Category Archive: Joy

Creativity, and the Master Creator

celtic woman 2The violinist danced onto the stage, tossing her long, straight blond hair from side to side as she maintained a continuous, lilting melody on the strings of her instrument–a seemingly impossible combination of music and movement.

Backing her were drums, guitars, a piano, and bagpipe. The sounds of Ireland were pure and strong.

Don and I had traveled to Fresno, three hours from home, to hear Celtic Woman, a group I’ve long wanted to see in person. Here we were in the William Saroyan Theater, Row H, Seats 37-38, anticipating the joy of the evening’s music.

celtic woman 3Then, through the darkness and mist at the back of the stage, entered three lovely women clad in elegant, jeweled gowns. As they sang, their harmonies danced around and over each other, making it difficult to know who was singing which part at any one time. The blend and cross-over of their voices, along with the music of the instruments, was sublime. The melodies, costumes, and dance drew me into a mythical world of fairies and woodland nymphs and minor tunes and joy and yearning and passion.

mairead-susan-lynn-mairead celtic womanWe heard the sounds of pain and hunger suffered throughout Irish history and famines. And out of that pain has come incredible creativity which emanates from our Master Creator, the God of the universe, the One who promised to

    • “provide for those who grieve in Zion—
    • to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
    • the oil of joy instead of mourning,
    • and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3a, NIV)

All good things come from God. The Master Creator, He weaves our lives in and out of situations where we don’t always know whether we’re carrying the melody or a harmony–or if we’re in tune at all. He brings beauty from ashes, joy rather than mourning.

Chills filled me as I heard a bagpipe coming from our left. The air moved through the pipes as he soloed, walking toward the stage. Just as he climbed the stairs, the other instruments joined his, filling the auditorium with quiet strength. Then the women entered, singing these meaningful words:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound bagpipe
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

Voices and instruments crescendoed, reaching a climax of praise to God.  And one day every created thing will give Him praise and honor as we fall on our knees before His majesty, glory, and grace.

Hope because Jesus Lives!

The sun rose early that Sunday morning. Mary of Migdal had been grieving since Jesus was arrested Thursday evening. She was shattered at the death of her Lord, the one who forgave her when others wanted to stone her, who told her to go live a new life. She went to the tomb, planning to sit with the body of her Master.

Nearing the tomb, she stopped short, her eyes wide. The stone, that several-ton rock that had been rolled in front of the tomb to prevent anyone stealing Jesus’ body, was no longer in front of the grave’s opening. Running, she peered inside the tomb. It was empty!

Turning, she saw a man standing near. Thinking he was the gardener, she spoke through the tears streaming down her face. “Sir, please tell me where you have taken my Lord.” Then he spoke her name. “Mary.”

He is Risen - Just as He promised

He is Risen – Just as He promised

A little boy once said you know someone loves you “when your name is safe in their mouth.” Mary’s name was safe in Jesus’ mouth, and she realized it was Him speaking to her, risen just as He promised. Radiant, she ran to tell the disciples the good news.

The apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians about the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead …” (I Cor 15:17-20a)

After my first husband passed away, I fell into a pit of despair. What if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? What if all I believed was a lie and I would never see Jerry again? I agonized, unwilling and unable to share my fears with anyone. After about three weeks, God brought a scripture to mind.

After many turned away from Jesus, He asked the disciples “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter replied, “Where else would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-69). God spoke those words into my spirit and my doubts were lifted as I thanked God that because of Jesus’ resurrection, I will indeed see Jerry again–and even more, one day I will see Jesus face to face. Glory!

How has Jesus’ resurrection changed your life? I’d love to hear.

Galilee and the Galilean

We began our day at the the Mount of Beatitudes, where there is a lovely convent and church. Rene taught us from the Beatitudes, and we had time to wander and pray.

Convent at Mount of Beatitudes

Convent at Mount of Beatitudes

From there we traveled to Capernaum, where Jesus lived for several years. A Church has been constructed over what are believed to be the ruins of the apostle Peter’s mother-in-law’s home. Most interesting to me was the detail of God’s plan. Capernaum was on a major highway, a route that anyone traveling between five countries had to travel.  Nothing of God is simply chance.

