Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Heigh ho and off we go! Again.

Montana summer
I have two more nights at home this summer. If all goes as planned. (When do things ever go as planned?)

Tonight is one of those two nights. I hop a plane tomorrow to celebrate a special anniversary. I was one of two flower girls a half-century ago; the surprise party should be fun! (IF you know who I'm talking about, please keep it a surprise.) Mom said I played "Jesus Loves Me" at the ripe age of 6 ... and forgot to take off my lacy white gloves. No matter. I found a pair of white gloves today and will take them along, whether I have a chance to play for the couple or not.

Dreaming of summer
I'm almost two months behind on my first plans of summer respite. The first month after grad we toured the Holy Lands (Israel and Jordan) with a study group. Sunshine! immersion, truly a gift from God. This month, I began to sort and declutter the dissertation debris, whip the house and yard into a semblance of order, and get caught up with some of our friends. I even found time to watch a few Korean dramas.

W headed for our cabin in MT last week, working on trim, grouting a bathroom, and otherwise finishing out the building that has been his labor of love for 15 years. I'll join him in MT next week, leaving our adult kids to spread through the house on their own.

"Mom, we miss you guys, but honestly? It's nice to have the house to ourselves," go the young-adult-reviews about our extended absences. Meanwhile, W and I are happy to have caretakers and chore-doers! Jonathan ramps up his skills as a chef and baker when we're away, too. We love to see pictures of his friends sitting around the kitchen table, eating his creations.

Happy Birthday, Marilyn!
The sun shone on the dogs and me as we did our hour-walk this morning. After a visit to the doctor with Melissa, we celebrated her mom's birthday with takeout from a Chinese restaurant. Then it was time to check email and pack for the weekend as well as the summer. Except...

1000 hurrahs! The PDF of my dissertation popped into my inbox this afternoon, thanks to the hard work of copy editors Annette Newberry and Tresa Edmonds at the seminary. Between everything else, I've spent the afternoon and evening printing out the dissertation. On the way to the airport in the morning, we'll drop the copies off at the Post Office, my last obligation of the degree. The seminary will bind the copies. I'm giddy with the thought of NO MORE DISSERTATION. EVER.   EVER.     EVER!

That said, my posts may be more sporadic as I dive into summer writing projects. But if you don't hear from me, remember that you can write to me! Find me on FB or post a comment on the blog once in a while.

Happy Summer, everyone.

Read more:
*The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

*Thus says the Lord, “I will rejoice in doing good to them.” Jeremiah 32:41

*For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16

*Christ says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

Moravian Prayer: God of abundance, we hear your familiar voice and draw near to you, the one who leads us through verdant vales of vitality. May the still waters of your presence comfort our anxious spirits.

Just as the Lord rejoices in doing good for us, so may we rejoice in our great-hearted Redeemer through all we do. Let us testify to the entire world—“God is love!” In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Get to the end of the line!

Ever feel like you're running behind? Not even in the queue yet?

In a culture of competition and "me-first," it's hard to be "Average Joe" or "Just Jane." I recently read a book by Troy Meeder about ordinary men who have made a difference by being wonderfully average, filling each day with chores, coaching or cheering individuals or teams, working at their jobs with best efforts, and building strong families. They resisted temptations to quit, laze around, or do a minimum to get by.

I recommend the book for middle-agers whose dreams of greatness or using their talents to "change the world" never materialized. Young people may wonder why "luck" happens to others while their lives remain unimpressive despite hard work. The author assures us that no life is truly ordinary ... because God has an extraordinary purpose for you and for me that no one else can fill. (To buy the book, click here.)

This book will inspire you by reminding that you're making a difference by being full human and fully present in whatever routines or requests come your way. God determines where you and I "stand in line." Very few reach the stage; most of us are in a long line ... and someone has to be the last one. That may be me. Or you.

As I clean up the post-dissertation messes to rearrange my office for real life (more writing), I'm reminded that standing out is not the goal of a believer. God call us to strive forward to stand tall at the finish line.

Tonight, before you sleep, look back on the day to ask yourself, "In what ordinary moments am I making a difference to someone?"

Read more:
"But some evil troublemakers among David's men said, 'They didn't go with us, so they can't have any of the plunder we recovered. Give them their wives and children, and tell them to be gone.'

But David said, 'No, my brothers! Don't be selfish with what the LORD has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike—those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment." 1 Samuel 30:22–24

*There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved. Psalm 46:4-5

*Jesus says: "Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them." John 13:17

*The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. Revelation 21:23

Moravian Prayer: God of hospitality and hope, may we walk in your ways, seeking to bring the light of Zion to this world so that all may know the comforts of your holy habitation. Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The optimist's viewfinder

The post by Chris Guillebeau startled me this morning in thinking about the opportunities of an optimist: click here to view. Summer's almost here, so I feel challenged to gratefulness and celebration again. Chris notes that not all of us can do everything but we can admire and appreciate those with gifts like and unlike our own. Who deserves our applause today?

A closer look at "ordinary"

I found these flowers this morning along our gravel driveway. In their natural setting they were unspectacular. In a vase, amazing. People are like that too, sometimes sparkling in unexpected style.

Sometimes the constraints we feel aren't real. Sometimes we act as though we're tethered when God has given us incredible freedom to act and be, empowered by his Spirit. I walk my dogs on a leash but I'm rarely holding the leash. It trails behind them. If they wanted to take off, they could ... but they think I'm in control so they follow on my heels. Good doggies! (Silly people.)
Tethered. Sort-of.

Almost 4 weeks in Israel's sunshine has snapped me back to reality and healthy optimism (after 6 months of NW winter depression = life feels full of possibilities on sunny days but dreary and worthless during endless rainy Seattle mornings.) It's not always enough to have an office window facing south, a "sun-like" HappyLite staring me in the eyes, three brooder hanging lamps overhead (like hatchery lights), and two bright lightbulbs on the ceiling. The sunlight and outdoor exercise on the Holy Lands tour provided a rebirth from winter-death. Those of you with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) understand.

Whatever our day brings, we will choose the viewfinder. Our actual life options may be wide open. They may be narrowly constricted by health, finances, and relationships. God who sees us through his lens of loving Truth––as we are, where we are––offers us the benefits of abundant living, regardless of our circumstances. That starts in the heart and mind.

