Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! (from a while ago...sorry!)

Hey everyone!!!

Hope you all had a great Christmas and are gearing up for a very happy New Year! I'm currently in Botswana, celebrating with John. The big news is....drum roll please...We're ENGAGED!!! That's right, he popped the question...and of course I said yes! I'll write more about it later, but yeah, all I can say is that this relationship is such evidence of God's grace in our lives. I can see how He was in control of every bit of it, in the good times and in the bad. But like I said, I'll write more about that later :)

Anyway...other updates...

School this year is so much better than last year...and so much busier! It's a systems based approach so we go through one system at a time and concentrate just on that instead of studying 4 or 5 different subjects at a time. Each system is usually covered in about 3 weeks, so I have to be on top of things a lot more this year compared to last year. To top things off, I'm also learning Arabic, which is not an easy language! Even with the business, it's good though, because for the first time, we're learning things that we actually need to know for everyday clinical medicine. We're also doing clinical Hebrew right now, and actually getting to interview patients. If nothing else, I know it's making me look forward to 4th year when we'll be back in the US and will be able to do interviews in English!!

Well, that's it for now! Love you all!

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Home

So, I've moved into a new place finally! I have a few other posts that I'm working on, but I have an exam tomorrow that I really, really need to study for, so they're not going to get out for at least a few more days, maybe even a week. I'm leaving shortly after the exam for a 4 day hiking trip up North, so I won't be able to post them then.

Here are a few pics of the new place. My room is still a disaster area (we had a meeting for the believers at MSIH and other students in the area on Sunday, so we cleaned the common areas like crazy but left our rooms for later. Once everything's all organized I'll post pictures of the rest of the house!
Living room


Outside (yard/porch)

I'm loving the outside study space!!!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


NOTE: I started this a few weeks ago but just now finished it, so it's not really the most recent.

Hey everyone,

I'm so sorry for not posting anything for a while. You can stop your worrying, I'm still alive and in one piece. It's not even that I've been that busy; I was just fully embracing the summer vacation and taking some much needed time to relax and retreat from doing anything "official" (and somehow blogging fell into that category).

Sorry to say, this entry isn't really going to update you too much on my adventures. I'll try to get another one out soon (maybe even later tonight) that has more details about what I've been up to for the past few months. This one is more of a reflection.

I think it's funny how obsessed people are with planning things. To a degree, it makes sense. We need to know when important things are going to happen so we make sure not to miss them, so we can connect with people we really need to talk to, and so we can prepare for the future. I'm training a girl to run a marathon with me in Jerusalem in March. We need to have a training plan. To show up on the day of the race without having worked up to a run over that kind of distance would be a really foolish thing to do. As a future doctor (Lord willing), I've had to plan a lot: what classes to take, what kind of extra-curriculars to get involved in, when to take the MCATs, when to apply, etc, etc. If I hadn't thought about those things beforehand, there's little to no chance that I'd be in med school.

But sometimes I wonder how much we actually lose out on because we are so insistent on planning, on being in control, and how much grief we could avoid if we weren't so insistent on our plans. Case in point: Keiko and I are moving to a new place. We were originally told that we would be able to move in on the 15th of this month. That then got moved back to the 1st of September, and then thankfully back up to this weekend. We need to be out of our current place by the 31st of August at 8pm, so those few hours of potential homelessness were a little unnerving considering we would have an apartment's worth of stuff with no where to put it. Anyway, we made our plans around being able to move all of our stuff over today. Ends up the current family in our new place isn't getting the moving truck until tomorrow morning, meaning that we have another day of living in a boxed/bagged/suitcased-up apartment that looks more like a storage container than a living space. It's frustrating because we have other things going on this week, like class, important meetings, and painting our current place, that need to be seen to. Our plans for moving today failed, and now our carefully planned Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are having to be reworked. It's frustrating and disappointing, and a bit stressful.

When our plans, big or small, fall through, it shows how much we hate losing control. We're finite beings, and as much as we (especially kids and those in their 20s and even 30s) like to think that we're invincible, we know we aren't. We know that one day we will die, whether or not we want to, and chances are we won't have charge over when that day and time will be. To cope with that harrowing thought we subconsciously do whatever we can to order the rest of our lives. It's not that every time our plans fall through we're confronted with our mortality, but we are reminded that we can't control everything no matter how hard we try.

One thing I've learned over the years, especially during my summers in Botswana, is that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, and when you do, things work out much, much better than you could have ever planned yourself. The reason I ended up in Botswana in the first place was because other plans I was making for the summer fell through and the opportunity to go there just kinda popped up. And the result was one of the best, and hardest, few months of my life. Rarely did things work the way we expected them to, but once we let go of our plans and surrendered every hour of every day to God, we began to see real fruit in our lives and in the lives of those we were ministering to. It's not like we just woke up every morning and wandered out to see where we would end up; we still tried to organize things here and there, but we let go of that frustration for when things would fall through. When we would teach the kids we would prepare lessons, but if we didn't get as far as we intended to or even ended up on another topic altogether because the kids had questions or we felt the Spirit holding us in one place, we were fine-happy even--with that.

The thing is, even if all of our plans and ambitions did come to fruition, the result would be disappointing. There's a certain beauty in the unexpected if you let go of the frustration that often comes with it. Like today: if things would have happened as I had planned, I'd be moving tons of boxes right now, sweating up a storm and probably stressing out over something. But instead, I'm getting to sit here and reflect. I was able to take a nap this afternoon and had some really fun dreams. Keiko and I have gotten to play with 2 kittens we adopted off of the street last night. The people that are moving out of our new place are getting to have a dinner there together as a family. So I'm stuck in an apartment that's a disaster area for another night. So what?

