Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Is God a JERK?

I had planned to walk into the Old City tonight, see the pilgrims coming to the Western Wall and stop and a store in the Jewish quarter to see if they had something Kathy had tried to get when the group from Ridge was here last November. But I didn’t make it. Instead I decided (or maybe I should say: God told me), that I needed to write. For two nights in a row, as I have sat down for dinner I have been embarrassed by Christians.

I have come to the conclusion that either God is an a**hole or many of us who claim to be Christians are. Why do I say that: the theme both nights was very much the same — If you are a Christian — you will be blessed by God, and if you don’t have things, then you are not doing what God wants you to do. And then how we need to save the Jews and Muslims.

Why are we Christians? Why are you? To get to heaven? To be blessed? Seriously, why? What motivates you? I don’t think we have a clue about the afterlife — how can we? Jesus almost never talks about an afterlife, instead he talks about a here life — the kingdom of God that should be growing inside us. And what does that kingdom look like? Well, listening to the table next to me tonight, or the gentleman who ate with me last night, it looks like a place paved with gold — just like the old hymns. Because God wants us to be children of the king and as the kings children do not live in poverty. What happened to "sell everything you own and follow me?" "Or clothe the naked, feed the hungry?"

Then of course they both launched into how the Muslims and Jews are all heathens (although the woman tonight kept saying how God would never break his covenant — I guess she meant with her, not with the Jews), and needed to be saved. Saved from what? Saved to what? America is one of the most violent nations in the world, with a higher level of social problems than almost anywhere else in the world — are we the model of what they should become? It made me sick, that we as Christians are so judgmental of everyone else in the world — that we believe everyone needs to become like us — or they will go to hell.

Here we are, in the land of the prince of peace, the one who came to bring hope and love to the least and the lost, the one who never judged – only loved, and yet I am filled with the voices of self-righteous angry people. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I believe in a God who is bigger than my little mind, a God who loves not just me, but the Jews and the Muslims and the Hindus and yes, even the non-believers. Because God is not an a**hole. God doesn’t play favors, God invites us all to come and know that love.

Maybe that is why I am here. To really see a God who cares. To see a God who reaches out and weeps that we are filled with bitterness, racism, greed and claim those things in God’s very name.

Thank you — for reminding me who you are — and who I am not!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Almost Ready to Give Up

Thanks Christina who is a good friends sister who's blog I have been following. She to is on a quest to experience God --- coming at it from a different place in life --- but a similar quests none the less.

Sitting here in my hotel room in Disney Land Israel (there is a lot of similarities to how people pilgrim to Disney and how the pilgrim to Israel), I was about ready to say: "Why am I doing this?" Christianity is not going to change --- people want to live with the fantasies that they have created about God, Jesus and the Bible. They don't want "THE WAY". But she brought me back to my senses.

Christianity has to change. It has become angry and militant --- striking out at people throughout the world who don't believe what we do and who aren't willing to support the Western style of life. We are a people of Jesus, a man who was murdered because he wouldn't go along with the easy way. A man who was hated and vilified because he threatened the "conservative" position. Just like the prophets before, Jesus called us back into a "real" relationship with God. A relationship build on understanding that all of creation is God's, so when we pollute, we are breaking that relationship --- when we take advantage of others (buy products produced at ridiculous wages so we can have it cheap and easy), we are breaking that relationship. When we do whatever we have to do to protect "the American Way of Life", and not God's WAY, we have broken that relationship. And when we continue to create the fantasy that the American way and God's way are the same --- we have totally lost our minds.

Wow, didn't expect all that to come out of my head.

Better shut up before I get into too much trouble.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Introduction --- Wresting With God

OK, here is the introduction to my material --- Comments, suggestions, PLEASE!

It all began with Dan Brown and his novel THE DA VINCI CODE. Well, that is not completely true. It really began, for me, as a child. I read the Bible, I went to church, but to be honest — some things just didn’t make sense. My parents, raised me in the church (my father is a retired minister), but, more importantly, they raised me with a sense that it was O.K. to ask questions. I didn’t have to "believe" everything at face value.

