Are you ready to go to “The Stone Table at Maagan?” We only have another twenty miles to go. That does not necessarily mean we will get there really fast. I may have a few more cargo bays to unload. I don’t remember what’s in my ship unless I keep on digging and the Holy Spirit reminds me of what is there. He promised He would.
Our very good friends, Stan and Linda Jones of Odessa, Texas, played a significant part in directing our steps to the Maagan Holiday Village and “The Stone Table.” Their contribution must be woven into the fabric of this story.
Stan and Linda love the Jewish people. They have helped raise thousands of dollars to help bring Russian Jews to Israel. They have been in Israel many times. A very orthodox Jewish rabbi from Israel has received the most loving hospitality in their home in Odessa, Texas. They have gone the extra mile in treating every Jew with the greatest respect and have provided Kosher meals for those who are orthodox in their beliefs.
About a year ago Stan and Linda visited us, and we quickly became very close. When they left, they wrote these words on a yellow tablet: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They also wrote those same words in Hebrew, “Baruch Ha Ba B’Shem Adonai.”
They told me that Jesus spoke those words and that I could read them for myself in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew, the last verse. I read them and underlined them in red. I used them as a part of my closing salutation when I wrote letters. I was frequently visited by the presence of the Holy Spirit when I spoke or wrote those words. Eventually, I was curious about the rest of chapter twenty-three. Circumstances were set into motion for me to go to Israel. You already know the rest of that part of the story and why that chapter as well as subsequent chapters played such a pivotal part in my Jerusalem experience.
I cannot recall specific dates anymore, but one day Stan and Linda announced that they were planning to go to Israel
Holiday Village. We had their tour book on our coffee table for many months. I was never motivated to read all of it or study it with a lot of enthusiasm.
again, but this time with a tour group. I asked them to bring me a few rocks from Israel. My most specific request was to have a rock from the area where Gideon’s men drank out of the brook and also a rock from the Negev.
One day I received a package containing those rocks. Included in the package was their tour book, which explained where they had traveled and where they had lodged.
It also included a series of detailed maps. Believe it or not, Stan and Linda had spent two nights at the Maagan
When I am not aware of the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Lord often uses Rebekah and others to get my attention. Rebekah studied the tour book and brought it along to California. She showed it to John Reed, my traveling companion, who stashed it in his suitcase. I do not know when or where the Holy Spirit highlighted “The Magaan Village Resort” on the Sea of Galilee. But at some point as John was leafing through the tour guide book, he noticed the resort; that’s where we finally spent two of our best days in Israel.
I recall our driving around the Sea of Galilee for a while scouting out places where we might stay for two nights. We were traveling north and had gone about five miles past Tiberias before John suddenly turned the car around. Instead of continuing to go north, we went south. It was one of those “suddenlies” that Joyce Meyers likes to talk about. About twenty minutes later, we pulled into the resort village. John had pointed the car, like a pistol, in the right direction. It was as if he had been there a dozen times before. A little later I asked him, “Where did you learn about the resort?”
He replied, “I happened to see it in Stan and Linda’s tour book.”
Amazing, absolutely amazing! We went on a tour guided by the best tour guide of them all, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can even use an unsolicited tour book to get our attention. I am wondering just now how often the Holy Spirit has tried to get my attention, by putting something unsolicited in front of me?
Still Another Small Detour
Please forgive me if I take another small detour on the way to the Stone Table at Maagan. I really did not plan to, but I believe it is too valuable a message to be omitted. Should you be in a hurry, though, to get to the Stone Table, you can skip this part and return to it later. These next few pages are about writing personal, and intimate letters.
I was minding my own business, focusing on getting to the Sea of Galilee as quickly as possible when my day was interrupted by mail from four prisoners. They had responded to an epistle I wrote over 15 years ago that suddenly and unexpectedly appeared in a Christian newspaper called “The Testimony.” I had totally forgotten that I had submitted the article until I began receiving mail in direct response to “The Forgotten Language of Letters.” I want to include the article here and the responses because it might resurrect the dying art of writing letters, especially hand-written letters.
THE FORGOTTEN LANGUAGE OF LETTERS
I go to the mailbox. It is bulging with catalogues, magazines, solicitations for money, bank statements, and bills. I go on a treasure hunt. Maybe hidden amongst the deluge of printed matter is a personal letter. I ignore all the other mail in favor of a note from friends. Should I find such, I often rip open the envelope on my way back to the house. My day has suddenly become extra special because someone took the time to write. Christmas has come early for me when someone writes.
