Posted by: ritagone | December 5, 2018

Impressions of the Holy Land — Part 2

 

 

Again, what is my take-away from my trip to Israel?

Now that I’ve been home for almost two weeks, what lingers in my mind’s eye, what truths are in my heart permanently after our trip to the Holy Land?  Last week I shared what surprises the visit had for me: the crowds, the commercialism, the complications of the history and the current political and social situation.

Today I’d like to finish my thoughts about the trip to Israel with what I think I’ll keep forever in my heart:

First, if you’re a believer in and follower of Jesus, you can’t help but be touched and moved by being there, by seeing with your eyes and touching with your fingers and reaching out with your own soul the land where He walked and lived and taught and eventually died and rose again.  He never left this country, so what you are seeing are the boundaries of His human existence.  And it is now so vivid for me to read, for example, the gospel accounts of His walks from one town to another as He taught and lived life with His disciples and those who walked along with Him.  Those weren’t easy walks.  The roads were rough and sometimes dangerous.  The distances He and His disciples traveled were longer than I had thought they were, walking and talking and sharing whatever food they had along the way.  Now that I have seen the terrain and the countryside, I can appreciate more than ever what His days and weeks looked like while He ministered to the people around Him.  Those are images that are invaluable in terms of my own Bible study and teaching and, probably more importantly, in my own journey with Jesus.

Secondly, I have come to understand what a complicated situation exists in the Holy Land between the Palestinians and the Israelis and other groups who are involved.  As is almost always the case, there are two or three or sometimes even four sides to the story.  No one is completely innocent or completely guilty.  Everyone feels they have right on their side, God on their side.  These issues are so layered and intense that it’s no wonder to me that governments and bodies like the United Nations have been unable to define a workable peace.

Then, the phrase that keeps repeating itself over and over in my mind is this: Israel is not for the faint of heart, both spiritually and physically.  I’ve been to countries in my travels over the years that have required a degree of physical agility (Greece comes to mind), but none compare to the physical skill and stamina required when you’re hiking and sight-seeing in the Holy Land.  Added to that is the amount of mental material you are trying to absorb, and you can almost feel your brain exploding.  This is perhaps why I maintain that I’m still processing the trip and all that we saw and learned even though it’s been a few weeks since we were there.  I sincerely believe it will be many more weeks if not months before I truly understand what I have experienced.  Maybe I never will get it all soaked in and absorbed.  That’s okay too.  It’s a trip to be savored and remembered and re-lived over and over again.

Lastly, let me encourage those of you who have never been to Israel to consider going, especially if you are a follower of Jesus.  A trip there will broaden your spiritual insights and your relationship with God in a way that travel to other places will not.  It’s well worth the effort and the expense (and the long flight).  Put it on your bucket list and try to go while you’re spry and as healthy as possible.  You will not regret it.

And some time if you’re with me in person, ask to see my photos, on my iPhone.  They’re actually quite nice, I think, and I’ll even do a running monologue to go along with them!

I’m going to take a bit of a break from Rita’s Ramblings for the rest of this year to read and relax and study for what I’m teaching at our womens’ Bible study at church, Connection, which will reunite on January 17.

So let me take a minute to wish everyone reading this a very, very happy and blessed Christmas, wherever you are around the world, and a New Year filled with God’s blessings and the peace that passes all understanding.  I’d offer the “next year in Jerusalem” prayer, but I don’t think I’ll be going back to the Holy Land that soon!

With love and greetings of peace and shalom to all of you, Rita

 

(The photo is of the Wailing Wall, now referred to as the Western Wall, the men separated from the women by a partition.)

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Posted by: ritagone | November 28, 2018

Impressions of the Holy Land — Part 1

 

 

What was I expecting?

A mystical, ultra-spiritual environment where people read their Bibles all day long, prayed incessantly, and lived a combination Old/New Testament existence because of where they were living geographically?  (I also expected everyone in London to be reading something of Shakespeare’s when I went to the U.K. for the first time a year after graduating college.  And boy, I was sorely disappointed!)  No, people were not reading Bibles or Torah scrolls, nor praying – not even making attempts at praying except at the Wailing (now called the Western) Wall.  Instead, Israel seems to me like a very secular, tourist-centered nation focused more on that trade than on the religious aspect of its existence, despite being the place where the three major religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – find their roots.

