Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Beauty of Israel

In the Old Testament we read that Israel was "the land of milk and honey."  God said it, Abraham believed it, the Jewish people lived it.  But when I tried to picture Israel in my mind what I saw was the desert, The Dead Sea, the mountains that are pure rock. I'm not sure why that's all that I saw but I do know that I was wrong.  Really, really wrong.  Israel is both lush and arid.  It is inviting and it is desolate.  But no matter which part I was in, it was beautiful.
 The flowers are amazing:




Sometimes they appear, just two or three, in the most unlikely places.  On the side of the highway, beside a sign pointing the way to Bethlehem, a few flowers peak out of the grass.  Cascading over a rock wall on a narrow street going into the Old City they remind me of that old saying, "bloom where you are planted."  In many places they weren't planted...they were happenstance.  A seed dropped by a bird perhaps.  But out of the dry ground they sprouted and they persevered.  Much like the people of that land.  

Some of the beauty is man made:




These pictures are unedited and my skills aren't good...an understatement.  But you can see the amazing talent that has been given to this land over the centuries.  Even in the very poorest of villages the churches were beautiful and were filled with art that took my breath away.
Even the desolate parts are beautiful:




 But the real beauty lies in this:
Jesus came.  He was baptized in the Jordan River.

He died and He was laid in a tomb.

But He's not there in that tomb any more.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pillowcase Report

A couple of weeks ago I asked if some of you would make pillowcases to send to our servicemen and women and several of you agreed.  I offered a gift as a bribe for one of you.  :)  Today I remembered that I hadn't done that so I'm happy to announce that the number was lucky 7.....Lura from GrammysNews from  is our winner!  Some of you know that Lura was in a terrible auto accident a couple of months ago and is recovering at home after a very long hospital stay.  I doubt she's gotten to make her pillowcase yet but soon she'll be able to sit up long enough to do that.  Lura I'll be sending you a gift this week - be watching for it!  blessings, marlene

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Been A Little Windy Here

With all the tornadoes that have hit the mid west I know we're lucky to have just had wind where I live, but I do believe it hasn't stopped blowing since about mid February!  Even though we've had what seems like a lot of rain our yard dries out quickly because the wind blows constantly.  Yesterday it was particularly bad as you can see from this picture.
This is my husband's truck under that tree!




An hour before it came down he was standing right there where that truck is parked!  While I hate losing the tree, and I'm sorry the truck is damaged, I'm feeling totally blessed that it didn't happen when he was out there working.  Two neighbors and one of our grandsons came immediately and in about an hour and a half that half of the tree was cut up and off the truck.  This morning another grandson came and he helped my husband get the mess cleaned up and hauled to the dump, and the yard mowed too.  And before noon the insurance company had already cut a check to pay for the damages.  Except for the shattered windshield, the dented in roof, and the scratches and dents on the hood, you'd never know it happened. :)     Oh, and except we now have half a tree there that has to come down.  I'm always complaining because we can't grow grass there in the front because of all the shade.  I bet now we can!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walking The Walk

As we entered Old Jerusalem my heart pounded and I felt as if it were skipping beats.  To know that this road, the Via Dolorosa, was the very road up which Jesus carried his cross was overwhelming.  Our guide told us to stop and look down.  Some of the stones we were standing on were  more than 2000 years old.  They could have been the very stones where He placed His feet, where His blood dripped, where He stumbled and fell.

I don't know how it could be but it seems as if everything in Israel is uphill!  Surely we will go down soon I kept thinking.  But if we did I don't remember it.  At each station of the cross we were able to stop and read the plaques marking the event.  It became so very real.  I felt Him labor to walk, to even breathe.

As we walked there were little alleys going off in both directions.  I know that those who live here learn the way to get where they are going but for those of us who aren't regularly walking these streets it was a maze, frightening because the crowds made it difficult to always keep up with the group.  Not frightening as in being afraid for my person, but frightening in that I might miss something if I had to go find a taxi to get me back to my hotel!
Sometimes the alleys were clean and empty, but that was mostly in the Jewish section.  In the Muslim section the alleys were dark and dirty and cluttered more often than not.

This is The Wailing Wall.  There were so many people here, all praying, many weeping, most putting prayer requests in the little niches.  Nationality didn't matter.  Color didn't matter.  Wealth or lack of it didn't matter.   Denomination didn't matter. We all were the same before God, all worshiping and all praying for the sorrows of our lives.  One thing mattered though...gender.

Men went to one section and women to another.  The section where the men went was more private than the one I went to.  It reminded me of the Temple when it's described in the Old Testament...women were allowed only so far into the Temple.

The blue shirted guy....my husband.  He was praying alongside soldiers, Jewish men, and men from all nations.

When we left the wall we went to another part of the city and actually climbed up and walked on part of the wall surrounding Old Jerusalem.  If my eyes look swollen, they were.  I can't remember crying so much.  I wish I could explain how I felt on this journey, but it won't make sense.  I felt like I was so close to Jesus, I felt a physical presence unlike anything I can articulate.  I was at peace but also in turmoil.  I was grateful for His death and I was guilty at His death.  I wanted to have lived then so I could follow Him but afraid that if I'd been alive then I would have discounted Him like others did.  I pray it would have been the following and not the discounting.

