Crystal Writes A Blog

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Runaway Train


I love this song, and I really like to travel on trains. I like the little ones in amusement parks, and I like the big Amtrak trains that cross the country. I love the clickety-clack sounds, the views, the well-dressed staff, the observation car, and so much more. The video above has some great train footage in addition to the song Life’s Railway to Heaven sung by Johnny Cash. I hope you enjoy it. Me; I like trains so much that if I didn’t have to drive about 2 hours to get to a train station, I would likely travel as often as I could get away–even if it was only for a day trip.

You know, I’ve heard that travel on trains can be less safe than commercial airlines, but that’s not something that causes me even as much anxiety as getting on the road in a car. I think it has something to do with the safe feeling of being on a straight track that can only go where it is directed. The only dangers come when the train leaves the track or something crosses the track at the wrong time or place. Of course, the engineer makes most of the difference in whether the train does what it has been built to do.

So, what would happen if the engineer just decided to jump off the train and let it run on its own? Okay, and what if all the staff, including the brakeman, jumped off? Yep, we’d likely have a runaway train. Would it be any fun then?

I know I am beyond the month of sharing the Infinite Supply newsletters by The School of Christ dot org, but the one shared today is one of my favorites. In about 6 years, I’ve probably seen the devotion at least 3 or 4 times, and it resonates with me each and every time. Plus, it goes so well with my point about our need for The Engineer to be on our train. Here’s the main text from the devotion entitled “To Be With Him”…

You are called to be with Jesus. That is your calling. That is the primary thing, the highest ministry. Going forth to preach or do anything else is of secondary importance. We should be with Jesus; after that, He might send us forth to preach. But before Jesus said, “Go into all the world” He said, “Be with Me.”  (John 17:24)

The call of the Lord is not more important than the Lord of the call. The work of the Lord must not replace the Lord of the work. No amount of ministering FOR the Lord will make up for a lack of ministering TO the Lord. And knowing the Word of God does not necessarily mean that we know the God of the Word.

Source: The Church in the Wilderness by Chip Brogden ©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org.

I underlined the last sentence in the first paragraph. I love that it says that before Yeshua sent anyone out into any ministry, He first called them to be with Him. To be with Jesus/Yeshua is to have Him on board your train of life to make sure you don’t end up without an Engineer. Wherever we go, we need Him running the show. Without Him, life will be chaos and violence (like we see all around us), and we will be a wild runaway train.

I’ll end with one more video that adds to the idea of needing The Lord in our lives. This one is by Don Francisco, and the first line of the chorus says, “If you’re not livin’ by the word of God, you’re flyin’ by the seat of your pants.” Enjoy!

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tag, You’re It


Family Luggage Tags by Flickr User Gabe Taviano, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Family Luggage Tags by Flickr User Gabe Taviano, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.
Lots of neat craft ideas in this one.

I never liked being it. I mean, I didn’t like not being it either because that meant having to run from it to keep from getting tagged. Still, there’s just something about the rejection of everyone running away from me that was just no fun. It’s okay though because I’m not writing about that kind of tag today. I’m writing about luggage tags.

Have you ever thought about all the things your luggage says about you? It tells the world whether you shop high-end stores or at department stores. If you’re like me, it tells the world you like bright colors. (My pink luggage with white paw prints always gets remarks from fellow travelers.) It tells if you pack light or heavy, and if it’s bulging at the seams, people will know you stuffed in as much as you could, as fast as you could. But even if your luggage itself said nothing about you, your luggage tags would do a lot of talking.

People are more careful now than they used to be when it comes to how much personal information they would put on a luggage tag. However, even without detailed addresses and phone numbers, the many tags on a piece of luggage give everything from the departing station or port to the traveler’s destination and stops along the way. An abundance of tags says the person is likely a frequent traveler, and some leave old stickers on bags to start conversations with others. The world is too big for most of us to see it all, so communing while we commute can be a great virtual travel experience.

So, what if the luggage of our lives came with tags? What would those tags say about us? Just like with real luggage, we probably keep most of our travels and personal information to ourselves. We don’t often want to admit to some of the locations where we’ve spent time unless we find others who have been there. Shared experiences can make us feel safe to tell the truth, which is why self-help groups can do so much good. Sometimes, though, we become willing to share the less glamorous places we’ve been because we hope our testimonies will help others to avoid those places.

Do you have places in your past that are not quite postcard-worthy? Liz Curtis Higgs has inspired and encouraged many women with her Bad Girls of the Bible series because she shares those travel stops that make many people cringe. When she speaks, she shares her own journey through dark places, and she uses her luggage tags, and those of biblical women, to give all of us more hope.

The only reason you might not want to share some of those old stopovers is if your destination hasn’t changed. Even then, sharing your journeys could help you come to a place of repentance when you’re ready. But, if you have changed your luggage tag to a destination of Heaven when your life on earth is finished, don’t be afraid to let others know that you weren’t always headed that way. Even as we walk a new highway, we may find ourselves broken down on the side of the road, and sharing our struggle can be like making a call for a tow truck. That’s one reason why God’s word tells us to confess our faults to each other. I love the way it’s worded in The Amplified Bible

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].

