Spirituality/Religion

Wales is a country – an independent jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. The Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea wash its Western border, with England as it’s neighbor to the East. No. 4 Cefn, Gethynog, Talybont on Usk, Brecon, Powys, Wales. This was the address of friends I had come to visit. Having driven from London that morning and crossed the wide channel at Bristol, I followed signs for the town of Brecon. With each mile I was weaving my way deeper into the heart of an ancient land. “Ancient,” is a flexible word. Some places were the location of significant historical events – ancient history. Wales has a history so ancient that it has outstripped our ability to remember. The roads I drove and towns I passed through were rooted in  this prehistory. In spite of mankind’s inability to preserve a record, there is a memory in the land that still speaks – still influences the land and Welshmen of today. Continue Reading

Late afternoon, early evening. Daylight is fading. Lights that illuminate the Wailing Wall push back the growing dark. The Wall, though emmence, is only a one hundred eighty-seven-foot section of the western side of the ancient wall that rings the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, center of attention in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Old City roughly centered in modern Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the heart center of Israel. Centers within centers. Chambers of the heart of Judaism. A priceless jewel in the eye of Muslims. A touchstone to Christianity and an often, irritating mystery to the rest of the world.

The Temple Mount – site of three temples – the first, built by Jewish, King Solomon. The second by the Roman appointee, Herod. And a third temple, so far existing only in the minds of Jews, Christians, and fearful hearts of Muslims.

Walking here from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jane and I had descended a long series of stairs, passing through a security check point as we reached the plaza below. The plaza, a stone paved expanse built to accommodate crowds exceeding one hundred thousand – the immense crowds that gather on holidays – holy days. It stretches out and away from the Wall at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. At its North West corner, a waist-high retainer of stone blocks bisects the edge of the plaza preventing falls to the prayer floor, two meters below. The prayer floor, paved with white marble, stretches the full length and thirty meters back from the actual Wall. Capped with an angle cut stone lip, the retaining wall is comfortable to lean against as many do, content to watch the ever-shifting spectacle. Wherever you were in the world that night, if you’re Jewish your attention was on this place – this gathering. Attention and intention are key words. I was about to learn something but not nearly all there is to understand of their significance. Arriving early, Jane and I had this front row view as the spectacle unfolded around us – perfect for events that would mark the evening and set a further progression of events in motion.

The year was 2000 – Y2K. The lights hadn’t gone out. Even so – the world was a darker place. These first High Holy Days of the new millennium had already been stained, just the day before, when PM candidate, Ariel Sharon had walked up and into the Temple Mount. A thousand or more Muslims went crazy, claiming Sharon’s presence as justification for more riots – the second intifada. After Sharon’s visit, unsuspecting worshipers standing at the prayer wall below had been showered with fist size stones thrown by Muslims gathered on the temple grounds, above. Large numbers of police and military units had been brought in to discourage further attacks. Still, there was no guarantee of safety. The blood of those injured the day before – lots of blood – was visible where it had run and pooled, drying between the paving stones. Despite these tensions, Jerusalem’s largest gathering of the year swirled around us, growing as night fell. What had happened could not keep the faithful from gathering to pray.

Jane and I were there to witness the Jewish world’s most important day of the year at its epicenter. Having done a little research, it was not by chance that we’d come early enough to be standing at the front. From here we had an unobstructed view of a thousand or more men as they milled about, raising a din as the talked and prayed. Behind us, tens of thousands more had already streamed into the large plaza. A relative few, going directly to the prayer floor fronting the wall, while others were content stand back, to carry on their own conversations or quietly honor the occasion as suited them.

According to Jewish tradition each new day begins at sundown, making that evening the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the one day in the Jewish calendar given over to confession and forgiveness of sins, to enter the new year absolved of guilt for the previous year’s mistakes.

I had drifted. Moving farther to the left, away from my friend, alternately standing and leaning, watching the activity in front of me. More than just watching I was thinking how unfortunate it was, all these men so anxiously pleading, pledging repentance and praying again. Each one, earnestly attempting to ensure that he had brought everything to account. I was thinking that Christians had a better way. One died for the sins of all, and if these guys could just see this they could all walk away free. The Christian alternative, as I saw it, was tidier – much more economical. All my Christian understanding stood with me, leaning comfortably against the retaining wall – a wall of stone and one of belief separated me from all those sincere but misguided Jewish men.

Without warning, a loud voice broke through my thought – the voice seeming to come from a very big, very tall man standing directly behind of me. With no warning, no preceding twinge of conscience, these hard words, were spoken, sharp with disapproval and delivered with absolute authority.

“STOP! STOP JUDGING! YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THIS IS ABOUT!

