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Jerusalem living in me… ( yup, a kinda final reflection)

Yes, I did just title this “A Kinda Final Reflection.” Jerusalem, the Holy Land lives within side of me as a transformative subtle haunting, calling me back yet illuminating so much of all that makes up me. I feel myself as clay being morphed and molded in the hands of God’s gentle imprints as cliché as that may sound. I honor the places that I have been, the people, the eyes of whom I’ve met, the spirit, the very living spirit of culture that takes modernity and aligns itself right beside ancient history, rooted in faith and God, yet enshrouded in human conflict.

There as totem etched in stone lay covenant between God and man with so many seekers longing for a taste of the Almighty, yet in foolishness, in haste they all too easily miss God completely. How often through these paths and roads did I hear Jesus flipping tables? Where is Christ, but in our fellow man? Where is God, but in the Holy and Righteous relationship we make with each other. So much has embodied this trip to the Holy Land. So much has taken me. When I left for the trip, people often said, “You will be transformed.” Even the lady at Target from whom I purchased my luggage, wished me well as she said, “You will be transformed.” I gather after hearing this enough, I had such expected, but not to the degree in which Jerusalem is still working on me.

I was not impressed by many of the sights in which one former Roman Catholic girl may have suspected would overcome her with immeasurable joy. Areas like Mt. Beatitudes were so overly commercialized it dampened the connectedness I would have expected from the space, but through the words of the Gospel in our shared voices, we managed to gain the soulful connectedness to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is good to take your shoes off in public spaces and feel the earth that lies beneath the mired layers of mankind.

At Joffa I cried at the sound of the Song of the Ascents in Hebrew. I continue to ponder what is it in me that was so deeply stirred by the psalm. I’ve reread it, listened, and re-listened. Is it perhaps the story of Miriam begging the people to release her husband from prayer? Was it the Hebrew sounds that appealed to my embodied Ashkenazi roots? Or perhaps it was a deeper desire for a world of peace longing for God’s intercession? “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” Maybe it is more personal than that and maybe in the beginning of this trip this was my invitation from God to open my heart to the healing of my own wounds, and trust, “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.” Whatever, the invitation, it hasn’t left me.

As a mother, I was moved by the influence of Helena in the region. These are things we read about, take note of and place in the backs of our minds for use at a later date, but it never really registered until being in the region. How many places she has inspired to grow, the depth of love she had for her son and the means by which she would go to be sure that he would have faith and be solid in his ways. What an inspiration! How must I survey my own life in relation to my sons through the eyes of Helena? I often look to the blessed mother for such advice, as she stood with an aching heart helpless to her son’s suffering. I find my strength, my comfort, and the very core of resilience embedded in her presence and God’s infinite grace. Have mercy on us O’ Holy Mother of God. Have mercy.

The psalm spoke and my wounded and healing soul looked to the hills. As we climbed the rocky path in the mountains of Qumran and the stairs at Masada, God’s presence was enormously lived in the vast spaces and whistling winds. Each movement forward, each incline upward was a simple victory for me. Once upon a time, I could tackle this with ease and now every breath was a spiritual revival born in every cell. The echoes of subtle whispers to my offender who walked these paths years before myself occasionally took to heart, “Did you see this? Were you not here? My God, what were you thinking?” I touched the water at the Jordan as she touched, I blessed myself with its ironically toxic flow and looked down the path at the children playing, inhaling rebirth as I captured a sample. This trip was greater than I and it was greater than my hurt or the evil I endured.

Before disclosing my “Me too” moment to the necessary authority, weeping with agony among uncertainty and fear, I suddenly found myself drawing in the sand. I raised my head and Jesus was drawing in the sand with me. He looked into my eyes and turned his head to draw my attention elsewhere. It was his naked body bound to a stump, being whipped and beaten. When I turned my head back in the direction of Jesus, he was gone. My weeping ceased as a calm overcame me, I knew what he was saying.

