Posted in Poetry

Are you okay?

Are you okay?

I’ve been asked the question many times ‘how are you today?’

I’ve answered it with ‘I’m fine’ ‘in great’ to make the go away.

People ask me how I am but I don’t have the words to explain,

I’m living life, getting by struggling to find a path through the pain.

Then time passes and people get use to the lack of smile on my face,

I start to accept this is my life and I survive only by God’s grace.

I still can’t answer ‘how are you?’ or even ‘are you okay?’

I don’t know the answer to my pain to make it go away.

The honest answer to the question is I’m sure how I feel

I only know the live I life is unpredictable and seems unreal.

But your interest and persistence although sometimes overwhelming

Reminds me that there glimmers of light and people that are caring.

The light may fade and dark days arrive making it hard to be brave,

But a the light can return to defeat the dark that the hard days gave.

So when asked the question ‘are you okay?’ I think and then reply

It may be hard most days and some day end with a big sigh

But tomorrow’s a new day and I’ll be okay to fight is what I do

And commenting with people helps me massively but what about you?

So I ask the question back at you ‘how are you today?’

Are you struggling through life finding your path, are you okay?

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Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 7

We started the day by going to Cana where Jesus first miracle took place, that of water into wine. In Cana Christians and Muslims live along side each other, there is no Jewish community in Cana. 
We visited a cave where Mary was visited by the angel to inform her that was was to have a child and name him Emmanuel. On the site they have built a large Catholic Church preserving the cave. 

We then visited a synagogue where Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in particular the prophesy of a messiah. He then told them that the year of the lords favour had some and indeed he was here to bring justice to the oppressed. 

After Cana we drove to Nazareth to a first century living museum similar to beamish in the Uk. There were many people there tending to the animals, weaving, building and so on. 

Nazareth was named after the sprout that comes off an olive tree to created a new tree. Similarly Jesus cake up from the stump of Jesse. 

We saw a gentleman harvesting olives, another shepherding, again another in a carpentry workshop and a lady collecting water and weaving. 

The village and hospital are owned by the Nazareth trust based in the Uk. A charitable fund to support the people of Nazareth. 
After the tour we were given an oil lamp and I bought a Bauble which was made my Syrian and Iraqi refugees. A reminder of the conflict not to far away. 

We then went to the river Jordan to renew our baptism vows. We walked among the crowds to a quieter spot along the river. Something stuck me again here as it did in Galilee, the river was teaming with life. There were hundreds of fish swimming where people were being baptised, the water giving life to them. The river ran from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea giving like to that. The river provided food and water to the people in surrounding areas again giving life. 

We read about Jesus baptism in the Jordan, then answering our questions we went forward and recommitted to our baptism vows. I’m a person who takes time to process things but it was special. A river giving life to us. Whilst at the Jordan I was reminded Of the tings my dad taught me, fishing, nature etc. Sometimes I feel like I missed out of a huge part of childhood but I wouldn’t change it for the work.
On getting back to the hotel a few of us went for a swim, the pool was a bit cold but it was a great time to unwind after a busy week. 

We ended the trip by saying Goodbye to our guide Bishara and driver Robert presenting them with a gift of money and biscuits. It was a very emotional goodbye leaving behind two amazing friendships, people who have lost hope for trot land. Sometimes I wish we could have done more. I wish we could change Israel and Palestine for the better, created dialogue between the groups and made a difference. But it’s a huge problem and I’m not sure how it could be solved. Appeasing one nation by oppressing another is never the right answer. 
So the last day ended and a day of traveling is planned for tomorrow. I have a feeling I’ll be back. 
E x 

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Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 6 

We started our day with a drive along the Sea of Galilee passing the town which Mary Magdalen was from, continuing on until we reached the boats. 
A hours boat trip across the Sea of Galilee was. Beautiful was to stay the morning. First we went to see the boat that has been recently found from the time of Jesus. It could have been the boat he’s was on, a disciples boat or another fisherman’s but for certain it was on the sea at the same time as them. 

