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Archive for April, 2012

22 April 2012

Tonight I passed by a girl dressed in jeans and a fitted t-shirt.  She was on a  call, yet, we made eye-contact, and respectively nodded to one another.

Earlier, I was shocked when an Orthodox Jewish man approached me for help.  This has occurred twice this week.  Normally the men avoid any contact or communication with women whom they are not related to, or so it seems.  They remain untempted.

First impressions prove to influence our ability to greet strangers or even to connect in a business crowd.  But what is it that allows us to accept and appreciate someone without knowing them?

For me, I always considered a person’s sense of style to be an illustration of their identification–a painting demonstrates who a painter is, as does a person’s wardrobe.

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22 April 2012

If I don’t miss someone does that mean I don’t love them?

At times, especially during my travels, I find myself not thinking about those I have left behind. However, when I am alone and in a place of peace, praying to the Father, it is most often a different story.  Prayer is communicating with God about our personal needs but also for the people around us.

Anyways… when I find myself forgetting about people, I quickly consider the value I hold on our relationship. However, here I am living unlike I have ever done before.  I am intentional about embracing the culture I am within in a particular moment, and living accordingly.  Holding onto friends back home also carries the clutter of a life in the past.  For me, I’d rather consider the here and now, live life to its’ fullness, and love every moment of it.

When it comes time to healing, we tend to run home and commend those who care for who we are, entirely.  But if we don’t call home in times of celebration or even in our grey days, do we value someone less?

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22 April 2012

I have never thought this way before this trip, but many of times I have dedicated my future family to the Family and work of God.  I have stood where Mary and Elizabeth met, where John the Baptist jumped for joy in the presence of Jesus in the womb (Luke 1).  I have stood where Mary’s milk may have dripped to the ground turning it white.  I have sat in peace where Ruth worked on Baaz’s farm, and later gave her born child to her mother-in-law.  I have stood in these places.

The women in the Bible, as well as the Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood, all seem dedicated to the Lord through pregnancy and the continuation of His lineage.  Joseph, father to Jesus was a descendant of King David, Mary was to be married into a wealthier family name. However, these were not of her concerns.  Rather, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary all proved to be concerned by the messages the Angel Gabriel shared with them.  Zechariah gave up his family name to honor the Father’s orders, and Mary, believed that she, a virgin could become pregnant by the Spirit.

These women were joyful in the presence of the Holy Spirit. These women, different from the modern women I knew before this trip, are inspirational.  However, being in Israel, I wonder, do these young mothers/ couples even understand what they are living for? At twenty years old I could not imagine being a mother of two, walking, nursing, and sleeping–only.  I have great dreams to accomplish in life, but if God is the same God yesterday and today, then is the modern day woman any less honoring to His Will?

Anyhow…I have gained much respect for a life based on the Scriptures alone during my stay in Israel.

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Petra, Jordan:

I recommend a two or three day trip.  Although you are able to visit the majority of the sites in a long day, it is worth sitting at the High Sacrafice site, or on top of the Monastery.  However, my top recommendation is for the Seven Wonder’s Bedouin Camp, which will not only give you a great dessert experience, but also provides opportunity for a guided backdoor hike.  This hike was the calmest day of my full 18 day adventure.  Please make sure to visit Little Petra as well, as you will climb into the 2nd story buildings and have an opportunity to picture life in a small cave town.

At night, you will be able to enjoy sugar-sage tea/ Bedouin “whisky” and join other campers around a comfortably cushioned camp fire ring.

Wadi Rum, Jordan:

I was unable to make it this time, but would like to adventure out into this dessert region.  I have heard that camels, horses, and ATV’s are the only ways to explore this region.

ISRAEL:

Jerusalem

-Lodging: I have enjoyed my stay at House 57 on Ammunition Hill.  The tram is a 5 minute walk and for $2 you can see almost anywhere in the city, except for on Sabbath/ Shabbot.

– Eating: When traveling, I like to start my visit with a trip to the nearby outdoor market, if possible.  With a kitchen, make sure to buy the local produce, baked goods, etc.  Without, I have enjoyed many falafels, but there are also great vegetarian restaurants: Eucalyptus and Fig (the name is in Hebrew), both located near Jaffa Gate outside the Old City.  Holy Bagel supplied a great lunch with a tradition Middle Eastern flare to a common food choice.