Some of my favorite stories in the Bible are those where God really shows that His weakness is stronger than men's strength and His foolishness is wiser than men's wisdom. Take Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Peter, Paul, and so many more. They had their own plans and understandings of how things should work. God shook those up and used them for something so much greater than themselves. And the thing that really gets me is that God didn't take them to a place where they were half dependent on God and still half dependent on themselves; He took them to a place where they were totally dependent on Him.

Abraham was told to leave his land and his family to be more or less a sojourner for the rest of his life. Whatever his plans had been for his life up until that point were crushed. Then he was promised a son from his wife Sarah. When that seemed impossible he tried to take things into his own hands and had Ishmael with Hagar, Sarah's servant. But that wasn't God's plan for the promised son, and at age 100 (way passed the point when he or Sarah could by all human understanding have a child) God gave him Isaac through Sarah.

Then you have Joseph who was loved by his father and had a promising life ahead of him. Then he was sold into slavery by his brothers. His ticket out was to do the impossible: interpret Pharaoh's dream that no one else in the land had been able to interpret. Now this interpreting wasn't just coming up with a metaphor to back some of the things that had been in the dream. It was to tell Pharaoh what the dream was and then to give an interpretation. Impossible without God, and something that would never go down in our self-dependent and ordered lives.

Then there's Moses, who tried to free the Hebrews in his own power and failed horribly. The result: this man who had the world at his finger tips having been raised in the Pharaoh's house was cast out into the wilderness. In the world's eyes, he lost everything. Remarkably he survived and even made a life for himself outside of Egypt, but then God shook everything up again with the burning bush and the commissioning to go back to Egypt and free the Hebrews. If Moses would have planned things, Aaron would have been the leader. After all, he had all of the qualities of a good leader in Moses' eyes. But that wasn't God's plan, and once back in Egypt, the things Moses did could not be done in man's power alone.

Peter was supposed to be a fisherman. It was the family business. Then Jesus came along and completely changed everything. He became the student of one of the most revolutionary teachers the Israelites had ever seen. He and the other disciples learned that this Jesus didn't operate according to rational thought. This Jesus ate, sat, talked, healed, and loved those who would make him ritually unclean. He told the disciples to feed thousands with barely enough food to feed themselves. He told them that He must suffer and die in order to be raised again. And when Peter tried to "correct" Him in the world's understanding, Jesus told him "Get behind me Satan." Peter also wanted to be brave saying he wouldn't deny Jesus in His darkest hour, but (like us all too often) ended up acting in self-preservation. Then, during Pentecost, after Jesus' resurrection and ascent, everything changes. The impulsive and somewhat cowardly fisherman becomes a powerful preacher who would face persecution and eventually death for the sake of his Lord.

Finally there's Paul, formerly known as Saul. Saul was a Hebrew of Hebrews, and in the eyes of most religious Jews he had it all. He was a persecutor of the church and a keeper of the traditions and Law. I'd bet that most of his life was running right along what he had planned for it until he was struck blind by God on the way to Damascus. It was then that he encountered God and saw the true revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. His old life was gone, and Saul became Paul. After that, all plans that he had made for his life were cast aside and he spent the rest of his life traveling from city to city preaching Jesus, being persecuted, thrown in prison, and run out of town. And yet he had joy. All of his other plans he counted as refuse for the sake of knowing Christ and Him crucified. I'm amazed at how Paul lived his life. He wanted to visit different cities, but wouldn't force his way if God directed somewhere else. He was open and receptive of God's direction. I think that's where we fall short. We want something and make it happen, regardless of God's direction. If His direction fits in with our plans, we're happy. If not, we are great at coming up with excuses for our disobedience.

Proverbs tells us:"In his heart and man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (16:9) and "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails" (19:21). Ultimately we do not have control, but that shouldn't be a scary thought. It should bring comfort. A good God determines our steps. The purpose of a good and faithful Father always prevails. It might not seems good to us at the time, just like my parents' plans for me to try to eat peas seemed like the worst possible torture one being could inflict on another when I was a kid, but in the larger picture, they knew the potatoes which I thought would be the best thing to eat didn't have the same nutritional value as green veggies. Now that I'm older and have eaten peas a few more times (sometimes against my will), I see that they actually are good. If my earthly father gives me good things, how can I doubt that anything less would come from my heavenly Father.

Maybe I'm still just in that "irresponsible" phase of my life where I want to live with reckless abandon...but then maybe that's more of where our hearts are supposed to be. I can't really say. I don't want my hands to be so tightly clenched around my plans, my schedule, my ideas for my life that I can't open myself up to receive the better things that God has for me. Reason tells me that there must be a balance between responsibility/logistics/planning and complete and total surrender, and in all honesty, that complete and total surrender scares me a little bit. But when I look at the people in the Bible, very few of them were "reasonable" my the world's understanding of that. For many of them, bridges were burned and backup plans were destroyed. Day by day, moment by moment, they were dependent on God, and that pleased Him. What will it take for us to have that same kind of dependence, to be satisfied with His Word being a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path--so that we can see only the next step and not the full road ahead of us?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Multitasking mixed with a new extreme

When I get bored in class, I usually will put on a movie in the background of my screen. Now, I know what you're thinking, I might as well not even be in class. Sometimes that's true, but most of the time it actually helps. If I know the movie well enough, like it, and it inspires me in some way, then I actually end up concentrating more. Here's the logic..

1) sometimes I need a good distraction just to keep me awake, and a movie can provide that. Chances are, if something important is mentioned, I'll be more likely to hear it if I'm awake than if I'm asleep

2) I know I shouldn't be watching movies in when I notice that I'm getting really
focused on it, I snap out of my little movie world and back into that might be only for a slide or two, but it's better than completely zoning out for the entire lecture.

