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Introducing En Gedi Blessing

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En Gedi Blessing is about gifts…gifts of rest, renewal, celebration, creativity, intercession, gratefulness, and renewed relationships.

Friends of En Gedi have been blessed with beautiful vacation homes, and their desire is to use these spaces to bless a unique group–ministry leaders and their executive teams.

Loneliness, challenges and exhaustion often accompany a position of leadership….A leader who is refreshed and renewed by the Lord naturally overflows in refreshment and encouragement for others….

En Gedi blessing is intended to be a blessing that flows in all directions. As you spend time in these beautiful spaces, surrounded by the care of the special families who own these homes, our desire is for you to bless them with your priestly intercession–for them, their families, and their places of service, asking for more kingdom fruitfulness in every area of their lives…

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Fred Smith’s Blog: In the Bosom of Fools

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I rarely make comments on political matters, as my brother Eric can heartily attest too (and he would also add it is “for good reason.”  🙂  However, Fred Smith, the president of the Gathering, wrote a blog that I believe is worth making note of in this season, both in the US and in South Africa.

This blog is not partisan but more a commentary on our engagement with political and other matters.

It is called The Bosom of Fools.

Fred’s blogs are thought-provoking, interesting and stretching–worth a read.  If you would like to sign up to receive them every Thursday, you can do so here, toward the bottom of the page.

For more of Fred Smith’s blogs:  read more

My Secret Garden

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The Secret Garden–a beautiful story.  I also love the song “I come to the Garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…He walks with me and He talks with me.  He tells me I am His own….”  It was one of my Grandpa Doden’s favorites.

Every morning as I sit in my chair with tea and chocolate with Jesus, I sit looking out into my “secret garden.”  Jesus gave me my own “secret garden” here in Joburg…right outside my door–literally.

Though it might seem insignificant to some, to me it is love.  My Father knows what ministers to and refreshes my soul, and He gave me a unexpected, lavish gift in this new world where He has put me, knowing that it would bring life to my soul.

“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”  There’s something so amazing about the character of God in that phrase.  He’s intentional and personal in preparing a home for us, knowing us intimately…caring about the details of where He will bring us to live with Him forever.

Though Jesus was talking about heavenly homes with those words, I think He was also expressing the nature of our Father God.  Our Father prepares intimately and provides abundantly in the places where He puts us–South Africa included.

Pictures of His provision in my new world:

From a beautiful, gifted hairstylist…to my favorite and only perfume (which I have never seen in any other country)…to some wonderful new friends…to a car…to an incredible host family…to a secret garden–all gifts from my Father’s hand.  Sometimes the small gifts mean even more than the big ones because it shows that He really KNOWS me…intimately.

“My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  He provides according to His “riches” and not His “discount coupon book”–how I love that!!”  Each and every need of my heart is met lavishly–those spoken, those unspoken, and even those unknown to me…but known fully by Him.

My Secret Garden–“the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

Abraham must have had bad days too…

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January of this year started one of the greatest adventures of my life….

Though adventures of faith and travel have seemed to be a part of the Lord’s plan for me for a long time now, it’s never been quite like this…believing God for big and impossible things…for individuals, for nations and for the kingdom…all while living in a country that is not my birth country….DRIVING on the other side of the road…only getting direction one little step at a time…flying “blind” so often…faith…”the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things NOT SEEN!”

Abraham is so esteemed for his faith.  I have looked at his life often over these months/years.  He was 75 when he first received a promise.  By 85 there had still been no movement on God’s promise, though he had moved to the land that God promised to give him.  At 85, a “substitute” plan was introduced by Sarah, and Abraham accepted it–causing strife for centuries.  Abraham seemed content to receive Ishmael as God’s promised son until God came again when he was 99, assuring him that the promise of a son was STILL active–24 years later–and would happen in a year.  And…it did…and Sarah laughed…I have to believe Abraham did too.

