Friday, June 28, 2013

Crazy Camp Schedule Coming Up

The next two weeks, I will be crazily busy. Some visitors are coming from another country. We will go with a group of teenagers from the children's home where I work in Bali, Indonesia, on a leadership/discipleship camp.

I thought I'd share a bit with you today what the week ahead will be like.



  • Friday, June 28 -  The visitors will arrive from Australia, and the five participants from the neighboring island will join us at the children’s home in Bali.


  • Saturday, June 29 - Shoe shopping with the kids to be sure they have suitable footwear for the mountain climbing they will be doing.


Dek Sri

  • Sunday-Saturday, June 30-July 6- In the mountains in northern Bali for six days of Bible learning, activities and fun. On Saturday, we pack up camp and head off for the base of Mount Agung where we will have an early night.


  • Sunday, July 7 - All but two of us climb Mount Agung starting at 2:00 AM. Breakfast on the top and a time of reflecting on the greatness of God. This will be a good time to practice the leadership and teamwork skills the kids have been learning during the camp. After coming down the mountain, we’ll eat lunch, and load up the cars to head for the Mount Batur area for their second climb the next day.


  • Monday, July 8 - Climb Mount Batur. Eat breakfast of eggs cooked on hot rocks at the summit. Devotions and activities back at the campsite.


  • Tuesdsay, July 9 - Devotions and activities at the campsite. Clean and pack up tents and move to a homestay and hot springs. Special meal that night.

  • Wednesday, July 10 - Head back to home to Klungkung. All twenty-one participants in the camp will sleep at my house that night. (Should be wild.) We will have a time of debriefing, and sharing what God has done in our lives during the camp.

  • Thursday - July 11 - The visitors say good-bye to the kids before heading off for a couple days of relaxation.


  • Friday-Sunday, July 12-14 - Rest days for the team, before departing Bali to their various destinations.

Cyci (Chee-chee)

Wow! Just looking at this line-up makes me tired. This should be a challenging two weeks, but I am looking forward to it.

Please pray for a few specific things.


  • That the rented cars will be able to hold all the kids and our stuff.
  • That it WON’T RAIN!!! Rainy season has lasted longer than normal. Please pray that it will be done before camp starts, especially as we will be pitching our tents for the first six days on a flat rooftop.
  • That the exchange rate will go back up. It has taken a nosedive over the last couple weeks which puts a strain on the budget.

Spiritual / Relational Impact
  • Pray that each participant will grow in their faith and accept the challenge to live out the truth they learn during the camp.
  • A couple of the young people are dealing with strained relationships. Pray that these relational difficulties are worked out and that true friendship develops. It has happened before on other camps.
  • Pray that the visiting team and I will work together well for the glory of God and the good of the campers.

Looking Ahead
For part of the time, I will not have internet access. As I will be the only translator available, I certainly won't have much time to write new posts. I hope you will excuse me if I dip back into my files and share a few "Things I Have Learned From My Daughter" stories that I have not shared before on this blog. 

Once camp is over, the next four weeks will be jam-packed with packing up our home as we prepare to move permanently back to the States on August 11th. During that time, I will likely post some reflections on what God has done in my life over the last twenty years in Bali, as well as musings about what He might have in store during this new stage of our lives. I hope you will walk with me through those times.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Not for Private Consumption

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“But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail. Every month they’ll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12 The Message)

In the last post, we left Ezekiel possibly scratching his head over the swamps that were left for salt. To his way of thinking, they may have seemed useless. We also saw that the “swamp places” in our own lives, while perhaps not pleasant or inviting, still have an important function in our lives. It is in our “swamps” that a lot of growth and purification happens. It is in our “swamps” that a lot of junk is filtered out of our lives. We need to value those “swamps”.

In today’s verse, Ezekiel comes back to look at the main River of Life. He comes back to look at the part that he saw as vibrant and exciting. What did he see?

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  • He saw fruit trees.
  • The trees had leaves that wouldn’t wither.
  • The trees produced fruit every month without fail.

Why would there be so much abundance? Why so much life. Because the river that flowed from God’s sanctuary, from His presence, flowed to them.

What was the abundance for? Was it simply pretty to look at? No, of course not. Ezekiel tells us two important things about those trees.

  • The fruit was for food.
  • The leaves were for healing.

