disciples woke Him with their screaming. At His command, the storm stopped. In that moment, I was there with Him. He was real. Alive. Human. God. Creator. Savior. Powerful. Present.
My anxiety on arrival at NextGen was much like my first Israel experience. What could I possibly contribute? Would I effectively connect with our group in an impactful way? Would Jesus show up and bond us together?
From the first gathering Jesus was there. The Father was present. The Holy Spirit was present. With me. With us. Teaching us. Filling us. Bonding us together. Refreshing our souls. Sharing His glory. In every conversation. In every prayer. In every message. In every song. In every touch. In every blessing. In honoring one another. In caring for our souls. In Oikos.
We may long to stay in these “extraordinary” moments. However, “those spiritual visits to high places, and that wonderful intercourse with the unseen world are not in the promises; the daily life of communion is. And it is enough.”ii (Cowman, 1996, p. 312)
Most of us are still processing, remembering, reflecting, and absorbing what we experienced at the NextGen in that intentionally created physical, spiritual, emotional God-filled space. It was a rare, sacred, restorative experience for our souls, a good and perfect gift from the Father of Lights.
Like Moses when he came down from Mt Sinai and Jesus at the Transfiguration, we, too, “with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, (and we were and are) being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18, NIV)
Until we meet again, may we go knowing Jesus is with us. Always. All the days. Ordinary. Extraordinary. Long. Hard. May we take time to absorb the glory to nourish our souls. May we go with Him. With joy. With hope. To our “duties in the valley…” Remembering “the value of the vision and glory is but their gift of fitness for the work and endurance.” (Cowman, 1996, p. 312)
i Pieplow, Nathan. (2019, October 14) What Gulls Say. Earbirding: Recording, Identifying, and Interpreting Bird Sounds. http://earbirding.com/blog/archives/3994
ii Cowman, Mrs. Charles. (Cowman, 1996) Streams in the Desert. (Anniversary Edition). Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.