Remembering Home.

Due to a housing shortage at the seminary where my Doctoral program meets (it is an ecumenical program with several schools including Garrett-Evangelical), I couldn’t stay in Hyde Park the first week of classes. I got a room at my seminary, Garrett-Evangelical (G-ETS), and I’ve been commuting to-and-from class this first week.

I was not looking forward to the commute. Something happened, though, the moment I stepped on campus: I felt as though I was home. It is not just a building. It is not just a landmark or even a person that I know.  It is the experiences that form my memories which make G-ETS feel like home and those memories are triggered when I see the sights, smell the smells, sit in the space.

When strong memories are triggered they can transport us.  Sometimes they transport us across time, sometimes across space, and sometimes both.  Each night this week I have gone walking by the lake.  When I go for these walks I am not walking down a physical path: I am walking in a different time.

What triggers your favorite memories?

Perhaps this week you can find some of these triggers that transport you to a different time and place.

Are We Parents?

We got a call last night that Children’s Home Association, the agency through which we are licensed for foster care.  They have a child that needs to be placed with us. Unfortunately, we can’t share much on the internet or on social media, as you might imagine.

The truth is: I don’t know what to think.  There is an anxiety that is almost overwhelming.  We want to provide a loving home to a child in foster care but the idea of doing this is so much safer than the reality.  We are about to embark on a journey that is bigger than we imagined and the road ahead leaves me with a question: “Can I handle this!?”

I think we all find ourselves at some point in front of a task that seems bigger than we can handle.  It feels daunting. Luckily, with God all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26)  I am sure God will give me the strength for this!

Holy Land Tour: Jerusalem

Over the past three days we have toured Jerusalem.  We toured the old city. We went on the Via Dolorosa (The way of the cross), the traditional path taken by Jesus to his death.  The path winds through the city ending at the Church of The Holy Sepulcher the traditional place of Jesus’ death and burial.  I’m including some photos (below) of sites throughout the Church:

We also went to the Western Wall to share prayers.  Katie, Carrie and I spent one day on our own at the  Mahane Yehudi Market where we shopped and enjoyed lunch.

On the last full day in Jerusalem we visited the Dome of the Rock (a shared holy site by Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), Ruins and the Teaching Steps, the Church of St. John the Baptist, the Holocaust Museum and the Garden Tomb.  It was really full but wonderful day.

Hope this post finds you well.  Now, we’re off to Jordan!

Holy Land Tour: Day Four

 

Jewish Cemetery

After breakfast at the Olive Tree Hotel we traveled beyond the Kidron Valley and we were able to look back over the valley and see this view of the Old City.  It was breathtaking.  We first visited the Jewish cemetery overlooking the Kidron Valley.

We walked down to the Dominus Flevit Church which marks Jesus’ weeping over the city where we had a brief time of reflection.  We went to the Garden of Gethsemane where there were Olive Trees that stood there long before even the time of Christ.

Church of All Nations

Next to the existing garden was the Church of All Nations which was built in 1924 around the rock over which Jesus agonized.

We left Jerusalem and went to Bethlehem.  Where we went to the Church of the Nativity and St. Catharine’s.  The church is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic and the Syriac orthodox churches and there are often fights over its use and maintenance.

Church of the Nativity

Sadly, for those of us visiting, much of the church is under renovation which changed the experience.

Visitors to this church are not the only people who seek Jesus.  Two thousand years go there were Shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem that hear the news of a child born in a manger.  The visitation of these shepherd is remembered with a chapel and preservation of the fields around it.

 

We also visited the Herodium which is a remarkable archaeological site and then we went to a shop that makes a sells olive wood carvings.

 

 

 

Holy Land Tour: Day Three

Today the landscape looked much more like what I imagined when I envisioned the middle east.  All of our stops were taking us toward Jerusalem.  We stopped in Jericho which was underwhelming.  It was mostly a shopping / souvenir trap.  We saw a tree that is celebrated as the tree that Zacheaus climbed.

Then we spent quite a while at Qumran which was fascinating.  They think they have found evidence in the past year that John the Baptist might have spent time here.  Could it be that the Essene ritual baths would make way for John the Baptist’s famous baptism of Jesus?

Ending our day at our destination: Jerusalem.  We stopped at an overlook and got some photos.

I really didn’t have another stop in me and just wanted to come to the hotel, but we had one more place: Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It is built upon the site which is celebrated as the home of Caiaphas the high priest and the dungeon found below it may just be the place where Jesus spent the night before he was put to death!

I know I haven’t written much on these blog posts, especially today, but by the time I get to the room each night, I am completely exhausted. This is all I have in me!  Check out my Facebook timeline for a more interesting tour.  On Facebook I upload throughout the day!

www.facebook.com/scotteugene79

Holy Land Tour: Day Two

This is the scene that greeted us early on day two.  We left our hotel and drove to where a boat met us to take us across the sea of Galilee.  It was beautiful and, surprisingly, moving.  The stories began to come to live in my mind and my eyes were transfixed upon the water.

