Learning the Language of Peace

Ok, so here’s the thing.  Two years ago when I traveled back to the Holy Land, I didn’t know where the West Bank was.  West Bank of what?   And if the West Bank is so important, what’s up with the East Bank?  Anything?

1891059_10203327900987783_1220786500_n

I didn’t know what, where, or why the settlements were so controversial.  The Nakba? Is that a type of falafel?  It was all Greek, (or, more accurately, Hebrew) to me.

I didn’t know the mean things Muslims had done to Christians, or Christians had done to Jews, or Israelis had done to Palestinians.  Or what everyone had done to everyone else. Continue reading

Enough

I’m writing this from the balcony of another hotel in Israel.  This time in Jerusalem.  It’s early morning and church bells were just echoing nearby.  I kind of expect to see Maria from the Sound of Music scurrying by below me – late to morning mass.  But here she’d be passing Imams and Rabbis as she ran.  A tad different than Salzburg.

My times here in the Middle East are always ones of competing images.

Yesterday morning we spent time in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. I try to picture him running the hills of pine and cypress trees and working by His father, the carpenter. In the afternoon we were in Galilee, where Jesus fed crowds, and healed and preached on the Mount of Beatitudes.  He walked on the water and calmed the same.

And Jesus walks alongside me with the command that often seems impossible, “Be still and know that I am God.”

photo-80

Alongside these visual reminders of Jesus’ time on earth are the overwhelming images of a land divided, a land in conflict – unable, seemingly, to get along.  Israelis and Palestinians.  Christians, Muslims, Jews.  Some think supporting the state of Israel means hating Arabs. Others think that those who want to talk about the plight of Palestinians must hate Israel. Continue reading

Starting in Tel Aviv

Good morning from Tel Aviv!  I wrote on Monday that I’m going to be traveling in Israel/Palestine this week. It’s a trip devoted to entering into the heart of God for peace and reconciliation. Today we’ll spend some time here and in Nazareth.

We just arrived last night so I’m a little fuzzy, but I’m wondering if you might want to join me virtually.  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post or how much time I’ll have to reflect, but this morning here was my view from the top of our hotel as I soaked in the goodness of God (that’s pretty easy to do with this view, sunshine and 70 degrees).

photo-79

As I sat here, these are the words I read.  As you read them, what words stand out to you? Continue reading

Changing the Conversation

Last night most of America was watching the Oscars...the red carpet beautiful people who seem to be as good at dodging questions as a politician running for office.  Many questions the press hurls at them are inappropriately personal or just stupid.  Who wouldn’t want to avoid some of that?  But there are other times when changing the conversation is positive, and important to growth.

This afternoon I’m leaving on a trip to Israel/Palestine.  I’m traveling with a few people from our church, led by Telos, an organization we’ve been partnering with that desires to engage evangelicals in conversations with Israelis and Palestinians pursuing peace.

This is hard stuff.  Complicated and intense and emotional, and personal for so many.  Frankly, I might prefer it if Jesus invited me to follow Him into, say…Hawaii maybe. Continue reading

What Hagar Taught me About Peace, part 2

 I thought it might be timely to share two posts from a couple years ago. Here’s the second.

Some things are just tough.

Like figuring out why people are fascinated with Snooki, or how to fold fitted sheets, or what makes some people able to eat a kabillion Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt and not gain a pound.

Or, you know…how to achieve peace between all the people in all the places.

When it comes to the Middle East I keep wanting to say, “Lord I’m a bear of Very Little Brain” like Winnie the Pooh.

I have a long way to go, but God is patient and often a theme gradually emerges.  Yesterday I wrote

The truest thing I’m learning about peace is that keeping people at a distance makes it easy to demonize them.

But coming close topples the walls of misunderstanding.

