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.

Knowing in Mysore

“My what?” “Mysore, Mysore, you have to go to Mysore.” “OooooOk.”

My Lonely Planet South India guidebook does point out the Mysore Palace as one of the top 10 South India highlights … So why not? Mysore it is.

There are a number of architectural draws in Mysore; the Mysore Palace by day or night,

the Sri Chamundeswari Temple on top of Chamundi Hill,St Philomen’a Cathedral or even the Art Gallery. I saw them all, they were beautiful but I was drawn to the people around them much more… The grandness of architecture, though I appreciate its beauty and even brilliance, always begs me to ask; so I understand the history of the people who lived here or worked here, what about the people who built it? What are their stories? What would they say to this monument, this church, this temple? Did it define their lives, enhance it? Or did it alter it or consume it?

Those stories are often difficult to find, they are lost in the vagueness of someone else’s history, somewhere beyond what we might wonder and what we’ll never know.  The people visiting these places along with me and those currently making a living in their shadow seem less of a mystery. I might wonder about them but I also know with some confidence that…

…this father-son team make some awesome street food.

…this couple is in love.

…these school kids are just as lost as any school kids on a field trip, this trip just happens to be to the temple.

…everyone gets bored at work. (Hindu Priest standing outside the Temple)

…if you stand some were long enough with a camera pointed at you, someone will ask if they can have their picture “snapped” with you…

Time to Fly

The months turned into weeks, the weeks into days and now the days into hours … I leave tomorrow morning on a 7AM flight. Wow. All the dreaming, planning, fretting and hope have come to this, my last day in Detroit where I am spending it with closest friends and family. A day to have a last supper, store my car, kiss everyone I love, shed a few tears and gather my courage. After all it’s just me for up to a year, well me and all the new friends I have yet to meet. What has always seemed like a great opportunity and adventure is still that and somehow it’s also a little more, it’s real.

Pray with me this year for health and hope for those I meet and the person they meet in me. Read this blog, respond with questions and encouragement. I will post from time to time, highlighting some of the highlights, the beauty, the fun and the challenge.

Detroit, Minnesota, Phoenix, Iowa … I’ll see you next year!