Friday, July 19, 2019

Ruminations on Israel: What Changed?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

A good friend asked me when I returned, 'What changed because you went to Israel?'  She went on to say that she had always been told that going to Israel was life-changing...and she wanted to know what, in my life, had changed.

What a challenging question!  Because it's really easy now to almost forget it happened.  Back home, back in the routine, with a few extra Facebook friends and some cool pictures  to prove that I ventured out of the comfort zone.  But, to all appearances, life goes on as it was.

And yet...

On our last Dive session, before our last meal together on the beach in Tel Aviv, Rita asked us all to think about what we would be leaving in Israel.  What would we not take back with us?  I had a long ponder on that.  What had I learned...about me?

I learned I could join.  I've written at odd times about my inherent social awkwardness; there are some old childhood emotional wounds that I can relate that probably are the root of that, and a  number of more recent wounds that reinforced it...the feeling that I'm not really accepted, that I'm an annoyance, that I don't have anything to offer.  But every time I took a breath and took the risk to join a group...I found that they actually didn't seem to be too offended by me wanting to hang out with them.  In fact, I was...welcomed.  Joining the group was accounted to me as grace and ease and even kindness.  I was flabbergasted and at one point even suppressed a hoot, the opinion expressed was something I had NEVER heard anyone say about me before.  Gracious?  Easy to be with?  KIND???? Are you really talking about ME???  I immediately thought of some events in the past year that certainly would have brought people to dispute that opinion.  Or...that I would expect to dispute that opinion.  But maybe it was my perception that was off.

And as I thought about that, I suddenly wondered...could I leave that social awkwardness thing in Israel?That thing that EXPECTS to be misunderstood and rejected?    It seems like every time I have tried to move beyond it...when I have decided it was time to be bold and move with conviction and confidence I have slammed into a brick wall and had to eat humble pie for behaving in a way that others perceived as inconsiderate, trouble-making, insensitive and/or presumptuous. Will that happen again if I try to move beyond the basic distrust of myself and the protective hedge of the hang-back and be-quiet, stand-on-the-perimeter-and-smile, shut-up-and-be-accommodating, socially awkward me? If I do try to shed that skin...again...will I be grabbed and stuffed back into it...again? 

God, I prayed, CAN I leave that here?  Is that even possible?

To my surprise, I felt suddenly very sure that it could happen.  It was possible.  And I saw a glimmer, like, through a door that was cracked just a bit open, of something bright and hopeful.  A breath of fresh clean air blowing from a new place.   I felt, for just a moment, of what it would feel like to live beyond that.

For the second time in 24 hours, my perception of myself shifted slightly.  I didn't have what I would call a breakthrough; it wasn't earth-shaking.  But there was a shifting.  It may be a while before the actual change manifests enough to really make a difference in things.  But I can believe now that such a change is coming.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Ruminations on Israel: FEAR

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

A little backstory on what went down on Friday morning, the last day we were in Israel...

Rita went to Israel last year and posted about a place she had stumbled across in Old Jerusalem...a business that had been in the same family since the days of the Crusaders.

They were tattoo artists.

She wrote a social media post about them, and mentioned that in that era, with no passports, the tattoos served as a testimony that the person had actually been to a place.  Pilgrims to Jerusalem were tattooed by the ancestors of the current owners.  As Rita was on staff at a church, she just said, 'I might have gotten one.' 

I read that story and was very intrigued.  I have basically zero interest in getting tattooed for artsy fashion's sake; no judgement against folks who are in to that; I just don't care for the way they look. And I don't get the urge to permanently alter skin.  But I could understand a tattoo as a reminder of the experience.

(I'm not entirely sure that this is the place, but so far as I know, it's the only one that fits the descriptions I've heard. And it's near the Jaffa gate, which is the location we were discussing.)

So there was always a kind of buzz amongst the folks on the trip...were we going to go to the tattoo shop?  If we did, who would get a tattoo?  What tattoo?  I commented to my pastor friends who were also on the trip...and who know my family...that I was a little leery of getting a tattoo, because of the precedent it would set in the family.  I mean, if Mom got a tattoo...even a very teeny one for a could mean the kids would decide to get all inked up.   I wasn't sure I wanted to open that door.

But by the time Thursday night rolled around, I felt like it was something I wanted to do.  They had to know who was committing to going for the tattoos on Friday morning.  But, remember, at this point I had no cash left.  "If they will take my credit card, I will go."  I said.  I was assured that the credit card would not be a problem there.