So it is with the abundant life that God desires to give to us. When His River of Life touches our lives, we live abundantly. We will produce fruit. We can’t help it, because the River of Life brings life.

Is God’s River of Life flowing through and into your life, producing fruit? Is the fruit God is growing in your life being used to nourish others? Is your life being used to bring healing to others? Or are you mostly just enjoying the fruit for yourself?

The life God gives is not just for our own enjoyment. It is intended to be used for the nourishment and healing of those around us. Let’s not hold back.

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Time for Reflection
  • Ask God to open your eyes and see how He wants you to use the “fruit” and “leaves” He is producing in your life.
  • Does He bring someone specific to mind?
  • How does He want you reach out to this person who needs nourishment and healing?
  • Commit to sharing some of the abundance of the heart that God gives you with the person He brought to mind.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What About Those Swamps?

As I read Ezekiel’s description of his vision, I notice that he is very detailed. In fact, all through the book of Ezekiel, we see that this prophet takes great pains to help those with whom he shares the vision picture what he sees.
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So I find the following bit fascinating.

The swamps and marshes won’t become fresh. They’ll stay salty.  
(Ezekiel 47:11 Message)

That’s it. Nothing more. Everything else is being touched by the River of Life. Everything else is becoming fresh. Everything else has abundant fish and trees and …LIFE.
Here is the same verse in two other versions.
But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty. (NLT)

 Its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. (NKJV)

Look at the words used here. The marshes and swamps would not be “healed” or “purified”. They would “still be salty” or “given over to salt”.
It is clear, at least to me, that in Ezekiel’s way of thinking fresh was good. Salt was bad. After all, in the passage we considered in the last post, we read,:

Wherever the river flows, life will flourish—great schools of fish—because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. (Ezekiel 47:9b)
What is Going On Here?
I admit that I am using a bit of sanctified imagination here, but please bear with me. I wonder if Ezekiel looked around him in his vision and saw abundant life springing up wherever the river went. Even the “Salt Sea”, which I understand to refer to the Dead Sea, became fresh when the River of Life touched it. Ezekiel saw this transformation. He saw life springing up where previously there was none.
Keep in mind that in Ezekiel’s day, they probably didn’t have the knowledge of how essential the wetlands are to the overall environment. To people of Ezekiel’s day, I suspect that swamps and marshes were essentially a worthless piece of real estate.
  • It’s hard to travel through a swamp.
  • You can’t drink the water in a swamp.
  • You can’t graze sheep in a swamp.
  • You can’t plant grain in a swamp.
  • I’m sure there are other points I could add, but these are enough to give you the idea.
Ezekiel looks at the swamps and marshes and sees that they are not becoming fresh. I wonder if he scratched his head and asked, “Why doesn’t the river touch the swamps and marshes to heal them? Why aren’t they made fresh and useful like all these other places? Why are they left for salt?”
Perhaps we can find an answer in the next two translations.
But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. (NIV)
But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. (RSV)
These verses show that the swamps and marshes won’t become fresh. The will be left for salt. The are to be left for salt. This shows an intentionality in leaving those seemingly useless pieces of real estate in their swampy, marshy condition. There is a reason those areas are not touched.
Why Leave the Swamps Be?
The swamps and marshes, as we know now, are not dead and worthless. They actually do teem with life. True, it is not as easy to get around in the swamps. There may be more mosquitoes, crocodiles and poisonous snakes in a swamp. You definitely don’t want to drink swamp water.
The wetlands - the swamps and marshes -  serve an important function of a filter between fresh water rivers and the salty ocean. The life that abounds in both the rivers and oceans would be threatened if they came in direct contact. Swamps and marshes are necessary in an ecological sense. 

