“I had no idea how much I love limestone,” I said to Ron over and over as we walked around Israel.
“Me, too,” he said.
“I love its look, its texture, and its smell,” I said.
The sandstone color lit up the land.
As we toured the country there were certain places I thought I’d feel indifferent about, but it turned out I absolutely loved. Qumran was one of those places. It’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Toward the end of the second century B.C. and during the first century A.D., the Essenes, a Jewish sect, lived and studied at the site. In addition to composing non-biblical writings (prayers, commentaries, and hymns), the Essene scribes copied down Hebrew Scripture in a special room called the Scriptorium. The scribes were so accurate and precise—down to every last jot and tittle—that a single mistake meant the page/scroll was discarded and the scribe started his work over. In 1947, Bedouin shepherds discovered seven of the ancient scrolls. Archaeologists then excavated the area and found thousands of manuscript fragments. The scrolls had been so well preserved because the Essenes hid them inside pottery jars before they placed the jars in arid limestone caves (the “library”). The Dead Sea Scrolls include portions or complete copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther. It was so neat to see a handful of the scrolls on display—they’re the oldest known copies of biblical texts.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been back home for three weeks now. In much of the time since, I’ve been squirreled away at the Colorado cabin, writing, writing, writing. I now call my writing area the Scriptorium. The word means “place of writing.”
Here’s Ron on the bedrock in Nazareth. The same bedrock that was in Nazareth 2,000 years ago when Jesus lived and (maybe) the same bedrock Jesus climbed and ran and scrambled on with his Nazarene friends.
In Nazareth, we walked a donkey path and saw the different vegetation and soil types of the region.
We talked about the parable of the sower. A gardener went out to sow. Some seed (1) fell on the path; (2) other fell in rocky soil; (3) other fell among thorns; and (4) other fell into the good soil. The parable tells what became of all the seeds (Luke 8:4-15). I often thought I fit the third category. Too often I get tangled up in the riches of this world and choked by its worries. But after my trip to Nazareth I wondered about the rocky soil. Is my faith shallow? And the soil that fell on donkey path. Is my heart too hard to receive the word of God?
Let’s root firmly in God’s grace.
Olive leaves, like those growing on the tree of this 400-year-old beauty, symbolize peace. (“But the fruit of the spirit is . . . peace.” ~ Gal. 5:22)
There is a passage in the Bible where Jesus wept for the city of Jerusalem. Near the end of his ministry, Jesus rode a colt as he descended the Mount of Olives. The crowds cheered joyfully, yet Jesus wept. He wept not for himself (even though within days the crowds would cry, “Crucify!”), but for a people who didn’t know “the things which make for peace.”
Ron and I were able to visit Israel this month. I am forever changed. It’s hard to describe . . . it’s like an earthquake trembled inside my body and left fundamental corrections on a physical level, a spiritual level, and every level in between. In addition to foundational shifts, my spirit was stirred. And I experienced a wide spectrum of emotions.
Emotion is one of my favorite topics. Our culture is obsessed with emotions, especially the one called happiness. (This puzzles me. Why would we want to feel the exact same emotion all the time?) On the other hand, I think the church dismisses emotions too hastily. True, it’s a bad idea follow every fickle feeling with an action, but emotions can serve a purpose and I think we ought to pay attention to them. Emotions are a beautiful gift from God.
In due time, I’ll write about some of my “emo” moments in Israel—Mount Carmel, Mount Moriah, the bedrock of Nazareth, the caves of Ein Gedi, the shores along the Sea of Galilee, the hallows of Caesarea Philippi, the views from Mount Arbel.
But for now, I’ll simply share this: In Israel I never had a good chance to sit with my emotions. The days were crammed. So I carried my feelings with me—accumulated them—as I tried to keep up with all the sites to see, notes to take, budding friendships to nurture, delicious Israeli food to eat, archeological lessons to learn, and biblical teachings to soak up. (At times I literally caught myself trying to listen to the tour guide with my left ear and the pastor with my right ear—impossible for my brain.)
Twelve days after we left, we walked in the front door of our Virginia townhome. When morning broke, I went alone up to my loft. The floodgates opened.
I wept in gratitude – for the trip of a lifetime.
I wept in wonderment – for a gorgeous country and the beauty of God’s creation.
I wept in reverence – for the deliberate hand of God; the intention behind his ways.
I wept in despair – for all the mornings I’ve skipped reading Scripture.
I wept in joy – for a new understanding of the living Word.
I wept in sadness – for our fleeting time on this earth.
I wept in gratefulness – for God’s everlasting love.
And I wept in sorrow – for Jerusalem, a city that still does not know peace. For a world that’s turned it’s back on God.
I’ll wrap up now, but here’s the takeaway: THIS is the greatest book ever written. Read it. Daily. Always.
“Read and study your bible every day. Find time where you can hole up and commune with God’s spirit, and God’s word, and God’s third greatest gift to man . . . coffee.”