So Thursday night I had a rather odd feeling.  I looked at my wrist, where I figured I would get the image, thinking, 'This is the last night my wrist will look like this.'  I wasn't sure what I would get; I wanted to see what kinds of designs the pilgrims would have gotten centuries ago.  But, as there were 12 of us going, we were told that we could only get small designs that could be done in 15ish minutes each.  That was fine; I only wanted a teeny, simple design anyway.  I had in the back of my head that I would get a simple Jerusalem cross, if I could, but my plan was to just get the smallest, simplest traditional design.

But I had always believed it was not entirely appropriate for followers of God to get tattooed.  I mean, there is that verse in Leviticus that says, bluntly, 'do not...put tattoo marks on yourselves.' (19:28).    What was I going to do with that?  Was that regarding all tattoos, ever, or just in the context of the verse...somehow commemorating dead people?  A few verses above is the instruction 'do not eat meat with the blood in it' I routinely breaking that one every time I enjoy a pink-juicy medium rare steak?  Of course, the blood was drained before it was butchered, but still...

I finally reminded myself that I am not Jewish, and the Jewish law, per se, was given as instructions for living in a land of pagan people so that the Hebrews would maintain a distinct culture and identity.  Jesus fulfilled the law.  So, ultimately I put it in God's hands...because, you know, they might *not* take the card and I wouldn't be able to do it.

But I fully expected that there would be no problems.   I don't like pain and I don't like needles, but I felt like this was still something I wanted to do. I did natural childbirth four times; I could endure fifteen minutes of needle pricking.

And, here's the weird thing.  My perception of who I was shifted slightly that night.  The tattoo would change my self image.  It took some moxie...some self confidence...neither of which I have ever really felt were true of me.  It wouldn't just be making a declaration about being in would mean I would step over a character definition of myself that I have carried for a long, long time.  Part of me quailed, not wanting to make that shift. But it was time to move into a different perception.  I told my timid self to be quiet.

So, Friday morning, I got up for the early bus call and packed up.   But I pulled the last card from my backpack pocket, not even trying to remember what it might be.

It was 'Fear'.

I thought of my mental journey the night before and realized that this was a day to conquer fear.  It almost seemed like a confirmation that I was doing the correct thing.   The twelve of us who committed to being tattooed ate breakfast, turned in our keys, loaded our luggage, and got aboard the bus. We were going to get dropped off at the Jaffa Gate, then the bus would return to the hotel for the rest of the group and they were going to meet us there about three hours later.

But we sat on the bus for a good ten to fifteen minutes past our departure time.  Finally, our tour guide got on and told us why.

There had been a terrorist incident at the Damascus gate of the old city (remember, this was the final day of Ramadan). A couple of folks had been attacked by a knife-wielding individual; one had died.  The security people had closed all the gates to the old city.  It didn't look like we were going to be able to get in.  'But,' she said, 'It may reopen if they decide the threat was eliminated so we will try.'
Fifteen minutes later, we approached the Jaffa gate and saw all the security people there; it was not open.

So, no tattoos, and no old city tour, which was what was scheduled that morning.  We went back to the hotel and kind of twiddled our thumbs until the rest of the group was ready to go.

But, with the security issues in the old city, and no access to sites on the east side, what would we do?

We would visit the Yad Vashem -- the Holocaust Memorial.  It had not been on our itinerary originally...the idea had been to visit places, not museums.  But the circumstances being what they were...  Our leaders apologized to us for not keeping to the plans and for disappointing those who wanted tattoos, but, you know, it was ok.  I was happy to trade the chance for the tattoo to be able to visit the Yad Vashem; it seems to me to be the least we can do to honor the memory of those who died so senselessly.  While we were headed over, Tisha told us that there are three places one must visit in order to begin to understand Jewish folks...Masada, the Western Wall, and the Yad Vashem.

We had about two and a half hours.  She first took us to the children's memorial...that is gut wrenching.  Mirrors reflecting lights in such a way that there is one light visible for each child that died in the Holocaust...and their names, ages, date of death, and country are read out.  It is beautiful and heartbreaking.  There are 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust.

We were a very somber...and rarely dry-eyed...bunch as we walked from the Children's memorial to the entrance to the main hall of the museum.

I was prepared for an emotional experience.  What I wasn't prepared for was the fact that we were not the only tour group who had experienced a change of schedule.  I was at first determined to move through it as slowly as I could and see and learn as much as possible.  However, not long after we entered the museum, a very large group came in...maybe even two or three groups that arrived at the same time.  I was soaking in the first exhibit...a spliced together film of Jewish folks going about their business before the Holocaust began, taken from all over Europe.  It was very well done, and I kind of forgot where I was as I watched it.  Suddenly, I became aware that there were a lot of people moving around me and decided I'd better move on.

The museum is laid out in chronological order; alcove-like rooms on either side of a main vaulted hall way, with the path zigzaging its way down the length of the hall.  I remember very little of the first room; it was absolutely packed with people.  I tried to move through and read all the descriptive texts but I soon realized that was not going to be possible...then I realized I could barely move at all and began to get claustrophobic.  Before long I was just trying to get through the press of people  so I could breathe. 

Once I got ahead of the large group I could slow down a bit and read the signs on the exhibits and watch the videos, but my whole museum experience was first and foremost staying ahead of the group.  Occasionally I would get so absorbed in what I was looking at that I forgot to keep moving and would get overtaken by the leading edge of the large group...which also had two or three tour guides leading smaller groups in the whole and were all moving more or less together...and so I would have to scoot along to avoid getting overwhelmed again.

Y'all, that really struck me.  Looking at all the pictures of people crammed into ...train cars....barracks...gas chambers...and I couldn't handle one room uncomfortably full.  But I could move and get free.  All of those folks...they could not. 

But I did manage to learn a bit in my accelerated journey.  One of the things that grieved me was that it wasn't just the Germans who killed folks as I read of the massacres in Vilnius...where Lithuanian volunteers carried out a large number of the killings.

Then I came to the story of the Danish Jews, who were rescued by the Danish government.  I read the story of the flotilla that delivered so many to safety in Sweden and wanted to just holler out, 'Go, Denmark!!!'  because they seemed to be the one bright spot in the litany of horror.  90 percent of Danish Jews survived, because the Danish leaders took action to save them.

There were stories of people who escaped by migrating to then-Palestine...and some who tried but were not allowed to enter and were sent back to the killing fields and gas chambers.  But some were able to stay.  And those built kibbutzim and communities and, as the final view of the museum proves, a nation.
The inscription on the arches reads, 'I will put my breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon our own soil....' Ezekiel 37:14

I have written and deleted several little wrap-up statements for the post...but you know, I think that doesn't need anything else.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Ruminations on Israel: INTIMACY

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Down to two cards in my backpack pocket...and the one I pulled for Thursday the 30th was 'Intimacy'.  

Jerusalem, day two.

We began by walking through the Lion Gate and taking a quick right turn to what used to be the location of the Pool of Bethesda.

It's interesting...the ruins there are not the remnants of the Pool of Bethesda but of a church that was built early in the Christian period.  There is another church adjacent to the site, St Anne's...because someone decided this was where Mary's mother was born?  Not sure how they got that, since Mary was from Nazareth, but whatever.  That church should have been destroyed as well in the post-Crusades wave, but, well, for some reason the Muslims liked it and used it as a school.  So it's still there.  And it's beautiful, with legendary acoustics.  Every group that comes in is allowed to go to the front of the church and sing two songs.  I wondered who Rita would ask to lead the singing...she'd asked several of the ladies with us to do worship at different times.  But when it was our turn, we all went up to the front, and Rita began singing 'Defender' and we joined in.

Facepalm.  Of course.

And I didn't get ANY pictures...I was in the moment again.  But other folks got video.  When we left the church, Tisha went to Rita and showed her the recording she'd gotten.  'I've never seen the light do that!' she exclaimed.  'I waited and took more video and's still there!'

I didn't see the video, but suddenly some of the folks in the group came up to me and said, 'You were in a pool of light!  It was awesome!  God was highlighting you!'

I hadn't noticed any light.

And I didn't get to watch the video...I just never really got the chance.  But part of me didn't want to see it...I figured I'd see something that explained it and I didn't want an explanation, lol.  Alba, one of the others in our group, asked me what my word for the day was.  I told her, and she looked at me with wide eyes. 'In-to-me-see!' she said.  'God has got His eye on you!'

Something for me to ponder, for sure.

Our next stop was the site that folks believe could have been Caiphas' house, the first place Jesus was taken for his trial before the Sanhedrin....and the place where Peter denied he knew Jesus.   This was my 'Disposable Camera' shot of the day...
If this was really Caiphas' house, then that was the courtyard.... (notice, if you can,  the teeny iron rooster on top of the pillar).  The folks who had arrested Jesus made a fire in the middle there, and sat around, waiting to see what would happen.  Peter joined them...and was outed by a servant.  He denied it.
Two more folks also pegged him as being one of Jesus's disciples.  Peter, no doubt sweating bullets,  denied it each time.  After the third time...

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word the Lord has spoken to him... Lk 22:61

What  Luke doesn't mention is that Jesus had been inside the house; they had to have been leading him out to take him to Pilate for him to look straight at Peter, .  And Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter.  He didn't have any chance to see where Peter was; it was breaking dawn.  Jesus knew right where Peter was.  In the midst of his own stress, he knew...and cared...and thought about...and LOOKED AT Peter.  That, my friends, is the intimacy level we have with Jesus.  He knows where we are, individually, on so many levels.  And he still looks at us, right at each of us at that moment when we've let him down. He still connects.  In to me, see.


We got back on the bus, and, you know, there are folks all over who are selling stuff; our driver/tour guide team had a friend who made jewelry whom they let peddle his wares on the bus.  And, yeah, I bought a necklace, but the guy told our bus driver something that no one had thought of.  See, it was the last week of Ramadan while we were there, and the next day was the final day of the holiday.  The guy reported that the streets would be full of Muslims celebrating the last day...and the whole east side of the city would be inaccessible to tour buses.  We were going to do the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Palm Sunday route on Friday, but, well, all of that was on the east side.  So there was a hasty consultation and the plans were changed; instead of doing that on Friday, we headed over to the east side of the see those sites while we could.

I did, of course, get the picture of the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives, you've all seen that.  But maybe you haven't seen a picture of the road they call 'Palm Sunday Road', because it's where Jesus rode on the donkey while all the folks waved palm branches and celebrated.

The road runs through a cemetery, which I'm pretty sure wasn't there then, but it was surprisingly steep.  And I imagine it has been graded somewhat for an actual road; it may have been even steeper in the first century.  The Garden of Gethsemane is down the hill considerably; I had always thought it was well up the hill, maybe even near the top.  But it isn't.

There is one part of the olive grove in what is called Gethsemane that has trees that are over 2,000 years old.  Amazing.  Is this really the grove where Jesus prayed?   It looks very likely as...the olive trees are still there.   Luke 21:37 tells us, regarding what we now call Holy Week, between the triumphal entry and the last supper, that  

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives.'  The next chapter, after the Seder meal had been eaten and Judas had left to take care of his urgent business,  we find Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, he said to them, 'Pray that you will not fall into temptation.'  He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  (22:39-41). 

 Here's a thought... I believe Jesus went to the same spot every night so that Judas would know where to find him.  How easily he could have just ...gone somewhere else...and avoided the whole ordeal.  But he deliberately went to the place he had established, a place that was far away from houses and folks who could hear the commotion.  It was his choice.

We were in the garden, and the Church of All Nations there, for a good bit.  And they were beginning to close it down when we left, because of Ramadan.  Our friendly necklace craftsman had given us good advice.

We went to an open air mall just outside the Jaffa Gate for lunch; some folks went into the old city there for some shopping but as I was cash-strapped I just walked around the mall.   People watching was interesting; there was a bit of shade and it didn't hurt me to walk a few laps around.  But I was glad when the time was up and the group headed out.

We had an appointment at the Garden Tomb in the late afternoon, that was....interesting.  They provide their own guides, so Tisha was not telling us the details there.  We had a very, very sweet lady who took us around the property...she would have been perfect had we been first graders.  I am not complaining; there were some interesting things she told us.  Her style was just dramatically different from our regular guide.  One of the things she told us is that Jesus was likely crucified at the bottom of the hill, not the top.  There was a pretty major ancient road that ran  right by the bottom of this hill, and the Romans were known for putting their crucifixions right along the public roads, so as to be a deterrent to anyone considering defying the government.  So, yes, it would make good sense for the crucifixion to have happened at the bottom of the hill.

Now, here's where I get a little skeptical. There is a lot of conflicting opinion about where Golgotha and the tomb were.  We didn't have time to go to the other site, so I can't speak for it.  But I wonder how well preserved these things could be after all this time.  Here's the proposed site for Golgotha:

You can sort of see the skull-like features; there apparently was something sort of like a nose but it eroded away within the last 100 years or so.  And there's a bus station at the base of the cliff that has landfilled it in considerably.  Could this be the Place of the Skull?  Or could this be a place that was kind of chiseled out by  opportunistic locals to take advantage of the pilgrims of the middle ages?  I honestly don't know.  John tells us that

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.  (John 19:41-42).

I will be honest, I had never caught that before...that the tomb was near to Golgotha.  We know from other scriptures (Lk 23:50-54, Mark 15: 42  46, Matthew 27:57 - 60) that Joseph of Arimathea was responsible for putting the body of Jesus in a new tomb; Matthew states that it was Joseph's own tomb.  So I had just more or less figured it was some distance from Golgotha. What coincidence would put Joseph's new tomb handy to the crucifixion?  But...John says it was.  And there is  a winepress  (or maybe it was an olive press?) near the maybe-Golgotha hill, indicating that there was likely once a vineyard or garden in that place.
And then, someone discovered a tomb that had been cut out of the side of the hill.

