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Shalom: Making a Way in the Desert

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” —Is 43:19

Today we witnessed prophecies being fulfilled in our modern times! The Dead Sea is coming to life as we speak; 30 years ago it was completely undeveloped, and we witnessed new trees and agriculture, farms that are watered by newly appearing underground streams. There is a “way in the desert” (the highway we drove on) that did not exist before. People didn’t live there except the bedouins in tents. But now—life is returning to this formerly barren region, and God is blessing His people here.

Morning view from the balcony of my hotel.

Bedouin tent camps along the road beside the Dead Sea. What a hard life!
The history of Masada was absolutely fascinating, despite the 103 temperature and burning sun. I may have to do a bit of reading up on this whole piece of Israeli history; I never knew Josephus was tied to Masada, but I learned differently today!
Checkpoints—fewer and less scary than I expected, but still there. Soldiers at these checkpoints were friendly and waved to us.

Swimming in the Dead Sea is just plain weird. You can’t stay upright—the water forces your body backward or forward til you’re floating on top….great exercise for your abs to fight the water’s power!
This sign was in the Dead Sea parking lot. If only it were as easy as words on a sign . . .
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Shalom: Transitions

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, His holy mountain.” —Ps 48:1

Today was a day of transition—from the Galilee south to Jerusalem! Temps in the city are cooler, praise the Lord; though we’ll be going south to the Dead Sea tomorrow where it promises to be a scorcher. My amazing fact for the day: I was in the West Bank!?! I had no idea how large an area it covers, nor that many of the sites we’re to visit are located within its borders. So yes, Mom, your middle kid will be in the West Bank all day tomorrow, but it’s perfectly safe at the Dead Sea, so do not worry! 🙂

The Golan Heights has an amazing aerial view of the Galilee region! A lovely way to say goodbye to this beautiful place. Our tour guide gave us a very detailed description of this area’s history, it’s hard to follow but fascinating. And our bus driver Gabi deserves a HUGE round of applause! The switchbacks were sharp and many! (And the vehicles left abandoned over the side of these cliffs gave us even more appreciation for his driving skills!
Bet-Shean is another Tel (city built on a city built on a city). The photo at the top is me and our little climbing party at the top (Mark, Pat, Julie, and me). The “top” can be seen in the bottom photo—see that tiny trail going up that mountain?

The Judean wilderness—wow. Imagine this dry, empty, vast desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Not a shelter to be had. Dust devils flying around. Heat, heat, and more heat. If I couldn’t last 40 minutes out there, I know our Lord was “lean and mean” as Pastor Steve says—He had to be to survive that!

I got a chance to drink from Gideon’s Spring!

We got to visit Qu’umran today! Hot as all heck but wow. What a bunch of weirdos this bunch was, but the Lord preserved His Word by having them stash it in the cave shown here.
We’re here!!!!!! This is the view from Mt. Scopus.

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Shalom: Off to Jerusalem

No pics to upload this morning, just wanted to journal a few thoughts so far before we leave the Galilee.

It’s been an amazing journey so far. I can hardly believe we’ve only had two days of touring and I feel like we’ve seen so much–300+ photos already!

Before I left home, my hope was to really meet God here in a unique way. I’d spoken with many people who said when they hit the tarmac they could feel His presence, and I didn’t want to miss that. When we landed, the excitement about the reality of the adventure hit home, and I felt lik dancing and screaming and crying all at the same time, but I only managed applause when the wheels of the plane bounced on the ground, and it took til the morning sunrise on the Galilee to really realise this is not only where Jesus was, but that He is here in a very different way.

The sense I get from our touring around this region is an understanding of Jesus as a one-on-one Lord. I think in some way I pictured the disciples following Him around hanging on every word, but not necessarily understanding the kind of relationship they might have had. But the intimacy of this land, the small size of the lake that surprised me, the closeness of a synagogue site to a home–this was a shoulder-rubbing, neighbor-overhearing little town where Jesus really lived with His family and friends. I’m so glad He’s still that for me, and my mental picture of what that looks like is very different now!

