Monday, October 30, 2006

Say Hello to My Little Friends
Ever since my first night in Jerusalem, insects have found it rather convenient to visit me as if I was Ponderosa. At first, it was just a bite here and there, a couple on the ankle, a couple on the foot, a couple on the arm, no big deal. Well, the rainy season is just around the corner and the early rains have started. Meaning that the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees and cold rains are beginning to come rather frequently. So, it’s cold outside and all of the critters that are usually star gazing are now looking for a nice warm place to set up camp, mainly my bed. I never see them, put they leave their mark nonetheless, which I find every morning somewhere on my body. I think they might be ants. I squished something the other night that felt like an ant.

It has been getting bad enough that the past couple of nights I’ve been sleeping fully clothed. Complete with jeans, sweatshirt, and socks. Last night I even put rubber bands over the ends of my jeans so that bugs couldn’t creep up. I don’t know if my strategy has been working yet because I have so many bug bites on me I can’t tell if there are any new ones. So, I’ll continue this for a couple more nights to see how things pan out. Once again, as I sit back and think about the situation,

I realize it’s just another day in the Middle East…

Sunday, October 29, 2006

When I See It
I am the mature and dignified age of 22 (4.5 Leap Year baby). I know the time of infancy, elementary, and high school years simply flew by for you. Can you believe that in just over 6 months I’ll be graduating from college? You have weaned me, toilet trained me, and informed me of the winged animals of the air and their relationship to the insects who make honey. I am sure that it feels as if it was just yesterday that I was learning to ride a bike, figuring out how to tie my shoe, and playing t-ball. During the first 19 years of my life I was for the most part close to home and you would see me all the time. Now, since I’ve been in college, I’m gone more than I am at home, especially now that I am studying in Israel. Over the years, there have been some things that have not changed, such as my never ending energy, my ability to do amazingly stupid things and not get seriously injured, and my love for fried chicken.

But, there are many things that have changed. I began to drive, I grew taller than you, I got a job, I started reading because I wanted to, I started doing my own laundry, and I began to schedule my own haircut appointments just to name a few. Years ago you used to cradle me in your arms and we both know that by no stretch of the imagination would that ever be possible today (regardless of how much rice I eat here).

So, since you have been there for me my whole entire life and have seen so many new changes in my life I wanted you to be aware of the most recent. It took 22 years to get to this point in my life, for me to be able to accomplish what I am about to present. All forms of maturation and growth have finally built up to this, so that I could finally accomplish this magnificent act…

With all of that said, mom I am proud to tell you the following…

I started making my bed…

Saturday, October 28, 2006

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
A few of the many things I adore about Jerusalem
The context that I’m in
Reading a story in the Bible and being in the same valley, hill, mountain, river, city, sea, or plain that the story occurred in.

The mountains
Whenever I go hiking on a mountain here I always feel like I’m in Lord of the Rings. Often there are steep cliffs, deep wadis, and very unique stairs.

The amazing hiking trails
The parks here have trails through springs, waterfalls, mountains that take me through a land that makes me realize that I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Rabbi Moshe
My professor for my Rabbinical Thought and Literature. I have learned so much from this man about Jewish thought, the Torah, Midrash, and about God in and outside of class.

Moshe and Dov
Any question I have about Jewish theology these guys will gladly answer. Plus their passion and love for God challenges and encourages me. Check out there website for any of your Israeli needs

The Sea of Galilee
There is such an amazing presence at this place. Some of my favorite Bible stories happened here.

The Hebrew Language
It is so much fun to read, speak, and listen to.

Shabbat Dinners
Every Friday night we all get dressed up and sit down to a wonderful meal together. The ladies light candles, Dr. Wright gives a blessing, we sing Hebrew songs, have amazing bread, and just chat it up.

Raed’s cooking
If it wasn’t for this man’s dinners I would be a mental and physical wreck. It's always so nice to know that every evening I'm going to have a nice, hot, delicious meal.

Shekels in my pocket
Whenever I stick my hands in my pocket and feel shekels, I am taken back with the realization of where I’m at.

The variation of the topography
In Indiana we have corn, flat land, and corn. It’s not bad, but it is nice to being able to see hills, valleys, mountains, canyons, wadis, plains, seas, and rivers.

Playing baseball in hell
I lived right beside the Hinnom Valley which is what Jesus is referring to in the New Testament when He speaks of hell. So, whenever I play baseball, frisbee, or just walk by it I stand amazed of the significance of where I’m at.

