East as in, the Middle East.
I expect to arrive in Israel early Wednesday morning. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
I am getting excited about it finally.
I'm going to be attending a conference called Christ at the Checkpoint. A conference put on by Bethlehem Bible College. The mission of Christ at the Checkpoint is to Challenge Evangelicals To Take Responsibility To Help Resolve the Conflicts in Israel-Palestine By Engaging With the Teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God.
To that end there will be some great speakers from around the world, workshops, meals in Palestinian homes, conversation and connection. I was asked to go as part of a small group of four from our conference of churches here in Canada.
We will also connect with different missions groups there. Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem are on the agenda, and we'll get to the Sea of Galilee, and some other local places. It will be good.
This is my first trip to this place. A place I've read about and studied for many years. It's the place where the Christ, who is Jesus, was born, lived, died, and came back to life again. It has been such a big part of my life for 50 years, that my biggest concern is that there will be an ongoing reconciliation process happening in my head. That the sites I see will be so different from the images I have in my head from these years of thinking about them.
Resolving what I see with my eyes with what's in my head, as a constant ongoing process.
I'm nervous about keeping up with that.
But interestingly, the overwhelming feeling I have is the feeling where I am travelling to see where a good friend or family member grew up, and I've never seen their place before. Like Jesus is excited to show me where he grew up and played and worked and lived, and that he can't wait to show it to me. That's what I'm feeling. That I'm going to see all these places my friend has told me about, and he's excited to show me.
Honestly I never expected to feel that way.
It's kind of odd, but really fun too.
That patch of land has seen so much bloodshed over the years, and continues to see political agenda cause pain and suffering to this day. I am going to be witness of it, and to let it shape me and my work even miles away.
So if you're a praying person, can you remember me Tuesday?
And then as I land on Ash Wednesday early, I'm looking forward to starting Lent in that place they call the Holy Land.
I enjoy the great privilege of having two in the picture, and the picture is a very cute and lovely one.
Their words, when they come, are little personalities. Their giggles are contagious. Their discernment is real, but when they've chosen to trust you, then they love you to the core. At least the core of their little being.
As it happens, today Norah turns three years old. So last week Nana and I got on the old amazon.com and selected some books she'll probably love, and a toy she can use for hours examinig her sister and her dad and maybe her mom a bit too. She does have a powerful imagination that girl.
So though she's miles and miles away from us, she is still close in our hearts and still the thought of her makes us smile.
Happy Birthday young lady. It's super being three.
Saw this the other day, just as the sun caught the right angle.
Right at the bottom of the glass, in the middle, is a little gift she unknowingly left us. Her little hand prints from when she watched the big tractor clear the snow away.
That ain't getting windexed any time soon.
And I'm not too sure why.
No I'm not feeling myself.
Physically I'm off a bit. No, not illness like, just not, right.
It's hard to describe.
Feeling lots of stress right now. Deadlines and getting things in place before I need to travel for my work. Not everything is going to get done and I'm not great at leaving things undone.
Conversations need to be had too. Conversations that are hard and I need to have the right words in place before I ever embark on such conversations. Those are just events that take focus, energy, and the right moments.
Had a couple good connections today, but it was three visits and ended up taking most of the day. Lots of driving today too, which is normal for meeting with people.
I suppose when I look back it was eleven plus hours of work today. OK, that makes better sense. Been a few days like that.
I just don't always have the answers people are searching for. And I'm usually OK with that. But the bad stories catch up with you after a while. At least they do with me. I run out of words that comfort.
That's kind of where I am at. Tonight anyway.
Let's see what happens tomorrow.
We are coming off the busy time of the year for a pastor who lives in a field. Late November till late January is my seasonal, harvest, busy time of the year. And I'm feeling it tonight.
What does it end up looking like?
Well it looks like impatience. It looks like tiredness, but sleep starts to come again. It looks like people and their names in your mind start blurring and you have to work to remember the names.
Usually this week I'm away at pastors meetings and classes in Chicago, so people don't know when I forget their names, to their faces. :) But this year I've made different choices so I'm at home for now.
As I remind the farmers around here it takes a bit of time to get your orientation back after a couple of months of harvest and work work work. So I'm trying to be patient with myself too.
As I am learning, the hard way, it doesn't bounce back as quickly when you're 50, as when you're 35.
But enough distraction for now. I'm working on a piece for a devotional being published for Lent, and it isn't going to write itself.
Night from the field.
Even if I momentarily forget your name.
These things always take so much out of me. Tons of prep work and thought and direction. Hours of reports and writing. It's all just a part of the thing.
And I tend to serve churches that have a long and sometimes difficult story so I've seen AGM's become battle zones. Blood baths where Roberts Rules of Order is the book we can all agree on when we don't trust each other.
But that was not our story today thankfully. By the way, when Roberts rules of Order get pulled out at a meeting, you know it's usually too late for good communication to happen.
When Lauralea and I were making plans to move to Malmo and take up the pastoral responsibilities here, I remember in my conversations with God how I asked him for clarity and direction. His response was that my work here was to simply take people by the hands and to start walking towards Christ and the Cross. I was not to fix people or relationships or try to set my own direction. My only course was to be in movement towards Him, with others in tow.
And so this has been my goal with each passing year, to be moving towards Christ, bringing others with me. This comes out in my meetings with boards and committees and individuals. It comes out in my preaching and talking up front. It comes out in my one on one conversations, my counseling situations, my service opportunities, my life of example.
And I can do that. I can point others to Him and walk with them.
I can do that.
So today good day here and the support we have for our work here is very encouraging.