Bronze mouse sculpture, wasp's nest, and moss
Let's take advantage of his mercy––regardless of others' perceptions of our opportunities or challenges––with a positive "yes" to his bounty and the beauty around us! What ordinary and extraordinary things are within your reach?

Read more:
*God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:35-40 NIV

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:6 

Moravian Prayer: Lord, may we never question the infinite presence that is you, the great I Am. As we value you, may we also value all of your creation, remembering that all are worthy because all are from you. Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oh so quiet!

Today's the weekday American Christians normally call a day of rest. Except that most of us go-go-go-full-steam ahead after church. We've bought into the culture's religion of "more is better," and our Sundays are spent running errands, catching up on the 101 to-dos, and "DOING" rather than resting.

The students on the Holy Lands tour remarked how awful it was that Israelis worked six days a week "and only have one day off." Ahem. Note to self and students: that's one day less than most of us work. After our 5-day workweek, we fill up our weekends with duties, activities, and emotional highs and lows. Then we're exhausted rather than refreshed for the week ahead.

What would it actually feel like to unplug all the technology, phones, and computers, not to drive, and to set aside time for friends and family? Restful.

Our son and his mother-in-law flew in this morning from Montana, visited here long enough to have breakfast and pack Melissa and Kinsey's things, and scooped up the young mom and baby (who have been here since Tuesday evening).

A day of rest
Our house feels quiet. The Vitamix is washed (used to make baby food this morning). The toys are picked up and put away. I can hear the washing machine swirling water through Melissa's bedding. The dishwasher is rinsing the breakfast dishes. The filters in the fishtanks are bubbling. I'm listening to the click of the baby food jars as they seal (yum: 1. mixed veges and potatoes; and 2. mixed veges, beets, halibut).

A few things still sit in the entry, waiting for our youngest son's trip to return his brother's car. Jono will take lunch over and eat with Timo, Melissa, Marilyn, and Kinsey, and return to them any left-behind objects.

My pedometer reads 11,000 steps - and it's not yet 11am.  Kinsey, the dogs, and I have already done our walk (7:30-8:30pm) and I have no more duties to fulfill today. Usually we'd be in church but I am resting. I'm seriously taking the rest of the day off.

We act as though this happened...
I am utterly grateful for a God so good that he designed a day of rest. He's no sloth, lazing about the universe doing nothing. But he's not a heathen god or idol who is never satisfied with our worship and efforts. He's also not an American taskmaster, demanding more effort and more production until we drop in burnout.

Knowing our human inclination to "do" rather than "be," he graced us with the Sabbath - a day of recuperation, enjoyment of his presence, and connection to other people. Thanks be to God.

 I'm unpacking that gift today!!! My Sabbath ends at 11am tomorrow. YAY for rest!

Read more:
*Behold, here I am, let him do to me as seems good to him. 2 Samuel 15:26 (NASB) 

*The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name he is holy. Psalm 99:1-3 NIV

*Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

Moravian Prayer: We covenant with you, O purposeful Providence. Your will is written in our lives and works and is lived out in the world you created and saved through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quiet before the little storm

All's quiet. Our granddaughter is stirring in the next room. It's early morning and once she awakes, the day starts its run. The first thing is a warm bottle and a long walk with Oma and the dogs. We went 3.5 miles yesterday, long enough to tire Kinsey out and drain the excess energy from Oma's head.

Melissa, our daughter-in-love, is recovering from back surgery at our house while her husband serves as best man in MT for his best friend. Melissa can't hold Kinsey for 3-4 weeks. For now, I'm hoisting the toddler up to mom-height for hugs throughout the day.

Meanwhile, we have a designated drawer where Kinsey can haul out the dishcloths and tea towels. She's sifted and sorted plastic containers into bowls, taken apart Easter eggs, and walked the breadth and length of the house many times. 

Some women, especially those with selective amnesia, don't remember how much work it was to raise children. As grandmothers, they exclaim how busy and exhausted they are, watching their grandchildren. Personally, I shall never forget how many diapers and feedings a baby needs. Mothering our kids––from the first to the fourth child––was a constant parade of feeding, cleaning, laundry, and training that my husband escaped by working to support us. One or two kids were in diapers for 11 years, with a two years break somewhere near the end. I was happy for the little pause before the last one arrived!

I'm happy to have "outgrown" that stage of life, especially as I watch and thrill to Melissa's great care of their little darling. Now, the love of little hands reminds me that Oma is a good stage: I get to enjoy Kinsey for a few more days before her other grandma arrives to care for her daughter and granddaughter. 

God's attention to little ones, from the time their baby toenails start to grow, through this stage––learning to walk and explore––amazes me. Kinsey's high trust and love of people demonstrates Melissa's wonderful mothering and safe household she's growing in.

This morning, I'm grateful for "little storms" of activity that blow into our house, like sweet Kinsey. And I admit that I'm thankful for the pre-whirlwind hush, too!

Read more:
"The LORD is God, shining upon us." Psalm 118:27

*Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power;  praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.  Psalm 150    NIV 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ouch and Aaah

We got up at 5:15 and were at the surgeon's at 6am. He removed the bulging disk distressing Melissa, our daughter-in-love, and dropped it into a jar for display.

Meanwhile, baby Kinsey, the two dogs, and I walked for an hour in the morning sunshine. Kinsey ate breakfast and had a few diaper changes before we went to get her mom.

"I can't believe it. The pressure is gone from my leg," Melissa said in the car. "My back will have to heal, but my leg doesn't hurt anymore." By 10am, we were home. Kinsey and Melissa both conked out for a nap while I watched an hour of Korean dramas.

It's amazing how a skilled surgeon will cut through healthy flesh to reach an area of damage. Melissa's skin will have to grow together and her muscles will be sore where the surgeon moved them out of the way to reach her spine. But the point of irritation itself? If all heals as expected, it's gone.

Sometimes, when Jesus touches us, the hurts are peripheral, seemingly unconnected to our prayers for his intervention. In order to reach our deepest brokenness, he sometimes sets aside healthy muscle and cuts into sound tissue. We cry in pain without realizing that we are already healing and being restored to wholeness.