The voice cut through the noise of the crowd, several hundred people standing so close that movement was difficult. Turning, I looked behind, expecting to see a massive man scowling down at me. There was no one out of the ordinary. As loud as the commands had been, apparently, I was the only one who had heard them. Hearing voices is schizophrenia territory, but I knew what I’d heard, knew that they had been directed at me. Validated beyond logic, a I knew that a powerful, unseen individual was aware of not pleased by my thoughts. Reacting in a way I would have never expected, in the moments after the initial shock I felt a kind of thrill, call it the gratification of infamy. From experience I can tell you that a message from a divine source, even a harsh rebuke such as this can make you feel really good if you take it the right way. Or maybe I just in shock.

Below, the action was intense as larger numbers crowded onto the prayer floor. Men stood everywhere, all with their heads covered. Some wearing wide brimmed streimals and fedoras – others, a simple knitted kippa or their complimentary, paper equivalent for tourists. Many had gleaming white prayer shawls around their shoulders which could be pulled up over their heads to form a tent under which they met privately with God. Alone or in small groups men prayed, leaning against the wall or back some distance around tables full of prayer books, all bowing from the waist rhythmically, repeatedly, the style unique to Jewish prayer.

Shaken but excited by what had happened, I jostled my way back. Jane was standing where I’d left her, watching the sea of people. Having just managed to make it to where she stood, there was no time to say anything before the Divine hand reached out to grab me one more time. Standing below and at least twenty feet away, one among many rabbis stood surrounded by a dozen men that he was leading. Without explanation this man turned and looked up, searching faces and pointing his finger as if to sort one from another until his attention fixed on me. Shouting over the din, he looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you know what we are doing?”

It was a freeze frame moment. Feeling completely hollow and exposed, I was still literally vibrating from the power of the voice that had just shouted me down, foretelling the answer to this Rabbi’s question.

“No, I… I guess I don’t,” I stammered.

In response, his arm still raised and finger pointing for emphasis, he began to explain the activities and significance of that night. I tried to listen but was not catching it all. By my clothing and answers to his questions I was clearly not Jewish. So, forget the disembodied voice that had just scalded my ears, the Rabbi’s behavior made no sense. That on this of all nights he would turn from the men he was leading, turn and pick me from a group of thousands for an impromptu lecture? It got even stranger.

Seeing that I was not tracking, he said, “Wait a minute, I’ll come up there.” It took full five minutes for him to push his way through all the people. First, back toward the wall, then over to the exit ramp, circling up and around, he edged his way through to where we stood and continued speaking.

“As we pray here tonight, he said, we are opening a hole in the heavens – a channel, connecting earth and heaven, a connection for all people, people all around the world.” He said. There was more, much more. After a few minutes another man in an expensive black suit and wide flat brimmed hat had joined him. One on one side, one on the other, they tag teamed – each picking up the narrative if the other so much as paused. I was too overwhelmed to pay attention; I remember little of what was said.

What was is that I had been spoken to by a disembodied voice telling me that I did not know what I thought I knew – telling me that I was wrong to imagine that my views were correct or that they encompassed the whole of spiritual truth. And I was most wrong to have held a condescending attitude from which I looked down on these men. Their love of God, even more, their single-minded devotion overrode any difference of doctrine.

Their words tiring and I soon heard the limitation of the ideas they expressed. Condescension for other faiths leaked through – an indication that they were making the same mistake as I. Realizing that they were the tool of the “Voice,” I listened respectfully, but was really just waiting for them to finish. What they said was not as important as the fact that they had been placed in front of me to reinforce the evenings real message. I had been told to suspend my judgements. The Voice had implied that what any of us thought we knew was partial; at best, only a small part of what was happening around us, and probably beyond the understanding of us all.

What happened that night drove home the point I now see – the fact that we all fell short when confronted by divine authority. At the end of the day, none of us were being transported beyond mortality like Enoch or leading with the authority and miraculous power entrusted to Moses. Individuals who, following instructions, had truly put on the mind of Christ should stand out as clearly as night fire on a hilltop. Scanning the horizon, I saw no one.

 

The Same Four men… a Greek Orthodox priest, two Jewish guys who had been with the Rabbi’s group on the prayer floor, and the forth, a tall American who always wore a vest and tan fedora. Following events on the evening of Yom Kippur, (See Ch. 1), we met these men – continued to meet them – separately and only in passing. Continue Reading

I met Glorian Bonnette at a meeting where she was speaking, a meeting sponsored by a mutual friend – an evangelist with a reputation for giving accurate prophetic readings. Glorian did the prophetic thing too so after listening to her stories of miraculous encounters I asked her for a “read.” Short story made shorter I was intrigued enough with what she said that by the end of the afternoon I had offered to travel as a member of her ministry group. Injury and age had combined making travel and the heavy lifting it requires painful. It was clear that she needed more help.

