Heavenly Hash

Taking time to “hash over” some things with God. Less talking and more listening. Realizing I don’t have all the answers to the many questions I haven’t had the courage to ask.

Cages

A bird cageBirdsCages come in all sizes & shapes, some beautiful, some not so much—just functional. I enjoy watching my birds. Seeing how they interact with each other has shown me that even birds of the same species have different personalities, like people. I didn’t know that. I watch them and see how wondrously and intricately God has made even the small birds. I think of God’s words in the bible about how He cares for even one bird if it falls from the sky and how he provides for them everything they need.

My bird cageEven though I recently had a larger cage built for my birds, I try to let them out to fly in my flat every morning and every afternoon. Can you just imagine being able to fly, how marvelous it would be?? I don’t think God created them this way to just sit in a cage all their life. I have to give them the freedom to spread their wings. They certainly seem to look forward to it and they come inside the cage when called (although one of them likes to wait and act like it’s his own idea). I can’t help think about this:

In NO way am I as good and loving as God—but if I—a mere mortal—have enough compassion for a caged bird to let it fly and feel freedom, HOW MUCH MORE does God want freedom for the people of Gaza?????

Women on "Free Gaza" boats

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A Year In Review

It’s hard to imagine I have actually been in Gaza a year now. Last winter was much colder than this one but I have learned many cold weather tips, necessary, for survival in homes with little or no heat. Even when the temperature only gets down to the 40’s, it’s still like living in a refrigerator when you have no heat. And, heat here is NEVER central heating. All those chubby, healthy looking children I saw when I first came last winter, suddenly became all bones as soon as the weather got warm. Multiple layers of clothing are a big weapon against the cold. Showering in the morning is just NOT a warm idea. Nobody who has tried that wants to take off clothes they already have warmed inside to put on cold ones. A hot water bottle has really helped me warm my clothes and bed. I call it my “husband” because it keeps me warm at night—and makes a great joke among the women here. Sleeping between fuzzy blankets is a great idea since you get about as much cold from the bottom as you do from the top. Hats and scarves in the house are also great to help stay warm. The gloves with the fingertips cut off are another great addition to a cold house along with a hot cup of tea with Marameeah (sage). And they have Pharmacy “Doctors” here for those times when the cold just gets the best of you and tea doesn’t fix it. The pharmacists here give you antibiotics you would need a prescription for in America or Israel.

I have also come to understand the relationship between water and electricity. Without electricity you have no water because water has to be pumped to the tank on the roof so it can flow down. If you get your water from the municipality and, the water and electricity don’t come at the same time, you may have to go to the nearest stainless steel tank in your neighborhood to purchase sweet water (not to be confused with the salty water that comes from the municipality). In some areas it is so salty you can’t even stand to brush your teeth with it. Sure you can buy sweet water pretty cheap but then you have to CARRY it home—many times up many flights of stairs. That can be more limiting than the price of water.

Making coffeeRecipes from home require many new ways of doing things as well as substitutions. Take coffee for instance. My Australian friend, Jean, from my time at Shevet Achim, had a plastic coffee filter that she used for drip coffee. What a great change from instant coffee. And even better is that you can get the coffee ground with the cardamom for that Turkish coffee flavor without the sediment at the bottom. The American coffee commercial that’s says, “Good to the last drop” wouldn’t be good here because you would be drinking the grounds. In America I had a BUNN coffeemaker but here I treasure my 20 shekel filter and pray I can always find paper filters for it. Dairy products are limited in Gaza. I was VERY resistant to using powdered milk because in America it is skim (no fat) and not very tasty. Here it is Full fat milk powder and wonderful to have on the shelf. I have also learned to use the plastic coffee filter to drain water off the Shamainit (a high fat yogurt) and substitute it for Philadelphia Cream Cheese or use it with some Labonneh (salty & sour yogurt) in place of sour cream.

OvenThe food here is outrageously delicious! But the process women use in the meals they make is labor intensive. Most are cooking huge meals for big families on a two burner stove top sitting on their small counter and maybe a metal box like oven—if they are fortunate enough to have more than one balloon (bottle) of gas. There is no temperature gage on the ovens; you just regulate the gas from previous experience. Many cook the rice first and wrap the whole pot in a big thick blanket to keep it warm until the rest of the meal is ready to eat. (Not many homes have microwaves.) There is no ‘chop it all up and throw it in a pot’ even in the limited space and resources. Often I see someone go to the floor (for a lack of counter space) to crush the garlic and hot pepper together with salt and sometimes parsley before adding it to other ingredients. Many of the best dishes are a combination of many steps that often require participation of the entire family. Mealtime is not just something to eat, it is a family experience—especially on Friday. Families usually try to have meat or fish for this special meal (like Sunday Dinner in America) whether they can afford meat the rest of the week or not.