This morning God reinforced this as I re-read the story of when God comes close to Hagar. Continue reading

What a Drive-By Taught me About Peace in Israel

Peace.  We hear a lot about it.  Or the lack of it.  We talk about it when we talk about the Olympics.  Or Syria.  Or anywhere there’s been a shooting at a mall or school.  In a few weeks I’m heading back to Israel/Palestine with an organization called Telos that has the goal of working with evangelicals to help positively trans­form the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  They are pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-peace.  I thought it might be timely to share two posts from a couple years ago. Here’s the first.

Last week I was driving around running errands, preparing for our daughters to arrive for a visit and for me to leave for Israel/Palestine.  I changed into the left lane to zip ahead of an old blue-green mini station wagon.  As I accelerated past I noticed the car was significantly bashed in as if from an accident.  A man was driving the car, smoking a cigarette and talking on his cell phone.

Confession.  Here are the three thoughts that went through my head:  This guy is irresponsible, unsafe, and makes unhealthy choices. Continue reading

Lost In Soweto and Bethlehem

“Let us drown out the howling nonsense of Gomorrah with the melodies of the New Jerusalem.” – Spurgeon

In 1996, shortly after the Rwandan genocide, just when AIDS was gaining attention, not many years after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, we got lost in Soweto.

There were six of us, white americans crammed in a car, driving around in circles until we stumbled upon the place where Nelson Mandela came and spoke after his release from prison. As I remember, it it was large and cavernous.  We walked inside, the only ones there.

In the silence, our friend started singing in a crystal clear voice, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

The notes softly bounced off the ceiling, the floor, the walls.  It was a holy moment.  We let it wash over us.  It was a melody of the New Jerusalem.

Many years later I walked into the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, crowded with tourists, wanting a piece of Jesus, but not necessarily wanting the sacrifice necessary for Peace. Continue reading

Peace in the Middle East and at Starbucks, the Sequel

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
Orson Welles 

I shared the beginning of a story last week and today, the tide of the war has turned once more.  This morning usurper guy was back in “my” spot.  I think he may have looked a tad guilty as I walked by.

photo-58

John says he thinks it’s more like an illegal immigrant situation than a land fight in the Middle East.  He blames our friend Cory, the barista, or “border guard” for letting usurper guy slip through.  Cory says he just turned his back for a minute…took a break.  He doesn’t want to take responsibility for losing ground on his watch.

I sit at my “less than best” table and look longingly at what I’ve lost.  But then I screw up my courage, walk over, introduce myself.  I try to make small talk. Continue reading

Peace in the Middle East and at Starbucks

You see, I have this table at Starbucks.  It’s mine“.  Everyone knows it’s my office of sorts.  Every morning I arrive early and work there for several hours.

The toddler who peeks around the corner each day looking to share his cheese crackers with me knows where I am.

The ever-present chatty Brit – the “Norm” of our “Cheers” knows where to find me.

Mark, the doctor, stops by to say “hi”.

Anyone who ever meets with me ever knows where to come.

I like to think it’s a place where kingdom work is being pursued.

And I like to think there’s a special ambiance or aura around my table.  I feel more inspired when I sit there.  It’s comfortable.  I can spread out.  And it’s the perfect distance from coffee and people.  Close enough to be convenient, and far enough to not be interrupted too much.

desk

So here’s the problem. Continue reading

“That” Person

I’ve thought a lot about this.

If I ever become an actress (Don’t laugh.  It could happen!), and I have a scene where I have to cry on cue, no sweat.  I’ve got this one covered.  Not because I’m particularly weepy (I’m really not at all, you know).  But because all I’ll have to do is think of “that person.”

You know.  “That person”.

I’m betting you have one too.  The person who won’t forgive you.

Or the one you thought loved you, but then betrayed, or rejected, or ignored, or walked away from you.  Or the one who pronounced a judgment that you’ve let define you.

Or the child you love who is making destructive choices, far from Jesus and you can’t control them or fix it and your heart is breaking.

And all it takes is for you to hear a certain song that brings back memories, or drive by a place where you used to feel welcome, or to accidentally see them.  Or not at all.

Continue reading