Can you explain your faith or beliefs without saying, “because the Bible says…”? What if you are talking to someone who doesn’t give any credence to the Bible or hold any beliefs about what it says? How do you describe your faith without quoting it?

I periodically have conversations with people who have a very different belief system than I do. I find it a positive thing, healthy for me, to have meaningful conversations with people who see the world so much differently than I do. I’m grateful for these learning opportunities that allow me to challenge what I’ve always believed and been taught and to grow and expand my knowledge and understanding of my neighbors on this world. The more I have these conversations, the more I love people.

So what about you? Does your faith stand up when you speak about your life and how you have experienced God? Can you say that you believe what you believe because you have tested it and found it to be true? Or maybe you have rejected a belief that you have always thought to be true but looked around and found that it’s not true after all, or at least not in the same way. Both of these things have happened to me and much more. I am continuously coming to new understandings as I experience new things and come in contact with new people. I have a common saying that I use a lot, “my life is rich with people,” and when I think about the people I know, from all parts of my life, I feel extremely blessed. This, I think, is the way God works. God isn’t up there somewhere manipulating nature and designing each snowflake. God is down here, working in and with people. And that is what I love so much about God. 




Photo a Day

I truly enjoy taking pictures and playing around with them. When I learned that the United Methodist Church has a photo a day through Lent, I decided to join in. I will post the photos daily on Instagram and on my weekly blog. Wednesday was Ash Wednesday so I have 5 photos to share, including tomorrow’s photo.


The Ash Wednesday photo is titled “Heal.” The cross is olive wood from Bethlehem and the band aid, well it’s covering a sore that doesn’t want to heal. 


“Injustice” This picture was taken in a village called Bir-ouna where the olive trees have been destroyed to make way for a new Israeli-only road, which connects settlements, and more separation barrier. The razor wire is a clue to the struggle here.


“Sacrifice” These are more trees in Bir-ouna that have been destroyed. These were models for some of my drawings. 


“Treasure” The crucifix and prayer beads were gifts from two different Muslim friends. The afghans in the background are family heirlooms. 


“Celebration” this was last year on Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. These pilgrims had just come down the Mount of Olives and are joyfully on their way to the Old City. 

The hashtag is #rethinkchurch and it is definitely something I have been pondering. What does it mean to be a Christian?

Ash Wednesday Reflections from our Methodist Liaison Office in the Holy Land

Forty days and forty nights you were fasting in the wild; forty days and forty nights tempted and yet undefined. Singing the Faith 236 v1 “As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger by purity, knowledge, patience, […]

via Ash Wednesday… — Holy Land Reflections


This week I learned about Rick Steves. He has a travel show on public television. I didn’t know about him before, but I’m told he has great information, especially about Europe. Since I was curious I went to youtube and looked him up. He does seem familiar now, I’m sure I’ve seen his show before. I found this great tour of the Holy Land that he did and thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.


I missed getting my weekly blog written yesterday. I feel completely buried right now. But I know that I will rise. With that I’ll leave a poem for you, written by the inspiring Maya Angelou, taken from

Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Anniversary Effect

I wanted him to ask me but he didn’t. So I asked him. Our church Valentine banquet took place on February 13, 1984. A very special time for my husband, Mike and me, it was our first date. For the past 33 years we have celebrated that very special occasion which ignited our life-long commitment of love. Flowers and candy always mark this occasion and a lovely restaurant dinner. It is one of the happiest of all our life celebrations.

Other than the occasional mission trip, church conference or quick weekend trips, we haven’t spent much time apart. That’s why I was a bit surprised when he willingly supported my three-month adventure in Bethlehem last year, volunteering at an English immersion school. It was a dream come true and I had worked hard to get there. I attended classes and completed a graduate certificate in TESOL. I sent countless emails trying to connect with a school who needed a volunteer. I went to conferences and made as many connections as I could. My dream was becoming a reality and Mike was supporting me all along the way. He accompanied me on the trip and stayed for three weeks. It was hard to say goodbye to him, but I was so thrilled to be living my dream.

On a beautiful, warm Saturday in Bethlehem I awoke and raised the window blinds, the view took my breath away as it did every morning. I had an appointment with a friend for an Arabic lesson. Having completed my grocery shopping on Friday, I washed a load of laundry and hung it to dry. I was ready to go and decided not to call a taxi because the day was so lovely. I would walk. It was not a short walk but definitely worth it to pass through the market area and be shoulder to shoulder with the people I have come to love. I was prepared for the long trek. Wearing my backpack and walking shoes, I stopped in a local shop to pick up a notebook for my Arabic studies. I stopped to take pictures at the Christmas Lutheran Church.

