Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 31 Palms Presbyterian E-Devotional

Palms Lenten Devotional March 31st

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless God's holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all God's benefits-
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit?
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like eagles.....
The Lord has established a throne in the heavens,
and a kingdom that rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do God's bidding,
obedient to the spoken Word.
Bless the Lord, all hosts,
ministers that do the will of God
Bless the Lord, all God's works,
in all places of God's dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

(selected verses)


Seven times in this psalm we find the word bless. But it seems much more than a finding. The psalmist claims faith....calling to God for a blessing. The psalmist is both praising God from a place deep inside and calling the congregation (now us) to bless the Lord. And beyond the profession of blessing and call to blessing, there is a finger pointing (and the finger is pointed in our faces) going on. All the "who" questions remind me of a coach giving a locker room talk---

Who forgave all your iniquities?
Who healed your diseases?
Who raised you from the Pit?
Who loves you?
Who shows mercy to you?
Who will satisfy you as long as you live?
Your parents?
Your friends?
Your teammates?
Your spouse?
Your co-workers?Your children?

And who is it that does that not only for you, but for your parents, your friends, your teammates, your spouse, your co-workers, your children? And beyond all that: Who is it that has done all those things since the beginning of time and throughout time and in all the time that is to come? Bless the Lord. Only One. God even breaks through time and space as we know it. Generation to generation. "For as the heavens are high above the earth....as far as the east is from the west.....as a father has compassion for his children" so great the steadfast love, the forgiveness and the compassion are of God.

The psalmist is establishing the dominion of God. All that you can imagine. Through all time and through all space. That is the dividing line of God's kingdom. Basically a circle has been drawn that includes everything and person through all time and even that circle is not big enough because we drew it.

So, then, the question for today is: whom will you serve?


Please pray with me: Lord, You are so much more than we can imagine. Your circle is ever wider than we can draw. Your love is more complete than we can comprehend. Spark our imagination. Widen our circle. Give us the love of the psalmist as we bless you. Amen.

Peace, Laurie

Monday, March 30, 2009

March 29 Palms Presbyterian E-Devotional

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into God's presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God,
it is God who made us, and we belong to God.
We are God's people, and the sheep of God's pasture.

Enter God's gates with thanksgiving,
and God's courts with praise.
Give thanks to God and bless God's name.

For the Lord is good;
God's steadfast love endures forever,
God's faithfulness is to all generations.


In children's ministry, we have moved away from memorization. With the recognition of different learning styles and abilities, educators have chosen to not reward the children for whom memorization comes easily. No stickers; no urgings; no recognition.

When I was a child, I was one of the ones who could memorize. I was rewarded well in the company of the multi-age Sunday School assembly. We got candy. I wanted the candy, but more than that, I wanted to show that I could do it. It was unstructured: you learned a verse and when the time came, stood up and recited it.

In 5th grade my friend and I made up a poem to memorize the names of the books of the Old Testament (nerdy pastor-to-be). This was before there was any song (that I knew of) to learn the books. And it was hard going, but in a week or two, we had it down. It was the pinnacle of my memorization, because most adults could not recite the books of the bible.

I agree it is not right for all to memorize. But, if it something you are good at or interested in, the psalm above is a good psalm to have in your memory bank. Lent can be a time of re-programming or incorporating something new. What if this Psalm 100 sunk into your being? If it is memorized, it becomes a part of you. It is brief. It speaks of God's love and our response. It is shorter than the 23rd Psalm (the Lord is my shepherd...) which many children and adults memorize.

Know that the Lord is God and is good; God takes care of you and loves you with an enduring, forever love...more than happily ever after, surely ever after even unto the generations after you. This is where you belong.

If you are good at it, take a go at memorizing it. If you come recite it to me, I'll secretly give you a piece of candy.


Join with me in prayer: Creator God, you call us and bless us and gift us. And above all that, you love us steadfastly. Thank you Lord. Help us respond with unending praise.

Peace, Laurie

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Palms' E-Devotional March 28, 2009

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
for the Lord has done marvelous things....
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praise with the lyre and the melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn.....
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord.....


More singing.
The Psalmist is always singing.
La, la, la... the congregation warms up.
(Dr. C. always tells the children their voices are their best instrument. I wonder if the psalmist told that to the congregation.)

La, la, la....new song....marvelous things.....
Lord, God, Almighty, Praise, Praise, Praise...la, la, la......

The congregation, all the people--- not enough,
creation joins in, la, la, la.....
enter the bass section: the sea roars.....
and then floods;
(and those would be welcome floods in a dry and desert land) The floods clap to the beat.
La, la, la, ROAR, clap, clap, clap and the hills now join in song.
If you are in a valley,
the singing hills surround you with their beautiful singing.
If you are on top of a hill,
the singing is so loud it almost knocks you over.....

And beautiful?
all creation
joining together in a song of praise
in the presence of the Lord.

What is not to alleluia, praise God about that?
the one whom from all blessings flow.....
Hold the alleluias until Easter, we are told....
But who can stop creation?


Join with me in prayer: Put a new song within us this day. We join with creation praising you, Almighty God, forever and ever. Amen.

Peace, Laurie

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Palms' E-Devotional March 26, 2009

Lenten Devotional

Palms Lenten Devotional March 26th

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust, and say, "Turn back, you mortals."
For a thousand years in your sight,
are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.....

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days....
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands----
O, prosper the work of our hands.


"Satisfy us with your love in the morning.
And we will live this day in joy and praise."

This is how we begin each Friday morning in prayer in the chapel at Palms. Our small group (of 2-3) gathers and we gather to pray, asking God to "satisfy us with Your love in the morning". If only we were satisfied. On any given day there are many number of things that dissatisfy me. If I need to do laundry; If I forgot to do laundry; If we are out of milk; If the coffee doesn't taste right; If the dog has an accident; If a child brings home a bad grade; If a sports practice runs late; If someone says the wrong thing at the wrong time. If....you get the picture.

But, what if.....God's love satisfied? What would it be like to be fully satisfied knowing that we are children of God and God's steadfast love has grabbed hold of us and will not let us go. What if God's love was enough? Shouldn't it be enough? Why is God's love not enough? What would it be like to rejoice and be glad all our days? It sounds fully awesome and righteous. It sounds God-like.

What, oh what, keeps us from rejoicing and gladness?

The beginning of the psalm 90 tells us. We are mortals. And mortals will be what mortals will be. The psalmist reminds us that God's love is so much bigger than whatever we can dream. It transcends time and space as we know it. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God.

What if we reminded ourselves of our mortality and the unimportance in the grand scheme of the generations and eons of our laundry, our milk, the coffee, the dirty carpet, the one grade, the time spent waiting? What if......?

The grace withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.


Join with me in prayer: Lord, satisfy me with your joy each day, so that I may live in joy and peace. Amen.

Peace, Laurie

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Home Again...

Peace and blessings from sunny Jacksonville, Florida. I arrived home late Friday night. My family met me at the airport and it was wonderful to see each of them, even though Abbie had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the airport. The dog remembered me and everyone loved the gifts I brought them from the trip.

Re-entry has been a bit trying and I slept through the night last night (Monday night) for the first time. I hope to get to the gym today and get back on track (pardon the pun). Maybe that will help my jet lag, as well.

I am so happy to be back with my family and at work. I do, however, miss all my new friends from the pilgrimage group. It was wonderful to have "fellow travelers on the journey". It was truly the wonderfully, surprising part of the entire trip: becoming a part of a brand new community in Christ.

I will post a few more thoughts and pictures and musings in the days and weeks to come. Then, I believe, I will convert this blog over to become a blog where I post devotionals, sermons, lessons, poetry, etc. that come into my mind and/or across my path. You are welcome to stay for that journey or to step off the path. Peace to you and yours, Laurie

Thursday, March 12, 2009

We're Coming Home...

So...it is Thursday around 4:30 here as I write this. We will have our last dinner together as a group tonight. This is a great group of people I have been with and I will miss and cherish our time together. But, I am VERY ready to come home. Here is how it will work: first we have dinner, next we have our closing worship (which I am guessing will be both meaningful and emotional), we are to shower and rest and will get a wake up call around 12:30 a.m. when we are to bring our lugguage down. We identify our luggage at 1:15 and watch it get put on the bus, load the bus and drive for an hour to the the Tel Aviv airport. There, we are to go through security and at least a few of us will get questioned at length by the police.

Our flight for Frankfurt leaves at 5:30 a.m. Then, from Frankfurt to Atlanta. And I continue on from Atlanta to Jacksonville and arrive (about 26 consecutive hours later) at 8:30 p.m. eastern standard time. It makes me tired just writing about it, so I better take a nap here in a minute.

A couple of pictures today from the Garden Tomb and a few others from the past couple of days.

Here is a prayer I want you to pray for us. It is written by Raphael Patai:
Prayer for a Safe Journey Home

God of our fathers and mothers,
set us on our journey and guide us,
that we may reach our destination joyously alive and at peace.
Deliver us from all danger on the way.
May we merit favor, kindness, and compassion in your sight,
and in the sight of all who see us.
Blessed are You, God, for hearing prayer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Road to Jericho and Beyond....

Today was our last official day of touring sites. Tomorrow is our free day and we fly out tomorrow (Thursday) in the middle of the night. I’ll be home Friday night. I miss my family and am very ready to come home.

Today, we went back to the West Bank toward the city of Jericho. Jericho is an oasis city in the desert wilderness. To get there you drive through mountains that look like Georgia red clay and then you see Palm trees rising up from the brown and orange desert. That’s Jericho! We stopped first to see where archeologists are digging to find the walls of Jericho (remember in the book of Joshua they say they come tumbling down?). Jericho is also called “the oldest city on the earth” because it goes back to right after caveman times (called the Neolithic period) around 7000 B.C.!!!! At the archeological dig site, we met the head archeologist who is from Italy. He talked with us for awhile about the site and the ancient wall. He reminded me of Indiana Jones. He was very excited about what they were doing. I will try to post a picture of him.

We saw the mountain which is known as Temptation Mountain and named as the spot where Jesus went out to the wilderness and didn’t eat or drink anything for 40 days and 40 nights and then was tempted by the devil.

Next (kids will like this) we went to the sycamore tree which is over 2000 years old and they name as the sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed up (remember that from our recent workshop rotation? – I taught you the song, so you should remember it) to see Jesus.

We went to Qumran where scrolls called the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Too much to explain here, but they were really important and they had parts of the bible and lots of other important information on them. There is a picture of me with one of the caves (cave number 4 of 11) where they found scrolls.

After a lunch at Qumran, we went to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a salt water lake. It is the lowest point on the earth at 1500 feet below sea level. Because of the salt and other minerals in the lake if you get in you the water you can’t get it in your eyes or mouth. And….you float kind of like if you were in a pool of Jell-O. About half of our group got in. Yes…., including me.

When we got back to Jerusalem a group of us walked on top of the wall that goes around the Old City of Jerusalem. It was very interesting because we got a peek at how these city folks live. I’ll include a picture of a soccer game being played with the city of Jerusalem in the background.

Tonight, I begin packing. Peace and I’ll be home soon, Pastor Laurie

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

O, Little Town of Bethlehem....

First, an answer to my niece's question. Yes, that was a diet coke in yesterdays picture. The language on it is Arabic. Here is the language low-down. Hebrew is spoken by the Jewish people. However, there are lots and lots of people who live in Israel who are not Jewish. The speak Arab and are known as Palestinians (also sometimes called Arabs). The writing on the coke bottle was in Arabic.

Speaking of Palestinian and Jewish people, they is lots and lots of tension here. Israel has divided the land here and put a fence around parts that are Jewish to keep the Palestinians out....mostly. But it isn't that easy. Because a lot of Palestenians live on the Jewish side of the wall. And a lot of families are split up on either side of the wall. And lots of Jewish people do not like the wall. And almost all Palesteninian people despise the wall. I included a picture of it. We crossed through a point in the wall, called a check point, to go to Bethlehem today because it is in a Palestinian area known as the West Bank. We had to show our passports and tell the guards we were from the United States. They let us through no problem. However, there was a Palestinian woman in front of us as we left and they checked all over in her car and in the trunk of her car. The wall and the checkpoints were very sad because they make the Palestinians feel like they are not as beloved as the Jewish people. I don't believe that, do you? We have some African American pastors in our group who say it is like before the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. when black people in our country were not given all the rights as white people.

We talked to a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem who is the Pastor of the Holy Christmas Lutheran Church there. He said for many Palestenians there is no hope. There are no jobs. There is no freedom to travel. There is little freedom to do anything if you are a Palestenian. He said his church is about offering hope. While I was in Bethlehem I read a card that said, "in Bethlehem today, let there be peace on earth and good will to all." Please pray for peace in this country of Israel/Palestine.

When we first arrived in Bethlehem, we went past the city (which is now a modern city and I posted a picture) up to a place called the Herodium. It used to be a massive palace and all kinds of other buildings that King Herod had built during the time of Jesus and right after that time. (if you remember from the other day, he also built the city Ceasarea Maritima) I posted a picture of a dog there who looked like he was checking out the whole valley. I also posted a picture of where archeologists are digging up to find and learn about the Herodium. One more picture is one of huge balls that look like canon balls. They were actually used for catapults to fling at enemies who might be coming to destroy the palace.

Of course, you all remember what Bethlehem is famous for........well.....two things actually. For Christian and Jewish people it is special because David (who would become king) lived here. David was also anointed by the prophet Samuel (our Sam's namesake) right here. But, O Little Town of Bethlehem is about Jesus. Bethlehem is the city where Jesus was born. We went to a church called The Chruch of the Nativity which is said to be built on the site where Jesus was born (remember that there was no room at the inn or hotel, so he was born in a stable for animals and laid in a manger) To get into the church you have to go through a tiny door. The door was made tiny so way long time ago (this church was built around 450 AD) people couldn't ride their horses into the church and steal stuff from the church.....so they made the door tiny. I included a picture of me bending down to go through the tiny door.

We had a very late night tonight. Oh yes, I forgot to say. The Jewish people here are celebrating Purim tonight and tomorrow. Purim is a festival celebrating Queen Esther and her bravery. You can read about it in the book of Esther in the bible. So...today, for Purim the children dress up and the grownups give them candy (sort of like Halloween)!! We went to the Western Wall to watch the children wandering around in their costumes.

Peace in this land and ours, Pastor Laurie

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Day of Three Religions

Today was an interesting day. Beautiful and sunny again, but a bit colder.

We began by going to the Temple Mount of the Dome of the Rock. This is a Muslim holy place. In the pictures of Jerusalem, you see it as the large gold dome that rises above the skyline. Only Muslims are allowed to go inside, but we walked around the outside and it is spectacular. It was built in the 600's and is the oldest coninually used place we have seen. It is also clean and has been kept in wonderful condition. The outside of it is covered with beautiful tiles.

From there we went again to the Western Wall which is a holy place to the Jewish faith. Again, it is the Western Wall of the Temple which was destroyed. Jewish (and anyone who would like) come to the wall to pray and to gather. We saw a gathering that seemed to be a Bar Mitzvah at the Wall. A Bar Mitzvah is the ceremony in which a 13 year old boy becomes a member of the Jewish worshipping community.

From the Wall, we boarded our bus and went to the place that is named as the Emmaus in the bible. Emmaus is the site of an important story to Christians. If you read the story in the bible, (Luke 24:13-52), it says that two of the disciples were walking to the city of Emmaus, the day after Jesus died. Emmaus, when a stranger appeared and walked with them. They walk and talk. When they get to Emmaus, which is 7 miles away, they have a meal together. And that is when they recognize that they have been with Jesus.

Oh yes, I forgot something, we also visited the place that is named to be Caiphas (the high priest's) courtyard where Peter denys knowing Jesus three times. There is a rooster on top of the church that sits there because the story is that Jesus had told Peter that he would "deny him 3 times before the cock (rooster) crows". They showed us a jail cell that would have been like the jail cell that Jesus would have been locked up in while he waited to be killed. It was dark and cold and sad and lonely.

After lunch, we walked around the city some. We found the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Jerusalem. I stood in the pulpit there and if I can post pictures later, I'll try to put it on the blog.

We stopped at a famous hotel named the King David hotel (it is named after King David, can you tell). Lots and lots of famous people have stayed there including all the presidents since Jimmy Carter on, the Dalai Lama, lots of stars and government people from other countries. They have their names written on stones in the hotel lobby.

It is now time for dinner. I cannot load pictures right now. Will try to load them later, but my camera ended up in someone else's backpack and I need to find it.

Peace, Pastor Laurie

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In the City on a Hill

This is our first full day in Jerusalem and full is a good word to describe it. Today was "the walk of Jesus". We started the morning at the Mount of Olives. It is at a high point outside of Jerusalem. Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives or nearby during his last week in Jerusalem. (Luke 21:37). In modern times, the Mount of Olives is the burial ground for the Jewish people. I am posting a picture of me at the Mount of Olives. See the gold dome in the distance. Today was spent winding our way down the mount and up into and then around and through the streets of Jerusalem. There was a camel there and I put on a picture of the camel.

We followed a path that millions of Christians have followed down to the Garden of Gethsemene. All four gospels record Jesus prayer and his betrayal by the disciple Jesus that took place here. (Matthew 26:36) There are olive trees here and I've included a picture of some of them. They are very, very old.

We kept walking down the mountain and at some point you turn and start walking up the hill that takes you into Jerusalem. Old Jerusalem still has a wall around it and you enter and exit through the old city gates. We entered the city through the Lions Gate.

Through the gate we went to the Pool of Bethseda found in John 5:2-9. This is the place where Jesus healed a man who had been there for 38 years. Here, we went into Saint Anne's Church. Saint Anne is said to be Jesus' grandmother and this is a church that was made in her honor. We sang hymns in the church. I am including a picture of one of the pools (now empty) of Bethsada.
Leaving St. Anne's, we went further into this big city that is filled with people and shopping and houses on top of the shopping and churches and more people and more people. And the streets wind all around and are very, very old. We walked the "stations of the cross" in Jerusalem. These are places around the city which represent the walk Jesus made when he was about to be killed on the cross. It includes Jesus carrying his cross and falling down, Simon of Cyrene picking up the cross of Jesus, Jesus being stripped and being nailed to the cross. It ends with Jesus being placed in the tomb. These are all prayer stations and are marked by little plaques. The last of the stations ends in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is traditionally believed Gologotha, the place where Jesus was crucified. The church was built around this site. This church is huge and very holy for many, many people and denominations. There is a picture of the inside of the church, but this church has many, many different worship areas and this does not show how large it is.

It occured to me that I had not said much about food here. I will tell you about our lunch, which is typical of our lunches. You sit down and there is pita bread on the table with lots of different things you can put on it: hummus, spicy red sauce, peppers, different spicy vegetables. Then the meal comes. Today, it was spicy chicken, rice and some pepper mixture. We had an apple for dessert. Sometimes there are dates or figs or tangerines. Sometimes we have fish or beef. Always pita, hummus and rice. There is a picture of some of our lunch here.

For today....peace, Pastor Laurie

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday, March 7

Wow! What a day. This morning we set our faces toward Jerusalem. One last meal at the sumptious 5-star Scots Hotel. We should be proud of this Presbyterian prescence here in Tiberius.

We boarded our buses and left the Sea of Galilee on this gorgeous morning. Not a cloud. A nice breeze. It is about 80 degrees here today. Our first stop was the ancient (and I mean really ancient) Megiddo. Megiddo has 15 layers of civilization on it. It is an archeologist's dream. There have been settlements and then awesome fortifications (castles and such) since thousands and thousands of years before Jesus was even born! We were basically inside the ruins of castles upon castles.

Back on the bus and over the Ceasarea Maritima on the coast of the Meditteranean. This was port city built by the Greeks during the time of Jesus. The apostle Paul was in prison there. They built a huge aquaduct from miles and miles away at Mount Carmel (remember the prophet Elijah fighting the prophets of Ba'al up there??---we had a rotation Sunday School class on the story before Christmas this year) This city sits on the Meditteranean Sea which is BEAUTIFUL. Very much like the Caribbean - aqua blue water. I picked up lots of sea glass and some stones and maybe some pieces of ancient pottery.

We left there to come to Jerusalem where we are now. We got here in time to walk down to the Western Wall at the end of Sabbath for the Jewish people. It was like a HUGE family reunion worship service. Lots of prayer, lots of small and large gathering all at the western most point of the Jerusalem temple which was destroyed. The wall is the foundation wall of the temple. The people of Jerusalem and people all over the world write prayers on scraps of paper and put them in the cracks of the wall. I can't even explain how moving it was to see. I tried to use take a video which I may or may not figure how to upload. But, not tonight.....for it is late and it has been a VERY long day.

Peace to Jerusalem and peace to all, Pastor Laurie

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday, March 6th

So, business first. I had technical difficulties tonight. This blog page kept coming up in Hebrew, which I had in seminary, but cannot read or write at all fluently. And...even if I could, it would not be helpful for you in following my journey. If for some reason, I stop posting, it is due to technical difficulties such as this.

Today was our free day. I went with Pastor Beverly, Pastor Tiffany and Pastor John on a long long hike down from the Arbel Cliff, through the Valley of the Doves and on down to modern day Magdala where we had lunch. It was a beautiful day and wonderful hike and awesome company. We saw castle ruins, lots of caves (where interestingly enough cows seem to live/hang out in----VERY STINKY), a newborn calf who could barely stay up on his legs and a big cow in the middle of the path who did not want to move to let us stay on the path. I've included a number of pictures from the walk including one of me and Pastor Beverly in the "cow patty cave"--notice how HUGE the cave is and how small we are!!

The Valley of the Doves is a huge valley that is right in the middle of the path that everyone thinks Jesus would have walked to get from his hometown of Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee. We all felt pretty certain, we were in the footsteps of Jesus today.
Pastor Joy and I led the worship service tonight. We leave for the city of Jerusalem tomorrow, so it was service of movement and transition and remembering the places we have been this week.

I now should be packing, because it is late at night here. Wanted to get a quick post in.
Peace from Tiberius one last time,

Pastor Laurie

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday, March 5th

Today was an interesting day. We went up toward the border countries of Syria and Lebanon. On the way up we stoppped at a beautiful waterfall. It was a steep and muddy (and very stinky) walk to get to the waterfall. But....boy, was it worth it. Beautiful. It really was spectacular and reminded me that such beauty has to come from God. We got all wet and were teasing each other that we had been baptized once again. I am posting a picture of me and my roommate Pastor Tiffany in front of the waterfall. I am also including a picture of the three Presbyterian Pastors in our group (myself, Pastor Joy and Pastor Alfredo)

Next, we boarded the bus again and went up to the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights are an area that was not part of Israel just a little while ago. It is called an "occupied territory" because Israel occupies it right now, but it is not officially considered Israel. There were lots of Israeli army bases and soldiers in the area. There were also signs everywhere that warned you not to go off the road because there were mines planted in the ground. Mines are explosives that can hurt or even kill you if you step on them.

To see the soldiers and fences and the signs was disturbing to me. It reminded me that we are traveling in a place that people have fought over for many, many years....way back before Jesus' time and all the way until today. This little piece of land (about the size of New Jersey) is a pathway betweeen Africa to the south and China and India to the north. It has always been thought of as valuable, so countries fight over it. Add to that the fact that the Jewish people, Christians and Muslims all have their religious roots here. Why do we have to fight? Isn't there a way to share this special place.

So.....beyond all that we saw some marvelous things today. We saw a castle that is named after a mythological warrior named Nimrod, we saw where the Greek temples of Pan and Zeus were that were built in the first century. I put a picture of what it used to look like (now it just looks like the side of a mountain sort of dug out. I saw a pregnant donkey beside the road. I saw my first sheep in Israel. And we ate at the town of Magdala where Mary Magdalene was from.
I came back from all that and ran 4 miles at a little gym, so I am pooped out.

And now...it is dinnertime.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday, March 4th

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The sun came out today. After our spectacular breakfast, we went to see a boat before we got on a boat.

The boat we saw was a boat from the first century that was just found in the mud at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee a few years ago. The lake level in the Sea of Galilee (which remember is not a sea at all, but a lake) is going down. One day, a fisherman saw something sticking up out of the mud in the bottom of the lake. It was this very, very old boat that is very old, perhaps from the time when Jesus walked the land here (and remember he walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee, as well). I have included a picture of the boat. It was pretty large and could hold several people and a bunch of fish!

We then got on the boat and sailed around the Sea of Galilee. That is when the sun came out. Alleluia! We stopped and read the bible passage about Jesus walking on the water. The disciple Peter sees him and says, “I want to come out there, also.” So Jesus says, “come on out”. Peter is OK walking on the water for a little bit, but then sees the waves and gets nervous and starts sinking. Jesus takes his hand and pulls him out and says, “Peter, you need to have faith.” I have included a picture of myself and one of my professors on the boat. His name is Dr. Horton and he taught me New Testament Bible from way back when I was in college at Wake Forest University.

At the end of the boat ride we stopped at a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a place where people live in community and work together, usually as farmers. The children are all raised together and go to school together. It would be like if the children of the church also all lived in the same neighborhood went to the same school, the parents worked all together and put their money together and ate their meals together. I have included a picture of me on the playground of the kibbutz.

After lunch at the kibbutz, we got on our big bus and went to a spot on the Jordan River. The Jordan River is the river where Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John. I went in the water. It was brown and muddy and pretty cold. It reminded me of rivers in Florida. My friend Joy and I poured water on each other’s heads and gave each other a blessing. I also blessed a pastor named Beverly and a pastor named Alfredo. A very special thing is that my roommate, Tiffany is pregnant. I took water from the Jordan and held it on her belly and blessed the baby who is not even born yet! I have included a picture of me in the river Jordan.

Shalom Ya’ll (I bought a small sign that says that), Pastor Laurie

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday, March 3

Another rainy day in Tiberius. We were supposed to go on a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee and then go see the river Jordan. But, because it was raining, we did not do that.

Instead we went to Sephhoris, which was a Greek city that archaeologists have found. They have been digging under the earth and have found a whole city! Houses, markets, streets, an amphitheatre and even marks in the road where chariots rode.

After Sephhoris, we visited Nazareth. You will remember that Nazareth is Jesus’ hometown. He was born in Bethlehem, but Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. We visited two churches. Both churches claim they are at the location where the angel Gabriel came and told young Mary that she was going to have a baby and it would be God’s child.

The second church we visited was built around a cave that some say Mary and her family lived in. But….a bunch of churches have been built on top of it and been destroyed and built on top of and then destroyed and on and on and on. The church that is there now is beautiful. All on the outside courtyard and inside the church are pictures of baby Jesus and his mother Mary from all different countries. I’ll download a few.

I also have downloaded a picture of the orange juice machine and a picture of a candy store.

Peace, Pastor Laurie