Thanks be to God who heals us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. His competence ensures that - regardless of how we feel - he will help and not break us. What are you willing to go through for holistic restoration?

Read more:
*His anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

*God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:9

*So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13   NIV

Moravian Prayer: Gracious God, we stand in awe before you. Your amazing grace is showered upon us, offering us salvation even when we’ve strayed. Help us to know your everlasting love through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dealing with cravings

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water… 

If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. – C.S. Lewis

What do you desire? What are you craving today? The ability to rest? Freedom from physical or emotional pain? Spiritual renewal? Relationships that are whole and healthy?

If you follow Christ, you are the child of another world. Tell your Father in heaven what you need, and receive hope for today as well as for your future. 

Read more:
*Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success. Psalm 118:25

*All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritancean inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NLT

Monday, June 18, 2012

Meltdown to the disciplines

I'm definitely back to veganism again. Within a week of arriving in Israel, I had been able to eat anything - cheese, lamb, chicken, eggs ... the daily sunshine and hot weather provided restoration and reprieve for my body and soul.

When we got back to Seattle, the freakishly cold and gloomy "spring" assaulted me like a battering ram. I sat in the house for days, unable to do much more than write and take the dogs for long walks, trying to soak up enough sun to get out of bed in the mornings. Happily, W was out of town so he missed most of the inner drama while I returned to a restricted diet.

I had an internal meltdown last night on the way home from wonderful visits with family. I'd ordered chicken for lunch and enjoyed deli coldcuts for supper.

June: a typical Seattle day
Driving home in the car, I huddled on the passenger side, unable to think of anything good in my life. The pavement, lakes, sky, clouds, and rain pressed on me in grey heaviness. The green trees, grass, shrubs, and bushes gloated with moisture. My heart pounded with anxiety as W zipped in and out of traffic on the wet roads, wipers splashing away the water. I read most of the way to ward off reflexive braking and protective jerking as tail lights flared in front of us. But my mind raced: why had I married? Why did we bother raising a family when they were just going to go through sorrow and pain? My planned sabbatical in MT (rest and recuperation after the dissertation) had all but fizzled away into other obligations.  Plus, my dissertation had come back for printing with the spacing I had carefully worked out disturbed.

I didn't say much in the car, afraid of a verbal explosion of words I wouldn't mean in saner moments. At home, I crawled under the covers to sleep off the toxic effects of animal products.

Peach muesli with soymilk
This morning, I made a fabulous fresh peach and pecan muesli (rolled grains, nuts, and seeds) and started to print out the dissertation for one final scrutiny. The sun lamp and 5 other lights are on in my office and I'm sitting in front of the southern window. (There's little light coming in from there, mind you. Surprise, it's another rainy day.)

My sweet husband seems almost perfect again. I don't have to ride in his car, which I dislike because of its 'new' chemical smell and uncomfortable seats, among other things. I'm grateful that my excellent copy editor A.N. carefully made the needed editorial adjustments. The dogs are thrilled to be beside me; we're skipping our walk because it's raining and I don't have a slave-master driving me into the dripping landscape. I feel almost human.

Vegan meal
It was SUCH a relief to let my taste buds and available food define my meals in Israel, especially for weeks at a time. It's not that I don't like vegetables and grains. I do. But I love meat and eggs and dairy. With the Seattle curse crashing back in, I'm resigning myself to the discipline of diet restrictions. Some day I'll escape this grey-green jungle and be able to eat normally. I look forward to that!

Those of you who struggle with depression for whatever reason will understand. And the rest of you? Maybe you're a thief, a liar, a blasphemer, a drunkard, a glutton, an adulterer, or a gossip. (Or like me, any one of those at various times.)

Everyone who follows Christ strains to please God in spite of our brokenness and illness. We live within the human condition under God's mercy. Regardless of where your flaws lie, ask for His loving-kindness today to help meet your own challenges. I'll check in tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm off to eat a square of TJ's dark (vegan) chocolate to ward off the drizzling blues.

Read more:
*You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:7

*Let all who fear the LORD repeat: "His faithful love endures forever." In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the LORD  than to trust in princes." Psalm 118:4–9

*The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Isaiah 60:19-20 NIV

*We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:7

Moravian Prayer: How do we measure abundance?—?in our worldly possessions or in the richness of our souls? O great Provider, help us to lay aside the blanket of belongings for the blanket of blessing that envelops us in your love. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The relief of wind on water

My apple "pancake"
Friends of ours who recently purchased a boat asked us along for breakfast in Kingston and a day on the water. We left the house at 7am and just got back, 12 hours later. Mind you, we had pizza on the way back.

We walked the little craft market at Kingston before heading to Oak Table Cafe for biscuits and gravy (W) and "an apple pancake" (me). My meal was so huge they rang a bell when it left the kitchen. Seriously! I gave W a quarter, cut off a thin wedge for Donna, and ate the rest of that quarter. We have half left for tomorrow morning. W's two biscuits were so huge they hardly fit into a big soup bowl, heaped with creamy sausage gravy. I ate his two eggs, too.

W's biscuits and gravy, with 2 eggs
The wind blew as we left the slip and returned to it. As we crossed Puget Sound, the waves gently lifted the boat. So much water between shores. So much air moving over the land and sea.

After steering us back through the Chittenden Locks, Jim let me "drive" through the ship canal (he's a high trust person) and it felt utterly relaxing to be chugging along. I could sense and feel the continual interplay between water, boat, and air in the turning of the rudder and adjustment of the engine.

"You have to compensate for the wind," he told W and me.

Likewise, life's currents influence our decisions. We choose to run before the wind, to fight the drift, or to plow headlong into the gale. May God give us wisdom to know what to do in any kind of weather.

Read more:
*You shall worship before the Lord your God; and you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given you and your house. Deuteronomy 26:10-11 (NKJV)

*I made the earth, and created humankind upon it. Isaiah 45:12

*Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

*Worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. Revelation 14:7

Moravian Prayer: Awesome God, we thank you for little things, for things we touch and smell and see and taste. In appreciating little things, help us to appreciate big things. May this one day, as it comes, be part of a life lived for you.