So began a four month odyssey in South East Asia. Singapore would be our “home base.” It’s alsop one of the most beautiful cities in the world. From this comfortable oasis we traveled the archepelego. Bankock, Kuala Lumpor, smaller cities and remote villages up and down Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Glorian was a self styled evangelist, an encourager. The people who came to her meetings were looking for a message from God. To Glorian’s credit she came to give – not to get. Good thing, because by appearance, certainly by comparison, most who attended, were extremely poor. Continue Reading

Before leaving Singapore on my original return flight ticket I bought another that would get me from the US to Israel. Arriving home, I stayed only long enough wash cloths and re-pack. Flying from the Boise to Chicago, with a night in the air over the Atlantic, put me in Munich by morning of the next day. Changing planes here meant I would be flying the last leg on Lufthansa. Unlike United, Lufthansa, allowed a bare minimum of carry on baggage – insisting that you check anything larger than a wallet before boarding – which meant more hands pawing through my stuff. And even before September 2001, passengers waiting to board flights to Israel were watched by armed guards. Thankfully, no shots were fired and we were soon on our way. Crossing the Alps and Southern Europe the plane banked left once we were out over the Mediterranean routing us straight into Tel Aviv. This near the end of the second leg of a long trip I was anxious to get to a room, shower and sleep. After a short wait at passport control, I retrieved my roll aboard and made my way unchallenged through customs and out into an arrival hall. There I was greeted by expectant faces – all waiting for someone else. Some held one words signs that said things like, Greenburg or Sheraton or UNESCO. They are never for me but I can’t resist looking – as if by chance someone knew I was coming. Apparently no one did. Outside of the terminal the late afternoon sun felt good. A warm breeze tugged at the tops of the palm trees as I stood waiting for the bus that would take me the last thirty miles. Continue Reading

The Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River which drains it, The Dead Sea and The Red Sea – all lay at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley. Defined by an immense fault line, the Rift Valley continues three thousand mile south into Central East Africa, Just ahead of us the fault has split the earth so deeply that we were soon below sea level. Signs along the way mark the descent in 200 meter intervals. The highway twists back and forth in the rocky canyon and occasional flat spot opens to one side or the other. On one of these small deltas a ragged Bedouin tent flapped in the dry wind. A beat up old truck with a water tank mounted on its bed sat in the sun. I could see why they wanted my rental car. Herds of multicolored sheep and goats grazed optimistically in the flinty dirt. Words of a song came to mind, “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere!” Ya, Frank… ever tried it here? Continue Reading

The Dead Sea and desolate mountains rising sharply from its East and West shores. This is an environment as unforgiving as the politics of the people who live here. The only visible water is so salt and mineral saturated that it instantly, painfully attacks the mouth of anyone trying to drink it – a blessing considering that sickness and vomiting would result. People don’t swim there – they float – on their backs. Not knowing better, on a later visit, I dunked my head under the surface and came up with my whole face on fire. Futilely wiping burning, salt slick water from my eyes, I ran near blinded, for relief at one of the fresh water showers dotting a public beach. Lesson learned.

“Don’t let the desert eat you,” – the words I thought I had heard from one of the guards. One step outside the gates of garden-like Kakalya and I was in that desert – nothing but hot sun radiating against rock and barren soil. I’d been warned. Continue Reading

Looking back over previous episodes: Here I was, getting my direction from disembodied voices. Then crossing three continents and as many oceans. Stealing an expensive blanket from some very nice people. I say, “borrowed” But that’s not how it would look if I failed to return it before they saw it missing. Wandering around in a desert. What’s significant about any of this? Where was the big pay off – trans-personal awakening – spiritual transformation? Jerusalem Syndrome manifests more than one plot line. What could I say? I’d had an entertaining adventure but little more. Telling this story has been the easy part – unpacking it – giving readers a valuable, “Take Away,” will be another challenge. Continue Reading

Back down from the mountain and back to life. The next mornings edition of the Jerusalem Post did not carry news of my adventure. No letters ever arrived thanking me for my contribution to peace in the Middle East. I just did a very wild, strange thing and then went back to work. Were there implications – at least something to be learned ? Yes. but they were cumulative and often difficult to recognize until later. Hearing voices and acting on visionary directives – readers ask, when will it all make sense? Actually, invaluable information was being imparted all along the way. We will look at this in more depth in future articles. But first, come with me on a trip to the Scotland. Continue Reading

It was twelve years later.  Twelve years after an angelic encounter at the Wall in Jerusalem the opening event in this story series. A lot happens in twelve years. Like anyone – by degrees, I was a different person – am a different person today. But without regard for the passing of time the memory of certain events remains current. Time passed but I continued to feel that there should and  would be some kind of closure – some end note to make sense of those events and the rest of the weird stuff I’ve recounted here. Continue Reading