I haven’t written in this space for awhile now – currently hiding in my diary. I’ve just been really busy – travelling and attending conferences or the 1001 things that Israel has to offer. I am in a good place, I really am, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.

The month of May has been wonderful thus far. Some unpleasant things have happened, like having my entire wallet stolen but other than that, it’s just been good to be able to spend time with people that God has placed around me. Some of them require my intentional effort and energy to get to know, some make me comfortable but all in all, still glad that we could build our friendships. There’s just something temporal about exchange…yet…I pray that the conversations and the words that we speak, may they have lasting impact for the ones who hear.

I remember receiving an email from the student office that I’ve got mail!! So I got very excited and took a 15 minute walk to school. It’s a surprise mail from dear friends back in Singapore! I thought to myself, how wonderful is to receive and be encouraged!

I remember walking to Succat Hallel (the worship prayer house) and not having the right words to worship. And I realised, sometimes, we don’t need words, but we bring to God what rises from within our hearts. He hears. Here, a lady also spoke and affirmed some impressions of mine from previously 🙂

I remember the FCSI Conference where we were worshipping in unison with the arab christians and the messianic jews alongside the international students. All of us, in our undergraduate and graduate years, young and full of life, singing in Hebrew, Arabic and English. That’s a very beautiful sound to hear and to join in. I’d imagine heavenly worship with a multitude of languages.

I remember having our own quiet time in the morning and sitting under a beautiful tree, with red petals on the ground. Placing myself in the shade, I reflected on Luke 9 on the second day of the FCSI Conference.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Now we ask, how comfortable are we in our discipleship? It is so true that sometimes we speak much of accompanying Jesus, of wanting to be everywhere with him. But the truth is, we are not called to accompany Jesus. We are very much called to uncomfortable discipleship that requires a break from our daily routines. It requires commitment to the person of Jesus. We have certainly been privileged in our faith and I ask only that we learn to get uncomfortable – in our loving and following. I was challenged that morning.

I remember stumbling upon a Chinese store in Athens and getting myself a delicious bowl of beef noodles and dumplings (non-kosher hehe)

I remember my very wonderful divine encounters with an Australian couple at Aeropagus and worshipping with a group of people while the sun set behind us.

I remember the silly moment when we were playing Burning Bridges…”most likely to have an extravagant honeymoon” and I made a silly comment by saying “most productive and efficient” hahaha that was hilarious!!

I remember reading out the headlines of May 14th with a few of our friends in our little apartment in Greece – of death tolls, violence, Hamas, and essentially Gaza. Lord, have mercy. We know not how to respond, but to remember them in our prayers. Sometimes, occasionally, I’d forget. But there’s such a need and time to stand in prayer!

I remember singing “Blessed be Your name” many times throughout the past few weeks. Then I lost my wallet in Greece. It was probably stolen. Hah. “You give and take away” indeed – but all is well 🙂 I remember feeling very thankful for the company in Greece, without them I’d be pretty whelmed.

I remember planning for the upcoming taiwan trip with this huge new team and feeling pumped for it!! Wonderful ladies and men of God they are! Can’t wait to serve alongside them.

I remember sharing my 4 months of learning with my bestfriend over hangout and giving thanks for how far we’ve come! from gossipping in primary school days to pointing each other towards God 🙂

I remember finding new perspective as I read one of my favourite passages in the Bible, Romans 12 – in light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What a challenge indeed, to “let love be genuine…hold fast to what is good, bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly…To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing you will heap burning coals on his head”.” I found the words to pray for this issue in Romans 12.

And then…eventually I remember that I am a student and ought to be studying HAHAHAHA. Exams coming up next week with a 15 page paper due soon…barely started. But we’ll see!!

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the other is your brother

It was a lovely Saturday morning today – seeing deaf people worship and learn the Word together with us, seeing parents carry their children as worship went on, seeing many old people, faithfully coming to worship. There’s so much love and unity in the church this morning ✨☺️ this morning especially, God speaks loud and clear yet again. He knows exactly what’s on my heart and mind and speaks right into the situation.

