Sunday, September 30, 2012

Coffee in Amsterdam

Easy flight to Amsterdam, and a 3+ wait for the flight to Scotland. Time for a good cup of coffee and pleasant pass times of knitting, journaling, and reading in the very welcoming public waiting area. We left Atlanta at 3 PM yesterday, and it's still dark here at 7 AM.

One of the books I brought for this trip is Mary Earle's Holy Companions: Spiritual Practices from the Celtic Saints. Today I am reading about St. Columba, who began a monastery on the Isle of Iona in the 6th century.

Here are some of his words:

Let me bless almighty God, whose power extends over sea and land.....
Let me study sacred books to calm my soul;
I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven's gates.
Let me do my daily work...
Let me say my daily prayers, sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God....

I offer these words particularly to those
being confirmed at St. Mary's today:
Ryne, Deede, Bill, Claire, Holden, Trevor,Michael, Melanie, and Erika.

I'm praying for you, especially today.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trip #3

I'm now seated at Atlanta Hartsfield airport in the beautiful new Terminal F waiting for my plane to Glasgow via Amsterdam. It's the third trip of my Sabbatical--destinations are Isle of Iona and Lindisfarne (Holy Island).

I'm going with my new camera (birthday present from my mom). Somewhere in the air between Tel Aviv and Newark I realised that I didn't have my pretty blue camera, dented as it was from too many drops. As upset as I was about the loss of the camera, what I was really upset about was the loss of three camera cards full of pictures. I was especially upset because when I went to Turkey seven years ago, my camera was stolen and all photos were lost. Not again!

I knew the last place I'd used it (getting coffee at Aroma with my brother). As soon as I landed in Newark, I began working out how I could locate it. Many, many, many emails and many, many, many (unanswered) phone calls later by me and two other dear people, I connected with the right person who could tell me that my camera had been found.

The next challenge was finding someone who could go to the Tel Aviv airport to fetch it for me (no mailing available). Thanks to my brother, a friend of a friend is coming to Houston via Tel Aviv around the first of November and will bring it with her. I can certainly wait!

I am thankful beyond measure that this fervent answer to prayer was a yes.
Thanks, God, and whoever found my camera and turned it into lost and found. Abundant blessings be upon you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy birthday to me

Today is my birthday, and I'm spending it with my mother at her farm in Chambersville, Texas. Last night my two brothers and my daughter gathered with us for a great birthday feast which included my brother Austin's fabulous pasta and home made bread and of course my mother's chocolate pie. It was a lovely evening.

One of my morning devotions today included a prayer from Amma Mary of Egypt, one of the desert mothers:
"Now therefore, lead me wherever you please; lead me to salvation, teach me what is true, and go before me in the desert."

A great prayer to begin another year.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Praying at the Western Wall

It's Saturday afternoon and my brother has gone off to find a holy site, and I've decided to spend these nearly last moments in the Holy Land back one final time at the Western Wall (that small bit of wall remaining from the Temple Mount from when the Temple was destroyed in the first century, also called "the wailing wall"). I'm on the woman's side, of course.

I came last Sunday and prayed, and today wanted to spend time with women of all nations and ages and faiths in prayer. In a few moments I'll walk towards the wall to pray--for those so very many dear to me that I have carried in my heart on this long, mostly hot, mostly challenging, mostly inspiring, pilgrim's walk.

........ And as I was writing these words a woman all in white came up to me and said with authority, "No phone! Shabbat!". I quickly showed her that I wasn't talking; I was writing. She even more quickly replied, "No writing! Shabbat!"

Horrified that I had offended my hosts, I decided that I have something more to learn about keeping Sabbath. I stopped all my busyness and did the one thing that is always allowed--I prayed.

As I finish writing this, I am nearly packed for our 6.30 AM airport shuffle.
The French doors of my tiny room at Christ Church Guest House inside the Old City Walls are open to the symphony of Jerusalem sounds that never stop. I'm glad to be going home but there is much that I'll miss in this strange and holy place.

