Heaven’s Gate

Foggy reflections from my past rose up to greet me.

A massive wall of portension previously blocking my view steadily crumbled from centermost point.

Sparkling streets of gold beckoned me to enter in.

______________________________________________________________________

The weekend is here at Trifecta –

which means I have a better chance of making it through nearly all the readings at only 33 words a piece!

This week’s Trifextra challenge is to come up with 33 picture-perfect words for the image that’s been supplied.

Advertisements

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Earth

Earth’s birth created heavenly mirth.

And then…reality struck.

And the rocks cried out.

***

Here’s a favorite photo of mine that represents my personal heaven on earth:

Mounds of Earth, reaching up towards the heavens
Mounds of Earth, as the Smoky Mountains reach up to greet the heavens (aka, My Heaven on Earth)

And here are some earthy finds I came across in the Holy Land, where many pilgrims travel to try to make sense of heaven on earth.

A Millstone, resting in the earth

A Millstone, resting in the earth (which is much better than being tied around one’s neck)

an earthy well

an earthy well

excavated portion of the earth thought to the the Apostle Peter's house in the fishing village, Capernaum

excavated portion of the earth thought to be the Apostle Peter’s house in the fishing village, Capernaum

Tunneling Beneath the Earth

Cities & Tunnels lie Beneath the Earth – if I recall correctly, this is an open portion of the Via Dolorosa in Old Jerusalem

Excavation site in Jericho (I marched around it a few times)
Excavation site in Jericho (I marched around it a few times)
Interesting find while hiking the Wadi Qelt

Interesting find while hiking the Wadi Qelt

An Efficient way to Travel the Terrain of the Earth

An Efficient way to Travel the Terrain of the sometimes harsh Earth

Bedouins living an earthy existence

Bedouins living an earthy existence

Dramatically sculpting a dwelling within the Earth

Dramatically sculpting a dwelling within the Earth

So, what place on earth do you like to claim as your own slice of heaven?

cees-fun-foto1

Related Articles:

The Unique Path Carved for You

The paths each of us travels, both physical and spiritual, eternal or temporal, are always unique ones – becoming visual testimonies for us to share along life’s way.

The Unique Path Carved for You

The path I carved for you, dear child,
was often rugged, adventurous and wild.
Had it been smoothed with sand at each turn,
filled with sun, what shade would’ve prevented your burn?

And without the rain, your foot might’ve never touched mud,
but do you believe you, yourself, would’ve never found crud?
Your creek beds would have all gone dry.
At this, your life blood and spirit would have died.

Nor could I always supply you the breeze of the trees,
for you’d get too comfortable, sitting there on your knees.
Upon that breeze I sent your call
to follow a path to reach out to all.

And, yes, of course I expected you’d stray
to chart your own course, to go your own way.
But detours plenty I made to re-draw you near.
You are my creation – my child. I hold you dear.                                    

Sometimes your path may seem parched and dry.
Sometimes you’ll throw up your hands to ask why.
But if followed through, your hardship will be worth the bother,
to show others the way – to my living water.

© jody love 2013

the_cross

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m throwing this into a couple of pots this week, all happening by serendipity, I suppose. (Maybe not; maybe I just like that word.) I had been wanting to put up a post of various physical paths I’ve traveled, as I reflected on some of the spiritual paths I’ve had to encounter as of late.

As it just so happened (that’s where serendipity comes in), the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge came up on Friday with the ‘Unique’ prompt. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to pen a poem to go with some of my hiking photographs regarding how unique each of our life paths becomes; so I began scribbling away in the middle of church service this past Sunday. (Don’t tell my family; I’m sure they thought I was taking sermon notes. In my defense, I’m going to offer up that I was spiritually inspired.)