3) If it's an inspiring movie, then I'll be more motivated to actually learn and become a good doctor. Nothing like someone defeating adversity or an enemy or standing up for what they believe in to make me want to tackle medicine.

So, there's my logic behind it...but I'll admit, last Thursday I reached an all time low, or high, depending on how you look at it.

Here's a screen shot that I took of my laptop.

That's right...2 movies(note: Kingdom of Heaven...the inspiring one, and Lady of Shanghai, just for fun), my notes (note: I'm actually taking notes, not just staring at the screen), and these screens arranged in such a way that I can see if I have a new email.

Yep, and surprisingly, that was one of my more productive class periods, considering how dull the lecture was.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Study, study, study

With a hematology final tomorrow, I really should be studying...and I have been studying for the past couple of days on and off, but for some reason this section is really hard to study right now. Part of it is just that I'm not really back into the studying mentality after getting used to having basically 2-3 weeks solid of exams and then nothing for a semester. It doesn't help that this section was a little disorganized either...but I think that the real reason is that I've become really passionate again...passionate about seeking God, praying, reading His Word not just because I know I should, but because in it is life and knowledge of my Savior. I'm stepping into a position of leadership for the believers' group at my school, and for the first time in a long, long time, I can really recognize my purpose here which lies beyond just trying to get by. It's to point others to Him. That's what it's always been, but now I'm seeing some of the practical ways of doing that. I've discovered that with this purpose, there is great, great responsibility...I need to intimately know the One I'm pointing others to, because how can the blind lead the blind? All I want to do right now is study Him, know Him, draw near to Him.

Once again, a movie reference puts it just as well as I ever could. This one is from Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce and his role in ending the British slave trade. If you haven't seen it, check it out. It's pretty accurate historically too.

William Wilberforce: Its God. I have 10,000 engagements of state
today but I would prefer to spend the day out here getting a wet
arse, studying dandelions and marveling at... bloody spiders webs.
Richard the Butler: You found God, sir?
William Wilberforce: I think He found me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


It's official, we have a complete infestation with cockroaches. My birthday was just the start; they're now coming in in hoards. We've tried taping up exposed pipes and little cracks between the walls and the cupboards (good job whoever built this apartment...we appreciate the disheveled-ness you gave us), and today sprayed the entire apartment with enough roach spray to kill a horse, and yet they're still coming out in droves. Keiko came home today to about 40 of the little guys (actually these ones were rather large) belly up, but still alive after the poisoning, scattered all over the house. We thought that was the end of it though, that they were all poisoned and just coming out for one last chance at survival. WRONG! Yeah, a lot were dead, but now there's more just pouring out of somewhere. Within an hour (with repeated spraying of everywhere we think they would be) we've killed at least another 10 that were scurrying quickly around our house in areas they'd never ventured into before (at least as far as we know). We've prayed, stomped, screamed, sprayed, and yet they live on.

Anyone have any good ideas for getting rid of these little buggers?

****Update: this morning I woke up to another batch of the little guys belly's a picture of the kill after they were all stomped on:

Monday, May 24, 2010

I feel like my generation is lacking the concept of commitment.

For the past couple of months I've been trying to figure out what I want to get involved in next year, whether that be a position in student council, AMSA, being a class representative, leading the group of believers next year, or just focusing on classes. There's a lot that I want to do, and could see myself doing a good job in, but I really don't want to sign myself up for something that I'm not willing to commit to 100%. I see and hear too many people talking about their passion and their vision for a project or group or for the school, and then when the time comes for action. not really acting on those promises or ideals that they so readily proclaim when we're all sitting in the classroom between lessons, lazily waiting to be fed information. It's too easy to get caught up in day to day lives, preserving our comfort and making life as easy as possible rather than acting on the commitments we've made.

I'll admit it, I'm an idealist, a characteristic that has definitely been reinforced by the obscene number of movies that I've been watching lately (I think I've watched more movies in this last semester than I have in the rest of my life combined, but that's a story for another time). It seems like the main theme that runs through the most recent ones has been this level of commitment to a cause which is absolutely extraordinary, at least when contrasted with the commitment I see in 99% of the population today.

The one movie that stands out the most to me is Kingdom of Heaven. I got it a while ago but didn't really have that much of a desire to watch it until I had listened to the soundtrack a few times through while studying. I thought that it would be a good movie to watch after I finished up with most of my finals and wanted to be completely brain dead for a day or so before I had to hit the books again. It's got that epic feel to it, but I didn't expect too much from it, just a few good battle scenes, a little bit of dialog, and possibly a deeper meaning somewhere buried under the slashing sword fights that I could look back on later and muse about when I had more time. I started watching it after my Cell and Molecular Biology final, but only got about half way through because Keiko wanted to watch a movie with me and wasn't in the mood for an epic. So, I put the second half of it on my little computer and took it to school with me for a good late night study break.

Anyway, the story is basically about this man, Balian who finds out that he is the son of one of the more powerful knights in the Crusades who is also the Baron of Ibelin. Balian's wife had died from suicide after their son died at birth, and after being told he really was not wanted in the village any more by his brother, whom he killed out of grief and rage, he left to join his father in the kingdom of Jerusalem. On the way there, his father was injured by a group of men who had come after Balian to take him back to his town where he would be punished for his brother's murder. Balian, his father, and a few other men in their group escaped and made it to the Italian coast where they would be able to get on a ship for the kingdom of Jerusalem. However, before they are able to leave, Balian's father dies of infection from the wound he had suffered. Just before he dies, he calls in Balian, knights him, and makes him the new baron of Ibelin. The oath taken to become a knight was one of the things that stood out to me the most. "Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong." The thing is, these weren't just words to Balian. Throughout the rest of the movie, even when he was under extreme pressure to compromise in order to preserve himself or to make the king happy, he really lived out the oath which he had sworn. For him, Jerusalem was to be a "kingdom of conscience" or no kingdom. The other part of the movie that really stood out to me was when Balian, after the new king of Jerusalem had been captured, the majority of the army killed, and the city was about to be attacked, knighted every man capable of fighting. When asked if knighting a man would make him a better fighter, he sternly answered "YES" (I'll admit, I was watching that part really late at night in the middle of a study break, and in a peak of emotional-ness definitely had a few tears fall.) He could have just given a stirring speech--which he did--and left it at that, but he realized that people who believe in themselves and feel respected by those above them will fight more courageously than those who are fighting just because they have to.

