When God Shapes A Family

Well, we’re back, and it was quite a trip!  Being in Israel at all the historic sites where God unfolded his story of redemption is a moving and stimulating experience.  I even got to be in some places I had not been before, like the high place Jeroboam built to keep people from going to Jerusalem to solidify his power over half the kingdom when Solomon died, Caesera Phillipi where the events of Matthew 16 happened, the tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.  The other sites I’d been to before, but sharing them with Sara and 39 others was a joy. Our guide (pictured at left with Sara and me) was incredibly helpful and deeply touched by the love and life that our group shared together.  I’m still blown away with it myself, and I’ve been through this kind of thing a number of times before.  I’m sure there will be more about all of this on this week’s podcast.

How can forty strangers show up from all over the world, with little similarities in cultural or spiritual backgrounds, and spend ten days together and in the end become such a tight-knit family, where the emails I’m receiving this morning are how much they already miss each other having returned to our various corners of the globe?  I’ve had tastes of that wherever I’ve traveled in the world and find it always hard to part after a few days together because of how God knits hearts together.  Many got a taste of it at our gathering in Ireland a couple of years ago that promted the article, Friends and Friends of Friends.  I do see Jesus knitting his church together just through things like this that bring people together from distant places and allows them to connect as friends that will go far beyond the days we got to spend together.

Ten days in a bus as well as shared meals in hotels will do that.  I love how quickly people fall in with each other and this trip was filled with lots of laughter, as well as walking with people through some painful bits in their lives. People were really ready to let others into their lives, to be genuine without the need to try to impress each other.  No one was pressured to do anything other than they freely chose to do (other than wake up earlier than some wanted to catch the bus) and friendships began that will last a lifetime.  Through our time together God built us into a family that learned to walk together, love each other, and share a life-changing experience.  Yes, the circumstances were a bit artifical.  We were on a task together (exploring Israel), free from the responsibilites of everyday life, outside of our own routines, and together constantly with the same people.   Our time in Ireland offered the same dynamics.  But just because the environment is a bit artificial, the relationships aren’t. I can think of so many of those people I’d love to invite over to dinner tonight and continue the conversation.  The bonding of our hearts was deep and real and I’ve no doubt will continue to bear fruit around the world in days and years to come.  I’ve been enjoying relationships like that for a long time now.  

But doesn’t that same bonding happen with every tour group?  Not according to our Israeli guide and our bus driver.  They both commented how much they enjoyed all of us and the way we navigated life together.  They’ve seen hundreds of groups but knew they were witnessing a different dynamic here.  I loved watching the journey unfold through the eyes of our guide.  He continued to make comments and asked questions and I watched him won into our friendships even has he was trying to maintain a professional distance.  He was continually surprised that these people had not met each other before and yet so quickly and joyously became part of each other’s lives. He didn’t have a box to fit us into, and soon found himself endeared to so many in our group and repeatedly asked questions about what we believed and why we were there.  On our final day we paused in a Jewish cemetary as we descended down the road Jesus took from the Mt. of Olives into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his crucifixion.  There we sang and shared gazing on Temple Mount and in the end our affection spilled out in a sea of hugs that he was caught up in as well.  He later told me he was undone by it and wasn’t ready for that to happen.  Later he sat in the hotel with us as people gathered their things to head to the airport.  For two and a half hours he joined our conversations, sharing pictures of family and stories from his personal life.  He told me he never does that but couldn’t stop himself.  With a smile in his eye he accused me of making him break his own rules.  That made me smile!   

When people are engaging Jesus as a real person in their lives, I find the only thing that’s needed for fellowship to be rich and full is proximity.  That’s how he builds a family.  By connecting us to him and then letting us live alongside each other long enough for friendships to take hold.  Even if that is for only ten days, a marvelous reality emerges.  Jesus takes expression in his family and the fruits are a delectable feast!  This was one of those times when we got to be part of something so much greater than the sum of our parts.  We got to experience what common-unity is in his family, not because we agreed on everything, but because we were people growing in his reality and could enjoy each other freely.