We delight in the wonder of the world that you, our divine Designer, have made. May we worship you by tenderly cultivating all of your creation. Amen.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Soiling our own nest

Bird cleaning its nest
"Vögel scheißen nicht ins eigene Nest." Growing up, I heard that German saying many times. Roughly translated, "Birds don't soil their own nest."

Sparrows roost above the front entry light at my parents' place. First, you see the head of the mama or papa bird as they guard and turn the eggs. In a few weeks, there is faint cheeping which swells to a daily hunger protest. Soon little heads peek over the sides, pulled back to safety with passersby. Before long, the chicks feather out and fly off.

The nest is constantly cleared, cleaned, and made welcome for the healthy development of the young ones.

Bedouin home
We saw similar cultural habits among the Bedouins who settled in Israel. Their yards may be full of the plastic bags and junk they toss out their windows, but we were told that the inside of the home is spotless. Generations of Bedouins tossed biodegradable items beyond the tent flap, keeping the interiors clean. In the morning, the desert sand and scavengers had taken care of the leftovers. Sadly, the routines remain and the non-biodegradable trash flies around the countryside, captured by fences and shrubs.

The tendency to clean our own nest, not to despoil our surroundings, is cross-cultural. But the longer I live here, the more I learn about our adopted country's counter-intuitive acts. We monitor others but turn a blind eye to ourselves.

Please read this article (click here) and share with fellow readers what feelings this reality stirs up in you. Patriotism? Pride in America? Surprise? Shock? Dismay? Or ? Personalize Anna with your name ... if you were Anna, if Anna were your cousin or your neighbor, would you feel the same, reading this?

View of foreigners by C19 Japanese
It's easy to police other countries. We were horrified by the Holocaust Museum in Israel, where we saw the results of systematic brainwashing: "Jews are subhuman and don't deserve to live or own property in this land. They are leaches who feed off the hard-working people around them." It's so convenient to shake our heads at the Nazis who tried to eliminate an ethnic group. Who among us would act so brutally today, so inhumanely?

I can finally whisper a question to myself, a few weeks after viewing the ungodly hell inflicted by "my people," my ancestors' government. No, my family didn't know what was going on. But how could they and their communities have missed it? I saw judgment in the eyes of students when they found out Waldemar was Polish and I was German. "Our people" had dared to do this to the Jews. It's true. "We" did it, to our eternal shame. But how are my actions different today from my tribe's actions two generations ago?

Today I'm asking the difficult question of you the reader, too. How is the American immigration propaganda and policing different for those desperate ones who came here to raise their kids, eat decent food, and live in safety? We're not just deporting people from the USA. We're letting our government––paid by our taxes––kill them ... while we look away. Read the statistics in this article.  We can justify it any way we like - and know we're not the first in the USA or elsewhere to do so. (Kosovo. Sudan. Nigeria. Uganda. Vietnam: a short list in a longer ongoing travesty.)

We're all from elsewhere else. Some came on land-bridges or boats thousands of years ago and others on ships as recently as 500 years ago. (Buildings are considered young in many countries at that age.) Some of our ancestors found a haven in the United States: they became citizens so we enjoy that privilege, too. Others of us arrived more recently, with Green Cards or citizenship applications in hand.

Ellis Island, NY
Still others would love to integrate. They live desperately "under the radar," working hard, trying to make a go of it because starvation or death are their only options if they remain in their birthplace.

Once again, the Jewish people––through their memorial of our propensity to do nothing, eating and drinking in safety while others perish–– become our conscience and a goad to serve God as fully human as possible. It cost "my people" death to stand up for Jews two generations ago. Am I willing to risk any comforts to help others in similar circumstance?

How can we prove God's love to those seeking refuge near us this week? This month? In our lifetime?

Read more:
*The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2

*Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Exodus 22:21

*But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 NIV

*Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:10-12

Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for your kindness to us, strangers and aliens in this world. Call us, O God, to demonstrate your mercy and care for others. Let us love the foreigner among us, for you have set us in a strange land and will call us home when we have finished our sojourn here on earth. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shattered to shards

"Smash!" the glass dropped from my pinky finger to the bamboo floor. Glass fragments and splinters scattered across the surface and flew to the edges of the rug.

I set down the bowl of muesli, the liter of water, and the cup of tea that survived the trip upstairs. (I know, I know. But my pinky made a convenient hook until I inadvertently lowered it to place things on my desk.)

What to do? Possibilities that go through my mind in 10 seconds:
  1. Sweep up the big pieces and vacuum the shards. = I need to lug the broom, dustpan, and vacuum up and put them back. Too much work.
  2. Pick up the big pieces and vacuum the shards. = Do I need gloves so I don't get splinters in my hand? Lug the vacuum up and back.
  3. Vacuum the splinters then put the bigger pieces in the garbage. = Lug the vacuum up and back, no splinters, and vacuum the office while you're at it.
Yup, #3. Done. In a few minutes, the office floor is clean, the glass is in the vacuum and the garbage, and I'm splinter-free. Picking up the little things made removing the big things easy.

Hmmm. I'm application-minded: "If we unclutter and obey in the details, would our bigger obstacles and challenges be easier to lift?"

We hope to achieve great things but sometimes get injured by the fragments of a big undertaking. We neglect the small deadly items with the potential to hurt us or derail our work.

Perhaps discarding the little shards first––those tiny options that hide alongside the obvious milestones––would make larger decisions simpler and obedience easier. Remember: Jesus asked others to roll aside the tombstone before he raised Lazarus from the dead. And weed sprouts are easier to pull than entrenched plants.

Read more:
*By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19

*Then [Martha] returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, 'The Teacher is here and wants to see you.' So Mary immediately went to him. …

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.'

When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 'Where have you put him?' he asked them.

They told him, 'Lord, come and see.' Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, 'See how much he loved him!' But some said, 'This man healed a blind man. Couldn't he have kept Lazarus from dying?'

Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 'Roll the stone aside,' Jesus told them.

*Our Savior, Christ Jesus, has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:10 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Blessed Savior, we rejoice in your victory over death! Let this knowledge guide and sustain us as we move through the darkness of our lives toward the eternal light of salvation you have shone into the world. Amen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The weird kind of normal ... or is it ... the normal kind of weird?

