Saturday, 8 March 2014

A fairly normal day, but first working day of the new week, remembering that all that is past and confessed is forgiven.  So a new sheet and a time to pray for all that is to come and to go forward with this prayer on our hearts:

Days pass and the years vanish
and we walk sightless among miracles.
Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.
Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning,
illumines the darkness in which we walk.
 Help us to see, wherever we gaze,
that the bush burns, unconsumed.
And we, clay touched by God,
will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder,
“How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”
From Mishkan T'Filah: A Reform Siddur
May your days and the places where you are be filled with awe!
A good day for fellowship.  Got on the bus to go to the Old City and there in the front seat was Dave one of the Wardens from Christ Church  - someone to sit and talk with.  Lunch with Sr Rita and Sr Trudy at Ecce Homo in order to get some Amutah forms signed.  Also me some of their volunteers.  Then a long walk back - thought I knew where I was going but I think I took the 'long cut' instead of the 'short cut' again.  Finished the day with a  lovely supper with a friend, what a result, two real meals out  in one day.    Went home and phoned my friend Jan for a catch-up, a lovely conversation with someone I miss a lot - our  Tuesday prayer group is very special to me, and particularly Jan and Jacky who regularly come.
Women's Bible study group in the morning at Christ Church Vicarage.   I'm so glad I joined this group.  It's amazing the diversity of the members of the group:  Israeli born in the Old City and now a Christian, Russian now living in Israel, the youngest member was  born in Bethlehem now living in the Old City, Canadians, Biblical Hebrew and Arabic student on a visit from  Germany,  plus another person from Germany, Americans, a missionary from the Assemblies of God, born in Greece, lived many years in Kenya, retired nurse from the UK who has lived in Israel some 20+ years,  another English who has lived most of her life in Israel - such an experience to be part of so diverse a group.   We bring so many different aspects to our study.
This week's section of the book was entitled The Life of Faith, still continuing with Andrew Murray's 'New Life'.   Because Carol's away, Sulah, the Assemblies of God missionary led us with  fire and passion.   Each session starts with the complete reading of the previous week's piece  as Andrew Murray says everything should be read three times.   I  get asked to do that reading as they describe me as having a lovely clear English voice!   It makes me feel like a BBC newsreader!  A superb morning - such a warm welcome and such good fellowship. 
'Who does not hunger for friendship, understanding, warmth and love.
Let us lend strength to one another and pray for the welfare of this community'

From Mishkan T'Filah: A Reform Siddur
This wonderful group certainly fulfils those words.   Praise God that I can be with them!

Then back to the office - bus numbers different now so I waited a long time for something which was never going to come and then walked to another road and got one which was going to Emek Refaim.  That wasted about an hour!  But it wasn't really wasted, I felt the warmth of the sun, looked around at the beauty of the city, spoke to one or two people, and had time to reflect on the morning, on the buses, and on God's great goodness. 
PRAISE TO YOU, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe,
who made me in the image of God.
PRAISE TO YOU, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe,
who made me free.   

From Mishkan T'Filah: A Reform Siddur

Fairly standard day at the office - it's becoming normal now!  Then home via the supermarket - must remember that hill.  Why is the shower gel (only LARGE  size available), the body lotion (yes, LARGE again), the milk,  the potatoes, etc. all need replacing at once.  Beast of burden that I am I did manage to get it all home, but the hill and then three flights of stone steps outside ........ where's the oxygen?   I give thanks that I have all I need.
Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe,
who sanctifies us with Thy commandments
and commanded us to engross ourselves in the words of the Torah.
Jewish blessing for the study of Torah.

