It’s been a year … definitely.

A year ago today I wrote my first blog post and I spent time saying goodbye and finishing my packing. I remember that day vividly but it seems a world away and I guess in some ways it is. This year, I got to see so much and at times understand so little. I could tell stories for hours. People have asked me since I returned home, how have you changed? A tough question and one that I’m not really sure how to answer yet, I think time will let that answer be known… What I do know for sure is through all the ups and downs of an amazing year, repeatedly, it’s been the people. Varied and textured, supportive and a challenge, it’s the people I think about, reflect on and for whom I pray. I hope that has come through my blog.  The idea that people are more than an idea, a culture, neighbors or enemies but we are all humans breathing the same air, drinking the same water and inhabiting the same earth. We might treat life and each other differently but we are all here whether any one person or group likes that or not … we are all here.

Thank you for traveling with me this year and reading and considering my reflections. I write this not because I want to stop thinking or stop blogging but because it’s time to mark time.  In the upcoming weeks and months I may post some more reflections and pictures, maybe under this blog title maybe another, but for now I turn my focus to a new adventure, the adventure of finding a call.  I leave you with some (not all) of the faces that will never leave me. Many blessings to you!

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The Other Side

One thing that I am constantly reminded of in Israel/Palestine is that just about everything is smaller and closer together than I had imagined. We can look at a map, even pictures and try to get a sense of things but the scale is not always so clear. The Sea of Galilee was yet another example for me, it’s not small, it’s just smaller than I thought. Unless the haze is too thick you can always see the “other side.” The other side… there is always the other side … often vague but ever present, the other side.

A few times in scripture we hear about Jesus going to the other side, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.” (Mark 5:1) “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” (Luke 8:22) “And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.” (Mark 8:13) Even the Priest and the Levite walked on the “other side” of the road. (Luke 10)

The upside, downside, right side, wrong side, inside, outside, even the blind side, there are multitudes of other sides. The many sides of the Sea of Galilee were the backdrop to seeing many sides of Jesus. Around the Sea, he cured the Gerasene Demoniac, he calmed the sea, he feed the multitudes with fish and bread, he preached the Sermon on the Mount, and he lived out his ministry amongst the many sides of the Galilee.

Inside the Tabgha Church (Multiplication of Fishes and Loaves)

Tabgha Church Detail

Church on what is known as the Mount of Beatitudes .

The sign that welcomes you at Capernaum.

Inside the church at Capernaum

The other side … some place all together different … or is it? Crossing from one side of the road or the lake might take time and even have its challenges but when we get there, exactly how “all together different is it? I keep finding people with pretty similar goals: food, water, shelter, family, safety, a future… hmmm.

Yes the world would be rather flat without the multiple sides that give us so much dimension and variety, curiosity and insight. But oh if the multiple sides would lend themselves more to creativity, understanding and mutuality instead of to division, fear and hate…

What is it that holds us together?

And for that matter, what is it that holds us apart?

Is it will, circumstances, opportunities, restrictions? What is it?

Is it a bit of all of these?

I visited a thoughtful art museum in Jerusalem, the Museum on the Seam. As the museum’s website describes itself, it is a “unique museum in Israel, displaying contemporary art that deals with different aspects of the socio-political reality.” It’s a museum that “calls for listening and discussion, for accepting the other and those different from us and respect for our fellow man and his liberty.”

Even though the Museum’s name and location, (it is situated on the boundary of East and West Jerusalem and in an old military Israeli forward post of the wars of 1948 and 1967,) it is not a museum about only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it wrestles with conflicts and human adversity from various perspectives from many situations and realities all over the globe.

It puts our conflicts and our disagreements into dialogue. Sometimes I wonder if we are held closer together somehow in our conflict than we are even in our joy and peace. There is a mutual pain that some how binds. I recall the slightly pessimistic, though often practical, advice; keep your friends close and your enemies closer…

This is a provocative land where people rub up against each other and then are separated by walls in their hearts, minds and land, with a few people daring to dance in and around the seam. Just like the clothes we wear it is the seam where different pieces connect and it is the seam that holds it all together. Dialogue and understanding happen in and at the seam because that’s the only place it can.

I’ve loved the people I have met at the seam.

You may not be able to read what is written in Hebrew, Arabic and English (in neon) on the front of the museum, “Olive Trees will be our borders.”

..And yes the building still holds the scares of war. Let the seam be for dialogue not for war.

Focusing on the Holy

What is Holy?

Seems like a good question for Holy Week in the Holy Lands…

Sure there are stories and realities of chaos, disagreement and fundamentalism around business, politics and religion. All you have to do is read a newspaper anywhere in the world to know that. Stories abound that emanate anything but holy.

But to so many, this is the Holy City; Holy City to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Different stories and not so different stories run through the beliefs and traditions of these three Abrahamic faiths.

I’ve been in this holy place for six days and despite what could feel rather un-Holy, I appreciate its holiness. There are things you could see and feel anywhere…

A cute kid leading a Palm Sunday procession

Running into a friend – Pastor Ladd

But a lot you can’t. You come to the Holy Lands as a Pilgrim to join in and be part of something larger and longer than yourself. To join in something that through the millennium has been destroyed, rebuilt, forgotten and refortified; to take a step in faith among the faithful and not so faithful, to just be and to walk where literally millions (if not billions) of fellow believers have walked before.

Palm Sunday – walking from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem

Palm Sunday – walking through the Lion’s gate into the Old City (Jerusalem)

This is the land where my faith, Christianity, as well as others were born. I can’t help but to think of this land somewhat like a parent or maybe better like an aunt or uncle to our faith, it (or they) might be eccentric and hard to understand but it is vital to the fact that we exist, it is full of stories and love and deserving of our attention and respect. Holy Lands – you have two months of my undivided attention.

While I am here I may come up with many unholy thoughts and words … so for now, this Holy Week, I want to focus on what makes this place particular, a testament, a pilgrimage destination and hence, Holy.

Looking up inside the church of The Holy Sepulchre.

Peeking in at the women’s side of the Western (wailing) wall.

A view of the Dome of the Rock.

There will be people

Nearly a year ago when I was planning for this trip I was gathering ideas and advice, and getting everything from the mundane to the philosophical. Packing advice was popular, “travel light” was the most common refrain … a friend of mine who spoke with his typical subtle wisdom, “Wherever you go … there will be people.” The practical advice of don’t worry, everywhere you go there will be people who need to do the same things you need to, wash clothes, brush teeth, calm headaches – you don’t need to pack for a year, there will be people … you will find what you need…

This has been absolutely true.

This year the phrase has become somewhat of its own refrain for me, “Everywhere you go, there will be people…” struggling and thriving, living and dying, helping and denying, hating and reconciling.

There will be people who come to a lovely lookout point to see the beautiful waterfall.

There will be people who come to the same water as the only way to wash their clothes.

There will be people who have fun, love life, and overcome obstacles.

There will be people who try to get in the way, to trip us up and limit our livelihood and our lives. (The green house is the drug house; the fence is the end of the school yard.)

All that we do and do not do is done and not done by people. Governments, businesses, systems, corporations, grass roots movements, communities, marches, reunions, boycotts … they are done, made and managed by people. We might blend in with them but at their core, they are people.

Sometimes when we look around we see many difficult situations and challenging realities. We can feel that they are just too difficult, too complicated, or too overwhelming to do anything about them… after all, its just the way it is… But what about the reality that there are people right there in the middle of difficult, complicated and overwhelming?

Difficult, complicated and overwhelming are there because of people…

People, people, people…

There is no getting around us, we can only go through us …

Where ever we go, there will be people.