Has that been there 2000 years?  Or did someone excavate that 900 years ago and sell tickets to the same gullible folks who took home shards of wood that they believed were splinters of the cross, along with other and even some truly bizarre purported relics?  Again...I don't know.  But...there is a hill with the semblance of a skull along a busy thoroughfare near a garden with a tomb.  If it's faked, it was done very well.

And you know, even if it is faked, the real thing probably didn't look so very different. And maybe it does't matter whether I was at the real site or 12 miles from the real site which might be overgrown and overlooked and anonymous.  I was in Jerusalem.  I was really close.

God sees me where I am.

We had a communion service in a corner of the garden before we left; it was simple and powerful.  And we got to keep our little wooden communion cups.

Mine is going to become a Christmas ornament; a yearly reminder of time spent contemplating the  culmination of Jesus' life.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Ruminations on Israel: DISCIPLINE

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Ironic that the day the word I pulled from the pocket in my backpack was 'Discipline'...would be the day I would totally forget to pull out my disposable camera to document what I was seeing about that word.

I didn't even take a pic with my cell phone to post to social media about what we were seeing.  All the pictures I took that day... which was Wednesday, May 29th...were with the digital camera.

I was in the moment, y'all.  In the moment.  And, as I don't have a specific picture to post for the day, I'm afraid you're going to get the whole day's pics....just a warning...

We began the day, at 7:30 or some such the excavations on the Western Wall.  We entered the Old City through the Dung Gate; not the same Dung Gate that is mentioned in the Bible, since the existing walls were mostly built years after the Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD, but, still, it was somewhat near where the old Dung Gate would have been...near the Temple, for disposing of  ashes and remains from the altar sacrifices. And it's still ancient by our standards.  The Dung gate is mentioned in Nehemiah in his inspection and rebuilding of the city wall after the Babylonian exile. Currently, it is the entrance to the Western Wall.

We  walked by the area that's known as the Wailing Wall and went to the building that houses the entrance to the excavations.

One of the things that impressed me pretty much all much excavation was being done, but, even beyond that, how much there was to excavate. It's mind-boggling that so much civilization can be buried beneath...stuff...and still remain to be found by those who dig.

The excavations along the Western Wall pretty much have gone down to the street level...

This is the street, at least a modern story's depth below the current street level, that ran alongside the Western Wall of the Temple Mount during the time of the Romans.  Jesus, his disciples, the apostle Paul, Stephen...all those folks most definitely walked on this pavement.  But it had to be painstakingly excavated to find it and test it and verify what it is.  All the work that went into that...that continues to go into that... is astonishing.    And the fact that it is still there, under the debris of the years is even more astonishing.

We also saw some of the cisterns that supplied the city with water; water was still in at least one; the drainage system is still working.

We came out of the excavations literally right onto a street in the Arab quarter that, as it happened, was part of the Via Dolorosa...
We didn't follow it all the way; we looped back around to spend some time at the Western Wall prayer area.  As we had been right at the Wall in the tunnels, I didn't feel like I needed to push my way through the crowd at the Wall there and chose a seat in a plastic lawn chair somewhat back from the Wall itself.  I prayed, I watched people,  and wondered how the ladies in the short dresses got in when we had been told we had to have our knees covered.

The next place we visited was the Southern Steps of the Temple.  Only a portion of the steps are still there; I'm not sure if they have actually been reconstructed from ruins laying about or if that corner managed to survive.  But it was interesting because the steps are uneven...Tisha (our guide) told us that scholars feel that was a device to make sure folks were paying attention as they came up the steps, so that no one came into the temple nonchalantly.
An this time it was pretty much straight up noon and it was HOT.

We walked around the corner and saw some more excavations; this one touched me in a different way. We are still along the Western Wall of the Temple mount; it has all been excavated.

Firstly, the stones of the wall here are large and beveled...which means they were stones laid by Herod's building program.  Stones added later were not so large.  Look at the top middle of the picture; there is a bit of a ledge that runs towards the scaffolding.  In the visitor's center, there is a photograph of a man sitting on that ledge...with his feet on the ground.  That's how much excavation has happened since that photo was taken (I wish I had made a note of when that was...but it was a quick mention as we went by and I didn't know what I was going to see at that point).  The stones jumbled up at the bottom are literally the debris from the Roman destruction of the site in 70 AD...those stones are still lying where they threw them over the retaining wall.  I felt almost as I had at Masada, looking at the siege works that were still visible.  Those were just there, unaltered, in the desert, but this was hidden and had to be dug out.