– Shopping: In Israel, I have learned to choose the shopkeeper, the artist, mores than their work or merchandise.  It is important to trust a salesperson, and if there is no ground for loyal trade, then walk away.  In the Cardo, there is a micro calligraphy studio that uses Scripture to fill the empty figurines, settings within Jerusalem.

– Activities: The Night Spectacular at Tower of David at Jaffa Gate is not necessarily what i expected, but fantastically done.  It is a good way to spend your first or second night in the region.

– Churches: Church of the Visitation and John the Baptist on Ein Kerem both display tiles of many languages stating the praises and prophecy within Luke 1.  Ein Kerem is my most peaceful district within Jerusalem.  I believe the hillside most resembles what I imagined previously. Within the Old City, life can sometimes seem too chaotic.  However, there are multiple churches designed by Antonia Barluzzi in the early 20th century that represent Jesus’ expressions in respect to His story at the sites.  His churches include: Church of All Nations,  Church of the Flagellation, The Church of the Visitation (Ein Kerem), The Church & Tomb of St. Lazarus (Bethany), The Church of the Angels (Shepherds Field, Bethlehem), Church of the Beatitudes (Galilee), and many others.  The first and second stations on Via Dolorosa occur within the Franciscan property where Barluzzi’s Church of Flagellation testifies the crown of thrones given to Christ, and the cross he was to carry.  St. Anne’s and Bethsada Pool is nearby as well.

Galilee

– See nature! There are many hikes, but most importantly pay a visit to Mount Bental, where on a clear day, you can see Jordan and Syria. Mount Hermon was in clear view with snowy mountain tops.  This site was also a station for military, and the tunnels within the mountain are accessible by visitors.  Also, plan time to stop and relax along the Kinneret–the Sea of Galilee near Primacy of Peter or further north.  Spend the time to visit the shore side, sit and picnic, or reflect on your time.

– Golan Heights is home to a brewery, winery, and olive oil press.  Of which, I recommend visiting the olive oil press and washing your hands along the sides of the main area.  The products are sold cheaper at the store at the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River near Tiberias.

Caesarea

– Explore the modern recreation of Herodian ruins.  Although not entirely authentic, this town is a very pleasant port side village and a great stop for afternoon-evenings.

Massada

– Make sure to start your hike as early as possible, for although the sunrise is not always breathtaking, the quietness at the peak is outstanding.  A realistic way of reflecting on the occurrences on the location.

Ein Gedi

– I loved walking in the stream! With a 15 minute hike you are able to cool off and visit the water fall, get wet, and enjoy a nice time.  However, with strong knees, you can hike up higher to a peaceful high point with many baths and the spring–with natural drinking water.

Bethlehem, Jericho, and Bethany–the West Bank

– Bansky is not respected as much as I expected it seems.  His work has been covered, primarily. However, it is still an experience to read and interpret the graffiti that lines the inside wall.

– Make sure to climb to the Monastery at Jericho.  Not only is Jericho beautiful to look down onto, but the caves and apartments built into the hillside stone is undeniably incredible. This is also the location where Satan appeared to Jesus during his 40 days in the desert and attempted to tempt our Savior.  Satan failed of course, and therefore, by example, Jesus leads us away from temptation.

– In the Square of Church of the Nativity is a restaurant that offers cheap traditional rice dishes, but there is also an AMAZING falafel shop within a block. At the church itself, the tour guide that took us, Sam Salom, was baptized in the baptismal that now sits inside the church, and married in Saint Catherine’s next door.  In Saint Catherine’s, notice the baby Jesus, as it is the Jesus doll they place in the cave symbolizing Jesus’ birth right where tradition states his manger rested.

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22 April 2012

Today I visited Yad Vashem–“place and name”–in Jerusalem, Israel. It is the fifth Holocaust display I have visited during my lifetime (Washington D.C., Tolerance Museum in LA, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and Shoes on the Danube in Budapest).

Today, I listened to elder survivors of the war against humanity, tell their tales.  Mothers mentioned never having the courage to speak of their youth with their children.  Another mother spoke of her desire to kill her baby in the womb, so that she would never hear another baby’s cry as she did in the concentration camps.

However, I could not feel their pain. I couldn’t even when I tried.

It is said that Hitler gained reign and implemented a distinct belief that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death, and they deserve punishment.

During my hours in the museum this was my main concern:

Jesus Weeps Over Israel: “But as he came closer to Jerusalem, and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. ‘ How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way of peace.  But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Before long, your enemies will build ramparts against your walls, and encircle you and close in on you from every side.  They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you.   Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation'” (Luke:19:41-44). 