Transportation started out pretty scary for me, to be quite honest. Not because I was in Gaza, I was scared in Amman, Jordan, too. In America we teach our children to never get in a car with a stranger, but taxis are not supposed to feel like that—unless you can’t understand one another—then it really challenges you to trust God with your life. Who knows where the driver will take you and motion for you to get out! This actually happened to me once and I wasn’t where I was trying to go. I am sure it was a “lost in translation incident” but scary, none the less. I searched the neighborhood for someone who could speak English and shortly afterward was driven to my destination (without charge) via an ambulance—unharmed. That day I decided I needed to live within walking distance of the Deaf Society. So for three months I walked and walked, and, got lost again and again, and, learned to get a taxi home when I couldn’t walk anymore. When I moved into the “Penthouse” I was in the neighborhood of two Universities and many of the students in the taxi translated to the driver for me. The rule about “Don’t talk to strangers” is just plain stupid in a foreign country because EVERYONE is a stranger. Even the people who are residents here don’t teach their children that. They go out of their way to speak to you in what little bit of English they know and practically chase you down to shake your hand and make you welcome in their country.

I am finding many things I was taught as a child (and young adult) were for my protection and safety. It may have not been wrong at the time but things have to be re-evaluated as we mature—like the two examples of dealing with strangers. Here’s another one, “Proud to be an American”. How can I take PRIDE in something that I had nothing to do with? Are we PROUD to be a human? I am thankful I have had the privileges of being an American when so many people have so much less, but this has been at God’s hands. I wasn’t the one who decided where I would be born. When we hear ourselves speak through the way other people understand what we say, sometimes it ends up being so arrogant it is shameful.

If I had stayed in America in my own (‘Only WAY to see things’) kind of world, I wouldn’t have even known where Gaza is—much less anything about the people there. If I had come to Israel for a visit and to see the ‘places Jesus walked’ I would have never known the PEOPLE there. If I had never crossed into Jordan and experienced a sense of being able to breathe again, I would have not understood the choking of religiousness in Jerusalem.

It took so much more to get me investigating, thinking, researching and seeking Jesus. I have repented (changed my mind) about so many things on this journey that I can honestly say the woman from America who came to the Middle-East is dead. Forty plus years ago I was baptized (by immersion) “to bury the old man (woman) and rise and walk again in a newness of life”. Funny thing here, when trying to type newness, I typed newmess—it really was a new mess. I wasn’t a new person burying the old one, I was trying to DROWN the old one and I didn’t succeed. You can’t DROWN self-will, self-protection, self. . . . anything. You have to hand it over—one piece at a time—willingly (every time). Only as I let go of what I thought I knew, could I trust enough to hand it over. When a person thinks they know and they think they have found, they quit looking, thinking, researching and investigating.

May we never quit learning to see the world from other’s perspective. We can’t even pray effectively until we can identify with those we pray for and see them through the Love of God—(whose Name is Jesus). Sometimes life has to give us a lot of “fertilizer” before we really begin to grow. I am learning to accept ALL things (sweet and “fertilizer”) as something for my good from a God who loves me.

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Hard Work of Being In Gaza

Some of my friends seem to think (because I am a Christian and have traveled to non-Christian, less fortunate nations) that I am working toward a goal of changing others. If only they could understand the secret I told my daughter when I left my home in America—”I’m not coming back until I am different.” It’s always been about changing me, which I have never been able to do on my own.

I was in Israel for seven months and the voice I kept hearing in my head, daily on one situation or another, said, “Oh, so you think you KNOW!” It echoed what my brother had said to me, “Not always right, but never in doubt!” I returned to the States for 3 months, realizing I am not different enough, yet. The biggest difference was that I went to the other extreme thinking I knew nothing. I think the lesson of that whole first year was ASK, don’t ASSUME you have the mind of Christ on anything. I had to learn just because I could read, didn’t mean I understood. Accepting change (sometimes every 5 minutes), learning to respond to that change instantly and learning to hear questions as questions instead of personal challenges was just a little of the ‘hard work’ going on in my everyday life. Israel was a time of stripping away of possessions, relationships and beliefs that competed with Jesus for my heart’s throne. Did I love Jesus? Oh how I loved Him!—I thought the term “first love” meant that romantic kind of love I felt when I first fell in love with my husband. That was a possessive love, even a jealous love that caused me to embrace “Go thy way: for he (she) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him (her) the great things he (she) must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16) Do I still love Him? Oh how I love Him!—but differently.

Let me explain this different kind of love. It no longer is a giddy schoolgirl, starry eyed kind of love that wants the whole world to know “He’s MINE! He chose ME! See my ring.” It’s a love of quiet confidence that He chooses to always ‘BE there for me’. He never shuts me out when He doesn’t like what I say or do, but He speaks with me about it in honesty. Have you ever ‘read’ someone’s face and knew they weren’t happy? I get that same feeling inside when He’s not happy about what I say or do. I can go to him and ask if we can talk about it, or I can ignore it. But thankfully He doesn’t allow a cold war between us for long. This love I feel now is more like Him having first place, a number one priority with trust—a mature love like after 15+ years of marriage. That kind of love. Now, did I suffer getting to this place? HA! Doesn’t every strong willed child suffer much to get a strong will under subjection? Isn’t self-will the biggest issue in letting someone else be Lord of your life? So when I say, “I followed my heart into Gaza” I hope you can understand the meaning behind it.

