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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dangerous and against the law

Today was my last free day before my month long program begins and I decided
Sign warning you before entering
to walk into Bethlehem.  It's only a 15 minute walk to the WALL and check point 300 where it seems that everything that could be done to discourage your visit is put into place.  No signs telling you where to go, enter, or whether or not you even can.  But there is a sign telling you that entrance into Bethlehem is dangerous and illegal for citizens of Israel.  Most Americans don't realize that Israeli citizens are not allowed to visit towns in the West Bank.  My passport allows off I went.

Once you get through the turnstiles--no passport check or anything to get in, only to get out.  You can walk along the Israeli built border wall, meet many nice folks along the way, and finally reach Manger square.  Here you are where God became man.  Think about that!  As unlikely a place today as it was 2000 years ago.  I decided to skip the church of the Nativity and go to the Milk Grotto.  Very nearby, and an ancient pilgrimage site that is said to have been where the Holy family found refuge from King Herod's soldiers who had come in to Bethlehem to kill the children.  Legend says a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the ground here and turned the floor of the cave white.

Bethlehem where King David was born, Ruth found favor with Boaz, where Samuel came to anoint David as king, where shepherds came and wisemen visited, where God became incarnate in order to show the world a better way---Indeed, a dangerous place!  
The Milk Grotto

Biggest danger for me...I was late for dinner and had to settle for a couple pieces of fruit and a delicious Teybeh beer, which by the way is also very dangerous and not allowed to be imported into the US.  Seemed safe enough.  I'll be back to Bethlehem again later and will put up some pictures of the more traditional sites.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Two buses and why it's good to travel

I like taking public transportation when I travel.  It can be a bit intimidating and as I get older it's always enticing to "just call a cab."  But so far I still force myself to "ride the bus."  Why?  Because you get to see, hear and participate in the life of the locals.  You get beyond being a tourist and experience the place in a whole different way. 
The unmarked bus stop.  Where I'm staying on
the hill above.

Here in Jerusalem you have two buses to choose from.  The Egged or Jewish bus that connects you to Jewish things and the Arab bus that connects you to Arab places.  I know, it doesn't make any sense to us as Americans; but that's just how it is.  Today I grabbed the Arab bus on the Hebron road right near where I'm staying.  The bus stop wasn't marked, but I had some good intel!  After waiting a few minutes the 234 bus to the Old City appeared.   The driver seemed a bit perplexed on whether he should pull over for this old bearded white guy on the side of the road--luckily he did. 

I got on and it was the stereotypical reality that you almost couldn't believe.  The first passenger was an older gentlemen in full Arab head scarf and dress, then several ladies in very traditional attire, and finally some more western dressed folks toward the back.  Maybe they weren't but it seemed like everyone was staring at me.  Every seat had someone in it, with the exception of a few double seats that only had one person in them.  I decided to stand.  No reason to force my big sweaty and perhaps unwelcome body next to anyone. 
Young man carrying bread from the Old
city to local shops.  walking up from
the Damascus gate.  I got the bus home
from across the street.

As the bus began to pull out, a big hand fell upon my shoulder.  The man who was reaching from his seat, looked at me and said: "Sit, sit!"  So I hoped next to one of my fellow pilgrims in life and sat and listened to conversations I couldn't understand, smiled when folks laughed and basically laughed at my own fears and insecurities.  I liked the people on bus 234.  Thanks for the hospitality.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Light and Truth ... Psalm 43.3

Perhaps because I am off to Jerusalem, or maybe just because I'm a Liam Neesom fan, I have watched "Kingdom of Heaven" twice in the last week.  It's a 2005 epic about the complexities of the 12th century crusader period.  Mixed reviews...I like it.   But what struck me this time was the Knights oath.  Here's what it was:

Stained glass here at Prince of Peace Abbey
in Oceanside.  A great place to ponder truth!
"Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth always, even if it leads to you death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong--that is your oath."

Now of course the theology of 'being' good so that God loves you...that's no good.  But what really intrigued me was the line:  "Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death."   In the Christian tradition we have that great line from Pilate, "What is truth?"

Psalm 43 tells us:  "O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling."   As people of faith there is a truth that we proclaim above all others--of God's love--but we live in a world of competing truths, dare I say alternative truths or fake truths if you rather.   And worse of all we seem comfortable with these more and more on a daily basis, we seem to prefer the 'truth' of expediency or the 'truth' that resonates best with our own agenda.

The Psalmist reminds us that there is a truth from almighty God and that we should be attentive to it.  Why?  Because it is truth that brings us into the presence of God.  Perhaps this is why Jesus told his followers, "I am the way, and the truth and the life."   What truth do we find in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Be still and know that I am God....Psalm 46.10

Icon of Jesus the Prince of
Peace at the Abbey
Be still..... easier said than done.  I try to stop and pray and my mind begins to race with things to be done and how I'm going to accomplish it.  Be still ..... so difficult.  And yet perhaps the key to this little verse from Psalm 46 is what comes next--"and know that I am God."  Ah, there is the key.  You see if God is God, then I am not!     I don't have to worry about the polar ice caps or the famine in Ethiopia or the latest terror attack in Manchester--I simply trust that God is fully aware, at work in the midst of these rather worrisome things already and my job is simply to be open as to how God might give me the opportunity to be at work in these things as well.  You see the call to trust in God is not a call to apathy or disengagement in the world, it is rather a call to participate without the egotistical anxiety that somehow everything hinges on me!   This week I spent time at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, a Benedictine monastery.  I spent considerable time in prayer.  I prayed for hours in the sanctuary and walking the way of the cross outside.  I prayed so long, not because of my piety, but because I had so much to let go of and allow God to be God.  I used a prayer that I have taught many over the years--the prayer of relinquishment.
  It's very simply, you pray about something of great concern.  You speak out loud with your hands in front of you, palms facing upward and you feel the weight of the anxiety you carry.   Then you repeat the same prayer, and as you list all the things that you find worrisome, you slowly turn your palms from facing up to facing down, as if you are letting a burden drop through your hands.  You end the prayer with the statement, "and all these things are too much for me and so I trust them to you Holy God to carry them for me.   As for me I'll be here ready to do my part, but allowing you to be God and let you have the burden!"   
The way of the cross is a wonderful way to pray
with your whole body at work.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Fearless Spiritual Inventory!

