Israel Day 10

What is sacred time?

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This is not only a question the scriptures ask, but an invitation it seems to offer us.
It’s something that sneaks up on you.
Many live life never aware of it.
But, when you get a glimpse of it & taste it, you cannot help but remember it.

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Sacred time is an altogether different way of inhabiting time & space.
It’s an awareness of the ever present God who created me.
It’s a vibrating in my Spirit that I am keenly aware of in particular situations.
And sometimes, every once in a while it is almost impossible to deny.

Day 9 of our trip was one of those moments.
It was dripping with sacredness.
It was as if the space we inhabited was on another plane than that which surrounded us.
It was like a portal that was open, and we stepped in and communed with the divine, and then it closed.
God was there, I was there, we spoke.
The best I can do to describe it is electricity in my soul.

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Hoot Hike Happenings

The Garlough Environmental Magnet School (GEMS) hosted their largest event and biggest fundraiser last Friday at their annual Hoot Hike. Thankfully the rain held off and the kids and their parent(s) were able to explore all of the learning stations, participate at the activity centers, and roast marshmallows at the bonfire to top off their evening!

A few Awaken friends teamed up with GEMS parents, staff, and Heritage Middle School students to man the stations. One was the “Milk Mustache Photo Shoot”, where kids lined up to pose with their own milk mustache for an internal campaign reminding kids the importance of drinking milk. Another station was “The 100-Mile Challenge” which credited kids for taking a 1.5 mile hike around GEMS, and getting that much closer to the challenge of running/walking 100 miles this school year. This is a new initiative started by Jo, the extremely energetic phy-ed teacher who has put in 17 year and counting at GEMS and loves to see kids develop healthy habits of staying active.

Some of the other learning stations included recycling lessons, where kids got to practice putting items in the correct bins, and a student lead-table that showed kids small science experiments with rocks and minerals. The list continues with Frisbee golf, biking obstacle courses, hula-hoops, dance parties (these kids have moves!) and the concessions stand, where all of the kids were given a meal token to enjoy hot dogs, popcorn, and the works.

As GEMS has an increasingly high number of students learning English as a second language, it was a blast to see the interactions between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families, and how much fun everyone was having despite the sometimes evident language barrier. It is inspiring to see the passion and perseverance of a school like GEMS continue to press in to educating their students to live healthy and environmentally aware lifestyles, all while having a “hoot” of a time.

Kiah at the Milk Mustache Station

Kiah at the Milk Mustache Station

student dance party

student dance party

learning rocks and minerals

learning rocks and minerals

recycling station

recycling station

Jo checking in hikers from the 100-milechallenge

Jo checking in hikers from the 100-milechallenge

Israel Days 8 & 9

Not sure how to quantify what I have experienced in the past 48 hours.
Out of Jericho, which is a spring in the middle of the desert, you rise up a total of 4000 ft to get to Jerusalem.
The Psalm that speaks of “ascending the hill of The Lord” makes a little more sense.

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You skirt the Kidron Valley where the blood from the Temple Mount and the sacrifices would flow out of Jerusalem.
This valley connects to the Hinnom Valley, also known as Gehenna…hmmm.
On top of this ridge between them sits the spring that David built his city on top of at the base of Mt. Moriah.
This is of course where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac and where Solomon built the first temple.
It’s also where Herod continued the work of the exiles from Babylon and finished the Second Temple of Jesus day.
Today it’s the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
I saw the Wailing Wall.
I took the tunnel tour and walked on streets that are the LITERAL streets of the Temple Mount in Jesus day.

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I touched the original wall that Herod the Great built that the Romans destroyed in 70AD.
I looked down from the Mt. of Olives on Gethsemane.
I was in Gethsemane.
I walked down the Via Dolorosa.
I was outside the Church believed to be on the hill once called Golgotha.

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I think what strikes me is that it’s all here.
Our guide said something yesterday that I won’t forget.
He said, “Arguably, this is the most important city on the entire earth.”

I get why people talk about the mysterious and divine sense that they get when they come here.
I’m just trying to not forget the sounds, the sights, the moments & the memories.
“L’shanah haba’ah biyerushalayim” is a saying at the end of every Seder meal that translates “next year in Jerusalem” and it expresses the hope and longing of the Jewish people that next year they might celebrate together in the city of David.
To the degree that I can, I get it a little more now than I did 2 days ago.

Israel Day 7

Capernaum…wow what a city!
Luke chapter 4 begins with Jesus in the wilderness in the hills of the Galilee being tempted by Satan.
After this small and insignificant event he heads to his hometown in the hills of small village called Nazareth.
It’s here that he’s run out of town by his family and neighbors because they’re not really interested in the new calling he’s been given and he makes his way to Capernaum.