Already it's Friday morning again and time for the Torah Study Group at Kol HaNeshama.  A small but very welcoming group who have easily accepted me in their midst.  We have just lost one couple who have gone back to the States for work reason.   We meet to study the Torah portion, the parashah,  which will be chanted in the synagogue on shabbat each week.   Today's study was on Ex. 38:21-40:38 and if you visit you will find a commentary on the parashah for each week as well as a commentary on the Sunday Gospel.
After Torah Study, some pastries and coffee make up for missing breakfast and then it's back home to prepare for Shabbat,  a new start to a new week, a day to share with G-d, to love Him as He loves us.
Words from Rabbi Levi during every  Erev Shabbat service:
Deep breath.
Whatever happened this past week is part of the past.
Let go of the past week, offer it up.
A deep breath to receive the special Shabbat soul.
On the Shabbat the soul is renewed.
Wow!  And as if that's not enough, the service ends with a prayer for peace:
Source of peace, Ruler of peace,
grant peace to your people Israel
and let peace spread among all your creatures,
so that there may be no hatred, jealousy,
competition or victory among people.
Let there be only great love and peace among us all,
so that we may all gather together,
each with their fellow,
speaking to each other,
learning the truth from each other.
O G-d - You are peace and peace is from You (in Arabic)
Source of peace, bless us with peace, amen (Hebrew)
Let every breathing thing God's praises sing.
Sung over and over, in a huge crescendo.
Then supper Sabbath table talk, music and home to bed.
Here it is again, this wonderful Sabbath day!  Today I went again to the Hebrew congregation at Christ Church, and it was communion.  Great worship, very powerul communion.   Another hour long sermon, going all round the houses, many scripture quotes, and the catch phrase to the effect that we are individually responsible for our own calling and are not to go with the crowd but seek G-d's will for our own life.   It was though a good three hours and with a lot of people there. 
Then I had lunch at Christ Church coffee shop, went to get a gift for Jeremy for his graduation, and enjoyed being in the Old City before going home.
Back to my favourite church again for Communion, and I was asked to administer the chalice, that feels amazing in this place.   The congregation was smaller this week as there was a demonstration in the city centre and people thought there would be a lot of congestion, there were no buses  and so it made things difficult for many people.  The people demonstrating were the Jewish religious who spend time in study, do not work, and who find miliatary service conflicts with their beliefs and practices so they wish to be exempt.   After church I met several interesting people at coffee, visitors from America, some here as prayer guides short term, some just visiting.   The location of the church and its ministries draws visitors from worldwide. 
After lunch at CC Coffee Shop with the others, I went on a quest for a havdallah candle (lit at the end of Shabbat) which Maureena needed.   My expectation was that the old city would have  many choice of havdallah candle ...... uh, uh, not so.   My searching took me through lots of the tiny streets full of shopkeepers eager to sell but lacking havdallah candles.   I finally reached the Wailing Wall again, and spent time there in prayer and observation.   There was a big lorry from which was being unloaded lots of Police barriers.  It made me wonder whether they thought the demonstration might come there, but there was no sign when I left.   My only chance now for the candle was in the Jewish Quarter.   Well, I'd already been through part of the Muslim Quarter (bearing in mind it's Sunday, and what do priests oftem do on Sundays, they wear their clerical collars, and I was still wearing mine).
In one small shop I found THE CANDLE and a good conversation with the shopkeeper who was interested to know why I was here in Jerusalem, we talked about my difficulty with the Hebrew language, and  he showed me a beautiful product which is for teaching children the Hebrew letters, vowels and so on.   He was not the normal pushy saleman, all his stock was priced and it was a pleasure to share that conversation with mutual respect for each others beliefs.  Oh, and the other good outcome was the candle was perfect.
Then onward back to Jaffa Gate.  I stopped to look at my map at one point - big mistake in one way, but I was at  a junction, and according to shopkeeper David, twho just happened to pop out, this spot was the meeting point for the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.  We had a long conversation, his English was good, he showed the small Gideon Psalms and New Testament whifh he said he's reading.  We had a lot of common ground in our faith, but then came the offer of tea, and his jewellery collection - I wasn't buying, and I wasn't lost to begin with - my map and I can go anywhere together.   We parted amicably, and I was sorry to disappoint him - the street was deserted and it was late in the day. 