A place struggling with so many issues that it is hard to feel it able to relax and breathe comfortably.  A country where past history is intricate and amazing, and the current political and social situation is more complicated than anything I’ve ever experienced or read about.  Our tour guide Brian said, “You will be more confused at the end of this tour than you are at the beginning.”  He was right.  I read the six or so books on his reading list to prepare for this trip, books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about the history of the nation of Israel, about how God has worked and moved among the Jewish people, among the Palestinian people.  And still I don’t understand a modicum of what I’ve read or seen.  My mind is still in a muddle. 

A landscape that is at once beautiful and striking and then filled with trash.  The city of Bethlehem, for example, seems to have no pride in keeping trash off the sidewalks and curbs.  It is everywhere.  But then you drive out into the country and the views and sights are panoramic and breathtaking.  Desert and palm trees, reminding you that you are indeed in the Middle East, where it’s hot and arid.  And then a mountain that makes you feel like you’re near the Andes.  Contrast.  So much contrast.

I’ll share some more next week.  I’m still processing what I saw and heard and touched and experienced.  It’s not a place that you can define clearly and sharply in a day or in a week, with precision and finality.

Posted by: ritagone | November 21, 2018

Thankful

On Wednesday morning, November 7, a friend’s husband died.  He had been ill off and on for several years, so it was not unexpected, yet for her and their family, it is a personal tragedy.  That’s all I will say about it, because I haven’t asked her permission to say more, nor is it my story to tell.  (I was writing this from Israel, so permission was difficult to obtain.)

On Wednesday night, November 7, a shooter, a disturbed young man, a veteran, killed a number of young people at a local Thousand Oaks establishment where several hundred young adults were gathered to be together to dance and to have fun.  This was a shock to a community deemed one of the nation’s safest cities.  And a tragedy to many families who suffered the loss of a loved one or a friend.  When we awoke to this news Thursday morning, it changed our lives forever.  We were reeling with emotion and feeling all kinds of things in the wake of this event.

While on a 13-hour flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday, November 8, blissfully ignorant of what was going on in the Thousand Oaks area where we live, flames were destroying lives once again, not to mention homes.  High winds and dry brush – always a deadly combination – were threatening homes from one end of the Conejo Valley to the other.  As we got texts from family and friends after landing and turning off “airplane mode,” Michael and I were faced with decisions: should we turn around and go home? Because our home was in the line of fire, our house/dog sitter had evacuated with them to a farther away location, and we were constantly being updated as to the danger our house and our neighborhood were in.  It’s extremely frustrating, I learned, to be so far away and feel so helpless when the place where you live and the home you love are in danger, not to mention the people you hold most dear.

As I write this from Israel a few days later, the fire danger is much lower, but winds are predicted to start up again, and that could mean the danger level rises once more.  So this story is not over; it may be by the time this is posted, or it may not.  Surely those who are devastated by the tragedies mentioned know in their lives that it’s not over in a day or two but will take months and perhaps years – if ever – to at least regain some semblance of normalcy once again.

So there’s personal tragedy, losing a spouse after a long and arduous illness.  Terrible, terrible grief.  And an adjustment to a “new normal” of widowhood and being alone in life.

Then there’s the tragedy of a shooter walking into a club where people are having a fun evening and taking everything away from them in a flash, a few minutes of noise and chaos and fear.  Lives forever changed or impacted by one person’s inability to get help, to cope with whatever demons drove him to this act of insanity.

And then there’s the act of nature, fires that move without emotion or reason and burn whatever is in their path, turned away or stopped only by water and the will of determined fire fighters who are trained to put their lives on the line for the lives and property protection of others.

My community, my friends, my life are touched and changed forever.  When I get home from this trip to Israel, where my Saviour spoke to His followers about loving beyond anything anyone had ever heard of or seen before, I pray that I may do what He asks me to do with a willing and obedient heart.  And I hope to share with all of you reading this some of the amazing truths and insights I’m learning here.

I’m posting this now, this morning, November 21, having come home to blackened hills, the smell of smoke in the air, and ash in the master bathtub where we forgot to close a window.  A tree branch which must have blown down in the high winds and which now sits in our backyard, on our fake grass, so its only crime is being unsightly.  No real permanent damage, nothing that can’t be washed or cleaned up or remedied.  Not so the lives lost in the fires up north, the homes lost both north and around here, the hard work yet to be done to bring life back to a semblance of normalcy.