There was no irony, no coincidence that at the Tenth Station I was given the following to read,

At the Tenth Station we pray for those who are exposed to ridicule, who are shamed, humiliated, degraded; For battered wives and battered children; For women who are raped and for children who are victims of violence and sexual abuse; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Let us pray: For those who expose, shame, humiliate, and degrade others, by word or action or simply in their thoughts; For those who degrade or exploit others racially, sexually, intellectually, or economically; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Let us pray: For ourselves; When we are ashamed or abused; That we may find healing and so live that we have nothing to hide; Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”  

(Peterson, John. A Walk in Jerusalem: Stations of the Cross. Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.)

It took everything in me not to fall apart as I discreetly wiped the tears from my eyes. I left my pain, my wound there at the stump in which Jesus was beaten, knowing I was with our Lord.

We finished the walk through the Stations of the Cross carrying our own. Then took to restoration, kneeling at the Stone in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the stone in which we remember our Christ’s body being laid and prepared for entombment. We placed the cross, which we carried throughout our walk on the healing stone scented with frankincense and myrrh and together at each fingertip with our foreheads pressed against the oil-soaked stone, we prayed and blessed it and us. Eyes now firmly set on our resurrected life in Christ, the Blessed Jerusalem Cross, a gift to General Seminary, will remind me always of our time there together, my personal journey and our strength and restoration as a resurrected people.

I am happy we travelled from the North to South, biblically, scripted from Jesus’ birth to Death. Well, played Dean Michael! Reading and listening to the Holy Gospel is a renewed experience for me now, an experience that comes with a greater understanding of the journey, culture and landscape of Jesus. I will remember the parable of the Sower with a vision of Dean Michael picking up the gravel along our path in Magdala and calling our attention to the rocky ground, and the fertile ground and the olive tree that stood firm in growth. Dean was showing us Jesus in relationship to the world, the environment and the people in which he communed. Dean Michael gave us many of these lessons along the way. Lessons, that I will keep and refer back to throughout my ministry. I cherish that deeply.

The word of the week was “WOW”. Wow, was the first word we encountered looking at the massive ruins and structures that were left behind for 2000 years. It was the word we used to describe incredibly intricate murals that remained from the time of Christ. “Wow” was the word we used to describe tombs and caves, mass vast spaces in the desert, the mountains, the Sea of Galilee, and so much more, but “Wow” is wholly understated. It was merely the utterance of sound as our breath was literally stolen by each and every moment, place and encounter.

The Holy Land is as beautifully full of historic culture as it is with conflict, not only among those with differences but also within denominations. Power, politics and divisions left me feeling mournful for a human race of hurt people inflicting more hurt on other people. At the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, I wept for the cycles of violence and oppression that seem to have captured humanity bound in chains of fear, reaching for power with no regard for the dignity of the other. Rooted in faith and God, yet enshrouded in conflict, what kind of dichotomy is that? If I am to truly live my Baptismal covenant than my answers are clear. Not easy, but clear.

By travelling from the North to the south we had easy access to a wide array of news, broadcast and conversation, but the closer we got to Jerusalem, the American influence can be seen and some news agencies were blocked from our hotel. It was bold and it was sad, even in the bookstore, we were encouraged to not try to bring certain books, those more Palestinian sympathetic books on the plane. We were told Israeli security would stop us. We learned about zone living and travel regulations with I.D. cards. I couldn’t help but think of Nazi Germany and the time following. I couldn’t help but reflect upon the oppression, racism and prejudice in our own country. I thought, what if I were forced to carry an ID card that marked me as a Lesbian Episcopal Woman. Maybe New Jersey was zone A, where I was born and lived with people who were like me, but I was allowed to travel to Zone B, New York City for school between certain hours only, and was never allowed to visit my relatives in Long Island, Zone C. What if my or your ID card is the color of your skin or shape of your eyes? You see, deeply, Jerusalem is still working on me, and even in its conflict, something calls at me still. Have mercy, dear Lord have mercy.