"Almost one in four American adults can be classified with a mental disorder," said the article. Oh please! Such thinking keeps medical companies rolling in money as we agree to dull the edges of normal human behavior.

Young children who should be venting their energy by doing chores and playing tag sit in a stupor in front of the TV. The blazing colors and frenetic motion of the screen keeps them motionless. When their bodies erupt into "bad behaviors" like tantrums and hyperactivity, we schlep them to the doctor's to drug them into submission.

Children go to school and are penalized for their random creativity. Consider the intelligence of the homeschooler who was tasked to do a page of creative writing.

"May I do it on the computer," he asked, in the first days of desktops, before any of us besides Waldemar could identify Times Roman, Arial, or Helvetika. The child thought for the better part of 15 minutes and handed in a sheet with only three lines.

Creative writing

Creative writing

Creative writing

Clearly a brilliant student destined for failure in the normal educational system. Such individuality, rather than being prized, creates "disciplinary problems" in large classrooms teaching students conformity with sanitized, politically correct information and behavior control.

Young adults who have never done a useful day's work for others or felt the exhaustion of physical labor in exchange for food,  play violent video games or drug themselves out of their boredom year in and year out. They grow up without acquiring a moral compass or learning self-discipline. Then we diagnose them with social maladjustment and complain that they are incapable of holding a job.

We've remove the boundaries of consideration for others and human decency and replaced them with a plethora of rules. Our Swiss friends commented that doing business in the USA is the most legally-prohibitive exploit they've encountered. They've worked in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Why do we have so many regulations? Every time someone does something stupid, they blame others for the consequences. Dump a hot cup of coffee into my lap while driving? I'll blame the fast-food chain for not writing a warning on the cup - and win millions in the legal lottery. Tar up my lungs with 3 packs of cigarettes a day? Maybe I can weasel a fortune from the tobacco companies. If someone like a pastor or doctor makes a mistake (God help them if they are not the perfect Jesus), I can sue them or leave the church in discontent.

Worried that creativity is restricted to the few? The human race has always been mostly made of peasants working the fields (or offices or factories). I can live with that - my house has to be cleaned and my yard weeded. Most of my family goes off to jobs or school every day, drudgery  on a day-to-day level that produces good work and societal progress.

The 'leaning' Gates of Europe, Madrid
However, we also do crazy, quirky things that have our friends scratching their heads. We occasionally look at other people and wonder if they have gone mad. Is there something wrong with that? Or is it the genius and individual flair that God invests in his creations to please him and do his work?

Hand me a pill. Quick. Before I do something stupid. Or brilliant.

Read more:
"I have often contemplated the difference between self medication (all the way from Indian medicines to alcohol and opiates in days gone by to our current mode) - although many still self medicate with marijuana and alcohol along with utilizing pharmaceuticals. I think how we handle our imbalances is interesting.

"I do agree that many 'disorders' are just flavor. ADD for the most part is one of those. Highly creative people tend to focus for very short bursts. However, we have seen the downside to imbalances. ... Casting [our anxiety on Christ?] –– some days it takes a lot of mental space to do that." 

Here's some meditation for your mental space this morning:
*The Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid." Genesis 3:9,10

*Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. 1 Samuel 3:9

*Jesus said, "I have come to call not the righteous but sinners." Mark 2:17

*Christ says, "Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:24

Moravian Prayer: So often fear and doubt lead us away from you, yet still you seek us, calling our name. O steadfast One, rather than shamefully hide, may we come forth and meet you, who loves us just as we are! Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


A perfect chocolate bar!
In Israel, this would be Shabbot and I wouldn't be using our phone or computers. Instead, I'm taking the day "easy" in preparation for a busy Sunday and week ahead. I may even much on the chocolate bar we found in Israel.

It's hard to come home from a trip. Household chores, yard gone wild, to-do's stacked up ... I can ignore most of them for a few days but laundry and unpacking have to be done at the first opportunity, preferably the day of arriving home. This is a genetic flaw, according to my mother, who reports, "It's a Schmidt thing. We all do it."

Card in watercolor
Except for the lousy weather, we've settled in. W's been back in the office, grading and catching up on tech. The dogs are groomed, the beds remade, and much of the clutter of coming home is cleared away. I painted a wedding card for a friend, cleaned and re-messed up my office, and bought healthy food.

I even cut my hair, which was driving me crazy on the trip. I'd almost asked the barber in Jordan who trimmed W's hair to let me use his shears. But, Karen Hannah, knowing how private and precious such scissors are to their owners, I didn't mention it.

Walking on pavement has frozen my muscles. I didn't mind walking on rock, gravel, or mud on the trip, but the asphalt of the neighborhood pounds my legs. Mind you, we only wore Keens and flip-flops for a month. Maybe I just need to get re-accustomed to constrictive footwear.

Last night, dear friends (and family) Mel and Martha took us to Jazz Alley for an excellent meal (steak for W, lamb curry for Martha, shrimp Louis for Mel, mushroom ravioli for me––all fab) and a concert by Fourplay. The tight sound and teasing (musical and otherwise) between the musicians boasted of their years together and amazing musicianship. It's been fun to celebrate finishing studies with such a variety of treats. Thanks to everyone who sent cards or congrats.

I'm looking forward to having the family around the table for lunch tomorrow, and chatting with girlfriends over tea in the evening. Seattle may be overcast, but life is good.

Read more:
*Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165

*Peace to all of you who are in Christ. 1 Peter 5:14

*Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13 NIV

Moravian Prayer: You call us, God, to peace - not the peace of sleep, but the peace of people working together, helping one another and listening to one another. Make us instruments of your peace. Amen.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Holy Lands Day 26-27: Goodbyes and home again

Warning: one of the photos of an airport scan (below) may offend some people. You might prefer that kids not read this one.

This morning, I walked into Trader Joes for groceries, shivering from the 50oF drizzle. "It's our last nice day for a while," says the checker. "Tomorrow it's supposed to turn cold and rainy." Ugh. I loathe Seattle weather, but our yard is nice and green and it smells of water (a dearth of that in Israel's deserts).
Back to Israel. Honestly, if we hadn't been climbing steps and hillsides and slopes a few times a day, I'd have to be rolled onto the airplane Monday. We've eaten three big meals a day plus snacks. Minding Ilan's admonition throughout the day to "Drink more WATER!!!" to stay hydrated, we've consumed many bottles of water a day. Israeli water is clean. You can drink from the taps with no problem. In certain districts like the West Bank, we were cautioned against filling our water bottles from taps. "People are wiping their b--- and then touching the tap. You want to drink that?" (No, not really. Thanks for letting us know.)