Romans 4 says, “Against ALL HOPE, Abraham in hope believed…without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.”   I wish I had more details of the daily struggle of the 24 year lapse between the promise and the fulfillment, but, alas, not much information on that front.  I bet it was hard.  I bet he struggled.  All God tells us about, though, is that he had faith–he believed GOD and not what he saw!

So, in the midst of impossible situations, I choose to stand with Abraham, with Hebrews 11 people, with my Grandpa, a man of great faith.  It sometimes feels crazy, but I face the facts, and I choose faith…I am FULLY PERSUADED that God has the power to do what he has promised (Can you hear me preaching to myself?  A necessity for this journey! :-).
My faith pleases Him, and I want to please Him.  He is worthy of…my love, my faith, and my life,

Signature :: Laurie

Two life-changing jogs…

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I love going for a run!  Over the years, I have received many things while jogging–brilliant ideas, problem-solving wisdom, intercession for people, soul-refreshment, and even great friendship time with others!  I have run in African villages followed by laughing kids, in Chinese streets with “acid rain”(as I affectionately called the polluted rain there), in vineyards in South Africa, in my neighborhood in Indiana and many other adventurous places in-between.

There are two jogs recently that have been life-changing–for very different reasons.

The first one is actually a “JOG”–a Journey of Generosity–a facilitated 24 hour small-group experience to encounter God’s generosity. The experience itself is often a generous gift provided by a those who are hosting it.  During our time together, we experience incredible stories of generosity (of all different types), small group interactions, excerpts of readings, Bible study, and meaningful conversations over meals.  It’s a transformational heart journey.

Over the last year and half, I have had the privilege of participating in catalyzing the first JOGs in South Africa.  A month ago, we had our second round of JOGs in Capetown and our first JOGs ever in the Johannesburg area.  It has been a joy to be with different groups of amazing people and to encounter God’s generosity in a way that has marked us all.

Here are some photos from our times together!

Here’s some more information for the curious and interested that want to see, as it’s an experience I would highly recommend for anyone:  http://generousgiving.org/small-gatherings

The 2nd life-changing jog was an actual run–in Delta park in the middle of Johannesburg.  To back up a little bit…as I left the USA in January, I had really felt led to bring Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study materials, as the Lord seemed to have an agenda for that study during my stay here.   Fast forward 2 months…a good South African friend in the US wanted me to meet a childhood friend of hers from Johannesburg, which I was delighted to do.  We met for coffee and had a wonderful time together!  A few days later she invited me to go for a jog in the park with her and one of her friends who, as it turns out, leads a Bible study for women in this area.  In chatting on our run, this woman mentioned that their current study was finishing and that they were looking for something new.  Immediately I had a strong sense that this was the reason that I had brought Breaking Free with me to SA.

In March, we started a Breaking Free Bible study with 15+ women, and it’s been amazing to watch the Lord “proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” in different ways among this group of women.

Two JOGs/jogs…unique and life-changing.  Our King and His kingdom…there really is no greater joy than being about His business and watching Him work.

Love…

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Love…

I have been learning about love lately…His love…a love that never fails, never gives up and never runs out.  This lesson is long, hard…and rich.  Truth lessons worth holding on to often are…

A favorite refrain of our God seems to be, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.”  This phrase reverberates in the Psalms, was proclaimed morning and night in the temple, is a battle cry in II Chronicles, is prophetically proclaimed in Jeremiah, and will reverberate around His throne at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

“FOREVER” is a very long time for love to endure, with LOTS of patience in it (#1 in I Corinthians 13–God’s love list).  My own love endures…until I get tired…until I am rejected…until I am not treated well….

In my journey lately, I am realizing again how much I need Him to infuse me with His love.  HIS love ENDURES forever…it never fails, never gives up and never runs out…not ever….  HIS [perfect] love also casts out FEAR… fear of rejection, fear of tedious and indefinite repetition, fear of death to self….