(Found out later that photography is forbidden, too. Oh well. Here's my photo anyway.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Back in Jerusalem

I'm on the final piece of my three weeks in the Holy Land. I've seen amazing places and reading the Bible will never be the same again. Today we traveled from Nazareth to Ein Kerem and the Church of the Visitation (Luke 1. 26--56). Tomorrow we leave first thing for Bethlehem.

Yesterday my brother and I drove
north and were within easy walking distance of Syria and Lebanon. On my trip south I'd been as close to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I could clearly see all four countries, but was unable to enter them either because of passport or safety issues.

In the south of Jordan and Israel we saw "camel crossing" signs--and we did indeed see camels frequently. In northeast Israel we saw "tank crossing" signs and "danger--land mine" warnings. Tonight when my brother and I walked to the Holy Sepulchre, an armed soldier stood outside the door. As we have driven away from many communities, the word "peace" in three languages has been written on signs bidding us farewell.

Such is this wildly beautiful place where the Prince of Peace chose to show through his very life what peace that passes understanding looks like in the flesh.

From Psalm 122

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In memory of Bill

Our deacon at St. Mary's emailed me that a dear parishioner had died.

Bill Meisner was a kind and faithful man. A year ago he celebrated his 80th birthday with a wonderful party which included the blessing of the antique red truck he had lovingly and carefully restored and Holy Communion, too.
It was a joy filled evening. The note he wrote to me after the event is one I will always treasure.

When I return to St. Mary's Epiphany, Bill's spot at the end of the second or third row for the early Eucharist will have an empty spot that only he could fill. I will miss him.

At the Church of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha (Matthew 14. 13-21),
I lit a candle in memory of Bill with prayers for all who loved him, most especially his wife, Sally.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Almost a sunset over the Sea of Galilee

Now seated in Nazareth

The course at St. George's College is done and I'm now on a road trip with my brother.

Today I began the day at Mary's tomb in Jerusalem and by noon was at the site of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

My brother and I happened upon a labyrinth at the Church of the Annunciation, and I walked it with prayer intentions for those I love and especially for some dear to me in need of God's healing grace.

Candles were lit and prayers were said with these same intentions at the Tomb of the Virgin this morning.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Desert Fathers and Mothers

A subtheme of this course of the Way in the Wilderness is how early monastics, who left the world to live in desolate and isolated places, experienced and shared, yes shared, the love of God despite living cloistered from the world.

It's been a good place to ponder when my legs got tired from too much climbing, or the heat became too intense, or my stomach responded unhappily to strange food.

Today was one of those days, so I offer a prayer written by one of the 4th century holy ones.

Glory to the Holy Trinity:
One true God.

Grant us God to see with your eyes.
Grant us God to love with your heart.
Grant us God to work hand in hand with you.
Grant us God to walk in your ways.
Beginning and end,
and the end of earthly life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jerusalem, my happy home

One of the best days yet.

We arrived at Mt. Nebo before opening, and were let in early because our guide had connections. It was still cool and lovely to be there before the crowds.

Mt. Nebo was where God took Moses to see the Promised Land before he died. You'll recall that Moses was not allowed to enter because of an act of disobedience (Numbers 20).

Though it was hazy, we could still see a panorama of places in Jordan and Israel--places we'd already been and places still to. I was struck that most of us are like Moses--and not only in the disobeying God part. We each have a purpose in life, and none of us arrives to the place we'd hoped to go--this side of heaven. And life is still very good.

We then went to the site on the Jordan River where many think Jesus was baptised. Our walk started at the ruins of an early church built on the spot where it is thought that Elijah was taken into heaven (2 Kings 2).