2 days ago was the Independence Day of the State of Israel. And there were some things that I could not come to terms with. The words of “while others go back to their families to celebrate, there are some who have lost their families” stuck with me throughout. It was hard to reconcile the political existence of a place and the atrocities/ sufferings that it inflicted on the original inhabitants of the land. (For one, I’m not going to be political here or anything) I didn’t know how to articulate my thoughts even about Jerusalem, about this land actually. Don’t get me wrong, I really love everything about this place – the diversity, the charm, the stories behind the land. It’s just hard to comprehend the “Othering” that is ongoing in this place. For some, they choose to integrate and assimilate, for some, they have it harder, and they have emotional baggage’s and racial/Ethno labels that come with them. It is surely a convenient thing to do – othering someone that’s different from you (in language, in race, in religion etc)

I have a controversy with this land. There’s a controversy about this land. We all do have our varying opinions.

And this morning, a pastor preached from Leviticus 19. And it’s beautiful – reminded me so much about the nature of God. One that is for the oppressed, that remembers the enslaved, that redeems the ones in suffering.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”

And she followed it with the well known Parable of the Good Samaritan – of the Samaritan who bothered enough to show mercy to the Jewish man in need. I remember a teacher of mine who once told me too, that the same God who declares himself as the God of Israel, is also the same God who commands us to love our neighbour, who teaches about the Good Samaritan. And it just made me understand a glimpse of what that could potentially mean.

“The Other is your brother, your kinsmen.”

It’d be a wonderful place if we all perceive each other as our neighbours. But life is not so. We are often viewing each other with tinted lenses, we like to build walls, draw distinctions, fortify our pride and ego.

Yet there is hope still. There is hope in the gospel that commands us to LOVE our neighbours, to love the strangers around us. Maybe instead of asking the people around us, “what’s your view on *inserts controversial issue”, it might be more helpful to ask, “what does loving our neighbour and loving the other look like?”

After all, we too are each other’s “other”.

he speaks

What a day, what a day.

This day began like other days, reading the Bible and this morning I picked up Brueggemann’s sermons and started reading about Psalm 23. There was this sense of awe and rested assurance I guess – to know that the Shepherd is the one who does everything – makes us lie down in green pasture, lead and restore us, lead us in paths of righteousness and we need only do 4 things, namely to walk through the valley, to fear no evil, to be comforted by His rod and staff and to dwell in the house of the Lord.

In the presence of our enemies, our God is all about the providence and lavishing, the whelming of His goodness – that His intention for us through the valleys is to strengthen our limbs, to get us where He sees us to be. Our rightful response to this seemingly ridiculous situation is then to feast on His goodness, to dine with Him at the table.

“There, on the journey, where we thought there was only scarcity, the God of generosity “pours out precious oil” on our heads, into our cups. Our lives brim over because of God’s inexplicable generosity, just when we thought God has no gifts to give.” Brueggemann

Sounds so wonderful to me. Till I sat throughout the testimonies of the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony. Stories of horror and catastrophe from the World War, hear this.

Anonymous trains, their doors locked, a hundred deportees to every wagon. Neither night nor day, only hunger, thirst, asphyxia and madness. Sometimes a message flutters down, is picked up. Death makes his first pick, chooses again in the night and fog.

_____________________

How terrifying to be living in those times. I can barely imagine.

And I asked God, how does Psalms 23 look like for them? Did You turn your face away when all these was happening?

I had no answer.

The ceremony closed with the national anthem of Israel. It birthed from a spirit of longing, from a people who has endured much from the ancient of days – days of slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon and then conquest after conquest by the different empires that came after.

But there was a tinge of hope in that sorrowful anthem. I searched it up after the ceremony and realised the anthem is Hatikvah (hebrew) which in english, means, “The Hope” – how beautiful 🙂

Anyways, then I hung out with Lucie as I bumped into her before the ceremony. We headed to the Old City together, hoping to see if there’s any cool/interesting things happening since it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was a great afternoon with Lucie as we shared with each other about our pesach break and the things that God has been doing. To be honest, we are all still searching and seeking about the purpose of being here, of learning to be out of our comfort zones and intentionally spending time with the people around us. So thankful for the friendship and picking up some nuggets of wisdom along the way heh.

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She also shared about a few locations for worship rooms/ prayer houses and I ended up heading to Succat Hallel – a 24/7 prayer and worship house.

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I entered the room and saw about 4 people in the room and 3 little children at the back of the worship room. It was so beautiful. It overlooks the city of Jerusalem – I see clearly where the temple mount used to be, the valleys that cut Jerusalem, the patches of houses in the Silwan neighbourhood surrounding the City of David. Spontaneous, scripture based worship, IHOP style was led by this lady at the grand piano. There were all sorts of instruments and a lyre (think David and the Psalms!!) Haha really just enjoyed the time of worship and the moments that spoke to me so clearly!

One thing that came to mind though, was Psalm 77.

