Just got from a serv-ation (serving + vacation) with the kids and grandkids in Ocean City NJ. That was crazy. At one point when Max (5) had a meltdown playing Uno, the pug went to the bathroom on the carpet, and another member of the family kept skipping Layne’s turn, Andrew (28) did the background noise for a nuclear meltdown. You had to be there.
My daughter Courtney who had worked in a Muslim country for a couple of years suggested I read “From the Holy Mountain” to prepare for my upcoming trip to a Muslim country with a team from seeJesus.
The author William Dalrymple is a travel writer who follows the footsteps of John Moschos, a Greek Orthodox monk, who had traveled through the Byzantium Empire in the 580s, but 40 years before the birth of Islam. So beginning at Mt Athos in Greece, Dalrymple travels through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and finally Egypt visiting monasteries and what remains of the Christian communities.
Believe it or not, I had trouble putting the book down. Probably the best reason is that Dalrymple is a superb writer with a in-depth grasp of history. He has a remarkable ability to draw people out as he travels. And he is just plain funny. I think every third page I was smiling, reading stories to any family member that would be patient long enough for me to get the yarn out.
I have a whole new view of Islam because of the book. The early Byzantine generals that confronted Islam thought they were confronting a Christian heresy, and it sure looks like then when you see how rooted Islam is in the Orthodoxy and the religious ferment of the sixth century. For instance, the practice of praying prostate with your arms in front of you is an ancient Orthodox practice. The emphasis on the spirit world is Islams, dreams, angels and jinn are all rooted in the shape of Christianity in the Near East.
I also came away with a deeper awareness of monasticism and its power. For all its weaknesses, it provided the presence of God in a world dominated by lust and greed.
It also gave me a real heart for the Christians in the Middle East and what they are up against.
I can’t wait to talk about Jesus in that world.