The most moving part of the day was reading the passage from Luke 3 telling of the baptism of Jesus as we sat in silence near the site honoured as that very place. We ended our time at the Jordan by renewing our baptismal vows, and then being ausperged with water from the Jordan as a blessing was given to each of us by the Dean. We remembered our baptisms and were very thankful.

Traveling from Jordan back to Israel was a complicated process. I am deeply thoughtful about the guns and soldiers and checks and balances to move between these two land neighbours.

It's good to be back in my room at the college where I can brush my teeth and drink from the tap, have convenient plumbing, and a place to properly do laundry.

As I type this one letter at a time on my iPhone, windows open for the night breeze, the Muslim call to prayer from the Old City fills my room.

I ask God's blessing on you as you remember your baptism and are thankful. If you're not baptised--you have a world of joy ahead for you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Now seated in Madaba, Jordan

We were up very early and drove about five hours through desolate wilderness to arrive at Machaerus, and the ruins of one of Herod Antipas's twelve palaces.
It is significant because it was where John the Baptist was executed.

The challenge, at least for me, was that it was a very steep climb and, of course, it was 1 pm and at the very heat of the day. I did it in homage to John, and I am delighted to say that I made it!!!

We then did a short drive to Madaba where we had the best meal we've had since arriving in Jordan at Haret Jdoudna.

Later we went across the street to St George's Church to see the extraordinary mosaic map of the known world created in the 6th century. The light was too dim for photos, so of your interest is piqued, google St.George's, Madaba, and you can see it all!

Tomorrow we're on the road again to Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea before returning to Jerusalem and the College.

God's peace.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Aunt Frances

My mother's last surviving sister of four, Frances, died yesterday. She was over 90 years old and had lived a good life. I remember her as a fabulous cook. Hers were the first hushpuppies I remember eating and set the bar for every other one I ate. I don't think any ever topped hers.

It's strange to be so far away that there is no way I can get back to Texas in time for her service for any amount of money. I wish I could be there to sit beside my mom. Prayers from somewhere in Madaba tomorrow night when the service is in Melissa at 11 will have to do.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, of whom Aunt Frances was surely one, rest in God's peace.

Two nights in Petra

Yesterday we drove from Wadi Rum to Petra for two nights. We spent most of the day exploring this one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There's a sermon coming about the Treasury, the first building you see as you exit the Siq, the nearly mile long canyon where each turn took my breath away.

For context, one of the Indiana Jones movies was filmed here.

Today, our second day in Petra, a rare free day, I'm taking it as a Sabbath to catch up with myself. Up before dawn to see the sunrise in the roof, a leisurely morning doing laundry, journaling, knitting, and reading. After three nights in tents I'm enjoying my pretty room.

In a hour or so I'm going with some of the women to have a Turkish bath. Since I had a Turkish bath in Turkey, I'm curious.

Then back to get ready for class and maybe a sunset on the roof.

Tomorrow we're on the bus again to Machaerus Fortress (where John the Baptist was beheaded) and then to Madaba (Medeba in Scripture).

Traveling mercies to all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Traveling Mary Does the Red Sea

Never ever seen blue like the iridescent blue and aqua and turquoise of the Red Sea.

Muslim women in full dress playing in the water; the women of the pilgrimage the only ones in swimsuits.

Soldiers training by and in the Sea

Painting and praying the Morning Office

Israel and Egypt in front of me; Saudi Arabia to my left. All meeting without incident in the Red Sea.

Salaam. Shalom. Peace.

The Red Sea shimmers and shines so much more than this

A view of the Negev

Now seated in Jordan

Back in wifi land for a few hours.
The last two nights have been in tents and there will be one more tent night tomorrow in Wadi Rum (change in schedule; we'll be in Petra the two days following due to weather).

We left Jerusalem on Wednesday and started traveling south.

