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Friday, June 26, 2015

Nine people

I wrote this piece a few days ago and have been waiting to publish.  It seems a bit out of step now, but maybe it also serves as a reminder -- on this day of celebrations, that are tangled with fresh memories and piled on with a serious helping of world terror -- a reminder of just how fickle we can be with our feelings and how ever-changing the world really is, and maybe this still applies.  At least it does to me:

Nine people shot and killed
What shall I do?
One killer seeks a race war
What should I not do?

Preachers preach, newscasters news, politicians politick,
What shall I say?
Bloggers blog, pundits pun, commentators comment
What should I not say?

My roots are racist, my response was silence
What shall I remember?
My actions are few, my friends and my strangers are hurting
What should I not forget?

The NRA says “give us our guns,” others say, “take down that flag,”
What shall I say?
Worshippers gather to pray, organizers organize
What should I not say? What should I not do?

My life has been full of times I could have defended,
But I remained inert
My heart wells up with hurt and pain and guilt and I wonder
What can I say?  What should I do?  Where shall I go?  What right do I have? 

Jesus said, “put out into the deep water”
Jesus said, “do not be afraid”
Jesus said, “Oh ye of little faith”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me”
But Jesus also did.  Jesus met.  Jesus asked.  Jesus healed.  Jesus prayed.  Jesus forgave.  Jesus loved.  And in one tiny verse, Jesus wept.
 Yes, Jesus wept.

For now, I weep.
For now, I pray.
For now, I listen.
For now, I look.

Soon and very soon, I must seek what I shall say and what I shall do.
Soon and very soon. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pieces of Peace

I wrote this a couple of months ago for In His Steps: Pathways of Peace, and decided to republish here with my photos.  It is a reflection from my time in the Holy Land.   It still rings true for me today:

On one of our days of Pilgrimage, while our home base was in Jericho, we went to one of the two alleged baptismal sites on the Jordan River.  My friend and pastor, Debbie, did a ritual of baptism renewal with the members of our group who chose to do so.    I acknowledge that there is a part of me that is the rebel that shies away from those traditional, and “everyone is doing it”, sort of experiences.  It was hot and dry that day.  I sat in the “stands” for a while and prayed and witnessed others being marked with water and oil, then I took my camera and went off by myself to pray and to watch and listen to other groups that were worshiping and preparing to come to the water’s edge.  There was a large African group and another group of Eastern European origins.  But one of the gathering places was empty, sans a group of white doves.  I was intrigued by the doves.  First, I wondered if they were native or imported since the whole “the Spirit came, descending like a dove” seemed a bit too coincidental (upon later research, these birds are definitely not native to the area). Secondly, doves as a symbol of peace caused my thoughts to turn to the irony of their presence.  At the viewing site, there is a rope that divides the river in two, and just mere feet away, on the other side, are people coming from the Jordanian side to also be baptized or to touch the same water. But if one were to swim across or breach that rope from one side to the other, there would be guards or soldiers at the ready to remedy the encroachment.  Not such a peaceful image.

The doves in the outdoor chapel setting were playful and oblivious. The image of purity and naivety. This cognitive dissonance exists all over the Holy Land. It seems that everywhere one goes in this land called holy, there are multiple layers of meaning upon the religious sites and holy places. In fact, there are layers upon layers of walls built on top of walls, churches over the top of ruins, and monuments and museums of one people’s on top of a village that belonged to another tribe or nation. Even as I sit here in my quiet office on the coastal town of North Bend, Oregon, I have a heavy feeling in my heart and my stomach over my experiences. My conscience will not allow my heart to simply soar with the ideas of walking where Jesus walked or being in places that may have been where Jesus lived, taught, died or appeared in resurrected form. For in all of those places, people hurt, injustice is done, economies plummet, health is waning, and hope is elusive. But as soon as I go there, I know people who work for justice, seek power for the oppressed, walk alongside to comfort the hurt and the sick. I also know a God who sent an angel messenger to say “Nothing is impossible with God.” All is not well, but as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday evening prayer

Tuesday evening prayer, March 10 

This morning we walked the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross).  It was a time of prayer and devotion.  Then, we went to Bethlehem to shop right by the checkpoint and a part of the Separation Wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Throughout this time, I have found myself very resistant to shopping and so I mostly stayed outside and did another sort of Stations of the Cross prayer with the art and stories along this section of the Wall.  Then, this afternoon we went to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.  We went down to the dungeon where Jesus was to have been scourged and imprisoned.  I was asked to read Psalm 88.  The words stuck in my throat, because all I could think about was the Wall.  

