The Seven

Looking back at Jordan now a few weeks out is odd. While I was there, I was counting down the days until I could go home. After coming off a few intense weeks in Israel which was off the tail-end of an insane semester (and let’s be honest, what semester isn’t insane?), it felt like the end of what I could handle physically and emotionally. I kept getting sick, and I didn’t really have any reserves left since my body had been feeding off of the reserves for weeks.

Being in this intensely physical program with a high intellectual demand brought out the realities of living with an auto-immune disease. Having celiac isn’t only dealing with the prospect of getting sick all the time; it’s dealing with getting other kinds of illnesses much more easily. It means I feel pain more quickly and intensely.

What does that mean in the context of this trip? It means that it takes me longer to recover from things. It means I’m almost always in some kind of pain. But it doesn’t mean it has to rule my life. I could surrender to the pain. I could wallow in my misery.

But here’s the thing: I paid so much money to be here, and more than that, God orchestrated so many details for me to be able to be on this trip. The experience was not going to be this idyllic fantasy realized. The experience was a culmination of my failures, shortcomings, and hardships thrust into my face leaving me with a choice: depend on God or wallow in a depressive state.

I wish I could say I depended on God and I saw His goodness in everything, but the difficulties overcame me many times.

However, through all the difficult circumstances, God provided. There was only a group of seven Gordon students (including myself) that went on the Jordan extension. These six people embodied the love and strength of Christ for me daily. They understood my dietary needs and stood up on my behalf time and time again when I had no more strength to stand up for myself. These six individuals showed me the power of intentional community.

We are all incredibly different people who probably wouldn’t have been friends if we hadn’t been placed together purely because we are all following such different educational paths, yet we bonded, becoming known as “The Seven.”

The Guardian + Sting + Yeti + Bookworm + Goat + Ibex + Sunshine = The Seven.

Love you guys!

2014-06-17 15.06.00


The Last Bit in Israel

The last field day was my third sick day in Israel. On one hand, I’m sad to have missed the last day. On the other, my body could not be willed out of bed. I spent the day sleeping, reading The Eye of the World, talking with my sister, and sleeping some more. There was a brief respite from sleep when I could hear demonstrations passing through the Jaffa Gate. I later found out this was the anniversary of the first day of the Six Day War. Had I more energy, I would have gone out to see who it was and why they were marching on the city.

The next day brought on the final exam of the Israel course. We were given a review of the Tel Aviv airport so we can get back to the States as easily as possible. Afterward, graduation time! Dr. Phillips gave us our certificates that proved our completion of the course one at a time. One of the Canadian pastors of the group gave us little pins of the Canadian flag as a good-bye present. The rest of the day was filled with jovial activities, lovely conversation, delicious food (courtesy of the Gloria Hotel), followed by a rousing game of spoons on the terrace of the hotel.

Saturday was filled with Jordan prep (aka laundry) and more rest. A few of us went into the Old City for some shopping. I assumed the role of personal shopping assistant as we went through shop after shop in the Christian Quarter.

The rest of the nigh was filled with last minute hugs and story-swapping with the folks that would not be joining us for the leg in Jordan…which was all but seven of us. Of course there were some more games to be played on the terrace—spoons and backgammon galore!

Unfortunately, Sunday greeted us with an early farewell from our friends heading back to North America. We all finished packing for Jordan and hung out over at JUC for a bit. After lunch, a few of us made our way to Shorashim Shop in the Jewish Quarter.

This shop is a unique fixture in the corner of the Jewish Square. Two brothers from Canada who happened to be Othodox Jews opened up this shop over twenty years ago to learn about commerce and small business in Israel; however, the mission of the shop quickly shifted to be a safe space for dialogue. The brothers welcome any questions about Judaism that you could have. One of the brothers showed us the “JUC Shuffle”–looking around at the painting for about five minutes but not really that interested until they muster up the courage to ask the shop owners the question that brought them there. Even though we were only there for about an hour, I learned how much I have yet to learn about Jews. We discussed the distribution of space to each gender along the Western Wall to how Jews and Christians look at Atonement Theory differently. The main thing I walked away with is that I don’t even have a basic understanding of what Jews belief let alone what they are looking for in a Messiah. I’m glad I’m taking Dr. Wilson’s Modern Jewish Culture class in the Fall!

Since it was our last night in Israel before Jordan, some that had not left for home yet had dinner with us at the Gloria. I’m going to miss Jerusalem!


Amazonians and Hypocrites

The theme for today should have been, “Artistry.” The beauty from the mosaics, to the landscapes of God’s design, to the engineering of the theater, the hand of the Artist is everywhere.

Zippori (Sepphoris) developed how I suspect the Roman Empire wanted Jewish cities to develop—by slowly acclimating to the culture, caring more about their lives than religious conviction. Sepphoris embraced Hellenism in architecture, mosaics, etc.

I like the possible connection of Joseph (and possibly Jesus) working on the palatial structures in Sepphoris. Because the structure was a major building project for many years, it was likely that carpenters (which were stone masons in this region in antiquity) were brought in from surrounding towns. Nazareth was within a reasonable radius to commute to Sepphoris on a daily basis. Even though Sepphoris was not mentioned in the Gospels, this city can be considered as “Jesus’ backyard,” so understanding the culture, people, and land of Sepphoris is helpful in understanding the nuances of Jesus’ teaching. For instance, Jesus often used the image of “hypocrites.” That was the word used for “actor,” and Sepphoris was a major Hellenistic city. One of the major forms of entertainment was the theater, so hypocrite would be something that Jesus and his audience would be very familiar with.

I adored that they had a whole mosaic section on Amazon women. I’ve always had an affinity for strong, fit women, but the myth behind their name freaked me out a bit. “A” meaning “no” and “mazon” meaning “breast,” the myth says the Amazon women cut off their right breast to draw arrows better. This myth goes against what I loved about the Amazons: strong, curvy, empowered women who didn’t need to change who they were to be powerful forces. Despite the myths, the mosaics of them portrayed rather epic women (with both breasts)! Sepphoris really was a cultural center with a collage of Greco-Roman and Egyptian influence–as shown by the main mosaic floor with animals depicted from both those regions. After Zippori, we headed out to Mount Precipe where we remember where the people tried to push Jesus over the precipice.

At the Mount Precipice, I was kind of zoning out. After the lecture was over, three men from Nazareth came up to preach. My soul was rejuvenated and challenged by their testimonies. Do I try to drink from both Satan’s and God’s cup? Do I try to eat from both their tables? The men’s courage to preach without knowing where each of us are with Jesus is inspiring and convicting. I’m so happy I got to experience that.

We ended our inclusio day on Greco-Roman influence at Beth She’an. Throughout our visits to theaters, I have had the urge to sing “O Mio Babbino Caro.” I decided to stay behind after our group left and just let it out. Little did I know, an Italian group enter the theater when I started singing. Apparently, there were a few cameras and smartphones recording me. When I stopped singing, a man started singing back to me in Italian and we had some operatic banter—so fun! The space had beautiful acoustics. I only wish my voice was more in shape so my technique was better! The rest of Beth She’an was fairly hazy from the heat. Eating an almond covered magnum bar while leaning on the model of Beth She’an while watching the birds in the vines along the terrace was a rather glorious end to that day.

Now back to Jerusalem for a few days before I head out for Jordan for two weeks.

Originally written June 5, 2014.