We have one key to the room. W takes it with him, a hassle when I leave the room and he's gone elsewhere. (He has so much gear that we can't leave the door open.) I've gazed up more than once at the Mezuzah screwed to the outer doorpost, but it offers me no solutions when the door is locked and I'm on the wrong side. I have to hunt him down again this morning.

Bright-colored purse/backpack and
leather tab necklace, in the market

About 9:30am, we're packed and ready to hop into taxis with 5 NU students for a final day off in a famous downtown market. We wander the aisles and pick up a few little things. I find a quirky pomegranate vase in a pottery cooperative and a few Moroccan handmade beads for leather thong necklaces. W buys some chocolate and fresh baking. I sketch a few items I might make back home because they are simple, useful, and - most importantly - funky.

We meet the students at Jerusalem Steak House for a shwarma (pita bread stuffed with french fries, salad, and strips of grilled meat. One of the students says they have lamb. Yum. We order without looking around. Except when I sit to eat, I notice that the turning meat skewer from which the shwarmas are cut are labeled Chicken and Turkey. Turkey it is.

On the way to the hotel, the taxi driver tells W a sad story and gets and extra $1.50 for his trouble. Gas is over $10 per gallon. (That IS a sad story for drivers. Every day or two, it has cost over $1000 to fill up the tour bus, even with the tour company's discounted rate.)

We rest in the afternoon. W's digital luggage scale comes in handy. After he weighs their suitcases, a few students extract worn T-shirts and shoes, as well as stones that might have come from the creek David visited before he slew Goliath.

Marc and Amy Turnage, Lukas, Ellie, and Jordan, looking
good. Keep in mind that Marc's 6'7" and Amy's 5'10"...
The evening meal is bittersweet. Marc thanks Amy for all her work in getting us here, thanks Tracy Paino for helping with coordination, acknowledges that Jeff (who's been nicknamed JMoney by our bus) helped smooth our days. Marc thanks our guides and talks about Avi's depth of knowledge and amazing humility in letting Marc lead with information. He tears up talking about Ilan - they've become great friends. Ilan says the warmth between them is mutual and respectful. The group chants, "Water, hats and water, more water!" as we cheer our guides.

We share communion for our final group session: Marc and Amy hand out thimble-sized olive-wood cups that we can take home. Tracy Paino from North Central leads in scripture and prayer before we head for the airport.

Ilan (front) and Avi (back) scouting the land
Ilan and Avi accompany us to Ben Gurian airport but we have different drivers. The guides help us through security before saying goodbye. W's luggage is searched as usual while I walk through. We buy more halvah at the Duty Free Shop, even though we have fabulous coffee halvah from the market.

W has seen to it that all NU students have seats in exit rows. (He used his Platinum Medallion status to book our tickets.) They're happy with more legroom. It's nice to sleep in after "dinner" at 2am, Israel time. I rest, watch a movie, and have breakfast at 2am, Seattle time = then I fast 28 hours, trying to reset my body clock to ward off jet-lag. "The secret is fasting 24 hours when you get home," Amy told us. It's worth a try at least once.

JFK Airport, NY
New York's JFK Airport doesn't feel anything like coming home. W and I would rather touch down this morning in Frankfurt, Singapore, or London. However, for those who haven't traveled much, the tour seemed long at the end. Several students become emotional about being back in the USA. Some of them joke about kissing the ground.

We pass through customs and immigration, put our luggage on the next conveyer, and are subject to an invasive and humiliating pat-down since we refuse to go through the airport scanners. Do I look dangerous? Doubt it. Airport security makes it a big deal every time we refuse the scanner. "Female handler needed," they shout until a female employee comes. Sometimes they make us wait for a long time before someone comes. Traveling with a group, I ask for a private room while I'm pawed.

Two men are watching the scanner screens. They make several women stand twice for scans and joke and make comments about the women after they leave - W and I are appalled. It's public porn, plain and simple, and they're getting paid to watch. (How could it be otherwise with the scans of women visible to men and vice versa?)

Did you know they see this much
of your body in a scanner? (Coverage on
left was Photoshop-ped in later.)
Still think it's ok?
BTW: How can Israel's airport be the most secure in the world and not "need" such unsafe nonsense? Israeli personnel are taught to look for anomalies to regular travelers. I watched the keen attention of the Israelis ... and 11 hours later watched NY security people hanging out and chatting to each other without observing travelers. I saw only boredom and a lack of training (or skill) in NY, compared to Tel Aviv.

We and I object to the TSA's attempt to force people through the dangerous scans and loss of privacy. It's dehumanizing. Plus, we travel too much to get that much radiation. {Read facts about radiation dangers at It says in part: "Because of a regulatory Catch-22, the airport X-ray scanners have escaped the oversight required for X-ray machines used in doctors’ offices and hospitals. The reason is that the scanners do not have a medical purpose, so the FDA cannot subject them to the rigorous evaluation it applies to medical devices... 

"As for the TSA, it skipped a public comment period required before deploying the scanners. Then, in defending them, it relied on a small body of unpublished research to insist the machines were safe, and ignored contrary opinions from U.S. and European authorities that recommended precautions, especially for pregnant women. Finally, the manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, unleashed an intense and sophisticated lobbying campaign, ultimately winning large contracts."}

If more people objected and they needed 10X the friskers, we might choke off this scan menace, which most travelers accept as "safe" based on TSA propaganda rather than  testing.

We have a half-hour to rest in the Sky Lounge before our flight to Seattle. It's sunny above the clouds on the way home. We're home going to a 40oF drop in temperatures and sun deprivation. Ugh. I watch Discover Channel's biography of Steve Jobs: he tells Stanford graduates, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish," Many of them will not have the imagination or wherewithal to do so. I write 2 pages on what a church plant with that attitude might look like.

Several students have arranged other transportation, so we have two vans waiting... with only two or three people in each on the way to the university. "Next time, we'll ask who needs a ride back," W says, sighing over the waste of time and money of the extra van and driver.