I am also lucky enough to be experiencing this with my best friend and the love of my life, which makes the scenery all-the-better 🙂

We got off the boat and went to a site that was my favorite church, so far: the Church of the Beatitudes.  This is thought to be the site of the sermon on the mount where Jesus proclaimed the beatitudes.  It is celebrated that, on this hill, Jesus fed the multitudes.

Not too far away was a beautiful greek orthodox church: The church of the Seven Apostles.  Though I don’t have great photos, we also stopped at Tabgha and the Chapel of the Primacy.

The highlight of the day, though was Capernaum.  Something happened to me as a stood over this ancient town.  I think I felt closer to God in that moment as I considered a God that would choose a home and live among his friends.

“When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them”. -Mark 2:1-2 (nrsv)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem & his family was from Nazareth but capernaum was the place he chose as home…the place at the center of his ministry.

After Capernaum, we went to the River Jordan and had a renewal of our baptismal vows where we could touch the water.

And our day ended with trip up to the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights where one can see minefields.

blessings,

 

Holy Land Tour:  Day One
The view from our hotel room as we woke up!

Yesterday we arrived in Tel Aviv and traveled to Tiberius a city along the Sea of Galilee/ Lake Galilee / Sea of Tiberius.  It was startling to think that we are in Galilee where Jesus lived and did most of his ministry!

We loaded up on the bus and headed out.  Our first stop was Caesarea.  It was fascinating to see the ruins, especially of Herod’s palace, but I’ll be honest I’m really excited about some other stops and this just didn’t hold much appeal to me.

This aqueduct, though, was impressive.  They built this city, here, to be a port on the Mediterranean Sea.  It connected Judah with the rest of the Roman Empire, but there was no water source, so water was brought to the city with massive aqueducts.  This one survives, in part.

After the ruins at Caesarea we headed for Armageddon.  Yup, that’s right.  I stood on armageddon: the ancient site of Megiddo.  It was interesting to see the ruins and learn about the history.  It is the prophetic end of the world according to Revelations, but something else which our guide pointed out caught my attention:

Judges 7 says, “Then Jerubbaal, that is, Gideon, and all of the people with him rose early and set up camp beside the Harod spring; Midian’s camp was north of theirs, in the valley by the Moreh hill.”

In this photo the site of  Judges 7 can be seen:

We went to Nazareth and toured the Basilica of the Annunciation.  The site celebrated as the site of Joseph’s home.

The last stop on the tour was Cana.

The church which sits on the supposed site of the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned water into wine.

I Have this Feeling…In My Gut, part 2

I guess I should continue where I left off, huh?

I went to the GI specialist on Tuesday.  He was pretty sure it was appendicitis.  He thought that the appendix may have even burst and I’d been walking around with a burst appendix.  He sent me for scans on Wednesday morning.  Upon seeing the scans I was sent straight to the Emergency Department at BroMenn for surgery.


If you are wondering how a person walks around with a burst appendix, it is a good question.  Here is the story of Martha Little, news director for WBUR.  She lived with a burst appendix for weeks!


The appendix had not ruptured so they were able to do the surgery laparoscopically and was in the hospital overnight.  I cannot praise the nursing staff enough.  They took good care of me…and got me home quickly where my wife could continue caring for me.

I’m doing well, now.  I’m in some pain, but I have medicine to help with that.  I’m being well-cared-for and my church is in good hands.  My wife and other clergy are covering for me while I recover, but my congregation is amazing and I can also count on the people of the church to make sure everything and everyone is cared for while I am gone!

Blessings,

I Have this Feeling…in My Gut.

For a few days I had noticed some pain in my abdomen, but they were fleeing.  On the twenty second of December, I began having more severe pain on my left side.  My doctor’s nurse practitioner had a last-minute cancellation and I left work early and went straight down to my doctor’s office.  The pain had subsided a bit by the time I got there and the pain was on my left side.  The nurse diagnosed me with diverticulitis and gave me a prescription for antibiotics.

I started feeling better and within a week I was feeling pretty good…until I finished my antibiotic regimen.  On New Year’s Day I began having some pain, again.  We went to an urgent care doctor.  Because of the diverticulitis diagnosis, they suspected it was probably something I ate. They sent me home and told me to see my primary care doctor.  After a few days I got in with my doctor and he sent me for a scan.  My appendix was mildly inflamed.  The antibiotics from the misdiagnosis of diverticulitis had reduced the inflammation, and he recommended a more aggressive course of antibiotics for the appendicitis.


