Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 7 & 8 of Touring the Holy Land

These next couple of days have been some great fun of touring some different aspects of the land of Israel and Jordan. We spent a day at Petra Jordan and then a few hours the next day having a cruise on the Red Sea.

It's been an intense teaching time with visiting the Holy sites and so having a day at Petra and a relaxing cruise on the Red Sea where a person doesn't have to work too much with their emotions and head is kinda nice here and there. Experiencing the Holy Land can definitely be an emotional and spiritual time.

Petra was so cool! This wonder of the ancient world built into the rock hundreds of feet above you is spectacular to walk through. Knowing that people lived here years ago, and also knowing that the Israelites were not allowed passage through here before they entered into the Promised Land, just brought an extra special ambiance while we walked here.
If you can see the blue jacket way up high, that would be Kyrstin and a few of our ladies who walked up there, including Kara, Judy, Kerri, Karen B, Anne, Valerie and Danielle. It's an incredible view from up there.
A number of the ladies also had a short camel ride here at Petra too, as well as having a horse ride for the last leg of the walk back to the entrance. On this day, I will have you all know, that us ladies each individually walked over 22,000 steps. We know this because Karen Sperling had a step counter in her purse. :)
After Petra, we had a late midafternoon lunch at a wonderful restaurant. Here Kyrstin was brought a beautifully decorated cake with sparkly things on it and a few Jordanian men brought it to her singing happy birthday in their language. It was really quite special and she had a huge grin on her face. :) Then on our way back to Eilat we saw the sun set over the mountain range in Jordan.

And then when we had our late supper back at the hotel, Kyrstin got yet another cake, this time an ice cream cake specifically ordered by Arie. He's the best tour guide. :) It was a good day!

The next morning began sunny as well. We climbed into a large beautiful wooden boat for a 3 hour cruise on the Red Sea. It was wonderful to be on the open water and to smell the fresh ocean air and see the bright blue water and sky. Such a blessing to be here. But this time we weren't alone on the boat, there were a number of people on the boat with us. A whole group of police detectives from one of the forces in Israel was on board with us. Well you get a bunch of guys together and things can get a bit rowdy....but we managed alright and had to ignore some things.
It was still great to be on the Red Sea. It was just another reminder for me of how easily and quickly one can get distracted by the things of this world by allowing our thoughts/attitudes/actions to shift off of keeping our eyes on Jesus and living a life that honors him. Even though we're in the Holy Land, the Devil is still very much at work in things all around, in every corner of the country, to fill our time and our heads with stuff that is just not of God...from an over abundance or focus on food or lust or materialism or legalism/traditions or alcohol or name, it just never ends. That's why it's so important to stand guard over our hearts, to constantly be alert and aware of our surroundings and the enemy's tactics and to stay in the Word of God and in prayer to remain close to His side. Going through Jordan, Israel, The West seeing all the different people groups and how each of us has lost our focus at times. It's time to refocus and stand our ground in following Christ and His ways. It's not just about walking where Jesus walked, but are we walking how He walked.

Anyway, back to the joy of being on the Red Sea. :) Danielle was the only brave one from our bunch that went parasailing and loved it...I would have liked to have gone but it was too windy for me and that freaked me out. I honestly would like to try it sometime. Kara took a swim in the water and found it quite refreshing. It has just been great all around to walk the shores of the Mediterranean, worship on the Sea of Galilee, baptize in the Jordan, cruise/swim/parasail on the Red Sea and float in the Dead's been sweet how we've experienced all the bodies of water in the land of Israel. And then arriving in Jerusalem after that and seeing the view from the city out of my hotel's breathtaking!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ladies thoughts on Our Experiences in the Northern part of Israel

