Monday, October 31, 2016

Praise and thanksgiving

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."  Psalm 100:4

We awoke to the stready flow of movement this morning.
The click and clack of shoes hitting the pavement as people made their way to and from work.
Cars below us giving their short beeps to move the car in front of them along or to jump into the roundabout where each car can barely put a sheet of paper between each bumper.

The solitude of the Galilee behind us.

Deliberately and slowly we blessed our food and gave thanks for the journey that we had traveled.

We were not yet ready for the hustle and bustle of the city but our home was calling.  Climbing down the large stone steps we found our place in the morning shade.  We sat, we gave thanks once again and we entered the Holy City with reverence.

It was a quiet and harsh day for our souls.  The push and the pull of the city was  a bit overwhelming. All senses were on overload as we walked the narrow streets with the vibrant fabrics and the intense smell of spices along with fruits and vegetables.  Our minds trying to catch up to the commerce that surrounded us.  Our souls trying to make the leap from walking in the steps of Jesus to the busyness that envaded all parts of our being today.

Then came the journey through the Western Wall tunnels.  Touching stone that King Herod had designed and brought into this area.  Witnessing the determination that the Romans had in destroying the wall of Herod and making it their own.  Putting the souls of our shoes upon the rocks the Romans laid for their main street.  Meandering through the aquaduc that held their water.  Being as close to the holy of holies that you could possibly be without being on the Temple Mount itself.

Gladness
Thanksgiving
Joy
Awe

Just a few days ago we were standing in Zippori at the Roman crossroad and traversed over their stones within our path...and today they connected us to the Holy of Holies.

I think the Apprentices of Jesus and Jesus himself would have felt a bit overwhelmed when they made their enterance into this holy city.  Surely it took them the day to get us to the movement happening all around them and the pressing of people that were making their way into the city for their holy pilgrimage.   Last night as the sun was fading we entered the city and stood atop the Mount of Olives and I couldn't help but think that surely Jesus gave thanks for all that was before him.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the movement in your life?
Do you awaken with the noise of the world pressing in upon your heart and soul?
Have the colors around you faded into muted dullness?

May you rise today willing to step into the noise of the world.

Gracious and Holy One, as my friends rise around your amazing globe would you plant their feet upon a step of thanksgiving this day. May they be able to look around and fine just one thing that connects them into your presence and your purpose for their lives.  May they experience the holiness of you bringing them into your courts of compassion and mercy today.  Call my friends home to stand with you today.  Amen


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday morning from the Sea of Galilee

In the thin line between darkness ending and light coming I found myself awake.

The air was cool.
The pathway lit by the dim glow of lamp post along the way.
The bricks beneath my shoes ever so damp.
The glow of the Sea's cities stretched out before me.
The quite lap of the waves of a swimmer in the Sea of Galilee below me.
The breeze ever so gentle.
The rooster crowing.
The birds awakening in song.
The thin line between the that which has past and that which is before me was present.

There before me was the passing of one day and the new mercies of yet another day stretched it's arms around me.  The horizon filled moved from darkness into a blue, fading into a purple and exploding in a vibrant pink.  The rays felt as if were reaching out to envelope me, wrapping it's arms around me in a giant hug proclaiming, come my child, come find rest in the day before you, bread for the journey and the crashing of my love upon you.

I sat listening.
I let the breeze wash over me.
I turned my head to see the mountain that we had climbed up and over and then walked through it's valley below to see the reflection of the sun hitting it once again.

The night had faded, a new day had begun, the sky was a hazy blue.

I thought the sun had risen and I almost left.

Then another pilgrimage joined me in the sitting and watching.  Conversation was had and another 20 minutes later, a blaze of fire slowly crept over the horizon.  The red ball filled the lake, used it fingertips to touch the surrounding mountains and reflected off of the water.

Red fire.
Blaze of glory.
A dawning of a new day.
Welcome my child, welcome.
Arise and go, arise and go.

Sunday morning from the Sea of Galilee

In the thin line between darkness ending and light coming I found myself awake.