Read Psalm 88 in a translation of your choosing.    Pray for those who feel cut off.  Pray for those who are forgotten, abused and abandoned  Pray for all who have said, “Darkness is my closest friend.”

May God grant you rest, peace and all you need for tomorrow.  Amen.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tuesday morning prayer

Tuesday morning prayer, March 10

Tree at the Cliffs of Arbel

Pruning and Grafting Branches

11-12 The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!
13-15 But I don’t want to go on about them. It’s you, the outsiders, that I’m concerned with now. Because my personal assignment is focused on the so-called outsiders, I make as much of this as I can when I’m among my Israelite kin, the so-called insiders, hoping they’ll realize what they’re missing and want to get in on what God is doing. If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If the first thing the Jews did, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what’s going to happen when they get it right!
16-18 Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.  (Romans 11, The Message)

I invite you to a time of lectio divina with the scripture, the photo or both?  Read the passage through twice slowly and choose a word or phrase that stands out for you, that shines or shimmers, or that seems to speak louder than all the other words.  Then read a third time and pray with that word or phrase.  Why that one?  Why now?  Finally, read a final time and ask God and yourself what it is that you are to do with that phrase and your meditation.  Is it an invitation?  Think of it as the “so what?”  What does all of this mean to me?  

May God bless you in the reading and meditation of the word.

Monday evening prayer

Monday Night Prayer, March 9

The Dome at the Chapel in Migdal (Mary Magdalene) - new ruins site

The pillars in this chapel all have the a name of a woman who encountered Jesus (e.g. Mary Magdala, Mary and Martha, and Peter's mother-in-law).  One of them is blank, which is to include the unnamed women and us.  I absolutely loved the feminine quality of this church, which is quite unique in this part of the world.  Whose hands do you see in this painting?  What do they represent for you in your prayer life?  

Does God still heal us from evil spirits and infirmities?  If not literally, then metaphorically speaking, what is the healing that you seek?  Ask God to heal you and bring you peace.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blogging by photo

Traditional blogging, at least my tradition, is proving to be entirely too difficult for me while here in Israel and Palestine.  Partly, the spotty internet connection, time difference and other matters make it a challenge.  Secondly, I can't put coherent paragraphs and thoughts together.  The personal, political and theological implications are too great for me to begin to process right now.  So, I'm adapting.
I am writing prayer reflections for Casa, the Facebook prayer community (you can join the group Casa: An experiment in doing church online).  I'm also going to post the same-said reflections here.  It will likely be a single image from my pilgrimage here, a scripture passage and a question or prayer prompt.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Here is my first attempt.

Sunrise in Tiberias

6-7 In my prosperity I said, “This is forever; nothing can stop me now! The Lord has shown me his favor. He has made me steady as a mountain.” Then, Lord, you turned your face away from me and cut off your river of blessings.[a] Suddenly my courage was gone; I was terrified and panic-stricken. I cried to you, O Lord; oh, how I pled: “What will you gain, O Lord, from killing me? How can I praise you then to all my friends? How can my dust in the grave speak out and tell the world about your faithfulness? 10 Hear me, Lord; oh, have pity and help me.” 11 Then he turned my sorrow into joy! He took away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy 12 so that I might sing glad praises to the Lord instead of lying in silence in the grave. O Lord my God, I will keep on thanking you forever!  -
(Psalm 30, The Living Bible)

So, how might God be turning your mourning into joy?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Give Us This Day

I've often understood the words of Jesus' prayer in the Sermon on the Mount to mean that we shall have enough, just enough, for our daily sustenance for today.  Not more and not less.  Not storing up treasures here so that we have a week's worth (wow, does this mean that all followers of Jesus should cancel their Costco membership?)  Another contemporary look at this would be the lyrics from the old Rolling Stones song,

No, you can't always get what you want 
You can't always get what you want 
You can't always get what you want 
But if you try sometime you find 
You get what you need

I was reminded yesterday that this principle of provision and abundance, or the ideal that all we can ask for is  enough is a key to pilgrimage.  I have WANTED to go to Safad(Arabic) or Tzfat (Hebrew), since I was here last in 2012.  It is a city with over 200 ancient synagogues and also was made somewhat famous as being the center of Kabbalah (thanks Madonna!).  I'm not even sure I can tell you exactly why I want to go there, but I do.  Day before yesterday, as we were on the Cliffs of Arbel, and we were getting an orientation to the land and locations, our guide, Iyad, pointed out Safed.   We were instructed to journal or at least meditate upon our longings while we were on the cliff.  I was very much thinking of this Tzafat.  