"Swamps" in Our Lives

In our lives, there are times and situations that are less than pleasant. They are challenging. They are difficult Sometimes, they are downright painful.
Sometimes we bring those situations on ourselves by choosing our own way instead of God’s way. I don’t think the swamps and marshes refer to those situations.
I believe that sometimes, God allows us to go through “swampy, marshy” areas in our lives for a reason. There are certain things that we will learn in our own personal “swamps” that we would never learn out on the broad freshwater river. Sometimes, in order for us to grow in some area, we need to pass through a “swamp”.
When we do pass through the “swamp”, we can be sure that even there, we find life. Even as we slog through metaphorical mud with metaphorical mosquitoes tormenting us, God is using those very things to grow us, purify us, and bring to us even more abundant life
A dear friend who grew up near the wetlands in coastal Georgia tells me that even though visitors to the area are put off by the smell that is unique to a swamp, those who grow up in the area come to love that very same smell. They come to embrace the very thing that puts others off. They know the value of the swamp.
Time for Reflection
  • Are you passing through your own “swamp” right now?
  • If you are, ask God what He wants to work in your life as you pass this way. Maybe He will let you know His purpose right now. Maybe He won’t…yet.
  • Whether you get your answer right now or not, remember that God has His purpose for the “swamp”. He is always in the business of bringing life. Trust Him to bring that life to you…abundantly…even in the “swamp”. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Touch of Life

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We left Ezekiel following the angel into the deep waters of the River of Life that flowed out of the Temple. In the deep water, he would have been carried along by the current wherever the river went. The angel asks Ezekiel a question.

He said, “Son of man, have you had a good look?

Had the prophet seen what happened the further in and deeper he went into the River of Life? Had Ezekiel already seen what was there to be seen so far?    “Cause hang on, Zeke. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

Then he took me back to the riverbank. While sitting on the bank, I noticed a lot of trees on both sides of the river.

He told me, “This water flows east, descends to the Arabah and then into the sea, the sea of stagnant waters. When it empties into those waters, the sea will become fresh. Wherever the river flows, life will flourish—great schools of fish—because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds. Fishermen will stand shoulder to shoulder along the shore from En-gedi all the way north to En-eglaim, casting their nets. The sea will teem with fish of all kinds, like the fish of the Great Mediterranean. (Ezekiel 47:7-10 The Message)
Abundant Life

The angel led Ezekiel back to the river bank where he could actually stop long enough to look around him. What did the prophet see?
He looked at the river banks. He saw LIFE. Abundant life. Trees flourished wherever he looked. Everything was green and fresh.
He looked at the river itself. He saw LIFE. Abundant life. Fish flourished. Not just a few, but in huge numbers. So many fish that the fishermen were able to work shoulder to shoulder and everyone could catch enough. No shortages where the river flowed.
I find this particular bit of the passage especially interesting.
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“This water flows east, descends to the Arabah and then into the sea, the sea of stagnant waters. When it empties into those waters, the sea will become fresh.”
How many of us feel like sometimes we are living in a sea of stagnant water? I’m sure we all have felt like that at some point in time. Perhaps some of us have been existing in those stagnant waters  for quite some time.
The thing I find exciting is that when God’s River of Life touches those stagnant waters, it brings freshness. It brings life. Not just a little life. Abundant life. Life without limit. Life that you could never imagine when in the stagnant water.
Where the river flows, life abounds.

When Life's Not Abundant
Now here’s the thing. God’s River of Life is there and available for all who believe in Him and are trusting in Him. Maybe you don’t feel like you are living in that fresh, abundant place at this point in your life. Why might that be?

I can think of at least two reasons.
  1. When we are not experiencing a feeling of abundant life, maybe we are holding a part of ourselves back and not allowing God to touch it.
“No God. That’s mine. I don’t want you to mess with this particular thing in my life. You can touch and bless everything else, but please…just leave this alone.”
  1. The second reason…Well, we will look at the second reason in the next post. Just a bit of a clue here. It may not have anything at all to do with us doing something wrong. (Just in case you are thinking I am trying to lay a guilt trip on my readers.)
Time for Reflection
  • For now, why not take some time to thank God for ways He is bringing abundant life to you.
  • Ask Him to touch areas of your life that are stagnant with His River of Life.
  • If there is some area of your life that you have been holing back from Him, why not open that area up to His River of Life today?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Get Off the River Bank

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In my last post, we left the prophet Ezekiel in his vision, standing outside the Temple. An angel had been giving Ezekiel a detailed tour of the Temple and everything in it prior to this point. 
Ezekiel stood watching water pouring out from the Temple. It was the start of a river.  

He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet. By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through. 
(Ezekiel 47:3-5)

I’ve read a few commentaries on this passage, and I know that some interpret this passage to refer to God’s increasingly powerful work through the ages. I am sure that is correct. When I read the passage, though, I see another application that, I believe, is consistent with Scripture as a whole.