As far as poetry goes, I don’t think it’s my “best” piece in terms of complexity, by any stretch of the imagination. (It’s even a little “cruddy” – a play on a word that will come across as a ‘sticky’ point to the well-versed poet.) It’s in simple quatrains with rhymes ending in simple thoughts (a point of contention for the more contemporary, stylishly disdainful, misled-in-meaning beatnik-type poet — yeah, I’ve been in my twenties too; I get it – and I still like to break rules of conventionality). But I decided it needed to be simple if it was a Father speaking to His child, trying to simplify a very complicated subject matter (the difficulty of a spiritual journey). There was so much more I wanted to try to “squeeze in,” but TMI (too much information) can be a dangerous lesson, in and of itself (at least for my simple mind).

Then, I opened up the Trifecta Writing Challenge blog on Monday afternoon to discover the prompt for this week was ‘path.’ Encounters of the Serendipitous Kind? I’ll let you decide. <cue the eerie alien music>

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Trifecta Challenge: This week’s word is:

PATH
1: a trodden way
2: a track specially constructed for a particular use
3a : course, route
b : a way of life, conduct, or thought

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.
This week’s challenge is community-judged.
  • For the 12 hours following the close of the challenge, voting will be enabled on links.
  • In order to vote, return to this post where stars will appear next to each link.  To vote, simply click the star that corresponds with your favorite post.
  • You can vote for your top three favorite posts.
  • Voting is open to everyone. Encourage your friends to vote for you, if you wish, but please don’t tell them to vote on a number.  The numbering of the posts changes regularly, as authors have the ability to delete their own links at any time.
  • You have 12 hours to vote.  It’s not much time, so be diligent! We’ll send out reminders on Twitter and Facebook.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Life’s Greatest Gift

“Life’s a bitch – and then you die,” Woebegone shrugged, as if he could care less.

“No, it isn’t, Woebe,” squeaked Singsong back, full of cheer. “Life’s a marvelous adventure, filled with a plenitude of fun things to do!” She sighed dreamily while looking upward, as if she could peer into the creative recesses of her imagination.

“Which is it, Wise One?” Woebegone inquired in a somewhat circumspect manner.

“Neither,” came the Old Seer’s decisive reply. “And both.” He paused for Woebegone and Singsong to draw nearer to him, patiently waiting until he was certain he had their full attention. He good-naturedly chuckled as he continued, “Though life is never as you plan it and hardly what you, yourself, set out to make of it, precious ones, only you can control your response to the gifts it offers.”

“Gifts?! Hmph,” Woebegone groaned with no tone of gratitude. “I’ll gladly give mine to someone else!”

“And that, young, imprudent Woebe, is why you do not appreciate the beauty of life’s gifts. You lack patience enough to allow them to be fully unwrapped – to reveal themselves to you completely over time,” serenely instructed the Seer.

“I’ll gladly take them all, then!” squealed Singsong with glee.

“And that, my frivolous fairy,” continued the Wise One, “is why you do not ever fully appreciate them either. You strew the packaging all about, greedily flitting from one present to the next – without ever taking time to savor the depth of just one.”

Singsong sobered somewhat, while Woebegone took on an ounce of sprightly spirit.

“Which of the gifts, Wise One, is best, then, to open?”

The Old Seer’s wrinkles each turned upward in delight that his wee ones were learning to ask the better questions of life. “Ah, yes. The greatest gift life offers, my little nymphs, is, without question, the gift of…experience.”

DSCN1032

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Readers, I expect this will be the raciest word post you’ll get from me. Though I recognize the importance of my personal witness to some readers who could become offended, I ask that you take in the message as a whole and remember that it’s not our work to become offended by others; it’s our greater work to offer hope and meaning to those seeking Truth. On the swing side, those of you who are not offended, quit smirking. I am not a goody two-shoes. I just try to walk in the footsteps of the Only One who is Good (and fail every day, but I still know I’m cherished and I am His). 🙂

With that said, this bit of flash fiction…(Wait…did you read that piece as fiction? Hopefully, you’ll buy into what my Old Seer had to say, even if you don’t ever meet up with his magical fairy friends)…

anyway, this week’s writing was in response to Trifecta: Week Sixty-One Writing Challenge:

And now we move on to this week’s one-word prompt.  Apologies in advance to those who are easily offended…

This week’s word is:

BITCH (noun) (3rd definition)

3: something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Embrace Life! Embrace Your Gifts! Embrace the Experience! -jody

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

Galilee

My view of the city of Tiberias while afloat on the Sea of Galilee.
Tiberias is considered to be one of Judaism’s four holy cities.
It was named for the emperor, Tiberius.
Also note that the Sea of Galilee is actually a lake – Lake Tiberias.