Anyway, the kind of commitment that Balian had to the oath he had taken, the principles which he claimed to value, is something that I wish I saw more often. More than that, he really lived out this oath. That meant that he went out of his way to defend the helpless, even when there was a high likelihood of dying by doing so. He came from a rather humble, poor background, but didn't ever use that as an excuse and never abused his new position of power. Muslim, Jew, didn't matter to him; he saw people as people, and protecting people meant more than protecting (or fighting for) land.

I think that part of the problem today is that we don't really know what we believe in, what values we hold, what we stand for. We don't really have a sense of a calling or commission. We might have a vague idea, but not something that we've ever really put into words, definitely not something which we would swear to uphold at the risk of our lives. And what if we did, would we have the courage to actually live it out? I don't know.

There's a bunch of other stuff with the movie that I've been thinking about a lot, but I'm definitely not at a place in processing all of it that I can really explain well yet. I can say, though, that I think we, as Christians, are a lot like Balian. We come from meager backgrounds, but we have a very important Father. Once we accept that, we have a choice, either stay in our lives as we know them, or follow our Father, in our new identity. With that identity, however, there's a commitment to something holiness. We're able to fight impossible battles because that identity and commitment means more to us than our own lives.

That's just a i said, I haven't processed it all yet. I suggest you watch it for yourself though. Get the directors cut...the theatrical one leaves out some very important parts. Enjoy!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Happy birthday to me!

I was a little skeptical of what my first birthday away from home was going to be like. After all, we don't really do much to celebrate at home anyway, and I wasn't really expecting much over here. And, when you think about it, I can't really take much credit for my birth, my parents should be the ones getting the party for a) conceiving me, and b) keeping me alive long enough to see 23.

Well, I was greeted this morning by 1 dead cockroach (which Keiko had valiantly slain the night before) and 2 that were yet to die but in that helpless position of surrender belly up to the ceiling. I guess their position, which was practically crying out "kill me", was the best birthday present they could muster, so my first act of the morning was stomping the guts out of the poor suckers.

School today was long and pretty stinking boring for the most part. Our international health module was great with this maverick-like doctor teaching us about disaster relief and how some students from MSIH tried to get involved in helping vaccinate kids in the Sudan during a meningitis outbreak (their plans were thwarted by the administration). The doctor teaching us treats everything like it's an epic story, and really knows how to keep a class on the edge of their seats, so that truly was an amazing part of the school day, but other than that, it was seriously one of the dullest days we've had in a while. And to make things better, Keiko, Deb and I have a 60-70 minute presentation to give tomorrow at 8:15 for a prompt which we received this afternoon, which meant straight to work immediately after class.

So, we head over to the Caroline house and get started researching our topic and finding good tables and graphics and whatnot, order some amazing pizza, and type, type, type away on our presentation. Then, around 8:30 or so Paul sneaks his hand around the corner and turns off all of the lights in our room. Then about half the class walks in carrying a cake, watermelon, cantaloupe, avocado, and ice cream, singing happy birthday. I was amazed at the number of people who showed up (I think on short notice). To make things even better, Priya bought me broccoli!!! (which is kinda hard to find here and a little expensive--it's funny how the little things really start to mean the most).

There were a bunch of other little things that really touched my heart today. I didn't really broadcast that my birthday was coming up. I'm not someone who wants a lot of attention directed at me, and I didn't want to go out and party or go out to some expensive place to eat, so there really wasn't much of a reason to make a big deal out of it. And yet still, almost everyone in my class knew and wished me happy birthday...not because someone announced it or because they heard someone else say it, but because they somehow found it out on their own (facebook does really help with that). Minsoo even called me this morning to wish me a happy birthday because he wasn't going to be in class in the morning and wanted to make sure that he got a chance to do it. I got emails or g-chat messages from other people who weren't in class. Noam offered to buy me whatever coffee I wanted (which ended up not happening because the machine was broken on our floor). I don't it just really came together for me that as much drama as their may be at times, at least from my perspective, our class really is a big family.

So, in the end, it was a great day. A baby cockroach even greeted me--in my room no less--when I got home (it too met its death). I guess somethings never change.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Finishing up basic sciences

Hey everyone!!

I've gotten a lot of messages about the lack of updates. Sorry! I've been working pretty much non-stop since I got back from Egypt, and aside from school there really hasn't been that much going on. I am, however, now done with the typical first year curriculum of basic medical sciences (hopefully...we haven't gotten all of the results from our finals back yet). Here we have pretty much a straight month of finals, which has its pluses and minuses. On the up side, you get, usually, 4 or so days between finals so you can really pack in some good study time before hand, but on the down side, it is a long stinking time to be shutting yourself away from the world to hull up in a room with just your books. Luckily this time around, there were quite a few of us using the same building for studying and I had a good hour or so break almost every day playing volleyball with Dan after we'd had enough of the books. We finished up with our last final on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, jumped straight into the systems based medical approach which we will be using for the next year of our studies. We're starting off with hematology, and it looks promising. The way it works is that you learn pretty much everything you can about the one system you're studying, then move onto another system until you cover the whole body. It seems like it should be a lot more comprehensive than what we've had so far.

