Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reflections on Israel; Number One: A lesson

First, an apology to my readers. i have failed to post on here for a while due to the hectic schedule i have kept during the last days of IBEX. so, to catch up, i will write a series of reflections.

What did I learn in Isreal? Was it a simple passing of the time in a foreign land where no one spoke my native tongue? I sure hope i didn't pay for that... i can't afford that luxury. Instead i have learned many things. May I never forget the many and sundry things the Lord, Yeshua HaMeshiah, (“Jesus the Messiah” in Hebrew) taught me while there.

The lesson of inestimable value I was taught was prayer. In my devotional life, I found myself describing God the same ways, or with the same language I have always used, but much to my dismay, I did not feel like I was describing God. One Tuesday morning it suddenly dawned on me that I was not describing God, but how I experienced God at home. On the same hand of this realization, I found that I did not have the words to describe how God is. Was it for a sudden lack of vocabulary? No, but simply because God was no longer working the same ways within me. You see, the effect of being uprooted from America and transplanted in Israel for a short time caused me to lose all my ministries: skid row, dorm life, church ministries… ect—Ministries I love! Since I no longer had these ministries in hand, I was forced to feel for new ministries while I was in Israel. Therefore, I could no longer use the same language to praise Him. Praise the Lord! I cannot tell you how being forced out of routine prayers has blessed me. How redundant and bland my former manner of prayer seems! I also realized I need to praise God, not for how I perceive Him, but for how He perceives Himself. This seems so basic, but I found my perceptions of Him through the lens of my feelings. This taints any pure knowledge of who he is. When I would pray for comfort, I would actually be praying to feel comfortable. When I would pray for strength, I would actually be praying to feel brave. When I did not feel strong, confident, brave, comfortable, or loved, I felt my prayers were unanswered. This is an easy mistake. It is oh, so easy to forget to praise God for who he is and “praise” him for who you feel He is. True praise only exists when it is based on an accurate understanding of who He is rather than a clear perception of who I feel He is.

In Christ,

~John Lafferty

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Biblical Negev Trip

Day One: A cold Beersheva
Life in the biblical Negev is a daunting task. In this hot and arid climate, the children of Israel wandered forty years as nomads. We spent only a fraction of that time there, but after all the hiking we did, I was ready to head back to greener pastures at the Moshav.
Once we left the Moshav on Wednesday morning, I knew we were in for it. Bill started out by talking about how all who believe are in the father are Abraham’s children through faith. I started thinking about Abraham’s life. He never had it easy. He was a nomad from a foreign land who believed in an unknown God and spent his days wandering the wilderness waiting for his promised blessings. What a life. Deep down, I knew that this trip would not be complete without a feeling of uncertainty of what the next day would hold, because this was the experience of the Israeli children, and all who settle the Negev. The arid climate lends itself to frequent drought, and livestock, vegetation and mankind all depend on consistent provision from heaven for daily provision. This was the reason God tested the Israelite children with the manna. He wanted to remind them that he gives them life everyday, and in no way are they independent from him. Here in the Negev, life is uncertain and risky; you might be able to make it or you might not. Dangling by a thread, life is hanging in the balance and everything is at stake. In order to settle and make cities here, you need your own water supplies because the springs are not enough. Cisterns must supply the needs for the people, and the only way to supply water for the cisterns is from the sky which falls at a rate of about 12 inches a year. Therefore, God directly gives and takes life by his infinitely powerful unseen hand.
Our first stop was Be’er Sheva. Traditionally known as the southern boundary of the promised land which is “from Dan to Be’er Sheva.” Acting as a southern boundary and buffer for both the Edomites to the east and Egyptians to the south, Be’er Sheva was an essential military point as well as a successful commercial hub. We were able to see our first ancient Israeli alter here, an “altar of earth”, (Exodus 20:24) hewn from stone with prominent horns on the four corners. The horns on the altar are symbolic of power and forgiveness: Power because they are a sign of bulls’ horns-a mighty weapon, and forgiveness because of the tradition of grabbing the horns as an act of repentance and contrition from unintentional sin. During the time of the transition of power in Jerusalem from David to Solomon, two men sought forgiveness by taking hold of the horns of the altar; Adonijah and Joab. Solomon spared Adonijah from harm, but he took the life of Joab. The altar itself is rhombus shaped; five cubits deep by five cubits wide by three cubits high. The altar located in the Solomonic temple was extra large; twenty cubits wide by twenty cubits deep by thirty cubits high. The altar at Be’er Sheva was much smaller, only five cubits wide by five cubits deep by three cubits high. The altar here was destroyed by Hezekiah and again by Josiah, as the Bible records the account of the decimation of Israeli high places. The origin of the name of Be’er Sheva is an interesting story. It was occupied during the time of Abraham by Canaanite inhabitants. In Genesis 21:22ff, Abraham bartered with Abimelek for the rights to the well at Be’er Sheva, and names it after his oath, “Be’er Sheva”, or oath of the seven. In Genesis 26, Isaac reconfirms the name Be’er Sheva. Genesis 46 records God’s promise to give the land of Israel to Joseph at Be’er Sheva.
At our next stop in Arad, I was amazed that it was such a large city. During Canaanite time, as the Israelites came upon the city and tried to take it after God had already closed entrance into the promised land. Moses did not accompany the attacking force, and they failed miserably as they were soundly defeated. They were not quite so unsuccessful forty years later when they left the wilderness and launched a revenge raid on Arad and smashed it to pieces. It is important to recognize that Arad was only inhabited during the early bronze age and the iron age. There was a large citadel with an altar here, another Israelite high place from the period of the southern kings of Israel. It is recorded in I Kings that neither Asa, Jehosophat, nor Jehoash rid the land of high places. This high place in Arad was probably noted as one of those high places devoted to the worship of YHWH, because the worshipers had erected Matze Bote, which were standing stones dedicated to YHWH. One other important contribution to archeology is a house structure found here identified as Canaanite, which has acquired the name, “arad house.” The pattern for this house is commonly found throughout the land, and was first found in Arad.
From Arad, we had a brief visit to Kibbutz Sde Boker, “field of the cowboy”, the retirement home of David Ben Gurion, the first and third prime minister of Israel. Ben Gurion had a firm belief that whoever settles the Negev will inherit the land, and as an affirmation of this conviction, he moved out to the Kibbutz and began to work in the fields with the young men, and he only brought five thousand of his favorite books. An interesting fact: Ben Gurion was afraid of becoming senile in his old age, so to stop his brain from deteriorating he would stand on his head for at least thirty minutes a day in order to supply it with enough blood supply. The house was small and modest, set in the middle of the rural Kibbutz.
After Sde Boker, we went on a hike of the Nahal Zin. The Zin wilderness is a vast expanse in southern Israel that covers a large portion of the Negev. It was a beautiful hike down through the deep nahal canyon. After a long drive into the canyon, we hiked up wadi Zin until the trail turned sharply up the canyon wall and criss-crossed up the side of the nahal.
After the long hike, all of us Ibexers were tired from the long day and more than happy to stop and enjoy the sunset at the top of the nahal at the youth hostel Mactesh Ramon. Before turning in for the night, we had a chapel meeting in the cliff outside the hostel-a moment I will never forget. It was late at night and the almost full moon lit the landscape with deep hues of grey. Simply Beautiful.
Day Two: “Viva Las Eilat”
As the day began, I realized it was not going to be very academic in nature, so a brief overview will do. We visited the Red canyon and the potty wadi which resembled in many aspects much of Arizona, except for the Ibex roaming the hills. Then, we went to Eilat, and I ate some Pizza Hut pizza. It was the closest I have come to home since I’ve been abroad. Eilat is the cleanest city in Israel, and must be because it is such a large tourist trap. Modernly, it is Israel’s Las Vegas. The neon appeal of the city and the coral reef enhance the visitor’s attraction. The reef is the northernmost reef in the world, and located conveniently on the shore. I saw many fish I’ve never seen in the wild before, including the alluring lion fish, the creepy moray eel, and the Technicolor parrotfish. The water was warm enough that we didn’t need to bother with wet suits even though I was submerged for approximately two hours. If you do the math, that’s enough time to get really pruny. From the beach we toured the Eilat Stone Shop, a show room for precious and semi-precious stones. Although gimmicky, this stop was educational. I appreciated it because Israel trades the largest volume of diamonds in the world, so getting into it an Israeli diamond shop fulfilled the requirement.
Day Three: Flat tires and Hyenas
After an early breakfast, we departed for the National park at Timnah. The ancient Egyptian mining shafts are located here because they wanted to draw the large amounts of copper out of the hills. Here we faced our first traveling stall. Our bus lost it’s front left tire, and we were forced to wait at the park until help came. To use the time productively, Bill led an Ibex first, a two mile hike around the park. This was the hardest hike I have ever been on. It consisted of a gradual climb up a ridge for the first half of the hike, and then a steep ascent to the summit, followed by a steep descent with slippery rocks that made for an interesting descent. After the hike and bus repair, we toured the Hai bar predator zoo. Here they had a plethora of animals; from hyenas to snakes to ostriches to porcupines. Then we drove to Masada, and on the way we stopped for coffee at CafĂ© Aroma, a nice treat. Upon a late arrival at Masada youth hostel, we had dinner and then had chapel out on the Dead Sea marl. The full moon lit up the white sand landscape and made for a picturesque evening chapel.
Day Four: I Hiked Masada
I woke up at the crack of dawn, five o’clock to be precise, to hike up Masada. Masada is a hilltop fortress that was the final hold out of the Jewish people in the revolt of 70 A.D. the Romans finally took Masada after a three year siege. First they built a wall surrounding the large hill to keep the Jews inside from escaping and Jews without coming into Masada. The hill is 300 meters high, (900ft “ish”) and has a flat plateau on top. During the Jewish resistance, almost one thousand Jews sought refuge here. It was breathtaking to see the second stage of the roman siege; a large earthen ram that led all the way from the ground to the wall on top of the hill.
Next, we visited Qumran, home of the caves that held the Dead Sea scrolls for almost two thousand years on the bank of the Dead Sea. These caves were located approximately 200-300 feet up the side of the cliff. We visited cave one where the initial find was made. In these caves, 13 caves total, is a portion of every book in the Bible except for Ester, and there was also secretarian and Apocryphal literature.
Once we left Qumran, we made an unsuccessful attempt to visit Nahal Parat, Jeremiah’s home town. After this long trip, we made sure to stop at Yad HaShmonah, my Israeli residence, and I made sure to go to bed early. You should do the same. I will not forget this trip for the length of my days. The Negev as a whole is unrelentingly rugged. The mysterious Dead Sea and the Edomite hills that form the eastern boundary and the Egyptian Sinai wilderness forms the western border with the gulf of Eilat inbetween. An individual would not survive here, only a community that understand the source of the blessings needed to supply life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Great Galilee Fieldtrip

