Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toil, Sweat, Thorns

Paradise was squandered by the first Adam resulting in sweat, toil, and thorns. Paradise is ultimately restored through painful toil, the bloody sweat of the brow, and a crown of thorns worn by the second Adam. 
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food”  (Genesis 3:17-19). 
"Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews' and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, 'See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.' So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, 'Behold the man!' When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, 'Crucify him, crucify him!'" (John 19:1-6a).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mr. Fisher

When I was in junior high, I tried my hand at hatching out chicks and raising them for meat. The time came for slaughter, but I couldn't do it. So I asked a local farmer and family friend, Mr. Fisher to help. He did and I was free of the burden. Sometime later, Bobby Blackwell and I started raising rabbits. When the time came for butcher of the kits we raised from birth, we started with Bobby's. Killed one, a story in its own right that ended with Bobby and I in tears. So I gave as many of mine away as I could and called Mr. Fisher to help me out again, which he did. Several rabbits were dispatched.

Oddly enough, I always called him Mr. Fisher--never by his first name. I've thought of him numerous times in life. There have been times through the years when I had a problem with someone and I wondered: Is it appropriate to call Mr. Fisher....

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Chicago Adventure

My budget hotel in Chicago was a trip. It was an out of way, off the beaten path, seen better days kind of place. 

My Iraqi cab driver and I got to know each other well in our search for it as he didn't know where it was and couldn't find it. At one point, we were laughing so much, he pulled over and turned off the meter while we made calls to get directions. Great guy. 

When I arrived finally, I was greeted by a guest in the lobby walking around with no pants but a knee length overcoat. I tried not to stare. He seemed to be a very happy fellow. 

Folks there were very friendly helping me navigate the huge wheelbarrows of plaster and rolled up carpets in the lobby and hallway. There appeared to have been some kind of major damage or incident. No one talked about it. 

Another guest seemed so excited to meet someone from Oklahoma.  She was from Wisconsin and wore a jean vest pinned with hundreds of commemorative pins from all over America, though she was most anxious to tell me about her trip to Italy. 

Attempting to be frugal, I walked the two miles from my conference to my hotel last night. Late. Dark. Interesting collection of others enjoying an evening walk. Lots of dogs. I saw a donut shop, ducked in and walked the remaining distance with my hand on a day-old donut ready to negotiate with any beast I encountered. Exciting night.  
Today, I had donuts for breakfast and hired a cab.

The hotel provided a shuttle to the airport today and their driver was excited to tell me about dialects and prided himself in recognizing accents. After a few minutes he announced he'd pegged my accent. "Your accent is native Chicago!" 

Actually, I'm born and bred native Oklahoman. And in spite of enjoying my adventure, I look forward to being home, y'all. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Afraid to visit Israel?

Interestingly, the most asked question I get after returning from Israel is some version of, "Did you feel safe?"

In a word: Yes. 

When I travel to New York City, Washington, DC, Detroit or Chicago, there are some areas I don't visit. But I don't avoid the entire city because some spots are known to be dangerous. I use common sense, act wisely, trust God, and enjoy the trip. 

So it is in Israel. 

Thinking of a trip to the Holy Land?  Find a reputable guide, use common sense, act wisely, trust God, and enjoy the trip of a lifetime. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014


An American Christian, Palestinian Muslim, and Israeli Jew walk into a restaurant...  They share a meal, laugh and tell stories.  When the evening is through, they embrace and wish one another peace.  ...No joke. 

Thirteen years ago on September 11, I grieved.  Bewildered. Gut punched.  I could not have imagined then that I would have spent this day, September 11, 2014, traveling from the Middle East to the United States, much less spending the evening prior having a meal with an Arab and a Jew in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Yet that's how I spent last night, and today I was in the air between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. 

But last night... Last night I shared the evening with Arabs, Jews, and Christians in the Holy Land.  We ate.  We laughed.  We joked.  We visited about the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. We shared gifts. We enjoyed each other's company immensely. We ate some more. We embraced.  And we pledged to pray for peace.

After a week together traveling through through Israeli-controlled and Arab-controlled territories, we grew to know each other and in the course we came to appreciate and care for each other.  Of course I and the rest of our American entourage were new to this relationship. You see, our Arab driver and our Jewish tour guide were long-time friends who work together, live side by side, and love each other.

Such is life in Israel. I wish the fringe and the power brokers, the ruling class, and the radicals would learn a lesson from Ahmed and Erez.

I believe peace is possible.  Why shouldn't I?  I follow the Prince of Peace.

In the meantime, I'll be praying for my new friends and praying for the peace of Israel.