We have spent the last couple of days setting up housekeeping including expanding our kitchen beyond the small frig that came with the room and getting a drying rack for clothes, as dryers are unheard of here. Laundry hangs everywhere all the time.

We also connected with the German organist and ELCA pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, a German-based parish that supports Lutheran congregations from around the world: English Arabic, Swedish, Finnish and others. I will sub for the German organist on Maundy Thursday on the organ (flat pedal board!) in the main church and for Ash Wednesday on the piano for the English congregation.

We were invited for dinner and a lecture at Tantur Ecumenical Center near Bethlehem on Tuesday night. We found out later that the ELCA pastor’s husband is in charge of that program! I have been interested in the program’s at Tantur for a while now and so look forward to finally seeing the compound.

We continue to walk long distances every day exploring new parts of the Old City. John managed to connect with an Ethiopian priest at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and find out about their Easter services; they begin at 7 pm Saturday and go through into Easter day.

Tomorrow, I hope to walk the Stations of the Cross with the Franciscans who walk it every Friday at 3 pm. Since we are living on the Via Dolorosa, way of the cross, we hear pilgrim groups from early in the morning on singing their way between stations.

With Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, much of the country will shut down beginning at 2 pm on Friday and continuing through sundown on Saturday. We have to plan our grocery shopping in advance!

Slowly, we are settling into this place, focusing less on the work of living here and more on the life God has invited us to for this brief window. Shalom and good night.

 

We both woke up really early due to jet lag. We spent the day getting organized: buying cell phones, a plug for the bathroom sink, food for our little frig at the Mahane Yehuda food market. The pomegranates at some of the stalls were massive! We did a lot of walking, through old places and new. Here are some of the things we saw:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopian Coptic church (exterior only as it was closed).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remnant from much larger Russian Orthodox compound.

 

 

 

Pieta-like statue at Armenian Orthodox Church.

And a few roof-top scenes from the Armenian Catholic guest house roof where we are staying, including room towels drying.

 

 

 

 

A very diverse city, culturally and religiously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shalom and good night.

 

We arrived at Ben Gurion airport north of Tel Aviv about 4 PM local time: sunny, 60s. It was a good flight, meaning long but uneventful, good food, slept about 4 hours, no screaming babies. They began loading two hours before departure in NYC as we all had to go through a second security check in the gate area.

Once we got our bags, we got into a Sherut (shuh-root), a shared taxi. They hold 10 people and luggage and drop you off where you want in Jerusalem, a 45 minute drive away. It was good to “go up to Jerusalem” again through the Shafela (hills mentioned in the Bible) as the last time we were here, we came to Israel through Ammon, Jordan.

We lugged over 150 pounds of luggage across the street, down many steps and through the Damascus gate, and after a few false turns, managed to land at 36 Via Dolorosa: the Armenian Guest House. After an hour of settling in, learning how to turn on the heat (it is quite chilly here tonight), remembering that we can’t flush the toilet paper, getting the WiFi to work, and all of those other Middle Eastern details, we wandered back out the Damascus Gate, crossed the street, and had the most wonderful falafel supper.

The Old City shops tend to close down at sunset so we will do major exploring and shopping to make our room more comfortable tomorrow.

No pictures to post; it was dark and I am going to get ready for bed here soon. We are excited to be here, our first time just the two of us have been here as we have always traveled with others on our previous trips.

Mostly, I wanted you to know that we are safely here. Shalom and good night!

In 1993, John and I made our first trip to Israel. It was on a tour and it was life-changing. Halfway through, I realized the trip had become a pilgrimage for me. I also remember standing at Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, looking at the ancient ruins of the city and the nearby Roman aqueduct and thinking, I want to retire here. (There is a residential neighborhood just down the road from the archeological site.) In subsequent trips, driving with family or friends, we discovered Zihkron Ya’akov, a wonderful village on a hill overlooking the ancient village of Dor, where they are doing underwater archeological excavations. Once, we stumbled into a little hut and were shown an encrusted sword that had been at the bottom of the sea since the time of Napoleon that the  local-but-famous archeologist talking to us had uncovered. Zihkron Ya’akov is a lovely village, off-the-beaten tourist path. There is little English, unlike the heavily trafficked tourist areas,  and so eating in a restaurant became an exercise in trust: “feed me” vs. trying to order specifically from the menu written only in Hebrew. We were delighted with what we got.

Throughout the years, we have lead tours, done driving trips, and John even did a solo walking trip at one point. We’ve been to Jordan, Israel’s (mostly) friendly neighbor three times as well, twice with tour groups, once driving on our own. Always in the back of our minds, we had the dream of spending an extended time in the region. Image result for free photo jerusalem

This spring, everything has lined up and we are going to Jerusalem for three months. I will be focusing on Lent and Holy Week practices in both the Western and Eastern churches, which share April 16th as Easter this year. John wants to walk every street in the Old City and has a list of bakeries he plans to check out. I will be subbing for the organist at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Maundy Thursday and then walking with the congregation to Gethsemane for prayer. We plan to spend unrestricted time at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. We will get a membership to the Israeli museum. We will eat at the restaurant by the Fifth Station of the Cross, get falafel at the Jaffa Gate, and buy coffee from our favorite coffee vendor in the Old City. We will spend time at the American Colony Hotel and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In short, we hope to soak more deeply into a place that has been meaningful and life-changing for us both.

You can come with us through my blog. On this page, under “Stay Connected” on the right side, click the orange button (the RSS feed). It will take you to a page that has a link called “Subscribe.” Click on that. By subscribing to my blog, you will get a notice every time I post something.

So “Life in This Old House” is going to take a break and “Life on the Road” will commence shortly. I hope you will ride along!

 

Here at this old house, we are preparing for a kind of “reverse tide.” A reverse tide is where a river meets a bay and as the tides shift, the water begins to reverse course from the bay back into the river. The mid-point of this transition becomes a scene of turbulence and confusion of rapids and waves until an equalization point happens. Then, 12.5 hours later, the process reverses itself and the river flows back into the bay.

Tomorrow, after 20+ years, I am leaving a wonderful ministry and steady income to go off on a bucket-list adventure. Later, there will be a time of looking for next steps, including a new source of income. In the days ahead, there will be times when I won’t know which way the water is flowing, causing feelings of confusion and turbulence as the old and the new seek to find a balance with each other. However, like the powerful pull of the moon on the tides here on earth, my heart is being drawn forward by the powerful pull of the Holy Spirit. Something deep within me is stirring and I must respond to wherever it will lead.

The ancient Irish monks used to follow God’s will by getting in a round boat, called a coracle, without oars and letting the wind and currents carry them to a new land to begin a new call from God in that place. In many ways, that is what I am doing. It is an internship in radical trust and complete faith in God’s good and gracious hand.Image result for free photo coracle with no oars

Stay tuned!

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