We're home by 10:30am Tuesday. By the time all the phone calls are made and laundry is done, it's 6pm. W's been asleep since 3pm; I hold out until after 6. We both wake in the night. In the morning, I'm hungry and a bit nauseated after no food in 28 hours. I cook oatmeal, dried fruit, seeds, and nuts at 6am.

Our house is tucked away on a hill: the
white house in the middle of the forest
By 9, W's at work and I'm out the door, walking the dogs 3.5 miles (with a 375 foot elevation drop in the first half-mile and a gradual downhill from there. Then it's a 2 mile ascent of about 450 feet to the top of our street. I have to pause for breath on a very steep shortcut through a neighborhood, but wow - the hills of Israel have "done me good."

The day fills with calls, errands, calls, and writing. The blue sky peeks through now and then to remind me that it's shining brightly on the Holy Lands: the newspaper forecast for the next week in Israel showed a sun captioned "Warm" and the following days "Unchanged." I don't know that I've ever seen "unchanged" on a Seattle forecast. To my fellow travelers, I wish you happiness and easy transitions back to life at home. But let's remember with open hearts what we've learned and try to assimilate the new ideas into our life, study, and teaching.

Enormous thanks to:
  • Marc and super-Amy Turnage who make this possible and exciting. 
  • Lukas, Jordan, and Ellie Turnage who shared the journey and said they'd miss us. 
  • Jeff and Tracy who answered our questions. 
  • Ilan and Avi who took care of us and generously shared with us what they love and know about their land. 
  • Shimon and Allah for getting us there and back safely each day. 
  • NU's generous College of Ministry Dean, Dr. Wayde Goodall, who shares such treasures and possibilities with others.
Hey, I just got home from Israel and Jordan. I'm still pinching myself in case it was a dream. (Oh, wait! It's 5pm and I'd like to sleep. Probably real.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Holy Lands Day 25: A day of horrors and kudos

Disclaimer: my blog contains personal observations and the opinions, typos, and errors are mine alone. (The guides and tour leaders know their stuff.)

It's the last full day of the tour. Tomorrow we'll have a free day before we fly home from Israel.

Monument to the Jewish Soldiers and Partisans who
Fought Against Nazi Germany (B. Fink)
We read Ephesians 1, on the bus at 7:40 am. Our first stop is Yad Vashem. I'm apprehensive how I'll do: I can hardly read the Passion accounts of Christ's trial and death - too awful. The museum guides are late, so I have time to wander the grounds and sketch a 20' metal and granite monument by Bernard Fink.

Yad = memorial; Shem = name. This is a place where the names of the dead are remembered and the heroic efforts of the "righteous among the nations," people who saved Jews during WWII, are memorialized. The "righteous" are granted Israeli citizenship. Israel prefers "Shoah" (unimaginable catastrophe) to "Holocaust" (the Greek word describing a sacrifice to a pagan god.)

A tour guide races us through the museum. I'm usually at the back and can't see what she's pointing to so have to lag to view the exhibits. There's no time to absorb what we are seeing, a systematic desensitizing of German children and adults to the humanity of Jews. By the time the children grow into young people, they have little conscience about treating Jews like animals ... or worse. The building's concrete represents the ugly scar on the Jewish psyche. We go from carpet (the comforts of home) to hard cement floors, from large open spaces to places we have to squeeze through, representing the removal of Jews from normal comforts to unimaginable horrors and deprivation.

The guide says the museum is full of choices made - and that while it is easy in retrospect to tell how choices should have been made, at the time, rabbis, German soldiers, church officials, and others made choices that hurt or helped Jews. Few escaped the hatred of Hitler's culture: in Poland, comprised over over 10% of Jews before the war, most of the population was wiped out in concentration camps or - as in other parts of Europe - by locals who hated them. Anti-semitism was wide-spread throughout the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Hitler quoted Martin Luther's rampages against Jews and other "christian writings".

The healthiest were sent to labor camps where they worked for Daimler-Benz, Siemens, and other German firms as slaves. The weaker ones were gassed at concentration camps, sometimes 2000 at a time at Auschwitz where German efficiency reached a demonic fervor, or otherwise murdered.

The facts roll around but the sheer scope of the massacre is too much to process. If it were not for the C19 American treatment of African-American slaves, the eastern European debacle in Serbia, and recent Muslim killings in Nigeria, it would be incomprehensible for me. As the tour guide says, "What would I do if confronted with the choice to help Jews under threat of my family's life? Would I have the courage to save the life of a stranger if it put my own family in danger?" She gives several illustrations of those who risked everything, including some who lost their own lives to do it.

One of the things Ilan and Marc said earlier in the tour was that God gave the Law to the Jewish nation to demonstrate right and wrong among all the nations. "Once again," I think, "Once again, by remembering what was done to them, Jews become the conscience of the world. They stand together as a moral voice to the nations to say, humanity is made in God's image so every person has value. We show mercy and never forget how terrible we can be to each other."

I am breathless with grief and pain when we sit down to listen to a concentration camp survivor. Ashel Ud wraps up the morning by telling the story of how he - an 11 year old boy - was trapped in the dehumanization of Jews. He survived the camps and was sent to Italy and then Israel, where he was educated and worked. "I have never told the story to my children because I would break down with the first sentence," he said. "But I tell it to you so that you can say you have met someone who was there. Don't forget me, no matter who tells you that the Shoah was a fabrication. I was there. It happened. It happened to me." He shows us the camp # tattooed on his forearm.

His brother, who also survived through a remarkable series of circumstances, was adopted by non-Jews, married, and - like many other survivors - had never told his family he was Jewish. In later life, he and his brother became reconciled; he and his family now live in Israel as well. I may write more details of this morning at a later date. Tonight my heart is too shattered.

We exit the museum to a sunny hillside view. It's 34oC (92oF) outside when we head into the Old City. Marc talks about the Anti-Semitism in New Testament studies today. "You have no excuse. You have seen what happened today and it is your responsibility to help prevent another Shoah in the future."

Shimon negotiates the narrow streets of Arabic Jerusalem. There is lots of garbage on the street and in the yards. On the top of the Mount of Olives, an older man with crutches offers us camel rides. When we walk by with "No thank you"s, he mutters, "Americans hate Arabs!"