In the evening I spoke with Debbie, our leader, about the continued longing and we began to strategize about how I might get there.  Naturally, we asked for Iyad's help.  After considering transportation and cost (probably somewhere between $100 and $200, which is not insurmountable but also not insignificant) and the time to get there, and most discouraging of all, that yesterday was Purim (the Jewish festival that celebrates the saving of the Jewish people from the hands of Haman, as told in the book of Esther).  It is likely that most everything would have been shut down due to this holiday and festival.  So, the final decision was not to make the trek.  I can say I am disappointed, but certainly not devastated.  Remember, one of my previous lessons was about "let it go."

I think I was able to realize in the midst of this disappointment,  a deeper longing than going to a particular place to see synagogues and art colonies and the like.  It was this: when Iyad began to talk to me about the possibility, he said he was afraid that I would want him to investigate the possibility because he remembered my desire and questions from two years ago.  A man who I've only met on a few brief occasions, a friend of a friend, someone who I respect and admire greatly, he remembered my desire. Someone who leads countless groups and tours in a year had recalled my longing.   He earnestly "called a guy" to see what could be possible.  He obviously thought through the pros and cons, just as I did.  

In short, I wanted an excursion.  In a more eternal view, I needed recognition, memory and a person who cared.  You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find what you need.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Writer's Block

I am gritting my teeth and asking myself, "how can this be?"  When I was here in Galilee, The Holy Land, Israel, Palestine, ???? I had a sort of writer's block.  There was so much on my heart and mind that I could not really put words to screen or transfer thoughts into coherent and understandable sentences.  It was months before I could articulate some of what I had seen or experienced.    Here I am again and the same thing appears to be happening.  

Perhaps I fooled myself into thinking that since I started writing a bit before the beginning of this pilgrimage, I would have primed the pump of my soul and the words would just flow like water from a well.  Wrong!  Maybe I thought that now that I am 2 1/2 years older, well into late middle age, that wisdom and profundity would spring forth from my fingers to the computer screen.  Wrong again!  
Instead, it's just little ol' me, trying to say something, anything, that might come close to capturing the feelings, the evocations that arise as I see places again for the first time and as I for the first time encounter a place I've never seen before.  

What is occurring to me most is that I knew how special my time was when I came here in 2012, but I think I had no idea how rare it was.  Most everyone only has a tour guide, a bus, 20 minutes or less to take in a site when they are here.  We had a car, just 4 of us, and the luxury to linger as long as we chose.  Or if something was uninteresting, we could decide collectively that we had had enough and move on to the next adventure of our choosing.  This is a definitively different sort of experience.  But there are blessings in this "on a tour bus with 28 of my best friends" experience, too.

The blessings include things like having an awesome roommate (Nice to be with my husband for consecutive nights), watching and listening to guide talks and leader rhythms as I figure out if I could do this for a group in the future,  seeing Hebrew and Arabic signs and advertisements, hearing my first call to prayer yesterday afternoon, communion in the new chapel at Migdal, beer with a friend to prevent myself from napping in the afternoon and more.  Wow, all of this on just the first day.  

I'm carrying prayers, hopes, dreams, conversations, curiosities, knowledge and a whole lot more.  I have brought all of you on this journey with me.  I hope there will be a time when I can pay tribute to all of you and all of these experiences with some words that are worthy of the calling to which I have been called.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Let It Go

Few of us can hear the phrase, Let It Go, without first thinking of all things Frozen, Disney, Elsa, Olaf and ice castles. Some of us are charmed by the music, the lyrics and others of us consider it a vile ear worm.   Regardless of your reaction, the phrase had origins before the movie or the song made famous by the movie and dozens of covers of the song.  The most original of versions might be Let Go and Let God.