This is the fruit I enjoy most traveling around the world, whether it’s something like this or being in a home with 4-5 or 35 people.  I love it when God connects people on this journey and they discover how easy it is to share the life of Jesus together with others who are growing in his love as well.  If you ever have a chance to go to a gathering of folks in your area who are learing to live loved, do it.  Even if you have to cancel some things and drive (or fly) some distance.  It’s worth doing and you’ll find that when people no longer have theological agendas, or a need to push others into their way of thinking, that it really isn’t so difficult to love each other and share his life together.

Of course our very human need now will be to memorialize this event and try to hold on to the exprience longer than we need to. Though we joked about a yearly retreat somewhere in the world, that’s the stuff of human imaginings.  We were part of an amazing ten-day experience and we got to touch the reality of the family Jesus is building in the world.  As an event it’s time has passed.  Life happened there and certainly those friendships will endure as we cross paths throughout the world in years to come.  But there’s no way to recreate it and trying to would destroy the mystery of it.   What was true about his family that we experienced there will grow on with the next person we find ourselves engaging at home or at work.  

Passion and proximity allowed the family of God to take shape around us.  That can happen right where you are, too.  It may mean that you have to break some of your routines as well.  If what you’re doing now doesn’t lead you to community, it may be time to blow up some routines, and lay down some of our distractions.  It may help to be on a task together, rather than trying to build a group.  We didn’t go to Israel to build a community and we didn’t do ice-breaking games to artificially provoke it.  Community is the work God does as we make room in our lives for others.  That task can be as simple as exploring who Jesus is, but being intentional about relationships without manipulating people to a desired outcome will go a long ways. 

We were part of an amazing family for ten days, and all the more that it comprised people from five different continents, from virtually every walk of life.  We were enriched by the life we shared together, but it is only a brief picture of a larger family God is shaping in the world.  Ask him how you can see that take expression near you.

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12 Comments
  1. Joni Menard February 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Never say good bye but we say ‘next year in Jerusalem’.

  2. Joni Menard February 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Never say good bye but we say ‘next year in Jerusalem’.

  3. Ruth Sapp February 20, 2014 at 2:42 am

    I think what happened with Daniel made this trip even more precious! 

  4. Ruth Sapp February 20, 2014 at 5:42 am

    I think what happened with Daniel made this trip even more precious! 

  5. Silvio February 20, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Absolutely ! And what’s more, it was so natural to be together and share our lives ! That’s what I love, the bonds come so quickly, and they stay ! I – we – just miss all these people, in 10 days we shared so many things, and I think that  the thing that touched our guide, is that nobody had an agenda. As he said himself, we were “free thinkers” but as one of us said immediatly after, only the first part is true, not sure about the second 🙂 

    Hope we can have a reunion sometimes, in Switzerland maybe ? 

     

  6. Silvio February 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Absolutely ! And what’s more, it was so natural to be together and share our lives ! That’s what I love, the bonds come so quickly, and they stay ! I – we – just miss all these people, in 10 days we shared so many things, and I think that  the thing that touched our guide, is that nobody had an agenda. As he said himself, we were “free thinkers” but as one of us said immediatly after, only the first part is true, not sure about the second 🙂 

    Hope we can have a reunion sometimes, in Switzerland maybe ? 

     

  7. KimMcInturff March 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I’m posting this for Greg at Wayne’s request.  

    Hi Wayne,

    Here are my thoughts, emotions and experience as I reflect on the trip to Israel with some of the coolest brothers and sisters in Christ.  I did not see any of this coming when Kim and I (#33) decided to go, based on the leading of the Lord.   Our youngest son joined and came which was a blessing.  Jesus’s finger prints were all over the trip even in the beginning.  When we arrived at Tel Aviv airport I was rewarded for doing a good deed (helping a young mother with her luggage which she was very thankful) with an escort to airport security who wanted to take me to the police. L  They were upset about my going in and out of a gate and not reading the signs.  Funny thing was when we retraced my steps there were no signs other than the one that said “Welcome”. J  I think Father redeemed the situation and was having fun with them.  My new brothers and sisters thought it was funny, but I was ever so glad to be on that bus.