As I’ve written posts on this blog, I’ve shared a few of the troublesome places I’ve visited because I can also share God’s mercy in bringing me beyond them. Most of them, I’ve shared in comments since some were a bit long for the post, but I will pretty much share all that God has delivered me from. If you want to know more, you just have to ask. The wages of sin is death, but through God, I have been able to change the destination on my luggage to “Eternal Life with Christ.” Now I want to know about you and your destinations–old and new–so, tag, you’re it.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Feel Like Traveling On


When I worked in the travel store of a popular truck stop off of I-40 in Arizona, the atmosphere in the mornings always reminded me of the joys of going places with my grandparents. Sure, getting up at 4am, so we could be on the road before sunup and out of town before rush hour, was not always fun, but seeing new people and places was worth it. And the truck stops were worth it too. Being a kid, I didn’t have to drive, so I got to sleep an extra two hours and wake up as we pulled into the big travel center at Buttonwillow, California, and that’s when the fun really started. I think I discovered grape “Bubble Yum” and “Pop Rocks” both in travel stores before they were in all the convenience stores near home.

In today’s reading from Numbers 33:11 through Numbers 33:49, we read more about the travels of Israel as they left Egypt. I wonder if they got excited each time God told them to move on. If the adults didn’t, surely the kids got excited to see something new on the road ahead. Maybe they even found rocks that popped (up under the wheel of a wagon) as they pulled into some temporary campsite. 🙂

You can read all the verses by clicking on the link, and there you can see each little stop and destination. I’ll give you some of the bigger jumps like their move from The Sea of Suf to the Seen Desert to the Sinai Desert to Mount Shefer. They moved on through a bunch more towns and cities until they were once again in the desert; this time the Tzin Desert. When they stopped at Mount Hor, Aaron took his last breath, and Eleazar became the high priest in his place. Eventually, they moved on and into the plains of Moab and across the Jordan River from Jericho, which is where they are currently. This is their last stop before going in to fight for the land promised them in the land of Canaan.

Knowing the way God works in details, there is likely a type and shadow for every city and every stop made by Israel, and those types and shadows likely line up with places in life now walked by the flock gathered to God from the Gentiles. I can see so many parallels in our journey from bondage to our eternal promise. Dry places, valleys, mountain tops, new lives, deaths of mentors and leaders, etc. And we have stubborn people who make our journey more difficult like the kings who refused to let the community of Israel walk on The King’s Highway and made them walk around the long way, and Red Sea moments that seem impossible to get through until we’re on the other side. But God is faithful to bring us through it all, just like He was faithful in every step of Israel’s deliverance journey.

Neither of our journeys is ended yet. Israel still seeks her Messiah, and her faithful will know who He is when the time has come and God makes the two flocks into one. We still seek the second coming of our Messiah, and we long for the promise to see Him like He is and to be like Him. All of us long to be delivered from bondage and trouble on this earth, and we all want to see our enemies come face to face with our God and Father who has vowed to protect and deliver us. But until we get to that place, all we can do is keep traveling on, one step at a time, and one truck stop at a time, until we get where God wants us in this life and then in eternity.

Just for fun, here are a few more songs of encouragement for your road trip of life…

Now add your favorite songs in the comments. In the meantime, many blessings on your journey as you travel on toward your promise.

July 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Travel Policies for Israel


Camel Rides in Egypt by Flickr User Jeremy Jones, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Camel Rides in Egypt by Flickr User Jeremy Jones, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I have great travel memories all the way back to times as a small child when most of my car travel included long naps in the backseat. I still love the atmosphere of a truck stop early in the morning just before the sun comes up because I remember that first stop on a drive we started at about 4am. That time of day, the idling truck engines create a steady hum, and in the late spring and early summer, there is is just enough crispness in the dew-filled air to chill you awake. That first stop on a long trip is also still charged with excitement about both the journey and the destination.

In today’s reading from Numbers 10:11 through Numbers 10:28, we read about the beginnings of travel for the community of Israel. I don’t know if they had any camels, but I imagine a camel ride would be preferable to a very long walk. The journey ahead would take the children of Israel from the Sinai Desert to the Paran Desert as the pillar of cloud led them. This was Israel’s first journey, and the Scripture says they followed according to all of God’s words to Moses. In other words, they adhered to God’s corporate travel policies.

As they traveled, they moved by companies and leaders, and the divided movement allowed the Levites to take down and carry the tabernacle according to God’s direction. The descendants of K’hat who carried the tabernacle were ahead of the other tribes, so that the tabernacle could already be set up by the time the rest of the community of Israel arrived. You can click on the above link to read the exact divisions of camps and leaders as they traveled in the orderly fashion directed by their travel agent, Moses, according to all the instruction He received from God.

While I still love going places, travel is not as easy for me with having to carry a CPAP machine, get someone to care for my kitty cats, and the general issues with age and pain. But I imagine things were quite a bit rougher for a people that had to carry their entire house and home with them as they moved along. Still, I wonder if they got excited to see where God was going to take them next. They knew their stops were temporary because they knew their final destination was “The Promised Land,” but each step along the way must’ve held some excitement as they knew it was getting them closer to home.

