Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent Devotional - December 4th

December 4th – Rev. Laurie Furr-Vancini

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

The use of the above verse is not a typographical error. I could not leave this verse quite yet. What Tom did not share with you yesterday is that earlier in the week, he also used this verse in staff meeting. He quoted a poem by Presbyterian poet Ann Weems that plays on this verse. Weems writes:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful
If Advent came filled with angels and alleluias?....
Wouldn’t it be ecstatic if we could take those angels shopping,
or trim the tree or have them hold our ands
and dance through our houses decorating….”

When Tom read this poem I had just finished scrolling through online pictures from my sister who lives outside of Washington D.C. Her church had hosted the United African Children’s Choir and she and her family had housed 3 Ugandan children for 5 days. They hosted 3 girls, the youngest was 6. My sister explained the choir children are chosen from refugee camps throughout eastern Africa. They travel together for about 8 months and during that time they are given health and dental care they have not received in their entire life. When they return home the program sends them to boarding school and pays until they complete the equivalent of high school. These kids are given a chance. My sister explained the plight of the children in the refugee camps are dismal. Little food, scarce clean water, lots of illness and many of the girls are sold in to prostitution. There is little to no education.

The pictures were beautiful in so many ways. The Ugandan children had skin as black as night and their smiles were ear to ear in every picture. They were dancing and singing and learning to ride a bike and playing a video game and making jump ropes. They were with my lily skinned nieces and nephew arms slung around each other in their kitchen, in their dining room, in their family room. And, in fact, they did help trim the tree. And then, they posed under the tree in the princess nightgowns they had picked out.

Maybe this is what angels look like!?!

For Journaling:
Ann Weems poem ends, “An angel-filled Advent has so many possibilities! But in lieu of that, perhaps we can give thanks for the good earthly joys we have been given and for the earthly “angels” that we know who do such a good job of filling our Advent with alleluias!” Who are your Advent earthly angels? Would someone say you have been an earthly angel for them?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

World Communion Sunday

The bread
purchased for the day
breads of the world
all kinds and colors and textures.
Children will bring it forward and set the table.
A favorite day---the world united.
Eating bread.
This bread
left in a car overnight on warm, Florida, harvest moon night.

Early, I open the car door to drive to worship.
The smell of bread.
Yeasty, warm,
bread upon bread
in the closed in space.
This is what Jesus smells like.
Breads of the world.
Bread for the world.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Breaking

by Laurie Furr-Vancini

A Moment of Magic
A Time of Wonder
A Glimpse of Possibility
An Unexpected Shalom
A Bit of Awe
A Crack of Curiosity
A Flash of Genius
An Occasion of Miracle
A Point of Portent
A Twinkle of Light
A Surprise of Marvel
A Taste of Manna

We Lean Into Revelation
And Either Back Away
or Grasp
and Hold On.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sophia Evangeline - sermon for B-Ordinary 20

B – Ordinary 20 Rev. Laurie Furr-Vancini
Proverbs 9:1-6 Palms Presbyterian Church
Ephesians 5:11-17 August 16, 2009

“Sophia Evangeline”

The title of the sermon this morning is my name suggestion
for Pastor Andrew and Caroline’s new baby
who will be greeting us sometime in December.
This name suggestion is an early baby present to you.
This morning we are called by Wisdom.

Wisdom searches for us and hopefully we search for Wisdom.
We speak of Wisdom as Wisdom woman
because Wisdom is feminine in the Bible.
Lest we females get pumped up about that,
her evil twin, Folly, is also feminine.
Wisdom personifies all the positive characteristics
of womanhood in early Hebrew times.
Folly personifies all the negatives.
Wisdom calls to us.
But, Folly is out there calling to us, also.
So our question for this morning is which twin do we embrace?

Theologian Paul Tillich has this to say about Wisdom:
“One speaks of experience, insight, knowledge;
and indeed those area related to wisdom and often part of it.
But none of them is wisdom itself.
Wisdom is greater than these.
It is one of the great things that profoundly concern
every human being in every period of conscious life.
Widsom is not bound to old age.
It is found equally in the young.
And there are fools at all ages of life.”

If, as Tillich proposes, we are to search for wisdom at all points in our life.
I propose we turn today to wisdom.

There is never a better or worse day to start than today.
And there is never a better undertaking than to start being wise.
I know many of you are wise everyday…..
so for you….sit back and think about how lovely it will be
when the rest of us are as wise as you.
Because the rest of us are beginning today. Right now.
We are going to be wise.

You may think that today may be the worst day to start being wise.
Some may be starting back work after the summer off
or a summer slow down.
Maybe you are thinking about summer ending and the fall heating up.
Hurricanes are coming…I just know they are.

You may have any number of reasons for not starting to be wise
beginning today.
But, whatever reason you have is Folly.
It is best to be wise beginning today.
It is best to move into a new school year with intentionality.
It is best to confront chaos with scripture and care.
It is best to have structure in your daily walk.
Beginning today.
Today is always the best day to begin.

The other day, I heard these words…..”mama, you gotta watch!”
My seven year old was bouncing in a bouncy house at Pump It Up.
Pump it Up is a warehouse of chaos with high ceilinged rooms filled with
huge inflatables and lots of squealing and screaming kids.
She is bouncing up and down and then on her bottom and back up.
And my job is to pay attention.
Interestingly enough, I am trying to journal at the edges of Pump It Up….
But she reminds me, I am to live where I am.
And I am at Pump It Up.
“Mama, you gotta watch!”
Beginning right now….beginning today, you have to pay attention.

You have a life to live.
And there is the life you have been living
and the life you have been meaning to live.
Beginning today, you are done with the life you have been living.
Beginning today, you are going to turn to Wisdom, the one
who has been calling you to a new life…..
the life you’ve been meaning to live.

Beginning today, you are going to make steps to live that life.
The life you’ve been meaning to live becomes the life you live.
Are you with me?

Wisdom is calling to you.
She is standing out on the street corner.
A street corner preacher…that makes us nervous doesn’t it.
But she finds the place where everyone will see her.
You can’t miss her….
And she calls to everyone…..
I told you she was calling you.
She is pursuing you.
You don’t have to go off into a quiet place to meditate for days.
You don’t have to search her out on a mountaintop.
She might be at Pump it Up, “for God’s sake”.
She doesn’t send others to do her work.
Did you catch that, she sent away her helpers, her maids…..
She herself will make personal invitations to you and to you and to you.
Everyone is invited.
She may be the first evangelist in the bible.

And now it is time to tell you her name.
Theologians and biblical scholars call wisdom Sophia.
Wisdom’s name is Sophia which is the Greek translation for Wisdom.
The name makes some people nervous because we think there was and
maybe a goddess cult that took her name.

I happen to agree with some theologians that Wisdom is the feminine embodiment of God – God herself…..and this also makes some people nervous and anxious (thinking of God with feminine qualities).
But…please stay at ease…I am not here to push that down anyone’s throat, because Sophia would not approve.
Sophia Wisdom is not at all combative stating her case, setting her table.
Calling us to her table, calling us to partake of her hospitality.
Which has no place for either gorging or force feeding.
Calling, telling the good news, inviting, evangelizing
Evangalizing means telling the good news
So I give her a middle name….Evangaline.
Wisdom, the Evangalist.
Sophia Evangaline.

Sophia Evangeline is inviting you.
We’ve been eating a lot lately.
Jesus invited us to the dinner on the ground with the 5,000.
Jesus told us he is the bread of life.
And this week there is a table set by wisdom.
She has pulled out her best food, best table settings.
She is the “hostess with the mostest” on a mission from God.
“Here is the way of life- the way of wisdom”
Come to my table, everyone. Today.
Get your head out of the refrigerator,
your hand off the bottle,
your bottom from your work chair,
your eyes off the computer screen,
your fingers off the controller,
your mind off the mindless,
your self talk out of selfishness,
self serving
self deprecating….
None of that is at Sophia’s table.
Come here.
Sit down next to me.
And look into my eyes.
You will see the eyes of God looking back at you.
This is Good News.
This is the way of life.
Sophia was there in the beginning, we are told in the previous chapter of proverbs 8: Sophia was there: in the chaos, the void, the nothingness.
She knows what that is like.

Her evil twin Folly lives there now.
Do you remember the Sirens in Greek mythology?
This is how I picture Folly calling.
The Sirens sit on the rocks and call to sailors as they pass in their boats.
They are beautiful and alluring and they sing the sailors in.
Then CRASH - the boats shatter as they hit the rocks.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, the Sirens sing to Odysseus:
"Draw near ... illustrious Odysseus, flower of the Achaean chivalry, and bring your ship to rest that you may hear our voices. No seaman ever sailed his black ship past this place without listening to the sweet voice that flow from our lips…...”
And there is the problem.
Sophia Evangeline isn’t the only one calling.
Folly is calling also. But her middle name is not good news.
It is bad new. It is death.
Sophia has set a beautiful table in a beautiful home.
Folly has also set a table and in Proverbs 9:17, she says:
“stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
Listen what Steven Baugh, a seminary professor in California has to say of Wisdom’s evil twin:
“Folly’s fun house is a one-way elevator to the house of Death – non-stop to the Sheol Suite. And her guests are the dead. If Wisdom is life, Folly is death.”
Again, we stop to question.
If I am to begin today living a life of wisdom, what does that mean?
How do I find wisdom?
We generally know wisdom when we hear it.
We recognize Sophia when we see her.
And according to our scripture today when we see Folly,
we need to not ignore her, but expose her for what she is….
From Ephesians:
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork,
the barren pursuits of darkness.
Expose these things for the sham they are.
It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things
they must do in the darkness where no one will see.
Rip the cover off those frauds
and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!

A public declaration of what is good.
An invitation to a life giving, life sustaining, life altering banquet.
An open call to everyone, not just some.
Jesus or Sophia?
Yes, both.
If Christ is showing the light of God,
the way of God certainly includes Wisdom.
And in proverbs 9 and proverbs 1, as well as psalm 111,
we are told the beginning of Wisdom, is the fear,
the paying attention, of God.
“Mama, you gotta watch!”

Sara Koenig, a bible professor at Seattle Pacific University,
says Wisdom, Sophia, requires the
“obligation to deal with life head on,
head up,
with open eyes
an honest heart
and courageous conviction.”
She continues:
Clearly, wisdom is not a gift: wisdom is a task.
Wisdom costs.
Wisdom calls each of us to be everything we have the capacity to be.
It is wisdom that is the internal force that drives us to become the fullness of ourselves.”
In other words, “the life we have been meaning to live.”

Folly is easy, Sophia Wisdom is difficult.
Folly is docile.
Wisdom is active.
Folly is secretive and often hidden.
Wisdom is truth and sincerity and openness.
Folly is complacency.
Wisdom is a commitment to lifelong learning and changing
and growing. Lifelong.
Folly is status quo.
Wisdom is standing for justice and righteousness and mercy.
Folly is thinking you know it all.
Wisdom is knowing your limitations, your finitude.
Folly is not recognizing our foolishness.
Wisdom is knowing when and where we have turned to Folly
and returning to Wisdom.


So, Wisdom, the evangelist, the caller and teller of Good News
is Sophia Evangeline.
It’s a pretty good name, don’t you think?
You can call her Sophie Eva for short.

No pressure from the name or much to live up to. Ha. Ha. Ha.
I can hear the parents now:

“Sophia Evangeline, don’t you go getting all
uppity with me---like you know what’s best for everyone.”

Oh, but she does know.
She is Wisdom.
And beginning today.
we are going to live the life we’ve been meaning to live.
Folly, be gone!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jessi's Ordination Charge

My friend Jessi Higginbothom was ordained last night as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) I was asked to charge her following her ordination. Here is the charge:

Jessi’s Charge
June 28, 2009

You will learn that things happen so quickly it is like the blink of an eye.
That is how long ago it seems that you introduced yourself to me right back there after my first Sunday at St. Giles.
You said, “My name is Jessi. I just graduated from FSU and I am here to do whatever you want me to do!!”
I thought, “I love this place and I love this young woman.”
And I do love this place and I do love you.
That was almost five years ago.
And now, here you are…
in your new robe and in your new stole with your new degree
at a new church!
My task is to charge you this evening.
My charge does not include things I have mastered, but what I hope for you and for myself.

For now, be very gentle with yourself.
Do a lot more listening than talking.
Understand that your congregation has a story that you do not yet understand.
Understand that that story will unfold slowly to you as you open yourself to it.
Understand that you will have an important place in that story,
but you will not be the story.
Try never to be the story.
As a pastor, be a story teller and story proclaimer, but not the story maker.
Be comfortable behind the scenes as well as in the pulpit.
Identify and celebrate and lift up the gifts in others.
Be the imaginer.
Let your congregation shine the light of Christ
in ways they had never imagined for themselves.

Learn to walk the balance beam of pastor and friendship and do not confuse the two.
Sometimes you cannot be both.
During times of discouragement,
(there will be times of discouragement)
Find someone or a group of someones to talk to outside your congregation.

In church business, be transparent.
Make no church decisions behind closed doors.
Include as many as possible in everything you do in ministry
all the days of your ministry.

Be present for your colleagues.
As an associate, make the entire staff look good.
Be humble.
Be gracious.
Be loving.
Learn when to hold your tongue and when to speak boldly.
Find your voice and use it wisely and sparingly.
Insist on being paid fairly and insist on being treated fairly.

Be a role model for women in ministry and find women role models.
Support young women and look toward the older women.
And as you age into one of the older women…..
Pick up some younger women and bring them with you on your journey.
When and if you have a family,
be at peace with spending less time at the church.
Be at peace with schlepping children around with you.
Be at peace with their always being more you can do.
Be at peace with a messy office and a messier house.
Be at peace with plans that change,

Know when it is time to remain with a congregation
and when it is time to leave.
Know that sometimes your needs and vision and the
congregations needs and vision will not be the same.
Rejoice when they are the same.
And again, I say, rejoice.

I probably could go on, but I will close with a prayer from Teresa of Avila.
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and everyone of us.” Blessings Jessi!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost Sermon

B-Pentecost Rev. Laurie Furr-Vancini
Psalm 104:24-34; 35b Westminster Woods
Romans 8:22-27 May 31, 2009

The Poetry of Pentecost

Today is one of the most important days of the Christian year.
Today is Pentecost.

Our best-known Pentecost story comes from the book of Acts.
It is the tongues of fire story…..
The disciples turned apostles are standing around as part of a crowd and suddenly there is a rush of a mighty wind.
The apostles receive the gift of the spirit that blows on them and begin
speaking in different languages.
Someone in the crowd asks if the apostles have already been drinking at 10:00 in the morning.
Peter stands up and says, no----these are not drunk.
And he quotes the prophet Joel, saying:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
Peter turns to the poetic language of the prophet
To explain the unexplainable.
When regular words cannot describe the indescribable, we turn to poetry.

Columbia Seminary Professor Dr. Walter Brueggemann says this:
“The holiness of God is stirring beneath and is named and pointed to by poets where we can scarcely see it.” (lecture at St. Simon’s Island in January 2008)

The Holy Spirit calls for poetry.
There is mystery involved.
There is yearning involved.
There is calling involved.
There is hope and new life and crazy unexpected things.
Pentecost calls for poetry.

In our Psalm for today, I picture the psalmist almost dancing around
on a big mountain or field.
The psalmist begins,
bless the Lord, O my soul,
o Lord, my God, you are very great,.
You are clothed with honor and majesty…

The psalmist poet writes a love song to God, our creator---:
You stretch out the heavens,
You set the water,
You make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.
You set the earth. It will ever be shaken.
The mountains, the valleys, springs gushing forth,
Giving drink to every wild animal.
The birds sing in the branches of trees that You made.
And they sing.
And they sing.
And they sing.
Even the sea monster looks to you.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

The Holy Spirit is the creative force of God.
How better to praise creation than poetry?
Spirit filled, spirit moved. The spirit creates and makes things happen.
When times are good, the spirit calls us to praise.
When times are not so good, the spirit intercedes.

We know the whole creation is groaning….
We also groan.
In our groaning we hope.
We hope for what we do not see and we wait for it with patience.

In these words from Romans,
Paul speaks poetically about the groaning of the Spirit.
Paul speaks in a voice we all understand.
Paul speaks in a voice of pain and suffering.
Paul speaks in a voice of groaning.
And we are not the only ones groaning.
The trees, the water, the animals, we all groan together in our pain,
In our sadness,
In our lack of understanding,
in our mourning,
in our despair.
All of creation groaning with us…..
And the Spirit helps us---
The Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
When the words of a poet fail, the Spirit picks it up and intercedes:
With sighs to deep for words.

The Holy Spirit is the creative force of God.
How better to groan than through poetry?
Spirit filled, spirit moved. The spirit groans and things happen.
When times are good, the spirit calls us to praise.
When times are not so good, the spirit intercedes.

I have a friend who is going through a very dark valley of groaning,
we’ll call her Delores.
Delores and her husband lost their business before Christmas
because a competitor opened up two miles down the road
in a great location and they could just not stay open.
They owe money from that.
They are two months behind on their mortgage.
They have two teenagers who do not quite understand the new reality.
And….3 weeks ago, Delores had a double mastectomy
because she had spots that kept reappearing.
She can’t work for another couple of months..
Her husband can’t find work except for waiting tables.
Things are bad….truly a time in the valley.
And the spirit interceded.
This past week, Delores was driving (which she is not supposed to be doing
because of the surgery) down in Jacksonville Beach.
She came across an elderly woman who was standing outside of her car,
looking lost and perplexed.
Delores stopped the car and asked if she could help
because that is the kind of person she is.
It turned out that the elderly woman was very turned around.
The woman had a mammogram appointment
behind Beaches Baptist Hospital.
She had gotten lost, missed the appointment and
just wanted to get back to her home in Arlington.
But she didn’t know how to get back on track.
Delores assured her that the roads at the beaches were very confusing
and it was easy to get turned around.
They both got into their cars and Delores lead the woman
about 5 miles to the edge of the Atlantic Boulevard bridge
where they pulled over to talk again.

The woman shared that she had had a mastectomy 30 years ago
and was supposed to get regular mammograms.
Delores shared that just 3 weeks prior she had had a double mastectomy.
This led to more conversation.
They talked about the woman’s time following her mastectomy
and some things Delores might face.

They talked of the woman missing the beach and how she and late husband
used to drive down from Arlington to walk on the beach.

They talked about Delores’ difficult time.

They talked about the woman’s fear that her son would use her getting lost
as a reason for her to no longer drive.

As their conversation came to a close, the woman turned to Delores and said,
“we were brought together today.”

The Holy Spirit interceded where two strangers needed each other.
From another Pentecost poet:
From the book of John (3:8):
"The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Why are two people who need each other brought together for an afternoon?
How is it that people end up in specific churches together?
How do we explain the paths our lives take and the way they criss-cross with others?

The Holy Spirit is the creative force of God.
How better to explain spirit crossings than poetry?
Spirit filled, spirit moved. The spirit brings people together
and makes things happen.
When times are good, the spirit calls us to praise.
When times are not so good, the spirit intercedes.

A little under 3 months ago I was on a boat on the sea of Galilee
with 19 other mid-career pastors.
We had all been chosen to be a part of a pilgrimage
that was paid for by a grant.
We came from all over the United States,
From all different kinds of churches and denominations.
We were Baptist, Quaker, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Methodist…
We were men and women from 35 years old to 55 years old.
One was pregnant, one was to leave for a tour in Afghanistan when returned.
We were white, black and Hispanic.
And here we were on a boat together on the Sea of Galilee.
Only the Spirit could have created this/
We were crossing the Sea (which is really a lake),
just like Jesus and Peter would have.
It was a grey day and the winds began to rise.
And as the winds blew, it began to get cold.
We put on hats and scarves and put our heads down and the boat got quiet.

After a few minutes with only the sound of the boat and the wind,
One of the African American pastors began singing….

“I’ve got a feelin’, everything will be allright…..
I’ve got a feelin’, everything will be allright….
I’ve got a feelin’, everything will be allright…
Be allright, be allright, be allright.
The first time around only the other black preachers joined in,
but soon we were all singing and swaying and raising our faces to the wind.

The wind whipped in and around and among us with the spirited message,
“Everything will be allright.”
You are away from your family, your church, your comfort, your home.
You are being challenged in new ways.
You are in a time of unknown.
You are with folks very different from you….
other people are calling the shots.
But, I have a feeling, everything will be allright.

And how is it so different for you?
You are away from your family, your church, your comfort, your home.
You are being challenged in new ways.
You are in a time of unknown.
You are with folks very different from you…..
other people are calling the shots.
But, I have a feeling, everything will be allright.

"The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

That crazy holy spirit, picking us up and plopping us down.
The Holy Spirit is the creative force of God.
How better to explain spirit crossings than poetry?
Spirit filled, spirit moved.
The spirit brings breaths life where there is no life.

Another poet for today has to do with this very kind of plopping down.
From the book of Ezekiel we get a vision of a valley of dry bones.
The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
Dry, dry, dry.

You probably know this story, you probably know the song!
And did the bones live?
Was there life still in them?
Did the bones begin to shake and rattle?
Did bone come to bone?
And did the muscles grow back on them?
Was there life in that place of no hope?
Was the creative spirit there?
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you,
and you shall live.

The promise of God is the promise of the Spirit:
I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.
The promise is newness;
The promise of the Pentecost poets.

What might the hope of the spirit look like for you?
Well, I have no idea.
I can conjecture.
Maybe comfort and peace.
Maybe excitement and travel.
Maybe a new computer that opens the world to you.
Maybe a new thought or a new way of thinking.
Maybe a still, small voice that comes to you just when you need it.
Maybe a child or a grandchild who overcomes difficulty.
Maybe classical music on a grey, rainy day.
Maybe an uplifting meeting or appointment.
Maybe a lost, sweet memory, remembered once again,
A hug from a friend, your favorite dessert or a bit of red lipstick.

O One Who Brings Bones Back Together,
Holy Wind that Blows,
O Comforter, Guide and Stay,
Renewer of the Ground,
O Creator of Creatures,
Joy Maker,
O Sender of Flames and Tongues,
Hope Instiller,
O Creator of Wisdom,
In Your Wisdom,
Plopper Downer,
Gatherer of Strangers,
Friend Maker
O mighty rushing wind
O still small voice.
Spirit us. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday - Greeting

About 4 weeks ago I was in Jerusalem.
When you visit Jerusalem,
what you do on the first day of your visit is walk Jesus’ last steps.
You begin up on a hill at the Mount of Olives looking down at the city.
You wind your way down the path that is the Palm Sunday parade route.
You stop at the Garden of Gethsemene
You arrive at the city gates and enter the Lion’s Gate into Jerusalem.
You walk on cobblestone streets, some as old as and older than Jesus.
And you arrive at a courtyard of two churches and there begins the Via Delarosa.
Via Delarosa in Latin means the “Way of Grief” or “The Way of Sorrow”.
There are 14 stations on the Via Delarosa….
14 places to stop and re-member or join in the Friday procession of Jesus
the first station is Jesus’ condemnation by Pontius Pilate.
At the second, he takes up his cross.
The stations follow the story you will hear today in our four gospel accounts.
Jesus is called the son of man,
Mary watches her son go to the cross,
Jesus falls and Simon of Cyrene carries his cross,
and on you walk as Jesus is stripped and beaten
and nailed to die
removed from the cross
and laid in the tomb.

What is striking to me about walking this walk, is that there is a lot going on….
people, crowds, sellers, smells, cats running around,
tour guides and groups, kids playing up and down the alleys,
laundry being done.
It is hard to attend to what is going on.
It is hard to pay attention on the Via Delarosa.
It is hard to pay attention to the way of grief.

That is where I find myself today.
Today, as I went about my regular routine,
(with the added pieces that children are out of school and there is a worship service in the middle of the day),
it occurred to me that it is hard to pay attention to Good Friday.
We don’t want to pay attention to the way of grief.
So it is good and right to come here together.
It is good and right to be here in the quiet of this sanctuary.
It is good and right to stop and pay attention to what is going on, on this day.

So for now:
We stand with Judas in his jealousy
Peter in his fear,
with Thomas in his doubt,
with the crowds in Jerusalem,
with Pilate in his “wanting it to be over with”
with Mary in her sorrow
with Jesus in his pain. Friends, welcome to the Way of Sorrow.
Let us worship God.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 31 Palms Presbyterian E-Devotional

Palms Lenten Devotional March 31st

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless God's holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all God's benefits-
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit?
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like eagles.....
The Lord has established a throne in the heavens,
and a kingdom that rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do God's bidding,
obedient to the spoken Word.
Bless the Lord, all hosts,
ministers that do the will of God
Bless the Lord, all God's works,
in all places of God's dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

(selected verses)


Seven times in this psalm we find the word bless. But it seems much more than a finding. The psalmist claims faith....calling to God for a blessing. The psalmist is both praising God from a place deep inside and calling the congregation (now us) to bless the Lord. And beyond the profession of blessing and call to blessing, there is a finger pointing (and the finger is pointed in our faces) going on. All the "who" questions remind me of a coach giving a locker room talk---

Who forgave all your iniquities?
Who healed your diseases?
Who raised you from the Pit?
Who loves you?
Who shows mercy to you?
Who will satisfy you as long as you live?
Your parents?
Your friends?
Your teammates?
Your spouse?
Your co-workers?Your children?

And who is it that does that not only for you, but for your parents, your friends, your teammates, your spouse, your co-workers, your children? And beyond all that: Who is it that has done all those things since the beginning of time and throughout time and in all the time that is to come? Bless the Lord. Only One. God even breaks through time and space as we know it. Generation to generation. "For as the heavens are high above the far as the east is from the a father has compassion for his children" so great the steadfast love, the forgiveness and the compassion are of God.

The psalmist is establishing the dominion of God. All that you can imagine. Through all time and through all space. That is the dividing line of God's kingdom. Basically a circle has been drawn that includes everything and person through all time and even that circle is not big enough because we drew it.

So, then, the question for today is: whom will you serve?


Please pray with me: Lord, You are so much more than we can imagine. Your circle is ever wider than we can draw. Your love is more complete than we can comprehend. Spark our imagination. Widen our circle. Give us the love of the psalmist as we bless you. Amen.

Peace, Laurie

Monday, March 30, 2009

March 29 Palms Presbyterian E-Devotional

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into God's presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God,
it is God who made us, and we belong to God.
We are God's people, and the sheep of God's pasture.

Enter God's gates with thanksgiving,
and God's courts with praise.
Give thanks to God and bless God's name.

For the Lord is good;
God's steadfast love endures forever,
God's faithfulness is to all generations.


In children's ministry, we have moved away from memorization. With the recognition of different learning styles and abilities, educators have chosen to not reward the children for whom memorization comes easily. No stickers; no urgings; no recognition.

When I was a child, I was one of the ones who could memorize. I was rewarded well in the company of the multi-age Sunday School assembly. We got candy. I wanted the candy, but more than that, I wanted to show that I could do it. It was unstructured: you learned a verse and when the time came, stood up and recited it.

In 5th grade my friend and I made up a poem to memorize the names of the books of the Old Testament (nerdy pastor-to-be). This was before there was any song (that I knew of) to learn the books. And it was hard going, but in a week or two, we had it down. It was the pinnacle of my memorization, because most adults could not recite the books of the bible.

I agree it is not right for all to memorize. But, if it something you are good at or interested in, the psalm above is a good psalm to have in your memory bank. Lent can be a time of re-programming or incorporating something new. What if this Psalm 100 sunk into your being? If it is memorized, it becomes a part of you. It is brief. It speaks of God's love and our response. It is shorter than the 23rd Psalm (the Lord is my shepherd...) which many children and adults memorize.

Know that the Lord is God and is good; God takes care of you and loves you with an enduring, forever love...more than happily ever after, surely ever after even unto the generations after you. This is where you belong.

If you are good at it, take a go at memorizing it. If you come recite it to me, I'll secretly give you a piece of candy.


Join with me in prayer: Creator God, you call us and bless us and gift us. And above all that, you love us steadfastly. Thank you Lord. Help us respond with unending praise.

Peace, Laurie

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Palms' E-Devotional March 28, 2009

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
for the Lord has done marvelous things....
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praise with the lyre and the melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn.....
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord.....


More singing.
The Psalmist is always singing.
La, la, la... the congregation warms up.
(Dr. C. always tells the children their voices are their best instrument. I wonder if the psalmist told that to the congregation.)

La, la, song....marvelous things.....
Lord, God, Almighty, Praise, Praise,, la, la......

The congregation, all the people--- not enough,
creation joins in, la, la, la.....
enter the bass section: the sea roars.....
and then floods;
(and those would be welcome floods in a dry and desert land) The floods clap to the beat.
La, la, la, ROAR, clap, clap, clap and the hills now join in song.
If you are in a valley,
the singing hills surround you with their beautiful singing.
If you are on top of a hill,
the singing is so loud it almost knocks you over.....

And beautiful?
all creation
joining together in a song of praise
in the presence of the Lord.

What is not to alleluia, praise God about that?
the one whom from all blessings flow.....
Hold the alleluias until Easter, we are told....
But who can stop creation?


Join with me in prayer: Put a new song within us this day. We join with creation praising you, Almighty God, forever and ever. Amen.

Peace, Laurie

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Palms' E-Devotional March 26, 2009

Lenten Devotional

Palms Lenten Devotional March 26th

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust, and say, "Turn back, you mortals."
For a thousand years in your sight,
are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.....

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days....
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands----
O, prosper the work of our hands.


"Satisfy us with your love in the morning.
And we will live this day in joy and praise."

This is how we begin each Friday morning in prayer in the chapel at Palms. Our small group (of 2-3) gathers and we gather to pray, asking God to "satisfy us with Your love in the morning". If only we were satisfied. On any given day there are many number of things that dissatisfy me. If I need to do laundry; If I forgot to do laundry; If we are out of milk; If the coffee doesn't taste right; If the dog has an accident; If a child brings home a bad grade; If a sports practice runs late; If someone says the wrong thing at the wrong time. get the picture.

But, what if.....God's love satisfied? What would it be like to be fully satisfied knowing that we are children of God and God's steadfast love has grabbed hold of us and will not let us go. What if God's love was enough? Shouldn't it be enough? Why is God's love not enough? What would it be like to rejoice and be glad all our days? It sounds fully awesome and righteous. It sounds God-like.

What, oh what, keeps us from rejoicing and gladness?

The beginning of the psalm 90 tells us. We are mortals. And mortals will be what mortals will be. The psalmist reminds us that God's love is so much bigger than whatever we can dream. It transcends time and space as we know it. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God.

What if we reminded ourselves of our mortality and the unimportance in the grand scheme of the generations and eons of our laundry, our milk, the coffee, the dirty carpet, the one grade, the time spent waiting? What if......?

The grace withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.


Join with me in prayer: Lord, satisfy me with your joy each day, so that I may live in joy and peace. Amen.

Peace, Laurie

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Home Again...

Peace and blessings from sunny Jacksonville, Florida. I arrived home late Friday night. My family met me at the airport and it was wonderful to see each of them, even though Abbie had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the airport. The dog remembered me and everyone loved the gifts I brought them from the trip.

Re-entry has been a bit trying and I slept through the night last night (Monday night) for the first time. I hope to get to the gym today and get back on track (pardon the pun). Maybe that will help my jet lag, as well.

I am so happy to be back with my family and at work. I do, however, miss all my new friends from the pilgrimage group. It was wonderful to have "fellow travelers on the journey". It was truly the wonderfully, surprising part of the entire trip: becoming a part of a brand new community in Christ.

I will post a few more thoughts and pictures and musings in the days and weeks to come. Then, I believe, I will convert this blog over to become a blog where I post devotionals, sermons, lessons, poetry, etc. that come into my mind and/or across my path. You are welcome to stay for that journey or to step off the path. Peace to you and yours, Laurie

Thursday, March 12, 2009

We're Coming Home... is Thursday around 4:30 here as I write this. We will have our last dinner together as a group tonight. This is a great group of people I have been with and I will miss and cherish our time together. But, I am VERY ready to come home. Here is how it will work: first we have dinner, next we have our closing worship (which I am guessing will be both meaningful and emotional), we are to shower and rest and will get a wake up call around 12:30 a.m. when we are to bring our lugguage down. We identify our luggage at 1:15 and watch it get put on the bus, load the bus and drive for an hour to the the Tel Aviv airport. There, we are to go through security and at least a few of us will get questioned at length by the police.

Our flight for Frankfurt leaves at 5:30 a.m. Then, from Frankfurt to Atlanta. And I continue on from Atlanta to Jacksonville and arrive (about 26 consecutive hours later) at 8:30 p.m. eastern standard time. It makes me tired just writing about it, so I better take a nap here in a minute.

A couple of pictures today from the Garden Tomb and a few others from the past couple of days.

Here is a prayer I want you to pray for us. It is written by Raphael Patai:
Prayer for a Safe Journey Home

God of our fathers and mothers,
set us on our journey and guide us,
that we may reach our destination joyously alive and at peace.
Deliver us from all danger on the way.
May we merit favor, kindness, and compassion in your sight,
and in the sight of all who see us.
Blessed are You, God, for hearing prayer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Road to Jericho and Beyond....

Today was our last official day of touring sites. Tomorrow is our free day and we fly out tomorrow (Thursday) in the middle of the night. I’ll be home Friday night. I miss my family and am very ready to come home.

Today, we went back to the West Bank toward the city of Jericho. Jericho is an oasis city in the desert wilderness. To get there you drive through mountains that look like Georgia red clay and then you see Palm trees rising up from the brown and orange desert. That’s Jericho! We stopped first to see where archeologists are digging to find the walls of Jericho (remember in the book of Joshua they say they come tumbling down?). Jericho is also called “the oldest city on the earth” because it goes back to right after caveman times (called the Neolithic period) around 7000 B.C.!!!! At the archeological dig site, we met the head archeologist who is from Italy. He talked with us for awhile about the site and the ancient wall. He reminded me of Indiana Jones. He was very excited about what they were doing. I will try to post a picture of him.

We saw the mountain which is known as Temptation Mountain and named as the spot where Jesus went out to the wilderness and didn’t eat or drink anything for 40 days and 40 nights and then was tempted by the devil.

Next (kids will like this) we went to the sycamore tree which is over 2000 years old and they name as the sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed up (remember that from our recent workshop rotation? – I taught you the song, so you should remember it) to see Jesus.

We went to Qumran where scrolls called the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Too much to explain here, but they were really important and they had parts of the bible and lots of other important information on them. There is a picture of me with one of the caves (cave number 4 of 11) where they found scrolls.

After a lunch at Qumran, we went to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a salt water lake. It is the lowest point on the earth at 1500 feet below sea level. Because of the salt and other minerals in the lake if you get in you the water you can’t get it in your eyes or mouth. And….you float kind of like if you were in a pool of Jell-O. About half of our group got in. Yes…., including me.

When we got back to Jerusalem a group of us walked on top of the wall that goes around the Old City of Jerusalem. It was very interesting because we got a peek at how these city folks live. I’ll include a picture of a soccer game being played with the city of Jerusalem in the background.

Tonight, I begin packing. Peace and I’ll be home soon, Pastor Laurie

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

O, Little Town of Bethlehem....

First, an answer to my niece's question. Yes, that was a diet coke in yesterdays picture. The language on it is Arabic. Here is the language low-down. Hebrew is spoken by the Jewish people. However, there are lots and lots of people who live in Israel who are not Jewish. The speak Arab and are known as Palestinians (also sometimes called Arabs). The writing on the coke bottle was in Arabic.

Speaking of Palestinian and Jewish people, they is lots and lots of tension here. Israel has divided the land here and put a fence around parts that are Jewish to keep the Palestinians out....mostly. But it isn't that easy. Because a lot of Palestenians live on the Jewish side of the wall. And a lot of families are split up on either side of the wall. And lots of Jewish people do not like the wall. And almost all Palesteninian people despise the wall. I included a picture of it. We crossed through a point in the wall, called a check point, to go to Bethlehem today because it is in a Palestinian area known as the West Bank. We had to show our passports and tell the guards we were from the United States. They let us through no problem. However, there was a Palestinian woman in front of us as we left and they checked all over in her car and in the trunk of her car. The wall and the checkpoints were very sad because they make the Palestinians feel like they are not as beloved as the Jewish people. I don't believe that, do you? We have some African American pastors in our group who say it is like before the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. when black people in our country were not given all the rights as white people.

We talked to a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem who is the Pastor of the Holy Christmas Lutheran Church there. He said for many Palestenians there is no hope. There are no jobs. There is no freedom to travel. There is little freedom to do anything if you are a Palestenian. He said his church is about offering hope. While I was in Bethlehem I read a card that said, "in Bethlehem today, let there be peace on earth and good will to all." Please pray for peace in this country of Israel/Palestine.

When we first arrived in Bethlehem, we went past the city (which is now a modern city and I posted a picture) up to a place called the Herodium. It used to be a massive palace and all kinds of other buildings that King Herod had built during the time of Jesus and right after that time. (if you remember from the other day, he also built the city Ceasarea Maritima) I posted a picture of a dog there who looked like he was checking out the whole valley. I also posted a picture of where archeologists are digging up to find and learn about the Herodium. One more picture is one of huge balls that look like canon balls. They were actually used for catapults to fling at enemies who might be coming to destroy the palace.

Of course, you all remember what Bethlehem is famous for........well.....two things actually. For Christian and Jewish people it is special because David (who would become king) lived here. David was also anointed by the prophet Samuel (our Sam's namesake) right here. But, O Little Town of Bethlehem is about Jesus. Bethlehem is the city where Jesus was born. We went to a church called The Chruch of the Nativity which is said to be built on the site where Jesus was born (remember that there was no room at the inn or hotel, so he was born in a stable for animals and laid in a manger) To get into the church you have to go through a tiny door. The door was made tiny so way long time ago (this church was built around 450 AD) people couldn't ride their horses into the church and steal stuff from the they made the door tiny. I included a picture of me bending down to go through the tiny door.

We had a very late night tonight. Oh yes, I forgot to say. The Jewish people here are celebrating Purim tonight and tomorrow. Purim is a festival celebrating Queen Esther and her bravery. You can read about it in the book of Esther in the bible., for Purim the children dress up and the grownups give them candy (sort of like Halloween)!! We went to the Western Wall to watch the children wandering around in their costumes.

Peace in this land and ours, Pastor Laurie

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Day of Three Religions

Today was an interesting day. Beautiful and sunny again, but a bit colder.

We began by going to the Temple Mount of the Dome of the Rock. This is a Muslim holy place. In the pictures of Jerusalem, you see it as the large gold dome that rises above the skyline. Only Muslims are allowed to go inside, but we walked around the outside and it is spectacular. It was built in the 600's and is the oldest coninually used place we have seen. It is also clean and has been kept in wonderful condition. The outside of it is covered with beautiful tiles.

From there we went again to the Western Wall which is a holy place to the Jewish faith. Again, it is the Western Wall of the Temple which was destroyed. Jewish (and anyone who would like) come to the wall to pray and to gather. We saw a gathering that seemed to be a Bar Mitzvah at the Wall. A Bar Mitzvah is the ceremony in which a 13 year old boy becomes a member of the Jewish worshipping community.

From the Wall, we boarded our bus and went to the place that is named as the Emmaus in the bible. Emmaus is the site of an important story to Christians. If you read the story in the bible, (Luke 24:13-52), it says that two of the disciples were walking to the city of Emmaus, the day after Jesus died. Emmaus, when a stranger appeared and walked with them. They walk and talk. When they get to Emmaus, which is 7 miles away, they have a meal together. And that is when they recognize that they have been with Jesus.

Oh yes, I forgot something, we also visited the place that is named to be Caiphas (the high priest's) courtyard where Peter denys knowing Jesus three times. There is a rooster on top of the church that sits there because the story is that Jesus had told Peter that he would "deny him 3 times before the cock (rooster) crows". They showed us a jail cell that would have been like the jail cell that Jesus would have been locked up in while he waited to be killed. It was dark and cold and sad and lonely.

After lunch, we walked around the city some. We found the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Jerusalem. I stood in the pulpit there and if I can post pictures later, I'll try to put it on the blog.

We stopped at a famous hotel named the King David hotel (it is named after King David, can you tell). Lots and lots of famous people have stayed there including all the presidents since Jimmy Carter on, the Dalai Lama, lots of stars and government people from other countries. They have their names written on stones in the hotel lobby.

It is now time for dinner. I cannot load pictures right now. Will try to load them later, but my camera ended up in someone else's backpack and I need to find it.

Peace, Pastor Laurie

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In the City on a Hill

This is our first full day in Jerusalem and full is a good word to describe it. Today was "the walk of Jesus". We started the morning at the Mount of Olives. It is at a high point outside of Jerusalem. Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives or nearby during his last week in Jerusalem. (Luke 21:37). In modern times, the Mount of Olives is the burial ground for the Jewish people. I am posting a picture of me at the Mount of Olives. See the gold dome in the distance. Today was spent winding our way down the mount and up into and then around and through the streets of Jerusalem. There was a camel there and I put on a picture of the camel.

We followed a path that millions of Christians have followed down to the Garden of Gethsemene. All four gospels record Jesus prayer and his betrayal by the disciple Jesus that took place here. (Matthew 26:36) There are olive trees here and I've included a picture of some of them. They are very, very old.

We kept walking down the mountain and at some point you turn and start walking up the hill that takes you into Jerusalem. Old Jerusalem still has a wall around it and you enter and exit through the old city gates. We entered the city through the Lions Gate.

Through the gate we went to the Pool of Bethseda found in John 5:2-9. This is the place where Jesus healed a man who had been there for 38 years. Here, we went into Saint Anne's Church. Saint Anne is said to be Jesus' grandmother and this is a church that was made in her honor. We sang hymns in the church. I am including a picture of one of the pools (now empty) of Bethsada.
Leaving St. Anne's, we went further into this big city that is filled with people and shopping and houses on top of the shopping and churches and more people and more people. And the streets wind all around and are very, very old. We walked the "stations of the cross" in Jerusalem. These are places around the city which represent the walk Jesus made when he was about to be killed on the cross. It includes Jesus carrying his cross and falling down, Simon of Cyrene picking up the cross of Jesus, Jesus being stripped and being nailed to the cross. It ends with Jesus being placed in the tomb. These are all prayer stations and are marked by little plaques. The last of the stations ends in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is traditionally believed Gologotha, the place where Jesus was crucified. The church was built around this site. This church is huge and very holy for many, many people and denominations. There is a picture of the inside of the church, but this church has many, many different worship areas and this does not show how large it is.

It occured to me that I had not said much about food here. I will tell you about our lunch, which is typical of our lunches. You sit down and there is pita bread on the table with lots of different things you can put on it: hummus, spicy red sauce, peppers, different spicy vegetables. Then the meal comes. Today, it was spicy chicken, rice and some pepper mixture. We had an apple for dessert. Sometimes there are dates or figs or tangerines. Sometimes we have fish or beef. Always pita, hummus and rice. There is a picture of some of our lunch here.

For today....peace, Pastor Laurie

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday, March 7

Wow! What a day. This morning we set our faces toward Jerusalem. One last meal at the sumptious 5-star Scots Hotel. We should be proud of this Presbyterian prescence here in Tiberius.

We boarded our buses and left the Sea of Galilee on this gorgeous morning. Not a cloud. A nice breeze. It is about 80 degrees here today. Our first stop was the ancient (and I mean really ancient) Megiddo. Megiddo has 15 layers of civilization on it. It is an archeologist's dream. There have been settlements and then awesome fortifications (castles and such) since thousands and thousands of years before Jesus was even born! We were basically inside the ruins of castles upon castles.