I remember breathing in deeply and saying prayer of thankfulness for this opportunity that just a short time ago I could only imagine in my wildest dreams. I took careful steps, I had fallen in Jerusalem just two weeks ago and I certainly did not want to repeat that.

Not since that first date so long ago (and the births of my three children) had something pulled this firmly on my heartstrings. It’s still a bit of a mystery to me why I am completely captivated by this place. While I insist it is the people, others have suggested that I must be drawn to the birthplace of Jesus for spiritual reasons. Maybe it’s true, but the Palestinian people, both individually and collectively, with their rich and beautiful culture, have captured my heart in a way that is both new and mysterious to me.

The Omar mosque came into view and I was in familiar territory. A quick walk through Manger Square and down the hill, and I would reach my destination. Passing through a taxi stand, I could see the front door of my friends’ house. I stepped gingerly, carefully off the curb. My left ankle did not hold the weight of my body. Instead, it gave. I tried to catch my balance with my right foot, that ankle gave also. I found myself on the pavement, dazed and confused. I remember every minute of this whole ordeal. I have played it over and over in my mind. I cannot come up with a reason for this fall.

Both my ankles were injured and because of the many stairs, my time at the school would soon have to end. So very grateful to my friends who cared for me during that time and with a brand new cast on my left foot, I waited in the car as we picked up crutches and ran errands on the way back to the school. As I waited, a deep loneliness crept up inside me. My friend Grace returned to the car with a Valentine gift. It had been prearranged by Mike. The date was February 13


Today, it doesn’t seem possible that a year has passed. I weep as I remember every detail. I’ve been irritable lately and withdrawn.

In a 2011 article for Psychology Today,  the Anniversary Effect, Deborah Serani defines the phenomena as “unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.” Sometimes we experience traumatic events along with others, like deaths of loved ones or natural disasters or acts of terror like 9-11. But for me, this is a deeply personal event connected to a profound and personal loss that is difficult even for those closest to me to understand. A sense of loneliness settles into my heart.

My faith in God speaks to me about redemption. I believe that bad things happen in the world, obviously. And God is not out there preventing these bad things from happening, obviously again. Nor is God out there causing bad things to happen. But when something bad does happen, I believe good that subsequently happens as a result is the work of God, a redemption of the negative situation.

Something bad happened to me and it had an intense effect on my life. I don’t know the cause of it. I don’t understand why I fell. There was no reason for me to have an accident like that. I was wearing solid shoes, I was being careful. It just happened. Some have suggested a spiritual attack. I don’t know. I just know it happened and it was traumatic. Besides the physical pain that still shows up now and then, for months after the fall I suffered flashback memories every time I went down steps and especially curbs. I experienced anxiety if I didn’t have a railing to hold.

During my recovery I sought out ways to cope. The accident was personal and my coping strategies have been highly personal as well. I have developed a deeper level of creativity. Art is important. Not only creating my own art, but my appreciation of art and beauty is more intense. I have also developed a better understanding of how difficult but important it is to accept help from others and how humbling it is when you are forced into a situation where you have to be served by others. I believe that it is what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples when he asked them to allow him to wash their feet. It is difficult and taxing emotionally as well as physically, but humility is a quality that provides better perspective, helps you see and accept others. I also had the opportunity to live in the West Bank in a Palestinian community. I was immersed in the culture and language and I was with people who loved and cared for me. I learned that in the past I had only a very distant and faint viewpoint on this complex area of the world, and I was able to drill all the way down to families and neighborhoods who, like all families and neighborhoods want to live in peace and provide healthy and happy homes for their children. It gave me a much deeper connection, not only to Palestinians, but to people in all parts of the world. And my wider worldview helps to shape my beliefs, thoughts and views about those people. I believe these positive consequences of a negative experience is how God works in our lives. 

Anniversaries can be a time for reflection on happy times and celebrations. They can also mark some very difficult times in our lives. This anniversary is different than any before. Quite painful in some ways, it’s also filled with many happy memories. Mike and I will celebrate this year with an even deeper and richer understanding of love than ever before. And while there most certainly will be more traumatic experiences our lives and subsequent paths to redemption. Tonight we will celebrate together with a few dozen of our closest friends, at our church Valentine banquet.