This morning as I prepare to fly to San Francisco, then tomorrow to Philadelphia and Tel Aviv, then two weeks on a group pilgrimage in the Holy Land, followed by a week in Jordan and NYC with my wonderful husband, I am reminded how much I needed to observe the practice of Let it Go.  The following is a list of just a few of those things:
1. My sweet, zany, adorable, neurotic, Xanax-taking dog, Holly who can't understand suitcases or the fact that I do intend to return to her
2. The church work that will all be here when I return
3.  Lenten series and the fact that there will be a guest preacher for three of the six weeks of Lent
4.  Routine
5.  The illusion that on most days I control my schedule, my waking and sleeping, where I go and when I go there, etc.  For two weeks, I'll be with 28 of my "best" friends, so it is likely that I will NOT have nearly as much control of what I do and when I do it.
6.  Culture and a Western way of living
7.  Perfection/Performance - This morning I was faced again with the ugly fact that I do hate "unforced" errors.

I asked a church member to help me and pray for my ability to Let Go and Let God.  She reminded me of a story from Zen Shorts.  Paraphrased, the Zen master is traveling and comes upon a very wealthy woman who needs help crossing a river.  She is demanding, nagging and complaining the whole time.  After the master and his student complete their task they travel on for some time.  Finally, the student is still steaming about this woman's lack of gratitude and respect and asks the master how he can not be angry and upset about this after all they had done for her.  The master simply said to his student, "I put the woman down over an hour ago, I don't understand why you are still carrying her."

The prophet Isaiah says:
A Boulder Blocking Your Way ] God spoke strongly to me, grabbed 
me with both hands and warned me not to go along with this people. 
He said: “Don’t be like this people, always afraid somebody is plotting
 against them. Don’t fear what they fear. Don’t take on their worries. 
If you’re going to worryworry about The Holy. Fear
 God-of-the-Angel-Armies. The Holy can be either a 
Hiding Place or a Boulder blocking your way, The Rock 
standing in the willful way of both houses of Israel, A 
barbed-wire Fence preventing trespass to the citizens of Jerusalem. 
Many of them are going to run into that Rock and get their bones
 broken, Get tangled up in that barbed wire and not get free of it.” 
- Isaiah 8:11-15

Let Go and Let God.  May this be my guiding phrase for today, tomorrow and the foreseeable and distant future.  That same God willing, my next entry will be from the Galilee region.

Friday, February 13, 2015

When my job is not my job

Last weekend I did not serve in my current parish where I am the interim pastor, but instead, I drove about 5 1/2 hours up the coast to provide leadership for a memorial service for a relative of a to-be relative (my niece's fiancee's brother died).  He was 29 years old.  Missing on a Friday and confirmed dead on Monday.  As is always the case, the gathering of folks who were friends and family was eclectic, to say the least.  There were complexities and tensions to be sure.  However, the overwhelming words and tones were tenderness, grace, mercy, balance and celebration.  A lot of that sentiment came from Ultimate Frisbee teams in the greater Portland area. I told a couple of people that many of these folks could be poster children for the "Keep Portland Weird" campaign -- and I mean that in the most complimentary and kind way.  People came from Ohio, Tanzania (!), California and ???  Work colleagues, camp counselor buddies, Ultimate teammates, family and ?? were there to celebrate a life and mourn a death.

There was ritual, there was honoring and remembering, there was raucous laughter, there were hugs, there were huge embraces, tears and a whiskey circle where you "affirm the shit out of one another."  (Sidebar: I'm going to tell you, I do believe that there are far too many churches who have forgotten to do this...the affirming, not the whiskey part, though perhaps they are inextricably connected.  What do I know?)  There was an art table with book altering, felted rock making and memory writing.  There was an altar.  However, there was little in the way of organized or corporate religion and worship.  But it felt like church.  I suppose I should feel guilty that I did not whip out my finest "witness to the resurrection" sermon and the masterful, traditional funeral prayers from the Book of Common Worship, but alas, I am a heretic and a sinner.