Being able to let my heart run wild
There are so many fun holes, tombs, and caves to crawl around in here. Often when I am on a Crusader wall I’ll pretend I’m a solider and shoot at the enemy with my imaginary bow and arrow. Also, there are so many trees, columns, and structures to climb here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So, the other day I was at Caesarea Philippi and was doing a little hiking down this trail with a bunch of other undergrad students. We were just beginning our hike and of course I needed a walking stick, for every good hike begins with a walking stick. At that moment all I could find was a four foot piece of bamboo that was about an inch thick or so. I continued my walk, borrowed my buddy Benaiah’s knife and turned it into a nice little spear. I ended up carrying the spear between by back and my backpack, but it ended up snapping when the top of it got snagged on a tree. Bummed as I was, I kept the pointed part hoping that I would soon find a use. Continuing the journey, I then found a thick patch of bamboo and broke off a seven foot tall two inch thick piece. I of course sharpened the end which then gave me a really nice spear. Then I combined this new spear with the previous broken piece and thus I created a big spear with a removable, yet durable, pointed attachment.
A little while later we arrived at this magnificent waterfall, so I took a couple of pictures and then climbed on the river via some very large and conveniently placed rocks. I tried my luck (poor as it was) at spear fishing. I saw some fish and that was about as close as I got to spearing anything. We left the river and headed to our bus. Right before we got to the bus, I picked up another little piece of bamboo that fit inside of my original little spear which snapped. I hallowed out the larger longer piece and sharpened the end of the smaller. When combined, I had a nice little blowgun. Benaiah gave me some of his frayed jeans which I stuffed into the rear of the dart to create a better seal thus giving the dart greater propulsion when I blew it. I sneaked up on a couple of people and shot at them with it pretending I was some great white hunter. The dart didn’t hurt in the slightest, for the dart was too dull and the dart too light, but it was fun none the less.

Then as the blowgun continued to evolve, I of course then ended up hurting myself…

Benaiah and I put our heads together and we decided that we needed to find a cactus needle or a long thorn to place at the end of the dart. So, as we continue along, we looked and looked and looked. It was at Capernaum that I finally found a nice cactus needle just the right length. I also found some sort of moldable foam weed that I stuffed inside of the dart to give it more weight and then placed the cactus needle at the end. I put this all together on the bus and then we stopped for a bathroom break.

The blowgun and dart were complete. My design, fabrication, and trial and error process all drew to this final moment. Now, all I had to do was test it.

but on what…?

I looked around the bus to see what I could shoot in order to establish how accurate it was, but what I really wanted to know was how much it hurt. So, I stuck out my palm a little under a foot away from the end, and gave it a nice firm blow.

and as one would imagine it hurt…

I was rather proud of myself. I created a nice little weapon out of bamboo, cactus needle, weed, and some jean. I suppose all those lunch hours watching MacGyver really paid off. However, in all of my glory and excitement…

there was a problem…

I had a bamboo dart with a cactus needle stuck in my hand. Originally, I thought that the dart only entered into the callus part of my hand, but soon my thoughts were corrected. I then found Benaiah and showed him our accomplishment…which was a dart dangling from my hand. He expressed his excitement and then I proceeded to remove the dart…but it wasn’t coming out as easily as what I thought it would have. I then looked at Benaiah and said,

“Dude, I think it’s in there kinda deep.”

He replied, “Just give it a big ol tug.”

So, I pulled a little harder, but the skin around the dart pulled up with it and my ring finger moved forward.

I looked at Benaiah and said,

“Bro, it’s in there deep.”

“Just jerk it out” he said.

So, I latched on to the dart and jerked it out with all my might…

And it was a gusher to say the least…

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Love in All the Wrong Places
This past Friday I had the opportunity to visit a synagogue for the first time of my life. It wasn’t as Orthodox as what I might have liked, but it was Jewish through and through. The invitation was given to the college by Rabbi Moshe who teaches my Rabbinical Thought and Literature class. This is his home synagogue along with another professor from JUC. We arrived at the synagogue a little before 5pm and entered into a rectangular room which initially appeared that only ¾ of the room would be used. In the front of the synagogue there was a large and elegant cabinet with a curtain hiding its contents. There were white plastic chairs along the perimeter of the room in three sections. One on each side, then another towards the back that faced the cabinet and seemed to section off the last ¼ of the room which was nothing but open space.

The service began with a welcoming to all of the JUC students and was followed by singing Psalms and Jewish prayers in Hebrew for the next half hour or so. I adore listening to songs in Hebrew. Whenever I pray at the Western Wall I always end up flocking towards the Rabbi singing the Hebrew Scrolls. The beauty of it is moving and refreshing to me. After the singing was over everyone in the room started stacking all of the chairs and I raised an eyebrow in wonder of what was going to happen next.