Well I've been writing a lot in this blog, so today I invited the gals on the tour to share some of their thoughts with you about what being in the Galilee meant to them. Here they are....enjoy as they share their personal experiences:
"Being on the Sea of Galilee was so moving. You could feel the presence of God and just picturing Jesus walking on the water. With the music our captain was singing and feeling the Lord's presence just brought me to tears." - Kerri
"I loved Nazareth. It was a very interesting and busy city. Being in the Old Nazareth Village made me feel like the Bible came to life! I also find the agriculture very interesting; the orange, olive and pomegranite groves." - Frances
"The boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was so moving. Worshipping as we floated on the water where Jesus walked and envisioning him walking along the shore was very touching." - Valerie
"Before I came, my Bible study group looked at Abraham and his life. Seeing the Abraham Gate at Tel Dan made him really come alive for me." - Connie
"Highlight was being on the boat on the Sea of Galilee. The music with Daniel Carmel was very touching....also the Old village of Nazareth." - Lillian
"I was awed at the thought of walking where Jesus walked and I was most moved being at the Old Nazareth village. It was a step back in time, picturing what Jesus' life would be like as he grew. A lot to contemplate." - Karen S.
"At the Sea of Galilee we sang, we prayed and met some wonderful people. It was so peaceful and emotional. As the boat captain fished we remembered the stories of Jesus on the water." - Kara
"It was great to realize the human side of Jesus from walking and playing with other children, seeing the type of house He would have lived in, the terrain he walked on. The goodness and kindness of God showing us that Jesus had to rely on His Father and the Holy Spirit for everything here on earth! Just as we do, I am sure this will become more obvious as we near the end of his life." - Anne
"My favorite thing so far was eating pomogranates on the jeep ride and I'm really looking forward to the Dead Sea." - Kyrstin
"I really enjoyed the hike at Caesarea Philippi." - Danielle
"Sunrises over the Sea of Galilee so spoke "the Father's love." The experience of Jesus is so powerful on the Jesus boat and the Banais Reserve. Being stirred by the outside influences on Judaism reflected in Zippori and Bet Shean. Villages dotting the hilltops or sides of valleys and their twinkle at night on the rolling hills. Pomegranate juice, orchards of all kinds - so lush. Just amazing!" - Judy
"A couple of my favorite places was the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee with Daniel Carmel singing and his demonstration of fishing off the boat." - Karen
"Experiencing The Holy Land for the 3rd time and now with my daughter Kyrstin has definitely been a highlight. I also really enjoy watching how it affects each woman individually and seeing God move their hearts in places like the Sea of Galilee and The Mount of Beatitudes. It's been really incredible." - Lisa

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 6 of Touring the Holy Land

Waking up on a Kibbutz by the Dead Sea in Israel with the cows and roosters singing, the sun rising over the Moabite mountain range just beyond the Dead Sea, was so incredible! I woke up at 5 and couldn't go back to sleep. So I took my camera and went outside to walk with God through the lush garden paths on the grounds. My heart was full of emotion, hardly believing I was where I was. Why God chose me to experience this, I do not know but I am extremely grateful!

I knew it would be a fabulous day today. This morning was going to start with driving over to the
Jordan River, the more likely site of where Jesus was baptized and close to where the Israelites would have crossed over the Jordan towards Jericho. Kerri wanted to get baptized here today. She shared her testimony while we stood with our feet in the water. It was such an honor to baptize her today.
We have been in Bible study together for a number of years so this was very memorable for us both. What a super way to honor the Shabbat! It was the best Sunday morning on a Saturday service EVER! :) And no, it didn't matter to either of us that the water was murky. :) After we all prayed together and sang Praise God from whom all blessings flow. God is so good!!
After the baptism we drove to the Ahava Factory and then over to take a float in the Dead Sea to all celebrate with Kerri. What fun putting mud all over our bodies, of course the black of it reminded me of the sin that continually threatens to envelope us daily. We all walked into the Dead Sea and washed off the mud and came out cleansed.
Such a great analogy of what Christ did for us on the cross, and when we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, He washes us clean and gives us eternal life. The baptism this morning was a great rededication of that. Thank you Kerri for letting us experience this in the Holy Land with you.
Next came the hike up Massada....well for Kerri and Danielle. The rest of us took the cable car up. At the entrance, a man stopped Kerri and I and said "weren't you the ones in the Jordan river this morning? wow were you ever brave. and you're not sick at all?" It made us smile and I thanked him for his encouragement. Yes the water had been murky but it definitely didn't kill us. :) But back to Masada, The mass suicide that happened up on that mountain is really quite disturbing but we were thankful to hear of the mother with small children who chose to hide and live, rather than take their life.
It made me think of the verse, "choose life and not death." Thank you God for courageous people who live to tell their story.
The 2 hour drive to Eilat was quick. We were happy to settle into our hotel for a couple of days.
Petra will happen on the next day.....another great adventure!
Thank you God for another fantastic day today!!
Thanks for your patience and prayers. It means so much to us all knowing that you are following along with us and praying for us. God bless each one of you!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 5 of Touring through The Holy Land

We were off bright and early this morning. It was our last night in the Galilee. What a wonderful time we had here.

Our first stop was Mount Tabor where Judge Deborah led the soldiers of Israel out to battle. What a brave, courageous, God-fearing woman she was. Such a great legacy she left. So as we stood on top of this mount, we contemplated on what type of legacy we'd like to leave, how are people around us going to remember us as. It was a good thing to think about today. I also really liked the church up here, not to gawdy looking but very tasteful in it's decor.

Then we stopped at Gideon Springs where God took Gideon and his soldiers to choose the 300 who would fight in battle with him. God won that battle for Gideon because of his obedience and faith. My favorite part of being in this place is how our tour guide, Arie, shares of his own personal courageous and successful war story which included him reading the story of Gideon from Judges 7, over the war tank speaker to all his 30 tanks that he was in charge of. The battle was fierce and his soldiers were afraid but after he read this story of Gideon and prayed with his men, which by the way was against the rules to be doing this over the radios in the tanks, Arie and his team of men took on new courage and were at the front lines as the Israel soldiers pushed Egypt back to their own land until they were 6 miles from Cairo. It was another emotional time as Arie shared this personal testimony of being of great courage and having faith in The Almighty God that He was with them and going before them in battle. WOW! SOooo moving!

Our next stop was the old ancient city of Bet Shean. It was in this Gilboa mountain range that King Saul and Jonathon were killed in battle and their bodies were hung on these walls of Bet Shean. This city showed how much of the Roman world infiltrated the Jewish culture with all it's gods and goddesses and it's focus on the human body, rather than keeping the focus on living wholeheartedly for God. Again this is often the struggle with us nowadays, filling our lives with so much other things that we feel are so necessary and therefore it is a continual challenge to living a life that honors and pleases God. We allow so many things of the world to demand our attention that we don't give ourselves time and devotion to God in prayer, meditation and studying His Word. Yes we need to live and life has its responsibilities but we can begin and end each day with God and involve Him in each aspect of our day rather than go throughout the day living as we please as if there is no God.

After lunch we continued on down the road away from the Galilee towards the Dead Sea, passing herds of camels and sheep with their fun to see them! :) Qumran was where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. It was quite something to hear of how the Essenes lived in those days and how they wrote and hid the scrolls. What a rich history!

We arrived at a beautiful Kibbutz on the shores of the Sea. What an oasis of a humble community with cattle, and horses, a hotel that was all spread out ground level in small cottage like rooms. We all loved staying here! The grounds were filled with sidewalks through palm trees and blooming bushes. The cows, roosters and dogs sang in the background and the bright open sky glistened above us. In the valley a short distance below was the Dead Sea. What a wonderful place to be. It's a perfect place to have a ladies retreat sometime.....oh wait, we are having one right now. :)

At 7pm we entered the dining area that was partially filled with some guests like us, but mostly he Jewish families that lived on this Kibbutz. As the Father of the Kibbutz rose to give the blessing over the meal, commemorating the bread and the wine and reciting the Jewish words, my heart overflowed and my eyes filled with tears. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly meaningful this was to be included so intimately in this age old tradition. Friday night is the beginning of Shabbat and the whole family gathers together to celebrate Shabbat. Arie, our tour guide, drove for 2 1/2 hours back to Tel Aviv to be at home with his family for the Shabbat meal. He said the long drive is always worth spending Friday nights with his whole is the greatest joy of the week. I wish we had more of that in our culture, in our families. Truly enjoying the Sabbath and spending wholesome time together as a family. What an wonderful traditiin and celebration. I was so deeply grateful to be a part of it. Us ladies enjoyed walks, visiting and playing Skipbo while Kyrstin and Danielle were invited to go spend time with the youth on the Kibbutz. What an incredible memory we have this day.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 4 of Touring in the Holy Land

Wow, what a time we've been having on our tour of the Holy Land. Each day is so full of new adventures and even though I've been here 3 times now, there's so much to take in. Everything is seen through new eyes because of the different people that are on the tour with me. There's also the different Bible studies that I go through in each season that bring a new growth in my Christian walk that open my eyes to the Scriptures in a new way so that when I do come back here, I'm seeing through a newer lens each time. What a journey it's been!