Further, Deeper, Higher…

As I floated upon the sea that day, I looked across the water’s waves…up onto that side of ridge, inwardly wondering, What’s taking place in all those buildings up there, beyond where I sit, lazily bobbing in my vessel here? And what could be beyond that ridge, such a high line of division over my niche? And I prayed to expand further the field of view I gleaned, to see things beyond that which I’d never before seen.

When I took the time to search below my seat of in-between, the one I often call my equilibrium, I pondered, What’s taking place in the depths beneath me, beyond the surface that obscures what I cannot see? My hand reached in and broke through but for an instant, changing the perception of what I held within me so strong. And I wished to go deeper than ever before I had gone.

Then I craned my neck and looked above, at birds flying gracefully overhead. I spread my arms up to the sky and called, How far are your plans to travel into that blue expanse of great beyond up there? Or does the wind make such decisions for you as you float along without a care? And I felt my heart and my mind trying to soar along, to higher places beyond that which I’ve already known.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

You can grab some more views of others going into the Beyond at the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge link.

How God Can Equip from the Hip on a Fateful Trip

Something very curious happened this morning with my blog post. I began this entry at the end of November, but just got around to finishing it up this morning. When I went to publish my saved draft, it saved it to the originally drafted date.

So…I’ve re-blogged the link, if you’re interested…

How God Can Equip from the Hip on a Fateful Trip.

O Little Town of Bethlehem – & other places for a Christian woman to cover her head

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/thousands-flock-bethlehem-celebrate-christmas-article-1.1226868

Manger Square in Bethlehem 2012

After the unrest in the Holy Land as of late, it was heart-warming to hear the good news reported by the New York Daily News: “Thousands of pilgrims and Palestinians converged on Bethlehem Monday to celebrate the first Christmas in this West Bank city since the U.N. vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member state.The celebrations capped a boom year for the city of Jesus’ birth, with a record two million tourists in 2012 helping an impressive economic revival.”

I dare say the importance of this news (and that picture above) makes little sense to many Christians anyway. We Christians like to romanticize the little town of Bethlehem, as though it somehow belongs to us. We sweetly sing our caroling song about it, our faces aglow, basking in the candlelight. How still we-e see thee lie. Well, that’s a lie. (Somehow we forget that Jesus wasn’t exactly welcomed in that restless place with open arms – he was only welcomed by a mangy manger.) Commerce hasn’t come through there, either, like it used to (mostly due to an ugly Apartheid wall that blocks it and is responsible for blocking the harvesting of many age-old olive trees now destroyed or inaccessible), and hearts are still restless there – so “pilgrims flocking” – and buying – is good news of great joy to the people of ‘O Little Town.’

Going to Israel’s West Bank has made one of the greatest life impacts on me, putting many things in perspective for me, while also knocking many of my perspectives off-axis. That’s why it was important to go there.

The very night I first arrived in Jericho in January 2006, Hamas was elected into power. There was immediate unrest, with gunfire celebrations going all through the night, as Islamic Palestinians anticipated release from Israeli authority (while Americans – a.k.a. Christians there, regardless of religious affiliation –  had enough sense to remain in their hotel rooms). It’s interesting being over there as an American. Politics & religion become one in the same – don’t bother trying to explain our principle of separation of Church & State; you’re wasting your breath. So if you’re an American without obvious Islamic ties or without Jewish transfer as an Israeli soldier, you’re classified as Christian – no exceptions (which I am Christian, but coming from America, I had to come to understand this particular paradigm). And if you’re an atheistic American, I guess you’ve just become a secular Christian. Yeah, well, academic arguments don’t really matter. Life stinks out for you, huh?