The air was cool.
The pathway lit by the dim glow of lamp post along the way.
The bricks beneath my shoes ever so damp.
The glow of the Sea's cities stretched out before me.
The quite lap of the waves of a swimmer in the Sea of Galilee below me.
The breeze ever so gentle.
The rooster crowing.
The birds awakening in song.
The thin line between the that which has past and that which is before me was present.

There before me was the passing of one day and the new mercies of yet another day stretched it's arms around me.  The horizon filled moved from darkness into a blue, fading into a purple and exploding in a vibrant pink.  The rays felt as if were reaching out to envelope me, wrapping it's arms around me in a giant hug proclaiming, come my child, come find rest in the day before you, bread for the journey and the crashing of my love upon you.

I sat listening.
I let the breeze wash over me.
I turned my head to see the mountain that we had climbed up and over and then walked through it's valley below to see the reflection of the sun hitting it once again.

The night had faded, a new day had begun, the sky was a hazy blue.

I thought the sun had risen and I almost left.

Then another pilgrimage joined me in the sitting and watching.  Conversation was had and another 20 minutes later, a blaze of fire slowly crept over the horizon.  The red ball filled the lake, used it fingertips to touch the surrounding mountains and reflected off of the water.

Red fire.
Blaze of glory.
A dawning of a new day.
Welcome my child, welcome.
Arise and go, arise and go.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday, October 29th....Detours from Arbel to Capernaum

Let's face it we hate having to detour.  We hate not being able to take the fastest way possible to our destination.  A sense of dread rises about the time that will be wasted. We focus on the inconvenience of taking having to go out of our way.

Today was a go out of our way kind of day.  The sun is bright as we begin to climb mount Arbel.  From the mountain we can turn around and see the way in which we have come.  We are proud of our past and can see our destination, the beautiful stunning Sea of Galilee.

Standing atop this mountain is not the way Jesus would have traveled but the view is simply so stunning that the Jesus Trail takes you up and over this mountain.  The descent began and all was calm. The bouldering was much the same as yesterday but when we arrived at the half way point and approximately 45 minutes from the valley we simply had to turn around.  Not everyone in our group felt safe holding onto the wire rope that was embedded into the side of the mountain for hikers to hold steady. I have to tell you I believed that they could do it.  While it would be pushing those within my group, I believed in them.  But our guide made the call for us to ascend the mountain and walk down the paved road and around the other side of the mountain into the valley.

My heart sank.  This was the part that I was looking forward to because I love adventure and I love pushing my own limits of self confidence and ability.

We all began the long journey back up to where we had started the morning.  Down the paved road and onto a connector path of the trail that we have been walking.  Boulder after boulder; barely any path at times; a very slow and steady trek downhill.  As we were just about to make the connection onto to the trail for the day our guide stood in disbelief. The gate that had always been there was suddenly gone and a new barbed wire fence had been put in it's place.  Feeling absolutely awful our guide searched for a place that we could make the crossing.  The solution was to crawl under a 5 stringed barbed wire.  We were all up for the challenge and began laughing that we had all done it throughout our childhood.

We made it under the fence and began the journey of walking in the valley.

It was during that extra two hour walk that our guide shared that today should have been his wedding day.  We talked about heartache, forgiveness, moving forward and trying to find peace.  Those two hours gave me the chance to really pray over some people I really love.  Those two hours reminded me that leading means listening to the group's concerns.  That extra time on the trail found us laughing and making memories that we would not have otherwise shared.

Guess what, we made it to our destinations today.  We did not make it to our destination by not foot because after sharing in a delicious meal along the seashore we realized that we wanted to celebrate all that we had done.  We called our driver and spent time in three different places along the Sea of Galilee. As we stood on the Sea of Galilee in Carpernaum, I had everyone look across at the Horns of Hittin and over to Arbel and through the valley because if not for the detour we would not have shared in the glorious provisions that shared our day.

Where are you frustrated?
Where do you feel like your like has taken a detour?
Where are you caught trying to push others when they are not ready to follow?

There is greatness in the detours and there are lessons to be learned from those who need to pause.  Keep walking because your destination is before you.