So far, we have only seen the middle section of the Israeli state. In both geography and climate it is fairly consistent or monolithic. Rocky hills with short trees and scattered underbrush gives way to a barren rocky land on the eastern slope. Samaria, on the other hand, contains wider valleys, smoother slopes, and more fertile pastures-a more gentile and varied landscape over all.

Day One: The Jezreel valley and Nazareth

The morning of the first day covered familiar ground quickly in order to proceed to the unexplored region of the Northern Tribes, within an hour we were already up the international highway in the seaside plane to the northern entrance to the Jezreel valley, the Megiddo pass. There are three north-south passes through the Mount Carmel hill country: Jokneam, Megiddo, and Kishon. In 1468, Thutmose III, Pharaoh of Egypt, came against the Canaanite kings by way of the sea. When he reached Mount Carmel, his advisors told him not to take the Megiddo pass. They counseled him saying that the Megiddo pass is the most direct, but also the narrowest; we will surely die. The Pharaoh did not listen to the voices of his advisers but instead sent small battalions up the Jokneam and Kishon passes to draw away Canaanite attention from the main force headed straight up the middle pass, straight to Megiddo and crushed the Canaanite forces there. The Middle-bronze era Canaanite city had a three chamber gate to stall invaders, and this may be the attribute Thutmose III is talking about when he said, “Capturing Megiddo is as capturing 1000 cities.” Megiddo is strategic along the coastal highway. Solomon fortified it as one of the three major cities during his dominion of Mesopotamia, the others being Hazor and Gezer. With these cities along the major trade routes, he was able to tax both local and international commerce. (I Kings 9:15, 16) Megiddo’s north-western view overlooks the Jezreel valley, Mt. Gilboa, the Harod valley, Mt. Moreh, Mt. Tabor, and the Nazareth ridge. This view is indicative of the dominion of Megiddo at the base of the great trunk route which leads through Jezreel past the Sea of Galilee and up to Hazor. Megiddo’s arms stretch out over these lands.

We stopped at a rolling stone tomb circa 135 AD. This tomb was carved out of soft limestone, and used after the Jewish revolt in 132. It would be similar to the Tomb in which Jesus was buried.

Next, we stopped at Mount Carmel, which is renowned for its lush, fertile beauty.

Elijah had a stand off with the prophets of Baal here. (I Kings 17-18) He challenged the prophets of Baal to call down fire from the heavens to burn up a sacrifice on the altar. This was to prove once and for all that Baal was the true God, but once they quit, Elijah took his turn and called down fire from God and burned up the sacrifice. He then pursued the Priests of Baal and struck down 450 prophets.

We then went to the Harod spring. This is the place Gideon chose his men. I dropped my Bible in the spring. Maybe I am ready for battle, huh?

Day Two: I live by the sea in a land called Galilee

We started out the day at Kefar Cana, just outside Nazareth. Here Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. We visited a Greek Orthodox Church at the traditional site of this miracle. (John 2:1-11) It was a beautiful Sunday morning, and the church bells tolled beautifully. We also had a little wine there to really get the “feeling” of the site.

Our next stop was Sephoras or “bird”. It was the capitol of Galilee during Jesus’ childhood and the only other significant fact is that the Mishnah was codified there by Judah the prince.

From there we traveled to Zippori, quite a beautiful National park with many large mosaics which many scenes. Some contained up to 1.5 million tiles of 23 colors. A scene of the worship of Dionysus the roman god of drunkenness where many young men we depicted dancing with centaurs and drinking wine. Another scene was a Nile hunting party where men hunted down creatures of all sorts and sizes. This city was probably the center of Dionysus worship, and was also directly across from Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine; a direct confrontation and defeat to the Dionysian cult. Zippori is also known for making peace with the Romans when the rest of Israel stood against oppression. This could explain why the remains of the Jewish synagogue contains not only Jewish symbols but also signs of the zodiac. Jewish syncretism weakened or at least contributed to the Jewish bending the Roman will.