You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I consider the days of old, the years long ago.

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?

Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?

Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

Selah

(At that moment, it was like wow, that’s exactly what my thoughts and questions were after the memorial, now properly articulated by the Psalmist)

So I read on, and it says,

Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?

It seems as if He were saying, I know what you are asking. This is the nature of who I am – a deliverer. Whatever ways or forms things take, “My way, is Holy” He’s in the know how.

Your way was through the sea,

    your path through the great waters;

    yet your footprints were unseen.

You led your people like a flock

    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

And I was just encouraged by that 🙂

There were many other moments – but I’ll keep that for myself. Just thankful for this day that God has made, where Lucie and I could meet randomly and hang out, share and laugh about life and meeting her led to me walking into this worship room.

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Beauty, beauty, beautiful,
Glory, glory, glorious,
You are. 
So take me into Your throneroom, let me see Your beauty, let me see Your face. 

 

 

passover in Jerusalem

Shema Yisra’el Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. Baruch Shem kavod malchuto l’olam vaed.

Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Blessed be the name of His glorious majesty forever and ever.

Here we began the feast of Passover, or Pesach, as they call it here in Israel. Delle and I spent the afternoon preparing our various dishes – rosti potato and coconut milk with steamed banana desserts! Haha we had a fair share of preparation by rushing to the Shuk the day before to get all the groceries needed for this passover celebration and the weekend before Shabbat also officially begins – I could get use to this way of life.

Big thanks to the Naultys, we were invited to Passover with the family and so glad to have a spiritual community here – from Africa, Australia, America and Canada. Pretty much every continent covered, missing some of the girls! I must say I was very surprised at the passover layout because I had zero idea how dinner would look like. My mind was just an expectation of potluck and conversations. Hahaaha but we landed ourselves in an actual passover celebration with the recital of psalms, exodus story and singing for the next 4 hours into the night.

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Isn’t this a lovely spread!! We’ve got matzah bread and wine, olives, apricots and dates as side dishes and the Passover seder in the middle – consisting of the parsley, horse radish, charoseth, egg and a lamb shank.  it’s so cute especially, with the handwritten scripture readings on each plate (there’s like a stack for each person) haha I love the engagement of this!! 

We began the night with the reciting of the Songs of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). In the past, Jewish people would travel to Jerusalem during big events like Passover, to offer their pesach sacrifice.

“And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make His name dwell there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread – the bread of affliction – for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste – that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt….you may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, but at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt”   Deuteronomy 16

What I really enjoyed about the night was the idea of different forms of worship. Being here has helped me to understand what that looks like. The very idea of doing Passover as a family and tasting and drinking the different things is really “taste and see that the Lord is good” This verse takes on a whole new meaning.

After the reciting of Shema ( to affirm the oneness of God – we do this in every service here in Israel, as a daily reminder as often as we gather), the woman of the household would set about lighting the candles. Candles are a huge Jewish tradition, a symbol of peace and stillness as we deliberately set aside time to enter into Passover. Then Kevin, as the head of the house, would lead us into the first Cup.

There are 4 different cups – namely the Cup of Blessing, the Cup of Plagues and the other two I’ll cover them later.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God! King of the universe, who creates fruit from the vine!

We bless the Lord as He provides. For the Israelites, bread and wine are ordinary things in the past, as they are today. As the Lord used these two items to remember Him and the redemptive plan of the Father, we recognise that the use of simple, ordinary, day to day essentials calls us to remember God in our every day living. The act of “breaking bread and drinking wine” holy communion should be a daily affair of remembrance, of thanksgiving for what He has done on the cross.

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First washing of hands and Carpas (dipping the parsley)

We washed our hands twice, first after the Cup of Blessing and later after the Cup of Plagues. The act of washing our hands thus is an act of purification as we approach a holy God. Then, we would dip the parsley (from the Seder plate) into a bowl of saltwater, as they remember their humble beginnings as a people and their days of slavery in the land of Egypt. The saltwater symbolic of the tears shed in their pain and suffering. I was then asked to recite too, Matthew 26:20-25 where it talked about how Jesus told his disciples that one of them will betray him. And they were very sorrowful, each asking if its one of them. Jesus would then answer, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.”…”Judas, who would betray him, answered, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ He said to him, “You have said so.”

Breaking the Middle Matzah

Here comes one of the most mind-blowing parts of this passover dinner for me. Matzah, is unleavened bread, basically, bread without yeast, that has not yet risen. Here’s the coolest thing about matzah!!