From Friday, October 28th...Generations...from Lavi to Arbel

If you are reading this for the first time in a bit, I want to share with you that I am on a journey in which we are walking from Nazareth to Galilee.  There are four of us and we span the ages; literally!  I'm 44, my roommate is 53, and the gentlemen are respectively 72 and 82.  These are men and women with whom I deeply love and respect in more ways that I can begin to speak.

Today we were walking from Lavi to Arbel.

The sky is blue; haze fills the air daring it to drop even an ounce of rain.
The sun shining through the clouds touching the ground ever so gently.
The ground is brown (or golden as they would say), dotted with the green of olive trees, waste high bushes.
The panoramic view leads the eye from one hill to the next, each one shooting out of the ground as if to shout hello, you are welcomed here!
Boulders encase us within the valley.
We are headed up to the Horns of Hattin, across the valley and back up to the Arbel.

The view was stunning.  From standing atop of the Horns of Hattin looking down into the Sea of Galilee to walking in the valley with the boulders incasing us and the mountains rising around us the view was simply breathtaking.  There truly are no words for what we experienced today (if you want to see more; check out my pictures on facebook).

In each step that I took today I was thinking about the power of generations and the strength of leadership.  Today's hike was not a walk in the park, it was climbing up and over boulders and descending steep, slippery boulders.  Most of the time I was walking alongside or just behind our guide.  I was in front of the pack as you might say.  After we had all safely descended (even to the point of having to climb down backwards) I started laughing out loud and said to the crew, "you guys are going to go home and talk about your crazy pastor that takes you on these really hard journeys and to dangerous places".  To which they all responded "yes we will!"

The sun quickly made its way out from behind the haze and glare of the clouds into the bright, full sky, bearing down upon us as we walked.

Our path found us not walking in groups but spread out in single file for a good portion of the day.

The more I pondered and thought about the connection between leadership and generations the more I was in awe.  These people really did trust where we were going.  We could not always see the fullness of the destination but they trusted that I was not going to lead them astray.  At times I needed to be in the lead and up front today but at other times I needed to walk at a more gentle pace that would give me the pleasure of walking alongside my more mature members of the group.

They had to trust, I had to walk slower than normal.

In the traveling together this is what I gleaned.  If we are going to call ourselves leaders of a congregation, we must be willing to go to ask people to come along with us on a journey that is scary, risky, full of love and compassion.  If we are to be leaders, we must lead in small group, be responsible for a few; pour our energy into relationship building, equipping, giving directions and sometimes walk ahead of them.  We also must be willing to know our people well enough and deep enough that we take the steps to slow down  because they simply might not be at our pace but that does not mean that they are unwilling to come alongside us.

The generations before us are filled with wisdom that they want to impart upon us but sometimes we are walking too far ahead to hear what they are saying.  Sometimes we are walking ahead of them and haven't taken the time to ask them what frightens them and how we can help move them through those barriers.  Sometimes as leaders we are too focused on our destination to stop and walk alongside those who are behind us.

Where are you walking too far ahead of others to hear them, see them and acknowledge their fears?

Where do you need to slow down and help someone up and over the boulder that they are facing?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The everyday

Have you ever had a day where all you could do was to keep moving through the task that were before you?  

Have you ever wondered if those days are ever going to lead you to the place where you truly long to be?

Today as we began climbing our way out of the city of Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle of changing the water into wine the sun was already high above us. The steep climb out of the city led us to a summit that overlooked another village sitting high upon another hill.  It is true that 'a city on a hill cannot be hidden' because when each summit allow you span the horizon to see the next village rising out of the hill.

After we made the summit of Cana, we began to drop into the valley to step upon the Roman Road.  We quickly began stepping upon rock after rock.  Rocks of all sizes and shapes and simply making our way on the road.  There were moments when the rise was steep and we walked slow and steady but honestly the majority of the trail today was in the flatland of the valley. 

The more we walked today, the more I thought about how we had come all this way and what were we doing; just walking along a dirt road, filled with rocks and olive groves (with workers beginning the hard work of harvesting).  There wasn't anything spectacular about our scenery; don't get me wrong it was still breathtaking at moments but for the most part it was just the everyday stuff.