The last archeological site we visited was just a bit down the hill from the Temple site.  The excavations here are recent...again, I forgot the dates Tisha told us, but I'm thinking it's only been in the last 25 ish years that work was being done in this spot.

They feel they have possibly found what was David's palace...just down the hill from the Temple.  It's in more-or-less the right spot, and they think it is from about the right time.  Not much is left, but there are indications that it was once a very large structure.

I was taken by the VIEW David would have had...I didn't realize when I took this picture, but it is probably fairly close to what would have been the level of the roof.  When I found out where I was,  I, he could have seen probably every roof in the city from his rooftop.  Easily.

We looked at some of the excavations...and, I'll be honest, I'm nothing of an archaeologist, so I really couldn't tell what I was looking at.

  But this bit of a pillar carving caught my eye...I could imagine that in a palace.

From the City of David excavations, we headed for lunch at a Jerusalem shuk...a farmer's market.  My lack of cash hurt me here; and the vendor I tried to buy a kibbe pita from couldn't process my Discover card. So I pulled out my emergency Star Kist Tuna Lunch Kit and proceeded to eat, much to the horror of my traveling buddies, who wanted to buy me a sandwich so I could experience Israeli food.    But it was ok.  It was so hot that I wasn't really hungry anyway, and I knew the tuna would not give me any...problems... We spent a couple of hours there; it was a large market and there was a lot to see and explore.  From there, we went back to the hotel for some rest and another ministry/ discussion session before supper. And I got so involved in journaling and  running down thoughts on the previous days that I was ten minutes late to the session.

So...what struck me about Discipline?  There's a lot that Tisha told us about excavations and archeology on the Temple mount that I couldn't begin to cover here...but there is a project in which volunteers sift through mounds of debris generated from Islamic construction on the Temple site itself.  And they are finding artifacts all the time in that debris. All of the archeology work struck me as requiring extreme patience and scholarly discipline to carefully uncover and research what was found.

So, how disciplined am I to dig into God's word regularly, looking for truth?  Researching what I find to make sure I understand where it fits and how it impacts other things uncovered?   Do I have the discipline to keep going until I find the bedrock?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ruminations on Israel: STRUGGLE

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Monday night we were on a desert oasis; a taste of Bedouin life. We slept in a low hut and had bonfire outside in the evening;  a worship service, and a soul-searching time.  My little declaration was that it was time to leave what is comfortable and familiar; to stop living as though I believed lies I know to be false.  I went to bed pondering that and I woke up before sunrise again; expecting a glorious sight.  I wasn't disappointed in that, but what surprised me were the sounds.  I took a short video, just because that was the only way I could capture the amazing sounds of dawn on the oasis.

You'll want the sound on with the volume up to hear it all.
What sounds like cats is actually the screeching of peacocks.

 The word that I pulled from the pocket of my backpack for the day was 'Struggle'.

And the first major event of the day was...a camel ride.

The struggle was real, y'all.   But I did it.  And if given the opportunity to do it again...I can say, no, thanks, I've already got that t-shirt.  It actually wasn't so terrible, but the saddle irritated some issues in my hip and I'm being honest when I say it hurt a bit.  And I felt sorry for the camels.

The next event of the day was a tour of Masada.  Folks have asked me what my favorite site was; I honestly can't answer that question but I can definitely say I learned the most at Masada.  I only had a vague notion of a battle that happened there...and for some reason I thought it involved the Maccabees.  Wrong, wrong.  It was the last stand of Israel before the Romans, and when Masada fell, Israel was no more...until 1948.   From the plateau, the remains of the siege wall, the siege ramp and the Roman encampments are still visible.  As we toured, I was completely taken with what was the obvious futility of their resistance, along with their determination to maintain their honor and their autonomy.   The struggle was not to defeat Rome; the struggle was to maintain their integrity and their identity even though, short of a miracle, they were doomed.  The miracle did not come, they were not delivered, but they died under their own terms...not the torture, abuse, and enslavement of the Romans.  The synagogue at Masada is one of the places the young modern Israelis, having completed their training for their mandatory military service, take their oaths of loyalty...which, according to our guide, Tisha, includes the declaration that 'Masada shall not fall again!'

The Israeli flag at Masada
The Dead Sea is in the distance
From the struggle of Masada to the struggle at En Gedi...this is a name I knew well from 1 Samuel. 

