Jerusalem Journal # 182
Our tiny un-air-conditioned apartment in Jerusalem’s Old City is located on an expansive tiled rooftop. Four challenging flights of steps (especially with suitcases or groceries) ascend heavenward from an enclosed church courtyard to the most amazing view of historical landscape unfurled toward the four points of a compass. Breathtaking!
Those who invest in the climb on a hot day are often rewarded with the best seats in the house to catch their breath, allow the sweat to dry, feel their blood pressure idle, and be refreshed with a cold lemonade. It is a stopping place, a launching place, where anticipation of what is coming next, whether it be conversation, good food, getting to know a stranger, or tasks demanding attention, renews both body and spirit. It is the breathe-in, breathe-out portal of perspective that is our front doorway.
Gary’s aggressive prostate cancer diagnosis came at the end of June as we prepared to step out of the security of family, physician friends, and U.S. health care facilities onto the plane for Israel. Our sense was that we were to “cast our lot with Israel” as the place of healing. Wrestling with decisions we engaged in a battle between fear and faith.
We returned to Israel, the place where our heroes had walked as they witnessed God step through the doorway of their crisis of belief bringing a message of hope; even victory. With Gary’s body a newly declared battle zone, we arrived the day Israel’s war with Hamas began, praying for victory on both fronts.
One Saturday morning shortly after our return to “The Land of the Patriarchs” and our place above the Sea of Galilee, I was drinking in the beauty of hibiscus, bougainvillea, and the intoxicating fragrance of kumquat tree blossoms on an intimate patio where, each morning, faith for the day is drawn from an inexhaustible well. I was reading the story in Genesis of Abraham sitting at the tent door. The word used was peh-takh, which in Hebrew means “opening, doorway, entrance, a gateway.”
I looked up from my Bible to the Golan Heights sweeping northward above the Sea of Galilee and imagined Abraham walking the shores on his way from Haran to what God said was, “…the place that I will show you.” He was acting upon words he received in his birthplace which carried him, by faith, to a foreign land where God’s promises would be fulfilled beyond his wildest imagination. Years later, at the door of Abraham’s tent, he looked up and saw three angelic visitors who brought him the news that God’s promise was soon to become a reality.
The story of sitting in the opening of the tent was food for thought throughout my afternoon. We are not air conditioning people so windows and patio doors remain open for incoming breezes much of the year. That stifling hot day I passed through a doorway and the whoosh of cool air made me stop for a breathe-in, breathe-out moment. The house seemed to sigh in concert with our own emotional roller coaster. Thirsty for direction and hope, I told Gary that I felt it was important for us to sit in our doorway and allow the breath of God to speak to our hearts.
One key element for setting the tone at the pehtakh of our home is a CD player just inside the front door. From dawn to starlight, instrumentals of uplifting music whisper on the winds not only to our souls, to our guests, but also to those walking along our street. Music was an integral part of ancient daily life in Israel, just as it is in our lives.
Ancient music figured prominently in worship, in celebrations, in battle, in healing, and in cultural exchange. It remains a universal language. With Orthodox Jewish neighbors moving into the house next door and Arabic-speaking Christians from Nazareth remodeling the house across the street from us, we expect music to be one tool to build bridges of friendship.
Sitting at the “tent door” gives us a perspective on where we are, where we have been, and where we are going. We are weary from the challenges of Gary’s five-day-a-week radiation treatments, but we know that the God whose name is Immanuel (God With Us) is with us every step of the way and He has a history of filling baskets to overflowing when we are ready to receive. Now, breathe in, breathe out!
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