This life of love is impossible without Him, I must say.  Pride wants to come to all my “love” parties accompanied by the rigid bodyguard of Self-Protection!  Part of my sharing in the sufferings of Christ is to love like He loves me–sacrificially and completely.  No pride.  No self-protection….Freely I have received and freely I can give.

Hosea experienced that.  Paul experienced that.  Jesus IS that.  We share in the sufferings of Jesus so that we can also share in the glory of His resurrection.

His “forever,” enduring love brings resurrection (I Cor. 5:17) …makes things new…makes me new…makes others new.

So today, in the same Spirit of David’s appointees Heman and Jeduthun at the gates of the temple (I Chron 16:39-42), I give thanks to the Lord, proclaiming with my life that:

“He is good and His love endures FOREVER!”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lPdtqgouCc

Signature :: Laurie

Go with Joy…

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A couple months ago, I had an accident in my little Honda Element.  I ran into someone from behind.  It’s the first accident that I have ever had where I was driving.  Some might find that hard to believe, given my enthusiastic nature, but it’s TRUE!!

Even though it was just a little fender bender, my Element, which has been dubbed my Box of Joy due to my “BxofJoy” license plate, had to go into the shop for extensive and expensive repairs.

The day I was going to go and pick it up, I was driving a rental car (which was so NOT my “bxofjoy” in any way!), and I stayed in the parking lot for a bit to finish a conversation with a dear friend on the phone.  As we said goodbye, she prayed for me that I would “go with joy” which was very needed.

As I walked into Enterprise Rental, I ran into a woman from church that I hadn’t seen for months. We were going in the same direction so they put us in the same shuttle to pick up our cars.  As we were riding together, it suddenly struck me that her name is JOY.  I was riding with Joy while I was on my way to pick up my Box of Joy.  I started laughing out loud.  I mean, what are the chances…really??

The Lord seemed to put an exclamation on His message to me that day:  “GO with JOY!  I mean it!”

How I love His sense of humor…when I have eyes to see it.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”  Is 55:12

“…The Joy of the Lord is my strength!”  Nehemiah 8:10

 

“Let there be light…”

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This picture is a story that had its start almost 2 years ago now…so hold on to your seats as I share one of the “mysteries” that I am still in the middle of…

I was getting dropped off at the airport for a trip to South Africa by a dear friend, and as I was getting luggage out of the car, she said to me, “I have been praying for you, and somehow I think the Lord has a job for you in South Africa.  I saw a stream of light go from the top of Africa all the way to the tip as I was praying.”  I was surprised and told her I would be praying about her words, as I know she seeks the Lord and listens well.

About ten minutes later after checking in for my flight, an elder from our church called to pray with me about my trip.  His small group was studying light and Jesus throughout the Bible, and before praying he shared their discovery that when God said, “Let there be light” he then designated the sun to “rule” the day and the moon to “rule” the night.  It seemed to them that light and authority were connected as they studied this.  Revelation states that in heaven there is no light, as Jesus is the only light–i.e. the only authority.  Interesting…

It seemed like I was getting some sort of progressive revelation–one conversation right after the next.  Somehow the light from the top of Africa all the way to the bottom may have something to do with the authority of Jesus’ reign and rule.  I was chewing on this as I boarded my first plane.

I sat next to an engineer who was headed to Italy and he asked me where I was going (South Africa).  He pointed to the Delta flight magazine, saying South Africa was highlighted on the front of the magazine that month and maybe I should read it.  (Incidentally it should be noted that I had been flying with Delta regularly for about 17 years at this point, and I had never seen South Africa highlighted in the magazine.)  I started to read…

The article highlighted 5 cities in South Africa, one of them being Johannesburg.  In Joberg, the article highlighted a place called “The Maboneng Precinct,” a vibrant urban renewal project in a very dark and historically dangerous part of Johannesburg. The article stated that someone (a developer I think) said, “Let there be light and there was light…in downtown Johannesburg.”  I about dropped the magazine, as it was the 3rd reference to light and South Africa in the last 30 minutes…very mysterious, but I was definitely paying attention now!

