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Showing posts from January, 2014

Why I Loved Daniel and Hated Job

I used to hate the book of Job.

There, I said it.  I know some of you might be in shock that I--a seminarian, a pastor, a future ordained elder--would actually hate a book of the Bible.  But it's true, for the longest time I just could not stand the story of a man whose life get's worse and worse and worse, simply because God wanted to prove something to Satan... or something like that.*

Which is funny because my wife absolutely loves the book of Job.  It's her favorite in the entire Old Testament, and I could not understand why for the longest time.  It's just so dadgum depressing.  A man's life starts out so wonderful, so full of blessing and grace, and slowly falls apart until nothing is left but his faith.  And I know, I know, at the end he gets back double what he had before, but that's a few verses at the end of chapters and chapters of misery.

Not like Daniel.  The story of Daniel is a book that starts out with destruction and judgement and nothing but …

Holy Land Reflections

I was really tempted to just say "ditto" after all of Scott's blog entries, but here I am at 4 a.m. typing away.  Thank you jet lag.

I've been back just a couple of days and thinking back to my first day in the Holy Land seems like decades ago.  Although it was 2013, so I could say it was last year which means I don't remember everything and that would indeed be a fact.  I'm not going to name places, dates, or facts, but merely things I felt and things I feel are true.  This may be partly because I don't remember all the details, but mainly because I have no idea how to spell half the places we went to visit.

The first week we studied under the Shalom Hartman Institution and I simply can't brag enough about this place and the people we encountered through it.  Simply phenomenal.  The people that I met that week were so full of passion and had a level of devotion I have never seen in my life.  Their faith inspired me and the phrase we coined thanks to…

Israel/Palestine Trip Days 12-15

By: Scott Gilliland

I'm a little late with this final installment, but as the two weeks came to a close, my exhaustion began setting in.  It may have been a good thing to wait, because the last few days have given me a lot to ponder.  We spent these last few days learning about the Palestinian side of the wall, in the West Bank.  The more we've listened and learned, the clearer it becomes that the Palestinian people and their story deserve attention... and not just the attention given on the evening news.
We started Thursday by visiting Diyar Consortium and Dar Al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, both dedicated to empowering students in the arts, despite pushback from the Palestinian government, who for a long time have seen the arts as inconsequential when compared to business and engineering.  Through perseverance, private backing and a recent change of heart from the government, both Diyar and Dar Al-Kalima are succeeding in their mission "To have life and have it abunda…

Jesus Wept.

By: Scott Gilliland

I don't understand about 90% of the official "Holy Land Tour," which sounds terrible, I know.  Here I am, 25 years old, with my wife, seeing sites and walking paths and touching places that are incredibly sacred not just to the members of my faith, but for religious and even just-plain-curious people all over the world.  Many people wait and save up their entire lives for the experience I've been provided at such an early age.  And I am grateful.

But I don't get the rocks.

Maybe it's because I am a western, American, white, Methodist male, but I just don't connect with a bunch of rocks.  And I wish I did, I really do!  In a weird way, I feel it would justify my luckiness in visiting this place.  I'm so jealous of the Catholic and Orthodox and Jewish and Muslim believers I've witnessed on this trip who are so engaged with each and every site I've visited.  The churches are beautiful, the mosques breathtaking, the settings on…

Israel Trip Days 10-11

By: Scott Gilliland

I've just realized my title for these blogs is partially incorrect.  I'm surprised it took me until now to realize that they should have been titled "Israel/Palestine Trip," out of consideration for the two distinct peoples that occupy this land officially known as "Israel."  These last two days we have been based in Bethlehem, which sits just inside the West Bank (named for it's geographical location on the western bank of the Jordan River, which is actually on the eastern border of Israel, which is super confusing, but whatever...), so I've become acutely aware of the distinct differences between the Israeli and Palestinian territories.  But I digress, more on that in a later post.

We began Day 9 by leaving Nazareth bright and early to make our way down the eastern edge of the country, through the West Bank, along the Jordan River, with Bethlehem as our ultimate goal.  We stopped first in Jericho to see the Mount of Temptation …

Israel Trip Days 8-9

By: Scott Gilliland
Note: I've realized the last couple of posts have been very reflective and rather straight-forward, so I thought it might be fun to inject some humor into this one.  If you've missed the funnies, then you've come to the right post!

Goodbye Ezra, Hello Johnny!  We made the shift these past two days from the Jewish perspective of Israel (with the help of Shalom Hartman Institute, Dr. Marcie Lenk, and Ezra the Incredible Tour Guide) to Johnny the Tour Guide's perspective (he is an Arab Christian, who lives in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, just for reference).  He is very knowledgable, occasionally a (tad bit?) inappropriate, and overall about a 180 turn from the leaders of our last week.  Of course, we have Dr. Hunt with us as always, but it's hard to compete with "I don't mean to offend women, but..." (*actual Johnny quote).  Side note: When someone begins a sentence with "I don't want to offend you, but…

Israel Trip Days 6-7

By: Scott Gilliland
Shabbat Shalom!  This blog is being posted a couple days late, due to wifi/timing issues, but this covers our time on Friday and Saturday, January 3-4.  I also will stop apologizing for length, because it's just not that easy to whittle down any more than I already do, so it is what it is.  (Sorry for the weird formatting, Blogger is being weird about my photos)
Friday was a dichotomy of frenetic chaos and ritual order, the day the day that marks the beginning of Shabbat (Hebrew for Sabbath).  Spending Shabbat in Jerusalem is an otherworldly experience as a vast majority of the city follows variations of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox regulations during the time beginning Friday at sundown and ending Saturday at sundown.
Speaking of Ultra-Orthodox, we spent the Friday morning touring a bit of the residential neighborhoods of Jerusalem, most notably the Ultra-Orthodox quarter.  Our chartered tour bus felt completely out of place on the tight, pedestrian-filled stre…

Israel Trip Days 4-5

By: Scott Gilliland

Sorry for the delayed posting, our wifi was not working at the hotel last night so I had to wait until getting to the Shalom Hartman Institute to post.  I'll be going over the last couple of days in this post and then I'll do a write-up on today later this evening.  Let's begin.

On Wednesday, we woke up, had breakfast, and headed over to the Shalom Hartman Institute for a morning study on the Jewish concept of tikkun olam.  The term is a loaded one that means many things, but essentially it refers to the restoration of creation.  This can be through environmentalism, social justice, legal changes, or personal actions that lead to the betterment of the earth and its peoples.  Our discussion and study led very naturally to a late-morning excursion for our group where we split up and went to area community organizations that engaged in a variety of tikkun olam.

My group of five went to Beit Matanya, a community "inreach" organization that practic…