Be Courageous and Strong

“Have I not commanded you? Be Strong and Courageous! Do not remble or be dismayed, for the ord your God is with you whereever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

Little did we know when we set out for this day just how many times that passage would come to rest on our hearts. When we got up for breakfast, many of us were already sitting like zombies and wondering if we had the strength to make it through the day even if nothing unexpected happened. Well, that right there should have been a big enough sign for me to head right back to St. George’s and make today move in day.  Najeeb, comes in and tells me for the second straight day that he is not feeling well, he is better today than yesterday, but not well.  I try not to give him too much sympathy, OK, I really gave him none.  I kind of think he is having to work a little harder than he thought he was going to have to work. This was his way of lightening the load. He, again, wants to go over the schedule and make changes. I explain why I have asked for what I asked for, no more and no less. He hesitantly concedes and we make plans to move on. Before we can even get up from the table, our driver says that because the bus was sitting in the street and not in the parking space at our Guesthouse the Police came to him and took away his driving permit. We are going nowhere, fast.  We get that issue resolved.  I get an email from the airport responding to my inquiry about a suitcase that was not there when we arrived. Their response was, did you start a file on this suitcase before leaving the airport. I responded that due to some miscommunication I was not made aware that we were missing a suitcase until later in the day. After multiple phone calls to the airport I moved on to their automated service which said if you want your baggage you have to sent us the information in an email, of which I did.  They responded, we have no file on this suitcase, have a great trip.  I responded one more time asking if the suitcase was there and could we retrieve it. I got no answer back.

“Have I not commanded you? Be Strong and Courageous! Do not remble or be dismayed, for the ord your God is with you whereever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

We are going to check out the stategic cities and fortresses along the Sorek and Elah Valleys. We here of countless encounters of which the victors needed to be strong and courgageous; faithful and true. We learn of David and Goliath. We share the story of Samson and Delilah.  We see God at work as the enemy take the Ark of the Covenant only to have such a bad time with it, they send it back to God’s people with an apology.

We go to the hometown of one of favorite top two Prophets…Micah. He is best known for the passage of Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord Require of you? To do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with Your God.” This, too, much be done by remaining Strong and Courageous.

Each step of the way I am finding that Najeeb is wanting to change the schedule. Each time I ask him to please move on as we had intended. Three minute restroom breaks turn into 30 minute shopping sprees.  Lunch that was supposed to be a light lunch at a roadside Gas Station – Restaurant turns into a full steak dinner. (Which by the way, was great.)

My ultimate goal for the day was to get our group to the Ashkelon State Park with enough time to talk over the significance of Ashkelon and still be able to go play in the Mediterranean Sea.  As far as timing goes, it could not have been better. Through all of the hesitations and challenges to my schedule we arrive just as I wanted to do. We put up to a closed gate. By this time, Najeeb is being less that cheerful and he sort of takes it out on the poor Stand Guard at the site.  She tells him that, yes, she remembers his three calls making sure the site was open and that it was not closing until late because it was a Saturday. However, situcations with Israel and Gaza have resulted in the government telling each of these sites along the Gaza air path to close to the public.  This includes the beaches of the Med.  Najeeb comes back to the bus and explains to me what has happened. I struggle it off, a little disappointed, but this is something out of our control. Najeeb tells me I am being to much of pushover and that I should be stronger and more courageous. Same phrase, with a whole different meaning. He tells me Israel is being unreasonable. But he will follow whatever I tell him to do. I tell to first, look and see if indeed the beaches are closed and if they are, then we simply head back to the hotel.

We turn the bus around. Najeeb is still irrated at the government, the lady at the gate, and me. He is mumbling something, just as one of group members says from the back, “Did you see that, Paul” I responded that I missed what they saw, but I saw all the people in front of me ducking under cars and pointing up to the sky wide eyed and wth  open moiuths. Next thing we see in Smoke rising from a distance to the south of us. Now, it doesn’t seem to be such a bad idea for us to get out of Ashkelon. We head for our home base.

The days continues with end results of being exactly what we could make the most of in each situation. Each step of the way seemingly taking every ounce of strength and courage we could muster for the God who promised to to with us. Even our dinner get complicated and mixed up and a challenge to find and to eat. God reaches out and shines down on us as in a dessert case sitting there just begging for someone to enjoy is Cheescake and Tirramisu.  After dinner I go back to the man at the counter and ask what it would take to buy the whole cheesecake and 2 servings of Tiramisu. A deal is struck, some group members chip in and we are walking away with the best desserts ever as we move into our time of reflection. Thanks be to God!

The issues of Palestne and Israel became real today for some in our group. The battles fought over the centuries are still being waged today. God calls all of us to “To do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with our God” and to be Strong and Courageous.  In each moment of our day when things felt too heavy to move on, God reached down with wondrous landscapes, awe inspiring caves of sandstone, plants that attack and remind us to be humble, site filled with centuries of Christian Witnees begging us to be the Living Stones today; and, a God who shines through with Steak Lunches and Cheescake. You, reading this, probably won’t get this…maybe I’ll explain it later, but for now I close this powerful day with this…”It doesn’t get any better than this, does it?  Thanks be to God.”  Amen.