Because we just finished up what most schools would call the first year (we still technically have one more system after hematology), pretty much everybody decided to get out of town for the weekend. One girl in my class, Lara, has a family vacation home up right above Tel Aviv and she kindly offered to host a party for the whole class on Thursday night. Problem was, we also had an AMSA (American medical student association) international potluck that night, which I had already agreed to cook food for. But, there were a few of us who would have to stay behind to go to the AMSA thing, and Susan had already decided that she would rent a car for the weekend to peruse around the countryside, and so a few of us could head up after the dinner was over and just make it to the party a little late--which is exactly what we did.

The party was fun...good BBQ and a lot of laughs, but the rest of the vacation was what really rocked! The first half of the day was spent driving back and forth between Tel Aviv, Hertzliyya, and Netanya, hanging out with 3 girls from my class and one of their Israeli friends. We got breakfast (at 2pm) at this amazing little cafe called Benedicts. It was an hour wait, but the food was amazing (this coming from someone who doesn't really like breakfast foods that much).

Yeah, great food huh? We had way, way, way too much for the table, but we made it work.

After that we wandered around Tel Aviv at the local artisan's street fair. There was a ton of cool stuff there and I definitely got some ideas for birthday presents for some of you guys back home.
:) Then it was back to Hertzliyya for Susan and I to pick up 2 of the guys in our class and then to head up to Caesarea. The original plan for the weekend had been to camp on the beach somewhere up there and check out some of the old ancient ruins from the time of the Crusades, but had pretty much no idea where stuff actually was or which beaches were really camp-able (I like to just role with the punches and am really not much for planning). Luckily for us, our friend from our class, Jared, who happened to be with us had an uncle up in Caesarea and was planning on going up there for the weekend anyway. He showed us around for a bit, then headed to his uncle's house, leaving Susan, Thomas, and me to wander around the old city of Caesarea where all of the ruins were and the few places where we could eat. We made it to the ruins just in time to watch the sun set, then found a great restaurant (the cheapest of the 4 in town) where we spent probably close to 3 hours talking and laughing and just having a genuinely good time.

After dinner, we drove around for a while just exploring the area, but couldn't find that much to do, so we headed off to try to find a good camping spot. We stopped randomly right outside of the national part where some more of the ruins were, and found a little pathway down a big cliff by the beach and after wandering a bit more found the ideal camping spot. There was this little patch of sand jutting out, surrounded by rocks. To make it even better, we found a little pathway up to the car that was a lot shorter--and safer--than the one we had taken down. We hauled 2 tents and our sleeping bags down to our newfound camping spot and as Susan and Thomas set up the tents I went off looking for firewood. At first I thought that we were going to be out of luck, at best having a fire that would last for about 10 minutes because there was pretty much no wood to be found. Then I happened upon a huge pile of wood--limbs, palm fronds, little logs--the perfect stuff for making a fire aside from being a little damp. I hauled some of it back and then Susan and Thomas came with me to bring enough for a fire that would last at least a few hours. Thomas started the fire and we sat around it, playing guitar and relaxing about 30 feet from the lapping waves. By the end of the night we had tried to pick out the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, O Holy Night, and a bunch of other completely random songs on the guitar. Finally at 4 in the morning we decided to call it a night and headed off to bed.

The next morning we woke up around 7 to some fishermen walking around our tents and some pretty extreme heat. We were all too exhausted to care though, so just unzipped our tent doors to let the breeze in and tried to block out the noise of the fishermen. Around 10 I finally couldn't really stand the heat so I got up and got to really take in the sites of the beach we'd picked in the middle of the night. I have to say, we did a pretty stinking good job! On either side of us there were ruins of the old city, and before us was some of the clearest, most beautiful water I have ever seen.

You can see some of the ruins in the distance

The view from our camping spot of the old aqueduct that runs along the whole city

I decided to take a dip in the water, and my goodness, it was amazing! Aside from somewhat sharp rocks on the bottom, there was really nothing to complain about. I swam around a little bit by myself, the Thomas woke up and came out with me. We ended up swimming out to some rocks a little further out, where we found a bunch of crabs, some little fish, a ton of shells, a star fish, and some cool little rock formations.

Needless to say, I didn't put on sunscreen, and so got a horrible sun burn that is still nice and red and tender. Once we came in from the ocean, we headed back to the same restaurant that we had dinner at and got lunch, and then played some paddle ball with a group of Muslim school girls visiting from Jerusalem.

Then we went over to Jared's uncle's house to hang out for a bit. They had a trampoline right next to the pool, built for the sole purpose of jumping into the pool. Thomas gave it a go, and the trampoline ended up breaking because there was a ladder stored under it that ripped through the fabric. We spent a little more time hanging out at the house, which had a gorgeous yard and great view

From there we headed up to a Druze town, Daliyat el-Carmel, where Jared claimed we could get the best falafel in all of Israel (and I have to admit, it was pretty good) and where there was a handmade fabric shop that Jared wanted to check out to possibly order some new covers for his couch. Once Keiko and I figure out for sure where we're living next year, I'm hoping to head back up there to get some furnishings for our place. After that we just drove around the city a little bit, went up to a monastery that was closed for the day and went on a couple of little hikes to check out the view of the surrounding area.

What a great weekend. Now we're back to classes, although we had today off and tomorrow as well for Shavuot (a Jewish holiday). On the agenda for next weekend (not this one) is horseback riding in the Negev desert. Good times!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Religious People

Recently I've been hearing a lot of the same sentiment: the world would be a much better place without religious people and religious people are at the heart of all conflict. Now, I wouldn't call myself a "religious" person because Christianity to me is not about a religion, it truly is a relationship with God...but I know that when most people find out I'm a Christian, I'm placed under that category to one degree or another. The secular world sees the "religious people" as close-minded, unaccepting, judgmental people. And sadly, I can see why...the number of conflicts that have been carried out in the name of Elohim, Allah, or Jesus is tragic.