I was a history major in college. Maybe that is where the blame lies. In learning history, I learned that everything is seen through the lens of those who are telling the story. The history of an event, told from opposing sides, sounds sometimes like it is two different events — yet, they both told the truth. That lesson seeped over as I began to earnestly study the Bible and the history of the early Church.

Maybe Albert Schweitzer, the great doctor and missionary is too blame. As I studied his quest to find the historical Jesus, I realized that the only Jesus that we have is not a Jesus of history, but a Jesus of faith. That doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t live — I believe he did. But what we can know about the Jesus of history can never be isolated from the Jesus of faith.

While I have learned to live comfortably in that grey area of life, I know that many people struggle with this. I see this most profoundly in people who are what Bishop Spong calls "The Church Alumni". People who no longer can believe the doctrine of the church, yet are still looking for something. It is for them, and those who still toil in the church that I am writing this.

I want to share an e-mail I received from and 18 year old college student:

"I think it's a really good thing that you're working on a curriculum designed to help people deal with the questions and doubts that they should have about their faith. When I got old enough to realize how historically unreliable and intellectually fallible the Christian Bible is, I pretty much just gave it all up and was really angry because I felt like I had been lied to my whole life by teachers I thought I could trust at church. Kind of how a kid might feel when they finally figure out that Santa isn't real and that they were being systematically lied to.
As much as I wish I didn't, I still feel resentful.
It's really fascinating though, what an incredibly huge role religion plays in shaping the beliefs, views, and actions of huge groups of people all over the world. I am actually considering taking on a theology major because I think it would be a huge asset in my quest to better understand why the world works the way that it does. Right now I am taking a class called "Women In The Bible" and it is really very interesting, but I feel weird because the people in the class all believe in God and Jesus and stuff. I don't have anything against any person of any faith, but I guess I just feel like they probably look down on people like me. But I guess it's probably good for a little white suburban girl to start learning what it feels like to be in the minority for once.

It is to the Casey’s of this world that I am writing this. I believe religion matters. I believe faith matters. Maybe not how it is presented today, but I believe that it is only faith that can solve the worlds problems. Capitalism can’t because it just creates a world of haves and have nots. Socialism can’t because there is no motivation to achieve the greater good. Only faith offers that.

There is a great deal of excellent scholarship out there on the formation of the Bible and the early church. I claim no expertise. What I do claim, is that Christianity is still valid and important in the 21st Century.

The "Old" Christianity may be dead (or at least dying), but Christianity certainly is not. Jesus came to show us a way of life, and he died trying to teach us. My hope is that I will not simply de-construct the old, but will begin laying out a new understanding, a new glimpse of God through Jesus Christ.

I hope that you will join me on this journey as I wrestle with God. At times I will frustrate you, I times I will get you to rise out of your chair and tell me I’m wrong, and at times I will get you to say hallelujah. But more than anything I want to get you to think, to think about your faith — to think about what you do — and why you do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Couple more pictures

I guess my dad's way of saying he misses me, is to keep sending me pictures. Here's one of the cutest baby in the world. Taken in August of 1960

The other picture is of two of the three prettiest girls in the world!

Great Day

Wow, today has been one of my best days here in Israel. The day actually started last night. David Aarons, my friend who is a guide, came and got me around 8:00pm last night to show me Jerusalem. We wandered all over the city, through some historic Jewish neighborhoods, to the YMCA, King David Hotel, Machane Yahoda Market, Zion Square (where all the young people hang out), and then around 1230 we heading back into the Old City to the Western Wall which was filled with thousands of Jews coming to pray as the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur begin. Got home around 1:30, but still managed to get up at 530 so I could talk with Nancy online.