This scene repeats itself daily at mailboxes and post offices across America, even across the whole world. People are hungry, often desperate for that personal touch of intimacy conveyed through a letter. There are many letters that attempt to mimic a personal letter, but they fall short of accomplishing their objective. No computer, regardless of its sophistication, can or should attempt to write a generic letter and then pass it off as a heart to heart communication. This should be viewed as no less than a hoax. It violates the dignity of the individual.
Many have asked the question, “What can I do? What can I give that will express the heart of God to a friend or a lonely stranger?” We don’t have to look far or long for an answer if we are willing to include the writing of a letter in our repertoire of ideas. The cost of a letter is minimal—the price of a first-class stamp. Few people, therefore, will be able to squirm out of such a suggestion, especially since most of us have learned to read and write.
There is something special, something very unique about a letter that sets this gift apart from similar gifts such as phone calls, e-mail, faxes or letters via audiocassettes. It takes time, lots of quality time, for a heart-to-heart dialogue. And time seems to be a vanishing resource in our frenzied world.
Letters, but especially those written by hand, are the unique and personal expression of the writer. They are a blueprint of who we are and can reflect the many moods of the human heart. A handwritten letter allows us to get close to each other, close to the real you and me in each one of us.
A letter can be read over and over again and shared with others, whereas the essence of a phone call quickly evaporates into thin air. A letter does not violate our space or interrupt the conversation around the dining room table. It can be read after everyone else has gone to bed, or it can be shared with the rest of the family, like a good dessert served after the main meal. It can also be easily copied and shared with others. A good letter has a way of growing wings.
My sister has carried with her for sixty plus years the last postcard she received from her husband. He was reported missing in action during World War II. She sometimes retraces his few handwritten words and draws comfort from being able to touch something he touched.
The world would be different today – it would be spiritually impoverished – had the apostle Paul and some of the
other disciples of Jesus not penned their God-inspired thoughts for us. They recorded the words in the form of letters to both individuals and churches.
The world is racing forward at break-neck speed. Speed in its many configurations has been chosen as one of the many “gods” this world worships. The world today has little patience, demanding everything instantly. There is little time left to just sit down and write a letter, especially since our entertainment- crazed culture demands that we stay glued to the television set, selecting our meals from its tantalizing menu. And so we have sacrificed some very valuable activities, such as writing letters, playing with our children, and visiting with one another around a beautifully set dining room table.
Satan is a thief. In spite of a multitude of labor-saving devices, we are still running out of time most of the time. Being too “busy” or not having enough money becomes an excuse we use to avoid doing what God says is important. And if Satan can steal our time and money, he will eventually be able to steal our souls.
Most of us have learned to read and write. However, we are rarely encouraged to practice or to use these talents after we leave school. We have few role models today who inspire or challenge us to write through personal example. In other words, we have hidden our light under a bushel basket; we have buried the talents we don’t use.
I would like to blow new life into the dying embers of the art of writing letters, this forgotten language of love. My desire to see this form of communication resurrected is the main purpose of this epistle. The fragmented Body of Christ can never and will never be joined, will never be knit together, unless we reach out to one another in a loving, caring, intimate, and consistent manner. It can never happen in front of the television or computer, the greatest thieves of our time today. We just sit in front of screens and gorge ourselves with junk food. We do not give. We only take to satisfy our insatiable appetite for more bizarre and perverted entertainment and “bad news.”
In writing a letter, we have unlimited opportunities to give, to bless, to comfort, to encourage, to confess our sins privately, and exhort one another. Let God have a portion of your day so that He can write more epistles through you and me. One day, when you are no longer in this physical garment, your children and grandchildren may lovingly retrace your words with their eyes and fingers.
Writing letters is a time-consuming activity. It should not be rushed and cannot be rushed if we want to write a quality letter. I attempt to write in a manner that blesses and doesn’t require a reply. Trading letters back and forth to keep the score even is no fun. In fact, it is more bondage. A letter is to be a gift with no strings attached. We are to write out of the abundance of a caring, compassionate, enthusiastic heart. Many of my relationships have begun with a letter, a few caring lines—a gentle outpouring of my heart through my pen. Some of these relationships have eventually blossomed. I have received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers—a bouquet of words, a letter.
There are many lonely and lost hearts in this world. Some are so lonely that they write letters to themselves so that their letterbox is not only filled with junk mail day after day. I wished I could touch all these lonely hearts and gently weave them into the tapestry called “The Body of Christ.” I can’t, but maybe we can do it together. Through a letter we can make the Scripture, “God is Love,” tangible and visible to one another.