We then had lunch in the Jezreel valley at McDonalds in the Golani Junction, and after lunch, we went straight to the Arbel cliff where we surveyed the Sea of Galilee for the first time. Jesus completed 80% of his life’s work here, so the view was breathtaking. Arbel is not recorded in the accounts in the scriptures, but Jesus probably saw this great view more than once. Arbel is directly above Tiberius, the only major city on the lake today and in Jesus’ time. We spent some quality time on the top of the cliff just surveying the Galilean scene. What a wonder to think that I could see all those places Jesus walked, talked, preached, healed, and slept. I was also similarly grieved when a large group of Mormons joined our group on the top of the cliff. I was wondering why they were there. Why do you have to come to Israel with your false teachings? Why does God, who is glorified in our worship, allow such blasphemous doctrines to go on unvindicated? The reason they were there was simple. They don’t have an AmeriBEX to study. There is no evidence in America to back up their beliefs. It is an unfortunate ruse, a hoax. No amount of imagination can bring them to the reality of God like Israel, the Holy Land. After some musing about Christ’s life and ministry here, we took a route down the cliff on foot. It wasn’t a hard hike as it was all downhill, Bill’s favorite. There were caves galore carved into the rock face. Hasmonean resistors hid from the Romans in these caves, and the Romans would try to kill them any way possible, but it was difficult, because they were hidden in the crags. The Romans came up with a system of smoking out the caves. They would lower one man down from the top of the cliff with a torch, and he would throw it into the mouth of a cave, and when the Jewish occupants would try to throw the torch out, he would shoot them with arrows. I had an opportunity to climb up into these caves and the only thing I saw there was evidence of pigeon and goat occupation, if you catch my “draft”. After we finished the hike, we got back on the bus and finished the day at our new home: En Gev Kibbutz Resort and Holiday. We had nice little cabins directly on the Galilee beachfront. It was a very nice Kibbutz, very good food, facilities and perfect location on the Sea. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, I love life on the Moshav, but it was much nicer there. We played games in the surf until well past sundown when dinner was served in the cafeteria. The climate at the Sea was almost tropical. Banana trees and Date palms were common there and it was very humid by the Sea because the Sea of Galilee sits in a bowl, 700 feet below sea level.

Day Three: River Rats

Early the first morning at Galilee, Matt, Theo and I rose before the sun to watch it come up over the Golan Heights. It was quite a remarkable sight. I read Psalm 22, and when I read verse 22, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.” On that beach I thought of how David praised the Lord, and, remembering the Israeli dance I learned the week before, I began to dance there on the shore. This moment was slightly enigmatic for me because on one hand, I can’t dance and on the other hand, I don’t care, I just wish I was Jewish.

After a little breakfast, we went to the cove of the sewer between Heptapagon and Capernaum. This is a possible location for the Sermon on the Mount because of its great natural acoustics. Sound carries so well here that I could clearly hear Mike Brusuelis reading aloud almost 100 yards away!

When we arrived at the site of Capernaum we went directly into a Catholic monastery. It was built on the site of Peter’s house. There were a vast number of ruins here, including a Jewish Synagogue from the Byzantine times. The synagogue was built as a basilica facing south toward Jerusalem. Archeology used to presuppose that this synagogue was a first century building because the Byzantines would never let the Jews build a structure this grand, and because the Jews were not wealthy enough during the Byzantine period to import the white limestone used to build it. So, they dated the pottery around this area to the first century. Unfortunately, Archeology is a faulty science sometimes, and this is one of its major mistakes. After claiming this date for some time, Byzantine coins were found under the Synagogue, and the date was adjusted. In John 6, Jesus walks to Capernaum on the water from the north-west side of the Sea and explains the significance of the feeding of the five thousand to his disciples. He clarifies that when he claims to be the bread of life that he is claiming to be the ultimate sustenance for life; the living bread. This claim baffled the Jews the day before and they could not accept it. So, he takes his disciples to the other side and explains it simply.

From there, we traveled east on the shore line to the Mount of beatitudes. The Church on the top of the hill was built with a generous contribution from Mussolini, an irony I can’t quite fathom, but then again, I don’t know many power hungry men who do not use religion for power. The Sermon on the Mount is recorded twice in the gospels, once in Matthew 5-7, and again in Luke 6. Matthew gives a broad overview and Luke gives a brief synopsis. Scholars hold different opinions on where the sermon was actually given because it is necessary to harmonize the fact that Matthew says Jesus went up the mountain side and sat down and began to teach, while Luke says he went down and stood on a level place. Some scholars say these accounts are separate, and there is no need to harmonize them, because Jesus had to preach the same gospel over and over to different crowds, while still some say it is a flat place on the top of a hill, while others but the events one right after each other. I do not see that it makes much difference. All that matters is that we cherish the depth of words Matthew recorded and the breadth of words in Luke.

At Tabgha, there is another church built on a site dedicated to these words, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This is also the place Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples after the resurrection and asked him to affirm his devotion three times in John 21:15-25. He asks Peter, “Do you love me?” three times; a stroke for every denial before Christ was crucified.

From here we went to Nof Ginosar and saw a 1st century AD boat that was dragged up from the sea bed and preserved by infusing the wood with wax.

After the 1st century boat, we ate lunch at Tiberius. When I was done filling my belly with Pizza, we left for Et Tel known as Bethsaida. The site is inconclusive as Bethsaida because it only contains two main houses, and Bethsaida during Jesus’ time was much larger. Jesus spent lots of time in Bethsaida. He called Andrew, Peter, Philip and possibly John here (John 1), he healed a blind man (Mark 8:22-26), and he refuted the challenges of the Pharisees here.

We were able to spend the rest of the afternoon ditching out duties for inner tubes and we floated down the Jordan River. The banks are mostly overgrown, and the water is dirty, but that didn’t stop me from having a blast. The river is no wider than 30 ft across and not much deeper than 15 ft. (I used a bamboo pole to measure) The breaks in the riverside underbrush were mainly small trails or larger trails left by tank bridges. I saw a couple of these tank bridges and they are pontoons tied together and strapped to wheels left out in the open air waiting to be used again.

Day Four:

We stopped quickly at a couple locations to see the cattle of the Golan Heights, a turret from the top of a tank, and an Israeli defense station that we were not allowed to capture with our cameras. We arrived at Nimrod fortress on the southern side of Mt. Herman. (Psm 29, 133) At 9100 feet, Mt Herman towers over the Israeli valleys.

We then visited the temple of Pan, a ½ man, ½ goat god from the Roman pantheon. In Jesus’ day it would have been nestled here at the foot of Mt Herman. This is a possible location where he transfigured before Peter, James and John. (Matt 16:13-28)

From here we departed for Tel Dan. During the conquest under Joshua, the Danites failed to push the Philistines out of their allotment on the Mediterranean Sea. So, they asked Joshua if they could move to conquer fertile lands up north. From the Tel you can see Lebanon, and it is the ancient northern border, as the saying goes, “From Dan to Beersheba”. Jeroboam erected one of the high places with golden calves here when he led Israel astray from the true God. Dan is the closest landscape to western Washington. I can’t lie, the briers and greenery made me a little homesick.

We ended the day breaking into both Hazor and Chorazim. We were running well behind schedule, and Bill gave us permission to explore Hazor without any other tourists. I vote we do it that way from now on. Too bad it was our second to last field trip.

Day Eight:

At the Lower Jordan River, we stopped to see a pilgrimage destination. There were large groups of European and South American Christians coming to be baptized. The Jordan is much wider here, as it starts its decent to 1300 below sea level to end in the Dead Sea.

Beth Shan was my favorite stop. It held impressive roman ruins. A large theatre, largest Byzantine road I have ever seen, and many buildings line valley below the Canaanite Tel Beth Shan. On the top of the Tel, you can see all the way to Jericho if you have a clear view. Saul’s body was hung on the city walls here after he was defeated on Mt. Gilboa. The men from Jabesh Gilead came to retrieve his body from the Philistines.

I learned more about Jesus’ life this week. I walked in his sandals and saw the home of his disciples. I tasted the water of the Sea and slipped on the rocks of Arbel. I slept a night in Jesus’ hometown. This trip changed my life.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

One hour short of a dozen

The opening moments of a long day started out with coffee and water. Strike that, and make it a very long day. Joshua 18 sites the original Israeli capitol during Joshua’s time in Shiloh, a city in northern Ephraim. With valleys on the east and west, the city sits on the road of the patriarchs, the major inland path of commerce. The tabernacle resided here during Eli’s years of High Priesthood, but when the Israelites lost Arc of the covenant in the battle of Aphek to the Philistines, Samuel probably packed up the Tabernacle and moved it into storage for safekeeping. The tabernacle was probably located on the northern side of the city along the wall on a level area or in the middle, on the highest point of the Tel. In Judges 21, Shiloh is designated as the place where remaining Benjamites took wives from girls who were dancing during a feast.

From the Shiloh, we went to Sheckem. It is located in a wide, brown, Samarian valley, guarded on the west by two mountains: Gerazim and Ebal. Cozied in between these mountains Is a modern city, complete with a Greek Orthodox church over the well where Jesus met the Samaritan woman, (John 4:4) and an Arab refugee camp named Abab, from the Israeli nationalistic movement in 1948 or ’67. There is also a remainder of the Samaritan people who live up on mount Gerazim, one of two places they still live (the other being Tel Aviv). Shiloh is the site of covenants and convicts, testaments and treachery. It is the place where God promised Abraham his descendants would have the land of Canaan. (Gen 12:6-8) We were only privileged with a view from the top of mount Gerazim because the local populace is rather “welcoming” if you consider mines a doormat. From the summit, we read about the blessing and curses in the Mosaic covenant found in Joshua 8:30-35.

Next, we went to Aphek, which has seen better days. At the head of the Yarkon river in the coastal plain, lies ruinous footholds of a Canaanite fort, which some Turks decided would make a great site for their fort which stands, half erected today. Renamed Antipatris by Herod the great after his father, this ancient city controls roughly 2/3rds of the land’s water supply. The apostle Paul overnight here on his way to Caesarea from Jerusalem. This is also the site where the Israelite children brazenly brought the Arc of the Covenant down to help them fight the Philistines, just like they had when they began the conquest in Jericho. The main difference in these battles is they are no longer seeking and obeying The Lord God, Adonai. They lost the Arc during the battle, and it feel into Philistine hands for six months.

From the trees and breezes of Aphek to the Mediterranean sea, we arrived at Caesarea. Flashback to Acts chapter two where Peter sees the first Gentile filled with the Holy Spirit—Cornelius. It’s a fitting place for the Spirit to move among the gentiles, because it is the Las Vegas of the Israeli coastline, complete with a four thousand plus admission Amphitheatre, a hippodrome, beachside palace and a large commercial shipping port that rivaled any other major city. This was the center of near-eastern Hellenized world. Home of the Roman procurators, this Oceanside paradise feels like Miami or San Luis Obispo, clean, zesty and relaxed. The western lifestyle is centered around meaningless self-gratification in the arts, sports and academic pursuits. In this very place, Herod Agrippa I is eaten by worms before a great audience in the amphitheatre. God strikes down Herod as a sign to those who would oppose his people that even in the middle of western culture and excess, God is still in control.

This weekend...

I was in the dead sea.
It is said that the Romans marveled at Palestine for three reasons:
  • The People who are never peaceful
  • The Sea where nothing sinks
  • The Temple that you can see from the coast
The sea where nothing sinks is a misnomer, and i didn't expect to see all the rocks floating on the surface, but i was excited to find how i could float without having 80% body fat. It is truly a self-defining experience-there is nothing else like it. The full moon added an element of poetry to the deserted landscape at 1300ft below sea level. The sea itself is so salty that it irritates your skin and burns your eyes and mouth. A thimble of this water is enough to bring a Mr. Machismo to his knees. It's more like a large body of oil than water. It saturates your skin and leaves your hair coated in a white frost. I floated out to where couldn't see the shore at night, but i could see my feet... and who knows how much deeper. The moonlight seemed to saturate the water instead of reflect it-a prism effect. such mystery was far too much for me to understand. i felt like i was losing more of the experience the longer i stayed, yet the romance of it all fascinated me and kept me longer. this conflict of will and intuition reminds me of Soteriology. That's why i call it the Dead sea. It is a natural occurrence, and even though it seems completely observable, i know my eyes are dimmed to the fullness of it's glory. It prompted a poem i wrote on the back of a paper plate:
"sight, oh sight-may i see"
the cross between you and the father
separated from the face of God
you are silent like a sheep to the slaughter
you died with your crown stained with blood
the image of God is polluted
tainted by the nails in your hands
the darkness of sin you refuted
creeps in through the spear of man
the veil between me and my savior
my dim eyes fall quickly asleep
anticipating my failure
i have a kiss and you've turned your cheek
i play the role of the serpent
the venom is your first taste of death
you embrace me, steadfast and fervent
just as you loved me before your first breath
Shalom,
John

Saturday, September 22, 2007

File this under Non-fiction

I have to be honest, I didn’t feel the same anticipation I once felt at the beginning of the IBEX weekly excursion. If history is an ocean, I’m up to my eyes in facts and inundated with the salty smell of the sea. But, during a stop on our fieldtrip Wednesday, I was pulled out of my daze from overexposure to history as we approached Bethlehem. During the ascent to Bethlehem, I was whisked back to childhood memories of a swaddling infant laying in a wooden manger, surrounded by family, shepherds and beast alike all waiting upon the Messiah. I even started singing, "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" conjuring up childhood memories of Nativity re-enactments with boys dressed as shepherds and wise men, and i remember the awkward realization that playing the part of Joseph means you have to hold Mary's hand, or at least that's what the old women in the church made my brother do for their pictures. (i considered the casting of Joseph for boys who don't care about cooties.) BUT Bethlehem is not and was never a landscape worthy of my childhood imagination or the flannelgraph embellishments at church. As far as i could see, Bethlehem was a dirty, poorly-constructed middle eastern town fighting through a thin facade of peace and modernity to grab at every passing tourist dollar-just like Jerusalem and Jericho. I realized i have been lied to. Whimsical notions of a picturesque Bethlehem flew in my mind like a pigeon with it's wings pinned down. People in a fairy tale don't need salvation-these people do. I was paralyzed upon realizing God took the form of man among real real real men. Bethlehem is real. Jesus came as an infant to people this city, not to a fairy-tale setting, but to a real city.

Friday, September 14, 2007

HERE LOCUST, LOCUST, LOCUST... (look at the size of this bugga')

Look at the size of this bugga'. some kind of grasshopper. check out the fully equipped stinger there in the first picture. He doesn't play, succa's he doesn't play around. Would you want to pet a business bug like this? i think not. He's straight up gangsa'.

The land of Benjamin

A group of young intrepid explorers dawned a new day with the exploration of the central Benjamin plateau. We left Kiriat-Jaarim at the break of dawn with buggers in our eyes and bushy tails. Our first stop consisted of a curbside excursion of the Aijalon valley. After a quick ride north, our next stop at Lower Beth Horon was not much longer, but here we had a view of the Aijalon valley where you could see the scriptural allotment borders for the tribes of Dan, Benjamin and Ephraim. After another quick ride to the Upper Beth Horon Summit, we surveyed the vibrant green Shephelah hills rolling down to the wide, fertile Mediterranean coastal plane, a distance of 10-15 miles. Here we reviewed the Israelite account where Joshua is deceived into a treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 5:4). Because of this treaty, the king of Jerusalem was nonplussed. He did not want the Israelites to threaten his mountain plateau, and this alliance threatened the stability of his power. For their treachery, he made plans to attack Gibeon, and the inhabitants of the city sent word to Joshua calling for assistance. Joshua and his warriors hiked all night from Gilgal and attacked the King of Jerusalem there and pursued him all the way down to the coast by the Beth Horon ridge route. The Lord caused the sun and the moon to stand still that day, and also caused hail to fall from the sky to kill Israel’s enemies, but not Israel! (Joshua 10:6) We traveled on the route Joshua and his men chased the enemy down nearly 3500 years ago. Not only did God give Joshua victory here, but He also gave Samuel, Saul, and David power to drive the Philistines down this ridge on three separate occasions by the Beth Horon ridge route. This ridge is Israel’s western gate to the international coastal highway. In his heyday, King Solomon erected three separate fortifications along this route at Gezer, Lower Beth Horon, and Upper Beth Horon because it is the most important road from the coast to Jerusalem. We then went to the modern site of Nebe Samwil, or Prophet Samuel, which is his traditional burial site. Although this is not the correct site, it is a high fortified place near Gibeon, like the one where Solomon petitions God for wisdom (I Chronicles I:I-I3) This place is Jerusalem’s guard for the upper Sorek valley. From there, we went to Hussein’s unfinished palace at Gibeah which is the Biblical site of the Gibeah town square and King Saul’s palace. Here, we talked about the Levite in Judges 19:1-30 who stops during his travels to rest for the night in the town square with his concubine and is offered a place to stay by an old Ephraimite man. The Benjamite men of the city approach the house and ask that the man be handed over to them according to their corrupt desires. Instead of the male visitor, the men hand over a virgin daughter and the concubine, of which the later is raped and killed. This incites a civil war because the other eleven tribes pursue the immoral tribe of Benjamin and kill many of it’s populace until only 600 men remain. From there we traveled to Mikmash by the Ephraim ridge to the pass at Mikmash, south of Geba. I Samuel 13:18ff records Jonathan’s victory when he climbed up the great cliff and slew the Philistines. Isaiah 10:28-32 records a geographically significant passage where it lists the towns along the Way of the Patriarchs according to modern day findings. This relevant passage proves the Biblical accounts with historical accuracy never seen before. From here on out, we explored the eastern or Jericho slope down to the Jordan rift valley. It is characterized by very rocky soil, prickly underbrush and hot conditions. Jericho is the oldest city on the face of the earth, standing for 4000 years, even though the Hasmonean/Roman cite is much younger. We had the opportunity to explore Jericho’s Tel for about an hour in the mid-afternoon sun. I swear, it felt like 150 degrees on that dirt pile, but it was worth it because I took home about 6 peaces of rim pottery shards, and a large, 4” handle of a clay pot. Archeologists use these shards to date the strata of the Tel. We then went into the modern city of Jericho for some refreshments and shade as everyone had run out of water. After a Tony Blair sighting and a couple quick camel rides, we piled back on to the Bus and headed up the Ascent of Adomiim. This ridge leads up the Wadi Quilt to Jerusalem and is the primary means of transportation from the eastern side. It is a dangerous road precariously perched on the bank of cliffs and steep ravines, yet it has been used as a highway for centuries. Stopping among the crags and rocks, Bill Schlagel read a portion of Isaiah 40:3, “Make straight the way of the Lord… every mountain shall be made low, and every valley shall be exalted.” When Christ does return, it will be with great power and authority, and it is not a stretch to think he will level these hills and come to Jerusalem in a flat plane in all his glory.


(the man, the myth, the legend, Bill Schlagel. Don't hate him because you ain't him)

Saturday, September 8, 2007


So, after two weeks of Israel, i would say the dominating factor, AND the surprising caveat about living on the Moshav is the food. A completely Kosher kitchen spells weight loss: N-O-T--E-A-T-I-N-G. So, today on my trip into Jerusalem for shabbat, i teamed up with a couple students, and 3 american film makers and found a non-Kosher pizza place. HOW GLORIOUS! There are some well kept personal revelations about love, life and happiness, and one of them is non-Kosher pizza: Bacon, Spicy Italian Sausage and Pepperoni covered with lots and lots of CHEESE! PTL for meat smashed with cheese! His grace is new every day!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

For more pics/vids of our trip, check out the ibex homepage! here's a preview. marinade in it's glory!
~Shalom
p.s. i have to make a disclaimer, i meant to say it descends 12.5 inches not feet.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jerusalem: 3000 years old.

A busy Sunday morning and the streets of Jerusalem were a buzz with excitement-quite to my surprise. I expected the usual American “Easy like Sunday morning” to be a world-wide feeling. It’s all I’ve ever known. The foreign buzz is due to the fact we made our way through the Jewish quarter first—an area that respects Sunday as the first day of the week, the workweek that is. The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem has a high level of archeological excavation, much higher than the other three, because it is the newest quarter, only dating back to 1960-70’s. This has allowed many modern archeological digs before the buildings went up. Here I came upon a section of the ruins from the old wall built during the reign of King Hezekiah around 560 B.C. It was exposed below me, in a 30’ wide chasm 20’ deep, separating modern streets. Having stood 12’ wide by 26-30’ high, it was build around the western hill to the Jaffa gate, and then took a 90 degree turn due east back to the previously fortified temple mount. Incredible. King Hezekiah built this wall with great haste in preparation for a siege by Sennacherib, King of Persia according to the Biblical account in 2 Chronicles 32:1-5. The wall was built with such great haste that the Israelites tore down newly built homes in order to make way for the wall itself. I then proceeded south on Kardo street. An ancient road built North, South by the Romans (300-500 A.D.) lined by a grand colonnade and shops on both sides. Found on this street is the oldest map of Jerusalem. Found in Mibda, it dates back to 550 A.D. and is made entirely out of mosaic tiles.

Continuing on, we passed through the Zion gate on the south-western side of Jerusalem. The name of the gate is literally, “To point” and implies God’s pointing to Jerusalem as His city. Isaiah 60:18 says, “You will call your walls salvation and your gates praise.” The prophet is believed to be talking directly about the gate here. This prophecy has not held true, because Jerusalem has been torn by war as part of God’s judgment on Israel. While we paused at the gate, we noted the scar-like pelting of bullets on the wall, and as the future met the past, a group of Israeli soldiers passed by the gate in front of us indicative of constant turmoil since Isaiah’s days.

Next stop, church of the Dormition (late 1800’s), this is the featured land mark of the western hill. The traditional site for the last supper is here, and below is the tomb of David-neither of which are verifiable, but they serve as historical tokens to the past. On a doctrinal note, the last supper intended to help the Jews understand that Jesus was the symbolic promised Passover lamb. In fact, he was saying take this bread and this cup “in remembrance of me” fulfilling the Passover, because I am the lamb that is slain! (Luke 22:7-20)

We then passed through a catholic cemetery overlooking the Hinnom valley, past some ritual baths, and to the City of David. Here we found the Step Stone Structure. It is the largest remnant of Israeli architecture, built in the late bronze era. Further down the eastern hill, Hezekiah built the water gate as a protection for the Gihon spring. We then proceeded to Warren’s shaft, which is a deep hole which could have been used by the Philistines before David’s reign to get to the Gihon spring at the bottom, mentioned in 2 Chronicles 2:30. I then went down to Hezekiah’s tunnel which was built in order to sustain Sennacherib’s second siege to hide the water source from him. Amazement grips everyone who sees it, because there is no explanation for this ancient engineering feat. Over 1700’ long and only descending 12.5” it carries water through twists and turns from the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam inside the city. It is an engineering marvel defying explanation.

