Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's all up hill from here...

I am a mid-lifer. I have all the symptoms, a slight slump, a gut, graying temples, and I can work two things into just about any conversation… my grandchildren and my latest aches and pains. So along with seventy million other Americans, I have officially joined the ranks of the “over-the-hill gang.”

I know a lot about hills these days. I live in Jerusalem, a city built on and surrounded by mountains. Everyday I have to make treacherous climbs just to go anywhere.

Below is me climbing to our apartment after getting a few things at the store.

This is Preston having to climb back down later at dusk because I forgot to get milk…(memory, another issue associated with mid-life).

When you are in a hurry there is an expressway down as pictured below.

All pictures are a simulation intended to represent how my body feels at my age walking up and down all of these hills.

The Adventure Begins…

I enjoy some of my climbs, like the one Jer, Preston I took in the West Bank on an archaeological dig of the ancient city of Ai.

Years ago when I first visited Israel and someone said something about the West Bank, I asked if it had an ATM. I learned later that the West Bank is territory that Israel took possession of from Jordan during the Six Day War. Most of the residents are Arabs, although a large number of Israeli settlements have been built in the region since 1967. Since 1994 the "Palestinians" had been given limited self-rule but in 2000, due to Arab terrorism Israel had to take control of the region and has created a security border in order to protect the Jewish people. According to the Word, all this land belongs to God and was given to Israel. Alright enough with the history lesson...

Anyway back to the story…

We left Jerusalem and into the West Bank, past the security wall and the Israeli check point.

We drove about twenty minutes into biblical Samaria and arrived at the site. Our guide told us we would have to park at the bottom of the mountain and climb the steep rocky slope to see the ancient remains of Ai. Ai was the second city that Joshua had to conquer to take the Land. We made the climb. It was treacherous…we narrowly escaped with our lives.

Meanwhile we joined about fifteen other diggers and immediately with shovels and hand picks began clearing off the site.

We had been working for about three hours in teams at different places when we heard one of the main archeologists shout, “I found something!”, “I found something!”

He was digging at the ancient gate of the city and uncovered something in a chamber just below the hinge stones. Everyone dropped their shovels and picks and came running. When we all got to the site we were stunned by what we saw. It was a glowing green orb about a foot in diameter. It strobed as if it had a pulse and made a humming noise that gave you the feeling that it was a source of an enormous power.

The archeologist reached down to touch it, when he did a massive explosion of green light and wind happened lifting us all off the ground in a slow motion time warp. When it ended, we all slowly settled to the ground and looked with amazement at the archeologist. He had been transformed into a mummy-like figure, and was staring into space saying repeatedly, “The end of all things is at hand…the end of all things is at hand…”

Ok, the whole green orb thing didn’t actually happen. But we did dig and find a few pieces of pottery and helped the excavation team in their historic work of uncovering the mysteries of the ancient city of Ai, helping prove to the world the biblical account of Joshua’s conquest of the land and the authenticity of the scriptures.

One strange thing did happen while we were there.. Preston mysteriously shrunk to about 18 inches tall.

…weird, huh?

When he did, he started doing handsprings and cartwheels like the Oompa-loompas in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He was trying to talk to me but I could not make out what he was saying. He had a tiny little smurf voice that I had to get down on all fours to hear him. This state only lasted a little bit…he is back to normal now. If this ever happens to you or to someone you know, don’t freak out, it is only a temporary thing.

So we ended our day at Ai and climb down and made our way back home to Jerusalem tired and satisfied. Another adventure behind us.

Mid-life lesson #1

What I am learning is that life is mostly an uphill climb. The lighter your load the easier the climb. And when it comes to climbs in life, none is greater than the pursuit of God and walking in intimate friendship with Him. David wrote,

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His Holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully” Ps 24:3-4

Friday, May 15, 2009

About the Blog

I am a list person. Not a fanatical one, but I make lists. I make lists to prioritize my schedule and lists of things to buy at the store. In moments of inspiration I will make a list of goals I want to accomplish in a year. I, like most list makers, get annoyed by things not done on my list, but I can live with it. I admit. I’m guilty of what others do.. I cheat. Yes, if I do something that was not originally on my list, I write it down and cross through it giving the impression that it was there from the beginning. I do that so that…well actually …I am not sure why I do that…

So ok... let me go over my list..

Turned 50, Check.

Decide to move to Israel, Check.

Sold my house and most of my possessions, yep, Check.

Boarded an airplane with my wife and youngest son for the Middle-East, Check.

Let me see now...what's next... Hmmm...It's hard to read the next thing on the list. Let me get my glasses. The words are faded and appear to be in a language I don't understand. I can’t make out what is next…

Oh no…. I am having a Mid-life Middle-East Crisis.

