The Fence

Monday I wrote about “those places”.  The sacred spots where God seems to break through the everyday haze of earthly stuff and remind us He’s there if we’re willing to pay attention.  Some of you shared wonderful stories of “your places” in the comments.  And then I received this from my delightful friend Liz, who lives in New Zealand.  She is a pray-er and a photographer, and former World Vision board member, but most of all she’s a Jesus follower.   
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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

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 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

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

What to do When You Don’t Have X-Ray Vision

I played a tennis match awhile ago against an amazon-like woman who wore her anger like the too-tight tennis dress she had on.

I tried to talk friendly. “Wow it looks like you’ve been somewhere warm!” I said admiring her tan.

She glared at me. “No.  No place,” she said emphatically.  “I just do this for tennis.” indicating a self-tanner.

“Have you played long?”

“Awhile.” Scowl.

We played.  She scowled more.  Gave terse answers to my attempts to get to know her.  Told me I was flat-out wrong on a line call.  She got mean.

She scared me.  Honestly!

I started praying while I played “Lord what is going on with this woman?”  This is crazy.  This is stupid soccer mom tennis, not Wimbledon.”

“Hurting people hurt people.” I heard in my head.  Then I realized it wasn’t anger she was wearing, but shame.  And sadness.

After the match I tried once again.  It turned out she was just back after maternity leave.  I’m sure she had been up with a baby and was sleep-deprived.  It became clear she was feeling fat and ugly and not at all “herself”.

I remember those hard-to-feel-beloved-when-you’re-so-cross-eyed-tired-and-barely-have-time-to-shower days.

It made me wonder how often we mistake shame for anger. We see the battle fatigues someone is wearing and miss the tattered t-shirt of pain hiding beneath.

Continue reading