The embracing walls of the Old City glow with golden brilliance as the sun sets on another day in this land where other walls, seen and unseen, divide ideologically, theologically, culturally. In this place much has been built, destroyed, then rebuilt. No other real estate on earth commands the attention of the world like Jerusalem. It is the epitome of “location, location, location!”
Scaffolding aids repair work on Old City walls outside Lions Gate
From our rooftop terrace, scenes from past eras fill my imagination as I scan horizons and try to reconstruct some of those ancient walls in my mind. During Herod’s day, I not only would have been gazing at an ornately decorated Temple with sacrificial smoke rising from inner courts, but, right before me, defending the vulnerable northeast corner of the Temple Mount, I could have overheard conversations of Roman soldiers patrolling the walls of Antonia Fortress.
I snap back to the present as Gary surprises me with a cool fresh-squeezed lemonade from the lemons loading our backyard tree two hours north of here at The Place of Stories. Like much of life, it comes as a bittersweet refreshment. You can choose to pucker or smile. Ancient history speeds millennia forward to just two months ago from this day. The scene is Gary’s hospital room in an intensive care unit in California. Oxygen tubes, heart monitors, IV’s and medical paraphernalia surround us in an unfamiliar battleground for his life.
In January two unexpected prostate surgeries within four days left Gary weak and losing blood. Facebook became my rapid-fire means of alerting people to pray for him. The day he was released from the hospital he developed a blood clot which attacked the wall of his lung and returned him to the emergency room, then on to the intensive care unit. Life was in the balance.
The next morning I reached the hospital parking lot headed for a shower. I put my key in the car door lock, when a voice said, “Cindy!” It was Phil, a longtime friend of Gary’s. “Thanks for coming, Phil, but Gary won’t be able to have any visitors until later,” I responded. “No problem,” he said, “I woke up this morning and as I was praying for Gary I sensed the Lord tell me I was to come to the hospital and drive around it seven times like at Jericho, asking the Lord to break down the walls of infirmity in Gary’s body. So that’s what I’m here to do,” and he did. What a refreshing gift, as were the prayers of many!
The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is an appointed time for everything, including a time to heal. It also speaks of a time to tear down, and a time to build up. Late last September, after delays from my cancer surgery and radiation, we finally began an extensive renovation project at The Place of Stories to better facilitate hosting film crews and other guests who support The Writers’ Gathering project. We got the addition under roof on the cusp of our return to the States for the holidays and before the winter rains began raising the drought-stricken Sea of Galilee. As Gary lay in his hospital bed for nine days we wondered if we would ever be able to return to our home in the north and see the completion of what we began.
To prepare for the new addition it required tearing down old walls
Prior to beginning our construction project we began praying that God would provide a “Bezalel Team,” as in the Bible, of skilled craftsmen to create a sanctuary where The Master Designer and Architect was reflected in every facet. We also asked Him to make our home a place where walls that divide people in this nation would be torn down and peace would reign over our tiny investment in Eretz Israel. He has been faithful! From the depths of foundation work, to mosaic floors, to terraces, and to tile rooftops… Jewish, Muslim, and Christian artisans have plied their craft with quality while working side by side and sharing their meals at the table in our front yard. Wow, that’s where peace needs to begin, in our own front yard.
Our Arab concrete man, Hussam, and Tzion, our Jewish electrician, enjoy a break to make music together on my djembe drum
Time for rest and reflection to write the Jerusalem Journal has been fleeting. Many of you have written, “Where are you and are you OK?” “Yes!” Not only have we hosted and scouted locations for four film crews this past year, but Gary and I are both die-hard “do it yourself” people who don’t want to miss out on being part of what God is doing at The Place of Stories.
My duct-taped work shoes are evidence we’ve jumped into this assignment with both feet
Shortly after Gary and I met in Jerusalem during spring of 2004, we attended the dedication of the worship facility for our congregation which was still a construction zone. Walking past an electric tile saw, I commented to Gary, “That is my dream tool!” He told me right then that he knew he was going to like me! Well, I taught Gary everything I know about laying tile and he has far surpassed my skill, strength, and stamina. That’s what the “Bezalel Team” did in Exodus 35; not only were they skilled in their design, but they were to teach others.
A new entry to The Place of Stories was handcrafted by Judi, a gifted carpenter from Nazareth who is also a pastor!
Gary and I have learned a lot from these artisans who have, in small ways, broken down walls of ancient animosity to build new walls for a sanctuary where the table is open to all; where shared stories bring understanding, laughter, and, at times, tears.
Enjoying the walk home,
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