Instead, I celebrated and affirmed people where they were.  I shined light on the hope that I saw.  I named the sadness that I heard.  I reveled in the lovely young adult community that surrounded this young man's family.  Do I believe in resurrection? you bet!  Do I know that God was present in that room, the beachside bluff, the whiskey circle, the memorial altar, the sharing of Mexican food and more?  absolutely.  Was I minister to the masses for those hours last weekend?  Indeed, I was.

The poet and Scriptures may say it best:

God is a pure no-thing,
concealed in now and here;
the less you reach for him,
the more he will appear. - Angelus Silesius

11 The Lord said, “Go out. Stand on the mountain in front of me. I am going to pass by.”
As the Lord approached, a very powerful wind tore the mountains apart. It broke up the rocks. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire came. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. And after the fire there was only a gentle whisper. - I Kings 19:11-12

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A walk, a protest, a death and more steps along the way

Today feels like one of those days that simply will not quit giving.  I can't catch my breath.  It started out slowly enough.  But as it started to pick up steam, the train began rolling down the track and has me holding on as if I'm on the outside of one of the cars and trailing along behind in the wind.  I decided to go out to one of the dunes not far from my house and take the dog for a leisurely walk around a little used lake.  It's really more like a pond.

The weather is freakishly spring-like for the last day of January, though the forecast looks as if rain will be back starting tomorrow.  The walk was peaceful, calm and beautiful.  

I was breathing in the freshness and the beauty and after the walk decided to drive up and down some of the other roads to see what might be there and where I might go for future explorations.  In doing so, I ran into a group of folks who were protesting big business takeover of some of the logging operations here in the area.
Let me introduce you to Rick and George, who were happy to talk to me about their protest.  Everyday the mill is open and shipping, they will be there to protest.  They claim this multi-million $$ entity only paid $6000 in taxes last year.  I have no idea whether or not I would agree with their beef, but I sure loved talking to them and applauded their grassroots efforts.

On the drive back home, I had to stop and enjoy this view of the McCullough Bridge that crosses into North Bend, Oregon.
In doing so, I checked my messages and Facebook and saw a post from Sharol Hayner regarding the death of her husband Steve.  He is someone who has a laundry list of accomplishments and degrees and jobs far greater than I ever will.  I only really met and talked to Steve once, when I was taking Dmin classes at Columbia Theological Seminary, but in that one meeting, it was not his credentials that impressed me, but instead, his spirit and faith and passion.  I also was moved by degrees more by the story Sharol shared from someone I DO know well, my former pastor, the Rev. Dr. Steve Harrington.  His words and the images she share don CaringBridge about the two Steves was so vivid, so real, so faith-filled, love-inspired, and hope-laden.   I simply sat in stillness with the words, the beauty of the day, the tears of grief that come when death comes too quickly, and the hope and joy that skips right behind that sadness in an image of life eternal that is around the bend, over the bridge, through the thickets, and beyond all of our greatest imaginings.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wanderlust or wanderlost?

The saying goes "All who wander are not lost."  I think in my case the saying would more accurately be, "all who wander want you to think they are not lost."  I am consistently losing my way.   I'm the poster girl for the benefits of GPS, tracking devices, direction and map apps, etc.  I remember the first time I walked a labyrinth.  The instructor/facilitator told us it was distinguished from a maze, partly because there is only one way in and one way out and there was no way you could get mixed up about how walk to the center and back out again.  WRONG!  I somehow managed to mess it up.

Mostly, I'm okay with this trait.  It's not something that really bugs me or feels like a significant deficit, nor is it a factor that has diminished my quality of life in any significant way.    In fact, it is much the opposite.  It is amazing what you find when you are willing to get lost or to take different routes or simply to just stop for a while because you have no idea where you are.  When I can do that, it reminds me that it is okay to be lost and it is okay to stay in the space for a little while until I find my bearings once again.  I notice things.  I meet people.  Unexpected things happen.

