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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.