Sculptural arch in the Dominus Flevia
The 200o view below includes Jerusalem, Herodium, Nebi Samuel, and the Mount of Olives. We descend to the Sanctuary of Dominus Flevis (Lord's Tears). There's a C1 AD tomb with ossuaries (bone boxes) broken open. This style of burial - laying out the body for a year to leave only the bones, gathering the bones into a box, and sharing the box between several bodies lasted about a hundred years, around the turn of BC to AD. The church is beautiful with soaring arches above us. We sing into the arches.

Marc discusses the concept of older and younger brother and Jesus' comment regarding "Let him who is the greatest (eldest) become like the younger" in the context of Jacob and Esau. The Hebrew construction of God's information to Rebekah can be interpreted either as "The younger will serve the older," or "the older will serve the younger." Israel understood that if they did not do the will of God, they would serve. Edom (Esau)'s motto was "Might makes right," but God's people were to choose a different path. Jesus, in the middle of sectarian stirrings to move God to action through violence, warns that God's way is not violence or power plays.

"We also need to remember that we are not called to grow big churches," Marc cautions. "We are called to obedience, to follow God by showing mercy to others. We obey. God makes things happen. Jesus' final plea was that his disciples become servants. Scriptures only tells us to pray for the peace of once city, the microcosm of the world - Jerusalem. Here were have religious intolerance, ethnic clashes, etc. If we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we pray for all nations."

Metal thorn railing around the stone altar:
Church of all Nations
In the Church of All Nations, the beauty and tranquility of space is set aside for reflection. We pause for a while to reflect on the accomplishments of Christ. The church is in the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane, now a pretty garden with 1700-year-old olive trees. "These are not the trees under which Jesus prayed, but perhaps they are children of those trees," we are told.

The outside windows are beautiful, too. I draw a little section of the wall.

Windows outside the Church
of All Nations
We enter through the Lion's Gate. Al-Sulami the Ottoman had a dream where he saw lions prowling around Jerusalem and built up the city walls.

We hike up the hill to the Old City, steep in the hot sun. "Drink more water!" says Ilan. "It's a discipline. You have to drink water." We pull out our water bottles and chug away.

We pass through a quiet garden with flowers, birds chirping, and date palms rustling overhead. It is the purported birthplace of the Virgin Mary. Nearby is the most ancient intact church of the Crusader era in Israel, the Church of St. Anne. Muslims turned it into a school and then piled it with junk, so it was not destroyed in their purges of Christian sties. It was purchased by the African White Fathers and is well-maintained.

Liturgy was sung rather than spoken in St. Anne's. Three students lead in songs. Their generation doesn't know many hymns, usually the first verse of a popular few. And their choruses are difficult to sing without a band and drums. But they lead us well in a time of worship and adoration. The music rolls around the stone walls, pillars, arches, and resounds back to us off the ceiling.

The church sits next to crumbling excavations of the pools of Bethesda. The cisterns in the center held water from Roman aquaducts, but side pools might have been places for healing waters. In this location, we are told that Jesus healed a lame man, according to John 5.

We walk the traditional Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) that dates back to Crusader times. Why did this become the route, when it's obvious from archaeology that it's not correct? "Europeans had their shops here, so it was a natural path to travel." There are still shops on both sides of the Via Dolorosa today. Our destination is the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. While we sit in the shade, Marc teaches us about the excruciating physical nature of crucifixion. "In your hands I commit my spirit" was on the lips of every dying righteous Jew.

Stone carving on a roof wall
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
We have to race through the Church of the Ascension (Holy Sepulcher). I'm glad W and I saw it last week. Several stations are closed for mass in the Orthodox section. When we emerge, Marc talks about the responsibility of the tour participants. "God has brought you here to make you witnesses. Your testimony from here on is predicated on reality. Jesus was not just a story or idea. He was God's son, sent as a living person in this region." He urges us to continue further study and exploration of our faith.

Our last stop is the Western Wall. Men and women separate to pray at the wall. It is the area closest to where the Temple stood and still a working synagogue. Jews belief the Presence of God was never removed from the wall. It is the physical center of their prayers. Messengers began to put notes into the wall for those who could not come themselves; the tradition has grown to where people place prayers in the cracks between the stones of the wall.

Hundreds of women stand in the smaller space. They are reading scriptures, rocking, sitting in chairs, or touching the wall. A bookshelf with Hebrew scriptures leans near the entry. A bride in full white dress and bouquet comes to pray. She leans her head against the wall near the men's fenced area. A male hand holding a video camera reaches over the wall to record her prayers as she looks his way and poses. She's tall. She looks across the wall for someone she knows before returning to pray and then walk away, train dragging across the stone floor, flowers in hand.

We wait for our busses outside the Dung Gate. I get a chance to say thanks to Avi, a superb tour guide on the other bus. He was SO helpful in identifying customs and plants and cultural items when Ilan was elsewhere.

Jeff's card: pencil rubbing of pilgrim graffiti in
the stairwell of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
(red cross and edging for our Red Bus)
Before we drop Ilan off, W presents three cards on behalf of Red Bus riders: to Jeff - with a Moleskin notebook to record future adventures (our bus' prof and scholar), Ilan - with a few chocolates (excellent Israeli tour guide), and Shimon - with a portrait of his face in the rearview mirror (great bus driver). We cheer them on for their good work. On the other bus, Vanguard's Carolyn Degelman does the same for her driver Allah and tour guide Avi.

Last week at the Church of the Ascension, I made a few  pencil rubbings over the carvings in the stone walls. I painted small red and blue borders as appropriate to each bus to make thank-you cards. We passed them around the two busses last week and hopefully everyone had time to sign them. I'd collect them in the evenings so they didn't get rumpled or lost.

Back at the hotel, we rush through supper and use a black Sharpee to identify "Amy Turnage's Portable Laundry" on W's dry bag. He passes it along so she can do her laundry for the rest of the trip.

Then it's time for the final evening session. Marc and Jeff are at a meeting in town. Amy gives us instructions on traveling back home. W presents her with the card signed by both busses. We cheer her wonderful kids for their hospitable come-along spirits.