I can recall a day over two years ago when I was in the Old City of Jerusalem.  It was near the end of our 16 days in the Holy Land on pilgrimage, a kind of wandering, and while my traveling companions went to the Dead Sea and Masada, I felt I needed a day to myself.  I wanted to retrace my steps.  I wanted to find things on my own.  So, I started off fairly early in the morning and made my way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  It was already crowded but I spent a bit of time there to pray.  Then, I decided that I wanted to go back toward the Western Wall and especially to the Jewish Quarter, because we had not really spent much time there.  I went to a museum, I wandered around the shops and I got a bagel before things started to close up for the Sabbath.  This was when I noticed that nearly everywhere I went and every turn I made there was something locked.  I could not get in to the synagogue.  Everywhere I turned there was a blocked entry.  Other churches, businesses and the like were closed or closing.  I finally got tired of trying, even though the posted hours were later, people were clearly intent on starting their time of rest.  So, I began to make my way back to the Armenian, Christian and Muslim quarters.   Just as I was getting fairly close to my hotel and a possible lunch, the call to prayer was sounded.  The narrow, uneven walk ways started to be filled with rushing men, women and children who were on their way to pray.    I started to get overwhelmed.  I was hungry, thirsty, tired and now feeling a bit claustrophobic.    On top of all that, with all the people and my feelings of lightheadedness, I was not sure where I needed to turn to get to
my destination.  I tried several of the different alleyways (the Old City is definitely NOT a labyrinth, but more like a maze), and all of them were dead ends or wrong ways.  I was not panicked, but I was frustrated.  Finally, I found a way that got me to go just outside the gates and walls of the Old City.  At this point, I was actually laughing at myself because it was classically me.    Since I was alone, had no idea when my travel companions would return, and there did not appear to be anyone to help guide me back, I decided to take the long and circuitous route on the perimeter of the city back to the starting point of my little adventure.  I'm sure it added at least an extra mile to my already long day of walking.

I remember thinking that this is pilgrimage.  I surrendered my agenda and my ideals about how I should get to where I was going.  I had to go far out of my way to gain perspective and find my way back.  I noticed things I would not otherwise have been aware.  Today, when I was walking the trails at Bandon Dunes and found a labyrinth,  as is so often the case, I was not able to find my way by following the map.  I asked directions but they weren't that helpful.  Finally, I found the road and I knew the general direction that would get me back to my car.  And I thought,  to myself, "yeah, right, all who wander are not lost.  I am simply working my way back home."

P.S.  As I was driving back from my wandering lost, this song came on the radio:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Is it Safe?

So, in preparation for traveling to the Holy Land on Pilgrimage, I entertain a lot of questions from family, friends and parishioners.  Where exactly will you be going? How long will you be there?  What do you do on a pilgrimage?  Have you been there before?  Who is going with you?  There are other questions too, but the main one that I get asked the most often is this one: "Is it safe?" or other forms of the question like "Will you be safe?"  "Aren't you afraid?"  "Is it dangerous?"

I'd love to just say to you that I laugh in the face of fear and that the thoughts of violence, protests, tear gas, rubber bullets or stones being thrown in some minor skirmish, has never even crossed my mind, but that would be a lie.  Sure, I've thought about it.  But I have made peace with the fact that there is something really wrong with the question.  I'm just not sure I know what safety is any more and I'm not at all sure that it is that important.  I must have written in a previous blog somewhere that I've never read or seen any evidence that Jesus was proclaiming that following Him was safe.  Furthermore, I've re-assessed what the concept of safety and protection versus freely living means for me personally.   You may remember that over three years ago I had surgery for uterine cancer.  A surgery that was to make me better, prolong my life and remove the imminent danger going on in my body.  All of that happened and the cancer was eradicated without extreme measures or further treatments of chemotherapy.  However, in the process of making me "better" or "safe" from further illness or maybe death, I contracted a staph infection that very well could have killed me.  As a result of that experience, I think every day after that seemed different, every experience I choose or risk that I take has a different color.  I'm not as willing to settle or be in a mode of waiting until "someday" and I'm also not so inclined to think that I can preserve myself for some future time.  I have no idea what shape my life will take.  I trust my life to only one safe haven...

Psalm 91 The Message (MSG)

1-13 You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
    spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
    I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
    shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
    under them you’re perfectly safe;
    his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
    not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
    not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around,
    drop like flies right and left,
    no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
    watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge,
    the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
    harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
    to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
    their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
    and kick young lions and serpents from the path.
14-16 “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
    “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
    if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
    I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
    give you a long drink of salvation!”

So, is it safe to travel to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, New York City?  I have no idea.  
Will I be safe no matter what?  You betcha!
Are there 1001 reasons for me to go?  Absolutely.