When asked about my trip, our journey, I respond with the word illuminating, because there were so many parts of me awakened, and enlivened by the grace of God and the very presence of Christ in the World today. In the midst of awestruck history, conflicted humanity, and spiritual devotion set to a backstage of enormity there was the work of every day people tending to needs of their lives and families and then, of course, there were others like the work being done at the Princess Basma Centre. Established in 1965 as a home for children with physical disabilities, mainly those suffering from Polio. It came under a charitable organization licensed in Jordan, in Palestine and in Israel.  In June 2000, the Centre was entrusted under the Arab Anglican Episcopal church – the Diocese of Jerusalem. This beautiful and heartfelt Centre helps mothers, children and families to find the help they need. Physical Therapy, Occupational therapy and Music therapy are among some of the much-needed services they offer.

http://www.basma-centre.org/

Christ in action today!

I know there is so much more about this trip in which I’d like to share, but here seems a good place to stop, at least for now, but not without saying thank you to the Episcopal Cathedral of St. George’s Jerusalem for welcoming us to worship. In the midst of overwhelming information overload, you provided a spiritual home and comfort longing to be had among our weary feet.

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Journey to Jericho and onward…

Tiberias to Nazareth and now on our way to Jericho, down the Jordan and eventually the Dead Sea. What a journey!

Yesterday we began our day in Zippori ( Sepphoris ) where I wept when I heard the Song of Ascents Psalm 121 sung in Hebrew. Perhaps it was hearing the words of the psalm in a new way.

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Maybe I heard the story of Miriam in a new way as it was being relayed. Maybe I quietly longed for the peace of a people, all people living in harmony or perhaps I was just overwhelmed by my presence here. None the less I began my day so moved by the Holy Spirit, I wept. Every step is prayerful. Every step is with Godly conversation and quiet listening. Guard us and guide us Lord as to fulfill your will, your call and to live into your grace and be beacons of your Love.

I glance out over the hills a we make our way to Jericho. Reflecting back on our travels of yesterday with the mosaics, roads and remnants of Sepphoris, the priestly practicality of Father at Christ Church Nazareth, the awesome privilege and private tour from the Sisters of Nazareth, the reflection of my roots with the Blessed Mother at the Church of the Annunciation to St. Joseph’s Church.

And now we stop at Jericho. I am greeted by a gentleman who gives me a red rose and am treated like a lady. I have to admit after being with all the gentlemen for several days now it was very nice. He introduced us to another who brought us in the back where there was Phoenician glass. Vases, glasses, goblets aligned the walls most beautifully. There is a special set on the way home to my wife. 😉

After seeing the remnants of the wall of Jericho, we headed for the cable cars that brought us up to the Mt. of Temptation, well mostly. Once there, we had many steps to climb to get up to the Byzantine Monastery that houses the relics venerating the Temptation of Christ and Christ’s victory.

There is a holiness to the climb, one to be embraced in the silent counting of every step overlooking Jericho. Imagine Jesus on the Mountain in the dessert for Forty days looking over the land beneath him. A land written about in scripture, a land rich in history, a land he would come to know with new eyes and steady heart.

<<<<
re now at the Jordan and I will touch the waters of our savior's baptism as we together renew our Baptismal Covenant.

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w in Qumran and then to swim in the Dead Sea. I hope to post more pics later on.