It is unleavened, it is striped and it has holes.

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps for a firstborn.

The breaking of matzah is the breaking of the bread of affliction and at the same time, the consumption of matzah also signifies the entering of freedom, of the Israelites leaving their days of affliction and into what God has laid before them. Isn’t it really interesting how the bread of matzah seemed to foreshadow the act of Christ on the cross!! And Jesus himself breaking the matzah with His disciples on the Passover supper. Wow.

Then, as the youngest one amongst everyone, I had to ask 4 questions about why this night is different from all other nights (thankfully, there was a list for me to read from) We followed this with the reciting of the 10 plagues of Egypt, of which we would dip our fingers into the cup of wine we have and place a drop on each plate to remember the punishments faced due to the disobedience of the Egyptians. Then, we read through the Story of Passover and Exodus, and singing the song of “It Would Have Been sufficient!” In Hebrew, we say “Dayenu!”

I think it’s a wonderful reminder and a sobering one as well. It sings of deliverance, miracles and His redemption. The Jewish passover does not include the Messianic part but we did the one with the redemption part.

I love the idea of how everything is enough regardless.

If He had brought us out of Egypt.

It would have been sufficient! (Dayenu!)

If He had split the sea for us,

It would have been sufficient!

If He had led us through on dry land,

It would have been sufficient!

If He had drowned our oppressors.

It would have been sufficient!

If He had provided for our needs in the wilderness for 40 years

It would have been sufficient!

If He had fed us manna

It would have been sufficient!

(the messianic part – for those who believe in Jesus as the ultimate Passover sacrifice)

If He had sent Yeshua the Messiah.

It would have been sufficient!

If He had saved us from our sins

It would have been sufficient!

If He had given us the Holy Spirit,

It would have been sufficient!

If He had made us His Sons and daughters in His kingdom

It would have been sufficient!

(Still) If He had called us to be with Him for eternity

It would have been sufficient!

He’s never done with us and He’s always outdoing Himself. He’s the God of overwhelming. He whelms us with awe and wonder. He did not need to do all the extra things of providing the Spirit, making us sons and daughters etc, but He did them all. Faithful He will be – this I remember.

Then, we recited the Hallel (Psalms 113-114) as thanksgiving as we partook in the cup of plagues, washed our hands (again for the second time), ate bitter herbs with horse radish and charoseth.

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This is the bread with horse radish and charoseth – a bitter sweet kind of taste to represent the  bitterness of slavery, that we might appreciate the taste of freedom better!

Congratulations guys, you’ve crossed the halfway mark of passover. HAHAHAHA. (that took like 2 hours)

Here comes the most exciting part!!! dinner. No I’m kidding, I meant the passover communion (remember the Last Supper that Jesus had with His disciples, this is it!!!) We did have dinner of course in between, with super delicious lamb and chicken chops as well as the different dishes we brought. Alice spoke about how we were all made for awe haha and I immediately recalled Alvin posting about awe on Instagram, as one of the fundamental human emotions that we are made to appreciate and to desire amazing things!! Most importantly, we talked about how we must be careful not to misplace our awe – that’s when sin kicks in.

Passover Communion

Blessed are you O Lord our God! King of the Universe, who has given us salvation through the Messiah Yeshua!

We had more bread and began to drink of the Third Cup, known as the Cup of the Redemption. Now this, is the cup that Jesus was talking about.

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” Luke 22:20

Blessed are you, O Lord our God! King of the Universe, who creates fruit from the vine!

In that moment, the usual communion that we had made greater sense to me. This cup of redemption, we drank from the alabaster cup together. There’s something so special about drinking from the same cup, just like His disciples did and given time to reflect. Passover this year coincides beautifully with Good Friday and it really was just so important to remember the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and parallel it to our redemption and Jesus’ coming to die for the sins of the world and reconcile us to God. Here, I imagine Jesus telling his disciples to join him in the work of redemption. It was an invitation to share in His suffering, in His death and resurrection. It was him telling the disciples that they will have to do this over and over again, until He comes again.

*reading of hallel again, Psalm 115-118*

Even the reading of Psalms takes on new meaning when we put it in the context of Exodus, Psalm 136. Give thanks to the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever. This psalm was read by Kevin and a response from us that echoes “For His love endures forever” There is much power in affirming and proclaiming the steadfast love of the Lord that remains the same since the days of Moses. Even before He delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, God already made a promise to Abraham. Blows my mind that we have a covenant keeping and ever-faithful Father.