We then boarded a boat for a sail across the sea, it was a beautifully still morning and we could see the Golan heights, Israeli occupies Syria. What a contrast in experience for the people at the other side of the heights. Our guide told us about a hospital on Israel that treats Syrians without question or charge if they are injured in the war. 

From the Sea of Galilee we went on to St. Peter’s house. The area around it was black rock from previous volcanic eruptions. The house where St. Peter’s was, which had been turned into an octagonal Church, this was due the 8 beatitudes from the sermon on the mount. 

For lunch we had Galilean fish in a restaurant by the sea. 

We then visited the Church of 7 springs of water aka the bread multiplication church. Which a year ago was set on fire by some irresponsible Jewish protesters. This was named so because it used to be an area with lots of water however these days it’s very dry. A reoccurring issue here is lack of rain fall which leads the Israelis to turn water off to Palestine. 

We went to the places where Jesus cooked fish for his disciples after his redirection and paddled in Sea of Galilee paddle. It was teaming with life with Crabs and loads of shells from further in the sea. There were fish swimming in the shallows and it really struck me that water hives so much life especially the Sea of Galilee. There was a monument remembering Jesus saying to Peter feed my sheep.

We then went to the Beatitudes Church and shared communion this was where Jesus gave his sermon on the mount and performed his second loaves and fishes miracle. The church had stones all along the path with reference to the beatitudes passage. 
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.


Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’

The land of Palestine and Israel are full of hills and caves. Perfect places for people of Jesus time to retreat to pray or have quiet moments.,the landscape and nature brought a lot of thoughts to my attention, things to reflect on. 
I think once I’m home I’ll go through my itinerary and blogs and do a more spiritual reflection on the places as it will take a while to process it all. 
E x 

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Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 4 

Today we started the day by crossing the border into Palestine. Quite a easy task, I’ve been told it won’t be so easy on our way back though. The Israel Palestinian wall into the West Bank is said to have robbed the Palestinian people of 9% of their land, this is up for huge debate and will be forLowed by a post when back on the Uk. The land that the Palestinian people do have is only 3% controlled by them. 
We drove Along by the Dead Sea for a while with our guide pointing out military camps that have been abandoned when the last was lost from Jordan in the 6 day war. He told us of your he used to do going into the Syria, Jordon and Lebanon. 
We move on to masada a mountain fortress which was a Jewish strong hold in the last rebellion, and a home for Herod the great. We visited many buildings seeing the original structure for 2000 years ago. Including a surprisingly advanced cistern system to allow the people to get water on the top of the mountain. Food stores that have been excavated which would have been filled with grain, a dovecote to breed pigeons for food and other sleeping rooms etc. They even had a bath house which was beautifully decorated.

The two main things that stood out for me were; 

The synagogue and Church (which had been built by monks) these buildings had been places of worship and had large floors made with tiny mosaic tiles not bigger than a finger nail. 
The other thing which stood out was the story we were told about the Jewish rebels. They had around 1000 people there who were protected for a while, it took the Romans over a year to build a ramp up the mountain and then the fighting started. On the day the Romans’ had managed to knock and burn down a wall they retreated for the night ready to capture the Jewish people for slavery and to rape. That night the Jewish people met and decided that it was better to die than be captured so each man killed his wife and children. Then the men killed each other until only ten were left. They are lots as to who would be killed next until the final man was left alone. He set the food stores and buildings on fire so that the Romans would not Benefit from the mountain he then killed himself. Leaving nothing but dead body’s and flames for the Romans to see in the morning. Only two women and a few children chose to try and leave rather than die, this is thought to be because they were widows and had no husbands to kill them. 
This thought that suicide is better than the extreme suffering has come up a few times in the last couple of days. A concept that to me makes perfect sense. 
Next we went to Qumran where a Jewish community lived, waiting for Armageddon. This is where the Dead Sea scrolls were found by a nomadic community when they threw a a rock over a a hill and it broke the ground uncovering the scrolls. 
Final part of the tour today’s was the Dead Sea. IT IS AMAZING! We spent a hour floating in the sea and bathing in mud. I never believed that you would actually float so much by it was effortless. Definitely a highlight and an hour when I thought about nothing else. A truly freeing experience. How often do we have those moments when we are truly immersed in a slit second of time.  

