August 16, 2007
Israel Trip - Sunday, July 15, 2007
A sip of “Coffee Talk!” This is the first I’ve journaled for my website since I began my sabbatical. I’ve missed talking to you!
I’ve decided to write every night when we return to the hotel after our days of touring. This holy pilgrimage for our family is too much of a blessing to chance forgetting even one moment. (Which I am apt to do if I don’t write it down.) Experiencing something memorable is always more fun when you can share it with someone. So…join me and my family as we take this journey together.
But, first, let me tell you about the last couple of days. Even before we begin our trip, God has overwhelmed me with special moments I don’t want to forget. Friday morning, I caught a flight to Houston to attend my friend, Priscilla Shirer’s, “Going Beyond” revival. My goal was to simply stand beside, support, love and pray. But, of course, I ended up receiving more than I gave.
Although we talk on the phone almost every day, it had been awhile since we could sit across from one another and download. I am learning that there is no more valuable way to invest my time than in relationships. I had a million things to do before leaving on this trip and hadn’t even begun to shop or pack but I would have flown to Houston for that one lunch all by itself.
But the blessing was only beginning. Oh my goodness! Let me just tell you right here and now. You must immediately click on www.lifeway.com/women and see if this incredible event is coming anywhere near your city next year. (They only have one more weekend scheduled this year and it is in Irvine, CA.)
As I told Priscilla just before I boarded the plane in New York, “It is a good thing I knew you first as my dessert-sharing, Galleria-shopping, “What are you doing. Nothing; what are you doing?” phone buddy, before hearing you speak or I might be too intimidated to be your friend.” This girl can preach!
The word she brought was incredibly insightful. I learned so much about God purposefully leading us into the wilderness so we can experience His miraculous rescue, satisfaction of human hungers, and intimate encounters with Him. The worship, too, was electrifying. Vicki Yohe, the special guest singer was…well, there just aren’t words. I was crying from the moment she stepped onto the platform.
Then, Saturday morning I received a text from another friend, Beth Moore, whom you know that I’m crazy about but we rarely get to see each other because of our travel schedules. She wanted to have lunch after the event. I was supposed to jet to the airport but I decided to go standby on a later flight so I could catch up with her. What a sweet gift from God. I needed that conversation more than she could know. Priscilla joined us after she had lunch with another couple and then the three of us talked about as fast as we could before we all had to run in different directions.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Monday morning we flew from Dallas to New York where we had a 5 hour layover. The girls played Charades, Tucker talked on his cell phone, and Steve and I caught up on conversations that we haven’t been able to have because he’s been busy getting ready for this convention. We finally boarded the 747 bound for Israel only to stay on the tarmac for 2 hours before even beginning the 10-hour flight. We flew El Al Airlines. Tucker thought it was very funny that the highest level of elite airline travel was the “King David” class. I told him that the lowest level must be the “King Saul” class. (Look for them with the luggage.)
We arrived in Tel Aviv and fought to stay awake for the interesting drive to Jerusalem. We traveled through the Gaza Strip with the stone walls lining the highway to prevent sniper fire on the cars. Just a little bit freaky feeling. We checked into the hotel and our room has the most incredible view of the Garden of Gethsemane and The Temple Mount. We took a short nap to help with the jet lag adjustment and then ate dinner at the hotel buffet which we later decided was really all-you-can-eat-of-nothing-you-really-want!
That evening we went to the hotel pool and spa. The coolest thing was the Turkish Bath. This place is kind of like a steam room but it has hot water dripping from the walls and on the floor and on a large heated marble slab in the middle. It also has fountains of cold water and bowls to splash yourself (and your sisters.) This was really fun especially since I have read a million books set in Roman during the first century A.D. and they all talk so much about the bath houses. This is what I imagined. Especially at the end when four men in Speedos walked in and started bathing each other with loofahs. Gross!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Today was a leisurely day. Steve worked all day getting the convention office set up. The kids and I went to the hotel buffet for breakfast and encountered our first encounter with non-kosher. Not only was there not any bacon but there was no meat at all because they serve dairy for breakfast. We quickly got used to lots of fruit and cheese for breakfast.
Later in the afternoon we went to the Jerusalem mall. The weirdest thing was the food just sitting out on counters. You could simply walk by and pick up a donut or handful of candy and pay for it. We chose KFC. It was also jarring to have to walk through metal detectors before entering in most of the public buildings.
Before dinner, Clancy and I went down to the hotel fitness center and took a resistance class. The instructor had to give all the directions in both English and Hebrew. Steve joined us for dinner and we went into the city. It was a little disconcerting when the driver pointed down a street and told us that was where a car bomb had exploded.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
We took an early bus ride to Tel Aviv where we met my brother, Justice, and his wife, Maria, who had just arrived the night before. We also met our group for the first time. Somehow we got put on the European bus which we absolutely loved. Other than two other guys from Arizona, we were the only Americans. Everyone else was from Norway, Great Britain, Nigeria, Australia, Sweden and Ireland.
