Saturday, April 21, 2018

Odysseys in a Parallel Universe 2-3:

The City came alive as I walked through its gates and down its streets.
Seeking directions to a hostel near Damascus Gate, I realized I was actually walking down the Via Dolorosa.
Then I got lost in a maze of twisting suqs, and suddenly I was through another gate and emerged in a barren valley with tombstones all around me!  Never had that happen before!?
My pack was getting heavier again, so I looped by Herod’s Gate, turned up the Nablus Road and found Cairo Hotel to stay the night.
But my appetite was stirred; it was still afternoon and I had a city to explore!
I was hungry, but not just physically.
Food was in the air: sustenance for the spirit + life was there just for the breathing!
And I wanted to breathe it all in!
I stopped to eat my first falafel and some sesame seed-peanut-honey concoction - so good and sweet!
Then I headed through the tangle of narrow streets to the Western or Wailing Wall: the last remnant of the Jews’ Temple, their rallying hope. I was surprised to find: separate men and women sections, head coverings mandatory for all – even me, a Gentile.
I had to put on a little black paper beanie (yamulke) so I could approach and touch the wall. 
I didn’t feel any bolt of electricity hit me when I reached out my hand, but I did sense more clearly what this Wall means to Jews. For years they had been unable to even approach it and pray there. The Muslims had built their homes right against the Wall and forbidden Jews any access. But since the 1967 War, this had all changed and now an open square stood before the wall and many were there praying. 
Its craggy face revealed centuries of lamentation, cries of joy and sorrow, and profound humility. 
I touched it and was myself touched.
But it was getting late, and I knew there was still so much to see, so I hurried through Dung Gate to The Mount of Olives in the east. The Russian church I’d seen in so many pictures was now right before me, but… it was closed.
So I stopped hurrying and spent the time rather gazing at the city in the late afternoon sun.
Jerusalem shone brilliant!
Its wall encircled the old city like a bejeweled necklace; the Dome of the Rock adorned it with a golden crown.
A city of rock: secure, rock built on rock and no matter how many times destroyed, she has risen again and again to stand here still in our century, 4000 years since her birth!
So many have rejoiced in you, wept over you, wailed your destructions.
Many have sought to destroy you, but here you continue and stand triumphant, over all your past conquerors.
You have lived your name:  Here is Peace! David’s City: creation of both God and man.
And as the sun sank and the shadows lengthened, I watched her silently repose so she may glow again in tomorrow’s sun.
I climbed past more graves to the top of the Mount and looked over the edge into the Judean Wilderness, down to the Dead Sea further in distance: more horizons to break through!
But for now I returned westward and stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane with its aged olive trees, wonderfully gnarled and twisted; some from over 2000 years ago?! This immediately became my favourite spot!
Then back into the city, through Lion’s Gate and streets now-darkened, the Via Dolorosa led me to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, perhaps the most sacred shrine in all the Christian faith.
The last 5 Stations of the Cross are within the Church. It’s shared by Roman Catholics, Orthodox + Armenians who have in turn granted some rights to other Christian groups: Egyptian Copts, Syrians + Ethiopians. Here in one building, different denominations worship together where they believe Christ was crucified and rose again.
The church is also one of Christianity’s oldest, dating from an original Byzantine building that Queen Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, had constructed in the 4th Century.  Muslims destroyed this, but Crusaders rebuilt it; then a 1926 earthquake had badly damaged it again, but it was now undergoing extensive repairs. Whole pillars were being replaced; the ceiling and vault were being redone. By itself this would be a monumental task, but all the more, throughout its renovation, the church itself remained an open house of worship.
Its physical needs did not close its doors and stop it from fulfilling its spiritual purpose.
A scene of general mayhem greeted me as I stepped through the massive wooden doors: workers strained to lift a new pillar section into place; foremen rushed about shouting orders for others to carry out: all in a place of sanctity?
I really knew nothing about the church’s layout, so it was only by chance I discovered the Sepulchre itself, a little domed chapel, directly beneath a larger central dome.
Being later in the evening, there was no lineup and I ducked inside through its low stone archway.
I was alone amid the jewel-encrusted lamps, aged icons + flickering candles. A hippie, I was neither impressed nor distracted by such rich ornamentation. I tolerated them as Orthodox expressions of ‘holiness’, but really had no idea of what being in a ‘holy’ place entailed.
But then I remembered I fancied myself a pilgrim: after all, I’d picked up my cross/crucifix in Athens, hadn’t I?!
So as I stood there spectating for those first moments, I began to ponder,
‘What would a pilgrim do when they arrive at the destination to their journey?’
I’d read stories and seen pictures, but now I was here.
I had stepped into history and what should my response be?
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘pilgrims don’t just stand around; they bow…
So I bowed and took off my cowboy hat - somehow it just didn’t seem appropriate anymore.
And then, out of reverence, I got on my knees…
Next, I thought, ‘Pilgrims pray; but I really don’t know anything about that.’
However, maybe I could just be honest enough to speak the truth out of my heart so far as I knew it?
So I bowed my head, closed my eyes, like I’d been taught as a child, and simply spoke,
‘Well, God… here I am.
  Some people say that Jesus was your Son and rose from the dead in this place.
  I don’t know about that, but if that’s true, I’d really like to know. Could you please show me? Thanks.’
I think I knew enough to say ‘Amen.’ too.
So I left it with God, whoever that was to me at that time in my life.
And the rest is history = His Story.

Last night I retraced my steps those many years ago to that same empty tomb, and 46 years later, I reported back:
‘Father, it’s true! Thank you!’

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is no mere idea, concept, human opinion, or ‘fake news’.
It is the greatest historical event that has ever taken place in earth.
It has more 1st-hand eye-witness- recorded testimony than any other ‘fact’ of antiquity.
And it changed everything… including my life!
Have you come to this place of Revolution-Revelation in Jesus Christ?

I love the desert! + I found Lawrence of Arabia's base in Wadi Rum: its rock+ sand make it a sea of red, blue, green, yellow = exceptional, especially with the view from a camel!

Friday, April 20, 2018

So I was getting tired on way back + hitched a ride on 'William Shakespeare' (that really was his name!): he had a mind of his own + didn't take any of my directions, but got me back safe! And when I asked his Bedouin handler his name? -''Lost!"
Can you believe we went through there?!

And in Petra: there is always MORE! We walked through the Royal Tombs Valley, but I decided to try to Ascent to the Monastery. It was hard climbing + HOT! but I made it + here's my reward!

As we descended into Petra, not only the Siq with its amazing formations + colours was dramatic, but the climax when we saw The Treasury!

Bible quiz answers: I crossed Jordan River to the Decapolis 
= 10 Greek cities in Jesus' time - 1 is Jerasa = some of best intact Roman ruins, followed Moses' footsteps to Mt. Nebo + looked into the Promised Land! Then spent next day at Rock = Petra - aptly named, it is rock, rock, and more beautiful rock! Indiana Jones made it popular in our day, but it's been around for many more years than just movies!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

So... Bible quiz today: I crossed over the ________ river (?) today to my 72nd nation + it definitely was green-greener on the other side! Visited Jerash = Gerasa, 1 of the Decapolis = ___ (?) Gentile cities,
drove through Amman + I'm following in ________' footsteps at Mt. Nebo, pointing out the ___________ Land. + tomorrow: _________!!!
So who can tell where I am/going?