I had just come from Ammon, Jordan, where I’d seen the Palestinian refugee camps and had begun to understand the true extent of potential hatred between the Israeli & Palestinian people because of decades of displacement (and how U.S. Christians are viewed in the turmoil with a Zionist worldview). Nerves were a little on edge in Israel, anyway, as Prime Minister Sharon had suffered two strokes (which had resulted in his vegetative state). It seemed the Hamas must have been surprised to have come into power (certainly unprepared, as were America & Israel about it) because it took them several days to effectively organize and begin disseminating ‘power’ statements. By the time all that had occurred, I had made my way into Bethlehem.

The "Apartheid" wall that encloses Bethlehem(Note the sign on the wall when leaving Jerusalem to go into Bethlehem. It reads, "Peace be with you.")

The “Apartheid” wall that encloses Bethlehem
(Note the sign on the wall when leaving Jerusalem to go into Bethlehem. It reads, “Peace be with you.”)

The wired fences, the walled Apartheid barricade, the armed soldiers, the long wait during passport inspection at the ‘you are leaving Jerusalem & we’re not sure if we’ll let you back in’ checkpoint – all matched well with the ominous gray sky the first day we entered Bethlehem. No sooner did we get off our bus and begin walking to Jesus’ supposed birth site than I began to realize the desperation of the Palestinian people there. Tourism and commerce were down significantly (I was told to less than one-third of what they had been), with great limitations on supplies that could come into the city. Residents didn’t necessarily have the means to get out of the walled-in city to sustain themselves either. We were swarmed upon several times by people desperate to make sales with very little to actually sell (even though, honestly, I’m not much of a shopper anyway, avidly avoiding Black Friday & Walmart like the plague). I accidentally offended one man by backing away and holding up my hand, trying to make the point I wasn’t interested in being crowded any further. (Well, it always works as a good signal to those upstanding people trying to sell you stolen goods at U.S. gas pumps. You must understand that I’m also the person who will ask to be excused from the no-longer-has-met-its-weight-limit-elevator as people keep trying to push me towards the back to suffocate me.) This fellow was persistent in sharing my personal space, as he boldly pursued me, yelling at me that he, too, was a Christian and that I was not “the Mrs. of the World” (which was a little heart-breaking that he hadn’t recognized me without my sash and crown). Desperation creates frustration; frustration causes tempers to easily flare. As disconcerting as this experience was, my heart did hurt for him and the others, one of whom actually was successful in picking another woman’s pocketbook in our party that day, passport and all.

I don’t believe we traveled too many more steps down the road before the speakers on top of the mosques began to blare. I had become accustomed to chants coming from them often, but this time seemed different. Apparently, Hamas had begun to make some decisions, and at least one was relayed to us. Did it come from the very loud-speakers? I can’t recall. Did the words first come in Arabic and then were translated from the speakers? Or were we simply thereafter informed of their meaning? Regardless of the details I’ve failed to remember, I do quite clearly recall the gist of the message we received as we stood out on that street: “Hamas is now in power. Bethlehem is an Islamic state. Christian women will cover their heads” (hijab – yep, I got that part of the announcement).

Now, I’m all for honoring customs and traditions. (Nobody wears green to keep from being pinched better than me on St. Patrick’s Day. Admittedly, I don’t go out of my way to find black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s; but when my sister says we have to eat them, I hold my nose and play along – even when I can’t recall the point). Seriously, I have no problem with head coverings when they’re called for. I had already taken one with me to the Wailing Wall in Old Jerusalem, and I didn’t even make a stink about having to go to the “girl’s side.” I understood the expectation. Had I known a head covering was going to be a requirement in Bethlehem that day – a town composed of both Islamic and Christian Palestinians – I’m sure I could’ve brought one along. It was the ‘immediacy’ of the matter -without any pre-designed rule book or warning – that kinda’ got my hijab in a wad that day. (That, and this, if you want more info about why the ruling wasn’t really ‘kosher.’)