This day started with driving to the old city of Zippori where there are may ruins from the Roman time. The synagogue that was there had all the Jewish symbols and stories on the mosaic floor but then smack dab in the middle was the sign of the Zodiac. Now how mixed up is that? Already back then, the things of the world were infiltrating the church which is no different than today. Where's the line of mixing the things of the world into the symbols/traditions/teachings of the church? So it was a good lesson that we had today right at the beginning of the day.

A definite favorite spot today was our journey through the Old Nazareth Village. That was an emotional time for many of us. Stepping across the doorway brought us back 2,000 years right back to the time of Jesus. My heart soared and flowed to overflowing while we walked the pathway past people dressed in Bible times and the sheep in their pens, seeing the olive trees and old clay jars, entering the house of a carpenter and seeing him working with his tools just like Joseph and Jesus would have, watching Hannah weave her wool into a blanket, seeing the stone walls of the homes, and then sitting in the synagogue with an old scroll and oil lamp on a small table in the front.oh my, my it was like we were right there alongside the people of that day. I just can't get over how real everything felt and the atmosphere was just so sureal!!  Thank you God that we can share this amazing experience together!

The visit that we had last night with Ibtisam at our hotel made being here at the Old Nazareth Village real personal. Ibtisam's husband is the Pastor at a Baptist Church in Nazareth. They are also ministering in a Baptist College in Nazareth. Their work is so important here!!  Their church is associated with the gift shop at the village and members of the church work in it as well. The founders of the Nazareth Village are also members of the Baptist congregation. A few of us on the tour are from a Mennonite background so meeting this couple last night who are from a Baptist congregation was real special. Whether we are from a Baptist background or not, it again reminded us how we need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world. Oh, I so love the personal aspects this tour has brought to us. Thank You God!

After a good lunch in Nazareth and driving through it's busy streets, we made our way to Hamat Gadar - the popular Hot Springs of the Jordan/Galilee area. The road that took us there ran along the Jordan/Israel border and it was a ride full of quite beautiful scenery. The water was wonderfully warm/hot but not too hot, other than the Hot pool. It was a neat experience being here, imagining the ancient Roman baths they had years ago. I am thankful for my own bathtub and shower at home. Not everyone has the privilege of having those luxuries, especially in the older days. The hot pool had a stone/pebble bottom that kinda hurt my feet but felt good at the same time cause they were so warm. This place also had an alligator farm and a petting zoo of different types of animals and many types of parrots. It was nice to be there. Another new experience in the land of Israel.

Tonight was our last night at the Kibbutz Nof Ginosar here at the Sea of Galilee. I sure enjoyed the quietness of the area, away from the busy city of Tiberius. Watching the twinkling lights of the city and the surrounding communities along the Sea of Galilee at night was delightful. The sunrises and sunsets were gorgeous and I'm thankful for the pictures I could take.

In the morning we needed to leave 1/2 hour earlier than usual.....yes we had to be on the bus by 7:30 am to be on the road in order to get all our stops in, so it was off to bed earlier.
So glad you're journeying along together with us. It is so encouraging to everyone in the group to hear your comments and hearing about your enjoyment of seeing us in the photos. Even though it's not always easy updating the blog each day, it's so worth it when I hear feedback from the ladies family and friends that they love seeing them in photos and reading about their day. It brings tears to my eyes, this world is so small and technology is simply amazing at times. I know what a blessing this blog with photos each day is to some of you and that is why I am writing this. It is so cool that you can be reading this close to the end of your day while we are already asleep. :) That is just SO cool! I am honored, my fellow readers, to have you join us in this personal journey. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! Love you all!