A year ago today. A photo essay about the Holy Lands.

A year ago this and next week, Jill and I, along with her parents, experienced the trip of a life time. A number of my posts have recounted the experiences we had in the Holy Lands. In fact, one was even published in the Church News and expressed the sentiment that you don’t have to go to the Holy Lands to experience deep spiritual feelings. One can walk where Jesus walked right here in holy temples. One can come to know Jesus is the son of God right where one stands.

Yet, something has happened – something I suppose I didn’t expect. Going to the Holy Lands had been an intense desire for both me and Jill for years. And then, thanks to a series of events and her adventurous parents, it happened. I thought back then, before we left, that if I was able to go once, to see, touch, smell, hear, even taste the Holy Lands, I would be satisfied. I was wrong.

I know we were very blessed to go and that those reading this post most likely haven’t had the opportunity to go, so certainly, I should be satisfied. I should be content that I got my chance. But I’m not.

I want to go back. I want to see the Sea of Galilee from Mt. Arbel. I want to touch the walls of The Empty Tomb. I want smell the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. I want to hear the call to prayer every morning. I want to taste the rich foods of the Mediterranean. My desire to go in the first place, I thought would disappear, has been replaced with a desire to return.

In this spirit, I’d like to relive this incredible trip through this blog. I will post, mostly in pictures, for the next couple of weeks recounting what we were doing “a year-ago-today.”

March 28, 2011

The Jordan River

So much happened at the Jordan River. It was this river that Joshua and the Israelites crossed to finally enter the “Promised Land”. (Joshua 3:4).

This is the same river in which Elisha told Naaman to bathe seven times (2 Kings 5). If you recall, Naaman first refused because he felt the “Abana and Pharpar rivers better than all the waters of Israel?” (2 Kings 5:12) Naaman thought he had a better plan than God. He thought he knew what was best. Where do we “bathe” when God tries to bless us? Do we have a better program or a better way? And on which “dip” was Naaman healed? Was it the first, the fourth or the seventh? This story reminds us that the accumulation of simple, repeated acts brings God’s blessings.

And it is, of course, the baptismal site of Jesus Christ (Matt 3).

13 ¶Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to beabaptized of him.

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

15 And Jesus answering said unto him, aSuffer it to be so now: for thus it bbecometh us to cfulfil all drighteousness. Then he suffered him.

16 And Jesus, when he was abaptized, went up bstraightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the cSpirit of God descending like a ddove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a avoice from heaven, saying, This is my bbelovedcSon, in whom I am well pleased.

Jill's mother trying to determine the depth of the Jordan. 🙂

March 29, 2011

Ein Harod

This is the spring where Israel’s army is reduced by God, to show His power and man’s dependence, from 32,000 to 300. He first has Gideon, the man chosen to lead Israel into battle, ask all those who are afraid to go home. The army is reduced to 10,000. Still there are too many, so the Lord tells Gideon to have the remaining men drink from the spring at Ein Harod. This is the very spot. Those men who put down their swords and put their faces into the water and “lapeth as a dog lappeth” are excused while those men who use their cupped hands to drink remain. Gideon’s army now numbers 300. (Judges 7) Through some clever strategy, Gideon, with God’s support, defeats the Midianites.

It is this same Gideon who when called to serve as the head of the Israel army wanted some assurance from God that he could do it. It is not so much a sign he is seeking rather a “tender mercy” to give him more faith. It was as if he were saying, “I will do it God. But I’m scared. Can you give me some confidence that I can do it?” Gideon comes up with a plan. He will place a “fleece of wool” on the floor before going to bed. If in the morning there is dew on the fleece but not on the floor or ground around it, he will know that he was truly called. In the morning, there was enough dew on the fleece to fill “a bowl full of water” and nothing on the ground. But like most us, Gideon still wants more assurance. So he asks the Lord to do the opposite; leave the fleece dry, no dew, but have dew on the ground around it. He awakes to find the fleece completely dry while the ground covered in dew. (Judges 6:36-40)

I don’t think it is bad to ask for “fleeces”, “tender mercies” or even hints that what we are doing is accepted and supported by God. At the same time, I think there are “fleeces” around us all the time that we simply don’t recognize. Like a loving parent, Heavenly-father is always trying to give us confidence and faith. We need to be on the look out for “fleeces” sent from God.

Mt. Carmel

This is where Elijah contends with the priest of Ba’al (1 Kings 18). It is a great story – it shows the human side of one of God’s prophets. There is more to the story than just his victory over the priests. He is pursued by Queen Jezebel and she is very determined to avenge the loss of her priests. Elijah becomes very discouaged and hides under a Juniper tree where he simply wants to die. The rest of the story I included in the following post.

View from Mt. Carmel.

Mt. Tabor / Nazareth

Mt. Tabor

Mt. Tabor is one of two places where most scholars believe the “Transfiguration” took place – the other being Mt. Hermon. Besides this possiblity a lot happened here during Old Testament times. Barak pleads with Deborah to accompany him to Mt. Tabor to battle against the Canaanites. Barak, the leader of Israel’s army is sure that if Deborah, a prophetess, comes, they will be victorious. “If that wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” (Judges 4:8) Is there anyone in your life that has this kind of effect on you? Someone who, if they are with you, makes you feel like you can do almost anything. That begs the question, are we that kind of person for others? Are we so supportive, so filled with faith, that when others face trials and have to do hard things, they seek our help, our understanding our listening ear? There are a few “Deborah’s” in my life for whom I am very grateful.

The housing you see in the picture is modern-day Nazareth. The town, now big city, where Jesus grew up. Nazareth was his “school room” – it was his “MTC”.


Fields and trees around Mt. Tabor and Nazareth

Flowers around Mt. Tabor and Nazareth

Our guide telling us about Mt. Tabor and Nazareth.

From the view point where we could see Mt. Tabor

These red flowers are the real "lilies of the field"

Mt. Arbel – Overlooking the Sea of Galilee

From Mt. Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee

This was one of my favorite spots. From here you can see all of the Sea of Galilee. If you’ve traveled from Logan, Utah to Bear Lake, the view is similar to that of when you come through the mountain pass and see Bear Lake. To the North you can see Capernaum, the site of so much. It was the “church headquarters”, the home town of Peter and others. So many mircles took place here. I’ll write more about that soon. You can see the site where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. And of course, it was here where both Jesus and Peter walked on water. I loved this spot.

Jill's parents, Paul and Carma.

Our guide, Michael Wilcox, pointing out parts of the Sea of Galilee

Fishing boat on the Galilee

Farming next to the Galilee.

Village at the foot of Mt. Arbel

Next stops: Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Sea of Galilee, Tel Dan, Walls of Cana.


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