- Orthdox Jews seem strange at first. They seem strange only because of our limited exposure to them as a people. We see black hats, long and curled sideburns, prayer tassels, and rhythmic prayers. The more I was around them, the more I saw in them humor, faith, love for family, and industry. It troubled me to think that the "strange" initial perception is the same thought that, left unchecked, gave rise to some of the worst human rights abuses in history. Orthodox Jews may seem strange at first, but so do you. And so do I.
- Take a pilgrimage. I've mentioned it several times in these postings, but this is huge. No one who went with us on that trip came back thinking, "That was nice." As if the trip was no big deal. We were all profoundly affected by being in the Holy Land. Faith in Jesus Christ is the central identity of the Christians. Make it a lifetime goal to spend time in the land where Jesus lived. Several have asked and I am putting list together of who is ready to go in the next 18 months. I'll lead the trip. Let me know.
- Make friends with a person of another country. I mean open-your-homes-and-share-your-dreams kind of friendship. It will broaden your world and improve your life. Joke: "What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? An American." Yeah. Not that funny when you think about how inwardly-focused we are. Get beyond yourself and make a new friend from another culture. Invite that person over for dinner or out for coffee. You will both be better for it.
- Friends are better than riches. When I returned from Israel, I spent two days with Pastor Cho and his family. We prayed for peace at the museum at Ground Zero in NYC. We ate together and laughed together. We decided to skip a visit to the Statue of Liberty and instead sat down at a table overlooking the Hudson River and talked. I was reminded again that most people, men especially, don't have others who really know them and they can claim as great friends. The Bible tells stories of friends like David and Jonathan, Barnabbas and Paul, and Ruth and Naomi. Invest time and energy into those friendships. They are life-giving.
- Prayer can change your life. Prayer is powerful and transformative. When we sat in silent prayer on the Sea of Galilee, prayed as a group at the Garden Tomb of Jesus, or when I experienced a Korean early morning prayer service with Pastor Cho's congregation, I was reminded again of the power of prayer. In prayer, we are in personal communication with God. The perfect combination of inner devotional practice would be Bible reading and prayer. Many do neither, and most lean toward one over the other. Pray. It can change your life.
- Pack light in life. We have too much stuff. Really. I had up to 50 lbs of luggage I could take on a 14-day trip. I brought 30 lbs and had more than enough. When we have too much "stuff" we have to manage that stuff. We have to think about it and take care of it. Why not simplify instead? Get rid of it. De-emphasizing material possessions allows us to concentrate on what really matters most in life - relationships. That is, the relationship with God and with others. Loving God and loving others was Jesus' answer to the greatest of all commandments. Pack light and focus on love.
- Being there physically matters. Where ever "there" is, actually being there matters. Social media like Facebook and Twitter will never replace physically being with a person. Phone calls will never replace a personal visit in terms of impact. Hearing about a person's home will never replace actually going to that home. Hearing about the Holy Land will never replace actually going there.
- Home really is where your heart is. I know that sounds like a Hallmark card, but it is true. Your town and your house are not your "home." Your home is where those you love most are. It so happens that my home is the same place as my house and town, because Cile is located here and it is where our daughters have a sense of home as well. In a broader sense, if home is where those we love most are, it means that ultimately heaven is our home. In the Bible, Paul echoes this in Philippians when he writes that "our citizenship is in heaven."
- People everywhere want to know that they matter. In the middle of haggling with the bedouin who accused me of making him poor with my negotiations, the man wanted to tell me about his children. This wasn't a sales technique to win my sympathy. In his eyes he communicated that his family was important to him. At a deeper level, he wanted to let me know that he mattered to someone in this world. It is a profound desire in all of us. We want to know that someone in this life cares about us, and that when we die we will be missed. In the constant noise around Jerusalem, the Pentecost-like buzz of the world languages spoken by pilgrims from everywhere, I found myself thinking, "Every person here matters to God... and therefore to me."
- Cover your head when having a holy moment. We covered our head before going to the Western Wall. It was a sign of respect and humility before God who was present. Maybe next time you experience the intense presence of God, you might cover your head as an intentional act of respect and humility before God. For the same reason, maybe you should cover your head when you read Scripture or pray. Maybe you should cover your head when a child is born and God seems more intensely present than ever, or when God heals you when healing was not expected. Covering the head could be the physical reminder for us we are dealing with a holy and awesome God. It could be a beautiful new practice for you that will deepen your experience of God.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Top 10 From Israel
I came back to the states with a sinus infection. I'm thankful I didn't have it on the trip like the people who were kind enough to infect me. Clogged ears tends to get you inward-reflecting since about 50 percent of the outward world is heard. I've been thinking about what this trip has meant - what new things I've learned or old things I've remembered. In no particular order, here are some things I've thought: