Tag Archives: Roadtrip

Israel

I have taken many trips in my life but none have affected me as much as my recent trip to Israel.  During my ten day pilgrimage to the Holy Land I packed in a lot of sites.

I have visited other Holy sites around Europe in the past, including the Vatican, but they never made me think of anything beyond the beauty of the craftsmanship.  Israel is a different place entirely.  It is the living history of our Living God.

It is a land dripping in history and bloodshed. It has been conquered and reconquered for many centuries. The land is not rich in terms of resources.  They have to irrigate the land and desalinate the soil to make it fertile.  It varies greatly around the region, but overall it is very rocky with little water.  One plant seems to thrive there naturally, and that is the Olive tree.  Olive trees grow all over.  The olive is a hearty tree that lives for many centuries, so if you plant them today your great-great grandchildren can enjoy their fruit.

The modern State of Israel has turned a once barren land into rich fields of crops.  They have planted countless trees and made many improvements, despite being surrounded by enemies on all sides.

“Israel cannot bring you to God, but experiencing Israel can bring you closer to God.”

I heard these words shortly after landing in Israel.  This phrase went through my head a number of times as I explored the country.

People travel to Israel for many reasons.  My main reason for the trip was my love of the history.  I wanted to walk where Jesus and the disciples walked.  I wanted to see the land they knew, worked and loved.

I saw first hand the small desert village where a child, fully man and fully God, was born.  He would go on to impact people’s lives around the world for over two thousand years.

I could feel the tug of history when I visited Caesarea and its great theatre.  I knew Paul had been on trial and yet here I was sitting in the same arena where it took place.  It was there that the Pilate Stone was discovered by archaeologists. The stone was a dedication stone from Pontius Pilate to the emperor Tiberius.

Capernaum is a small fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is written about in all four of the Gospels and it is at the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus taught.  The house of the disciple Peter is located a couple of blocks from the synagogue. When you walk the streets of Capernaum you can begin to appreciate what the early Christians went through.

Traveling the country by bus is easy with modern highways and roads.  A trip from the shores of Galilee to Caesarea Philippi takes under two hours. Jesus and his disciples walked it, and it took weeks!  

The Dead Sea looks amazing when you first set eyes upon it.  It is only when you wade in and feel the water that you fully realize why it is called the Dead Sea.  The high saline content of the water feels more like a syrup.  You cannot sink and there is absolutely no life in it.

I was highly anticipating my trip to the old city of Jerusalem and when I first saw it up on the hill it took my breath away. It was when I arrived at the Western Wall of the first temple that I felt my trip was complete.  It was a huge victory for me, not because it is a holier place than any other place, but because of my former life.  I had only ever expected to see the wall in pictures.  

I saw people crying all along the wall.  I saw others who were clearly praying and had been for hours.  In other places on my pilgrimage I saw worshipers falling on their knees crying, brought to tears by the act of touching a rock Jesus may have touched.  

The best sign I saw was inside the Garden Tomb, which was most likely the Tomb of Jesus. It reads “He is not here, for He is risen”  That pretty much sums it up if you are a Christian.  There is no place, no rock, no statue, no clothing and no ritual that will bring you closer to God.

God is accessible whether you make it to Israel or not.  He wants to have a personal relationship with you regardless of your location, background or station in life.  If you do get a chance to visit Israel, I urge you to go.  It was a life-changing trip for me.

 

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

 

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Written history is mostly composed of the stories of the lives of leaders and people who came to prominence.  It is rare to read about what the ordinary man was doing and thinking in their daily life.

Each of us has a story to tell.  

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end.  You know your beginnings, but you are shaping the middle right now – in everyday life.  The opportunities presented each day may not seem to be much at first, when compared to the stories you are used to reading – but keep in mind that great things happen to average people when they recognize opportunities and act on them.

In every good tale, the hero encounters obstacles. Remember that those obstacles serve to strengthen the hero, and they are not the end of the story.  When life is hard and we feel like we just cannot go further, it is the people who rise up strong and overcome who become heroes in their own story.

Step back from your life’s story and look at it as an outsider.  

What is the goal of the main character? How do they handle challenges?