So far the highlight for me has been baptism in the River Jordan. I don’t know how this journaling will come across, if I can explain it well enough, but let me try. I went into the water thinking of this as my declaration of love for Jesus. My action. And my action as an adult, because I was baptized as an infant, so this wasn’t re-baptism because that didn’t “take,” but it was because I wanted to be on record making this commitment as an adult, and where better than the River Jordan? So, as I said, this was me taking an action.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect God to make a move, too; but I came up out of that water a changed woman. I feel the power of God in a new way, as if I can see doing things I never thought I could before. Making changes in my life I’d partially given up on. Taking actions in areas I felt powerless to do a thing. Hopeful for something new. Does that make any sense?

It’s given me joy inside that is just pervading everything else. Yesterday when we were all exhausted, overheated, dripping with sweat, inside I still thought, “Let’s go see more!” I had an excitement when I heard “one more stop” even though my body and brain screamed “No!” And I did let my body and brain win–joined in with the others in bemoaning having one more stop to make. (I really was too tired, and didn’t want to upset anyone by being Miss Pollyanna!) But inside I still thought, “Yeah, we can do this!” Given crazy traffic jams they decided to cancel the last stop and try to go there this morning, but the inside and joyful me would have gladly put up with a late night. Now the task will be to allow that joy to squash the human side of me that wants to whine, but I’m guessing that’s strong enough that it will take a bit to overcome that!

That picture in my head of trying to let the joy of the Lord overtake the humanity of me has made me think again about a drawing we were shown in my Bible Study Fellowship this year. Picture a large circle, with a smaller circle inside it. If the large circle is your spirit, how big would the inner circle be that represents how much of your spirit that is transformed into Jesus-like-ness? As I’ve been processing the baptism, I’ve been feeling like the “me” part of that diagram has great hope to start shrinking now, and that is an exciting thought!

Well the sun is just about up so it’s time to go take photos, so I’ll leave you for now. My next post will be from Jerusalem, how exciting is that!

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Shalom: Race to Ancient Ruins

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.” –1 Kings 18:36

Today was a day of mountain-climbing, heat-bearing, and muscle-aching, stair-walking—and enjoying breath-taking views. We saw the Jezreel Valley from two angles, one from the Nazareth side (north east-ish), the other from Mt Carmel on the west. It’s amazing to imagine the Biblical prophecies that are going to happen in this area; my pastor has been teaching through the book of Revelations the past few months so we had a pretty clear picture of what’s to come! It was so hot all day, though, by the time we were heading home we were all pretty wiped out. Happily so, though, having seen and done a lot once again.

My two new little friends! Love these girlies! We all love chocolate pudding and swimming!
Views from Mount Precipice, above Nazareth and the Jezreel Valley.
Tel Megiddo is a city built over a city built over a city….successive ruins of many years of civilization. Facinating!
Mt Carmel was LOVELY–incredible views, beatiful floral gardens and statuary.
Oh what a beautiful surprise to get to dip our toes in the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea! Half an hour was NOT enough time for this stop!

Another view of the beach at Caesarea; it’s odd to see people picnicking on ruins…?

Getting so tired, and SO hot—my photos are getting more artsy as I’m trying to maintain interest in my exhaustion!

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Shalom: Exhausted with JOY!

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” –Rom. 6:4

It’s been a full and exhausting day—but a wonderful one! The temperature was 100F in the shade—and I don’t know that Israel really knows how to A/C anything the way the US does. (But even a bottle of water is refreshing when warm in temperatures like this!)

I met a lot more people today, both from my church and other Foursquare Churches, what an amazing family of God this is! Discussions during breaks, on buses, and at meals were substantial and spiritual—just my type. Mixed in with lots of laughter of course!

Here are a few photos from the day….it’s now time for dinner and I’ve worked up quite an appetite, so I’m outta here. Have a great night!

On the Sea of Galilee—what a beautiful time of praise and worship out on the water that Jesus sailed on! It was amazing to know that, unlike other disputed locations, this one is NOT disputed. This was where He spoke to the seas, walked on the water, and increased the disciples’ catch!

The Mount of Beatitudes was amazingly beautiful! It’s kept up wonderfully with lots of flowers; the photo in the upper right shows a banana field just above where the amphitheater drops down, where the Sermon on the Mount would have been proclaimed.

St Peter’s Fish! We had a fabulous lunch at the Ein Gev Kibbutz—St. Peter’s Fish is tilapia. Yum!

Naphthali, our tour guide!

Pastor Frank preaching John 21….and getting a blessing as well!

