Steps of Faith

בוקר טוב (Pronounced “boker tov”.)

This was our morning greeting from our wonderful tour guide, Sonia Waters, for the past two weeks while in Israel. Most days we left our hotel at 8:00 a.m., carrying along with us everything we would need for our day’s journey. For me that meant my backpack, hat, sunscreen, iphone (for photos), map of Israel, Bible, shawl (for holy sites), passport (for unexpected checkpoint boarding by border security), and lots of water. Our seasoned bus driver, known only as Govanni, made sure the on-board cooler was always re-stocked overnight. Bottles were $1 US or 3₪ Israeli shekels, which was much cheaper than tourist spots, where we paid up to $2.50 for a bottle of water.

Govanni could navigate the the steepest mountains and the tightest parking spaces to get our luxury tour bus to and from its destination safely.  He spoke little English, but was always cheerful and helpful. He remained in the background or stayed on the bus for most of our excursions, but always had the AC cranked to the max by the time we returned, exhausted and overheated from the 90+ degree desert sun. I learned on our final day in Israel that Govanni likely saved the life of one of our tour members, rescuing her from an undertow at a beach in Tel Aviv. Praise God for his quick response!

It is impossible to share in words or pictures what this trip meant to me being so close to the stories I have read in the Bible all my life. The dusty roads, rocky cliffs and briny seas I visited all came together like the pieces of a puzzle as Sonia explained Biblical history at each site. Tears welled from my eyes when I stood on the Mount of Olives and saw Jerusalem for the very first time, and when I prayed at the Western Wall.

View of Jerusalem, taken from the Mount of Olives

 

This was no ordinary vacation. For me, it was a tour of emotions, and deeper understanding of my faith and its roots. History came to life where Jesus once stood and preached the gospel message inside this synagogue at Magdala on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:35-39‬

The journey continued as I walked on the remains of the original stone street in Jerusalem where Jesus once walked, possibly carrying his cross to Calvary. I was baptized in the Sea of Galilee and floated in the Dead Sea. I sat in the Garden of Gethsemane and wandered through ruins of ancient kingdoms. These were quite literally steps of faith.

I will share more in future posts, and hopefully create a link with both photos and narration so you can get a small glimpse of what I learned on this trip of a lifetime. And if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Holy Land — GO!

As I close this post, please join me in praying for peace throughout the Middle Eastern region. I also want to offer a special thanks to Dennis and Tina Karp of https://chosenpeople.com/site/Chosen People Ministries, our friends (and neighbors!) who organized this amazing trip. I am so grateful for their invitation to join the tour.

 

The Crazy and the Calm

It’s been a crazy week here, with the wildest wind storm I have ever witnessed in Virginia. This massive storm affected a vast stretch of the eastern seaboard, bringing damaging winds and coastal flooding.

Tree damage in Stafford, VA.

While our home doesn’t appear to have suffered any damage, others were not so fortunate. This photo is one of hundreds I found depicting wind damage around Virginia. I read that the tree came down in the bedroom of a 4-year old boy who was playing in the basement at the time and is unharmed. How grateful this family must be!

Thousands of people in the storm’s path are still without power, including our relatives in Massachusetts. Many will be without electricity into the coming week as the storm cleanup continues.

My part of the crazy was coming down with a cold and fever in the middle of the storm, ending in laryngitis. I missed singing with my choir family today, but I am giving gratitude that the Holy Spirit filled our Lenten worship, even without my squeaky voice 😉.

All this served as a reminder of how unpredictable life can be, and that every storm can teach us about what is truly important. During this season of Lent, I have been mindful of God’s presence each day, even in the midst of crazy. In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus shows not only that he has the ability to calm the storm, but he also slept through the storm:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Growing up with the Atlantic Ocean in my back yard, storms were part of my everyday life. We prepared as best we could, hunkered down and rode them out. I slept through many of them too.

Throughout life, I have learned that it is easy to panic when the seas begin to swell. But it is far better to have faith enough to trust that God will equip us and then calm the storm. Only by faith can we begin to learn how to weather the storms in life.

My childhood back yard in Ocean Bluff, MA