A Promised Land


"Worst view in the World" from the Walled off Hotel
The Sea of Galilee 

Songs from Natalia sung on the trip: BurstBrightPOP! on Soundcloud

We are on a journey...
From tombs to tabernacles, communion on the Mount of Beatitudes to birthday cake in Bethlehem in Banksy's Walled off hotel, this trip was far more than vacation or tourism. 

Three women walking in the footsteps of Jesus, the dust of his sandals found on our clothing. Three women with hearts now split open from the contrast and current brokenness of what we know as the Promise Land. We felt the warmth of welcome and the weight of walls. Ruins of ancient cities, Western wall pilgrims constantly wailing in lament, dressed in black at the remains of what was once the presence of God, the Holy of Holies. The walls in our hearts crumble as character is put to the test, crossing borders. Walls built to protect a people result in separation, spray painted with words of peace and political unrest. Sacred spaces with gates, going deeper into the Sea of Galilee. 

A stone rolled away proved us all wrong, the curtain torn, no more separation. Resurrection power in our very hands, to pray for healing of the land. We look towards the new Jerusalem, the one with gates swung wide open with welcome. Washed pure by the river Jordan, it's the year of jubilee as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Finding home in the hope of heaven.

 These are photos and words all mixed together. I don't know how to present them properly, I don't possess the academic or political stamina to explain to you all the complexities of the current tension between Israel and Palestine. I visited a beautiful land for just one week with two other brave and creative women. We met humans hungry for peace and the presence of God in this land. 2,000 years later, we are still following Jesus. He brings us to mountain tops to teach us. Lost in the dessert at dusk, to turn us back on track. Beyond his birth place and the cross, we find the promise land within our hearts: the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Within the inner sanctuary of our hearts we hear a still small voice, calling us out to go. Go and make. Stretched out hearts, to the nations.  

 Banksy's angels on the wall in the West Bank
 Olive wood factory in Bethlehem where crosses are sent throughout the world
 Families at the Western Wall, Jerusalem
 Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane 

 Falafel friends in Jerusalem 

 Olive trees one the Mount of Olives

 The garden tomb: Byzantine cross painted inside, sunshine and singing outside 
 A beautiful Israeli friend we met after visiting the Upper Room, Jerusalem
 crosses in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

 Night life and music in the new city following the Pride Parade in Jerusalem

 view from the Walled off Art gallery, Bethlehem 

 The early church: where James and the disciples gathered and worshiped in the days of Acts. 

Olive Wood

We stumbled upon and open door. Battery low, airplane mode map read « olive wood factory » on a side street. Dusty tired feet. Inside workers carved symbols of faith. Saw dust on his head, hands hard with work. Just down the street from where tourists gathered to see the nativity, this was no tourist destination. No buses here. But we met the carpenter and his son. Sawdust covered crosses. Offered strong coffee and a break from the afternoon sun. Translating our language and faith to meet there. Christian, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic- various shapes all made from the same space and substance: olive wood. May we carry our olive branches from here, wear them tied around our neck or hung on the wall. More than a symbol, but a life style. In a humble garage these crosses go to the farthest parts of the globe. Hung in America, Russia, England and beyond. Hospitality shown by the hosts, we carried the cross as we journeyed: in our backpack to our Paris promise land. The ones unfinished in a pile in the corner of the shop, find beauty in the old rugged cross. The generosity of the maker, giving us bags full of more than souvenirs. Driven to the church by his son, to see where Jesus was born. Tourists gathered. We sang softly « come let us adore him » with the Nigerian tour group in lime green shirts. Smiles stretching us further into faith. Spontaneous and carved out moments. Made in Bethlehem, carried over borders to be reminded of the story.

Fresh Juice
Handwritten daily reminders
Of life lived on top of history
Patterns to be danced and slept in
Market zest added to tomorrow’s meal 
Rainy skies above, sunshine below
Fresh linens hung to dry besides the ninth station of the cross
Streets paved upon old and new narratives
Who’s home is this?
It’s not found in the facades, but rather the fabric worn today. Let your actions be brighter than lemons. Limonade refreshment, mint mixed in. Hospitality shown by strangers on the street. It’s not about the place, but the people who breathe. We are the promise land. Eating, breathing, sleeping. Born again with fresh spirit. Heaven held in our hearts and hands. To make and make known the mystery found in the mundane. 

We stumbled upon a faithful follower, watering a garden in Bethlehem. A Spanish speaking sister on a pilgrimage, 30 years of service brought her here. Beauty in her white robe and love translated through a smile. 

Makeshift miracles: Communion of cookies and alter wine on the Mount of Beatitudes, "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19

Mount Carmel

Here Elijah was alone
or felt he was
depression of spirit, 
prayer carried him up to the top
a posture of pain and patience
for the Lord to come
twelve stones
send your fire
let us be on fire 
for a kingdom beyond
they have their magic
but we wait for the miracle
found in the still small voice
give us laughter again
make us living sacrifices
idols broken
on the mountain top 
behold he comes
riding on the clouds