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The Short-Straw Chronicles (aka Israel Press Pilgrimage) Part I: The Call

Jenna Murphy

Thursday, January 13, 2011

“Good morning Jenna,” a friendly male voice chimed. “It appears that you have drawn the short straw!”
These were the warm words I heard as I picked up the first phone call of the day on the morning after one of the best days of my life. The voice belonged to Mr. Jerry Adler at the Israeli Ministry of Tourism office here in Toronto and we were both pleasantly aware of the irony that this was no short-straw, arm-twisting assignment, but an opportunity for the pilgrimage of a lifetime. But I let the expression live on.
December 8th (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) has historically always been one of my favourite days; but this year, it has irreversibly secured its revered position in my life. On that day, I had just posted a blog about Advent and the Incarnation. My mind was preoccupied with Christmas and, for once, it was the true meaning of Christmas that had claimed my attention: Jesus. Jesus, who came (comes) to dwell among us.
At about this time, my phone began to ring. I looked down to see “ROSICA” on the display. Within seconds I found myself standing in our C.E.O.’s office.
“Jenna, have you ever been to the Holy Land?” Father Tom asked me casually. “I’d like to send you, if you are willing.” I accepted without a moment’s hesitation and then proceeded to stifle a joyful outburst of the unprofessional variety. (I saved that for moments later in the editing suite.)
Being an East Coast girl, I have always had a strong appreciation for water and for everything that calls it to mind. Fishing boats, shanties, salt air and yes, even seagulls are all objects of affection for me. In light of this, my favourite scripture story has always been the nostalgic and hauntingly beautiful exchange between Peter and Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) after Our Lord’s Resurrection (John 21). In this story, I delight in the marriage of my two favourite things: the sea and breakfast.
There is something so beautifully human about this story; it summons the artist in me to the surface. A purple-blue clear morning, the smell of smoke, cold stones under foot, the light lapping of the waves, Jesus’ pierced hands preparing the fire and the fish. He waits for his friends. If there were a morning paper, I feel like he’d be reading it. But then, we all know what the headlines would read: “It’s Empty?!?”
Several years ago, I wrote the following poem in the attempt to feel closer to my favourite moment in Jesus’ life story.  At that time I called it “Breakfast in Galilee”:
Green of the countryside, Wind in the trees
Dew on the shoreline, Spring in the breeze
Friend of fishermen-who'd-come-undone
Source of sea's waves as swiftly they come
Washing and buffing our outermost shores
Where no power of man has ever before
Created, breathed life in the midst of the dead
And now Hope springs eternal- as so You have said
My eyes You have opened, on Your water I sputter
My mind You have cleared from the noise and the clutter
You call me to shore from the boat where I toil
Like Peter, I swim from my world to dry soil
I swim to You madly, my need for You grows
I want You to love me with the love that John knows
But yet I know firmly it is already mine
It is and it was from the dawn of all time
You catch all the fish and you give us the merit
You've purchased our souls that we may inherit
This intimate moment we share as fish fries
As dawn breaks above us in opal, crisp skies
This moment is ours on Tiberias' shore
This one, Beloved, and so many more
we’ve an eternity of chances to fix what was damaged
As we look to our brother, as thrice he did manage
To remind us all gently that yes, we shall fall
But faithfully, surely, You follow and call
You bid us to shore to share in your meal
Like Peter I swim, and like Peter I'm healed.
Stay tuned in to the S+L blog for the “Short Straw Chronicles” beginning this Sunday. I’ll be making my way around the land where Jesus walked and I’ll be taking you (and your intentions) with me. God bless you!

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