Lastly, we concluded Passover with the final cup: the Cup of Praise, the one which Jesus did not drink.

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. Matthew 26:29

This cup, we drank, in anticipation and expectation for the Messiah who will come again.

Indeed, Messiah has died. Messiah has risen. Messiah will come again.

With that, we closed with a prayer of thanksgiving.

– – – – – – –

This has filled my heart with much hope. The Last Supper, the breaking of bread and drinking of the new covenant defined the people of God. Communion now is no longer something we take on the first week of the month, but communion is taken in the context of the Passover, of remembering the mighty hand of God that delivered His people out of Egypt and in His provision of the perfect sacrifice, of the unblemished lamb.

That Passover dinner must have been a really long and heavy one. And with that, in the Bible, it was recorded, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Even in the knowledge of what was to come, Jesus led by example for His disciples –  He washed their feet before the passover meal, He gave His body and poured His blood.

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”…”If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” John 13:8,14.

The Israelites, after Passover, have been delivered and were no longer slaves. But in same way, as Jesus has washed away our sins and we are no longer slaves to sin, flesh and fear. He calls us to remain in the attitude of a servant, to serve and to love one another as He has loved us. We are slaves no more. In our freedom, we are free to serve.

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in the quiet pride of my father’s eyes

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Take me by the hand and Walk with me by quiet streams. I need to hear the wind and Feel the ground beneath my feet

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In the quiet pride of my Father’s eyes, I remember who I am. When I feel the warmth of my Father’s smile, Feels like I’ve been born again.

this song, Born Again, by Cory Asbury is getting to me!!! We come alive in the warmth of His smile on us. As we walked along the sea in Tel Aviv yesterday, I saw many of these wonderful moments – fathers being with their children, carrying them, playing with them and guiding them. And I realised how much I adored that, how much I longed for that, how much I cherished that.

I don’t have a particularly strong relationship with my father and it’s often the thing that remains uncomfortable to speak about. But I give thanks. Instead of all things ugly and painful, my perfect heavenly Father gives a double portion – of grace, of love, of making sure that I know I am His beloved.

:’) I pray that we all know who we belong to. We all know who will never fail us. We all know the Father who keeps His steady gaze on us.

death, school and purim

So much has happened since the last time I updated this space, which was about 1.5 weeks ago. Trying my best to be very intentional about posting here 🙂 it’s funny because I’ve only been here for about 3 weeks but it feels as if so much has already happened. In the past 1.5 weeks, I’ve started school and attended a bible camp during the Purim break as well (which also allowed me to walk around the beautiful Casarea along the Mediterranean Sea).

First, great grandma passed away on the 20th of February. I remember waking up to finding out about her death on my cousin’s insta-story which left me at a loss of words for a moment. I recall not knowing what to feel about it – it wasn’t an immediate wave of sadness. I can’t put a word to it actually (I realised I struggle quite a lot when it comes to pinpointing my emotions – it’s always all over the place) if I were to be very honest with myself, it was a sense of disappointment, with God and with myself because it seemed like I’ll never be able to know if she truly accepted Christ. It seems funny even if there’s the only concern I have. It was the uncomfortable truth of “yet another death in the family – as if death looms in the place, slowly taking away the people I love” 3 years ago it was grandpa, now it’s her. I cannot imagine losing my grandma (she’s still alive and well, Thankfully). It’s scary because it’s not just the physical loss of one, its the loss of a life – that I have no control over. Sure I’ve done my part to share about Christ with her but it just seemed like all odds are against me when I can’t even have anyone come pray with/for her because the tradition of the family is as such – a different religion and no foreign western gods. When the odds are stacked against me, I ask myself if I trust God enough for Him to work. It’s interesting because I have confidence in Him for so many other things – just not when it came to the salvation of my family. Sighs haha. All I can say and hang on to – is that He is just and He is merciful. It’s gonna be different when I return to Taiwan, the big house a little emptier. But we’ll see, and we’ll hope.

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that morning sky on the 20th Feb. God is gracious, loving and kind. His steadfast love endures forever. 