    The two things I will remember the most were the friends I met and Jesus who so thoroughly loves us.  Going to Israel was not on my bucket list or anything like that.  So I had no expectations or any thoughts about what I would see.  But as we began to visit the sites such as Nazareth and Capernaum I was realizing this is the place where Jesus lived and began his ministry.  We visited the site in Capernaum and saw Peter’s house and the city that Jesus spent time with his disciples.  What began to happen was a bit of disappointment because it seemed so unimpressive.  I was very surprised at my reaction and tried to ignore my feelings and thoughts about it.  I was feeling ashamed that I was not more excited about what I was seeing.  But I knew that shame leads to thinking, “What is wrong with me?” and I knew that was not the path that leads to Truth (Jesus). So I began to ask Jesus how come I was thinking and feeling this way.  I was at peace leaving it with him to sort it out.   All the time I was having an awesome time connecting with Andrew, Roger, Susan, Denise, Alena, Rod, Brad, Iris, Ruth, Wayne, Daniel, Barb, younger Andrew, Lynn, Philip, Jason, Curt, Joni, Sara, Kevin, Ron, Katie, Paul, Janna, Adrian, Doina, Rick, Craig, Hideko, Jill, Michael, Doug, Donna, Bob, Pamela, Dominique, Steve and of course Silvio.  Then the unexpected happened to me that changed how I felt about Jesus.  The day we entered Jerusalem we visited a church called St. Anne”s which had amazing acoustics.  Daniel, our guide, had encouraged us to sing inside when we sat down.  Lynn began to sing and started to encourage others to sing which we all began to do.  There are no words to adequately to describe the beauty and fullness I felt.  As I was singing I had an overwhelming joy of the love Father had for me.  I had to stop singing because I couldn’t keep from crying, but I was not sad but overwhelmed with love I felt from Jesus.  It was like the love of God/Spirit just fell right on us.  I had never experienced anything like it (conservative Baptist, you know) of that intensity.  That night I woke up around 2:30am and asked the Father what that experience was all about at St. Anne’s.  He said, “I was giving you a bear hug like the one at Cornelius’ house”, but I was not sure at first what he was saying.  Then the Lord reminded me where I had learned this about him.  In the story of the awesome love of the Father for his wayward son (known as the prodigal son story) he (Father) ran to meet his son when he saw him coming home and “fell on” or “embraced and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).  The same words (Acts 10:44) are used to describe when the Spirit “fell on” the house of Cornelius with Peter.  Father had just given me a big bear hug and even as I type out these words right now I’m still overwhelmed in my heart to feel so loved by Father.  Then all of a sudden I realized how awesome it was that God became man.  How radical it was for Jesus (God) to be a man.  How it showed how much Father loves humanity.  Jesus (God) was not one bit feeling any shame being a man.  The living and commonness of being a man now was pillar or rock and testimony of the love of God.  Jesus was around smelly men, got dirty and sweaty working, stepped on sharp rocks when walking, ate food made by friends that did not taste good but ate it anyway, people did not like him, he got excited when he saw the Father working in others, cried, hurt, felt the love of others, got hot, got cold, used the bathroom or lack thereof and everything that goes with being human and not an ounce of shame.  There was nothing wrong with Him being human and being Him.  He was so comfortable in our skin.  Wow does Father love us and, wow, what a Jesus!! The rest of the trip I was just in a new awe of Jesus.  It seems so obvious that Jesus came to recreate a new breed of man via the rebirth and new creation.  I Cor. 15:45 “…The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