Blessings+

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The Home of Jesus

I began writing from the van yesterday morning as we began our day making our way from Tiberias to Nazareth where we met with the Sisters of Nazareth. This is a journey away from tourism and straight to an active archeological site in which we had the privilege to be invited. I am so very grateful to be among my classmates and could not wait to get the convent. It was our chance to step away from the commercialism that poured forth on the Mount of Beatitudes and a real inner glimpse to a First century discovery so tightly connected to Christ, our journey and call. I realize the magnitude of this gift. The magnitude of being ever present with Christ in such sacred, awestruck yet humble space. By humble I mean the way in which the sisters hold for and care for the sanctity of this holy ground and Christ in it. I only pray that I am able to share the grace of God given to me through his love and with my presence here, especially knowing how blessed I am to have this rare glimpse. Yes, my whole journey here has been a special gift, but this will live within me. Sister described that when the stone was removed, uncovering the family tomb, a smell of perfume filled the air. I can imagine the spirit of God being released and given to the world.

There is much to sit in silence with.

The video which I have linked for you here will you give you the background of my excitement and awe, and hopefully trigger a sense of wonder for you. Link: The Home of Jesus of Nazareth

Photos of our visit may be found here: https://thoughtsprayersandart.com/sisters-of-nazareth-convent-jesus-boyhood-home-01-12-2019/

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Holy Land 01/11/2018: Magadala, Capernaum and more…

Last night we stayed in Tiberias. We will be here another two nights before moving onward. I am having some internet connection issues here so I have been trying to blog from our van off of my phone. Yes, believe it or not we have good WiFi on the van, but we were so busy today I had little chance to do so. On the van, that is where I get the bulk of my pictures uploaded. You can see them on the separate menu under Holy Land Photos. Because of the technical issues until we move on to another hotel, I cannot post many pics or links on the reflective post in the evening. (This One) I will continue to share as often as I can.

Today was extraordinarily busy and fruitful with every step. We visited Magdala, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Church of the Loves and Fishes, stood in the place of Peter’s confession, put our hands in the Sea of Galilee and sailed across the sea.  While I am in awe of all that remains of our history and the spirit that ascends from the rubble speaking truth to to my soul, I am conflicted by the commercialized tourism of all that is sacred. More than once today and especially on the Mount of the Beatitudes, I imagined Jesus flipping tables in the market place. The hustle, push, amusement park like frenzy of large tour groups on a mission seeking God through the next best T-shirt, nick knack, and thing-a-ma-jig, pushed me more closely to scripture and prayer as we navigated our way from Magadala to Capernaum and the Sea of Gaililee.

Magadala the said to be home of Mary Magadeline is still an active excavation site and is on the road Jesus traveled when going from Nazareth to Capernaum. In the rubble you can see the remnants of a synagogue, 1st Century mosaics, micvahs, and housing. We imagined that Jesus would use his own frame of reference when teaching or speaking in parables. For instance as we walked on an old 1st century path, we retold the story of the mustard seed with all the terrain around us as reference. The stories of Jesus come alive with every turn. Here too was also a modern day chapel that was built to celebrate service at the Sea over looking the water. Take a look at the pics.

For Pictures of Magadala : Click https://thoughtsprayersandart.com/holy-land-photos/magdala-2018/

 

The rest of the day walked us through scripture. Together we read the Beatitudes in a quiet spot on the Mount of the Beatitudes where we imagined Jesus speaking with the people who gathered around him. We read and prayed at the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Mark 6:30-44 and John 21 which led us right through to Peter’s confession. Then we visited where Peter lived. Looked at the floors of the home and read from Luke, imagining if we dropped a talent or a coin on the rocky home ground in the dark. Feeling the earth, seeing the terrain, culture and proximaty of the water, is giving us a new understanding of our scripture.

The Sea of Galilee is simply amazing in every aspect. From the point of Mother Nature, it’s beautiful, from the point of soul, the Holy Spirit is present, alive and life giving. We really enjoyed this time together on the boat, meditating on the words of Christ and the stories shared among this body of water. It is life giving.

 

 

 

 

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Holy Land 2018: Solidifying Scripture

(Pictures from today’s travels through Joppa (Jaffa), Caesarea, and Megiddo can be located on the blog menu above. Holy Land Photos plus the additional photo pages listed by location. Enjoy!)

