Sue and I followed a Rabbi (teacher) in Egypt, Israel and Jordan for two weeks, who tried to give us eyes to see and ears to hear. First, every morning he would lead us in reciting the Shema in both Hebrew and English. The Shema reads; “Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is one; love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.” Rabbi’s say there are four levels of the Shema; Hearing it, understanding it, being moved by it, and allowing it to change you. I am praying for change. Second, the Old Testament back drop is lived out in the opulence, fertility and wealth of Egypt, and the political dominance of shifting worldviews among the Edomites, Greeks and Romans, out of which the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Israel defines himself. The Rabbi’s say the two strongest influences in the life of Israel were the Exodus and the Exile. Third, in a region surrounded by so much sun, mountains, rocks, sand and desert, water is everything. The Sea of Galilee is the only fresh water lake in the entire Middle East, making many of the people masters of innovation, distribution and conservation. It’s hard for Ontario people to comprehend, who’s province is bordered by five great lakes. Fourth, we saw ancient civilizations obsessed with death and life after death in the Egyptians, the Nabataean’s, King Herod and the Edomites, the Greeks and the Romans; displayed through archeological splendor and accomplishments designed to impress. I thought of our cultural deficiency of conversation around death and life after death, and how easily I am wowed by the cultural splendors of our age, easily distracting me from the Shema and the liberating gospel message of “come follow me.” Finally, I was blessed how this two-week study leave served as a Sabbatical. Not that we rested. We were constantly pushed, visiting three or four different sights, walking, hiking, riding and climbing to the next location. There was very little down time. Social interaction was reserved for bus rides, meal times, boarder crossings and airport check-ins. My Sabbath rest came from the clock (no watch), regular routine (not sure what day it was), emails and internet (poor Wifi connections) and no news, weather and sports. People in the Middle East have never heard of the Raptors, Maple Leafs, or Blue Jays; nor do they care. The only posting of the President of the United States I noticed was painted larger than life on the Palestinian side of the Jerusalem wall; in unflattering terms. I was reminded that my center of life is not the center of the universe, and the person whose footsteps we are trying to follow still lays claim of holding all authority over heaven and earth. I gained a deeper appreciation for the Hebrew and Greek text of God’s spoken and written word, still trying to pull his people up out of slavery, and being in their midst, while living in a foreign land where so many people still live in Exile. My Sabbath rest will continue to be sought and found in God’s written word become flesh, pondered, preached and proclaimed.