Monday, June 19, 2017

Been There, Bought the Olive Tree Wood Treasures

I’ve Been There, Bought the Olive Tree Wood Treasures, Seen the Places Where My Lord and Other Bible Heroes Walked, And I’ll Never Be the Same
It was great to be back home to celebrate Father's Day with my family here yesterday, talk about my trip, and to give them the little "treasures" I brought back for them from Israel.

Though I’ve journalized my Rome and Israel trip highlights on my Facebook wall since we left on June 5th, apparently, based on this post, I can’t stop thinking about where I’ve been and those who were with me on this journey. In fact, I will forever be influenced by my experiences.

My dear friends, Charles Michie and Sheila Michie, were the ones responsible for my decision to go on this pilgrimage. We had been discussing this trip for some time, looking for “the one” that would fit us best. Because Mick (Charles’ nickname) and Sheila are a Knight and Lady in the The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (they are vested in this group that are committed to supporting Christian presence in the Holy Land because their hearts are passionate about the protection of Christianity there). They were certainly vested in me because they watched over and cared for me like mother hens on this trip.

Without exception, everyone that I spoke to on the trip really were (in their hearts) pilgrims that were on this journey for their first time or were returning to the Holy Lands for their 2nd, 3rd and even 7th time. Each of us agreed that this journey added new dimensions to our personal lives of faith, to our theological education and understanding – and to our own fields of work and ministry. We had children from the ages of 10 years to 16 years of age (who, by the way, were as touched by the experience as the rest of us were), college students, a young man entering a monastery in September, business men and women, a U.S. District Judge, nine doctors, a few retirees, and two priests. We were from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, California and Missouri. It was a wonderfully diverse group who were all “called” to this pilgrimage.

My sweetheart literally left this trip to me at his passing as we were soon going on this Holy Land journey. I wish we had made this trip many years ago because it would have certainly provided us with more insight and basis for our Bible teaching and ministry. Rome was beautiful and the ancient sites we visited took on a new meaning for me as the last time I was there it wasn’t about gaining as much spiritual insight as it was a romantic celebration of 40 years of marriage that my husband and I had long dreamed about. This time it was about gaining understanding of Paul’s journey there and the incredible influence he and other saints and martyrs had on our Christian lives today. But what struck me most, as I reflect on my week in Israel, is the array of experiences that would have been impossible, or at least improbable, if I had simply travelled to the country on a regular vacation. There is nothing like walking where David and Solomon walked and imagining the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Elijah. Walking where the Holy Family lived, struggled, walked and rejoiced. And walking the way Jesus walked in life, and to His cross. Standing at the basilicas and churches, and hearing His teaching with new ears. Being on mountaintops, at the sea, in the villages and towns where He was born, grew up, taught, healed, and cared for God’s people. There’s nothing like it.

Emotions were high for all of our pilgrims as we arrived at the Tel Aviv airport. Our tour guide,Rimon, right from the start, was more than a guide, he was from and lived in this country all his life and we became family with him. He was passionate about his Christian heritage and he desired that our biggest take-away from our time in Israel, was the take-away of love for his country.

The absolute perfect location to spend time at on the first couple of days was in Tiberias, at the Sea of Galilee. For me, it was one of my favorites because we weren’t amidst the hustle and bustle of the throngs of group tours there like there was in Jerusalem. The drives through the country in our tour bus impressed all of us with the stunning changes we would see in the topography of the land through our bus windows. We’d see lush green lands and waters and then we’d see desert wilderness. We’d see foreboding walls, and a number of security checkpoints with armed guards. We'd see traffic jams and we witnessed a bus driver that could easily drive in the Indy 500!!

This journey enlightened me to the need for our allegiance, our prayers and our support for Israel. I hope that you will get to journey there one day, but in the meantime, I pray that we all will pray for the peace of Israel. Rimon, our tour guide, asked us to pray that, like in America where all religions can abide together in peace and harmony, that Israel can dwell in peace also. If you plan on traveling there some day, be sure to check out our tour guide's info and video on his website at: https://www.rimonmakhlouf.com/

Psalm 122:6-9 "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers! For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good."