Although I often refer to this scripture as the explanation for the destruction of the Temple Mount, here it can explain the fate of the Jewish people.

“Jesus was a Jew”  is something my mother, who claims both affiliations during our travels, says way too often.

Yes mom, Jesus was a Jew, however, His life was the completion of the old testament and a continuation for people who desire a relationship with the Father in Heaven.  Jesus is the answer, the Way, the only Way.  And although He loves all people, it is only those who chose to follow, live for, and dedicate all they are and have to Christ who receive an Eternal Gift.  That is my belief.

Therefore, in the Scripture above, isn’t it clear enough that the punishment is not earthly cruelty but a finished life. It is not in man’s hands to rid off a group of people, rather, it is left to Judgment day as to who chose the right religious rituals–the right god to follow.

Without hesitation I know my God loves me, and I am to love all mankind as He loves.  I am made to be nothing less than who He is in me.

May our prejudices be abolished, may we live our lives according to our own beliefs, and concentrate on the here and now not the “what if’s,” “should of’s,” or “could have’s” of life.  There is too much out there for us to stay lost in our past troubles.

With all of this said, may we remember what our people have done–the good and the bad–may we make our own mistakes, learn our unique ways, but in it all, may we remain true to who we are as individuals living in peace.

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22 April 2012

I am cheap.

I am assertive.

I am a natural leader.

I am outgoing.

I am willing.

However, to each of the statements I claim above, I have heard the contrary.  Recently I have been told by my own mother that I am “bossy.” Ouch, right?

I am cheap, because I know what I value most in a trip, and am wise in budgeting accordingly.

I am assertive, because I know that time does escape a traveler easily, and each trip is a once in a lifetime experience–I want to experience a city to my best ability.

I am a natural leader, yet, when someone does not know personal responsibility, my nurturing characteristics overwhelm the relationship, and a leader persona becomes more motherly, and inappropriate in a teamwork scenario such as traveling in pairs.

I am outgoing, yet I know that I am cleansed each and every day.  I desire time to listen for the Lord’s guidance in the morning and at night, as well as throughout the entirety of a day.  This is my priority.

I am willing to experience life through those I am visiting, however, I am wise in not accepting every way as the right or wrong way–I have a mind of my own.

Do I sound bossy? Through reading the above explanations, I can understand my mother’s choice of words, but still… life is hard to live when you aren’t even able to hear yourself.  At this very moment for instance, I am writing and she is standing over my shoulder speaking about every detail of packing.  I need people to do things for themselves sometimes.  I need to be able to make my own mistakes just as others do. I am not perfect, nor is anyone else who currently walks this earth.

We can of course learn from other’s experiences and strengths, but learning is not a process of shadowing or mimicking their life entirely.  It is important to “know thyself.”  Once again, I find myself caught on the words of Socrates.

May you find your peace with travel, as it used to be my favorite part of life.  Solo travel is a great experiment in gaining insight to your own abilities and sense of self-acceptance and responsibility, but to test a relationship–be wise in choosing travel companions.  Very wise.

And with that person(s), I advise us to all consider an in-depth conversation or continued conversation on the topics of values, expectations, habits, etc.  that pertain to the trip ahead. I believe it is the essential foundation in experiencing a solid trip–vacation or work.

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14 April 2012

I have now been officially proposed to twice during my travels.  The first time was an African salesman in the streets of Rome, and now, the second was a Jordanian–born and raised in Petra/ Wadi Musa.

In America, we celebrate engagements where a man proposes a life spent together, and a woman accepts by placing a ring on her left ring finger.  However, throughout my travels, I have recognized that married men are not always wearing a wedding band.  Likewise, a woman does not always either, but it is much more common.  Different countries adjust the tradition, and married individuals may wear such promise rings on their left or right hand.

I would like to discuss the men not wearing this symbol of a lifetime of loyalty.

In Turkey, I stayed at a hotel behind the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.  There, our over-night staff member who was self-taught in English, was newly married with a 6-month old son.  Adorable.  His wife was in traditional Muslim wear and wearing a wedding band, but he did not.  When I asked him, he said something about it not being customary.

Even with women’s rights, is this man’s hold on a woman?  Is this tradition of women wearing a band but not the males, allowing man to continue on with animal-like behaviors.  Or is there enough trust within a marriage, that the woman’s band alone symbolizes their unity?