Our first stop was Herod’s Palace at Caesarea. Then we went to Mt. Carmel, the site where Elijah called down fire on the gods of Baal in a dual and God won. Next was overlooking the Valley of Jezreel/Armageddon. It was here that we began to get our first idea that we had really been blessed with an incredible tour guide.
His name was Rami and he is a Messianic Jewish pastor. I can’t even begin to tell you all the incredible insights he brought to our tour. He made every stop come alive with fascinating history and excitement for the fulfillment of prophecy.
We also went to Nazareth but it was so built up with homes that it was hard to imagine it as the little town where Jesus grew up. Our last stop was Mt. Precipice. This is supposedly the site where Jesus escaped stoning by slipping through the crowds but Rami said that he didn’t think this was the place where that actually happened. That is another thing we loved about Rami. He wasn’t afraid to tell us when tradition overlooked historical facts just so a church could be built there.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
We’ve been really looking forward to today because we knew we were going to get to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The lake is small enough that you really get a sense of wonder when you realize that you really are walking where Jesus walked. Well, actually, we just floated where Jesus walked but it was still cool. It was a great little trip with a wonderful teaching and then one of the local guys showed us how the disciples would have fished back then.
On the other side of the lake we went to the site of the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. Beatitude. Rami gave another great teaching and we had free time to simply find a spot in this beautiful place and meditate on these famous words. Rami showed us why this was the perfect spot acoustically for Jesus to deliver this message and how hundreds really would have been able to hear him. Fascinating.
Then we went to the shoreline where they believe Jesus most likely met the handful of disciples after his resurrection and cooked fish for them. We even ate fish caught in the Sea of Galilee.
Next, we visited Capernaum where Jesus did the majority of his speaking. It was really cool to see ruins from an old synagogue and envision Jesus teaching with lively debate raging from the seats all around the walls.
Then we went to the “Jesus Boat.” This is where a group of young people from the local kibbutz discovered a fishing vessel that dates to the time when Jesus was walking the earth. Of course, they don’t claim that Jesus actually fished from this boat with his disciples but when we are imagining them in our mind’s eye this is the kind of boat we should be envisioning. This place also had a great gift shop so I bought olive wood bottles of anointing oil and mezuzahs from my friends at home.
Last stop was the Jordan River where my whole family decided to get rebaptized. As I wrote in my Cyber Prayer Letter last month,
“God is doing an indescribable work in my heart. When I look back, this revival in my life actually began 19 months ago, sped up last fall and then went into overdrive at the beginning of this year. I have been a Christian for 34 years and yet this is by far the most intense season of grace I have ever encountered. It feels more like a born again experience than when I was saved at the age of ten. That is the reason I have decided to get rebaptized in the Jordan River tomorrow. I’m sure I will eventually write more details sometime in the future but part of the work God is doing is revealing my sin of self-suffiency and self-protection. I have lived much of my life attempting to gain as much knowledge as possible, so I would make the right choices, in order to stay in control, so I could protect myself from getting hurt. In essence, I have desired to be my own god, rather than trust God with my wounded heart. Now, nobody would have seen this on the outside. I didn’t even recognize it in myself until recently.”
I am learning so much about the freedom to really enter into the rest of God by grace rather than striving to earn God’s love and approval through the law. I wanted to be baptized again to make this statement to myself.
Friday, July 20, 2007
I’m exhausted. I don’t know if it is the jet lag or the all-day touring or the 120 degree heat but I’m pooped out. I don’t have much gumption for writing so my photo captions are going to be short and sweet tonight.
The first thing we did today was visit the ancient city of Bet Shean and then drove to the top of the Golan Heights.
After viewing a movie on the mysterious Jewish sect called the Essenes, we were able to see a handful of the actual caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
Gideon Springs is one of my favorite spots so far. I love the Bible story but Rami really deepened its meaning for me as he described the process and significance of the shofar and the broken torch pots used to scatter the enemies before battle. This was one of those places that it boggles the mind to realize this is exactly where the story happened.
Shabbat began just as we were driving back into Jerusalem from the Tiberius region. We had a short devotional service overlooking the city and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Wow! I can’t believe we were so close to the actual cave where David cut the piece off of King Saul’s robe when he was “doing his business.” Like yesterday’s visit to Gideon Springs, it will be so cool to be able to envision the real spot in my mind’s eye when I read these Scripture passages.
After a very hot visit to Masada (120 degrees) Tucker and Justice ran down the mountain! They are crazy. I can’t wait to rent this movie and watch it again after having visited the actual fortress.
Okay, this is the funniest thing I think I’ve ever done – floating in the Dead Sea! It is so weird how it is actually impossible to go under water. You really can sit down like you are in a chair.
One of the pastors on our bus gathered a bunch of the mud and we had too much fun! And our skin really did feel fabulous after we rinsed it off. I bought packets of mud and jars of the sea salt to take home to my girlfriends. A little Dead Sea spa party in the comfort of home.