We then continued outside the city to the well of Rogon at the intersection of the Hinnom and Kidron valleys in a small Arab town. The well is significant because Solomon was anointed there, but I didn’t hear much about it because I was busy keeping the Arabian kids away from the rest of our group. We then hiked back up the valley in order to survey some Roman style graves on the side of the hill just in time to have the Islamic evening call of prayer echoing over our heads a signal to head home. My Jerusalem journey was done for the day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jerusalem, city of our God


After an informative bus trip from the Moshav, I saw the Old City for the first time. I waited in eager anticipation of the city of the Israeli kings. Our first approach to the city brought us by way of the largest gate, Jaffa. The gate had heavy metal doors, and both the original gate, which we passed though on foot, and the modern gate which allows cars passage were larger than large. It was designed with an “L” shape bottleneck, in order to slow the advance of invaders. Once they breached the gate, they had to break rank and then turn to enter the city. What an ingenious design. Upon entering Jerusalem, the hustle of the city was overwhelmed me. Cars passed close by pedestrians in narrow streets that would only pass for a “one way” in the States. The transportation situation seemed insufficient to support the size of the teeming population, but here, it works. The first place the group went was the Citadel of David. As soon as I arrived at the top, I took in my first view of the Dome of the Rock. I was astounded. “Jesus loved this city enough to die here, and yet that temple stands in defiance to all of God’s people as a desecration of such a Holy site,” I thought to myself. The Citadel itself left me speechless. As part of the city walls, it guards the Jaffa gate, and is the largest structure in the city. I was even more amazed to learn that this citadel is the only one remaining tower of the original three. How grand these bombards and walls must have been before Rome tore them down.

Next stop, Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Frenzy gripped my body and my heart was a humming bird as I strode pace by pace down narrow, crowded, dingy, stone streets lined with merchant shops leading to the site, and as my mind raced with thoughts of Jesus’ burial, I was soon caught off guard by the smell of tobacco and the shop keeper’s raised voices. This was not the Jerusalem I imagined. I thought of streets wide enough for royal chariots to pass though and turn around in. I thought of regal foreign dignitaries like the Queen of Sheba parading down wide avenues painted by Thomas Kinkade. I never thought that on the triumphal entry, one palm branch would be long enough to lay from one side of the street to the other. Such notions were quickly cleared from my head as I realized keeping up with the group was more important than philosophizing. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was under construction, and the main tower was walled by scaffolding from top to bottom. On the inside, it felt like an ordinary castle, but it was built over the rock quarry Jesus was said to be crucified on. Even a little bit of the rock stuck through the floor on the second story. The decorations inside were gaudy and priceless. The image of Jesus wearing flashy silver garments in a glorified state hung over the place of the rock outcropping. The tomb itself was less appealing. It was housed in a brown cottage within the church, and about it there was a year round candle light vigil which is reported to start every year with the head Orthodox Priest going into the “cottage” and coming out with a candle “miraculously lit.” I have a healthy skepticism for such pomp and circumstance, seeing that most church traditions are much less valuable than vaunted.

Next we went to Shabaan’s, a local shop owner and money changer where I had a free drink and picked up 325 shekels for $80 approximately a 4.06% rate, but in order to get there, we had to pass from the Jewish quarter to the Muslim quarter. I immediately noticed the difference of the head coverings, skin tone and pressure of the men soliciting me for my American tourist dollars. We walked past more Hookah pipes and raw meat hanging in the open air then I have ever seen and we also passed by three old men playing dominos in the street. I hope I have given the impression this quarter is far different than the first. From Shabaan’s we left the city headed out the northern Damascus gate, where we stopped and noted the modern arched gate entryway is built above the antiquated arched gate entryways. We then saw the protestant version of Christ’s burial called the garden tomb, which failed to really grab my attention.

We then walked outside the city walls around the north-eastern corner to St. Steven’s/the lion’s gate. We entered here and explored the pools at Bethesda where Jesus healed the paralytic man. These ancient water storage facilities were fed by the aqueducts, and were at least 40 feet deep and 200 yards long, and dated back to well before Christ. We also entered St. Anne’s church and sang hymns, which was a refreshing time of worship. Afterwards, we walked back out of St. Stephen’s/ Lion’s gate and around the South-eastern side of Jerusalem through a Muslim grave yard overlooking the Garden of Gethsemane, which is now marked by a roman-catholic church. We continued on until we came back into the city through the southern dung gate which was built for Muslims because it is very close to the Dome of the Rock, but I wasn’t very interested in it. I fixed my eyes on the western wall of the temple, where the segregated Jewish men and women were praying, and some no doubt still looking for their messiah earnestly. Oh Lord, may you come quickly, like a thief in the night and give your people back their rightful land. You are praised forever in allowing this desecration even though I don’t understand it.

From here we moved with god speed out of the city to catch our waiting buss back to the Moshav. Exhausted from a long day of walking in the Israeli 105 degree sun, I slept on the way back home.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today is a busy word















I wish i had time to post in appropriate length for all that i have learned the last two days, but school has taken me from it. here are some highlights:
  • syllabus shock for the first time in 4 yrs.
  • 7 hr tour of the Old city














  • a 10 year old boy walking with his mom on the moshav without pants... it's a different culture down here.
  • Olive battle at the office with Matt D, Steve C, Theo L, and Garret M... with the occasional pomegranate and almond hurled at your face.
  • A 10 minute walk to the corner gas station to find it was Elvis themed. AMAZING!!!




















  • 8 hours of class today, and i started my Hebrew class last. as if a new language wouldn't be hard enough when i'm wide awake.
quote of the day complements of Steve C, "I will find a chameleon and train it to emasculate you while you sleep."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Israel... for reals.















(Room 31; Me, Matt, and Theo)

Hello and Shalom,
What can i say? in my first international experience, and i just spent an entire day pinned to my seat as i crossed the atlantic. I have felt nothing like the thickness of the air upon arrival in Tel Aviv, saturated with a richness of humidity, unknown pollen and ancient mysticism. I'm here to search the purpose of God coming to earth. I hope to find more and more evidences of a my living God through Biblical community, Jewish thought and culture, both modern and ancient, and the land He calls Holy. Even as i sit here in front of my compy, i feel pinned to my seat, like a dense, weighty mass firmly holds me here and serves as a directing force as i continue to eat, study, and travel. i cannot help but eagerly anticipate where this pinning brings me next. Anticipation also grows steadily in the group of 38 American students nestled here at in the corner of Judah, Dan, and Benjamin at Moshav Yad HaShmonah. Tonight, sleep and rest like it's the first time. Tomorrow, Jerusalem and Money exchangers for the first time.
Shalom,
~John
(Tomorrow... i'm talking about the food here... get ready by taking some pepto-bismol. j/k lol)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Starting up agains...