The added highlight of today was a evening in the old city of Jerusalem where four of our groups got tattoos and we did a little shopping. This was such a great experience visiting a tattoo shop that has been tattooing pilgrims since the 1300s. A family run business. It was also great to spend some down time with the group. A perfect end to the day. 
Tomorrow we will be going to the dome on the rock, Jericho and moving hotels to Tiberius. 
E x 

Posted in faith

Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 5

Today we started by traveling by to the Golden dome on the rock on Temple Mount this is the place the temples were but were destroyed. The only part left is the western wall or wailing wall that we visited earlier in the week. 


The mosques we beautiful with very detailed mosaics, non Muslims are not allowed in the mosque but are now allowed in the grounds. The mosque was built here because is the Muslim faith this is where Mohammed was raised to Allah and Given the instructions as to how to live. He was then returned to Mecca. 
The mosque was modelled on the holy church on the Via Dolorosa. The mosque and temples were built on mount Moria where Abraham was to sacrifice Issac. The Jewish community mourn of the 9th august ever year (in the Jewish calendar) for the destruction of the temples. 

Next we went to Bethany where the tomb of Lazarus is. We visited a Catholic Church with again some amazing mosaic decorations. 

Then we went to the tomb itself through a small door and down a stair case tunnel with a very low ceiling. 
Finally crawling through a tunnel around a metre high into the tomb itself. The tomb was small, much smaller than the garden tomb. 
On the way from Bethany to Jericho we saw many Bedouin people, children and goats. The people living in small self built homes made with correlated iron, and what ever else they could find. I also saw children playing on this, I’d be interested to learn more about their lives. 
We arrived at Jericho which means city of the moon. This is where the two spies who met Rahab were. And where walls fell when they were arched around for 7 days then walls fell. Jericho is on the West Bank and Only Muslims and Christians and Greek orthodox liver there, there is no Jews. 
We went on to the tree which Zacheus climbed up which is the only old enough tree in the area, I spoke to a fruit seller who told us of all the fruits in the areas and Dave us a free try of a fruit that’s half between a grapefruit and an orange. On the bus we went past a Palestinian refugee camp from Palestinians who were removed from Jerusalem. 
We stopped for lunch in Jericho which claims to be the oldest city in the world. And a few of us went on a camel ride with same the camel. 

We set of for Tiberius stopping at temptation mountain aka qrntal where Jesus prayed for 40 days. 
A lot of today was spent traveling through the West Bank along the Jordan valley through the Palestinian area (area a) and Israeli settlements. While in the West Bank we stopped to go to a toilet and there was no water ad the Israelis had switched it off. In contrast the Israeli settlements had grew grass, swimming pools etc. Another sign of systemic injustice. At one point we were stopped and our guide and driver were asked for their passports, they then surveyed a selection of our passports, obviously only wanting to check the guides. However they liked Harry Potter and our chat broke the ice. 
Finally we saw the sea Galilee and found a hotel a good end to a long day. 

E x 

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Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 3 Evening 

Day 3 Evening 
This has come as a separate blog as while trying to be organised I wrote my blog on the bus back to the hotel not realising there would be more. 
Earlier in the day I was told by a local that there was a demonstration from the Orthodox Church. This was to protest that they would now be required to join the army, something they previously hadn’t been made to do. In Israel all people have to do national service in the IDF and can then be called back at any time. For years the Orthodox Church hadn’t been made to do this, now they have to. 
This meant that In over a hour we moved less than half a mile. With the road outside our hotel being one of the main routes. As a group we decided to walk through old Jerusalem back to the hotel, a surprise but a great one. We wound through the old city with stall holders and cafes lining the street. 
Our guide suddenly stopped and invited us all into a cafe, it had been his sons birthday and he wanted to buy us cake to celebrate. This was a beautiful and heartfelt gift to us as a group. We had a traditional cake which was mozzarella cheese with a sweet topping, not the most appetising but a beautiful gift o will always be great full for. 
We then went on our way up through the Damascus gate, past the garden tomb to our hotel. 
During our walk and cafe Jerusalem has less tourists, it was more natural and I felt much more at ease. I didn’t feel like I was intruding which I have at certain points before but felt that I saw more of the heart of the city, the life of the people without spectators. I’m sure groups are a natural part of their lives now however this felt more comfortable. 
With that in mind a few of us are thinking of going back in the evening tomorrow. For some time in the city to shop and really take in Jerusalem before we move to another hotel on Wednesday. 
So a parting thought, what is Jerusalem like when the pilgrims melt away? 
E x 