After a quick breakfast I decided to head to Emmaus. Along the way I needed gas and I stopped at Castel, once a crusader castle, but known for the role it played in the 1948 War of Independence. I then wandered through Emmaus for a while. On my way back, I stopped at the place where many historians believe that Emmaus really was (today it is a shopping mall). What made it fun was today was like December 24th. Everybody was running around trying to get ready for the holiday. While there I stopped at Pizza Hut (yes I wrote that correct) for lunch.

This evening I was invited by Hillel and Hanna Kessler to join them at their Synagogue for worship. Hillel described it as a unique synagogue made up of a bunch of ex-hippies. He compared it to a "Conservative" Synagogue in the states, but this worship was down right hip. I understood very little of the Hebrew, but the love for God came shining through. It was a blast.

My father keeps sending me these old pictures, so since this is the Jewish High Holy Days, I put this wonderful picture from Christmas 1963.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunrise --- Sunset

David Aarons, a good friend who is the best guide here in Israel suggested that I drive up on the Golan Heights to catch a sunset. The ride up was frightening. And not the part that I was right next door to Syria and could see their military outposts. The road was the one of the windiest (is that a word) I have ever been on. I did not look forward to the return trip after dark!

Once I arrived it was worth the effort. I took over 100 pictures, I hope some of them turn out.

The next morning, I figures I needed to get both the ying and the yang in harmony so I got up and took sunrise pictures.

Here is one of both.

Off to Jerusalem tomorrow. My stay in Tiberias has gone by fast.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Been a While

Sorry, I am finding it nearly impossible to keep up the website and the blog site, I am concentrating more on the web, I am taking about 100 pictures a day, so as you can imagine, it is not easy to keep it together.

Today is Sunday, and I thought I would take it easy. I have been pushing the limits and my body this morning said NO MORE. So after getting up at 5:30 (I went to bed at 9:00 because I knew I was beat), talking on line to a number of you, eating breakfast, I decided to forgo my plans for today and just take it easy. So I grabbed one of the movies I brought and sat down to watch MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. It was just what the Dr ordered. After I write this I am going to work on pictures --- Kathy wants me to select some to put up on the bulletin board at church, I am going to walk into Tiberias and eat lunch. If I feel up to it, I may go to Hamat Tiberias and Hamat Gader, but I kinda doubt it. I think I will just be lazy today. It seems like I have been running non stop, especially since I came to Tiberias (and this is supposed to be a laid back kinda town). There are just too many places that I still want to get to. I am really going to refocus and just concentrate on places that I have never been to before. And I will have to make some day trips from Jerusalem up here.

My father sent me a couple of pictures I thought you might get a kick out of. One is from around 1968, it is of Stewart and me (he is the younger one). It was titled first day of school, I assume he is entering kindergarten and I would be in 2nd grade. The second is from around 1977. The Glenview UMC would do musical theater once a year and this is take from "Little Mary Sunshine." I was a Canadian Mountie. Hope you enjoy the pictures, I sure did.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Check out the wonderful view off my balcony tonight. WOW!

Friday, September 08, 2006


Worked all morning on pictures and still haven’t gotten then up on line. I need to try and figure out a better way of getting them up. At lunch time, I decided that I had enough time inside stuck on the computer and that I needed to head into the Old City. I grabbed my camera and off I trekked. My first stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I am not sure why. It is the traditional site for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. I walked around taking a look (I have been dozens of times) found a room that I read about, but did not have a flashlight with me, so I will have to return again. I started to walk out, but instead, found myself climbing the stairs to the traditional site of Calvary (all in the same building).

I found myself watching people. Again, like yesterday, there were not many people in the Church. What fascinated me was how people reacted. Some reacted just like I expected, deeply moved by the place, and tortured by what took place 2,000 years ago. Others, however, reacted very differently. The posed for pictures in front of the altar or the statuary. Now that is not strange, because many people have friends take their pictures at these Holy places, but they didn’t just take pictures, they posed and postured for the camera. It was as if they were getting their picture taken with Tom Cruse instead of a icon or altar for Jesus.