As the day unfolded, I thought deeply about how each of us must travel the road of the everyday.  There are moments in each of our jorueny's that are long and wearisome, leaving us wondering if we accomplished anything at all and if the task moved us forward on any level.  It seems that most of us want a miracle, some breath-taking, oversized sign that God is not just among us but in and with us.  Today though, I was remind that it is in traveling the everyday,mundane that glory,compassion and mercy are held.

Along the way today, we shared one another's burdens. Literally.  We took things out of one backpack to put them in another so that someone's shoulder wouldn't be hurting.  Another fell and we helped bandage the cut.  We held hiking poles when someone was getting something from their pack.  We shared water along the way so that all would be hydrated.  We each walked at our own pace never rushing or shaming the other for the journey that they were traveling.

In the middle of the ordinary the gifts of Jesus were given to one another.  In the ordinary we sat upon rocks reflecting upon Saul's journey to Damascus in which he saw a great light.  In the ordinary we moved a few steps closer to the glory of holiness.  In the ordinary we moved one step closer to our utlimate goal.

Are you in the midst of an ordinary, ho-hum day?  If you are, be encouraged because not everyday holds the wonder of a miracle but it does hold the wonder of compassion and mercy.  If you are stuck in the task of the day; take care for others will come alongside you.  If you think that your life isn't headed anywhere; remember that with each step you are on the road leading to a new beginning.

Orindinary brings holiness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

in the dark of night

The dark of night is strange.

 If all is well within your soul, the darkness of the night seems to pass quickly as you fall into a deep slumber. It is then that you can awake refreshed and sing "it is well with my soul."  

The darkness of the night can also perpetuate a restlessness within; allowing your mind to run to and fro trying to catch that thing that eludes your and keeps running further and further away.  

I must say that for two nights a deep slumber has eluded me.  It started on the plane ride over to Israel.  I literally did not sleep the entire 10 hours we were on the plane.  Oh believe me I tried!  I took a natural supplement to help settled me down, turned on my music, closed my eyes and tried to will myself to sleep.  It did not happen.  Then last night on our first night in the country, I found myself wide awake at 3:00am.  I tried again to will myself back to sleep.  I concentrated on my breathing, took a drink of water, spent time praying over some of my friends and family, flipped open my Kindle and texted with my family as they're were finishing their Tuesday night. I could not sleep.

I laid here in the darkness of night.

Then at 5:30 this morning, I heard the familiar Muslim call to prayer.  It was as if I had been welcomed home.  I smiled and then the darkness turned to joy.  I laid in my bed with a smile on my face.  I was home.  I was in the land on my faith, my room just a few blocks away from the Church of Annunication where Mary stood at the well and heard Gabriel call to 

Mary, a young woman, from a two-bit, out of the way, that you cannot even see town has a messager from God come to her and say "Do not be afraid".  

In the still of the night, with the prayer ringing loudly and the ever so slightly glow of green lights coming from the 'light house' of the dessert for those who have lost their way I knew then why I sleep had eluded me.  I was afraid.

I have been here many times before, just last year for 10 days by myself and never before have I felt uncertain. But this pilgrimage was different.  I was definitely uncertain.

Uncertain whether or not our company had fully communicated with their sister company here in Israel and if they would be there waiting at the airport.

Uncertain whether or not I was ready for 10 miles a day of hiking in 80 degree weather.

Uncertain if those making this pilgrimage with me could physically do the pilgriamage.  

Uncertain about whether or not we would enjoy our guide (as I could not have my good friend as a guide on the Jesus Trail).

The list of uncertainties grew beyond this trip and those that I have been holding onto for far too long without realizing it.

As my list of uncertainties began to be layed upon the table, all I could hear was Amanda do not fear, do not fret for I am with you and I bring you great joy.

Today as the journey began and the terrain of the land began to unfold, I walked along a thin edge of understanidng what it looks like to walk out of fear and into a life of miracles.  

If you are afraid, if you are uncertain, if you are being asked to do something that you do not know where it is leading, may you hear 'do not be afraid' being whispered to do.