In Galatians 5 Paul lists for us the 9 fruits of the spirit.  I cannot think of a better metric by which one should measure their growth in the Christian faith.  In fact I encourage each of you to find some time for quiet prayer and meditation and lift up these 9 fruits of the Spirit.   Ask the question, “where have I shown love?”  And then ask the question, “where have I erred against love and lived contrary to the faith that is me?”  Do the same with Joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Take a fearless spiritual inventory and pray for the Holy Spirit to encourage, strengthen, correct and admonish your behavior and your production of these Godly fruits that we are called to bear.  If you are like me, you’ll find yourself lacking in some and pleasantly proficient in others; but remember this is not a litmus test for salvation but an assessment of how we are living out the faith in regards to blessing others with the gifts of our lives.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.”   Galatians 5.22-23

Monday, May 22, 2017

For Jesus' sake . . . Stir us up!

Confirmation Day for one of my sons.
Worshiped this morning at Gloria Dei Lutheran in Dana Point.  Always great to be in the presence of Pastor David Mattson and Pastor Sabrina Vasta.  Today was the Rite of Confirmation at Gloria Dei.  Once again, hands were laid on those affirming their faith and the prayer for the Holy Spirit was spoken: "Father in heaven, for Jesus' sake, stir up in 'name' the gift of your Holy Spirit; confirm their faith, guide their life, empower them in their serving, give them patience in suffering, and bring them to everlasting life."

 I've been reading a new book:  The Benedict option.  It has a pretty hard critique of both church and culture that I don't always agree with (for example I understand the basic good of civil rights for all people to be a positive movement--not a negative) but he brings up some very thought provoking observations.  Here is one:
 "American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture, one in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense.  We speak a language that the world more and more either cannot hear or finds offensive to it's ears."   

I agree with Rod Dreher on this.  I'm not sure that we would always agree on what aspects of Christianity makes little sense to our society; but I can think of a few things that seem to be pretty Anti-Christ out there: Desire for Vengeance vs the desire for forgiveness.  The need to hate vs the call to love our neighbor.  The desire to 'Lord it above all' vs the call to humility and service.  The disregard for the need to use our words and lives to build up vs the desire to tear things down.
Confirmation at Our Savior's
Lutheran Church, San Clemente

Pastor David preached about the power of the Holy Spirit today.  Amen pastor, may the Holy Spirit be stirred up and may the people of Christ continue to make no sense to the world that lives by hatred.   And to those confirmation kids...look out, you've made public profession of your faith, you are now marked women and men!  Amen, come Holy Spirit and stir us up!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Aesop in the desert

I'm here in Henderson, NV at Zumapalooza where I'm going to be an 'inspirational speaker' during lunch tomorrow.  My honor as Zumasys and the Giobbi family have been great supporters of OSLS.  I took a walk today to sort out my thoughts and I ran across these two iconic figures below.  Notice the Hare looking off to the distance--preoccupied.  The Tortoise has his foot lifted and his eyes fixed on the road ahead.  I had to think is it the distractions that are the Hares true undoing?  Those things that keep us from the race that has been appointed to us the real obstacle?  In this world that admires the Hare, may we have the strength to be more like the Tortoise.
See the front left foot of
the tortoise?  Sculpture
is iron filed rocks.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Worship ... it feels good!

Imagine if your job was to always make sure that everyone's water glass was full at a particular restaurant.  Then you go out to eat yourself and you find that you can't really enjoy the meal because you are anxiously looking out spotting all the water glasses that need to be filled!   Ok, maybe this doesn't quite work; but that's pretty much how worship feels for me when I get a chance to worship outside of OSLC...It's hard to turn off the critical eye and become a worshiper.   It will come.  A few more Sunday's and I'll begin to be able to allow someone else to be concerned about the glasses on the table.    Worshiped with my friend Pastor Mark Davis this weekend at St. Mark's (not named after him) Presbyterian church in Newport Beach.  His message was to see God at work in the human experience.  Amen
The promise of Christ's presence
 set out before worship. 
A very peaceful sanctuary.
Ok, any of your musicians 
if you canread this:  
Does it sound just
like "Minnie the Moocher"
 from The Blue's brothers?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Stating the obvious!I

It's hard to change one's momentum.  You can change your direction, you can change your schedule, you can change your address; but momentum is not so easy to master.  I'm on day two of my Sabbatical but my momentum keeps bringing me back to things I failed to get done and loose ends that haunt and ultimately commandeer everything else on the schedule.   The list of things to finish up is getting smaller.   Part of that list included putting some fresh Ahi on the grill thanks to Mike Boquet!   So, I'm really not complaining.
Welcome Pastor Ernie and Annie Worman
to Our Savior's Lutheran Church this Sunday
Fill the house of God!!!