It all started a year ago when I turned 50. You see, I am a bona fide “mid-lifer” now. I am at that age where the things I do are the things I've done for a long time and what's the use in changing, right? However, something happens at mid-life. You feel a second wind. A wild scent wafts in the air and arouses the senses. You become motivated like a worn-out football team in the locker room at halftime when the coach shouts,"We can still win this, we're only behind by 40 points!" Suddenly you feel like you did when you were young… before you knew better. Full of adventure and spunk. Only this time you’re about 80 pounds heavier. Yeah. ok...the body doesn’t perform like it used to…but that’s alright… The seat is a little worn, the tires are balding and it runs a little sluggish throughout the day. But like in Star Wars, it was the old starship the Millennium Falcon that won the day and the Death Star was destroyed. You’re like that starship, you may have a hard time getting into warp speed, but once you do, there is no stopping you…literally, once all that extra weight gets momentum, it’s hard to stop.

So this is a blog about my adventures of Mid-life in the Middle-East.

The Essentials About Me

I was born April 5, 1958 in Midland Texas. To a Mr. and Mrs. Merle Wilson Benjamin.

51 years later, I moved to Israel, and I am living in Jerusalem with my wife, Jerri, and my youngest of five kids, Preston.

You need to know this about me. I have sudden surprise sneeze attacks that are loud, often known to wake up the grandchildren. They can be violent, and on occasion even throw out my back. Sometimes it will be just a single blast, but many times multiple blasts. I have no warning system to indicate one is even approaching. They are Stealth Sneezes. They come in under the Radar and then Bam!!

The worst part of my day is putting on my socks in the morning. The routine I have to go through is equivalent to what a pearl diver does before he goes underwater for three or four minutes. I take several slow deep breaths, then down I go. I feel the pressure in my ears, my face turns red, my eyes begin to bulge, I put the sock on, hopefully getting it on in my first attempt and then up to the surface for air. One down, one to go. (I love summer and flip-flops.)

When I wake up in the morning and get out of bed, my right foot does not cooperate often leaving me crippled as I walk to the bathroom.

I admit that I still want to dress cool but I am being tempted to drop cool for comfort. Have you ever seen those Sears stretch pants and orthopedic shoes...what a great idea. I saw a guy recently wearing plaid elastic waist pants, white nurses shoes, a light green button up shirt unbuttoned with a white undershirt sporting a Gilligan hat, oversized sunglasses with the peripheral extensions and I thought, “What planet did you beam in from?” Not anymore. I know now why he was wearing that... Comfort my friend, comfort.

He's feeling the breeze while I am in my tight denim jeans, being a hip American in my Italian too-narrow shoes and my European-cut shirt that I bought at one of those 20-something shops. Let's face it. The European-cut shirt is not made for the typical middle-age guy. It is a shirt that you have to suck your gut in and hold your breath in order just to button it. Once on, you get the feeling that the stress on the those buttons is so great that at anytime they could launch like a series of Patriot missiles.

Most importantly, I am a believer in Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus). I love and desire to be pleasing to Him in all I do. I love everything about my family. I am madly in love with my wife of almost 30 years. My five kids and three “in-loves” are amazing and my seven grandchildren well… they’re all geniuses and well advanced for their ages. They are going to be famous inventors, Presidents, adventurists, world-changers, history makers all for the honor and glory of God.

So I am starting this blog, more as therapy rather than developing a readership. I need a safe place that I can retreat to in order to process. To journal my thoughts, kind of like David did when he wrote the Psalms, well…maybe not that meaningful, more like the diary of Ann that is way too dramatic. It’s really more in the category of a day in the life of Charlie Brown.

This blog is about when West meets Middle-East.

It will be full of adventure, duels to the death, and secret passages to hidden tombs with buried treasures. Heart-stopping suspense as I dangle from rope bridges over mile deep canyons while half naked natives shoot arrows at me. There will be surprises around every turn, bad guys lurking in the shadows, snakes crawling in my bed at night while I sleep. Deadly scorpions in my clothes…. Ok, it probably won't be that awesome...actually more like the Jonas Brothers meet the Accidental Tourist. But I promise it will be full of drama, romance and adventure in a caffeine-free diet coke kinda way. And maybe along the way you’ll have a few laughs and see something that will make you think. I will leave you with a quote. Every time I walk out my apartment door in Israel, I think of the words of Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings, "Stepping out on the road is a dangerous business. You have to keep your feet under you, or before you know it you'll be swept off to who knows where!"

Next week, The Middle-east adventure begins…