Inviting Life to a Death Scene: the day four terrorists were killed and heaven reserved a place for me at the scene

Palestinians gather around a car where four Palestinian militants were killed by Israeli troops on March 12, 2008

On March 12, 2008 I had an appointment with death. What I mean is, I had a divine appointment scheduled, unbeknownst to me, at a murder scene.

It began with an appointment with a man who makes wooden crosses: a run-of-the-mill visit to Deheisheh, the largest refugee camp in Bethlehem.  At the time I was living in Bethlehem, Israel/Palestinian Territories. I went to meet my friend David and a local man to pick-up a handmade cross to be a prototype for a large order of other such crosses, made of olive wood by the man’s father to be sold overseas to help pay for medical expenses for his twenty-something son, a paraplegic after being shot by soldiers several years prior.

When I arrived I saw my friend, Shaadi, a Palestinian who often gives tours of the area to visitors. He was with two Iranian-Americans and preparing to go to Mar Saba (a monastery in the Judean wilderness outside of Bhem). He asked if I wanted to go. I did. So David and I went – postponing our meeting with the woodworker until that night.

After several hours at the monastery we returned to Bethlehem. It was shortly after 6pm. Shaadi got a phone call. Hot with distress he turned to us, “The IDF just killed four men in Bethlehem, in their car, they were wanted men.” David and I asked questions. The visitors waited. Shaadi said it just happened, just then, they were killed by a rocket his friend thought, one of the dead was a major Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank — and Shaadi was going to the scene. “Do you want to go?”
Yeah. We do.

So, we did. Two American believers, two Iranian-American tourists, and two Palestinians (Shaadi and our taxi driver, Abed).

You want me to describe the scene; and I will BUT, see that:

1. God in His kindness and His omniscience brought me there – He placed some of His light in a very dark place.

2. It was an honor to be able to be there.

3. It was an honor to be with Bethlehem in an evening of highest turmoil and grief.

4. It was a turning point for me as well.

It was a small car – a red one, four door, maybe 20 years old. Hundreds of people rimmed it. Abed told me to stay close, and I did. He took me right up to the car, through the crowds of frozen electricity, like the stain a lightning bolt leaves in a stormy sky. The windows were crumpled, shattered under the onslaught of machine-gun fire. It wasn’t a rocket, as Shaadi’s friend supposed, it was a spray of bullets from a special unit of Israel Defense Forces, clothed as Palestinians, riding inconspicuously in a Bethlehem taxi. Reports said they attempted to arrest the four men (3 Islamic Jihad, 1 Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade). The most significant man, Shehadah, they wanted for 8 years. The four men, laden with weapons, fired on the IDF special forces when they attempted to arrest them, and the IDF immediately killed them all. The car itself made new clarity of “riddled with bullets.” Dozens of holes every where: each seat inside with its own red-red-red-red bullseye: four concentrated blood stains at each passenger’s chest-level, with the trails of helter-skelter bullets splayed around.

Weapons found on the men in the red car

(for video taken about 15 minutes before we arrived on the scene
(take note: blood and bodies)
http://israelmatzav.blogspot.com/2008/03/video-raw-car-swarm-in-bethlehem.html )

(for a news article on the event: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125552)

“Faddal” (“please go ahead”) I said, moving back at one point to allow a boy, maybe ten, to slide past me – his hands gingerly touching the car as he squeezed by. His eyes surprised me. Not fear, not demand, but frankness. He wanted to see up-close.

I was suddenly tired, rigidly sad. I wanted all those kids to be protected from this. I wanted someone to take them home, to keep them from an impression of reality more likely to breed hatred than love. I wanted them to have Father God’s kingdom within them, to remove them from the competition of the kings and rulers of this world.

A wall of people my standing couch of false relaxation, I drifted toward those I came with. Shaadi was leading them back to the taxi. He jolted around, “Where’s Daaaaaw….?!” – the “n” swallowed by our eye contact. I smiled sincerely, “Thanks.” I knew he was looking out for me. In an ocean of mayhem, I appreciated it a lot.

Next stop: the hospital where the bodies were being taken.

I should add it worked out impeccably we happened to be in a cab with Palestinians when the news broke. It put us in-the-know and also gave us language and understanding of the event, plus the mobility to be dropped off right outside the hospital before Abed went to park the van. Also, it was amazing we “happened” to be tugged out of Bethlehem that day, particularly because the scene was 1/4 mile from my apartment and the circle of chaos and closed streets was encompassing.

Thousands of people swarmed the hospital’s front and back entrances.

Three corpses on stretchers were passed overhead, rafts on waves of sobriety and hysterics. The grand entrance of one body was buoyed by one incessant phrase and one volume: desperately loud.

“Allahu Akbar!”

(which means “Allah (God) is great!”)

Women wept. Weak-kneed boys and girls sobbed, held up by a friend in the same way a man with a broken ankle would be.
Family and friends of the dead.