I’ve been coping well though – despite the passing of great-grandma. I’m not the closest to her and perhaps that’s why. But it’s got me thinking a lot. That aside, school has begun officially and I’m really thankful for the kind of classes I’ve been taking. Currently, I’m doing

  1. Archaeology in Jerusalem
  2. Theories of International Relations and the Middle East
  3. Bible and Babel
  4. Multicultural Civic Education
  5. Jerusalem in Art,History and Literature
  6. Messianic Eschatology and the 2nd Temple

4,5 and 6 will begin in two weeks time as they are faculty and graduate modules. It’s just so fascinating to be learning about ancient history and things that use scripture as sources for learning – I find it so amazing. Sitting in archaeology and learning about the First Temple Period and how Jerusalem came to be conquered by David, and how he eventually bought the threshing floor from Ornan, a Jebusite (former inhabitants before the Israelites conquered Jerusalem) despite Ornan’s offer to give it for free – that act of purchasing land will not give anyone any reason to fault him and say that the land was given. Instead, it would rightfully and legally belong to David and essentially the Israelites. It really gave new meaning to “I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (1 Chronicles 21:18-30) This land was believed to be Mount Moriah, upon which David wanted to build the temple and supposedly where Abraham sacrificed Isaac.

It really is a thing to be in bible land and to have these professors make the bible come alive for you – through the explanations and the excavations etc. No they don’t preach or like comment on the bible. Instead, they present it in a very professional and intellectual, factual manner for all of us – no theology involved haha. That’s what we as students make out of it. Haha but its really my prayer that learning all of these will give me fresh vision for scripture. There’s also so much to discern and to take a stand on. We discussed about the canonicity of the bible and the first 5 books – the issue of authorship and credibility that is so deeply intertwined with theology as well. It really causes me to ask for wisdom and understanding for the things I do not yet comprehend and for the strengthening of convictions. What a privilege really – to be learning in the wonderful land of Israel 🙂

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this is the balcony view from our school – stunning stunning beauty! See the Dome of the Rock right there!

That’s about school…I can’t wait for the rest of the modules to start. I’ve been a hardworking student and it’s really a humbling process of learning about this region of the world that I’m so unfamiliar with. It’s okay to not know, okay to sound silly, just learn 🙂

Then, Idelle, Elaine (my new HK friend) and I headed for the Bible Camp over the Purim break. Was initially unsure about going for this camp but I became really psyched for it nearing the camp as I found out that we’re going to meet Arab Christians, Jewish Christians as well as other International students!! Nothing better than meeting the body of Christ heh. So off we went – my first time out of Jerusalem!! Not sure what to expect but the camp was SO GOOD.

It was a first for me – in depth inductive bible study. We covered 1/3 of the book of Mark and imagined that we were the first readers of the book of Mark and had only the Old Testament to rely on. They called it the “Manuscript Study.” We were all given a blue folder with the printed manuscript of Mark (without chapters and verses) and each session of bible study was about 2 hours. They organised us into the English group, Hebrew class and then the Arabic class. I had a really good time – pushing myself to discover things in the word that I tend to overlook, to ask questions that I usually made assumptions about etc and we would bring it to a group discussion level. As a group, we would then focus on that one thing we want to learn.

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Perhaps, I’ll share takeaways in point form quickly heh

  1. Following Jesus demands so much more from us
  2. Desert as a place of limbo, purification, place of judgement and yet also the place that God easily woos back His people (Hosea 2) It was also a place of beginnings (where promises were given and stepping into promised land)
  3. Jesus picks the Rabbi rejects. Simon Peter and the rest of them were probably really young – 15-20 years old when Jesus called them to be His disciples. The Jewish tradition for Rabbis was to pick the brightest and most eligible for discipleship. Guess Jesus broke that – He chose fishermen, tax collector and rabbi-rejects.
  4. The ‘follow’ in “Come, follow me” in Jesus’ call of the disciples involves – blessing, eating together, doing EVERYTHING together. Not just a literal mere following, chasing after.
  5. “In you I am well pleased” at the baptism of Jesus. In Greek, the tense is not just in the present, but in the future as well. “I have always been and will always be” well pleased. How beautiful is that 🙂 refer to pic above, when God tore the heavens open and said “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased” 

(I’ll be happy to share more when we Skype or Facebook call or WhatsApp call!!) too much to type. Haha.

But besides that, it’s really also about meeting the wonderful people – hearing briyani love stories and meeting such sweet, genuine, Jesus loving people :’) there were so many highlights – worship in Hebrew, Arabic and English. And seeing eastern and western instruments + people serving each other. 

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during the Purim reading of Esther – we read through Esther in our different languages: hebrew, arabic, malawi, danish, german, cantonese, mandarin, english, spanish etc. When you hear Haman, you go “BOOOOO” and “WOOHOO” when Mordecai is mentioned. 