If you are like me, you haven’t heard of treating appendicitis with antibiotics, but it is a real thing!  Here is a WebMD article that shows 80% of patients may find medicine effective rather than surgery. Apparently, this has been a standard practice in Europe for some time, now, and America is just coming around to this standard of treatment.


I consented to trying the more aggressive course of treatment and got started right away (Friday).  At 3:30am on Saturday morning I woke up intensely sick.  I got to the bathroom, somehow, but I was nearly incapacitated with nausea, intense pain, and my head was spinning.  Though my wife had left town for the weekend, luckily, I was not alone! My mother drove up to stay with me because my wife was concerned for me.  Carrie is so wise!  I yelled for my mother to call an ambulance.

Thankfully, the ambulance was quick to respond.  They were great.  They got me down the stairs, out of the house, out through the cold and bright flashing lights, onto the gurney and rolled me into the back of the ambulance.  I thought to myself, “the whole neighborhood is awake watching this.  How embarrassing!”

I was rushed to OSF Saint Francis and proceeded to sit in the Emergency Department for hours.  Good thing my appendix didn’t burst!

Once I got to a room in the Emergency Department, the doctors didn’t know what to do with me.  They would not or could not look at scans done by another hospital system and the doctors wouldn’t call to consult with my primary care doctor.  It just so happens that the doctor on-call for my primary care doctor’s office called me to check-in.  I put him on the phone with the doctors at St. Francis.

One doctor came in to say I had appendicitis and was going for surgery and then another doctor came in to say that I didn’t. Then a surgical resident came in to talk to me about my ‘pending’ surgery and then a GI doctor came in to tell me that there would not be surgery and it was not appendicitis.  I felt like a ping-pong ball.

I was admitted to the hospital and they kept me off food and ran some tests.  Worse than boredom is boredom with a completely empty and loudly growling stomach!  They never sent me for scans, but instead they watched my vitals, ran blood panels and tested my urine.  I’m so frustrated that they haven’t really consulted with my primary care doctor, as far as I know, or even looked at the scan taken on Friday.

I was discharged by the hospital on Sunday with instructions to come back and have an appointment with an OSF GI specialist.  I already have an appointment tomorrow with a GI specialist over in Bloomington (that appointment was set up when I saw my primary care doctor on Friday).  I just hope this specialist can figure things out and give me a diagnosis.

It’s bad enough that I don’t know what’s wrong with my GI tract, but on top of it all: I was hospitalized on a Sunday morning.  But it is worse than that, even.  This was the week I was supposed to preach a sermon for my doctoral program!  Luckily, I have an advisor who will understand and colleagues that made sure my pulpit was covered.  Rev. Lori Bultemeier immediately offered to preach and lead worship so that I didn’t have to worry about anything!

Thank you, Lori!

Holy Days

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Yesterday was a special day.  It was our anniversary…of sorts.  Three years ago, yesterday, I was wheeled into surgery to remove a brain tumor.  It is, ironically, a day of which I remember very little…yet it is a day that I will never forget and a day that redefined my life and relationships forever.

Our lifespans are each filled with many special days.  Days of discovering a terrible illness, surgeries, births, deaths, and weddings.  If that weren’t enough we often find ourselves commemorating these special days year-after-year.  Yet, our lives are not only made up of “special days.”  A birth of a child is special, sure, but so is the next day as you hold that child or watch a grandparent hold the child for the first time.  A lost tooth, first crush, first day behind the wheel:  these special days begin to grow together.  We begin to realize that every moment of life is a celebration of that first breath and how we live our lives will give meaning when we come to our last breath.

The same is true of Christ.  His Easter resurrection could not have been without the last breath of Good Friday.  Good Friday’s meaning was amplified by a triumphant re-entry into Jerusalem which we celebrate as Palm Sunday.  None of the events from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday could be celebrated without a small child born in a manger.  But these special days would not have held so much meaning without the daily work of Christ: healing, loving and community building.

Too often, I think, we focus on Easter and Christmas to the detriment of Christ’s daily works. Christ’s life was not primarily about one or two days or moments.  These special moments shaped our relationship with God, certainly.  These days were pivotal in human history, absolutely.  Yet, these times are inexorably tied to the daily life and acts of Jesus the Christ.  These “special days” lack specialness without the daily work of the Messiah.

In fact we don’t have high holy days in the Christian tradition.  Each Sunday is an equally important Holy Day because we remember not just a Jesus on a Cross but also a Jesus by a well in Samaria, healing a man at the pool of Bethsaida, raising Lazarus from the dead and calling fisherman from their nets by the sea. Each sunday celebrates the specialness of Jesus Christ on Earth:  his birth, death & resurrection, of course, but also his life of love and message of peace & justice.

I pray that as we approach each new day of faith we would model our lives after Christ:  living each day in pursuit of love, peace & justice.  That we would strive, each day, for a closer relationship with God and celebrate that relationship week-after-week on Sunday mornings!