I thoroughly dislike chain letters. But I do hope that these words will arouse and challenge “The Body of Christ” – the family of God – to the point that it will start a chain reaction and give birth to many letters that express the heart of God. We cannot be knit together unless we reach out to each other. Our pens can serve as His knitting needles. Pick up your pen today, and write something nice to someone who least expects to hear from you. In fact, I would not mind hearing from you if this epistle touched your heart.
RESPONSES WE’VE RECEIVED
November 27, 2005
I just wanted to write to tell you I really enjoyed your article about letter-writing in “The Testimony.” I agree that letters are something tangible that we can save & reread. I have a box full of old letters from 20 years ago.
When I go through this box I see God’s hand in my life through the lives of dear people He put in my path & I am comforted with His faithful, enduring love. It’s a great feeling! Kind of like singing hymns of people from all ages.
So now I am writing you to thank you for taking the time to encourage people to continue putting pen to paper amidst this technology oriented society.
Am I being just old-fashioned? I think some things shouldn’t be thrown out, & I think personal handwritten letters is one of them. If that’s “old-fashioned,” so be it!
By the way, I have heard about you from two different couples: Tom & Tina Shiflett and Peter & Jeanie Outwaithe. Tom & Tina told me how you are really into swords. That’s very meaningful to me because when I was in Pagosa Springs at a Parelli training with my daughter two years ago, I found myself put into a very strong temptation. I remember fighting hard, spiritually picking up the sword of the Spirit which divides the soul and spirit. I fought hard & gained the victory of the war over my soul.
That same night one of the other attendees at the training was at a Laundromat when a boy came in & shared his excitement about Samurai swords. Then I recalled one of your cards with a sword on it & it so fit how I was feeling!
So, thank you for that card, & thanks to your talented, sensitive wife for her artwork!
God bless you & keep you!
Love, Paulette B
“The Sword of the Lord – Strongholds are Coming Down” by Rebekah Laue
Explanation of Painting
We are told in the book of Acts, chapter 2, verse 17, that “... your old men shall dream dreams.” The painting by the artist Rebekah Laue is a portrayal of her husband’s prophetic dream. She pondered the dream for many years before she was able to capture it’s essence on canvas.
In his dream, Peter saw a rock wall with an ordinary stick lying nearby. He was prompted to pick it up and beat vigorously on the wall. Nothing happened! Then he saw a lion’s paw at his feet. He dropped the stick, picked up the paw and barely touched the wall. As he did, the wall began to crumble.
Peter awoke weeping and trembling as he experienced new authority, purpose, power, and confidence streaming into every fiber of his being. In lieu of a lion’s paw he has acquired a real sword, which he now uses in spiritual combat.
The stick is symbolic of man using his own strength and wisdom to tear down strongholds. The rock wall is symbolic of those walls around our hearts that imprison us and cause us to be isolated from God and one another. The Hebrew letters on the rocks represent strongholds such as hate, anger, revenge, rebellion, witchcraft, bitterness, pride, fear, unbelief, unforgiveness, lust, idolatry, greed, gluttony, jealousy, self-pity, legalism, and man’s traditions.
The sword issuing from the lion’s mouth is the Sword of the Lord, which is the Word of God. The lion portrays Jesus Christ as revealed in the book of Revelation, chapter 5: “... Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed...”
The truth in the painting shall march throughout the land like a banner and confront the strongholds that imprison us. Has God singled you out to carry that banner and address those strongholds? Before saying YES or NO, count the cost or the opportunity lost! TAKE A STAND! TAKE BACK THE LAND!
September 10, 2005
I read your inspiring letter about letters in the Testimony newsletter of September/October 2005.
It did my heart good to read your letter and I would like to thank you. I’m in jail and perhaps on my way to prison and would like to say that letters are a way for Christians to visit a person in prison or in jail. I know it is the Word of God that we should help widows & visit people in prison. I agree with you, brother, letters can be a beautiful way to unite loved ones, fellowship with another and even to spread the gospel.
I do a weekly fellowship with my children and wife from my cell all on paper. And no, it’s not the same as being there for them, but instead of looking back on past failures, I try and look forward and up to God’s calling, dig?
Well, I just wanted you to know that your letter was well received and much appreciated. It will undoubtedly help me to be more edifying and less demanding, for I have been frustrated by my loved ones not answering the letters like I would like.
But your letter has refreshed me and pointed out with true conviction that I should keep my letters more edifying and trust in the Lord to bless them. For really, that is all that I hope for—is that my letters to family and friends would be a blessing to them to strengthen them.
