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Archive for the ‘Holy Land’ Category

One special moment of many in the Holy Land.

Camel at dawn

Dawn on Mount Sinai

My camel plods steadily up Mount Sinai in the dark. Her cushioned feet make a soft crunch on the ground as she steps deliberately up the path, one large foot at a time.

I am bundled in a warm fleece jacket against the crisp cold, sitting high up in my comfortable saddle. Holding securely to the worn, wooden pummel, I am accompanied by my moon shadow, riding up the mountain with me. My shadow and I are both sitting tall and easy in the saddle, breathing deeply the cold, fresh air. A slight odour of musty camel and camel dung drifts past on the light breeze. Overhead, the stars shine like brilliant jewels in the clear, dry night sky.

I hear the guttural grunts and grumbles of the camels, and the calls of the camel drivers behind me. A radio blares for a while, then is silenced. I feel alone with my camel on this dark, rocky mountain.

The camel takes a small mis-step and slips a little on the loose stones. I peer down a dark, steep precipice, but I am calm and trust my camel completely. I continue to feel the rhythm of her steady steps up, up, up the mountain. Imperceptively the black sky lightens and I can see into the dark crevasses. Somewhere a bird sings a pure, simple two-note song.

The grace that has brought me here, to this place, to open my heart to God, brings me to tears. And my heart overflows as God pours in all that I need to sustain me on my journey: life and beauty, joy and love, awe and wonder, gratitude and peace, courage and strength.

An hour later, we arrive at the summit at dawn. Suddenly the camel pitches back and forth, settling down onto her calloused joints to allow me to dismount. A little unsteady on the solid ground, I take a moment to find my land legs. Soon I am back to solid reality, two feet on the rocks, my heart singing as I watch the sun rise, knowing that I will carry home the strength of this mountain of God.

Seeker

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of God, to the Rock of Israel.      Isaiah 30:29

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View from Elijah's Plateau, The Sinai

I get so busy that sometimes I just need to stop everything and listen in silence. 

This is nothing new.

The Old Testament recounts how the prophet Elijah went to Horeb, the mount of God (which we call Mount Sinai) to find God. Elijah was old, tired, persecuted, discouraged.   “I alone am left,” he says, “and they are seeking my life.” 

And he did not find God in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the “sound of sheer silence.”  In that silence God gave him renewed hope, and new tasks. 

This is the view from Elijah’s Plateau on Mount Sinai where I had a chance to sit in silence for an hour and listen.  Luckily I don’t have Elijah’s problems.

Seeker

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

1 Kings 19:11-13

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One moment during my trip to the Holy Land.

St. Catharines Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. 

Our guide shows us Moses’ burning bush – the actual bush, transplanted but grown from the same roots for thousands of years.  I approach it with a modern, rational skepticism. 

“This can’t be the actual bush,” I think to myself.  I scoff silently as other pilgrims reach prayerfully to touch the branches, as if this bush is some sort of holy relic.  “Ridiculous!” my definite inner voice repeats.

Burning bush

The burning bush at St. Catharine's Monastery.

I begin to turn away and something stops me in my tracks.  “I’m here – I may as well touch it.”  So, feeling fairly foolish, I reach up to casually brush the tip of my fingers on a branch over my head. 

Ouch!  A large thorn pricks me, and as I draw my hand away a large, dark red drop of blood forms on my finger.  I stop in my tracks and chuckle as I stare at the perfectly round drop. 

“OK God,” I think, “I get it!’  And I wonder what else he/she will do to get my attention.

Moses’ encounter with the burning bush was much more dramatic:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’    Exodus 3:1-4.

 

OK God, here I am, what do you want from me?

Seeker

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