It is right by the Dead Sea; not far at all, really, from Masada. In fact, there are some with the opinion that 'the stronghold' mentioned in 2 Samuel was, in fact, an encampment on the plateau of Masada.  but it could have been  the cave at En Gedi, as there was a spring there. The cave is closed up now, but Tisha told us that it was a vast cave and could easily have held 300 or so men...which was David's fighting force.  It was the place that David cut a bit of Saul's robe off while Saul was the cave.
We were not able to go up to the cave; the tourist business was booming that day and there was a long line of folks ...and it was HOT.  So we went to an overlook instead.   This is the picture taken with the disposable camera for the day...and it makes the spring look farther away from us than it actually was. I could easily imagine David standing there, waiving his bit of fabric,   hollering to Saul that he had no intention of harming him.  David was conscience stricken just from cutting a piece of this clothing.

The last desert stop was, once more, just a short trip up the road to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found  The verse that came to my  mind there was It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.  (Prov. 25:2, NIV 84).  The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls is amazing; no one knows where the scrolls came from or who put them in the caves, or why.  There are several theories.  But the truth is that Qumran...the Dead Sea about the only place on earth the scrolls could  have been left 2000 years ago and still be even somewhat intact today.   And what we have is amazing...copies of the Scriptures from the time of Jesus, proving that the scripture that He read is fundamentally the same...and 'fundamentally' meaning only rare and minor spelling the texts that we have today.

Cave 4 at Qumran, where by far the most manuscripts
and fragments have been found.
As we returned to the bus for the ride across the mountains, I pondered what I had seen that day in light of the word 'Struggle'...and what  occurred to me the most was the concept of honor in the struggle.  The Judeans at Masada, David at En Gedi, and the mysterious folks who went to such trouble to hide so many manuscripts to keep them from falling into unscrupulous hands and being lost.  The story of Masada that now inspires a nation, the determination of David to never lay a hand on the Lord's anointed one, and the execution of the plan that preserved for us confirmation of our scriptures.  Struggle has a purpose...even if we don't see it for years and years...and years.
Maybe even riding a stubborn camel has its purpose...such as training to leave the comfort zone.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Story Time

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

If you hang out on Facebook, you know there are memes and challenges and such that make the rounds...and every once in awhile, someone tags me in one.

Some I skip....because, well, it's just not something I have anything worthwhile to say on the subject..  Some I do when there's a more convenient time frame.

I got tagged in one last week that I decided to participate in.

The idea was that you post a picture of a book you love once a day for seven days...and challenge one other person each day to do the same.

Foster the love of reading!  Find out who loves the same books!  Maybe find another great read that you hadn't met yet!

Of the 7 people I tagged, only one actually did it.  Four gave it a pass...not the right time for them, or they just don't do those things.  Two appeared to be confused by the instructions.

But those things should come with a warning...because I sat down and re-read 5 of the books post in, I sat up past midnight every night re-reading one of the books I loved.  Here are the 5 I re-read last week:

Granted, most of them are very short.  I didn't re-read the first two that I posted ...Silverlock, by John Meyers Meyers and  C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy (yeah, I know, that was three books but it's one story, lol)...mostly because I knew it would take more than just a couple of hours to read those, so I resisted the siren call.  But by the third night I failed at resisting and jumped in and read.

I slept really late this morning, making up for lost sleep.

I didn't chose the obvious favorites...I tried to pick books that likely weren't going to show up on someone else's list.  But all of them were books that I have loved for years...although Ender's Shadow is a newcomer to the list that I found within the past 10 - 12 ish years.

But today, thinking about the books, I realized something.  If you asked me what my top favorite books are, the ones I read over and over...the list would be overwhelmingly fiction.  Not completely...some of Madeleine L'Engles non-fiction would be on the list...but generally speaking, my old friends are...stories.  And even the favorite non-fiction are autobiographical.  Which is, of course, story that is factual.

Stories have shaped my world view in a way that non-fiction,  however good, doesn't often do. I have read many really, really good topical books, but...I rarely quote them, and even though I remember that they were good and I learned from them, I can't really articulate what it was.  I can't think of many that I have read more than once

It's no wonder at all why Jesus used story so much.  Story tells truth in a way that we can remember it.  The illustrations of story make the lessons stick.

Something to keep in mind when the creative urge comes...

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ruminations on Israel: DISTRACTION

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

So, the second night we were in Tiberias, I took my Bible and journal down to the terrace by the seashore and did some journaling.  I eventually realized that a group of folks from our tour group were sitting under a gazebo, just kind of chatting.  My roomie had turned in early, and I wasn't quite ready to head up for sleep.  But...could I just, you know, walk over and join them?  The social awkwardness that I am prone to kicked in.  Most of them were young enough to be my kids.  I'm honest, I struggled.  Would I be intruding?  Finally, I just picked up my stuff, headed over slowly and asked, 'Hey, is it ok if I hang out too?'  The response was welcoming, so I sat down and just kind of chilled, listening as they talked about TV shows and podcasts and things that I was totally unfamiliar with.  But it was cool, just being part of the group.  About 9:30, the jet lag slammed me and I said my goodnights, hoping to make it all the way up to my room before falling asleep.