    I did talk to a few others about that experience at St. Anne’s which I believe some had similar experience with the Spirit, but I know it is not important that we all experience the same thing because that would be too boring. J  The whole trip I wished everyone lived so close to us so we could get together and enjoy Jesus together.  I wanted to hear more about their journeys.  I just could not help but love everyone.  We were not people who did not have any problems but it did not matter.  What mattered to me, was them.   Also people were willing to accept love as much as give it.  No one seemed put off by others weaknesses.  There may be other things I would like to write about, but I am tired and I have run out of things to say. J  Good night Wayne…

  8. KimMcInturff March 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I’m posting this for Greg at Wayne’s request.  

    Hi Wayne,

    Here are my thoughts, emotions and experience as I reflect on the trip to Israel with some of the coolest brothers and sisters in Christ.  I did not see any of this coming when Kim and I (#33) decided to go, based on the leading of the Lord.   Our youngest son joined and came which was a blessing.  Jesus’s finger prints were all over the trip even in the beginning.  When we arrived at Tel Aviv airport I was rewarded for doing a good deed (helping a young mother with her luggage which she was very thankful) with an escort to airport security who wanted to take me to the police. L  They were upset about my going in and out of a gate and not reading the signs.  Funny thing was when we retraced my steps there were no signs other than the one that said “Welcome”. J  I think Father redeemed the situation and was having fun with them.  My new brothers and sisters thought it was funny, but I was ever so glad to be on that bus.

    The two things I will remember the most were the friends I met and Jesus who so thoroughly loves us.  Going to Israel was not on my bucket list or anything like that.  So I had no expectations or any thoughts about what I would see.  But as we began to visit the sites such as Nazareth and Capernaum I was realizing this is the place where Jesus lived and began his ministry.  We visited the site in Capernaum and saw Peter’s house and the city that Jesus spent time with his disciples.  What began to happen was a bit of disappointment because it seemed so unimpressive.  I was very surprised at my reaction and tried to ignore my feelings and thoughts about it.  I was feeling ashamed that I was not more excited about what I was seeing.  But I knew that shame leads to thinking, “What is wrong with me?” and I knew that was not the path that leads to Truth (Jesus). So I began to ask Jesus how come I was thinking and feeling this way.  I was at peace leaving it with him to sort it out.   All the time I was having an awesome time connecting with Andrew, Roger, Susan, Denise, Alena, Rod, Brad, Iris, Ruth, Wayne, Daniel, Barb, younger Andrew, Lynn, Philip, Jason, Curt, Joni, Sara, Kevin, Ron, Katie, Paul, Janna, Adrian, Doina, Rick, Craig, Hideko, Jill, Michael, Doug, Donna, Bob, Pamela, Dominique, Steve and of course Silvio.  Then the unexpected happened to me that changed how I felt about Jesus.  The day we entered Jerusalem we visited a church called St. Anne”s which had amazing acoustics.  Daniel, our guide, had encouraged us to sing inside when we sat down.  Lynn began to sing and started to encourage others to sing which we all began to do.  There are no words to adequately to describe the beauty and fullness I felt.  As I was singing I had an overwhelming joy of the love Father had for me.  I had to stop singing because I couldn’t keep from crying, but I was not sad but overwhelmed with love I felt from Jesus.  It was like the love of God/Spirit just fell right on us.  I had never experienced anything like it (conservative Baptist, you know) of that intensity.  That night I woke up around 2:30am and asked the Father what that experience was all about at St. Anne’s.  He said, “I was giving you a bear hug like the one at Cornelius’ house”, but I was not sure at first what he was saying.  Then the Lord reminded me where I had learned this about him.  In the story of the awesome love of the Father for his wayward son (known as the prodigal son story) he (Father) ran to meet his son when he saw him coming home and “fell on” or “embraced and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).  The same words (Acts 10:44) are used to describe when the Spirit “fell on” the house of Cornelius with Peter.  Father had just given me a big bear hug and even as I type out these words right now I’m still overwhelmed in my heart to feel so loved by Father.  Then all of a sudden I realized how awesome it was that God became man.  How radical it was for Jesus (God) to be a man.  How it showed how much Father loves humanity.  Jesus (God) was not one bit feeling any shame being a man.  The living and commonness of being a man now was pillar or rock and testimony of the love of God.  Jesus was around smelly men, got dirty and sweaty working, stepped on sharp rocks when walking, ate food made by friends that did not taste good but ate it anyway, people did not like him, he got excited when he saw the Father working in others, cried, hurt, felt the love of others, got hot, got cold, used the bathroom or lack thereof and everything that goes with being human and not an ounce of shame.  There was nothing wrong with Him being human and being Him.  He was so comfortable in our skin.  Wow does Father love us and, wow, what a Jesus!! The rest of the trip I was just in a new awe of Jesus.  It seems so obvious that Jesus came to recreate a new breed of man via the rebirth and new creation.  I Cor. 15:45 “…The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