Purim is a festival celebrated by the Jews to remember the day the Jews were delivered from the evil hands of Haman who plotted against the Jews during the Persian period. Mordecai and Esther were the wonderful people that God used to rescue the Jews in exile. In present day Israel, Purim is celebrated like a Israeli version of Halloween haha. 

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some of the wonderful friends we’ve made! most of them are graduate students/working! But all so humble and willing to learn together 🙂 

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Check out one of my favourite Hebrew ones Delle and I managed to find: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chG6xRsX7ns Gadol Adonai. Been my jam the past few days since camp heh.  Another highlight was meeting big brother Alex. I barely meet such fun and candid people who are also Jesus-loving and so sincere + intentional. Puts a smile on my face still whenever I think about it!! Haha its so funny cos Delle and I get extra attention from big brother Alex. Glad the Caesarea car ride got us talking, always a joy to meet wonderful human beings and to hear him share about his love story with his wife hahaha. It won’t be long till we meet again with stories to share 🙂

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The cool big brother who does the flower pose when waiting to hear our testimonies HAHA. So blessed :’) 

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this is the Herodian amphitheatre built by Herod during the Roman period. 

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the aqueduct that carried water for the Roman and Byzantine city. 

Haha it’s been such a long post but hopefully that helps in visualising my experience here in Israel! I’m learning to be steadfast, to hold fast to His word and heart for myself and the people around. Learning what it means when we sing, You are my All in All. Pray along with me too :’) I give thanks too – for the prayers answered. Knowing that even in my absence back home, He is working in the lives of people around me. We take the tiny steps of faith and love, act in obedience and He will multiply! 🙂

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Peace is joy resting and joy is peace dancing. 

my first shabbat in jerusalem

17th/18th Feb

I touched down just yesterday and it’s been incredible seeing how God is using us to be a blessing to the people around us through the very special gift of hospitality. Ever since this incredible group came to be, I’ve always dreamt of making the suite a place for people to come hang and cook together etc and yesterday was a little glimpse of it. It was Day One of Chinese New Year, 初一 and we all gathered at Gene’s suite for dinner. Asher whipped up pretty good chicken rice while Delle and I brought her favourite beanpaste stew! There were those who brought fruits and steamed fish (年年有餘)and different things. It was a chill night with the 新道路 playlist and sharing Singapore culture + how this exchange group of the 4 of us came to be.

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Welcome meal; handmade meat patty?! what even. I need to learn haha.

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CNY dinner w the ulpan company – it was so nice :’) Also, it was Shabbat evening (Shabbat begins on Friday evenings till Saturday sundown)

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God has this miraculous way of bringing people together and life is really never boring with Jesus!

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the next morning on Saturday! What a gorgeous view!!

It’s Shabbat morning – all shops and transport system have closed and I’m left to figuring out how I want to spend my Shabbat here. Shabbat here operates on such a practical level for the entire nation. I mean it’s rather different to live out Shabbat here as compared to Singapore – kinda different. Here in Israel, all shops are closed and even the transport system as well. This makes the idea of travelling and doing a lot of things quite a hassle. Perhaps you ran out of eggs…but you can’t buy them because the markets aren’t open. Perhaps you wanted to travel out far but that can’t work either since the transport isn’t available. I felt a little stumped really – I wanted to explore and I had so much time but if I were to do so – I gotta do it alone.

So off I went, put on my coat, brought my camera and headed for the Mount of Olives. (Me has been dying to do this bring my camera out thing for sabbath and its finally crystallising!) Google Maps tells me its a 50 minute walk but it felt forever. Actually took about 2.5 hours to get there since it’s so hilly. Interestingly, I found a travel companion as I reached the garden beside Hebrew University itself. He was a Vietnamese man who’s here to travel and he happened to be heading to Mount of Olives as well. I was initially reluctant since I wanted to spend some time on my own to explore the area but maybe it’s also safer to have a man walk with me as I made my way to the Old City – probably not the safest for a girl to wander about in East Jerusalem on the 2nd day of arrival. Haha he kept stopping to take lots of photos of the same trees and that got me really annoyed for a little while because I wanted to get to Mt of Olives asap – especially since the skies looked like it might pour anytime.

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Patience, Ellie. Patience.

Look at him and his child-like wonder. Don’t forget to discover little things along the way.

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IMG_1440these are flowers from the tree outside the dorm!

As I walked towards the Mt of Olives and catching glimpses of it along the way, this impression came to mind;

Take risks and adventures on Sabbaths.