Onward towards home and that led me through the smart, modern Mamilla shopping centre.  It was bout 5.30 and I wondered whether to stop for a coffee or just head for home.  Well, the decision was made for me:  as I passed one of the larger shops, I saw two women waving and tapping the window- Gila and Ava from Christ Church.  Now I'm really beginning to become a local.  So I joined them for coffee and a chat.  That's the sort encounter that makes the difference - strangely it doesn't seem to happen  in WSM - different culture I suppose - or maybe I'm busy, or maybe people think I'm busy - something to think about.   Anyway I enjoyed the time with them, and spotted a women from the synagogue, who when I waved and said hello looked confused, and then I realised it was probably that collar again - I never wear it to synagogue.    So all in all a pretty good day.
The start of a week which was to be quite heavy.   A decision was awaited regarding the future of the program and I was poised with 'Press Release' and 'Exciting News' ready to go far and wide as appropriate  as soon as the green light comes on - but the green light would not come on without a Board meeting and the days were going by quickly.   Tense moments relieved by a falafel in the sun for lunch!
 Mark arrived yesterday from Australia.  He will be living at Ein Kerm, just outside Jerusalem, to study.   Mark was on the program last July so it was good to meet up with him again.  He had left some of his belongings in the Bat Kol office when he left last Auugust, so came to collect them.  Then we both went to an inspiring talk by Rabbi Sheldon Lewis-of Palo Alto, California, who mades a persuasive case for peacemaking as a core Jewish value in his new book entitled Torah of Reconciliation (Geffen Publishing House, 2012, and websiite  This was put on by the International Council of Christians and Jews (Religions for Peace), and I was surprised and very pleased to be greeted by Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish, the Director, who addressed me as 'Mrs Bat Kol'. and to be introduced to the speaker.  It assured me of the esteem in which Bat Kol Institute is held, and affirmed me also as already recognised as representing the Institute.     
I went home in the evening to find a letter from my friend, Betty;  letters from home are a great support.  I'm really happy here but sometimes when I get back in the evenings, UK seems an awful long way away!
Having put credit on my Skype the other day, Skype then found another £10 of credit which they had stored away for me because I hadn't used it.   So now I have a really good amount and can phone a friend, computer to phone, with no prolem at all.   Betty and I talked for a long while and it was good to catch up.
 How quickly the days ago, and here I am back at Christ Church again for another brilliant Bible study, this week on Satan - very appropriate for Ash Wednesday.   Once again thirteen people attended, some the same as last week and a few new faces.  Always a good two hours!
Then the office, and home - no decision from the Board yet. Came back to find a letter from Jan - good week for letters!
Suddenly the Board meeting was on for a Skype at 6 p..m. Israeli time.  A tense day, and then the green light as long as we have fourteen students by 27th March!  The pressures on, we only have nine but I have a press release and 'Exciting News from Bat Kol' document ready to go far and wide.
Missed a talk at Christ Church, entitled The Heart of the Father, due to the Skype meeting 
Toral Study group, then pastries and coffee, then office to start the major publicity campaign. 
I stayed until 2.30 but really it's difficult when so often emails no longer work because people have changed servers or there's a glitch in the address, but I'll keep at it. 
Then back home to prepare for erev shabbat.   I think I managed to get the last bus, at about 4.15 p.m.
The first day since I've been here that I did not go out.   To start, I overslept so couldn't go to the syagogue on Agron where there was a special service at 8.30 for International Women's Day and all the worship was to be led by women.   Just didn't get there!  Most of today was spent on emails and updating my  blog.  
I had quite a difficult day; amongst other things, Jeremy, my eldest son, graduated from Oxford today and it is the first major family event which I have ever missed.  I was so sorry not to be there, and so proud of Jeremy who completed a major part of the work during his curacy - a great achievement with everything else he has going on - I'm very proud of him, as would my dear Peter be.  

A good day in many ways because it was about meeting people and sharing fellowship.  

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