The angel takes out a great big measuring tape and measures out a distance of fifteen hundred feet. For my friends in parts of the world that don’t use feet and inches, that would be a bit short half a kilometer. The water is ankle deep there. The angel leads Ezekiel into that ankle-deep water.

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  • In ankle-deep water, it isn’t too hard to keep your balance. You can splash and play a bit. The current isn’t so strong there that a person might be swept away. The ankle-wader is still fairly much in control over where he or she is going.
  • The angel didn’t stop there, though. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet and led the prophet through water that was knee deep.
  • In knee deep water, the current can be felt a bit more strongly. It takes a bit more strength and balance to keep walking. But basically, a person can still walk in knee-deep water.
  • Then the angel measured off another fifteen hundred feet into water that was waist deep. Ezekiel followed him.
  • In waist deep water, a person’s body is half underwater. The current pulls strongly. At this depth, the river-walker may intend to go one way, but the force of the current pushes in a different direction. If the walker insists on his own direction, he probably won’t accomplish that entirely. Depending on the strength of the current, he probably won’t be able to accomplish it at all.
  • The angel then measured off another fifteen hundred feet. Ezekiel found himself in water that was over his head. It was deep enough to swim in.
River-Swimming Story
Have you ever tried to swim in a river? Back in 1989-1990, I spent a school year in Papua New Guinea teaching at a school for the children of missionaries. During the Easter holidays, I visited the village where the parents of one of my students served. This village was located on the banks of a river in a jungle lowland area. It was the next-to-the last village along this river.

A large tree had fallen into the swiftly-moving river. The local children, the MK’s…and this visiting teacher…had a great time swimming in this river. We were all glad for the long sturdy rope tied at one end to the tree. The other end floated off downstream.
We took turns jumping off the tree into the river, then swam with all our might toward the rope. We grabbed the rope and hand-over-hand pulled ourselves back to the tree. Without that rope, the current would have swept us downstream.

Invitation to Go Deeper
As I look at this passage in Ezekiel, I see an invitation to us to go deeper into God’s river of life. Let’s move beyond the shallow water. The shallows are good, and can be enjoyable, but the deeper water, takes us places where God works mightily.

When swimming in that river in Papua New Guinea, you didn’t want to just let yourself be carried away by the current. If a person got carried away there, it could result in disaster. We can entrust ourselves to God’s life-giving current, and expect amazing things to happen.

Next time, we’ll look at some of the things that happen in places where the river of live flows.

Time for Reflection
  • Consider your own life and relationship with God. How deep are you? Ankle-deep? Knee-deep? Waist-deep? Swimming in the current?
  • If you are wading in “shallow water”, what is holding you back from following God deeper into His river?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ezekiel's "Hopeless" Assignment

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Before we launch into Ezekiel chapter forty-seven, it might be worthwhile to take a quick look at the prophet himself. Ezekiel was called to serve as God’s prophet to the people of Israel, although he had occasion to prophesy to Judah and other nations as well. This was most certainly NOT an easy job. In fact, God told Ezekiel right from the start that Israel would not heed anything Ezekiel had to say.

A Quick Backward Look
If you remember anything about Old Testament history, you will probably recall that there were twelve tribes that descended from Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. After the death of King Solomon, these twelve tribes split apart. Ten tribes in the north were called Israel. Two tribes in the south were referred to as Judah, after the biggest tribe.

When I took an Old Testament Survey course a number of years ago, I learned something that I found very interesting. Over the years, Judah had a rollercoaster-like relationship with God. They had a series of evil kings who led Judah away from God and into idolatry. Then there would be a king or two who led the people back to God.

But Israel? Israel never had a king who led his people back to God. Not even one. Israel was idolatrous. Israel was stubborn. Israel was rebellious.

It was to this bull-headed, rebellious, hard-hearted nation that God sent Ezekiel. Seems like a hopeless mission, doesn’t it? I wonder if Ezekiel had the thought cross his mind, “You want me to do WHAT?!?” No matter what the prophet may have thought, he did accept the call God placed on him.

Ezekiel - A VERY Quick Glance
I just scanned through the headings in book of Ezekiel, just to get a quick overview of the kind of things Ezekiel talked about. He carried messages of doom and destruction for the rebellious nation. He also carried messages of hope that God would eventually restore His people.

