Christmas Music

Christmas Music

Welcome to December! The best time of year has officially arrived. And that means there’s absolutely no reason not to immediately start listening to Christmas music! But you might have noticed that the Christmas station on the radio only plays the same twenty songs over and over. So as an early present for my readers, here’s my updated Christmas mix on Spotify that you can listen to in order to fully dive into the Christmas spirit. Nearly 50 hours of a variety of gems for Christmas. Put it on random play in the background and let your inner Grinch drain from your system.

Click here to listen to it for free (you just have to create a Spotify login if you don’t already have one).

Peacemakers – The Parents Circle

This post is part of a series on peacemakers I met in Israel/Palestine.

One of the must stunning conversations from our trip to Israel and Palestine was with Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin. Robi is Israeli and Bassam is Palestinian. They’ve both lost a child in the conflict from the opposing group. You would think this would make them enemies, yet they have chosen forgiveness as their revenge. In that process an unlikely friendship emerged.

One of the most powerful parts of the above video, and indeed from my time in Israel/Palestine, is considering the fact that most Israelis don’t personally know a Palestinian, and most Palestinians don’t personally know an Israeli. These conditions are ripe to foster a view of an enemy out of the other. We do this with all sorts of people in America today that we often talk about yet know none of them personally. This could apply to many people’s view of Muslims, refugees, gay people, immigrants, or anyone else who we often form strong opinions about without also forming strong friendships with them. Peace begins by acknowledging the humanity of the others despite our differences or disagreements.

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A Hope Revealed

The video above is my message this weekend at Central in which we closed out our Hope in Hard Times series going through the book of 1 Peter. This weekend I unpacked the idea that true hope cannot be contained.

Peacemakers – Sami Awad

Peacemakers – Sami Awad

This post is part of a series on peacemakers I met in Israel/Palestine.

I recently wrote about some observations I had after my second trip to Israel this year (see: What Israel Taught Me about America’s Election). I first went to Israel three years ago and documented at that time many of the Biblical sites I experienced on that trip (click here to read through my posts from 2013). Now my second time there, what stood out to me the most was some of the remarkable people I met who are giving their lives to building peace in the region. If you know much about the history of Israel, you know that Israel only became an official state in 1948. I wrote about the difference between Israelites and Israelis on a post on Central’s blog recently that briefly tackles this (see: Israelites or Israelis). Since that time the land has been deeply divided and fractured. My goal with this series of posts is to inspire us all to live as peacemakers as we are inspired by others who are doing it well.

The first person I want to write about is someone who has actually become a friend of mine over the last few years. His name is Sami Awad, and he’s the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust. Sami is a Palestinian but does not see the Jews or anyone else as his enemy. Instead, he works to rally both sides of the debate toward loving each other. Sami is one of the people who has deeply impacted my understanding of the Christian concept of nonviolence.

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What Israel Taught Me About America’s Election

What Israel Taught Me About America’s Election

The most hyped election in recent memory happens tomorrow. I won’t be in the country for it.

I’ve spent the last week in Israel in the posture of a listener. Listening to the narratives of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Trying to consider solutions between a hundred-year conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s tempting to believe that just one narrative has validity. To believe that the solution emerges without ambiguity. And yet conversation after conversation I’m reminded that despite how much we crave this, any critical thinker will resist the urge for this easy way out.

A couple of nights ago we had a Sabbath dinner with a Jewish family. The dad is a law professor, and his wife is working on her post-doctorate. It was moving to watch the way they intentionally raise their kids to understand the Bible (in particular the Old Testament) and the relevance in which he discussed current events in both Israel and America. He commented to us that America is beginning to look like Israel, and “not in a good way.”

If you’ve spent any amount of time understanding the conflict in the Holy Land, you will see how shocking that statement sounds. It’s a reminder that if division isn’t checked, we end up in a never-ending cycle downward. Which tragically tends to end in violence.

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Is It Possible to be Hopeful Right Now?

I preached at Central this weekend continuing in our series on hope. Peter gives us a powerful way of finding hope in a surprising area of life as he connects it to holiness.