A couple of weeks ago I had signed up to participate in an Instagram writing challenge with a group I joined last year, Hope Writers. I love it when they give the writing challenges because they use one-word prompts, throw out a few ideas, and challenge us to get our writing juices flowing — and our favorite pictures shining.
Little did I know that that their May challenge would also coincide with missiles from Hamas sent special delivery from Gaza to the south of Israel and as far north as Hertzlia. From one map I saw, some missiles flew even further north and only poor aim (and perhaps angels) prevented them from arriving in Haifa.
I do not know what you are hearing in the news, and so at the end of this post, I will include some links so that you can read the latest. For now, I thought I would share my writing challenge musings with you from the past few days. I believe they will best provide insight into my thoughts about what is best happening.
Day 1 of the Hope Writers Challenge
Monday, May 10: Missiles began flying the night before, demonstrations had not yet started
Today’s inspiration is a simple word that has stirred up so much: “voice.” I was surprised. I voiced opinions in a poem, that I don’t quite have the courage to share – yet.
We underestimate the power of our voices. We are drowned out by the screams of silence and the emptiness of noise. But that does not mean we do not have a voice. The question is, what will we do with our voice? What will I do with mine? Hide? Procrastinate? Or in slow, halting, hesitant words, taste the words before I speak them. Let them flow from my mind to my tongue, and then slide slowly, down my arm, into my fingers, finding expression here in front of you – to be read – to be heard – and hopefully to inspire other voices to join in a great choir of words, crafted like music in major and minor keys. A music of words that will give voice to the love and hope that remains to be found, as we let HIS voice fill our hearts, our minds, and our souls. My voice, joining with others, joining with a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
Day 2 of the Hope Writers Challenge
Tuesday, May 11: Missiles reached as far north as Hertzlia and Netanya, but were intercepted; demonstrations begin
Today’s HopeWriters writing prompt is “Refresh.”
I was asked to consider what refreshment looks like for me, or perhaps to take a look at refreshing my writing life – or even to refresh myself.
I have to admit, the word “refresh” is not one that is central in my vocabulary. It seems to be used sparingly in the Bible as well. Depending on the translation, the word appears in English only some 12-15 times. But a couple of instances talk about the refreshing of the soul, like this verse in Proverbs. Another one in Acts talks about turning away from sin, so that times of refreshing may come.
Today, missiles are flying from Gaza to the south of Israel, and as far north as Herzliya. How refreshing it would be if I could hear the good news that everyone had decided to lay down their hatred and pride and decided to care more about life and a future rather than destruction. That would indeed refresh my soul, and I suspect the souls of many. Sadly, though, I doubt that will happen any time soon.
But perhaps what could begin to refresh my writing life is to begin to write more about how I see current events around me. It’s a rather frightening thought, and yet, perhaps it would not only be a refreshing release for me, but for my readers. I know my perspectives do not hold with the party line. Don’t get me wrong, I love my adopted country of Israel. But I do not believe that everything that is done here is handled well, nor do I believe that God can bless unrighteousness – not in my life, personally – and not in Israel, nationally. I would like to be a messenger who brings refreshing words to others, despite the realities of this life.
Outside my window, missiles fly, demonstrations are taking place, and many battles are being fought. I only know one thing for certain, God deeply loves ALL of the people on BOTH sides of the fence. He LONGS for them all to receive a message of Good News that they might all be refreshed. Today that is what “Refresh” means to me.
Day 3 of the Hope Writers Challenge
Wednesday, May 12: Missiles continue to be fired, Jewish groups are now attacking Arab ones in Haifa and other cities known for coexistence
Today’s writing prompt is the word “story.”
Most people love a good story. Some like to hear them, others like to share them. Stories come in all shapes and sizes. I suppose, like art, there is actually no good or bad story. Not really. Like art, stories reflect our world, our culture, our society, and our role within them.
Still, some stories are different. Those are the kind of stories I like to write. The kind that presents a plot and the characters, and then… one or two words along the way, the main character actually appears. Regardless of the story, the main character is always the same. Sometimes woven subtly into a sentence, other times the blatant topic of a paragraph. Always different – yet always the same – in character, in disposition, in grace, in judgment, and in love.
When I read stories, I sometimes feel they are plagiarized from HIS story. It seems like the author wants a story with a savior, but never THE Savior; a happily ever after, but in the image of the finite rather than the limitlessness of the infinite.
Yet all of us have a story, and ultimately, He is the main character. How did we relate to Him? Did we ignore Him or did we welcome Him into our lives? Our choices create each unique story, and the end of our story will be defined by how we related to Him.
