Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where to begin

Haifa, first night in Israel
I have been trying to find the right starting point for my reflections on our recent trip to Israel. I have so many conflicting emotions that at once I want to rant and then just as quickly I want to rave. The Holy Land is simply that kind of place. At one moment you think you understand the way things work, and then you realize you don't have a clue. It is this constant uncertainty of people and place that electrifies the air creating a crackle of tension that affects everyone. You can convince yourself that you are simply a tourist/pilgrim and all is well. No worries. The local "problems" are for some other unfortunate's account. But, just as quickly that comfort evaporates when your bus is halted at a checkpoint and a young man/woman boards to check everyone out, clearly profiling according to some protocol. I guess it seems akin to any tension filled moment, anywhere in the world, when you sense trouble could suddenly erupt. That is as a close as I can get to what it feels like when traveling in Israel. The country is always on heightened alert. No attempt is made to hide it. In reality, this is probably exactly what the Israeli government wants to convey. I am not being critical of this, just noting it. The origins of the conflict and tension, are another matter. These subjects have and will continue to fill books long after we all are long gone.

But, shifting back to my pilgrim mode I have to confess that this trip was remarkable in what it accomplished. The ability to physically be present in the world Jesus knew, where his ministry unfolded, where Christianity was born was priceless. I find that the superficial impacts of visiting new places is always about the immediate experience. Understanding how that experience changes me comes later, oftentimes much later. There are generally just too many things going on during a trip to allow for any kind of meaningful thought processing. Navigating those deeper waters requires time, patience and quiet. Now that we are home I am starting to work through that, and am beginning to understand why this trip was so important. The rough edges are gradually being removed from so many thoughts. For a start, I am obviously reminded how truly thankful I am for the gift of freedom, the separation of church and state, and for the security of peace within our borders. But beyond the obvious, there, gratefully, and more importantly (to me), lies the story of the pilgrim road, our pilgrim road. Let me move onto that in my next post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Light in the darkness

Robin and I have recently returned from the Holy Land, a nice euphemism, but one that strikes wide of the mark for truth. I began composing a post on our travels and then realized I was growing angrier and angrier. Injustice strikes a resonating cord with me. Rather than continue I paused and retreated to a text that I often find comfort in, Thomas Merton's Dialogues in Silence. Over the past few mornings as the rain and mists swirled about I huddled in front of the fire and with tea vapors rising aloft I opened this dog-eared tome and found the peace I hungered for. He writes.

"In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going. In another sense we have already arrived. We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and That is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in whom I have already arrived!"

"....only save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act with out reason, to move for movement's sake, to unsettle everything that You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for your glory. This is what I live for. Amen, amen."

"...What was delivered to Moses on tablets of stone, as fruit of lightning and thunder, is now more thoroughly born in our souls as quietly as the breath of our own being."

" My hope is in what the eye has never seen. Therefore let me not trust in visible rewards. My hope is in what the human heart cannot feel. Therefore let me not trust in the feelings of my heart. My hope is in what the hand has never touched. Do not let me trust what I can can grasp between my fingers, because Death will loosen my grasp and my vain hope will be gone."

" Father, I beg You to teach me to be a man of peace and to help bring peace to the world, to study here truth and non-violence, and to have the patience and courage to suffer for truth."

Thomas Merton, Dialogues in Silence.

Peace be with you....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To the Holy Land

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

There is not a day that goes by that Robin and I do not think of returning to the Camino, and to Santiago de Compostela. I feel our compass will always point to Spain, but there is one diversion that is also beckoning, and that leads to the Holy Land. As our pilgrim journey continues to unfold, Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have captured us. So, this weekend we are heading off to Israel to find our way to that church, built over the tomb where Jesus was buried. This is our first visit to the Holy Land so we have a host of other things to see and do that will fill the next couple of weeks. Happily (and thankfully), we will once again be doing what we seem to enjoy doing most, and that is simply being pilgrims in an ancient land. We have no well defined expectations, much the same as when we walked the Camino. We just feel this is a pilgrimage we need to make, and so we are off on the morning tide, so to speak. Blog updates to follow.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher