Highlights from the Holy Land

I just returned from an amazing week in Israel, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, visiting places we read about in the Bible. I’m sure the full scope and meaning of this trip will come into focus more clearly for me over time–like a picture that is right in front of my face and therefore blurry. For now, I’m so grateful to have had the privilege of…

-visiting Jesus’ birthplace (Bethlehem)
-sitting in silence in the Garden of Gethsemane
-floating in the Dead Sea
-being baptized in the Jordan River
-looking out over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
-taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee
-hiking around Dan, Caesarea Philippi, & Golan Heights
-stuffing tiny, handwritten paper prayers into the wailing wall
-walking the ruins of Qumran
-contemplating the evil of the Holocaust
-standing on the Temple Mount
-visiting the site of the empty tomb

In addition to the wonder of walking where Jesus walked, my other highlight included spending time with my friend/mentor/colleague Vaun Swanson who traveled with me; we enjoyed some deep belly laughs, delicious hummus, and a fire hose of historical, political and spiritual learnings.

I remember returning from my first overseas experience at the age of 16, when I talked about my time in Bolivia so much that my friends starting teasing me, “Oh, one more story about the ‘B’word,” the “B-word” being Bolivia! I’m sure in a similar way there will be many stories, illustrations and lessons that I will want to share with you all in the months ahead. I hope I don’t go over board with my HL stories! Feel free to tease me if I do!

on Power

Last week, I was in Guatemala with 10 other people from our church and in partnership with Mothers’ Global Village. Every morning we partnered with a local school to assist the local teachers in a kids’ program.  Our team consisted of people age 6 to 60+, including 9-year old Will, who–along with his 6 year old sister–was instantly famous. The Guatemalan kids ran to them immediately and wanted to touch their hair, speak in Spanglish, and play games with these two American kids. The rest of us were chopped liver next to Will and Kate.

After a couple days in the village Will noticed that one of the Mayan boys, Joni, who had darker skin than the other kids, was being excluded from games, and the other boys were not treating him fairly. This really bothered Will. Later that night he said to his mom, “That is not right. Those kids should not be treating him that way. And I’m a gringo, and I get respect here, so I’m going to do something about that.” And he did. Will went out of his way to choose Joni first and make sure he was never excluded. Later in the week, Will visited Joni’s home and took him a special gift.

Power. Will intuitively recognized he had power in this situation, and he wielded it well. I’m inspired by this 9 year old. We all have power, and we all get to decide how to use it. May you use whatever power and influence you have today for the good of others, and may the all-powerful God give you the wisdom to know right from wrong and the courage to choose it.

Rock-a-bye baby

I had Russell on my hip the other day and bumped his little head into a door in our house. He was fine, but I felt terrible. I haven’t dropped him yet, or seen him fall off the bed, but I’m sure that day will come.  I’ve heard lots of honest parents tell me the stories, “I turned around for a split second, and she fell off the changing table!”  I’m sure I’ll cry when that happens, and I’ll maybe write about it and let you know, but no promises on that part. Russell falling reminds me of that old lulabye:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

What a terrible song to sing. Who came up with that nursery rhyme anyway? Lets sing a song about the baby falling. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Maybe the rhyme is meant to comfort us and let us know we’re not alone? The truth is, there are many falls in parenting and in life. Sometimes the falls are catastrophic, as when I unintentionally hurt someone I love, but sometimes they are simply gaps between my ideal reality and my real life. I really wish my house looked like the Pottery Barn catalog and I do what I can to add nice touches, but on most days it looks like a grenade hit the cheerio aisle at Safeway. I want my meals to be locally grown and artistically displayed like at Root Down and Linger restaurants, but on most days, we are lucky if we get one whole food on the table, and the presentation is far from artistic.

I appreciate when people sing their true life lullabyes with me and let down the façade of perfection. I value when they tell me the real scoop about the conflict they had during the drive to church, or when they have me in their home and don’t clean up first, or when they are comfortable enough to share their spiritual disappointment and grief without a lot of fancy word-smithing to disguise their raw pain. “And down will come baby, cradle and all.” I’m comforted by this kind of honesty. I feel like I’m not alone. Your transparency helps me extend grace to myself – in superficial areas, like housekeeping and cooking – and in more important contexts like relationships, parenting and faith. The truth is, God sees every dropped cradle in our lives and still loves us extravagantly. This is the gift of grace, and it is what enables us to fail, and fall, and try again. And again.