I’ll tell you more about Israel next week.

For now, I’m just glad I’m home, I’m glad that I have a home, and if you’re reading this, I pray that your Thanksgiving tomorrow is filled with an awareness of just how thankful we should be this year.

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 7, 2018

And We’re Off!!!!

This is my last post in Rita’s Ramblings for a week, as tomorrow Michael and I leave on an adventure – our first trip to the Holy Land!  It’s called Not Your Grandmother’s Holy Land Tour – an intriguing title to begin with, which should give you some idea as to the nature of the adventure.  Our friend Brian Newman leads it along with Elias, a friend of his, and we’re looking forward to about a week of walking, hiking, climbing, talking, mostly listening, and mainly being where the Saviour lived and moved and existed for his 33 years in a human body. And then some.  Places to see that we have only read about in Scripture, places that will I’m sure come alive in a unique and different way than they ever have before.  Those who have traveled to Israel before us have all verified that it is indeed a life-changing trip, something to be savored and enjoyed every minute of every day.

I’m planning on posting photographs along the way, if I can remember to take my phone (iPhone 10S with great camera capabilities, so I can only take excellent photos) out of my backpack and use it.

I’m also planning on absorbing every second of this trip, because it will most likely be a one-and-only for us.

So wish us well, pray for us if you think about it, and I’ll be back, God willing, writing a deliciously interesting Rita’s Ramblings on November 21, one day before Thanksgiving, with much to be thankful for.

Posted by: ritagone | October 31, 2018

Casting Stones

 

 

I don’t mind a public figure ranting and raving against the powers that be, those powers that be usually being politicians or anyone else.  Well, I do mind a bit, but that’s not my point here, so for the sake of argument, let’s say I don’t mind as much as the point I’m going to make in a minute.

The other day I streamed a British awards program which honored a handful of artists — actors and producers and directors –among them comedian/actor Jim Carrey.  Jim Carrey was the last honoree to speak toward the end of the show.  He got up and received his award and then proceeded to deliver a speech that was politically charged and hostile and nasty.

Again, not unusual.  And in this climate we live in, well received among his artist audience.

But what made me think was this: what if every person who ranted and raved against the government and the social ills of our day stopped and instead looked inward and made a commitment to make themselves better, to turn a flashlight on their own problems and disasters rather than hurling stones and rocks outwardly?  A bit of Jesus’ throwing the first stone by he who is without sin?

It’s so easy to yell and scream and accuse everyone else of bad behavior.  I’m sure Jim Carrey felt really proud of his assault on the world around him, like a hero, having spoken his piece.  But I wonder if Jim Carrey’s own interior life and behavior could stand up to scrutiny by someone else and what that would feel like for him?

Get your own house in order, I guess I’m saying.  It’s easy to look elsewhere.  It’s much more difficult to make the commitment to clean up our own space.

And that’s what Jesus asked us – commanded us, really – to do: the hard work of self-fixing, self-examination, before we look around us to condemn and castigate others.

Right now we have a President who makes it so easy to look away from ourselves critically and instead hurl insults and criticisms at him. Whether he deserves them or not is not the issue; what’s at issue in my mind is how much time and attention we need to spend on ourselves before we go looking for others to whip.

Right now, again, to go against the grain and stop criticizing others, no matter who they are, and concentrate on what we need to fix in ourselves is the much more difficult path.

Jesus never said it would be easy.  And He was certainly right.

 

You know already how much I like Seth Godin’s writings.  Here’s another of his blogs that I share with you today:

 

 

We are not the enemy (if we try)

Fewer than 1% of our population works hard to divide us. To pit people against one another for their selfish aims.

These are the pundits, divisive politicians, media companies and short-term trolls who have decided that schisms and fights are a good way to achieve their aims.

But if everyone is demonizing the other, then everyone is the enemy to someone.

We end up spending our time fighting each other instead of fighting for the things that really matter. We end up focusing on the current thing while something more important shrinks away in the background.

It’s possible to be fierce, fierce in your dedication to change, to what’s right, to making things better–without finding the source of your power in the destruction of others.

