Sunday, May 15, 2011

Textures and Colors...The Holy Land Up Close

This will be my last post from Jerusalem, and I can't believe how fast this time has gone by. Israel and the Palestinian Territories make up a small area, but even in a year, there is so much I haven't seen. But sometimes I think my eyes can't take in any more, and I feel very full. We have been here through all the seasons of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim year... all kinds of weather... the labyrinth of the Old City streets have become familiar, and yet I still get lost and explore new surprising corners every now and then. Still try new foods, still meet new people, still learn something (a lot of things) new every day. Click on the slideshow to see the textures and colors that have filled our sight over the past year.

Of course, I have also seen a lot that you can't capture with a digital camera; pain, anger, grief, fear, loss, laughter, patience, blessings, miracles, and prayers. I hope with my whole being that the next time I'm here, I see peace.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Seasonal Fruit

Corn, zucchini, raw almonds, and raw chickpeas in the Old City market.

Caca season has recently come to an abrupt and disappointing end. Caca (at least that's what they call it in Arabic!) is basically a persimmon -- but better than you can imagine if you've only ever eaten them in the US. It seemed that just when I finally figured out what the darn things were, and couldn't get enough of them, they suddenly couldn't be found.

All the good stuff goes through these cycles -- strawberries, melons, askadinya, passionfruit... Now the big thing is raw almonds, encased in their fuzzy green pods, though I can't say I'll miss those too much when they're gone from the markets.

My friend Nicole often shares this Emily Dickinson quote: "That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." The little heartbreak I feel every time I realize the fruit I'm looking for has just gone out of season is just a tiny reminder that our time here in this place is short. The fruit and veggies come and go in seasons, but as far as I know, I won't be here in Jerusalem the next time caca reappears. It's time to be present to all the gifts of this life, and take with me the lessons of appreciating what's in season.

Orange bell peppers... Beautiful!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter People

Last week, NPR's Michelle Norris interviewed one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. When asked about her interpretation of Easter, Lamott says,

"Well, it's the most profound holiday in the Christian tradition. And I think two things really come to mind. One is something that the great writer Barbara Johnson said, which is that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it's excruciating, whether it's Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God. But it's a time when we get to remember that all the stuff that we think makes us of such value, all the time we spend burnishing our surfaces, is really not what God sees. God, he or she, loves us absolutely unconditionally, as is. It's a come as you are party."

I remembered a moment early in Lent, when we had just witnessed live on TV the unbelieveably destructive tsunami devouring Japan's coastal communities -- which in turn was submerged by coverage of our intervention in Libya. I felt so saturated with the world's suffering, and so tiny and powerless in the face of it. I had gone to the office as usual, but found myself truly dragging at the end of the day, and, stalling before the long walk home, I wandered into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where I found myself staring, with tears, at the Greek Orthodox mosaic depicting Jesus' burial. The faces of the women and men appear absolutely broken as they bind up Jesus' wounds and carry him to the tomb. The glowing golden mosaic captures the moment when their world has ended, and they are utterly exhausted. You can see it in their hands, even their hair. That day, and that moment, and many moments since for anyone who's paying attention to what's going on in this world, sure felt like a hopeless, Good Friday end of the world.

But the beautiful thing about that mosaic is that we know something the people in the story didn't know yet -- that when the women come back, the tomb is empty and terrifying as the news may be, it is good. Life is not the same, and no one promised it would be. But, as Anglican Bishop Suhail Dawani preached this morning (at the second service we attended this morning!), the work of Christians in the Holy Land is to proclaim new life even in seemingly hopeless situations. We don't know what the new life will be, but we have seen too many miracles to give our lives over to fear and turn away from people struggling for justice and healing.

I am so bad at remembering that. Maybe that's why I love Anne Lamott for her honest and faithful wrestling with Christian faith. This day has been beautiful in Jerusalem, and we pray it's been beautiful where you are too. Let's not forget to hang on to the beauty and resist the fear when tomorrow we step back into the Good Friday world.

Click on the slideshows to see photos of Holy Week in Jerusalem.