My tears were already shed. Floodgates released at age 16. That evening I walked into the news coverage I watched for 12 years, the scenes which had once broken my own ability to stand. I was well-trained for the moment which drank me up that fated March Wednesday.

Glug glug glug drank up I was. I prayed. I watched. I slid through the tense multitude to get a better look at this and that. I prayed for kids I saw. I prayed and engaged with the crumbling women, the youth staggering into the ER screaming, “I’m not going to let this go! I’m going to do something to get back at them for this!”, the friends of mine I bumbled into that night (it seemed a large portion of Bethlehem was there), the ones who collapsed under the agony of sadness and were toted into the ER swollen with families, the speechless bystanders. I prayed and engaged with this little city of David, Bethlehem:
birthplace of
the Only One
who could ever turn
this tide of grief, revenge, and consummate oppression.

There is an oft-quoted verse in the book of Esther which says more about why I was at the hospital that dark night:
“And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

After leaving the hospital, David and I filled a previous commitment to visit a family in the camp: the father in the family “happened”  to be the Minister of Labor in Bethlehem. Then we went to get the wooden cross and visit the woodworker’s family. Everyone was in a hubbub over the night’s events; and there we were, the hospital’s clamor still affecting our heartbeats; and our heartbeats still affecting the hospital’s clamor: our peace a holy residue of promise and hope.

for such a time as this.

for murder scenes and war zones, troubled neighborhoods and troubled neighbors,

for places in deep need, for people longing for hope,

for nations, for cities, for individuals,

for such a time as this.

We must not be afraid, but confident. We must not be afraid of “darkness”, but confident in who we are:

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. The answer to the problem. The peace to the chaos. The hope to the hopeless.

We should rejoice when we get the privilege of being all these things,

whether at a crime scene in Bethlehem or a parking lot at the mall. Light belongs in darkness.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you,

that God is Light,

and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

John 1:5

You are the light of the world.

A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.

Instead they put it on its stand,

and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Matthew 5:14-15

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Shepherds’ Fields, Bethlehem: The fields where the keepers got kept

I wrote this essay on a “familiar location” for my writing class. How ironic it is that it was shepherds who saw the angels over Bethlehem, it was the watchers, the stewards of life who suddenly were invited to be kept safe eternally – by knowing Jesus. < What a pivot! GOD! I love you! I want to know you through and through! I want to be perfectly attended to by You, and perfectly attending to others through You. A Shepherded Shepherd. A Loved Lover.>

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The dust is a familiar friend: a hugger, a listener, an assurance of life’s forward movement. I never had a friendship with dust until I moved to Israel where the forecast was often “sand.” The sand and dust blew in from the desert via the hamsin (fifty) winds. In time its familiarity, and the stories from history it carried, brought me comfort and camaraderie. This is part of the reason I cherished Shepherds’ Fields just outside Bethlehem.

Shepherds Fields is the historic location of the place where the shepherds at the time of Jesus’ birth saw the angels in the sky proclaiming his arrival. There are two chapels on site, but the main view, the encompassing sea of possibility, is the expanse of fields. There on the rim of the property, I spent many hours, often lying on my back drinking the same sky those famous shepherds drank.

Limestone rock chunks play untrained chiropractor to my resting back. Olive trees stand in a watchful semi-circle, surgeons leaning over my body on heaven’s operating table. Their leaves are fascinating: a grandfatherly grey-green, at their most flourishing they look surprisingly tired. Similarly, the trunk itself, wooden dreadlocks bound by roots into the soil, looks ancient. The intentionality an elderly man uses tying his shoes, must be the focus the tree used to weave his tree bark together. The bark is rich. It’s the shade of a medium roast of coffee beans from Antigua, Guatemala (believe me; I used to work in a very coffee connoisseur’s café of sorts). The trees are so beautiful I suspect a mythical young prince might stride into the field and fall madly in love with one of them. I feel the earth become foggy as I take in one single tree.

The birds witness my adoration. I wonder if they are jealous or simply happy someone else has seen the trees’ hearts of hope. The birds slide by on an invisible track in the sky – there must be a sky train depot not far from my attentive head: every twenty minutes or so a similar cluster choo-choos past me. I can’t tell if they are the very same birds or not. They aren’t wearing clothes or hats or anything. When I look to trail the birds, I notice the low rock wall to my left. It’s made of Cenomanian Limestone like most of the walls in Israel – it is light chalky beige, the color of the front of my calves after some time in the sun (well except during my three year stint in Israel when cultural protocol kept me very covered. Then my legs were much more like the pale wooden rolling pin my mom had when I was a kid.)

I cherished that place, that nook in heaven. I would never close its shutters, even when my eyes closed; my spirit seemed fully aware that I was the little girl on her Papa’s lap, and His lap was Shepherds’ Fields. That little girl was a sheep being watched by night while also a shepherd instructed by angels.  Shepherd and sheep, watcher and watched. This is what happened that fateful night, those trained to look out for their flocks were yanked from provider to provided for. They could keep the sheep alive to the best of their ability, and their Ultimate Shepherd was introducing a way to keep them alive as well – a son who was salvation.

