Hear Jerusalem Moan: Jerusalem

We arrived in Jerusalem a sunset and a sunrise before the sabbath, and oh was it good to eat supper and bring our bags to the room upstairs. We stayed at Christ Church, a place with a long history and a guest house. We went out walking that night in the light in the streets. We went to a modern shopping district and an unearthed shopping district and made our first of many stops to watch and pray at the Western Wall. Whenever I prayed there, in reach of the stones of the temple mount, I prayed for the peace of Jerusalem.

The next day we went to several museums, including the Holocaust museum, where I was reminded of all the stories I’ve read that are not just stories. For many, those stories are the reason their family now lives in Israel. My favorite falafel of the tour was that day in a crowded stall of the crowded Jewish market on the afternoon before Sabbath. Rush hour before a day of rest. That evening after a Sabbath dinner at the church, we went back to the Western Wall. Hundreds of Jews were gathered in their Sabbath best, dancing and praising and kissing the old-hewn stones. They want so badly for the temple to be rebuilt upon that mount that they have a menora ready, but there is still a mosque, a minaret and a loudspeaker up there. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

I made myself too busy on my Sabbath, as always, but I felt it more in a land where so many others are very busy at resting. I walked up and down the streets, spying out souvenirs and bartering with shopkeepers. We went to the church of the Holy Sepulchre (pray for peace) and touched some revered stones. Sunday we explored Zion and went through a tunnel along the temple mount underneath the Muslim Quarter. On Monday we followed the path of Jesus during the days before his death. We sat in the Garden of Gethsemane while the gardener pruned. I am grafted onto an olive tree. We went inside a tomb where Jesus’ body may have lay. Now it is just stone.

Jerusalem is full of stones: the wall that surrounds the Old City, old walls that used to do the same, underground tunnels, overground tunnels, ancient ruins, and brand new apartment complexes. When the sun rises in the morning, it all looks like gold. But Jerusalem is more colorful than that. I couldn’t tell you specifically what an Israeli or a Jew looks like or acts like because the diaspora that has repopulated carry with them the lands where they lived. There are Russian Jews and Polish Jews and French Jews and rich New York Jews. And there are Orthodox Jews and Secular Jews and Messianic Jews (though very, very few). And then there are the Catholics, the Armenians, the Muslims, and the tourists. One time we were sitting in the garden of the Garden Tomb, trying to listen to our Canadian (we guess) tour guide talk about our Jewish Savior while the Muslim call to prayer resounded above the city and a tour group of Vietnamese Christians sang a song I know well in English but cannot remember. Is this diversity, or chaos? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

On our last night in Jerusalem, a few of us went to a pub where we spent a peaceful, relaxing evening. On our way out, we met a couple people who were also enjoying an evening at the pub, but in a less redemptive way. They were Americans, and we had a good chat. They were with some peace promoting tour group, but I don’t know if they had enough peace for themselves, much less enough to share.

When you hear Jerusalem moan (or just listen to the bluegrass song), pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Hear Jerusalem Moan: The Negev

As mentioned briefly in the last post, I went to Israel. About sixteen students went for about two weeks. We began our journey in the Negev, the sweaty place, the South, the desert, the wilderness. Since night had fallen long before we reached the kibbutz (communist ranch) where we stayed, we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We met a couple guys our age who had hitchiked to the same kibbutz. They had recently gotten done with their three years of mandatory military service. We wandered around in the dark and asked them what it’s like to grow up in Israel. One of the guys had never been outside of Israel. They both felt like their lives had been on hold while they were in the army, so they were happy to be out and wandering around. We wandered around the kibbutz for a while and they showed us the spot where Ben-Gurion (like George Washington, but for Israel) was buried. By the light of the waxing moon, we saw that our lodgings were seated next to a canyon.

The next morning the sun came up over that canyon, and we saw just how big it was, and how dry. We went by bus to the Ramone Crater and hiked for miles and talked about the Israelites wandering in this desert. Then we hiked a few more miles. Then we ate some manna in the form of falafel. The falafel stand on the first day served it hot and cheap with all the best condiments. We raved. Within ten days, though, we started to grumble against our beloved tour guide Rami whenever he mentioned falafel for lunch. In the afternoon we wandered some more, this time among the ruins of Avdat. For supper that night, we ate meat, since we had had dairy for breakfast, and it would be over six hours until we ate dairy again. That night we sat under the stars and listened to distant rumblings from the direction of Gaza and talked about God and the world.

We saw water the next day: a lovely stream running through the desert of Tsin. The water allowed green things to grow. After falafel, we visited the Negev shack of Ben-Gurion, who moved to the Negev to be an example of pioneerism. He wanted to show that the desert could bloom if they just added water, which is what people have been doing for millenia, as we saw in the ruins of Arad. That night we resettled at another kibbutz near the Dead Sea. Again we opened our suitcases, knowing we would have to repack everything the next morning.

We woke up early to watch the sun rise over the Dead Sea. That day was full: Masada, En Gedi, Qumran and a swim in the Dead Sea. The water at En Gedi dives into a turquoise pool; the water in the Dead Sea beads up on top of itself and won’t let you drown. It was a beautiful day. All of our time in the Negev had been beautiful, but I was ready for the city, as strange as it may sound to hear that from me.

In Jerusalem, we’d stay five nights in one place. We’d be able to let our suitcases explode and the contents spread throughout the room. We’d be able to settle in, feel at home, and drink the water straight from the tap. And best of all, at night it would not be dark because the streetlights would come on and we’d be able to explore as far as we could walk.

I was ready for Jerusalem. I could hear Jerusalem moan.

Can’t you hear Jerusalem moan?