It just so happened that this particular Shabbat was the Celebration of the Scrolls, which consisted of praising and singing to GOD for His giving of the Hebrew Bible. Synagogues all over the world are on the same basic calendar. The Torah readings for the week and the holidays are all practiced at the same time in every synagogue. After the chairs were moved we all stood and faced the cabinet in the front of the room. Then some men from the congregation opened the curtain and pulled out the scrolls.

That is when things really started hopping…

For the next two and a half hours the congregation danced in the unused ¼ of the room singing and praising GOD. They danced around in a circle, often having a circle inside of another rotating in separate directions with the scrolls in the center. There were seven “rounds” of dancing with the last round taking place outside. In between each round, was a little breathing break which consisted of a member of the synagogue praying underneath a prayer shawl.

Well, as it appeared the planets must have aligned and there must have been just enough Jewishness in the air, for my Caucasian Gentile self busted out a couple of Jewish jigs. It was during the second round that Rabbi Moshe grabbed and pulled me into the rotating dancing circle. Generally I do everything within my being to get out of having to dance. I can’t stand it. I only dance in front of the bathroom mirror with the door shut and locked. Even then I feel embarrassed and look around to see if someone is watching. However, who can resist Rabbi Moshe who is a direct descendant of Aaron?

The happiness and joy of the people filled the room and when I joined in I couldn’t get the smile off of my face. By the end of the service my face was sore from smiling so much. I joined in on my own free will during the seventh round. After the dancing was complete we entered the synagogue and the Rabbi read a section of the scriptures from the scrolls.

It was an experience that was completely new to me…

Which is sad when you think about it…

Why don’t we do this at my church at home? The general consensus of the "christian church", from my understanding, is this: our beliefs are right and is what is true; if you believe anything different than what we do then you are wrong and believe in lies. I find it remarkable that a church that is “right” and “true” often appears to be dull and complacent. And that a religious group that is often labeled “religious” and “legalistic” has more passion and love for GOD than what I have ever seen in the members of a “right” church.

Interesting isn’t it…?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Israel and so much more vol.2 (egypt edition)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This week is the holiday of Sukkot (Leviticus 23:34) The Feast of Tabernacles. During this time, the Jews are living in temporary shelters just outside of their homes or apartments called Sukkahs (Leviticus 23:42-43). These shelters remind me of when I was a child. I used to make a “tent” inside of my bedroom using blankets. The tabernacles that they build consist of connected fabric in the shape of a square and all have some sort of a see thru roof. Mainly the roofs consist of branches or something along those lines that have cracks in them so you can see the stars. Israel has two seasons: rain and no rain. Right now there is no rain, so the Sukkahs do not need to be weather proof. In the New City there are Sukkahs all over the place. Just about every apartment and restaurant have these shelters just outside there doors. Also, this time of the year is when Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike flock to Jerusalem.

The purpose of Sukkot is to be an annual reminder of God’s provision during the 40 year wilderness wondering when the Hebrews lived in similar structures. The holiday is filled with large meals and crazy Jewish shindigs. The other night I went to the “World’s Largest Sukkah” which is right here in Jerusalem. This Sukkah is in the center of a park which has a lot of palm trees at the entrance. All of the palm trees have various colored lights that project from the base and land in its leaves. Throughout the entire park there is a beautiful array of lights that greeted me as I headed inside. On the inside they had a live band playing, some art exhibits, and a lot of Orthodox Jews. I went rather early in the evening, so I hope to return sometime later this week to see everything in full swing.

For who knows…

If the planets align and if there is enough Jewishness in the air…

…then maybe my Caucasian Gentile self might be able to pull off a little Jewish jig…

Monday, October 02, 2006

Would You Like Some Manna With That?
Many of the significant events that took place in the Gospels are commemorated here in Israel, specifically Jerusalem. The standard way to commemorate a site where these events have taken place is to build a church on top of it. For example…

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the believed area where Jesus was crucified and buried

The Church of Nativity is build over the believed area where Jesus was born

The Church of all Nations is built over the Garden of Gethsemane

After awhile it begins to get rather hilarious…

There is…

The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu was built to commemorate Peter’s denial of Jesus

The Chapel of Flagellation was built to commemorate the flogging of Jesus

The Chapel of Condemnation was built to commemorate the laying on of the cross

The Basilica of the Annunciation is built over the believed area where Gabriel talked to Mary

The Church of St. Joseph was built to commemorate the humble family of Jesus

The Basilica of the Transfiguration was built over the believed area where Jesus was transfigured

The Church of St. Anne was built to commemorate the grandmother of Jesus

The Church of the Hospice was built over the believed area where Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes

and by far my personal favorite…

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (self explanatory)

Am I the only person who thinks this is absolutely hilarious, but more so ridiculous? All these places are just tourist attractions, like The World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas. I thought we stopped selling Christianity by the end of the Reformation?

Oh wait…

I forgot about Family Christian Bookstore...