Hello good friends!
Let's say you find yourself thinking, "long time no post, John." well, do i have some news for you. i've been too busy to write much of anything at all this summer. between working 45-50 hrs/wk, delivering concrete form panels and accessories, and interning at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Shoreline, i was the conductor of the crazy train. It was the greatest of summers though. i learned, received, and gave much. The biggest lesson God saw fit to teach me was to rely on supernatural spiritual strength instead of my own. more on summer lessons to follow...
The week after summer, i had a vacation with my great friends, Chasing Cadence, up at Hume Lake Christian Camp. It was face rocking action! They have released their freshman project, "Awake, O Sleeper" while spending the summer playing up at Hume Lake. Here is a video of the band...

Some Pics of the show...





























After i spent the week up at Hume with the guys, i went on a 9 mile hike to Misty falls up King's Canyon, which just happens to be the deepest canyon in the US. I went with David Z, and Katie and Julie S, and a bunch of new friends from the Hume lake staff. We primarily hiked along the King's river through King's Oak tree glades and granite rock outcroppings in the . It took about 6 hours round trip with a couple of stops; a lunch break, and swimming in the river a couple of times along the way. During the hike, we saw an adolescent rattle snake surprise a passing hiker coming down the trail, and luckily for him, the rattlesnake missed it's strike. We also saw an adolescent bear (black bear?) at the falls hanging out, harassing hikers, and trying to steal food. One time the bear even got into a pack someone left lying out... jackpot! He was a fairly tame little guy... about 5 ft tall on his hind legs. After a short dip in the water fall, i was wading out of the river next to a large 15' tall boulder, and as i turned the corner to exit the water, i saw the bear about eye level, only five feet away, staring right at me. after a brief startle, i decided that i was more comfortable with God's wild creation about 20' away from me. So, i paced backwards into the river and found another way out.
Here are some pics of the hike...











































I am excited beyond belief about leaving for Israel in eight days. i am enrolled in the IBEX program at Masters, and i will be in the Holy Land for 14 weeks to study the land and the Bible. hope to post regularly about my travels and experiences in Israel. Until then, Shalom
~John L

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cute Kiddos

Maybe i've been a little heavy on the video side of things lately, but the cuteness factor of these African kids breaks my heart. It makes me want to adopt one right now. Josh Groban sings "You Raise Me UP" on the Ellen show.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mute Math: Myspace Universe Transformed Everything. Made Adolescents Turn Heads.

Beyond description and genre, Mute Math is New Orleans' premiere musical force that defied convention and gave the kids the kind of internet content they were looking for. Paul Meany (lead vocals, synth, keytar and has always been an innovative and enthusiastic artist, but in 2005, when the his record label wouldn't put out his new cd, he decided to do it himself. The band hit the road without brakes; (except the broke many keytars.) selling their LP at every stop from off the bus. this wasn't enough. every band sells their own music. Enter MySpace. Mute Math started posting live performances, and group interviews on the daily to publicize their new CD release. Soon their show antics made it on the web, and as we know now, you can't keep a band down that disassembles the drum set and still keeps the beat, literally. they rip apart the stage: smash the lights with the keytar, kick the crash cymbal, beat the guitar with a mallet, handstand on your Rhodes in a frenzy of indie dance/jive. "What inspires you to write your music?" I asked Paul Meany and Darren King (drummer) after they played a nationally syndicated live performance on the Jimmy Kimmel show. "We think of things people haven't done, and then we do them." So, if you haven't heard of them yet, here they are now, doing some things no one has done with a forthcoming concept music video, "Typical".

Monday, April 30, 2007

Mark Driscol: Admonition of the Church Planter


Mark Driscol, the preacher/pastor at Mars Hill Church offers a relevantly solid approach to American Church planting. Warning: strong admonition disguised as humor.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

BEHOLD, MY NEW FAVORITE WORD

I'm kinda a word nerd. i appreciate wordsleuthery. that was not a word. but this is, and it also has a couple examples of it's usage.

malapropism \mal-uh-PROP-iz-uhm\, noun:
The usually unintentionally humorous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound; also, an example of such misuse.

At 15, Rachel, the whiny would-be beauty queen who "cares for naught but appearances," can think only of what she misses: the five-day deodorant pads she forgot to bring, flush toilets, machine-washed clothes and other things, as she says with her willful gift for malapropism, that she has taken "for granite."
-- Michiko Kakutani, "The Poisonwood Bible': A Family a Heart of Darkness", New York Times, October 16, 1998

He also had, as a former colleague puts it, "a photogenic memory"--a malapropism that captures his gift for the social side of life, his Clintonian ability to remember names of countless people he has met only briefly.
-- Eric Pooley and S.C. Gwynne, "How George Got His Groove", Time, June 21, 1999

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Aftermath of Acedemic Activities

(INSERT CUTE PICTURE HERE)
Spring party exceeded my hopes, of course let's just say i had reasonable doubts as to the validity of hoping for much... i still don' think it was worth $50, but i would do it all again in an instant. Lakes played a nice set, but it was kinda awkward, b/c there was a strict "he who shuffles rides the bus home" policy in force. in getting dressed, i was encouraged by my own vanity to attempt a modern/semi-formal look with the imprinted t-shirt and the oxford shirt with a black jacket (not in picture). not completely sure if i pulled it off. (get it?) Julie sported the always fashionable little black dress with flip-flops. She said the girls in the dorm gave her a lot of flack for her choice in foot coverings, but she wanted to be comfortable. Props, Jules, props. Don't the the Man get you down. As i already alluded, Julie Stilson was my date, and we hung out with her roommate Christina with boyfriend Nick, along with Jared, (HLF RA) and his g/f Holly. As i sit here in my bed at 2:45AM, a significant memory is the Koi fish pond which had an extravagant 8ft waterfall, and yet maintained a eerily-placid water surface. Welcome to creepyville, population: fish

A SOUTHERN SALSA WITH THE GRIMM REAPER

I try to write songs... here's one.

A SOUTHERN SALSA WITH THE GRIMM REAPER
threw you away
to make sure you meant more to me
dismantling my dreams
to find the value of the individual pieces
i covered them up
with the dirt of the cemetery
i waited for days

sun and the water and the fertilizer
wind and the rain and the dark horizon
the fullest moon and the coldest dew
when the sun rose up i was looking at you
i grabbed you by the bulb and cut away your roots
i never shoulda, never coulda, neveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer knew.

i ran backwards then
to keep the sandstorm from my eyes
my only friend
was wearing the horns of the devil's disguise
i took my time
trigger, trigger, finger, finger didn't agree
i shot him in the eye

CHO:

breathing so hard
that the wind couldn't touch me
dodged every drop
of the rain from the angry sky
felt a cold hand
on my shoulder and i stopped on a dime
Grimm reaper said, "boy it's your time"

CHO:

i kept my smile
i relaxed and i kept my cool
pulled back my hair
i said, Grimm, don't be a fool.
i never died
that girl didn't break my heart
she never loved me from the start

sun and the water and the fertilizer
wind and the rain and the dark horizon
the fullest moon and the coldest dew
when the sun rose up i was looking at you
i grabbed you by the bulb and cut away your roots
i never shoulda, never coulda, never knew it was my heart
it was my heart, it was my heart
it was my heart, it was my heart
that girl never stole my heart

Friday, April 20, 2007

Spring Partay

Tonight is Spring party here at TMC. i'm not big on scholastic get togethers. but tonight will be chill. it's a nice venue and we'll be eating a great meal from what i hear. honestly, i dont really know what to expect. I do know Lakes will be there. the band formerly known as Watashi Wa, and Eager Seas. that'll be tight. really tight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Concerts, concerts, concerts.

I've been attending shows quite frequently as of late. it's my newest addiction. It's a good thing for it too, because i spent the first two months here at school with less than a dollar in my checking account. (but i payed all my bills and i got to go home for spring break, praise God) In the last 2 weeks, i've seen some of my favorite bands: Switchfoot, Mae, Copeland, and Relient K.