When you’re one of less than a handful of American women with uncovered light-colored hair and skin walking down the streets of an agitated town in the middle of the day, you don’t have to wonder if you’ve just become a magnet for creating a potential offense! (Especially when there are women fully covered with a niqab or burqa who you realize are now only giving you uncomfortable side glances, as they quickly shuffle away in a direction quite obviously opposite from your own.) Obviously, the impracticality of not being forewarned of the possibility of immediate governmental law changes does not necessarily negate the severity of the perceived offense.

So, you see, had I but only known the wonderfully gracious and giving TravelingMarla back then – my blogging friend, Marla, who just recently sent me a lovely green forever-scarf as a gift for playing along in her writing challenge… (I would like to say it was because I won it for being such a profoundly gifted writer; but then I’d be creating a new offense by not simply saying she is a fun and generous gal!)…I could’ve easily pocketed that little green scarf and pulled it out quicker than a redneck Muslim could say “Hee-yawb.” (That’s some bad American Christian cowgirl humor for ya’, since all Americans notoriously are western cowpokes, too.)

Thank you, Marla, for my forever-lovely forever-scarf!

Thank you, Marla, for my forever-lovely forever-scarf!

For the record, this isn’t the ending story of my Bethlehem visits – there’s a really good one in there that ends in prayer in an upper room. But I’m saving that one for another day. For now, there’s one more thing I have to say because there’s a small likelihood I haven’t offended enough religious (or non-religious, as the case may be) affiliations yet. I came back to the states and later went to see a family Christian production in the movie theaters. It began with a commercial from Evangelical Christians, essentially stating (as fact) that “all” Palestinian children were sent to camps to learn to make bombs. (It was a nasty little hate message, in case you didn’t get that.) It was the same sort of hate message that was keeping the residents of Bethlehem from being able to get any commerce or supplies into their town to survive. As a Christian, I felt more horrified over that commercial than I had during my own uncovered-head-day-in-Bethlehem excursion. I wished I’d had a hijab with me at that moment, along with a dark niqab to cover my reddened face.

News flash to those of you calling yourselves Christians while persecuting Palestinians: Somebody’s been leaving out some pertinent information while filtering their agendas to you. A reality check will reveal that, even if you care about no others outside of ‘your own,’ there are Palestinian Christians who remain just as displaced in both homeland and affiliation in the Middle East as any other Palestinian. Because they are neither Islamic nor Jewish, these governments tell them to go to America (because we all know that is where Christians reside,  of course. Yep, lots of secular Christians.) While in Bethlehem, I witnessed Christians and Muslims living and socializing peacefully together as individuals (well, commiserating over their woes), rather than acting out separately like governmental entities of this region. So are we truly, as proclaiming Christians, going to persecute our Palestinian brothers and sisters with lies such as those being promulgated in that movie theater commercial? Are you truly willing to  be the means of persecuting anyone, according to religion or beliefs, based on picked-up propaganda perspectives? I, for one, did not appreciate it – so much so that it makes me think long and hard before I take any political stances – especially those that might cost people their lives.

I found out, first-hand — Persecution Stinks. But what gets me most is that Jesus came into the world knowing his arrival would mean persecution – persecution to the point of eventually giving up his very life. He even found out how un-welcomed he’d be from the very beginning – right there in Bethlehem, when there was no room anywhere but with the animals down in a musty cave.

But that didn’t stop Him from coming. The Prince of Peace – coming into a restless world. Emmanuel (God with us) – coming not to hoard his power over us with unreasonable rules and restrictions we couldn’t meet or to throw new ones on us to embarrass us and trip us up, but so we could be free of the things that bound us;so His light might shine brightly upon those of us who had been hiding in the darkness.

Perhaps we should revisit that song, O Little Town of Bethlehem – especially that part where it says:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth,  the Everlasting Light

the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

We need to uncover that light within us – a light that desires to shine in the darkness for others to witness; not the darkness trying to snuff out the Truth – that God’s light has come into the world.