Now, I guess I should be really honest with you. I felt nothing. There is a song that talks about that, and it is driving me crazy — I think it is from a musical — maybe Chorus Line, and it kept playing in my head. I felt nothing. The death of Jesus, murdered at the hands of the Romans and the Religious elite, is a horrible reality — but for me, it is not an event to pose for the camera for, any more than I would in front of a display at the Holocaust museum.

Jesus died, because what he invited us to do, to become a part of what too tough. He died, because we didn’t like what he had to say. Yesterday, we got into a discussion about the "literal interpretation" of the Scriptures; are they the "exact" words of God. I don’t believe they are and I was sharing why I didn’t believe that when one of the women turned to me (knowing I was a pastor) and asked: "How many churches have fired you?’ Isn’t that what we did with Jesus? We didn’t like his message, so we fired him?

I needed to leave the Church and go someplace where I could "feel" something. So I wandered through the city to two of my favorite churches. The Dormition Abbey (the church where Mary is said to sleep), and St Peter in Gallicantu (the church remembering Peter’s denial of Jesus). I was alone in both places and I felt something. I felt the peace of God flow over me. A peace that comes despite the racism and religious intolerance that was all around me. A peace that said, we can make a difference — if only we are willing to stand up for what we believe (take up your cross and follow me, is how Jesus put it). As I write I feel that peace and pray that you too, can be filled with God’s gracious peace.

I hate the wall

I went with the Education Opportunites group that is here to Bethlehem and Jericho. I am not allowed to take my rental car into the Palestinian Autonomous Areas, that meant if I wanted to go to Bethlehem or Jericho I would have to catch a ride. Last year Israel began building a wall to fence in the Palestinian people. They do it because it is from these areas that the suicide bombers came. And in the sort term the results have been impressive.

BUT, building walls, isolating people, locking people into small areas and restricting them does not encourage love and cooperation, instead it breeds anger and resentment --- which too often turns into violence.

On section of the wall I saw this slogan painted

  • Shame on Israel
  • Shame on America

Is that a fair statement?

I guess it is one that we must each wrestle with.

Jericho is totally isolated. The city was like a ghost town. There is no work, and even if there was work, there is no money to pay anybody.

I have no doubt that the money that has been given to support the Palestinians is not making it into the hands and homes of the average person.

I wish I had a solution. All I know is walls have never worked.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Adventure has begun!

I am sitting at O’Hare International Airport, waiting for a flight to take me to Atlanta so that I can connect with another flight to Tel Aviv. Seems like I am going backward, but it just makes the day a little longer. The flight to Atlanta is gonna be full, but when I checked the web this morning, the flight to Tel Aviv looks like there will be plenty of available seats — I sure hope so, otherwise it will be a long flight.

This morning was a mad rush of getting everything packed (most was done yesterday) and wondering what I have left behind. I also had to finish the book I was reading: Patricia Cornwell, Hornet’s Nest, I had 20 pages to go, so I had to somehow finish it this morning. The book was great, the ending stunk. Oh well. Just to tell you how crazy I was today, I stopped on my way to O’Hare to make sure that I had my passport (I did). I just have this nagging feeling that I forgot something . . . Zephie (our dog) was very anxious, because he knew that something was going on. It was hard walking out the door.

I am scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv at 6 pm local time (which is about 10 am Chicago time), then the fun begins. Going through security, finding my luggage, and then renting a car, let alone making the hour or so drive to Jerusalem. No doubt the traffic will be bad when I get there. Once I get to the hotel I plan on crashing until Thursday morning. I will get up, have breakfast and walk into the old city of Jerusalem and get my act together for the rest of the time.

Thanks to everyone who has wished me well. Thanks especially to Diane and Michelle for the great book (Jonathon Kellerman: The Butcher’s Theater), they picked it because it is set in Jerusalem. I’ll let you know how it is.

WELL, I have arrived and am doing great, but it is 10:30 here and I am off to bed, I will get pictures up tomorrow, while you sleep. So far, I haven’t found anything that is missing!