We ought to be fighting inequality, corruption and inefficiency. Working to stamp out ignorance and missed opportunities while creating access and possibility. Keeping our promises and making things better.

Every system is improved when it’s in sync, and the narcissism of small differences is a seduction that keeps us from focusing on creating real value by doing important work.

Realizing that things can get better (they can always get better) opens the door for productive conversations, conversations that aren’t based on prior decisions about what team someone is on, and instead, on putting our shoulder to the work, taking responsibility and actually making things better.

We can fight injustice without becoming pawns in a boxing promoter’s game.

Posted by: ritagone | October 17, 2018

How to Remember a Name

We were in Dublin, Ireland, having lunch in a cute little restaurant on a side street.  I even remember the name of the restaurant, first, because it was a catchy one – Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill – and secondly, because I kept a business card, which, as an aside, is not a bad thing to do as your memory gets a little more “flexible” with age.

The restaurant had “celebrity” 8”x10” black and white photographs hung all over the walls, reminding me of the old Brown Derby in Hollywood, but of course many of the people in those photographs I didn’t know, because they were Irish actors and actresses.  But nearby our booth was the photo of an actress who I did recognize…except that I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name.

You know the situation: you look at someone’s face (usually this happens with a live person) and you know them, but their name is somewhere out there in the ether.  If a gun were put to your head, as the saying goes, at that moment, their name would still escape you.

So I did the smartest thing I could think of to do: I asked our waiter, a young lad who was brimming with enthusiasm and energy.  He didn’t know, of course, but he said he had a friend who might, and he would contact him.  So he took a picture with his phone, and off he went, presumably to turn in our food order and find out who the mystery lady was.  The funny thing is that by then, the couple seated next to us, a woman in her 50’s and her mum, had gotten involved, staring at the photograph too and trying to help…all to no avail still.  Amongst the four of us, the name still proved elusive.

You’ve probably had this happen too, haven’t you?  That name you can’t place, the word that escapes your mind.  It’s frustrating and a bit frightening all at the same time.  My husband cannot for the life of him keep actor Gene Hackman’s name filed in his brain.  Hard as he tries, Gene comes and goes at whim, so that Michael is constantly asking me, “What’s that actor’s name that I can’t think of?” and I know the answer is, “Gene Hackman.”  It’s always going to be “Gene Hackman.”  It’s a thing between us.

So there we were, in Dublin, Ireland, in a restaurant, with the same thing happening, but to me!! What was her name? It would have helped if I could think of something I had seen her in, but I couldn’t find that file in my brain either, although I remembered seeing her in a few things, both film and TV.

The young waiter came back after texting his friend.  No luck there.  Apparently his friend wasn’t as brilliant at naming people as the young waiter thought he was!

And then someone – I think it must have been the restaurant manager himself – was brought into the fray.  (It was a slow time of day as far as business in the restaurant was concerned, thank goodness.) “Oh, that’s Claire Forlani!” he said, as quickly and easily as if it had been a photo of his sister and she had just been dining in the place.

And the windows of my mind flew open and I knew immediately that YES!!!! It was Claire Forlani of “Meet Joe Black” movie fame (with Brad Pitt) and “CSI:New York” TV fame and many other film and TV projects, and I thought, “How could I not have known her?” and many such thoughts.

And my day got much better, after many sighs of relief.

And to this day, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Claire Forlani.

So the lesson here is: if you want to remember someone’s name, you must have this kind of “forgetting and then remembering” encounter around them, because then there’s a better chance that they will become embedded in your brain forever.

Is that scientific?

I don’t know.  Probably not.  But it sure has worked for me and Claire!!!

Posted by: ritagone | October 10, 2018

A Guest Blogger

Here’s a blog from one of my favorite bloggers, Amy Downing. I think you’ll all enjoy what she writes in place of my writing this week.

A Letter for the Greatest Letter Writer Ever

I believe that as we learn and grow in different areas, it is helpful to express our thoughts in a creative way to help us process. It doesn’t matter if you are studying science, grammar, or some sort of religion. Draw a picture of what you are studying, write a poem, photograph a story of pictures. Inevitably, it will give you a new perspective on the information. I’ve been studying a series of letters in the New Testament, written by a guy named Paul (or Saul depending when you knew him). I believe I will meet him one day, but until then, I decided to write him a letter . . . .