“You must learn, you must let God teach you, that the only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing.” Phillips Brooks

Normally I would never reiterate anything of Phillips Brooks. My offender often used his words and though, I will not judge the manner or intent in which they were shared, the hurtful memory generally excludes him from my repertoire. Yet when thinking of this day, and myself in this day, I could not seem to shake his words. You must learn, you must let God teach you…. So much of us, our identities are embedded in our history, good and bad; and that history started long before our king. So what kind of future are we, or can we make out of it? Will we let God lead and will we follow with an earnest heart?

We started our day in prayer with Acts 10 setting us up for our journey to Caesarea but first we stopped at St. Peter’s Church in Old Jaffa. It was obvious that my word of the day would be “Wow.” St. Peter’s Church is one of the largest buildings in this port town and sits up top of a hill which can be seen from the Mediterranean Sea. The Altar is a West facing Altar signifying that all are welcome. It has served as a beacon of Christianity in old Jaffa and was built and dedicated to St. Peter who just down the road raised Tabitha, Acts 9:36-43.

St. Peter’s Church is Roman Catholic and belongs to the order of Franciscans. It opened its doors in 1888. It was not the original or only church to be on this site. Jaffa was conquered 22 times. Some conquerers have included Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart,Saladin, Louis IX of France and General Edmund Allenby.

For Pictures of Old Jaffa and St. Peter’s Church

  

We then made our way to Caesarea (National Park) which really struck a cord when it comes to knowing our History along with the culture and community that captured this part of the world. Caesarea is located on the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv Haifa. It was a gift from Augustus Caesar to King Herod in about 35 BCE. It took twelve years for Herod to complete a newly constructed city.

A theatre built of stone sat 4000 people. This theatre, though smaller in seating number is still used this day for concerts. It is estimated that 40,000 people lived in the area during the time of Herod’s reign. Herod built a place on these grounds and in the center when you walk from the theatre to the palace is a slab which is dedicated to Pontious Pilot. As you walk further to the end you can see the remnants of mosaic tile inlaid on the palace floor. It’s amazing how such a structure even in its barely parts still remains. Yes, the word is “Wow.” Turn around and face the land and to your left is the remnants of a Hippodrome. Close your eyes and you can hear the crowds roar as the stomping of horses run through. History came alive and add to it Cornelius’s call to Peter in Acts 10 and our scripture speaks more loudly. Picture Peter walking his way from Joppa to Caesarea. We took a car and the distance was great. Imagine Peter walking. What was he thinking and anticipating? What was he feeling the closer he got? Imagine his faith and courage as he approached and as he spoke at Cornelius’s house.

For Pictures of Caesarea

  

Finally we made our way to Megiddo, the spot where some Christians believe the last great battle of all battles is to take place, Armageddon.  We began our visit in the small museum where we watched a film which took us through the history of this location, which is most fascinating. Megiddo is on a main road which extends from Egypt all the way through the region. This main road made it a hotbed for conflict and would see it’s share of wars and battles. In fact Megiddo is the location for the very first battle ever recorded.

During the tribal confederacy Megiddo was a Canaanite city, Judges 1:27 but was most likely conquered by David and taken over by Solomon, 1 Kings 9:15. Destroyed in 925 it was rebuilt to a greater scale. Currently you can walk the path through this location and embody the history in your bones as you examine the remains of a temple, stable, a food storage/dispensary area and even an old tunnel deep within the ground in which water flowed. It was everything an ancient city needed. Geographical height, food storage, a wall, stored grain and water.

Most impressively for me as a woman to add to this most intriguing place, this is where Deborah’s victory song came to earn its poetry, Judges 5.