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At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I felt inappropriately dressed, but still modest.  However, even with my dress and attitude that did not match the Orthodox Jews, I still did not recognize a single man’s eye wander in my direction.  They dress, act, and are moderate.  Their pledge to the Father tested true in my eyes.  Although I do not wish to take on their beliefs and lifestyle, I respect their tendency to stay on guard, and not move towards temptation.

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Later, in Petra, I had a lovely day of individual attention.  Although this is the day that I was proposed to, I did not view it as a day of any romantic attention.  At sunset, I was on top of the world, so it felt.  I was speaking with a Jordanian who traveled to Dubai for income and spoke proper English. He actually told me of his dream: to return to school so that he could learn how to read and write in his mother tongue.  He understands English more so than Arabic.  Anyhow, he told me of his father’s 2 wives, 16 children, and tendencies to travel to Egypt to visit another woman.  In my opinion this is a Yuck! However, it is a changing world, and my perspective is different from other customs of the world.

This story made me think back to an earlier conversation that same day. After visiting Little Petra, in the car, a 26-year-old Jordanian stated, “If I take you, I give you 10 children.”  Aside from his inability to completely communicate what he meant in a way we both understood, our values of marriage are contrary.

I am left asking myself, what does the wedding band mean?  What is marriage?

I know that I am looking forward to a marriage that honors the Lord’s will and His illustrations throughout Scripture, but in this scenario, I lived in the Old Testament.  In a marriage, this Jordanian was promising descendants over all else.  The wedding he proposed would take place inside a Petra cave–which sounds AWESOME, but is not love.

What is the most important ingredient in life?  Is it to keep a man’s name and the family heritage alive or is it to explore God’s love with others in His family?

I chose the latter, and will continue to for a lifetime.

Gals, may we remain patient in exploring love.  May we continue to learn of God’s character, allowing Him to treat us with loving-kindness, and then, when the time comes, God will redeem all we have been, and promise us a life of recognizing His love through an obedient relationship, honoring who He is.  That is what I want: a marriage that honors the Will of God.

I want to explore God the way He has built me to.  May I be patient in finding my perfect travel and life companion.  But for now, single men and women of the world, we must be praying for the conversations between our future spouses and our Father above in Heaven.  For it is in our Spirits that good fruits will be made.

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14 April 2012

Petra, Jordan is the #2 man-made wonder of the world.  I had the opportunity to spend 2 1/2 days among the red sandstone along with my mother, a large group of Jordanian cousin camp-owners, camels,  donkeys, horses, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and shepherds.  It was my first time recognizing the significance of such Scriptures speaking on Jesus as our Shepherd.

He says that he will leave the entire flock in order to bring his one lost sheep home.  Isn’t that powerful?  He loves us. However, singing praises of worship is different from witnessing the acts of loyalty shared by a shepherd and his flock.

The first shepherd I witnessed in the Jordan dessert was walking behind his flock, listening to his iPod.  Controversial?  Quite possibly.  I was uneasy about it, but why?  Perhaps because over and over again, Jesus warns his people of the power of distraction.  Satan tempts.  He even tried Jesus, and yes he failed, but we are not Jesus.  We are merely in His shadow.  Therefore, I was left considering: wouldn’t it be best to pay close attention to those we lead?  I believe Jesus did just this.

However, when it came time to our back door hike to the Monastery–I recommend this hike through the Petra Bedouin Camp in Little Petra–I had the unique opportunity to speak with a Bedouin who spoke very little English by understood every word I shared, so it seemed.  He helped me understand the true relationship between flock and shepherd.  It seems as if the shepherd is patient, and that alone is his job.  It was unclear if the flock of goats and/or sheep are trained or if it is their natural tendency, but as the sun rises, the animals are allowed to roam free in the canyons, yet they remain with side by side with the entire flock.  Then when the sun falls, the animals return, all together, to their shepherd.  The Bedouin told me that the goats know it is time when they run out of food and can no longer use the light of the day to search on their own, so they reconnect with their shepherd, in need for their feeding.

Isn’t this what we do as Christians?  All day long we roam around, doing as we please with our day, but when it comes time to essentials, we recognize the Jesus is the only way, and we rely on His feeding us.  He is our bread and our wine, He has sacrificed Himself, so that we no longer must idolize any sacrificial rituals.  We honor Jesus when we follow His lead and feed on His word and love alone.

He is calling us home.

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