-M. Easley, our teaching pastor in Israel
Three days after we moved (from Virginia to Virginia), I woke up and said, “Get me outta here.” The power was still out. It was still 100+ degrees and unbearably muggy. But it just so happened that we had booked tickets to Colorado for July 4. We literally traveled from one disaster zone to another. The Colorado wildfires were raging. We weren’t that close to Colorado Springs, but our town was 12 miles away from a smaller fire. We were glad when the rain poured, except that also meant lightening. Ron and I were driving out of our mountain community when he pointed to the left. “Look–that pine tree is on fire.*” At first I only saw smoke around the base. Then I glanced higher. Yellow flames. Cripes. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned how remote our cabin is . . . we are pretty far away from a fire department (although the fire department proved to be useless because it was off-hours, so when I called I got a recorded message with no option to press X to report a fire . . . weird**). Thankfully, one of the other residents in our community had a water truck with a pressure hose. 500 gallons later, our community was safe.
We always see a new animal when we visit. This time it was a beautiful Golden Eagle. I also saw a bear when I was hiking alone. I had a whistle and canister of pepper spray. You know the old joke: When I go missing, look for bear poop that contains a whistle and canister of pepper spray.*** I also saw some sort of animal (not sure what) chase and catch a chipmunk. As destructive as chipmunks can be, I marched up to the attacker and the animal dropped the chipmunk and ran off. If I had gloves, I would have taken ol’ chippy home and nursed him back to health (his head was bleeding****). But afterward, I questioned whether it was right to interfere with nature. And then I pondered how I’d feel if the attacking animal starved to death because I chased him away from his dinner.
*I would put an exclamation point here, but Ron never speaks in exclamation points. He’s very calm.
**I witnessed lightening engulf a palm tree in Santa Monica once. When I called 911 I was reprimanded and told I was supposed to report fires to the fire department, not 911.
***She was gorgeous. And honestly, I wasn’t scared in the least. She took off when she spotted me.
****I hope it was only a ripped ear.
Well, Moving Day was eventful. I decided I’d take care of the “little stuff” myself and leave only the big furniture for the professional guys. My sorting, organizing, and purging project started off with a bang, and I expected it to continue along swimmingly. I had worked out a schedule where I turned in a writing assignment and didn’t have to start the next one until the following week. Five whole days to deal with cereal bowls, lamps, and hundreds of books. I planned to dust, wash, or polish every item we intended to take with us. I wanted to decide–down to the last golf pencil–what we’d keep and what we’d give away.
There was a chance I’d have to work on-site for a publication a few days that week, but no biggie. I’d still have the remaining few days to do nothing but move. That was Plan B. When I had to work all five days, I was happy (I love the pub) and resorted to Plan C, moving in the evenings. When I ended up working long hours that ran late, I resorted to Plan D: an all-nighter on Friday (the professional movers were due at 8 a.m. Saturday). So Friday night, just as I picked up my first object to pack, the storm swept down our street. I happened to be standing by my window where, right outside, the power lines caught fire and slapped against the trees. It reminded me of that scene in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox rides the DeLorean out of 1955 with lightening and electrical wires. I don’t know how our townhouse didn’t go up in flames. Anyway, the power went out. Darkness.
The movers showed up early Saturday. Two brothers. Young guys. Bless their hearts, they worked so hard as they lugged trunks and bed frames and dressers down three levels (old place) and then up four levels (new place) in 100+ degree heat. Meanwhile, Ron and I grabbed what we could and threw our crap into boxes. The rest of the sorting, purging, and organizing would have to take place on the other end of the move (Plan E). That night, surrounded by crumpled packing paper and bubble wrap, we came up with the brilliant idea to stay in a hotel with artificial lightbulbs and air conditioning. “The closest availability is Philadelphia,” numerous hotel clerks told us. For two days, we wandered around our new place naked and hungry.
We still don’t have power, but who cares? We’re safe. We’re happy. We took showers by candlelight. We discovered a new breakfast spot in Alexandria. We made friends with random stragglers who
weren’t smart enough to book a hotel in a timely manner either decided to hunker down and tough it out. We opted not to pop the cork on our now lukewarm champagne. But we still celebrated. In an odd way, our new place doesn’t feel unfamiliar or weird, the way new places often do. It feels like home.
We are moving .85 miles away from our current place. I’ve been on a sorting, purging, and organizing binge. Trying not to move a single item we don’t want, need, or love. When I clutch a piece of clothing that I haven’t worn in a year and think, Ooh, but I might need this for [fill in totally random event here], I remind myself that clothes do not get better with age. In the donations pile it goes. When I agonize over an item that I don’t want, need, or love, but that’s “too cute” to give up, I remind myself that it’s not right for me, but someone else will adore it. And then I can loosen my grip.
Let’s see . . . what else? Everything needs a place. The cooler, thermos, disposable cups, and disposable forks are stored together because they’re plastics. The pots and pans go in the cupboard closest to the stove. After almost nine years of marriage, our wedding china is now displayed in . . . drum roll please . . . our china cabinet. Not rocket science, I know, but I had to talk to a professional organizer to learn this stuff. I don’t have the gift.
Photos belong in picture frames (or scrapbooks). I flipped out when I browsed the boutique stores and saw that 4×7 picture frames were going for about $70. WHAT?! No way was I spending that much, but at least the idea was on my radar. So the other day, when I stumbled across super adorable $10 wooden frames that were an additional 50% off, I snatched them up immediately. Now I have a display of Ron swinging a golf club at his various tournaments over the years. Once I fix my broken scanner (one of my projects . . . I’m creating projects, with a deadline, for things that I need to deal with eventually but not urgently), I’ll upload the photo of him with his 80s haircut and the eyeglasses to match.
Do you have any other tips for me? I’d love to hear them.