Our last stop of the day was at a great gift shop that specialized in selling olivewood nativity sets and other traditional Jerusalem souvenirs. I really wanted to buy a shofar but they were very expensive. Tucker had the best time of all just playing with all of the stuff for sale.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Our first stop today was the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. We all followed tradition and wrote down prayer requests on little slips of paper and then put them in the wall and prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane was one of the most meaningful stops so far. Rami presented another wonderful teaching and then gave us 20 minutes to each find an olive tree to sit under and have some quiet time with Jesus.
I was so glad we got a chance to ride a camel while we were in Israel. Even if it was just long enough for a photo-op.
This was really cool. These streets next to the temple walls have been discovered since I was in Israel 18 years ago. Now you can say with integrity that you walked where Jesus walked since there is no question that He would have taken this road many times.
These are the Southern steps where Peter is believed to have preached his famous sermon at Pentecost.
The Foursquare convention (the reason we are here in the first place) started tonight. Oh my goodness, from the moment the shofars were blown from every corner, the air was electric. It is such a privilege to be in the presence of the Lord with the Body of Christ.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Today begins our shorter tour days. We went to the praise and worship service at 8:30, then the first session was at 9:30 and the second session was at 11:00. We boarded the tour bus at 12:30 and ate our box lunches on the way to the Old City.
We entered through the Lion’s Gate which is also the gate that was penetrated to start and ultimately win the 6-Day war.
We walked through the Muslim Quarter of the Market and down the traditional Via Dolorosa stations. We visited the Holy Sepulchre Church which is where tradition has the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. I don’t know if it is or not but it is so gaudy and religiousy that I could barely even stay in there very long. It gave me a creepy feeling.
The last stop of the day before the evening session of convention was St. Anne’s Church just outside the Pools of Bethesda. My sister-in-law, Maria, sang “The Via Dolorosa” a capella within the beautiful acoustics of this church. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Another short day of touring but packed with incredible times with the Lord during the convention sessions.
We visited this model of the Old City and that was fascinating. A part of me wishes that we had seen this place first because it really helps to put all of the different pieces together.
Yesterday, we visited the traditional site of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today we visited the other contenders. Gosh, these were so much better. The Golgotha site really did look like a skull and the Garden Tomb was beautiful.
The convention session this evening was a musical called, “The Covenant” chronicling the history of promise of the Jewish people. It was stirring.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Today was our last day of touring and the convention and we packed it full to the very last possible minute. This morning session was the most meaningful of the week for me. The message was exactly what the Lord has been speaking to my heart. The text was Acts 1 and Joshua 1. Pastor Glenn Burris, Jr’s three main points were ones that I’m going to continue to hang onto during this season of my life. In talking about God’s relationship in the lives of the Jewish people, and ultimately, in ours as believers he says, “In the brokenness, God sent a promise. In the barreness, He sent His presence. In breakthrough, He sent the power.”
The convention wrapped up with a beautiful time of taking communion together and powerful prayer for Israel.
The first touring stop of the day was Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. I have visited other Holocaust museums in various cities but this one is, by far, the best one. I wish we could have stayed here all afternoon.
The next stop was St. Peter Gallicantu church which is the traditional site where St. Peter denied Christ. It is right beside Caiaphas’ house. My favorite part of this stop was the road leading up to the house because I could better imagine Jesus walking on this road toward Jerusalem than imagining he or Peter somewhere in this church building. I really wish they hadn’t built so many churches at all of these sites, it messes up the picture.
Okay, so this was the surprise highlight of the whole trip. At the end of the day, one of the guys in our group suggested we go see if we could just walk up and get a tour of Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This is the tunnel that was built from the water source into the temple during Hezekiah’s reign. Then David used it later to retake the city by bringing his army through the tunnels and up through a shaft into the city walls.
Our friend, Ray, brought glow sticks for our little group and we got to walk the length of the tunnel in water that was usually up to our shins but reached to my thighs when the tunnel got really narrow. We had so much fun.
At the end of the tunnel is the traditional site of the Pool of Siloam where the blind man washed his eyes as Jesus healed him. Nowadays, most experts don’t believe this was the real site but it was fun to wash our eyes in it anyway.
After Steve got the convention office boxed up, he was finally able to join us for one last touring stop. We met at the Western Wall and then took a very late night trip through the “Rabbi’s Tunnel.”
This tunnel takes you to the closest place the Jewish people are able to go to the Holy of Holies. The highlight of this tour was a very enlightening model of the temple mount and what it has looked like through the ages from the time Abraham offered Isaac on the altar, to the time David bought the threshing floor, to the temple sites, and now the home of the Dome of the Rock.
July 26, 2007
Yea, tonight we get to go home! We’ve have had the best trip ever but we are ready to get home. We all got to sleep in this morning and then we spent the day gathering some last-minute souvenirs. We went back the olivewood shop and bought a beautiful nativity set for our family. Then we went shopping in the Christian Quarter where the girls picked ups some trinkets for their friends. Then it was time to begin our long journey home. From the time we leave our hotel ‘til the moment we walk through our front door we will have been traveling over 24 hours. It sure is going to feel good to be home.
Posted by weblion at 09:58 PM