Ezekiel was told to do things that would have been considered “weird” to the people who saw him, but each “weird” action carried an important message from God. They ignored every one of them.

This prophet also had many visions. We won’t go into all of them, but one particularly long and detailed vision had to do with the Temple. (Ezekiel 40-47)

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Now…To The River’s Source
Let’s start with a look at the first two verses on Ezekiel 47, as the prophet looks to the future hope that God promised to His people.

Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side. (Ezekiel 47:1-2 NASB)

If you are like me, you may have found your eyes crossing a bit as you read those verses. Why in the world is it so important to know from which direction the water flowed? Why did Ezekiel so careful to point out that the house (Temple) faced east?

You know what? I am not even going to try to answer those particular questions. For the purposes of this post, I am content to accept that Ezekiel was always very detailed in his descriptions and leave it at that.

The point that I think is important is the part that says the water flowed “from south of the altar”. This description of what might be referred to as the River of Life begins at the source.

The river begins at the altar in the Temple. In Ezekiel’s time, temple was thought of as the place where God lived. Even though people who truly loved God knew that He was far bigger than any building people could make, the Temple was still considered to be God’s dwelling place.

So when Ezekiel so carefully described the water flowing out from the altar in the Temple, he was pointing out to the people of His day…and to us…that the source of life is God Himself. Life flows out from His presence. The presence of God is the source of life.

In the next several posts, we will look further into this passage.
  • We will see an invitation to go deeper.
  • We will see the life-giving river at work.
  • We will take a look at a sentence that must have left old Ezekiel scratching his head.
  • Most importantly, I hope we will all be challenged to allow God’s River of Life to flow freely through us as we touch our world with His Life.

Time for Reflection
From where do you draw life? From family? From friends? From excitement? From approval? From God’s active presence in your life? From something else? I’m sure we all know what the truly “spiritual” answer should be, but is the “right” answer really the true answer for you right now? As we explore Ezekiel 47:1-12, let’s allow God’s river of life to flow through us in ways we never knew before.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

You Want Me To Do WHAT?!?

She looks like I felt.
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Have you ever been asked to do something on the spur of the moment for which you were totally unprepared? I recall one such incident that happened probably about seventeen or so years ago. (I must be getting old. Time kind of runs together.)

I had lived in Bali, Indonesia, for two or three years at the time. The International church I attended regularly met in the evening, so I often visited a different church in the morning.

On the morning this incident happened, I had ridden my bicycle for about forty-five minutes in the heat of a tropical morning. I arrived at the church all hot and sweaty.

This congregation did not have a regular pastor at that time, so speakers were arranged on a roster basis. When I arrived, Ibu Kade, the dear lady who was responsible for arranging for speakers, met me in the parking lot all frantic.

“Julie, Julie, I have a big problem,” she said. “The person I had scheduled to speak today got his dates wrong. He thinks I scheduled him for next Sunday. He can’t come today, so we don’t have anyone to bring the message. So Julie, could you do it?”

"You want me to do WHAT?" I thought. I probably said something more like, Um…um…ummm. I’ve never done that before…ever. I mean, I’ve talked about work on the mission field…maybe for five minutes…but this…and I don’t have anything prepared.”

“But Julie, we don’t have anyone else. Could you please help us?”

Wow! That was a big step for me. It never occurred to me that I might be asked to do something like this. Give a testimony, yes. Share briefly about my work in Bali...sure. But this really threw me, I have to admit.

But the need was there. The need was obvious. So with a fervent, “Lord, help!” I agreed.

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Thankfully, in my devotional reading the night before, I had read Ezekiel 47. In that chapter, verses 1-12 especially stood out to me. This passage was about Ezekiel’s vision in which the life-giving river that flowed out of the Temple.

A number of points in that vision really spoke to me…and incidentally…gave me a pretty decent outline for an impromptu message that Sunday morning.

Over the next several posts, I’d like to share some of those points with you. I hope you’ll join me for this short series as we explore this river, what it does, and what God wants to to in us and through us as we travel this life-giving river with Him.

Time for Reflection

Until next time, why not pick up your Bible and read Ezekiel 47:1-12 for yourself. Whatever else you might read, come back to these twelve verses. Marinate in them, and ask God to show you what He has for you in this passage.
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