Shepherds' Fields outside of Bethlehem

Seeing in the Spirit: “See all that you can see” (a little revision of an old US Army slogan (can you hear the theme song?))

Angels are our friends.

I’ve been thinking for some time about writing about seeing in the Spirit. I realize it’s an area a lot of believers don’t know much about or they are bewildered by. In actuality seeing in the Spirit is very powerful and useful. We are spirit more than we are flesh. Our citizenship is in heaven so, it’s contents should be familiar to us. My experience in seeing the unseen began, as far as I remember, with seeing demons when I was seven years old. There was no need to convince me of the reality of the unseen realms. It was more real than my matching set of bedroom furniture or my white York stereo I loved so much. From there I eventually saw other things: objects, images, and angels. It all seemed very logical and common to me. And it was handy when I’d be in a new neighborhood and I could see what was happening in the spirit: I knew how to pray and also more of how to interact with people there.

I don’t see all the time. I’ve learned to turn it off and on. This isn’t always my choice, granted – a lot of the time I start seeing into the angelic realm without warning. However, when I lived in Israel I would often engage that part of my senses when in a new place or when in a place that suddenly became chaotic or foreboding. On the other hand, in ministry school I usually don’t look to see in the spirit because it distracts me from the speaker’s teaching. There was a time a month or so ago when someone was speaking at school and I saw a company of angels behind him on the stage with raspberry-hued air around them. They were coming out into the crowd with white wedding favor bags in their hands. I was in awe; and intrigued. I heard Holy Spirit say, “Look up Latvia’s flag.” Later that day I did. Amazingly, the flag is that same raspberry color with a white horizontal stripe in the middle (at the same height as the white wedding favor bags). I instantly knew what it meant: my class was being invited to the wedding of Latvia and Jesus! We were invited to celebrate! The man who spoke that day has connections to Latvia. Thereafter I emailed him to let him know what I had seen. He was grateful I shared it and encouraged.

So, last week I did a ten-minute free write on seeing in my writing class. I thought I’d share it here.

As you read it, ask God to open your eyes like Gehazi’s in 2 Kings 6:17. “And Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Awaken your senses to the unseen realm. Begin to posture yourself regularly with a willingness and openness to see in the spirit. God wants to reveal to you the unseen things. He also wants you to want to see them.

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Seeing is incredible. IN-CRED-IBLE, as in, almost unbelievable. And this is where faith ascends in to true belief – into the realms of the unseen. Jump over the wall of incredibility into the fields of reality. Jump. In the openness of the greatness of God is an expanse of freedom and partnership and co-reigning beyond what one could ever fathom. Everything on earth has a spiritual reality first: a stapler, a chair, a refrigerator, and even an IPAD. These pulsate with heaven’s attainability and do-ability. It is doable. The realm of revelation is a place for grasping the unseen.

It is particularly useful to see when you are in a new place – when you are overseas walking unknown neighborhoods and you have no natural awareness of issues in the neighborhood. Seeing will reveal.

I should intentionally ask for my seeing to increase. I should learn to navigate its waters more fully.

As I ponder this I realize there is an element of trepidation. I am a bit afraid of falling off the earth. I am a bit concerned about being swooped into heaven to such a degree I can no longer interact on earth. I am a bit flummoxed in thinking I might become unavoidably strange. A price worth paying for the rapturous union with God and heaven. Worth. I chase worth and blink at worth when I see. I choose to acknowledge and look into things unseen to better understand the realms of heaven, to better understand the lover of my soul. I swing on a rope swing over a gentle river and I drop in. I sink to the earth’s center and I see things that Hollywood’s up and coming film-makers dream of putting on screen. I taste life. My life is spiced with divinity and saturated in Truth. I’m addicted. MMM…. This is much of the drive to see, the addiction to Truth. I have to have it. There is nothing else. A newspaper or the news itself, a picture of an apple or the apple itself. A poem about love or LOVE itself. A book about Jesus or Jesus Himself.

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Here are some resources on seeing:

http://www.amazon.com/Discovering-Seer-You-Exploring-Prophetic/dp/0768427436/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298576015&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Seer-biblical-todays-context/dp/0982282109/ref=pd_sim_b_5

http://www.amazon.com/School-Seers-Practical-Guide-Unseen/dp/0768431018/ref=pd_sim_b_2

http://www.amazon.com/Angelic-Encounters-James-W-Goll/dp/1599790653/ref=pd_sim_b_10

http://www.amazon.com/Open-Eyes-Lord-Visitations-Experiences/dp/0975262203/ref=pd_sim_b_13

(And for those who are itching to hear that original US army jingle,

here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXc7veG9-b8 )