My roomie was asleep when I slipped into our room; she'd left bathroom light on, which was just enough to see to maneuver around.  I did my get-ready-for-bed routine as quietly as I could, and, just before I turned out the bathroom light I realized I didn't have my glasses to hand.  I looked on the night stand, which was where they should have glasses.  I looked in the bathroom, thinking I'd left them there when I put on the face looked around at the other horizontal spaces..the desk, the sign of them.  Suddenly I wondered if I had left them outside on the table, since I would have pulled them off to read/write as the ol' over-40-nearsightedness thing means I can't read with them on.  I thought hard...had the faces of the folks been in focus when I was sitting in the gazebo?  If they were, I would have had my glasses on then and worn them upstairs.  I thought they were, but...honestly, I wasn't sure.  The light was not good.

But I wasn't about to go downstairs in my jammies, and I was planning to be down on the terrace early to take sunrise pictures. I didn't think it likely for anyone else to wander around that corner of the terrace before breakfast, so I figured if they were there I could get them then.  But I was bothered.

I woke up just before dawn, got dressed quietly and slipped downstairs with no vision correction, lol. The sun wasn't up yet and I wandered over to the table I'd sat at the night before.  No glasses.  Now I was annoyed.  But the dawn was coming, so I hung out and took some pictures, figuring my eyes didn't have to focus for the camera to do so...and it was a very pretty sunrise.

But I was still irritated by my missing glasses.  I headed up to the room; there was daylight breaking in around the curtains now and I could see.  I saw that I'd left my shirt from the night before on the foot of the bed...and when I picked it up, there were my glasses.

When my roommate got up, I laughed and told her what had happened.  She laughed with me and said, 'I think your word for today is 'Distraction!'

We had to have our bags outside our door before we went to breakfast,  so we were packing up and getting ready to put them out...and I reached into my backpack pocket and grabbed a card for the day's word.

'DISTRACTION'  was what was written on the card.  Now I laughed, because I didn't remember writing that one down.  But it was certainly on point.  Misplacing my glasses had certainly had me distracted that morning.

But there was more to come...we went downstairs for breakfast and I was shocked to see that fog had rolled in after such a pretty sunrise.  We couldn't see the other side...we could barely see the water on this side.

And I IMMEDIATELY heard in my spirit  'Distractions are a fog that keep you from seeing clearly.  And you can't do anything about it.  Fog has to be burned away by the sun.' 

Fog has to be burned away by the SON is what I perceived.  And grabbed my disposable camera and got a pic of the mist.

I chewed on that for a while; I tend to beat myself up for being distracted.  Getting to the end of a day and not accomplishing what I intended to accomplish.  Maybe...just maybe...the distractions aren't my fault (at least, not all of them).  Like my glasses...the jet lag had caught up and I was, literally, barely functional.  It's no wonder I wasn't paying attention to when I took them off or where I put them.  Ordinarily the shirt would have gone into the dirty clothes bag instead of being left on the foot of the bed.  And I hadn't even noticed it there the night before.  The physical exhaustion had been a distraction that kept me from even realizing I wasn't using due diligence in my night time routine.

So one distraction led to another distraction.

I heard more on distraction that day...we went to the Dead Sea and the whole setup was a distraction to me that kept me from enjoying what many folks consider a highlight of the trip.  We did a jeep ride in the desert; my expectations were a distraction that nearly kept me from going.  Hey, growing up in rural Indiana, Jeep riding (also called 'mudding' or '4 wheeling') was for the thrill of risk taking...up and down over hills, rocks, creeks, whatever could be found to push the limits of 4 wheel drive.  So I had some preconceived notions as I looked at the desert  through the tour bus windows and noticed Jeep tracks up and down some of the hills.  I am not into thrill seeking and quailed at the thought of riding a Jeep on those trails.  But this excursion wasn't for the thrill of the ride...the Jeeps were to get us to overlooks; viewpoints at the tops of hills that no roads went to.  The views were breathtaking. more thing to prove God has a sense of humor:  I had commented to someone that people go to Israel to find historical Jesus.  But I had been doing some writing based on Genesis, and I also was going to the desert to find Abraham.

Well, the lead Jeep driver talked to us at the best overlook, describing life in the desert.

I kid you not, his name was... Abraham.

And I almost let the distraction of my preconceived notions cause me to miss the moment.  I'm so glad I felt compelled to ignore the distraction of my fearful self and go.