Friday, May 31, 2013

goodbye, sebring

Load the car and write the note; grab your bag and grab your coat. Tell the ones that need to know: we are headed north.
- The Avett Brothers, “I and Love and You”

I didn’t used to like this place. What are swampy flatlands and mucky lakes compared to magnificent snowcapped mountains and clear glacier water? Why choose a place of perpetual summer when there’s an option for the scent of fallen leaves in the frost or the sound of gurgling water after a spring thaw?

But I have learned that places are more than what they look like or feel like. Incredible vistas that are completely deserted can be places of deep reflection and worship for a time, but even an introvert like me needs more than that. Places need people. And that’s one thing that Sebring does have—some of the best people I’ve ever met. They’re my family away from family, and the more I know, love, and learn from them, the more beauty this place takes on.

I’m going to miss it.

Goodbye, Sebring and all the wonderful people within. Goodbye, sunny southeastern United States. Hopefully I’ll be back.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

the final day : the temple mount, western wall, and via dolorosa




I feel like I don’t have the words to really describe this day. The temple mount where God chose to place His Holy Presence for the Israelites in the past; the Western Wall where His chosen people have cried out to Him for so many years; the Via Dolorosa that remembers the suffering of the Messiah at the hands of the Jews… it just hit me again and again how important it is to remember God’s story and to proclaim it to the world.

The most impactful moment of this day was also the most unlikely. Our group clustered into an upper floor of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, crammed with hundreds of other tourists who wanted to see the same artwork and touch the same patch of Calvary’s bedrock. Pastor Randy only said one thing up there before we hurried down to make way for more tourists, and it was this: “Somewhere within twenty-five feet of where you’re standing, God saved the world.”

Wrap your mind around that one.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

holy land tour, day ten : the old city

It makes me sad how unobservant my generation seems to be. Arts like listening, people watching, and even silence have become at least obsolete. As I sat on the corner of a couch in the vast lobby of my hotel in Jerusalem this evening, I noticed that of the four other people sitting nearby, three were on their phones in some way and one was asleep—only I sat in total silence, totally unoccupied with anything but what was going on around me.

In fact, people watching characterized my entire day. We had the day off from touring, so my friends and I walked back to the Old City to do some exploring on our own. I wanted a chance to do some low-key street photography without the rush of sightseeing, so I made my way from the Jaffa Gate area through to Damascus Gate (in the Moslem Quarter), and simply smelled the different scents, listened to the different languages, and took note of the different people.


I smelled more spices than I could identify, mixed with the smoke of hookahs and the sourness of trash in the alleys. I watched the different interactions of both foreigners and locals, and saw long lines of Israeli Defense Force soldiers moving through the markets. I noticed the warm hospitality of the hopeful shopkeepers and the prickly harshness of the ones who had been offended by the carelessness of a tourist. And I managed to get through the whole day without losing any money or camera accessories to the “birds”!

I love this city. I never thought I’d say that about any big city anywhere—but this one feels so different from the others that I’ve been to. There’s something about not being able to understand what those around you are saying that sharpens your other senses. There’s something about the dark, narrow alleys full of strange people that sharpens your alertness. And just trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I’m half a world away from anywhere familiar is kind of cool, too.


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