I’m not too sure how biblical this sounds haha but I’ll take it. It’s this experience of “from the head to the heart, You take me on a journey of letting go” I’ll never know how this journey’s gonna look like. To be honest, I had zero clue about the streets that I’m going to see, the places I’ll pass by. I only know my end point which was Mt of Olives. But this Shabbat helped me to see tiny graces along the way – *spoilers* from the Viet man to the Arab men who smiled and patted my back for helping this Arab fruit store owner and lastly to Fauzi (again, not too sure how to spell it) the Arab cab driver who saw my distress and offered a cab ride from across the road (right after I prayed haha!!)

Manh (I’m not too sure how to spell his name) suggested we take the routes off the google maps which got me a little unsure at first but thought it’d be a good way to see the neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. To our pleasant surprise, we found two cute little munchkins helping their parents with chores and carrying the dustbin around. Their eyes glittered with mischief and they posed for a shot. Such handsome little boys. I managed a simple Arabic conversation with them, saying hello and asking if they spoke English or Arabic etc and trying my luck with them to see if they knew where Mount of Olives were. Another Arab man, slightly older than them tried to help us as well but he couldn’t speak English and so it was hard – really made me want to learn my Arabic well. AHH.

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I love these two boys!!! Brought cheer and joy to my heart!!

As we made out way to Mount of Olives, I walked into the Sanctuary of Gethsamane which laid at the foot of Mount of Olives.  It was where Jesus prayed, “Let not my will but Yours be done” and where His disciples were told to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation.

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By the time I reached the top of the hill, my legs were weary and my hands were freezing. It was so cold and I wanted to just head back. Manh (the Viet guy) told me he’ll head off from here and I decided to head back. But I was just feeling all miserable at the thought of having to walk another 2 hours back to dorm on my own. Found myself complaining and lamenting throughout the walk back to East Jerusalem. There was no public transport when I needed a bus ride back. There were no friends with me – except the ones I was talking to back in SG at that moment (thank God for y’all ohmy – I was really very discouraged) as I complained, I also prayed – God help me. HAAHA and the help came in the form of a young middle age Arab guy hollering from across the road if I wanted to take a taxi. It must have been my look of despair and fear haha. I was really quite cautious initially because I wasn’t sure what to expect from taking a cab on my own here and whatmore in the Old City. I had to discern in that moment and I took it anyways haha. It got me back to dorm for 35 shekels (abit expensive but that’ll do since I just wanted to get back asap!!)

As I sit here and type all these, I’m reminded of the words of Walter Brueggemann.

“We used to sing the hymn “Take time to be Holy” But perhaps we should be singing, “Take time to be human,” or finally, “take time.” Sabbath is taking time…time to be holy…time to be human.”

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This Shabbat, I learnt to take risks and I learn to put my trust in God who provides along the way. In an environment and landscape that screams “not open!! Not available!!” everywhere, I learn to place confidence in YHWH as a human who is limited in capacity, in sight and in strength. There were so many moments of caution and fear along the way but there were also moments of reassurance that it’s alright, they too (the people I’ve met) are human, and we’re all just living our lives. Taking time to be human…knowing that I will walk and eventually become tired, recognising that it’s alright to be scared and uncertain, complaining because things are not right as I intend for them to be.

Maybe Sabbath isn’t so much that we become well rested (although yes that’s essential), but perhaps Sabbath is about understanding what it means to take time to be human and to let God be God.

To let God be God is to hope in Him in spite of our limitations and circumstances. Yes I am weak and I’ll be tired but that is precisely why my strength can be renewed in YHWH. Yes I can be scared and cautious of every thing that comes my way, but I also have a God who watches over me and gives me a spirit of discernment on my end. Yes I can complain and feel horrible, but remembering that I can petition and pray to a God that hears and answers.

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How wonderful it is – to live with a “human hope that awaits God’s generosity and extravagance [as it] is an act of expectation that flies in the face of every ideology of scarcity.”

This really long walk from the dorm to the Mount of Olives (btw I did not finish it, I was 450m away but I wanted to make sure I leave before sundown + the fear of rain) really allowed me to appreciate what it is to live in the present moment and to learn to enjoy every step I take. I love how Rabbi Ari Ze’ev Schwartz puts it, “If during the week a person walks and travels only in order to arrive at one’s destination, then on Shabbat one goes for a walk because the journey is valuable in and of itself. Weekday walking is future focused; Shabbat walking is present focused…to take a walk on Shabbat is to experience the consciousness of be here now.” 

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Here’s to the next few months here! 🙂 praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!