The highlight of my day….baptism in the River Jordan! God totally showed up–I have never had that kind of transformation of JOY!
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Shalom: Arrival (part 2)

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” —Ps 37:4

While my photos are slowly uploading (very slow connection here!) I thought I’d take a minute to tell you all how grateful I am to God for this trip—He has given me the desire of my heart! I never thought it would happen; I had financial obstacle after another, and just when I started sinking into depression about never being able to save the money for the trip, things turned around. Amazingly. Even my dejection seemed to be God’s way of proving to me that He is mightier than my troubles, because He just pulled meright out of it. He’s even willing to blow down the Puget Sound region in a giant windstorm if that’s what it takes to get me to Israel. (That’s a long story!) I just can hardly believe I’m here.

The evening we spent outside after dinner was so lovely, the weather is balmy and warm, but with a near-continual breeze. Looking out over the Sea of Galilee, and realising those were the same hillsides Jesus looked out onto day after day when He was here, that this was the lake He walked on, this was the lake Peter swam to His Lord cooking fish on the beach. . . it’s almost too much to take in, and I’m only sitting at a modern hotel. I can’t wait until tomorrow; we get to go on that boat ride, and visit Capernaum, and the thing I’ve been looking forward to so much, the Mount of Beatitudes!

One of our Pastors, Scott, showing us a “sign from God” about where to go for the bus!

A view of a Palestinian community with its minneret (taken from the bus).

A view of the Sea of Galilee from a switchback as we went down to lower Tiberias.

The salad bar and part of the dessert bar! I ate foods I couldn’t identify—those who know my picky taste buds would have been proud.

The hotel we’re staying at, the Gai Beach Resort in Tiberias. Photos taken after dinner at dusk, facing east.
Goodnight, sleep well!

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Shalom: Safe arrival!

“. . . the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” —Ps 121:8

Me and Maggie (my roomie!) overlooking the Sea of Galilee!

Hallelujah, we’re here! What a wonderful place!

Our flight was again uneventful; about 10 hours worth of travel by air, and we transferred to a bus in Tel Aviv to take us to Tiberias. I sat with a lovely woman and new friend, Christina, and we enjoyed the sights out our window and talked. My photos out our window didn’t turn out all that well but I’m hoping to talk Christina into letting me download her pics since she had a better camera!

We drove along the border of the West Bank; I was surprised that the wall was only for portions of the border, not the whole thing—it separates the most populated areas of Palestinians from the high-population regions of Israel proper. Palestinian communities are notable by two things, one is minnerets at each mosque, the other being architecture—homes are built individually by each family, and structures are up to them, so communities don’t necessarily “match.” (I assume few housing codes or HOAs).

Turning north we aimed toward Tiberias, and the views of the lower Galilee valleys were breathtaking! Some areas were green and planted with all sorts of beautiful patterns of plants, trees, and vines, others were in the midst of harvest so looked dry, but the land here is rich and fertile.

We’re about to go for dinner now, I hope to get back here to post a few more thoughts later. Just wanted to say hello from Tiberias quickly!

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Shalom: Early blessing!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” –Eph 3:20

Now this was a total treat….through various blessings for our tour group, we each arrived in the security area to an envelope with our name on it. I joked, “Oh, is it spending money??” (thinking, of course, that it was a bus ticket for when we land in Tel Aviv.) But no, what a blessing to find spending money inside!

(I suppose it could be illegal to really show you on the internet what the money looks like, so you only get a peek!)

We’re just about to board . . . so the next post will be from the Holy Land!

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Shalom: Waiting

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. . . ” –Psalm 37:7
Well, we’re in the Newark Liberty International Airport…our long layover really feels long from the middle of it!

Our flight across the U.S. was uneventful; I sat next to a very sweet newlywed couple returning from their honeymoon in Alaska. I got to hear about the wedding day, how they met, all their adventures on their trip, and even hear about their Pre-Cana classes (Roman Catholic pre-marital counseling). It sounds like they have some wonderful mentors for their journey in marriage. Blessings to you, new friends!

Our little group had breakfast together when we arrived, and I decided that stromboli really was not made to host breakfast foods. Live and learn! I also decided that the company paid to carpet the floor at this airport needs to be reminded that carpeting should have padding below it, since passengers on long layovers might like to nap a while. Ah well. If they ever call me for advice, I’ll be certain to pass that on!

My companions are asleep for now, so I think I’ll surf the web a bit and keep occupied . . . only 5.5 more hours til we depart for the long leg of travel—10 hours (ish?) to Israel!