October 4, 2018

Hey Paul.

You scare me. I have to say that up front because I know everyone is thinking it. You are so, so INTENSE. Like when you talk, you must wave your hands a lot and your voice gets loud and you probably spit a little when you emphasize certain words. And that’s when you are feeling joyful.

I marvel at how you were raised to head down one very distinct path—everything you learned was to fight for the cause, to take down that new religion of following Jesus. And yet, yet . . . Paul! You figured It out. (Granted you had quite a bit of help from the blinding light, which caused you to lose your sight for three days. Yes, I think that could snap even the hardest hard-hearted people into seeing Truth.)

But I marvel even more at your perseverance through the crap after you “saw the light” so to speak—the beatings, the prison terms, the shipwrecks, the thorn in your side (you’ve caused quite a stir with that one), the snake bites . . . the loneliness, the rejection.

I ask how you managed it and in the very same breath I know exactly how you managed it. You tell us in your letter to the Philippians: “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

You were able to forget what was behind you? You make it sound so simple. It must have been easier back in your time when there wasn’t so much pain in the world.

But your life did carry pain, a lot of it, I know.

And you pressed ON. Paul, thanks for pressing on. Because you had a choice—when you were in chains, you literally sang songs of praise. When you were imprisoned, you wrote letters of encouragement to the early churches.

You strained forward to what was ahead—and that was Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for not giving up, so that we today have a real chance to not give up, too.

Grace and Peace, brother.

 

Posted by: ritagone | October 3, 2018

What You Keep and What You Replace

 

 

My treadmill died yesterday morning.

I was walking on it, as I do most mornings, when it just stopped.  If I hadn’t been holding on to the side bars, I might have been thrown, because the momentum of walking stopped so suddenly.  This treadmill is so old that there are no safety measures, not the usual clip that goes from the machine to your clothes just in case something like this should occur, so that in case of failure everything shuts down and you don’t get catapulted. (There’s no safe place for an iPad either, since this treadmill was built pre-iPads, which explains why a few months ago when my iPad, balanced precariously on the one ledge which can serve as a place to put your device, flew off and to the rear of the treadmill, I instinctively turned around to go for it and wound up on the floor akimbo, slightly injured but fortunately with nothing broken.)  It is an old treadmill, as I said.

So when it died on me yesterday morning, my first reaction was to call the repairman who has come out several times in the last few years to fix “her.”  But then I remembered him saying that the repairs were going to be more frequent and more expensive, and I thought, “It’s time to replace her.  She has served me – and others – well, but it’s time to get a new one.”

So off I went and did just that. I’m pretty impulsive about things like this; just ask my husband.  When I make up my mind to do something, it happens pretty definitely and rather quickly.

The new one is coming Friday morning, and I must confess that I’m excited.  I’m quite sure this will be the last treadmill this old lady will ever walk upon.  I didn’t get all the buttons and whistles because I know what I want, what I need, and what will take me through the rest of my treadmill-walking life.  Nothing fancy, just minimal requirements: quiet, handlebars that suit me, a deep ledge for my iPad, readable digital numbers on the screen, and a few other things that I have come to appreciate or desire in my early morning walks.

And on a related matter, today, October 3,  I have had the same husband for 48 years.

In this day and age, I consider that quite an accomplishment, even better than a treadmill that has hung around my home office for a few decades.  He’s not a 2018 model, for sure, but then, like my treadmill, he’s served me well, and I’m going to keep him.

After all, it’s too overwhelming to get a new treadmill and a new husband in the same week!!!!

 

Posted by: ritagone | September 26, 2018

“We Learn As We Go”

If we stop going, we stop learning…

and

If we’re not willing to keep learning, we should probably stop going.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018

Seth Godin’s short and pithy blogs always challenge me, because he packs so much thought into so few words.

In his blog from yesterday, he spoke about the ability to keep on learning as we age, as we move through life, and that’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart.

So true.  So true.

May we never stop learning something every day, may we read and watch and listen and appreciate all the things we don’t know so that we can learn a new thought, a new way of doing something, a new skill, something that pushes us, prods us to be better, sharper, quicker.

“If we’re not willing to keep learning, we should probably stop going.”  Words to live by.

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