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Holy Land Pilgrimage – Day 3 

Day 3 
We started our day with a walk to the garden tomb, in the place of the skull (Golgotha) we had a tour of the garden a oasis of calm in the city by our guide Brian. The tomb used to be part of Jordan in the divided city of Jerusalem until the six day war. We looked toward Golgotha when Jesus was crucified beside the road of Damascus (road 1) people would have walked along the road mocking him, ‘if your the king of the Jews come down from the cross’ 
When then visited the tomb itself with a door not a metre high, this had been damaged in a earthquake and had been rebuild a little higher. The inside of the tomb was undamaged, it was space for 3 bodies but only used for Jesus, he was laid in the right side of the tomb. With a gutter for the the tomb stone which weighed between 2/4 ton. We then had a short communion service sharing break and wine. 

We then went to vad yashem a holocaust memorial named from Isaiah 56. It was a hard but valuable experience, seeing the stories from Jewish people in the holocaust. 

A few things struck me; 
One was a display of shoes form Jews who were killed in camps, this really struck me that these were all that was left from valuable human lives, lost for senseless reasons. 
Another thing was children photos I don’t know why it never struck me before but the realisation that 1.5 million of those killed in the holocaust to me just shows the how Inhumane and colony these crimes were 
The Letters especially a suicide letter and a letter from a mother who has lost a child stood out. In some ways I honour the person who choose to stand against the power of the Nazis by killing themselves. To me this is the last stand of defiance and gives the power back to the Jewish person. 
“Brothers it is better to die as free warrior than to live be the grace of murderers. Resist! To you last breath” – ABBA kovner – assembly of pioneer youth 
One of the photos we saw was of Belgrade Barack’s used as a concentration camp. Today’s it’s a refugee camp, when will we learn.
On a wall in the memorial it read;
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This has always been one of my favourite poems and has a new meaning now. 
Our last stop at the holocaust memorial was the Children’s memorial a dedicated remembrance for the 1.5 million children. Whilst walking through the darkened memorial lot up with small lights and mirrors it looked like a night sky. There we names homelands and ages being read aloud, the haunting words of a failure of humanity.  

We then visited Jerusalem through the Zion gate. We went to the upper room where the last supper was held, this has changed hands so many times, it became a Islamic mosques and is now a pilgrim point however no religious ceremonies can take place. 
Below the upper room was King David’s tomb the viewing for this was split into men’s and woman’s sections. The tomb itself was huge. 

Finally we visited St. Peter callicantu where Peter denied Jesus three times, and where Jesus was in prison. It was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve been in. The ceiling is a stained glass cross with Jesus on the centre and around this in mosaic is a beautiful ceiling with the twelve disciples. This is to remind people of Jesus coming again on the clouds of glory. 

We then went downstairs to the prison where Jesus was kept, there is not a staircase but Jesus would have been lowers in through a hole on the ceiling, the prison was solid stone without windows it would have been a lonely dark hard place. 
Today’s been a less hectic day but we still have filled it in with lots of visits. 