My “beloved” planted seed upon seed of admiration for the women of Gaza. I saw a strength in them coupled with gentleness, a lack coupled with generosity, great pain coupled with compassion. I wanted to know how they could be this way based on what I thought I knew of Muslims, it just didn’t fit. There had been on ongoing conversation (an asking, shall we say) between me and my “beloved” over the span of a couple years. How I wished the conversation would have given me more information. It might have been easier to convince those around me there was a reasonable purpose for this journey but even I may have not been able to accept the answer to that question at that time. The journey into Gaza came out of this new kind of love. Part of the timing of the move was fueled by (as one dear brother in Christ put it—a flash point) ‘thorns in the nest’ which is never comfortable followed by my experience of having my soul restored.

My hard work of being in Gaza has been allowing Christ to challenge and change ME. I have been welcomed, respected, served, honored and loved. If this is an act of radical terrorism, I wonder what people in Jesus’ time called his actions. Rachel Corrie saw a people so crushed by their sufferings that she was willing to stand in the gap for them. The fragrance of Rachel’s life joins the fragrance of the lives in this place of people who have suffered tremendous crushing but lived through it. Some have lived through it and become very angry, some very compassionate and tender, some disfigured and sick but, ALL in need of RESTORATION and love.

Only then will we be different enough to truly go HOME.

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Missionary – No, Visionary – Yes

I thought, “I could never be a Missionary” but then I learned: A missionary is not one who crosses the sea but one who sees the Christ. Seeing the life of Jesus and choosing to follow Him in the same way the original 12 left all they had to accept His invitation, should make each of us a ‘Missionary’ in the truest sense of the word.

Tina Turner (a famous American singer) sang a song named, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”. When you have been ‘stalked by love’—whether by a childhood sweetheart, a Calico Cat, or the extravagant hospitality of a foreign people of a different religion—you have to stop and wonder, “What’s theology got to do with it”?

Jesus himself said “to love God and to love others… this is TRUE religion”. I have called myself a Christian since I was a child (which has been many more years ago than I like to think of). I have grown (sometimes very slowly) in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, after too many deaths in my life, I became a seeker—a seeker of knowing an unconditional love, a seeker to follow this person who had overcome death, a seeker of a life without fear and a seeker of a purpose.

Then it happened. I mean, that’s when it really happened. (Jer 29: 13-14) “When you have sought me with all your heart, I will not disappoint you” (paraphrased). I became a FOLLOWER—no longer a believer, no longer a label wearing Christian—but a follower. The first place I followed Him to was Israel. In that place the label began to fade. I was ‘gratefully grafted’ into the true vine. More and more I grew to know Jesus, the teacher and the author and finisher of my faith. I learned how to count even the most painful parts of my life as joy. It was a 3 year intense course with teachers from all over the world as you will see on the flag counter at the sidebar.

I learned how to truly forgive from the heart—not just in words. How to forgive in a way that compassion for the offender was greater than the pain of the offended. Tied to that lesson was a Gift of experiencing the “Father’s Love” in a way that seemed to literally wash over me.

And then the healings began. I finally quit running (like the Calico Cat). I finally submitted myself willingly to the surgeon’s knife—no matter how painful or frightening—because I knew I could trust Him. I willingly stepped into the refiner’s fire because I understood the necessity. I think I was very unpleasant to be around during that time but my Shevet Achim family loved me through it. I saw those who had already passed through the refiner’s fire ahead of me and saw qualities in them I didn’t possess and I was jealous—NOT a Godly response!

Jealousy makes people act in very ugly and hurtful ways. You see things that are NOT about you at all as though it’s ALL about you. From my personal experience mixing jealousy with fear puts you at war with everyone around you. It’s like trying to keep the beast in the cage. —- Humm —- rather a profound observation in the middle of missiles flying back and forth between Israel and Gaza, don’t you think??

Then, about a year ago I was suddenly confronted with the memory of a painful event in my life. When I was 16 years old I suffered a painful loss that altered the course of my life. Even though I thought I was over that a long time ago, the pain and wounding associated with that event created an underlying fear within me that colored the way I heard every conversation.

As the healing has “changed the weather” in my life, the fruit (Christ-like character) is forming and causing me to see things from His perspective instead of my own. Some people may call me a Christian Missionary (not one who crosses the sea but, one who sees the Christ) but I find in this part of the world, labels and titles just get in the way. My goal and heart’s desire is to see Christ for who He truly is and help others to see Him, too. This is why I prefer to be known as a visionary—but you can just call me Donna.

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