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Widows Pilgrimage to the Holy Land Widow Repair

Travel heals a widow’s heart.

My best friend Alli invited me to accompany her on a trip to Israel in the summer of 2008. Her older brother Andrew was a student at the Hebrew University, so we stayed at his apartment in Jerusalem.

I wanted to share some of my favorite experiences, so here is Part 1 of a Widow’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land:

When in Israel, Do as the Israelis Do

June 18, 2008. Alli and I walked almost everywhere in Jerusalem for a few days, so we decided to treat ourselves and rent a car for a longer trip.

When I got behind the wheel, Andrew pointed out that instead of turning from red to green, the traffic lights turn in this sequence: red-yellow-green. He laughed, “People will start honking when the lights turn yellow.”

He wasn’t kidding. Every intersection was like the race lineup in Mario Kart. It was just a mad rush to beat the other driver, and there was no signalling. Curiously, there was no anger, no road rage, no presentation of middle fingers.

Other drivers are simply insistent—it’s part of their culture. Parents fiercely defend their children in every activity, teaching them confidence and self-assurance. Adults do not come across as rude or entitled, and I learned from the Israelis to be more assertive in everyday situations.

Back to the traffic though, I gripped the steering wheel nervously until we made it out of the city and into the peaceful, mountainous desert.

We jammed to Israeli music until we reached Masada, the ancient fortification of Herod the Great. It was so hot that people were not allowed to hike up the mountain, so we took a ski lift to the ruins which date between 37 and 31 BC. Smiling and sweating, we toured Herod’s palace, storage rooms, bath houses and the commandant’s quarters.

The wall openings behind me were used to roost pigeons for food, and their droppings were used for fertilizer. I made the “flappy hands” motion so I would remember the trivia. Haha.

Widows Pilgrimage to the Holy Land Masada Widow Repair

We hiked down the Snake Path (980 ft.) on the eastern side, and I swore I would die from heat and exhaustion before we made it to the museum!

The Kindness of Strangers

When we were ready to leave, I punched in the security code on the rental car, and it wouldn’t work! The guard at the parking garage tried to help, but we only succeeded in shutting it down completely.

I had to call the rental office for the correct code, and they advised waiting an hour before re-entering the code. Thank goodness we didn’t stop anywhere in the desert!

There was a little trouble with the language barrier, but I was so impressed by the security guard’s hospitality. He introduced himself as Kaed, a Bedouin (Arab nomad), and showed us a travel kit containing supplies for making a cup of tea in the desert. Next, we were entertained with an impromptu drum concert when his friend arrived.

I place so much value on these unexpected experiences. My only previous knowledge of Bedouin culture comes from a school textbook in fifth grade. A perfect stranger was kind enough to offer help and let us share in his traditions.

A Swim Float in the Dead Sea

We tried to find Ein Gedi, the oasis, but finally gave up and went to the Dead Sea. I first read about the Dead Sea (“sea of salt”) in a history book. I was mesmerized with the idea of floating in the water. How could you be in water and not have to swim? At ten years old, I resolved to swim in the Dead Sea one day. It was the first item on my bucket list, but I never imagined I would get the chance.

Salt deposits on the rocks actually looked like snow or crystals, and groups of people were coating themselves with the fine mud on the shore. One of Alli’s friends told us a secret: the Dead Sea products that are peddled in the mall are not really from the Dead Sea!

I felt like a big bobber in the water—diving would be impossible. With no effort, I was completely buoyant, sitting back in the water like I was in a recliner chair on solid ground. Movement was like I imagine the astronauts feel without gravity.

Widows Pilgrimage to the Holy Land The Dead Sea Widow Repair

On the way back, we passed the Qumran Caves where the the prophetic books of Isaiah were discovered. We saw the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum just the day before.

A true tourist, I also stopped and paid 50 shekels for a camel ride. I tried to decline the turban, but the camel-tamer insisted and plopped it on my head. He was from Jericho, one of the many place-names that I hold dear from a lifetime of Bible lessons.

The camel was cute but a smelly beast. He (or she) didn’t look excited to give me a ride.

Widows Pilgrimage to the Holy Land Camel Ride Widow Repair

When we were coming into Jerusalem’s gate, I had to elbow my way into the line of traffic. By this time, I had gotten the hang of “offensive” driving.

We got in okay to pick up Andrew. He drove us to the Mt. of Olives where many Jews are buried to be the first to meet the Messiah. Between us and the Old City of Jerusalem was the Kidron Valley, and the sun was setting right behind the Dome of the Rock.

Normal Life: Widow’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Part 2)

Psychics and Mediums are Not Reliable Therapists Widow Repair

My son did a project about “trickster” folktales this week, and he chose a book about a mischievous coyote.

To summarize, the coyote was using trickery to cause strife among the gullible humans.

I often compare what I read to real life, and this childrens’ book was no exception.

The “Coyotes” Came Out After My Husband Died.

In a desperate attempt for answers after my husband’s suicide, a few people in my life bought tickets to see a famous medium—a con man who claims to communicate with the dead.

