Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A note from Israel

Today was an incredible day.


It started at 5am when I went with “the Trio” (Leanne, Emily and myself) down to the shoreline to watch the sunrise. So we sat, arm in arm in the dark by the waterside and listened to the waves crash into the shore from the Sea of Galilee. Every once in a while someone would whisper softly something like, “how many times do you think Jesus sat in this very spot and did this very thing?” As the sun slowly rose and night turned to day, we found ourselves shifting from the rocks on which we were perched and meddling in the cool water. I stood ankle deep and let the waves splash up as the sun came up. We saw an otter and lots of beautiful birds. We felt the cool wind. We shared knowing glances. As more friends from out trip joined us, we gathered around a small glass of wine and a pita, prayed the Great Thanksgiving together, and shared in a Holy meal of Communion. It was beautiful, and we could not have asked for a better start to our day.


Our morning was a busy one, complete with frustrations of timelines and busy schedules. We didn’t let it get to us for long, though, for we could not help but find great joy in all we were surrounded by. We made a stop at Enherod, the site where God separated Gideon’s army into 300. The water was far from what we wanted to drink from today, but the park in which it lay was absolutely gorgeous, and full of new forms of vegetation like a “spikey” tree.


After a brief stop at Bet Alfa, a synagogue with incredible ancient mosaics from some of the earliest Christians, we spent several hours at Bet She’an. Bet She’an was a city that has been dated back thousands of years, the final remains of which were finally a Roman city that had been destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century. This place was incredible as we seemed to almost casually walk through ruins of cities that were at least 1400 years old. It was beyond anything our minds could grasp. As we walked into a big, beautiful ampitheatre, our favorite professor, Dr. KK Yeo, asked us if we would sing for them on the stage. (We have been singing the whole trip, and were asked to sing the previous day at worship as well). We could not pass up the opportunity, so after our brief lecture, made our way down to the stage as our colleagues waited in the top row. We made our way onto the ancient stage and were told we “looked like ants” as everyone grew quiet. Leanne started us and together we sang the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” It was indeed another holy moment that sent chills up my spine as our voices carried throughout the outdoor amphitheatre just as they would have thousands of years before. Incredible… and this was only the first stop of many within this incredible ancient city. It was a worthwhile walk, included a nice hike to a chapel on a hill, and lots of time to walk, pray, sing, laugh, and take photos.


A Crusade fortress only slightly out of our way was a good visit to another part of our history. We have parts or our history that do not always feel so holy, but it was still incredible to visit and see what such a fortress Christian soldiers lived in was like. It was complete with a large moat, windows only large enough to shoot arrows through, and large courtyards where we could easily envision Crusaders mingling, sleeping, or sharing meals. It was a beautiful fortress with a dark history, and I am thankful we could include this piece of our history with the rest of our journey.


Our last stop of the day was perhaps the most anticipated visit of the entire trip for many: the Jordan River. I wish I could find words to begin to describe to you this experience. The stop started off quite differently from how we imagined, as it we went to a place on the river that was clearly designed for tourists. However, the holiness of this place easily prevailed over that frustration, and we were overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit among us. In fact, the reminder of what makes this river holy may even have made this more holy for us. Mark 1:9-11 was written on the walls around us in every language you could imagine; we could not come up with a language we knew that was not written somewhere around us. Nor could we count the languages being spoken around us. God is so good… and speaks to us in so many languages…


The Jordan River. What can one say? We shared in a service of prayer and thanksgiving as we renewed our baptisms. We watched in awe and wonder as many around us were being baptized in the very same waters Jesus was so very many years ago. We listened to the song of our Orthodox brothers singing just down the way. We prayerfully sang a few of our own songs as we held each other close. Some of the holiest moments we shared were caught on film by others as we were oblivious to the cameras around us. The video of our singing as we stood in the river swaying back and forth gives evidence to the radiating joy we were feeling in the moment. I was blessed to be anointed in the river by a dear friend, and even more blessed by the time of prayer we shared together in a holy huddle. It was indeed a very short hour of prayer, peace, as the love of God and the love of my dear sisters created for us a moment to never be forgotten. It was a holy moment that I may never be able to fully conceive, and I am all the better for that glorious holy mystery.


This was only one day of this incredible journey. I imagine it will go down as one of the most incredible days of my life... I have so many unforgettable memories from today that I imagine when I remember them, I will not believe they all happened on the same day.


(I tried to include pictures, but they wouldn't load. If we have better internet tomorrow, I'll update with them then)

4 comments:

Mare said...

Not really sure how to respond...I got a chill just reading it.

I'm so glad you're getting this...

soak it ALL up!

Anonymous said...

Completely amazing...I just saw this most incredible movie in my head thanks to you. I am practically breathless...

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

I continue to pray for you: and entrust you to the leading of God's Spirit.

Karl Kroger said...

Jen, it is amazing that you are halfway around the world, yet you are walking along familiar places that my feet touched just months ago. Your narrative brings back fond memories of my own experiences. I hope your entire trip shakes and fills you to the core. Peace my sister in Christ,
Karl