Even with the enjoyment I find in traveling, seeing new sites, visiting with those I love, and finding fun things to do along the way, there is nothing like getting back home and back into my regular routine. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it well when she said, “There’s no place like home.” For believers in Messiah who trust in the promises we will receive after He comes back for His own, we know that our stops in this temporary life are steps to move us closer to that place we long for, that place we will one day call “home” for eternity. In the meantime, if we move forward according to God’s travel plans, we can enjoy the journey.

As I finished this post, I thought about an old song by Johnny Cash called “Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home” and I’ve found it here sung by him and June. It even includes his notes about writing it. Enjoy…

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Saints Go Marchin’


What makes a saint? It depends on who you ask. Some will say a person can only achieve sainthood by doing great works, and then the church leadership votes them to that exalted position. Others will declare that all who serve God are saints. The classic jazz song above refers to all those who get to walk in when Heaven’s gates swing open wide. By the definition that those who serve God can be called His saints, all the believers in the community of Israel would qualify since the Scriptures keep repeating how they did everything just as God asked them.

In today’s reading from the entire second chapter of the book of Numbers, Numbers 2:1 through 2:34, we read of the division of people into tribes, clans, and families as they prepare to travel wherever God directs them. The people are set up by camps on the east, south, north and west sides of the camp, and each man is to travel under a banner with his clan’s symbol on it. The campers are to surround the Tent of Meeting but at a distance (except for the Levites).

When these saints go marching, they will march according to the direction of the leaders assigned to them, and those leaders march according to the directions they receive from Moses who gets them directly from Yahveh. That is why, even though each man does not hear from God for himself, when they follow these directions, the Scriptures are able to say that they did everything as God directed.

It takes a lot of faith to trust that these men are following the directions of a man who is hearing directly from God, so I’m thankful that God saw fit to include His Holy Spirit in our lives to give us personal direction these days. Of course, the children of Israel had the pillars of cloud and fire, and they were able to see certain evidences of when God was pleased and not. I wonder, though, if we could go back and ask them if they’d rather live in our day and age, would they choose the personal directing of God’s Spirit over the trusting of men?

It’s funny, though. I know there are some people who would rather have the Bible read to them on Sunday mornings, and maybe a few other times if they attend weekly studies, and that’s pretty much the end of their thinking about it. Then there are others who would rather search the Scriptures and study for themselves. The Scriptures tell us to study and to rightly divide (analyze) the word of truth, so I think that covers self-study and group study. I enjoy both. I love to study for myself, and I love to hear and read the perspectives of others. I tend to enjoy discussion more than lecture though because I retain conversations better, and my mind doesn’t wander as much.

Whatever way you learn best, just keep learning. God’s Word is alive, and it can change lives from the page or from the pulpit. We know from our readings, and from history, that God’s ultimate goal is to march ALL His saints into a place of eternity with Him, so whatever camp we march from, let us keep our destination and goal in mind. Let us, as Paul said, press toward the mark that is the high calling in Christ, and be numbered with the saints who will one day march through those heavenly gates.

May 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jacob’s Bucket List


Image: What's on your bucket list? By Teresa Alexander-Arab

What’s on your bucket list?
Image by Flickr User Teresa Alexander-Arab
Click image to view original and access photo stream.

 

In the first verse of today’s reading from Genesis 45:28 through Genesis 46:27, Jacob is ready to go with the rest of his family to Egypt. He is excited and filled with life again, but he knows it’s short, so he tells them they must hurry up and go because he wants to see his son Joseph before he dies.

When Jacob goes to sleep that night, he has a vision of God calling out to him. God tells him that He is the God of his father, Isaac, and that He is still with him. God then tells Jacob not to be afraid to go to Egypt because it is there that He will make a great nation of him. And then God promises that after Joseph closes Jacob’s eyes for the last time, he will return to his homeland.

So Jacob and all his descendants; sons, son’s wives, daughters, and grandchildren, head to Egypt with all their possessions. Verses 8 through 25 list the genealogies of those making the journey, and the reading ends with giving us the number seventy as the total number of Jacob’s descendants moving to Egypt.

I love that Jacob was ready to go without a vision of promise from God, even though a vision is an important thing if someone wants to know where the finish line is at. But my guess is that no matter what was on Jacob’s bucket list before, once he found out his son was alive, everything else was scratched off and replaced with the desire to see Joseph. I laugh with people about things i should put on my bucket list, but I’ve never actually made one. Part of me thinks I’d be putting too much stock into human things instead of just trying to seek God’s will for my life. But if I were in Jacob’s position, seeing a child I thought was dead and have now found to be alive would definitely be worth making a list. Beyond that, I do have some things I’d like to accomplish, but I’m still seeking for a clear vision and focus in the midst of all my desires. What about you?

Share some things on your bucket list, and maybe I’ll share some of my heartfelt desires that could qualify for bucket list items.

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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