Someone at David’s baby shower on December 13 asked me when I had gotten back. Back to the country? Back to school? Back from Thanksgiving break? I had been to Colorado before, but never to that chidrens’ hospital, so I couldn’t really come back. Alissa had to say “Friday” for me. Yes, Friday, December 12 was the day that I landed in Denver.

When Milt asked me the same question on Sunday, I was ready. I told him that I got into Denver airport on Friday night, then rode up to Ft. Collins, then rode back to Denver, then rode back to Ft. Collins, then rode back to Denver. “You can’t say ‘back’ when this is only the third day I’ve been in Ft. Collins, and I’ve spent two of those days in Denver.” Point taken.

People thought I was “back” because they thought I was home, but I knew that home wasn’t Ft. Collins because I didn’t even know where the bathrooms or the oven mitts were. I suppose there are plenty of senile people who have lived in houses their whole lives and then forgotten where the bathrooms or the oven mitts are, but that’s different. They are still allowed to call their houses home, even after they are taken away to a nursing home. And they are also allowed to call the nursing home “home.” Or both can be home. Or neither.

If home is where the heart is, my home is in pieces all over the world. There are chunks in the swamp, in the camper, in the senior hallway, in Glacier Dorm, in my señora’s house, in this dorm room, and in Fort Collins. My home is even in places I’ve never been, like George Fox University’s Asian house and Singapore and orphanages in Uganda. Some pieces of my home no longer exist (like Putermobile), and some pieces exist only in my imagination (like my own full kitchen). This is all very complicated, so I prefer a definition of “home” that goes beyond nostalgia and desire and includes something of relative permanence and practical function. I don’t have this definition completely worked out, and I don’t even want to know what the dictionary has to say.

Lori asked me yesterday if I spent Christmas in Iowa or at home. The truth is I spent ten days at my parents’ house and then spent Christmas in the Buick with my sister and the next few days at the Hoflands’ house, the next few days in a cabin, the next two days at my boyfriend Ryan’s house, another night at Hoflands’, the next day in the Buick, and the next day and a half at the house on Kalamazoo. And then I went to Israel. No, Lori, I did not spend Christmas at home.

“Where is your home?” she asked as I finally unpacked the suitcase, duffel, and backpack that I’d been living out of since December 12. “Here,” I said.

But that’s only half the answer. “I’ve got a home on the other shore (Oh, can’t you hear Jerusalem moan!) and I’m a gonna live there forevermore. (Can’t you hear Jerusalem moan?)”

Done!

I am done with another semester, another season in another place, but it doesn’t seem that time has passed. Thanks to air conditioning, the air felt just this cold when I got here. I have so few entries to add to my list of places where I’ve slept. I’ve gotten acquainted with many new people, but I’ve lost contact with many more. I have made a few new friends.

I am done with seven presentations, eight classes, thirteen textbooks, twenty credits, and one hundred and fifty one single spaced pages of academic writing. I know I know more than I used to, but what? Would I know more if I had actually read all the textbooks, or maybe at least bought them? No. I would just be more poor, more tired.

I am done with a big chunk of work that I needed to do to prepare myself for my vocation. And for all the times I thought I wouldn’t be able to get it all done, it really wasn’t that bad. It was good.

God is not done working on me, not even for the semester. As I rest in celebration of God becoming human, all the pieces of me that are still flying through the air will settle into something, and I will see what God has done. For, when all is said and done, God has done it all.

Walk

I’m squeezing snow into heel-shaped wafers
as blank-flavored as this air,
from which all impurities have fallen
because it is so cold.
The far away is louder than the near
because it is so quiet here.
The only sound is squeaking, squeezing snow.

I sure hope not.

Professor Vallone keeps saying that I am a researcher, but I’m pretty sure that I am an old woman reading poetry on the porch of her cabin in the mountains. I must go there to meet her. Country road, take me home, to the place where I belong. Somewhere west. The whole world is west of here, but only half the universe– assuming we are in the center of the universe. I sure hope not.

not my own

When the toaster oven timer quit ticking, I paused from preparing a lesson plan for students I still don’t have. Someday I’ll find out if preparing lesson plans really takes so much time. I hear that I won’t really find out what busy is until I get to “real life.” Well, this is my life.

This is my life: eight classes, a lab called “teacher aiding,” a job at the writing center and an endless drone of assigned reading and assigned writing. Sometimes this life gets interrupted to live a little bit– to share with roommates, to talk to my boyfriend, to cook something at my dresser-top kitchen.

I opened the toaster oven door on my supper: pumpkin bread with raisins, pears, and chocolate-chip swirls. It was still dough for the most part, but since the top was starting to burn, I had to take it out and eat it. Delicious. Not bad at all for a half-dead toaster oven that I bought at the thriftstore, that Lori brought home in her backpack, and that Bryna immediately started making plans for. I still call the toaster oven mine, but I’m not too possessive. Especially since only the top coils ever glow.

While I enjoyed the aroma of my almost-burnt-but-still-not-ready creation, I glanced at my watch. “Gospel choir soon,” I thought. I looked from the computer to the open syllabus on the floor to the books sprawled across my bed. “It’s going to be a late night.”

Tonight I’ll study for a quiz, finish that lesson plan, and write the rough draft for a twenty page paper. Tomorrow who knows what I’ll do. I’m not worrying. I will keep on doing what I need to do each day because I know this isn’t my life. Sure, I might always be this busy, but not this busy. And someday I’ll cook in a convection oven… or in ember-covered earthenware. As long as I don’t always cook in a half-dead toaster oven, I’ll be fine. As long as things keep changing, I’ll know that one thing stays the same.

I am being made whole and wholehearted. I won’t always distract myself with half-cooked messes. I won’t always feel so brain-fried and so undone at the same time. I’ll find my consistency, but not for myself. No, this isn’t my life. I am not my own.

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