I knew how the scene would play out: Preying on sorrow and heartbreak, the medium would pretend to communicate with Jason’s spirit, and the audience would be fooled by the performer’s false sympathy.

Out of love, I tried to warn the group. Please understand how dangerous this is!

My advice was ignored, and I wondered if it was safe for me and my son to be around people who hoped to communicate with the dead.

I distanced myself from the topic, and I didn’t realize that strife was festering in the background during the following years.

Mediums: Fame, Fortune & Fraud

My bias against psychics and mediums is not based solely on biblical warnings—it’s also based on controlled studies, investigations, and even the confessions of famous psychics.

A great resource I’ve found is Mind Games: Exposing Today’s Psychics, Frauds, and False Spiritual Phenomena by Andre Kole & Jerry MacGregor.

Andre Kole is a magician—a profession that makes him more than qualified to recognize trickery:

In no case, under strict research conditions and with a magician present to detect deception, has anyone been able to demonstrate genuine psychic ability. This is an important point, since our society has taken it for granted that psychic ability is a fact.

Fact: Mediums and psychics are profiting from the grief and vulnerability of others.

They are not reading cards and receiving messages from the past or the future. They cannot communicate with the dead. Instead, they study the living.

First, the medium throws out broad statements, knowing that something will sound familiar to his audience. He will process your reaction, even a subtle poke at your neighbor.

At close range, an involuntary reaction can tip off the medium as well. The dilation of your eyes indicates that you found a way to relate his words to your situation.

It’s called cold reading.

I can do it myself. When I was a tour guide in historic Beaufort, I practiced “reading” my audience.

Depending on facial expressions and general body language, I would decide whether to concentrate on solid history or mix it up with funny stories and legends.

By one customer’s serious expression, I sensed an academic demeanor. I was talking about “hush puppies,” so I made a 360 and continued with the politics leading up to the Civil War. At the conclusion of the tour, he shook my hand and said he was a history professor.

If European settlements caused a group’s eyes to glaze over, I switched to the “Belle of Beaufort” and tales of the French ghost at the Castle. Their eyes lit up.

Without fail, customization resulted in happy customers. I was telling them what they wanted to hear, and this method is very similar to cold reading. There is nothing supernatural about it.

In my case, I was not harming or cheating my audience. Without asking, I knew which topics were more interesting to my group. I was careful to explain when any of the stories were legends or folktales, and my history was always accurate.

Think you’re too smart for cold reading? It’s impossible to maintain a poker face when you are hoping to communicate with a deceased loved one.

Notice that even when the psychic gets nine out of ten questions wrong, people still believe.

Mediums and Psychics are Not Reliable Therapists Widow Repair

Forcing Christianity into New Age Spiritualism

Deceived Christians will try to force New Age beliefs to merge with biblical truth, and often children suffer from the confusion of their parents:

A child was riding with me shortly after Jason died. We were about to go through an intersection, and the child said, “I asked Jason to make the light turn green, and it did!”

I almost hit the brakes—this innocent child is learning to pray to Jason??

New Age Spirituality is advertised to attract the masses: peace, love and acceptance are major selling points. However, these concepts are ambiguous if they are not based on a solid foundation of biblical truth.

When I disagreed with the safety of calling on spirits, one individual bristled and stuck a finger in my face to tell me off. 

Now I know why witches weren’t very popular back in the day…

I argued with gentle words, but received a hostile reaction. A misleading and inconsistent belief system causes confusion, anxiety and anger.

Psychics and mediums are not reliable therapists, and they are not licensed grief counselors. Trusting in the local psychic will breed delusions, and many people lose the ability to think for themselves.

Just in the past year, I have witnessed irreparable damage due to the “counsel” of individuals who claim to have a “higher power.”

This post merely glosses over the issues I have experienced. I might go deeper into this subject in the future, but in the meantime I encourage you to get a copy of Andre Cole’s book.

Quotes from Mind Games: Exposing Today’s Psychics, Frauds, and False Spiritual Phenomena

Millions of supposedly well-educated Americans are being deceived by charlatans who pretend to have supernatural knowledge or skills. Some of them claim their power comes from God and draw many to their unorthodox theology. (19)

Attempted communication with the dead causes tremendous emotional and psychological problems…Once a person believes he has contacted a loved one, he longs to continue the conversation, and is open to the suggestions offered him by the medium. God sees the practice as evil, and sooner or later those involved are led into evil. (129)

This is just one of the examples provided by former spiritualist Lamar Keene:

William Slade, famed for his slate-writing tricks, died insane in a Michigan sanitarium. (129)

In 1967, Arthur Ford conducted perhaps the most famous seance in history…Ford supposedly received communications from [Episcopal bishop James] Pike’s son, who had committed suicide in February 1966. Pike was convinced that Ford could not have obtained the facts he gave by any other means, thus supporting his belief in Ford…The conventional wisdom was that Arthur Ford was a genuine medium…Later…evidence [was discovered] that most, if not all, of the information Ford gave in his TV seance was obtained through personal research, primarily newspaper accounts. (122-124)

Mediums kept extensive files on their subjects, and by using this network they could obtain accurate information quickly about a visitor from any part of the country. (124)