Last night I was having dinner with a girl that Dan and I met in Luxor and who we are now traveling with for the next few days. She describes herself as "spiritual" but won't claim one religion because of the narrow-mindedness that she sees in "religious" people. Some of the things that she was saying really made me think about what I really think about Christianity. Now I know that I believe in Jesus and His saving grace through His death and resurrection beyond a shadow of a doubt...there's nothing in life that I believe in more fully...but it made me think about why I want other people to be Christians and why I can say that I really believe the Jesus is the only way to God. I laid up for quite a while last night thinking about it, and this is what I've come up with. I know I have a lot more thinking and reading and praying to do and will probably never have a complete answer to those questions, but here's what I have so far.

I fully believe what John 3:17 says that Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world by to save the world, and John 14:6, that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Not all religions lead to the same end, but I do think that at least Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all aiming for the same goal: reconciliation and good standing with God. There are even similarities in how we go about pleasing God with devotion in prayer, seeking justice, maintaining different forms of purity, etc etc. So what sets Christianity apart? I think the best answer that I can find is that it is the ministry of reconciliation spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5 11-21. Christ came to reconcile us to God, to restore our ability to have a relationship with God that is not based on our deeds but based on love. No other religion offers that free grace as far as I can tell. I want people to believe in God because I want God to receive glory, I want worship to abound, for my God to be known, truly known, in all the earth. I want people to love Him, not out of fear or obligation, but out of a true relationship with the Creator of the World and their souls.

I don't want people to believe in God so that the world can be a better place. I think that if most of the world's religions really looked at their Scriptures in their context and entirety, the world probably would be a much better place. If Jews, Muslims, and Christians completely followed the 10 Commandments (all 3 religions recognize them as coming from God as guidance for life) the world would look a lot different, and I don't know if the whole issues of social justice would still be around. The thing is, we all fall short simply because we're all sinners. I think that most people recognize that it really doesn't matter how hard you try to live a good life, you're going to fall short. And most of the time when we fall short, our eyes get taken off of God and put onto other people, either to condemn them as well so we can feel better about ourselves, to justify our actions because we're not as bad as the next guy, or by setting up other rules, boundaries, and regulations either to try to keep us from that sin or to give us something that we can achieve in order to feel better about ourselves....and in doing these things we fall into more sin and then hatred for other people who were also created in God's image who have set up other rules for themselves. However, Jesus came to set us free from the law, from guilt, from condemnation, and in doing so, that original wound that took our eyes off of God is healed. I can now obey God, not because I have to, but because I want to, not for my salvation or standing before Him, but so that I can show Him at least a small amount of my love for Him by obedience. I'm now free to love Him and His people (both saved and unsaved) without holding back and to obey His Word without fear of failing. I think the whole issue of social justice would work itself out if people were truly reconciled with God and understood what that meant.

Now, I'm definitely not a universalist, but I think that we've gone too far in putting up walls and labeling people our enemies. I really wonder who Jesus would pronounce judgement on and who He would seek out as His disciples if His incarnation happened today instead of 2000 years ago. Who are the Samaritans of today, who don't worship the way we've decided they should but who Jesus would go out of His way to visit. I wonder who the tax collectors, the traitors to their people, who He would seek out. Who are those that we are ready to call for the fire of heaven to fall on because they do not yet recognize their Savior (Luke 9:54-56)?

We've gotten so good at trying to limit God, whether or not we realize it. From what most of the unsaved worlds sees, Christianity is not the religion of reconciliation between God and man, and between man and man that I see it as. But the amazing thing is, God can still work in spite of how much we mess up. The girl I'm traveling with spent some time in Israel before coming down to Egypt, and while she was there she visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Now I've written a few times about the issues I have with that place, but I praise God that He still can meet with people there. She said that while she was there, she definitely felt something unlike anything else she'd ever known. It wasn't one of those moments like when Paul was knocked off his horse and saw Jesus, but it was something that made her think, and I pray that for the next few days while we're traveling we'll get to talk more about it, and hopefully Dan and I can show her a bit more of who we know Jesus to be.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Passover...heading to Egypt

Oh the irony...for Passover, the holiday commemorating the Jews deliverance from Egypt, a friend and I are traveling around in Egypt seeing a ton of sites. It's quite the whirlwind trip! We left Beer Sheva on Saturday night at like 1 in the morning, made it to Eliat in southern Israel at like 4 in the morning, hung out in an outdoor cafe thing for a while, wandered the city, slept in a hotel lobby, got our visas for Israel at 9 in the morning, crossed the border, then hopped on a bus to Cairo and made it there around 5 (maybe...don't really remember the time that well)

Once we were in Cairo, one of the first things on our itinerary was to get our train tickets to Luxor...which was much easier said than done. We found our way to the train station, playing human frogger as we crossed the crazy streets where both traffic lights and lanes are more suggestions than rules. Once there, we were told that the train we wanted was sold out and the next one that we could get tickets for wouldn't be for another couple of days (a good scam if they want to make sure that you'll buy the sleeper car tickets, which are much more expensive). Amazingly, a couple of guys asked us if we needed any help, so we told them our problem, and they actually ended up getting the tickets for us. The guys at the counter gave them a ton of trouble and even followed us outside of the ticket office to make sure that they weren't giving the tickets to us. We had to get all the way out of the giant station before we could finally pay them and get the tickets. Ends up that both of the guys were Christians and the one who actually bought the tickets said that he thought God was telling him that he needed to help us. Yay for Christians actually acting on God's direction! We ended up spending the rest of the night with them, going out to eat, then driving around the city to see a few sites and just hanging out.