    I did talk to a few others about that experience at St. Anne’s which I believe some had similar experience with the Spirit, but I know it is not important that we all experience the same thing because that would be too boring. J  The whole trip I wished everyone lived so close to us so we could get together and enjoy Jesus together.  I wanted to hear more about their journeys.  I just could not help but love everyone.  We were not people who did not have any problems but it did not matter.  What mattered to me, was them.   Also people were willing to accept love as much as give it.  No one seemed put off by others weaknesses.  There may be other things I would like to write about, but I am tired and I have run out of things to say. J  Good night Wayne…

  9. Anonymous March 22, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Yes, the circumstances were a bit artifical.

    To say the least. ;o)  However, you do acknowlege that the experience cannot be held onto and repeated. 

    My question is this; What is the essential ingredient that allows a group of people to be in long term face-to-face relationship?  Is this desirable?  If not, why not?

     

    Tom

     

     

  10. Anonymous March 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Yes, the circumstances were a bit artifical.

    To say the least. ;o)  However, you do acknowlege that the experience cannot be held onto and repeated. 

    My question is this; What is the essential ingredient that allows a group of people to be in long term face-to-face relationship?  Is this desirable?  If not, why not?

     

    Tom

     

     

  11. waynej March 22, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Tom, I think my point was WE cannot hold on to them or WE cannot control their repitition.  But God can do all of that in a variety of situations.  I have many, many, long-term face-to-face relationships. Are they desireable?  Absolutely.  But I don’t have an life-long relationships with groups of people.  At some point they seem to come unraveled by apathy, selfish people who have to control them, or simply people move away or move on with their lives.  Trying to preserve groups is an exercise in futility.  Treasuring the relationships God brings into our live is priceless.  I suspect some from that Israel trip will be life-long friends.  Some have already been together since the trip.  Some are already talking about a reunion.   Some will be able to go, others won’t.  Trying to hold onto the group as a group won’t work.  Enjoying the friendships as the intersect in the future will bring great joy to many.  

  12. waynej March 22, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Tom, I think my point was WE cannot hold on to them or WE cannot control their repitition.  But God can do all of that in a variety of situations.  I have many, many, long-term face-to-face relationships. Are they desireable?  Absolutely.  But I don’t have an life-long relationships with groups of people.  At some point they seem to come unraveled by apathy, selfish people who have to control them, or simply people move away or move on with their lives.  Trying to preserve groups is an exercise in futility.  Treasuring the relationships God brings into our live is priceless.  I suspect some from that Israel trip will be life-long friends.  Some have already been together since the trip.  Some are already talking about a reunion.   Some will be able to go, others won’t.  Trying to hold onto the group as a group won’t work.  Enjoying the friendships as the intersect in the future will bring great joy to many.  

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