Capernaum Ruins

Capernaum Ruins

Nearby, we walked onto the shores of the Sea of Galilee and imagined Jesus calling some of his disciples.

Boarding a boat in the sunshine, we left one shore. About halfway across the Galilee we hit a sudden squall which included slamming rain, which  stopped before we docked on the opposite shore. We sang along to wonderful Jesus songs from the 70s and 80s, were taught the Hava Nagila dance (“Let us rejoice”), and laughed at our missteps. It was amazing to be part of the same kind of weather Jesus and the disciples faced in their day.

We next stopped on the Jordan river which had about eight areas set aside for baptism. Those wishing to be baptized changed into their swimsuits and covered them with provided white gowns. Folks must not have realized how transparent these white gowns were when wet … some who didn’t have anythong on underneath might have been quite surprised that nothing was hidden! Fortunately, our folks all had swimsuits. Two of our group were first-time baptisms, the others seven wanted to recommit and to be baptized where Jesus was.????????

The Jordan Baptism Site

The Jordan Baptism Site

Afterward, I heard groups praising God in different languages. Tears came to my eyes as I heard Asians singing on one side,  Africans on another. The unity I felt with these brothers and sisters in Christ brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. As the church, we are one in Christ. What will heaven be like?

Wonderful day in every possible way. Time for bed.

Wednesday – Dan Nature Preserve, city of Dan under the rule of Jeroboam, and the gates of Canaan, the oldest known gate being excavated. This is the gate Abraham would have walked thru to find his nephew, Lot.

Then on to the Baniass Nature Preserve and spring, site of the Temple of Pan, source of the words panic and pandemonium. How appropriate that worship of this, or any false god, brings pandemonium.

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Looking down into a bunker

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Golan Heights signpost

We wandered the fortifications at the Golan Heights, 4500 feet above sea level, from which we saw Syria and Lebanon. Had some wonderful mocha coffee to warm our hands and innards … The remaining snow and a hefty wind kept it chillingly cold!!!

I’m amazed at the topography in Galilee. Beautiful, green, fertile; almond, orange and lemon trees in abundance, along with banana and date palms. The green hills are absolutely spotted with rocks. The Israelis have brought wonderful productivity to a rocky land.

Tomorrow, Jerusalem!

Tel Aviv Surprise

After seventeen hours’ flying time, plus airport waits, Don and I approached the customs window in the Tel Aviv airport. Neither of us has been in Israel before. But seeing the land where Jesus walked, taught, healed, loved, and gave His life as a ransom for many (including me) has been a long-held dream. Standing in line, weary but excited, I watched Israeli nationals returning home, along with travelers like us entering the country. I didn’t know quite what to expect. Would we be grilled by customs? Would we feel intimidated by their security measures?

“Hi,” I smiled as I handed over our passports. The officer looked at them, then up at me.

“You’re Canadian.”

“Well, I used to be.”

“Where were you born?”free-angel-clip-art-.073

“In a little town in Manitoba.”

He looked up like he was waiting for more detail. I didn’t give any, thinking he wouldn’t know much about that frozen wasteland where Mom gave birth to me on a September long ago.

“Winkler? Morden?” He asked.

My jaw dropped. “How do you know about Winkler? That’s where I was born.”

“Mennonites,” he responded, and stamped our passports. “Welcome to Israel.”

Not wanting to keep the line waiting, I didn’t ask how he knew of these towns. The officer, however, told someone behind us in line that a lot of his friends had moved to those areas. Wait, that little farming community where Mom and Dad met in Bible school, that tiny place where my great uncle had a large, and productive, potato chip factory? Now a mix of Mennonites and Israelis? Who would’a thunk it?

And so began our journey in the land of Israel, with a welcome that connected my Mennonite heritage with a Hebrew customs official. What other surprises would our Father have in store along the way?