Sometimes I fellowship through letters; and I want to share with you or anyone that reads this, we can share the Word of God with others through letters. And the awesome thing is -- God’s Word never goes out and come back empty or void. I know when I honestly send His Word out in “Agape Love,” it always blesses others and myself and has never come back empty or void.
Peter, and all you Testimony people and people at Jesus Stretcher Bearers, please know your ministry makes a big difference to us in jail. And your words will trickle down into my letters in the form of love. Thank you, and may God bless all of you.
October 19, 2005
Hello dear brother in Christ. I write from a jail cell that is cold at times but mostly warm because I have two new brothers in Christ to sit with and encourage each other. We are a struggling group that seeks the hope of God to keep us strong.
But mostly I’m writing to let you know that God blessed us all, no matter how foolish or how wise we are. The only thing that justifies us is the love of Christ and the grace of God. So, I thank you for your article in this month’s Testimony.
My prayers and many blessings to you as long as God keeps you on my heart. But please pray for us also.
Your Brother-in-Christ. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
Abraham E. Ybarra !
October 19, 2005
I hope this reaches you in the best of health and spirits. I found your article in “The Testimony” very touching because most people, people like me take a lot for granted, especially little things like letters. It’s not until I was taken away from everything, my family and society, that I realized how much a few lines on a piece of paper can really mean. Please say a prayer for me and my brothers here as we will do the same for you. Thank you again for your article.
Gold bless you,
October 19, 2005
I was recently read your article in Mesa County Jail by my new-found brother Abraham. Up until October 2, 2005, I was a skeptic of the Lord and of reading the Bible. Then God united me with Himself through Abraham, and I accepted the Lord into my heart.
Your article touched me in a way I was never touched before. It gave me inspiration and hope that I will always remain with God. I pray the Lord blesses you as your article has blessed me.
If there is someone who would like to correspond with people living behind bars, let me know. Yes, when our fingers touch the keyboard (I am including musical keyboards) or the shaft of a pen or pencil, love and life can flow like a river.
My own joy of writing and the gift of writing was cultivated early in my life. I was drafted into the US Army during the Korean conflict. During my whole tour of duty a steady stream of letters flowed back and forth between family, friends, and myself. My parents saved these letters. They are an interesting snapshot of who I was 50 years ago. Maybe there will be someone, someday besides our children who would like to read them.
I make a concerted effort to allow the Holy Spirit to direct all my correspondence. I do not want to crowd anyone by who I am, what I say, or what I write. But there are times my cargo bays are so full, I have to unload them or I will simply bust. Some people play the piano, the guitar, sing or dance to unload their hearts; I write.
I personalize the majority of my letters. My extra gift is a first-class stamp which we all look for when we go the mailbox. The thought of my personal letters or epistles being discarded before they are read, grieves my heart. I try to prevent that from happening by being intimate and sensitive to the other persons needs. I inquired at the post office about getting a bulk mailing permit for our newsletters, but opted not to get one. At this point, we are no longer publishing a periodic newsletter which actually said, “Published once in a while and sometimes a little sooner.”
For twenty years, I mailed out a newsletter once or twice a year. Every letter was hand-addressed, was sent first class, and often accompanied by a personal note. This lets folks know they are more than a number in our address book. Most of the people in our address file had been in our home at one time or another and had requested copies of our occasional literary offering.
When I sent out my trip report about Israel via e-mail and regular mail, I sent it to about 200 people. I did not personalize each letter. I was just too eager, even impetuous, like the apostle Peter. I wanted everyone to know as quickly as possible what had happened and what I planned to do next. Within one week we received thirty personal and heart-warming replies as you may recall from the letters I included in chapter 6. I consider that a very good batting average and thank all who encouraged my literary efforts. Most of those who responded asked me to send them a finished copy of the manuscript.
prayer. I know it, and I feel it in my heart. God has many messenger angels to deliver His Word to the heirs of salvation. He also has the Holy Spirit, who puts us in remembrance of the words His Son Jesus spoke while He lived amongst us. Wow, what a God!
Oh, what joy when I receive a personal letter! Thirty people may not seem like many people. It’s not about numbers, it’s about people. When the Holy Spirit is directing traffic, God can multiply those thirty manuscripts like He multiplied the loaves and the fishes. In fact, I am stopping right now and am asking my heavenly Father to favor these manuscripts so that many souls, far and wide, will be blessed and encouraged. In fact, I’ll be more specific. “May each one of these manuscripts serve as a personal invitation to the Lord’s banqueting table. “Lord, I ask that many fish in the sea of humanity be fed by the words that flow out of my heart and fingertips. Thank you, Lord.” It is done!
More angels are being dispatched to direct and supervise this