On march 30th, my alibi is the Swithfoot show. As most college kids agree, company at the show is almost if not more important than the show itself, and for this reason this was the most fun i've ever had at a show, ever. did i say ever? cause i meant it. I went with David Zimmer, Stephen Folden and Ryan Patterson. great guys, great show.

last friday, i went to the Relient K show for Jeff Sojka's 16th Birthday with his bro/sis Trevor and Alli, cousin Cameron, and Kyle Ardovanis. During the middle of the set, RelientK chilled out and brought out and had Ethan Luck (guitarist from OC Supertones RIP) play the slide guitar for an acoustic cover of Weezer's "Surf Wax America". That was the highlight of the show.

A passing thought--I got deja vu chills while i was standing outiside the Avalon, right before the concert b/c Kyle Ardo told me it was his first rock show. The reason being that the first conversation i ever had with his dad, Pastor Ardovanis (who is the preacher/teacher at my church, Placerita Baptist Church) which was way back when he was speaking at Camp Gilead during the summer of '05, was about our mutual love for "Sadie Hawkins Dance".

Quote of the Day
"My wife has a open mind and a closed fist." -Alex Granados, Director of Church and Urban Ministries, when asked if he was going to take a date to Spring Party

Valhalla,
~John

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Testimony

I was born and raised on the eastside of Seattle, Washington where I attended First Baptist Church of Bellevue until the age of 11. I was saved and baptized there, and the church played a very dear role in my life. Many men of the church took time to father me because my parents were separated when I was 4, and I didn’t see my dad much, and he’s never been a spiritual leadership figure in my life. My relationship with my father has always been very trying. He was in seminary when he fell out of ministry, so he knows the gospel, and has seen the very power of the Lord and realizes there is a creator god, bur denies his purposes. Until this day, he has hardened his heart against God, and continues in open rebellion, and I pray for God to open his eyes daily.

My family moved a couple of times before we finally got settled down in Ft. Collins, Colorado after my mom remarried. There, my relationship with my step-dad was hard at worst and nonexistent at best. So, I gravitated to my youth pastor, Ed Moran, for spiritual and emotional support. During the summer before my sophomore year of High school, the church confirmed rumors that Mr. Moran had sexual relations with a girl in the youth group. This tore me apart. Up until this time I had always figured that no one could hurt me like my dad had. I was wrong. I continued through High school, and I excelled in spiritual leadership positions as well as a desire to serve God. I served as the captain for our church bus routes to pick up kids for church, and I started to learn how to preach in our preacher-boy program at my Christian school. Then, while in Florida on my senior trip, we received word from back home that our head pastor, Dr. Ken Stephens, had committed suicide without any identifiable reason. I started to feel the pressure of serving God, and at this point I decided I would no longer set myself up to fail Him and others, so I resigned myself to chase a Civil Engineering degree at Colorado State University. Thankfully, God was at work in my heart. He directed me to Camp Gilead our in Carnation, Washington where I had spent many summer days as a child to serve as a counselor. It was in this gospel rich environment that he called me to his will. During my second summer of counseling, God made it miraculously clear that I was not serving him with my whole heart; I was only serving him where I was comfortable. I was always afraid of falling out of ministry, of carrying on a legacy of failure and reproach like those men ahead of me. That summer I yielded to him my fear and doubt in myself, and within two weeks it was painfully clear that I had been running from his will, and I was called to serve him in full-time ministry. The verse I have held on to trough this proving of my faith is I Corinthians 10:13, “There is no temptation taken you except that which is common to man, BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL, and will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation also make a way of escape that you may be able to endure it.” Upon this verse, God has forged my fear of failing into a faithful walk and a dependence on Him to keep me from falling, knowing that there are no new temptations to him.

Currently, I am a student at The Master's College, pursuing a degree in Bible Exposition to equip myself from the Word of God, by the best teaching possible in order to serve Him—not only passion and zeal, but also wisdom according to knowledge.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Where In The World Is Grandpa SanDiego?

Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in a pot in SanDiego.

If i could sum up this weekend in one word, it would be marinade. Cuase that's what i did. i spent the entire weekend substituting coffee for sleep, and allowing my adrenal glands to recover from the last three months of caffiene abuse. So, naturally, the first two days i spent my time pretending like i didn't have a headache because i'm not a coffee junkie going on withdrawals. Denial is a river in africa.

I love board games. My favorite is Settlers of Catan. it combines the landscape of war hammer with the expansion of the railroad classic, Robber Barron combined with a overaggressive trade-based economy. In engish? push or pin your opponents and take the open land and resources to build an empire of cities and roads. SHAZZAM. The reason i mention board games is because i wanted an opportunity to boast in my win of RISK when i came from behind to crush Rick D., Matt E., and Adam C.; a coupla guys from my floor in Hotchkiss. I like winning; is loving to kill your opponents in a war-based board game considered blood lust?

The rest of the weekend was spent viewing animals at the San Diego M[W]ild Animal Park, Playing the name game, highlighted by two Jenisons, and bruising my shins when i learned how to skim board. [if you know, you know.] i think it should be called shinless boarding...

~John

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Absurd Christian Hallelujahs

Here's a good read; Christian Devotedness.
I've never seen anyone kick against the pricks as much as i observe Christians serving their Christ. And this one thought seems to be a great lesson the church needs to learn, just as i am learning now. Security and safety are not equal to Godliness. How can we be in the will of the Master if we are only willing to serve him where we are comfortable? Wealth is not equal to Godliness. We are all aware that Joel Osteen wants us to have our best life now, but God graciously offers us our best life in eternity. So many Christians settle for a unfulfilled life, watered-down Christianity, and we all know what it sounds like, "God blessed us with a new yacht/house/Cadillac/Rolex." Not that these things are sinful or a barometer of one's heart condition, but if they are loved more than Christ... Oh, may it never be. Jesus said of a rich young man, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God." (Matt 10) In the suggested reading above, Anthony Norris Groves points out that Jesus did not say how hardly shall this rich man enter the kingdom of God. Clearly, it was not a personal sin issue, it was the accumulation of wealth. wealth brings comfort, peace of mind and security. these are America's red, white and blue. Are these colors worth bleeding for, or should we follow Him who bled for our eternal security? How much more should we, without the form of deity, but only image bearers of God, be willing to die. Most Christians would die for Christ, and as Rick Holland said in chapel yesterday, 4/4/06, few Christians would be able to live in poverty, torture, or emotional turmoil. So, we are willing to die for Christ, but unwilling to live for Him. Tomorrow is Good Friday-the day my Savior died. The next thought is REVOLUTIONARY. Jesus did not give up all on the cross. He gave up all in life. He was sinless.
He washed feet.
He almost completely eliminated disease in Galilee.
He shunned temptation.
He kicked it with his disciples all the time just to see them love God more.
He smiled at children.
He made fun of the Pharisees.
He never checked out girls.
He never kicked a dog.
He never exaggerated or generalized.
He honored his mom by keeping a party rolling with some great wine.
He never faked a smile to make someone like him, yet he had crowds and crowds of people following him everywhere he went.

Jesus was a man's man. He died having truly lived. This is why his death is my highest example of life, and his wounds are filled with my hands as i constantly prove him again and again. This is why i morn His death. I embrace Him because He was willing to let the silence of death suffocate his perfect life. Oh so perfect, oh so attractive, oh so angelic.

"Jesus, I my Cross have taken
All to leave and follow thee."
~Henry Francis Lyle