My prayer is that every story I write, every article I edit, and every word I share, will in some way point to the One who wrote the first and best story… It is interesting how it doesn’t begin with “Once upon a time,” rather, His story begins with an even shorter and more awe-inspiring phrase, “In the beginning…” This is my goal as a Hope Writer – to allow His story to be woven through my life, my deeds, and my words because He is my beginning and my happy ending.
Day 4 of the Hope Writers Challenge
Thursday, May 13: Nothing has changed; there is talk of Lebanon joining in, but they haven’t so far
Tonight, as I sit to do my HopeWriter’s challenge, inspired by the word “remember,” I’m finding myself overwhelmed. There is a lot I don’t want to even think about right now, let alone remember. Riots throughout my small country of Israel: Arabs attacking Jews and Jews attacking Arabs. Soldiers are being sent to try to bring order… a bus in Haifa was surrounded by a mob and they threw stones at someone. The south of Israel is being barraged by Israel.
I am in a quiet neighborhood (so far), safe and far removed from what is happening. If it weren’t for the occasional shots in the distance, a siren, and a few shouts from far away, I’d think nothing was happening around me. Except, it’s too quiet for a Thursday night. Too quiet…
My mind grasps for words. What can I “remember” at a time like this? How can this word inspire my writing? Well, yes. Here I am writing. But should I share it with you? Do I still have words worth sharing?
Remember… I will choose to remember the Lord my God. At times like this, I must remember. It was He who led my people out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:18); He who led them through the wilderness for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2); it is He who raises up and casts down (Psalm 75:7).
As I look through all the times the word “remember” is used in the Bible, my heart is comforted. I will remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced (1 Chronicles 16:12). I will remember that my God is a God who answers prayer (1 Peter 3:12).
So I will pray for Him to work in the hearts of all involved. I will pray for His mercy, and I will pray that somehow, despite all that we see going on around us, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I will remember that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts, but remember that He is utterly trustworthy. This is what “remember is for me tonight.
Day 5 of the Hope Writers Challenge
Friday, May 14: Chinese Church meeting moved to Zoom for safety of congregation; situation continues unchanged; very few cars on the road
Today’s writing word is “middle.” The moment I saw the word, these verses came to mind:
When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the LORD’s army.”Joshua 5:13–14
On one side is “us” and on the other is “them”. But there in the middle is the commander of the Lord’s army. What a wonder… if the commander of the Lord’s army is there, then the outcome is assured. The question is, do I want the outcome that is determined by God or do I want “us” to win?
These are very real and relevant thoughts as I sit in Israel. I am experiencing another “quiet” night in my “quiet” neighborhood, while others have locked and shuttered their windows, while others cower in bomb shelters, while others cry out, “death to them…”
I am thankful for the man in the middle, the commander of the Lord’s army… I can trust Him to fight well, righteously, and to bring out an outcome that will fulfill God’s purposes. I wonder if that man in the middle could have been the Angel of the Lord in disguise, a pre-incarnate manifestation of Messiah…
Because I am reminded of another man in the middle… a man who was God in the flesh, hanging naked upon a cross, with two others next to him – one on each side. Whose side was Jesus on then? The same, God’s side. And because He was God in the flesh, death could not reign over Him and He took captivity captive.
Tonight, while the war rages on, I pray and turn to my “man in the middle” to have mercy and bring a swift end to the violence, to change hard hearts, and to pour out a spirit of repentance and mercy on all the peoples in this not so holy land.
The poem I wasn’t sure about
After a lot of thought, I’d like to share the poem I wrote the first night of the writing challenge. It may a bit dark, but I believe it also reflects the realities of the situation. I hope you will pray for Israel, the Palestinians, the governments involved, the police, the healthcare workers taking care of the injured, the soldiers (those who believe in Jesus and those who don’t), and whatever else and whoever else the Lord brings to mind.
Mine is such a small voice.
Not loud and flagrant like the voice
of missiles flying from Gaza to Israel.
Not arrogant and proud like the voice
of extremists crying “death to the Arabs.”
Not agonized old men voices
denied the right to meet without warning.
Not police, of silent voice
bearing arms – none shall pass here.
Not the tit for tat voice
as old women knit one and pearl two
while politicians voice
unknown plots behind closed doors.
Too small, my voice
still trying to understand
when it became “our” job to be His voice.
I thought prayer was the voice of my trust
not the voicing of sides.
But mine is such a small voice
that is tired of silence.