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Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 2 -Musalaha 

Reconciliation talk – Musalaha
•Religion is something your born into not converted into. 
•Temple destroyed Jew found tradition outside of the temple replacing sacrifices etc with rabbi. 
•1948 When Palestinian people we’re moved out it was Motto was maximum land minimum Palestinian. High percentage of Palestinian refugees were Christians. 
•In Jewish high school he was told persecution of Jews was due to Christians. Then when Christians came to visit Israel they worried so much about fixing relations they didn’t talk to Palestinian Christians. 
•He studied theology in USA and came back to live under curfew sometimes only being allowed out 2 hours a day every other day. Sometimes not for weeks at time. 
•Any theology that is not a blessing to your neighbours is not biblical theology. 
About the conflict 
Palestinian Israel conflict is intractable conflict. It can’t be fixed by politicians. A grassroots movement must lead the way, it has to be from the bottom up. Policies can change but without a change of heart it only takes time until the weaker become stronger and they will last back. (Burma/mayamar) 
A balance of power is the main issue, Israel is power but Palestinian shows weak. Reconciliation can only be happen when power is shared. To overcome obstacles to reconciliation, to overcome you have to a) find and develop relationship and trust. B) address the ignoring of reality/injustice or maintaining the status quo.
Obstacles can include;

~physical obstacles – wall, checkpoints, varying opportunities, misinformation etc 

~emotional – suspicion, despair, anger, bitterness, ignorance, hatred apathy etc 

Psychological ~ racism, dehumanisation, victimisation, trauma etc
There are six stages Stages of reconciliation 

1) beginning relationship 

2) grievances

3) withdrawal 

4) reclaiming identity 

5) committing and returning

6) taking steps 

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Holy Land Pilgrimage day 2

Day 2 – on way to mount of olives I was supplies by joe built up Jerusalem was however it wasn’t long in fact it was approximately 15 minutes before out of the right hand side of the bus while most were sorting out their radios I saw a small cluster of homes build from whatever materials the owners could find. They were a mall shelters approximately 3m square, only around ten of them. In the land that hope became flesh there were people with nothing. I can only guess that these were poorer or IDP’s I’ll never hear their stories but they were noticed, by few but noticed.
We started the day one the Mount of olives walking down through various church’s, cemeteries and the garden of gethsemane.
From the mount of olives you could see down into the valley, across to Zion hill, Herod palace, the dome on the rock and the old town of Jerusalem.  

One of the cemeteries we visited was a Jewish cemetery where all the graves have rocks piled on them. Our guide explained that this was a way of marking a visit, like we might take flowers they add rocks. 
We can then went to the garden of gethsemane a beautiful place full of olive trees and rosemary with Franciscan brothers harvesting the olives. We had a short time of worship and spent some time in the quiet. We visited Gethsemane Church also know as the Church of the nations – this is due to the funding for the Church building coming from various nations. It was a interesting place, I imagined it to be bigger and it would have been. 

I wonder if people knew the impact Jesus would have would so much ‘development’ have taken place?

We then walked the Via Dolorosa which is the route Jesus would have walked to the cross, it was through the old city, surrounded by market tradespeople and other pilgrims. The stations are; 

1st Station, Jesus is condemned to death.

2nd Station, Jesus carries his cross.

3rd Station, Jesus falls the first time.

4th Station, Jesus meets his mother.

5th Station, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.

6th Station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

7th Station, Jesus falls the second time.

• 8th Station, Jesus meets the three women of Jerusalem.

•9th Station, Jesus falls for the third time.

•10th station, Jesus is stripped of his clothes.

•11th Station, Jesus is nailed to the cross.

•12th station, Jesus dies on the cross.

•13th Station, Jesus is taken down from the cross.

14th Station, Jesus is placed in the tomb.

The busyness of the way wasn’t supporting but did make me think about Jesus walking through the crowds. Would people turn out to watch? did he have to push his way through the crowds? The agony of knowing what was to come and the physical task of carrying a cross us such narrow uphill streets. What were his thoughts going to that hill. 
Finally we went to the western wall. The most meaningful for me. Spending time writing thoughts and prayers to god I was reminded of the following passage;

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭94:18-19‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

I stood at the wall adding my piece of paper to the thousand of others that were there, somehow being a part of a corporate longing for God. 
It’s been a while since I felt close to God but in that moment I felt something. My prayer for the rest of the trip is that I experience more of him each day. That I may ha e a renewed conviction of a God who cares for his people.