Wall. Warehouse. Me. And Maybe Jesus


Waze is great. Except when it isn’t. But maybe sometimes she knows better.

My destination is the Bethlehem Bible College. From Jerusalem, I easily drive through the Israeli check point leaving Israel for the West Bank, on the outside of the security wall. The wall is a behemoth of concrete and barb wire. It’s two stories high.

After a couple of hours with the dear folks at BBC, I’m on my way back to Jerusalem. I start following the directions Waze calls out. “In a fifth meters turn right.” In one hundred meters turn left.” I think I’m heading back to where I started, back to the check point. But I’m not. Within a handful of minutes, I know Waze is getting it wrong. This is not the way back to the check point. The roads are narrowing. The dense residential areas disappear; replaced by dilapidated empty buildings.

I’m anxious. I’m angry. Waze doesn’t work in the West Bank! I don’t have a map. Google maps doesn’t work. Waze is all I have.

I’m now driving on what would best be called alleys not streets. I have little choice to divert from the path Waze sets out. What better choice do I have. It tells me, “Turn right for fifty meters than turn left.” I decide to see where the directions end.

As it turns out, the end is the security wall. I’m facing the security wall. My options are to turn around and go back from where I came or to make that left turn. I choose to make the left.

I drive slowly on a very narrow street, though it doesn’t seem to have always been. On my left side is an abandoned warehouse. Doors wide open hanging from their door jams. It’s empty. It’s deserted. The wall is on my right. Gray. Imposing. Grafftied. I slowly drive by the warehouse. The road ends here next to the warehouse. It is clear that the road hasn’t always ended here. I drive to the end of the street. Out of my rental car, I stand under the wall. It’s eerily silent. There’s no one around. Just me. I stand before the wall on what was a street next to an abandoned building.

I followed Waze and it took me to an extraordinary place. Ruins of a warehouse, two-story concrete security wall, me, and, I think, Jesus.

Thank you, Waze! I’m sorry I doubted you. I’ll never again. All along you knew where you were taking me.

You led me to see.




Who Will Pastor You?


“Who will pastor you?”

“And will you please come back nicer!”

The last words I heard as I left at 7 AM for the airport en route to Israel. Half joking, half serious. Part accusation, part invitation. Seventeen pastors were on the tour. She said sharply: “Get pastored! It’s not like you won’t have plenty of opportunity!”

Opportunity is not my problem, however. My problem is I don’t seek pastoral care. Why? Perhaps it’s because I am a pastor. I know too much. I think the deep reason has to do with me. My distrust. My independence. My fear of being deeply known. My fear of being labeled or categorized. My fear of being Bibleized [I just made up that word – it means “to have a person’s stories of shame reduced or contained by Bible passages”]

So I don’t seek pastoral care. But he sought me.

Sitting on plastic seats with a plastic table cloth eating shawarma in that characteristic paper sleeve a pastor engaged me in conversation. In that Palestinian restaurant in Nazareth a pastor noticed me. Pursued me. We had more shawarma conversations.

Several days later, at another site, I walk through the gate of the entrance and pastor comes up to me. He says something that both surprises and delights me. Surprise because I didn’t expect it. Delight because my defenses were outflanked.

Rarely do my defenses fail me. I’m not often surprised. But when I am, feel impressed by the person who caught me. I feel the congratulatory. “Good job ! Well done! “ Maybe this doesn’t make sense. I don’t know how else to put words around it. I think my emotional defenses are so rarely penetrated. I’m so rarely outflanked.

At the entrance of the complex the pastor approaches and says, “Hey, I’ve watched you. I’ve noticed you never stay still. You’re always looking up something in a guide book or moving or pre-occupied by something. Have you ever read about ADHD? I know a little bit about it. I’ve pastored many who have it. I think you may have it. You should address it when you get back home. You need to care well for your body before you find you can rest in God’s love for you.”

I do have ADHD.

I don’t know if I came back nicer, but I did get pastored.

Lake Merrymeeting


Some summers we went to New Hampshire to visit my cousins. My memory of those visits has faded. Except for the lake. My aunt and uncle lived on the lake. And for my nine-year old self, nothing else about those visits matter. The lake was what it all was about.

Off the shoreline, maybe 20 yards, was a diving platform. Do you know the kind I’m talking about? It’s one of those square wooden ones maybe the size of throw rug—I’m looking at the one in our dining room. Not very big. You could probably get only about five or six people on the thing. It was sitting on buoys and held fast by ropes or something like that to the floor of the lake. Everyone thought pushing people off was the best entertainment. It often was much like the king of the hill game. Being the smallest and the youngest kid, I was never king.

But in one activity off that platform I had few rivals.

By far the most captivating activity off the platform was diving for chalk. It was a boyhood adventure. Here’s how it went. You’d swim out to the platform, climb up on it, and dive in. You swim to the bottom maybe 6 to 8 feet. On the bottom you felt for clumps of chalk. I was possessed by the work of harvesting chalk.  

The chalk was moist and squishy. Holding your breath for as long as you could, you moved your hand across the surface of the bottom. It was muddy and soft. The water was murky from the agitation. Visibility was zero. Your hand was your guide. Feeling the bottom, your hand would come across a change of texture. With a little more attention, you pulled up a clump of clay-like substance. Chalk. It was white. Being at the limit of my capacity to hold my breath, I would put my feet on mushy bottom and thrust up like superman. Once on the surface I’d throw the wet chalk on the platform and wait for it to dry. I don’t remember what we did with it once it dried. I doesn’t much matter. After taking several deep breaths, the adventure repeated itself time and again all afternoon.

I really don’t know why harvesting chalk was so captivating. But it was. 

The lake was called Lake Merrymeeting.