And here’s the big question: How do you want your story to end?

In the end, we are all human.  No matter how much money or success we accumulate during our lifetime, we cannot take it with us when we die.  You can, however, leave an impact on those around you when you go.  Interact with others, encourage them, help them, build them up, treat them with love and respect.  Not because you may gain something, but because loving others is important.

When asked what the greatest of all the commandments was, Jesus answered “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Is this commandment evident in the story of your life?  What do you love with all your heart?  We all have something we put first – whether it’s our own pleasure, possessions, power, strength, beauty… the list goes on and on.

This past Sunday we became members at Minooka Bible Church.  We have an awesome pastor, Arol, who teaches us and encourages us each week to be real with God, real with each other, and real in the world.  He gives each new member a Bible verse when they join, and here is the verse he gave me:

Colossians 4:5-6

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

In the footsteps of Laura Ingalls Wilder

After Wyoming we drove into South Dakota which is beautiful.   We passed so many small towns and each can be spotted from the distance by a large grain elevator that dominates the town.  We drove through many and they all have a sign pointing to their “business district.”  That is funny because one was nothing more than a gravel road with three shops, all closed for the weekend.  I saw one small tavern that had a hand written sign taped in the window saying it was closed until Saturday night.  We were looking for a coffee shop, to get slightly better coffee than the gas stations had to offer.  We struck out in every small town.  Even most of the “big” towns didn’t have coffee shops or Starbucks.

We had zero cell reception through most of six states.  We went back to how we used to travel, by map.  We had to stop at the gas stations in each state and pickup a state map.  It works most of the time but some of those small highways just come to a T and there are no signs, so we had to guess.

We hit Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, and I now know why it is the smallest state capitol.  The people are great in all these small places.  We saw very few police and almost no helicopters.  Living in Los Angeles I had become used to seeing BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi’s, but those were all missing.  Chevy, Ford and Buick were the norm.  The further I got from Los Angeles, the better I felt.  After Pierre, we drove a bit further and arrived at the Pheasant Ranch that backed up to the Missouri River where we would spend the night.  The people who ran it were great.  It was large and very clean with great food.  My dog didn’t want to leave when it was time to go.  I am glad we stayed here at the end of the trip because we would have been spoiled.

Traveling across the great rolling plains of the heartland, you cannot help but think of Little House on the Prairie.  Most of us grew up with the tv show.  The show was based on a series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her life as a pioneer.  They are geared toward kids, but the offer a rare insight into the day-to-day life of a hard working pioneer family.   She brings to life all the reality and hardship that the life was when the country was not settled.

My wife and I have both read all of her books, and we decided on our road trip to stop at some of the places where Laura and her family lived.

When we left the Pheasant Ranch we headed to Desmet, South Dakota where Laura spent many of her youth and young adult years.  We were able to see the surveyors home where they spent a long, hard, cold winter. It was smaller than I had pictured.  They also had turned the schoolhouse where she taught into a museum, and it was tiny.  We drove down the street and saw the house that her father built in town. It was very well made and bigger than I thought.  Most of the family would live their lives in that house and end up dying there.  The house still stood exactly how he built it, same windows and cupboards inside, everything.

We then took a ride out in the prairie where the Ingalls homestead was located.  They would live on the homestead while farming and move into town for the winters.  The trees Pa planted are still there!  We passed Silver Lake and the Big Slough.  We also saw Laura and Almonso’s homestead, where they lived when they were first married.   We then headed to Walnut Grove, the little town where the TV Show setting was based.  When Laura and her family first moved to Walnut Grove they lived in a dugout next to Plum Creek, until Pa built a house next to the dugout.    Plum Creek was a place where they allowed my dog!  So we had fun by Plum Creek, visiting the dugout site and learning about the local nature.  We saw the Big Rock she wrote about often in the book, and we imagined Nelly Olsen getting attached by leeches in the still water.  I could picture Jack the dog playing in the fields that are much the same today as they were in Laura’s time.  We saw three van loads of Swedish tourists, so they must read Laura Ingalls Wilder in Sweden too!

When we left Plum Creek I felt a little sad because our journey was coming to end.  In reality, it was just another bit of good change coming.