I arrived in Joberg and headed to “the summit” for J-life African leaders outside of Joberg.  The J-life president opened the first session of the summit by sharing that the prayer team who had been interceding over our time had gotten a picture of lightning bolts emanating out from South Africa into the rest of Africa.  Once again, I just about fell off my chair.   What is the Lord doing here in South Africa and Africa with light/authority?  What, if anything, does it have to do with me?  Crazy…

Well, that’s the mystery part of it.  I still don’t know the answers to all of those questions.  I seem to be on a personal journey, receiving revelations for each individual step as part of some bigger plan that He alone knows.  Faith…the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

Back to the Maboneng Precinct (the picture above)….  After this strange trip full of “light,” I really wanted to see this place–to taste and see for myself, even following it on Facebook for the last 2 years.  In August, my South African friends Sego, Gina and Smiley took me to see the Maboneng Precinct.  As we were walking around this really cool Urban renewal area right in the middle of this devastated area of Joberg, I kept asking the Lord what He wanted me to see or hear.  The message I seemed to hear repeatedly was…

“I can put light and life ANYWHERE.  It doesn’t matter how dead or devastated it seems, I am LIGHT and I am LIFE.”  (Ezekiel 37)

The mystery of my journey of “light” continues…

I proclaim, along with our Father, “Let there be LIGHT!”  May He reign and rule in South Africa and on the continent of Africa as He does in heaven!

Generations of Blessing

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“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty…”  Psalm 145:4-5

This Psalm was on my heart as I prepared to pray a blessing at my brother Jared’s wedding–a joyful celebration of grace!

In preparation for the blessing, I gathered Bibles from my Grandpa Bell and my Grandpa Doden as well as my new sister-in-law’s grandparents, as both sides have a rich heritage of faith in Jesus.  This stack of our grandparents’ Bibles sat on a chair in the middle of my parents and Whitney’s parents during the wedding.

As I blessed Jared and Whitney and faced that stack of Bibles, I saw in it a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness.  He promised that He will show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands, and He is faithful to His promises.  In the midst of battles and struggles of our different family members, this is a promise that we claim and remind Jesus of often as we pray together on our Tuesday night family-wide prayer call.

That picture also brought such gratefulness in my heart for the faithfulness of our grandparents and parents who have sought the Lord and talked to us about their journey with Him.

I have the honor and privilege of investing in the same way with children coming behind me, some within my family and some within the broader family of Christ.  How I pray that these kids will know and testify for themselves that Jesus is GOOD, and that He is big enough to do ANYTHING!

That’s what I believe and am talking to them about these days, even in the midst of my own battle for faith sometimes!!

Believing Him for a thousand generations…

Signature :: Laurie

A Reminder…

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Sometimes I just need a reminder…a reminder that He is present…a reminder that He never leaves me or forsakes me…a reminder that He is good and that His love endures forever.

Last week was one of those weeks, and He sent me several reminders–some with more “drama” than others.

After getting texts from friends one morning with pictures of a rainbow, this scene greeted me as I walked out of our ladies’ Bible study that night.  I actually gasped when I saw it.  The picture doesn’t begin to capture the full beauty of that sky.  I called back to the Bible study girls to “come out here fast” as He was showing off and I didn’t want them to miss it!

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We all stood there in awe for 5 or 10 minutes as we watched Him paint…paint His love, His faithfulness and His goodness across the sky!

That may sound cheesy or romantic to some, but I take these gifts personally because I think He gives them to me personally…if/when I have eyes to see.

He loves me, and He tells me to “proclaim His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night.”

The bookends of that day–a rainbow in the morning and the glorious sunset at night–reminded me of His love for me in the “dark”…and of my own need to proclaim what I know to be true in my head though sometimes need a reminder of for my heart.

“You are good and your love endures forever!”