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This is the city of Simon Peter, the only disciple that we know of that was married.
We know this because his mother in law has a house there, and Jesus makes it his home base for the time that he spends wandering and teaching in the sea side towns surrounding The Galilee.

This is as close as I have ever felt to the text.
I stood in a the ruins of a synagogue that was built on the remains of the one Jesus wanders into and casts out a demon.
In Capernaum, they have found the remains of a house that had two pillars with the names Yeshua and Petras carved into them.
That’s pretty authentic!

When I was 14 years old, I heard a man named Mark Gold give a message about the 5 drachma coin that Peter pulled out of the fishes mouth and I surrendered my life to following this Jesus. It was this story that was the turning point for me. It was this story and the telling of it when I heard Jesus call my name for the first time.

So there I stood, with the wind blowing in my face, and the sun shining glistening off the water of the same Sea that Jesus calls Peter & John and others…not bad for a Friday.

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Israel Day 6

If day 5 had us wandering around with a billion other tourists,
day 6 had us in a spot only known to the locals.
The Middle East is known for it’s beautiful and wonderful spices.
Curry, turmeric, cinnamon, chili, and many others.

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Our guide, Nir, who happens to be one of the coolest people on the planet,
took us to a shop in the old town of Nazareth that was built by the Ottoman Turks
and has been a spice shop for over 100 years. Never have I seen or smelled
things like this. It was an immediate intoxication of my senses.

We ate hummus and falafel balls at a tiny little hole in the wall,
arguably the best hummus I’ve ever tasted. If that’s not enough we got Coke in a bottle.
For those that have traveled abroad and had Coke from a glass bottle, you know what I’m talking about.
Bottom line, here’s to Nir my new best friend.
Off the beaten path is where you find the jewels worth looking at friends!

Israel: Day 5

Yesterday we went to the mountain where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount
Or at least the mount that the Franciscans have built a church on and claim to be the location.
Regardless of whether it was the spot or not, Jesus wandered these hills.
And now, thousands of people wander them with cameras.

I’m not sure what I expected as I anticipated being there, but it’s safe to say that I was mildly disappointed.
Jesus’ words in the beatitudes ring of Psalm 23, which I read as one of the most peace filled Psalms.
Yesterday was anything but peaceful.
The whole time I was there, I was trying to figure out why I felt the way I did.
It’s not like I’m not a tourist with a phone in my pocket filled with pictures of Israel.
Though I didn’t take any photos of the site lest I be lumped together with the crowds.
And yes, I recognize how ridiculous this is!

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At the end of our stay at this site, we were given some time to be alone and journal…ironic I know.
But I wandered out beyond the places where all the people were and I found an olive grove.
This was my kind of “sermon on the mount” spot. It was a gentle hillside filled with olive trees.
It was relatively quiet compared to other places at this site.

I think I get why Jesus had to “get away to a quiet hillside” or retreat into the desert.
There’s something about quiet and there’s something about stillness that is required for the spiritual life.

Israel: Day 4

Desmond Tutu once said there is no hope without forgiveness.
Oh the length and breadth of the journey to that one word for some people.

Today I stood on a mountain which is one of the highest peaks in the Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights is formerly Syrian occupied territory in the northeast corner of Israel.
Up until the 6 day war of 1967, Syria occupied these strategic heights all the way down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
To say that the Golan Heights are strategically important is an understatement.
Whoever possesses them gets a high place from which to defend or attack.

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Because of information acquired by the spy Elie Cohn who was stationed in Damascus by Israel, Israel knew the locations of every Syrian bunker along the Golan Heights from the southern end of the Galilee all the way to Mt. Hermon in the north. Cohn infiltrated the ranks of Syria’s army and suggested the planting of Eucalyptus trees to provide for the men who were baking in the hot sun all along the heights. When the time came for war, within 2 days, Israel was able to destroy the bunkers and push the Syrians back beyond the Heights and within 6 days nearly double the land they called home.

Again in the mid 70’s, on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, the Syrians attacked from the north while the Egyptians attacked in the south and the Heights were nearly lost to Israel once again.

Back to Desmond Tutu…without forgiveness there is no hope for this part of the world.
As I walked this mountain today, I prayed for a gal named Manal. Ben, Tof & I met her in Detroit this past summer.
She is full Syrian decent.
Manal has family in Syria.
I couldn’t help but long for peace and for forgiveness and wondered what that would take.
I couldn’t help but think what it must be like for people who live in the midst of this tension every single day.

I have absolutely nothing to say that is helpful on this situation.
I just think Tutu is right. For humanity to make this work…forgiveness is a must!