Back on the bus and over the Ceasarea Maritima on the coast of the Meditteranean. This was port city built by the Greeks during the time of Jesus. The apostle Paul was in prison there. They built a huge aquaduct from miles and miles away at Mount Carmel (remember the prophet Elijah fighting the prophets of Ba'al up there??---we had a rotation Sunday School class on the story before Christmas this year) This city sits on the Meditteranean Sea which is BEAUTIFUL. Very much like the Caribbean - aqua blue water. I picked up lots of sea glass and some stones and maybe some pieces of ancient pottery.

We left there to come to Jerusalem where we are now. We got here in time to walk down to the Western Wall at the end of Sabbath for the Jewish people. It was like a HUGE family reunion worship service. Lots of prayer, lots of small and large gathering all at the western most point of the Jerusalem temple which was destroyed. The wall is the foundation wall of the temple. The people of Jerusalem and people all over the world write prayers on scraps of paper and put them in the cracks of the wall. I can't even explain how moving it was to see. I tried to use take a video which I may or may not figure how to upload. But, not tonight.....for it is late and it has been a VERY long day.

Peace to Jerusalem and peace to all, Pastor Laurie

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday, March 6th

So, business first. I had technical difficulties tonight. This blog page kept coming up in Hebrew, which I had in seminary, but cannot read or write at all fluently. And...even if I could, it would not be helpful for you in following my journey. If for some reason, I stop posting, it is due to technical difficulties such as this.

Today was our free day. I went with Pastor Beverly, Pastor Tiffany and Pastor John on a long long hike down from the Arbel Cliff, through the Valley of the Doves and on down to modern day Magdala where we had lunch. It was a beautiful day and wonderful hike and awesome company. We saw castle ruins, lots of caves (where interestingly enough cows seem to live/hang out in----VERY STINKY), a newborn calf who could barely stay up on his legs and a big cow in the middle of the path who did not want to move to let us stay on the path. I've included a number of pictures from the walk including one of me and Pastor Beverly in the "cow patty cave"--notice how HUGE the cave is and how small we are!!

The Valley of the Doves is a huge valley that is right in the middle of the path that everyone thinks Jesus would have walked to get from his hometown of Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee. We all felt pretty certain, we were in the footsteps of Jesus today.
Pastor Joy and I led the worship service tonight. We leave for the city of Jerusalem tomorrow, so it was service of movement and transition and remembering the places we have been this week.

I now should be packing, because it is late at night here. Wanted to get a quick post in.
Peace from Tiberius one last time,

Pastor Laurie

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday, March 5th

Today was an interesting day. We went up toward the border countries of Syria and Lebanon. On the way up we stoppped at a beautiful waterfall. It was a steep and muddy (and very stinky) walk to get to the waterfall. But....boy, was it worth it. Beautiful. It really was spectacular and reminded me that such beauty has to come from God. We got all wet and were teasing each other that we had been baptized once again. I am posting a picture of me and my roommate Pastor Tiffany in front of the waterfall. I am also including a picture of the three Presbyterian Pastors in our group (myself, Pastor Joy and Pastor Alfredo)

Next, we boarded the bus again and went up to the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights are an area that was not part of Israel just a little while ago. It is called an "occupied territory" because Israel occupies it right now, but it is not officially considered Israel. There were lots of Israeli army bases and soldiers in the area. There were also signs everywhere that warned you not to go off the road because there were mines planted in the ground. Mines are explosives that can hurt or even kill you if you step on them.

To see the soldiers and fences and the signs was disturbing to me. It reminded me that we are traveling in a place that people have fought over for many, many years....way back before Jesus' time and all the way until today. This little piece of land (about the size of New Jersey) is a pathway betweeen Africa to the south and China and India to the north. It has always been thought of as valuable, so countries fight over it. Add to that the fact that the Jewish people, Christians and Muslims all have their religious roots here. Why do we have to fight? Isn't there a way to share this special place.

So.....beyond all that we saw some marvelous things today. We saw a castle that is named after a mythological warrior named Nimrod, we saw where the Greek temples of Pan and Zeus were that were built in the first century. I put a picture of what it used to look like (now it just looks like the side of a mountain sort of dug out. I saw a pregnant donkey beside the road. I saw my first sheep in Israel. And we ate at the town of Magdala where Mary Magdalene was from.
I came back from all that and ran 4 miles at a little gym, so I am pooped out.

And is dinnertime.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday, March 4th

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The sun came out today. After our spectacular breakfast, we went to see a boat before we got on a boat.

The boat we saw was a boat from the first century that was just found in the mud at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee a few years ago. The lake level in the Sea of Galilee (which remember is not a sea at all, but a lake) is going down. One day, a fisherman saw something sticking up out of the mud in the bottom of the lake. It was this very, very old boat that is very old, perhaps from the time when Jesus walked the land here (and remember he walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee, as well). I have included a picture of the boat. It was pretty large and could hold several people and a bunch of fish!

We then got on the boat and sailed around the Sea of Galilee. That is when the sun came out. Alleluia! We stopped and read the bible passage about Jesus walking on the water. The disciple Peter sees him and says, “I want to come out there, also.” So Jesus says, “come on out”. Peter is OK walking on the water for a little bit, but then sees the waves and gets nervous and starts sinking. Jesus takes his hand and pulls him out and says, “Peter, you need to have faith.” I have included a picture of myself and one of my professors on the boat. His name is Dr. Horton and he taught me New Testament Bible from way back when I was in college at Wake Forest University.

At the end of the boat ride we stopped at a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a place where people live in community and work together, usually as farmers. The children are all raised together and go to school together. It would be like if the children of the church also all lived in the same neighborhood went to the same school, the parents worked all together and put their money together and ate their meals together. I have included a picture of me on the playground of the kibbutz.

After lunch at the kibbutz, we got on our big bus and went to a spot on the Jordan River. The Jordan River is the river where Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John. I went in the water. It was brown and muddy and pretty cold. It reminded me of rivers in Florida. My friend Joy and I poured water on each other’s heads and gave each other a blessing. I also blessed a pastor named Beverly and a pastor named Alfredo. A very special thing is that my roommate, Tiffany is pregnant. I took water from the Jordan and held it on her belly and blessed the baby who is not even born yet! I have included a picture of me in the river Jordan.

Shalom Ya’ll (I bought a small sign that says that), Pastor Laurie