The next day we got up kinda early, had some free breakfast at the hostel, then headed off to the pyramids. Man, they work hard at hassling you there! They're huge on the "don't be a tourist, go this way instead...the local way.....aka pay way more to ride a camel or donkey in order to go in through the local entrance. We caught onto their schemes pretty fast and kept insisting to be taken to the tourist side, trying to convince them that we actually wanted to walk and not ride. We eventually got dropped off...still not on he tourist side, but oh well, and walked a few km to the normal entrance. On the way there, we stopped at a little coffee shop on the side of the road to figure out exactly where we were going and had some amazing (but super sweet) tea. The guys at the shop even changed the TV station to a western movie from the States from around the late 80s.

We eventually made our way to the pyramids where the hassling continued. There are people waiting as soon as you start to walk up to the pyramids who tell you they want to see your tickets and that they are government officials. The thing is, of course they're not actually from the government and they have no reason to see your tickets. Instead, they'll take them and make you pay them in order to get them back. Luckily we'd been warned by a few friends who had gone before, so we were able to avoid that whole problem.

The pyramids were huge! It was hard to take in, especially with all of the other tourists there and all of the locals offering camel and horseback rides. Dan and I ended up climbing around on a bunch of tombs (i think) in the "western cemetery" overlooking some of the smaller pyramids. That was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole pyramid experience just because we were the only ones there. There were some pretty cool engravings on the stones, some that were inside the entrance to the tombs even still had their original color. From there we walked around the back of one of the pyramids and climbed up it a little ways to take pictures. Dan and I both became celebrities at that point as there was a group of school kids there that wanted a ton of pictures with us.

When we were leaving that pyramid to go over to the Sphinx, we were stopped by a man on horseback who wanted to get us to ride around. We told him no a number of times, but he said that he would let us ride for 30LE (about $6) so we decided we'd give it a go. Riding was so much fun! I rode a ton as a kid, and really miss it. The man noticed that I knew what I was doing and asked me how I'd learned and if I wanted to go for a little canter. Of course I said yes and, I have to say, cantering around the pyramids was one of my favorite parts of the day. Sadly it was tainted once we were trying to leave the horses and get back to the sphinx. Somehow, we're still not how, the price got jacked form 30 total to 70 each, which we eventually talked down to 60 each.

From there we went and checked out the Sphinx, which was pretty stinking big. Apparently it had been buried in the sand for a number of years, and you could see how it had been dug out. It's so crazy to think how much the desert sand moves. There was a temple thing in front/to the side of the sphinx that was also pretty breathtaking. So much of it was made out of alabaster, which is a beautiful stone. After that we got tickets to go into the Great Pyramid, which was also quite an experience. Climbing up on the inside was stinking hot and humid! It took 7 or 8 minutes probably to get up to the top (I have no idea how far we actually were up inside of it) where there was a platform thing were a sarcophagus would be placed.

After the pyramids we headed down back into Cairo to check out the main museum there. This thing was huge! It was more like wandering through a warehouse of old Egyptian artifacts than going through a museum. There was no way that we could even begin to take it all in. It's definitely a place I need to go to again someday in order to really appreciate it.

Ok, that's it for now. We've also been through Luxor and are now in Dahab, but this is long enough already so i'll post another one later to let you know about those.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some thoughts from a month back

Sorry once again for the lack of posts...not that much is going on around here. I finished up with my genetics final today and am gearing up for a month of exams that will start a little bit after Pesach (Passover). I'll probably spend most of my break studying all of those little bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that can sure do a number on someone's health...but hopefully I'll get a chance to go up to Jerusalem and visit my friend Jill from Reality in Santa Barbara. For those of you who don't know, she's been teaching at an international school up there for over a year now, so she knows the area pretty well. I'm also planning a horseback riding trip around the desert once Pesach is over, which should be great, especially because it's been so long since I've ridden and there's quite a few people here who have never ridden.

Anyway, after I finished the genetics final this morning, I had quite a bit of free time so I came home to journal and as I was flipping through some of my old entries, I ran across this one that I thought I should share with you. It's from the 15th of Feb when I was in Jerusalem wandering around the Old City, taking a much needed break from Beer Sheva. Here ya go:

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:10a
What I am doesn't feel like it belongs here. I'm not a part of this doctor world...I really don't like it actually. More than ever my heart and soul are yearning for the "simple life" of fields and cows, sunsets and thunderstorms on hilltops, and hard, back-breaking work. Not cities and classrooms, and sterile floors, fancy dinners, nice cars and dressing up. That's not something I want. I was telling Keiko, I should have just been a farmer's wife...this isn't my world.
I feel like I've given up so much coming here...not that that's necessarily a bad thing, just hard. I gave up John, I gave up a huge chunk of my family identity (and gained a part that I don't necessarily like: the one that's changing thing--you decide if that's good or bad), my community of believers and church home (which has been really hard actually), my wide open spaces, and the possible guarantee of a predictable-ish future. I feel like what's ahead of me has good potential, but could also end up so so so horribly if it get off of God's track. And the thing is, it's getting harder and harder to just go and seek God daily, to open up His Word and pray to Him. Whenever I do, it's absolutely amazing, but for some reason it keeps getting harder and harder. I really, really need to find a good church home or some kind of consistency in gathering as a community. Right now, it's not good.
Maybe I'm an ignorant idealist who hasn't had her eyes opened to the ways of the world, but there's a few things that I really don't want to understand. One really kinda cuts deeps right now. So I was at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher right? So, I got there 10 minutes before it closed and low and behold, they wouldn't let me in. Now, ok, I get it...whatever...but really?! How can you close a church?! Especially that church. I mean, as a predominantly tourist site, I guess it can be closed, but then I was just sitting outside of it and guess what, they "closed" that part too an hour later! How can you close the outside of a building?! I really just want a safe place to go and draw near to God. I want a place where I can go and just ask someone to tell me about my Savior. I don't care if the stories are ones I've heard a hundred times. I just want to hear someone else tell me about Him. I want to go to a place and feel like a part of a family, a real family, again; to be in a room of strangers all seeking the same God, acknowledging the same--the only--Mediator.
I don't know why I can't come to the "Holy City" and find some church that's open 24 hours with someone there. It doesn't make sense. A church should never willingly close its doors, a church shouldn't have "hours." What happened to the churches where you could find homeless sleeping in the pews? When the rest of the world closes you out, who lets you in? Well, not the Church of the Holy Sepulcher...not where they say Jesus was crucified. How have we, as God's body, drifted so stinking far from His heart, from who He really is? How is it that we've gotten so much wrong, and in the process turned so many away? We've wanted the world, we've pursued it...and He's given it to us, or given us to it.
And those who stand up and say, "No, this isn't right! What happened to love being greater? What happened to laying down our rights, not getting paid for what we do (even though we deserve it) so that our message--our service of love--can truly be free? What happened to dying to ourselves, to being the filth and refuse of the world, to being foolish in the world's eyes? What happened to acting like out actions matter more than our words?"--What about us? We're crazy, dreamers, unrealistic, fools.
I think the thing that scares me the most is that God really does give us over to our desires. He really is a gentleman and doesn't force Himself on us. But with our haughty eyes we're so easily lured away by a sparklely world of instant gratification and empty promises. We're fine riding the fence, but the thing is, there's really no such thing. Hot or cold He'll take, but lukewarm? Never. But somehow we've convinced ourselves that our lukewarm is really hot enough. We're half-hearted people. We love God definitely, but to the point of utter, TOTAL That's just foolish, right? But then we can give ourselves totally to the world, convincing ourselves that God's Word isn't actually true, that he doesn't actually require our full hearts. C.S Lewis was right about the mud pie thing.
Renew our hearts LORD, shepherd your people. We are such foolish sheep."

So yeah, there's a glimpse into some of the stuff I'm dealing with here. Since I wrote that, I have found more of a community of committed believers. There's a group of us that's meeting once a week for worship and intercession...and it's amazing! God has also been drawing me in much closer to Himself and His Word since I wrote that as well. I guess my main reason for sharing this is just to challenge you guys, and myself, to really examine the areas of our own lukewarm-ness and where we've accepted the world's principles and ideas of what's possible and in the process have blinded our eyes to God's more perfect way. That's it. Love you guys! God bless!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who loves you more than me?

We listened to a song in Hebrew class last week that really struck a chord with me. Maybe it's because I've been reading a lot of Jeremiah lately or because one of the things that most consistently plagues my heart is the spiritual blindness in this land (not just Jews and Muslims, but on the part of many of the Christians too). Anyway, here are the lyrics translated into English. Keep in mind, they might not be perfectly translated, seeing as the the translation part was something we all did in class with some help from the teacher.

Who loves you more than me?

To whom belongs the earth, air, and sea?
To whom belongs the world?
To whom belongs the gold and diamonds?
Why does the jackal howl in the vinyard?
How does the spring know that it is time (to come)?
And to where do ships sail, to where?

Who loves you more than me?
Who makes you laugh when you are sad?
How long until you'll be mine?
And why are you silent?

Why is there war and pain?
Why does God not interfere?
Why is it that when you're here it makes me feels good?

Who loves you more than me?
Who makes you laugh when you are sad?
How long until you'll be mine?
And why are you silent?

Whose land?
Whose gold and diamonds?
How does the spring know?

Who loves you more than me?
Who makes you laugh when you are sad?
How long until you'll be mine?
And why are you silent?

Now I don't know much about the guy who wrote this. His name is Arkadi Dukin (or something like that) and he immigrated to Israel, I think from Russia. I don't know why he wrote this song or what he meant by most of the lyrics (most people look at it as a man's love song to a woman), but from the way I read/heard it, it really seems to reflect God's heart toward His people, Israel.

Here is God, the One to whom the earth, air, and sea belong; the One to whom all of the diamonds and gold in the earth belong, the King of the world; the one who taught jackals to howl and who brings spring in its season("He made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun to know its time for setting" Psalm 104:19); and the one who controls the waters on which ships sail (Psalm 107:23). And here He is, all we could ever want, asking "Who loves you more than me?...When will you be mine?" We respond to His call, trying to place the blame on Him for the broken relationship. We ask, why is their war, why is their pain, and why doesn't God interfere. I think that Jeremiah 3 summarizes it nicely:
"If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man's wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted. You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? declares the Lord. Life up your eyes to the bare heights and see! Where have you not been ravished. By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers like an Arab in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your vile whoredom. Therefore, the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. Have you not just now called to me, 'My father, you are the friend of my youth--will he be angry forever, will he be indignant to the end?' Behold, you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could...'Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord. Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord, for I am your master, I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." (Jeremiah 3:1-5,12-15).
We've turn from Him and pursued our own goals and pleasures, with complete disregard for Him. And yet, he calls us back, saying "How long until you'll be mine?" How long until we will lay aside the sins which so easily entangle us and run with endurance the race set before us. "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing, and fools hate knowledge" (Proverbs 1:22). How long will we be silent? How long until we confess our guilt and fall into the open arms of our Father? How long until God's people recognize their Savior? Ah, it breaks my heart...but it must break His so much more.