Congregations, Maximize Your ROI

if you love your pastor, send her away!

As I’m putting together a Holy land pilgrimage for next March, so many pastors have told me they would love to go but simply can’t afford it. I understand the reality of finances. Pastors are not highly paid (which is an understatement). Most of them do the work with a great deal of love and drive, but very little fiscal reward.

Unfortunately, when churches refuse to help their pastors go on pilgrimage, they are overlooking a great return on their investment. There are significant benefits when a church sends their pastor to the Holy Land. I wrote about my own pilgrimage experience for EerdWord in 2012, and the article is still timely: When a Pastor Becomes a Pilgrim.

In terms of investment, think of it this way — (more…)

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If you’re looking for video resources for Holy Week, either for personal use or to share with others, you may be interested in this video about the Via Dolorosa. I’ve been in correspondence with the videographer, Eran Frenkel, since 2013, and look forward to meeting him in March 2018 when I return to Jerusalem.

Not everyone is able to make a physical pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which was one of the things that compelled me to write Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land. I used words to set the scenes, share my experiences, and unpack what the pilgrimage meant for me. But if it’s possible, I encourage you to also watch images and video like these — filmed on location in Jerusalem — to add texture and immediacy to your armchair pilgrimage.

Here are links to three other videos I’ve featured in the past. If you go to The Jerusalem Experience website you will find many more videos. I’d love to hear your reactions to all of these resources, or perhaps suggestions for others!

Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land (Eerdmans, 2012)

“Christians don’t like to read about the Holy Land — they only like to argue about it” — so I was told as I wrote my book. There’s enough truth in that comment to make me wince, yet the Holy Land is so much more than a source of political argument. It’s a real place with history, customs, and people groups. A pilgrim explores this “Land of the Holy One” with her whole body — she travels dusty roads, eats olives and hummus and ice cream, lights candles at ancient shrines, plunges into holy water, drinks wine and breaks bread, touches sacred stones, and sings at sites that hold the echoes of pilgrims past.

Whether you plan to renew your passport — or want to relive a pilgrimage you made years ago — or simply want to travel via the pages of my book — I hope you’ll become a pilgrim. You’ll discover that the Holy Land is more than the setting for an argument. Becoming a pilgrim will help you read the Bible with different eyes. It may even introduce you to the incarnate One.

Available at Amazon.

Looking for Christ in the face of the Other

a tribute to a Muslim acquaintance

The “connectivity” of our world can bring such blessing. I received an email the other day from The Very Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Jenks, who is the Dean of St. George’s College in Jerusalem. Perhaps you will recall that St. George’s hosted the pilgrimage which I wrote about in Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land.

The Dean wanted to let me know that one of their employees, Khalil Bassa, had recently died. Because I had included a conversation with Khalil in my book, he wondered if I would like to write a few words for their website. I was happy to do so here.

Rest in peace, Khalil.

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Virtual Pilgrim: Underneath Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Are you looking for ways to “walk with Jesus” during this season of Lent? I invite you to check out the videos produced by Eran Frenkel in Jerusalem. His most recent video takes us through the Western Wall Tunnels. This is a place I wasn’t able to see on my pilgrimage, and I so enjoyed “being there” virtually.

Visit Eran’s site — JerusalemExperience.com — to find transcription of the narrative and many more videos. You can also subscribe to Eran’s YouTube channel and share these resources with others.

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When Sanctuaries Aren’t Safe

Recently the pilgrim site at Tabgha, Israel was attacked by arsonists. Very little mention was made of this in US media. I wrote a blogpost for EerdWord, the Eerdmans blog. Thanks for reading.

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Obama Tackles Our Crusader Past

National Prayer Breakfast, February 5, 2015

President Obama delivered remarks that caused some reaction. Here are his opening paragraphs:

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

I am so glad the President felt able to speak his mind about these realities. After that opening, he urges faith leaders to exercise the virtue of humility. Then he reminds us of the importance of the separation of faith and government (church/state) and finally, calls all of us to the Golden Rule. Solid, forthright remarks. (The full text of his remarks is available here.)

Crusader crosses in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Crusader crosses in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Christians are too quick to forget the ugliness of our own past. The truth is that right belief can drive people to do the wrong things.

One of the realities I wrestled with during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the evidence of the Crusaders, which lingers in many places. The Crusaders left fingerprints on that land, quite literally, by carving crosses in stone, perhaps using the same blades that had  murdered “infidels,” Muslims and Jews. Those stone crosses are the mark of Christianity, a mark that should sober us all. I know it made me reflect on my own faith tradition.

In my book, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, I speak about this in a number of places, but let me share a section:

Perhaps the act of tracing my finger over the nameless Crusader crosses helped me work out this religious impulse toward high-mindedness, this passion for righteousness. But why lay that passion at the feet of the Crusaders a thousand years ago? This passion isn’t dead. Look at my own Calvinism. Our Pilgrim and Puritan forebears believed that they were a chosen people decreed to establish a shining city on a hill, and that belief shut out other beliefs, not from malice but from the desire for purity. If you’ve got something shining and pure that belongs to God, you need to safeguard it.

No wonder I was worried about coming to this Holy Land. It was an absolutely reasonable fear. Religious zeal leads to a passion for purity which leads to violence in some organic way. And that fact should terrify people of faith.  (p. 151)

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Virtual Pilgrim: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Are you planning to visit Jerusalem, or do you wish you could?

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a vast building with a confusing layout and centuries of tumultuous history. There are chapels upon chapels, and that is meant literally, as chapels are stacked upon each other. I’ve talked to pilgrims who loved this site, and pilgrims who were overtaken by tears. I do know that the church is overwhelming with its labyrinthian quality, plus the emotions engendered by being in the place where Jesus is said to have died and was buried.

In my book about my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I describe my experiences at the Stone of Anointing, which were powerful.

Here is a wonderful, 8 minute video of the church. If you are planning to go, you will appreciate the orientation this gives you. If you have already been, this video will refresh your memory and allow you to “go there” again. If you are unable to travel, you will at least have seen the highlights of this holy place.

I have become (virtual) friends with the filmmaker, Eran Frenkel, and am impressed with his work. I hope you’ll check out his website, JerusalemExperience and consider subscribing to his channel. I will link more of his videos during Lent. Between his videos and my writings, you can become a virtual pilgrim to the Holy Land this Lent.

As always, I invite you to leave your reactions in a comment!

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Virtual Pilgrim: The Mount of Temptation

Lectionary Study on Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13

Need a break? I invite you to take a 5-minute pilgrimage to Jericho!

This video will take you to the Mount of Temptation, a hill high above Jericho which is the home of an ancient monastery. The site is associated with the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil, which is told in  Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

This video was made by Eran Frenkel. Check out his videos about other sites in and around Jerusalem at www.JerusalemExperience.com.

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