Though interesting to me on such a historical level, I have to say that in light of today’s political arena I was most disturbed by the marketing of Megiddo with t-shirts and sayings that glorified the radical theories of Armageddon. Humans are fascinated with such in thought and practice that creating such disarray and chaos will lead to a greater end. I tend to own that the chaos we create, enable or standby does nothing more than create more chaos, more harm. I get the biblical expression, and the scripture in which Zealots arrive at their exuberance but I beg to differ on their interpretations and practice, only peace begets peace, sanctity begets sanctity and so forth.

Fore Pictures of Megiddo

  

My grandmother was born 01/10/01, today is her birthday, and I certainly felt her presence with me as I explored History today, our history, our history as Christians and my History as a Christian in this world. Leaving nothing behind all of it adds to who we are and how we practice and certainly how I practice and how we minister.

I cannot help as I walk these adverse paths of ours through time, but feel deeply compassionate for the turmoil that enslaves humanity, whether in times gone by or now in our current state. How is it that we who inherit such gifts from God, especially the gifts of life, love, mercy, grace and forgiveness can treat each other with great harm and indignation?

There is an awesomeness to Israel and the Holy Land, but itsawesomeness includes its adversity as much as its Love. And I’ll end as I began, “You must learn, you must let God teach you, that the only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing” and to that I have Faith. God will waste nothing.

Today was about History tomorrow we soar with the Holy Spirit. Peace, Blessings, and much Love from Israel.

A Prayer for World Peace, 1979

Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle; the strength to be forgiving; the patience to be understanding; and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.
May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear shall no longer lead men to commit injustice, nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.
Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men were created

 

 

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Holy Land 2018: We have arrived!

“Let us come alive to the Splendor that is all around us, and see the beauty in ordinary things.” Thomas Merton

After a wild trip through JFK airport, a one hour delay and a 10 hour flight squished like sardines with some really awesome food, we arrived at the Leonardo Plaza in Netanya. We left the States in the dark and arrived here in Israel in the dark which is kinda weird but considering the lack of sleep I had, I think it’s going to work out just right. We entered our hotel shortly before nine pm, set our bags aside, grabbed a bite to eat, and set out for a short exploratory walk to stretch our legs.

All ready we are in awe of the Mediterranean Sea in which we are in walking distance to. The sand is as soft as pillows of powder beneath our feet. Unlike the ocean in which we are a custom, the sea smells different. I’m not really sure how, just different. Michael said, like pepper, maybe. Maybe that’s it, or maybe it’s just fresher as it fills the explorers, the seekers in us with new life. We walked down to touch the sea. Even in the dark its vast presence and carried history played the voices of hope, courage and mission from long ago. With every lap, lap, lap, we took a moment to recognize how Paul must have felt at that given moment before setting out for Greece. It’s those “spirit moments” even in the midst of joking seminarians and one Academic Dean, that just get at you and invade your being.

Netanya is a beautiful place. I sure can see myself spending some time here as a seaside getaway. It has that vibe with a mix of restaurants, amphitheater, even what appeared to be a flea market on the sand along the water. It’s alive. Being near the water has a way of doing that.

Short, brief update as we are ready to retire and have a truly early start. I close my eyes with a great sense of peace and an excited anticipation for our real first full day tomorrow. We will visit Joppa, Caesarea, Megiddo and make our way over to Tiberius for the night. I’m sure tomorrow I will have some really great pics to share.

Somehow we traveled through time and are about to embark on an adventure of a life time, funny how it feels like I’ve been here before.

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the pathway to all truth and the guide of our lives. It was you who led Joseph safely to Egypt and the Israelites through the Red Sea. You led Moses to Mount Sinai and all his people to the Promised Land. You led Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Nazareth. It was you yourself who traveled the side of Cleopas and his companion to Emmaus. Today, we pray you, Lord, lead us safely on this journey that lies before us. Save us from all enemies, visible, and invisible, and bring us safely to our destination: for you are our way, our truth, and our life, and to you we give glory and worship, now and ever and to the ages. AMEN – Adapted from St. John Garnetsi, the Armenian (1180-1245)