This is what I saw as I looked out over the wall.


One of the things I most wanted to do while I was in Israel was to stand on the steps of the Temple where Jesus taught.  I'm not sure why that was so important to me but walking up these steps was like coming home.

This is the view from the Temple steps....lots of tour buses but also a gorgeous view of the surrounding city.

And lest you think I wasn't paying attention....look at these two shots of floors and wonderful quilt patterns.  :)

Wouldn't this be a beautiful block when stitched up?  In my mind Jesus is the center and the points of the star are you and me, the whole world drawing close to Him.  Oh that it were so.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On The Third Day

The Sea of Galilee.  A fishing boat on The Sea of Galilee.  I stood on the hill and said those words over and over to myself.  I couldn't quite take it in...from a distance that could have been the boat.  He looked on this hill from just such a place out there; and He saw the people watching and waiting for Him, just as I do today.  I wonder what He was thinking.  Was He tired and wishing for a little rest, or was He filled with joy to know that some would choose His way, or perhaps both.

In the museum at this spot there's what's left of a 2000+ year old boat similar to the one Jesus would have ridden in, that Peter would have fished from.  It was discovered some years ago buried in the mud of the sea and was carefully extracted by archeologists.  There's a diagram that shows how 13 men would have fit into the boat.  There are certificates of this and that promising that this is really as old as they say it is and how it was made and all that stuff that some people demand as proof.  As for me, I don't need proof.  It doesn't matter to me if it's really 2000+ years old or only 1,975 years old.  It's similar to what would have been available to these fisherman and it helps me picture the scene....the sea is calm, the men are fishing, and here comes Jesus walking on the water, doing what you and I think is impossible to reach the ones He loved.  

From the boat you can see the hill where Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish.  Over here they waited.  They waited for the boat to come to shore, for Jesus to speak and to teach and to heal.  I wish I had been among them.

Peter lived here.  Peter, the rock Jesus built the church on.  Peter, the fisherman and the family man.  His mother-in-law lived with him; that was not the norm of that day so I wonder why she was there.  He must have been a kind man to have allowed it.  Or perhaps he just loved his wife so much that her mother was welcome too.  I wonder about Peter...he loved the Lord I know but what else about him.  Did he have children?  Did he have dreams of a better life than fishing?

This statue is at the church that marks the spot where Peter's home was.  

 
Archaeologists have excavated Peter's home and this glass ceiling covers part of it so that you can look down into the "living room."  I knew how primitive their homes must have been, or I thought I knew.  But seeing the ruins like this reminded me of how hard life was then.

Rough ground was their floor, rocks were their walls, oftentimes the walls of a cave were their protection from the weather.  Jesus could have come at any time.  He could have come today when He could ride in a car, fly in a plane.  But He chose that time, that place.  He walked on rough rocky paths in rope sandals, He endured cold winds and blistering sun.  Why then?  Why that place?  He did that for me.  He did that for you.

The Jordan River.  It was just as I had pictured it.  I kept thinking of the words of a hymn, "you are standing on holy ground."  We reaffirmed our baptism in this place, this holy ground.  I was humbled by the gift of His grace.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A New Day

You were all correct - Israel was my destination and my dream trip.  Every single moment was a joy and I gave a big sigh the first day when our tour guide greeted us with "Welcome Home!"  Israel is where my faith began, where my spiritual ancestors lived and worked and worshiped.  I was truly home at last.  I'll be talking about this trip for many years to come but I promise only a few days here.  :)  The pictures I'm posting here are from The Valley of The Wind and The Doves which lies in the Galilee area between two mountains.  If you find any mistakes in the information posted, please forgive me.  I tried to write down every word and every bit of information but there was so much that I just couldn't take it all in.  And now I can't even read all that I wrote!  I'm slowly deciphering it and I hope over the summer to combine my notes with the literature I have so that it will all make sense.
This narrow valley is quiet, serene, peaceful and probably as close today to what it was in Jesus' time as anywhere in Israel.

The views are spectacular and I confess that I couldn't imagine before going that it would be so lush and fruitful.  This part of Israel will grow any fruit or vegetable you plant.  The soil is volcanic and much like Hawaii.

Even though they were experiencing a bit of a drought there were still wild flowers everywhere the day we were there - some like what we have here in Arkansas and some I've never seen.  They had Queen Anne's Lace, and Baby's Breath and Poppys.  A few of them are residing, dried, in my Bible.  :)
We went to this valley early in the morning of our first full day in Israel.  There was no one there but our group.  We could hear the doves cooing and see the caves in the mountains where people lived during Jesus' time.  This road that you see here is the road that Jesus would have walked going from Capernaum, where He lived for 2 or 3 years after He was rejected by Nazareth, to Bethany where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived.  This is the road Naomi and Ruth would have walked.  Just the knowledge that my feet could be standing in a place where His feet stood nearly took me to my knees.  We had a worship service here that touched my heart and filled me with joy.

This is His land, His home, the land He will return to.  This is your land too.  Your home.  How awesome is that!