Highlights include:

Walking one of the four possible Emmauses and breaking bread over lunch at a monastery there.
Luke 24 13-35

Meeting with a women's cooperative in Lakia which was started to raise the quality of life for Bedouin women and children (you'll be hearing more from me about that in the future as I ponder how to support this good work)

Meeting with the pastor of the only Christian church in the city of Beer-Sheva; a Roman Catholic Church with an open table; it has no sign, and they can do no evangelism other than word of mouth

Walking the ruins of Tel-Sheva (was this the ruins of the Beersheva of Scripture?) and Tel-Arad that had an altar built to the specifications of the book of Numbers ( some prayers said there for those dear to my heart)

Staying in a communal tent watered and powered with ecology in mind and spending one of the nicest afternoons and sunsets ever watching the colors change on the expanse of rock and sand below.

Walking the ruins of Advat, a Nabatean community that flourished on the ancient Spice Road; two early examples of Christian churches

Long drive through miles and miles and miles of wilderness that puts the journeys of our Biblical ancestors in fresh perspective.

Crossing from Israel into Jordan and experiencing how very complicated it was to travel between these two neighbors

Tonight we had a lovely dinner outside overlooking the city.

Appreciating my own room and my own bed and my own bathroom for this night.

Off to swim in the Red Sea before we trace a piece of the Children of Israel's route and then to Wadi Rum for the night.

I hope to write again from Petra.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On the pilgrims' road in the wilderness

It is really in our weakness and dependency on God that the way will open for us to live in union with Christ, and so experience his strength being made perfect in our weakness.

-Br. David Vryhof
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Around the wilderness in a little bus

Today we had a preview of the next week as we got into our minibus and drove around Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives to south of the city overlooking the way Abraham may have approached as he took his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed.

We stopped several times for the view and for excellent teaching that placed the geography of the city in the context of a particular time and of Holy Scripture.

Very sweet.

I'll write again when I'm in wifi friendly land. For the next week I'll be traveling with the other pilgrims through Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

Traveling mercies to us all.

And so it begins

Today is our last day at St.George's College before we leave for a week in the wilderness. It appears that at least three nights involve tents though one supposedly has electric outlets.

This may be my last day of WiFi for a while, so I wanted to talk about room at the college which will be the place to which I return from the wilderness.

Each room is named for a place or event in Jesus' life. Mine is called Tabgha. I have to admit that I did not recognize the place when I entered for the first time. With only a little research, I decided that I am in the perfect room for this pilgrimage.

See if you agree:

Matthew 14. 13-21, Mark 6. 30-44, Mark 8. 1-9, Luke 6. 17-19

This is one of the places my brother Richard and I will go on our pilgrimage after the pilgrimage.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Phos Hilaron--Jerusalem Style

At Evensong at the Cathedral last night we did a version of O Gracious Light that was new to me.

Since this evening song is dear to so many, I thought I'd share with you.

Hail, gladdening light, of his pure glory
Who is the immortal Father, heavenly
holiest of Holies, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now we are come to the sun's hour of
the lights of evening round us shine.
we hymn the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit divine.

Worthy are you at all times to be sung with undefiled tongue,
Son of our God, Giver of Life, alone:
therefore in all the world your glories,
Lord, they own.

Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem

I'm here, and my course starts this evening. I've had two very good days of rest. All is very well.

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”

For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God.

from Psalm 122

When nothing else will do God will take care of you

During the Newark layover I had to work hard to find a plug to charge my phone. Waiting to board, I finally found one in the alcove next to the ladies room. Then I heard, "Funn Beff, please come to the podium. Funn Beff." Deciding that might be me, I gathered up my too many belongings and found my way through the mass of people, shawls and cords trailing.

Was I willing to take a seat in Business First without audio?

Would I?

I was so excited everything fell out of my little travel purse.

Always a picture of grace.

Guess I didn't need the Smashburger or the traveling snacks or the endless searching for a power outlet.

I guess being reminded at the beginning of the trip that God does go before and prepare the way is a lovely way to begin this Sabbath.

And it is the Sabbath. Shalom.