New…

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Today I sailed on the Sea of Galilee, walked through Capernaum, visited Ceaserea Phillipi. I have been walking where Jesus walked, and it is one of the most profound faith experiences of my life.

Sailing on Galilee was my favorite experience of the day. Maybe because the weather perfect, or maybe because they played some Michael W. Smith and Maranatha praise choruses (which I was raised on from the time I was old enough to go on roadtrips with my parents) as we travelled out to the middle of Galilee…but it got to me.

Even now I struggling to find words for the way I felt out on the water. Geoff read the story of Jesus calming the storm from the Gospel According to Mark to our group and Ali read the passage where Peter walks on the water. The words are so familiar to me – I have been hearing these stories in Arch books and Sunday School lessons and sermons my whole life. But today these familiar words sounded different…new. Both more real and more mysterious than ever before. I didn’t just get a little misty-eyed, I had tears flowing down my cheeks.

I came to faith in Jesus when I was 19 years old. That was the moment I asked Jesus to be my Lord, my leader, my savior. But in some ways I have always believed. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to go to church, or learn about my faith or sing the songs of my faith. In some ways, my faith feels like so much a part of me that it must be stamped in my DNA – the way that being short or having brown hair is part of my genetic makeup.

So it is shocking to me when something happens to make it all feel brand new again. This isn’t the first time that has happened to me – God has been incredibly generous in granting me times of renewal and spiritual growth – but I am always surprised when it happens. I shouldn’t be, the Bible says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

I just have to remind myself that with God, this isn’t a one-time statement. It is a promise – new life, renewal, a new person…over and over and over again. So today I am overwhelmed and weepy – in a very good way.

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Witnesses…

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We did so much today that it is hard for me to begin processing it, never mind reporting on all of it for a blog post.

One of the things I loved best was a tour of “Nazareth Village” which is a historical 1st Century farm that has been restored. It is part working farm, part living museum. Our guide was named Daniel and he said to us: “this is why I love my job…every day I am walking in the footsteps of Jesus, and being others along with me.” He was speaking of the physical reality of the farm in what was Jesus hometown – there is little doubt that Jesus would have been on that farm at some point in his life. But he also took time to point out that while walking in Jesus’ physical footsteps is a beautiful thing, doing so spiritually is far more important. I loved his heart – he was so real as he said that.

Also, we got to meet Hannah. She has been working at Nazareth Village for many years. She spins and dyes the wool they gather from their sheep, and weaves it into wraps and dolls. Years ago, the first time our group leader (the Rev. Doug Rollwage) visited Nazareth Village, she discovered that Doug’s daughter is also named Hannah. She told Doug he must bring her with him one day. He did, and when the two Hannah’s met, the one from Nazareth Village asked Doug’s daughter if she was a believer. Doug’s daughter answered yes, and Hannah from Nazareth said, “Good! We will be in Heaven together.” Doug told us that this was said as one might say “we will grab lunch together” – with an honest, humble, matter-of-fact-ness that Doug and his daughter found deeply touching.

It was good for my heart, good for my soul, to be around people who wore their faith on their sleeve in a way that was so gentle and honest.

There is, indeed, a great cloud of witnesses. And I thank God that he has seen fit to allow my path to cross with so many of them.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 NLT

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Attitude…

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Above: Palm trees on the side of the road as we left Ben Gurion airport. Lovely to be in this climate (having flown out of Toronto in a snow squall).

Today did not go as planned. Now, for me, that’s not a big deal. From my perspective: we arrived safely, it was warm and sunny, there was good food and friends to pass the time with, and I got to walk along the Mediterranean (albeit after dark). Oh! And I got to stand on Mt Carmel, where Isaiah had his famous showdown with the prophets of Baal.

Put that all together, and it’s a pretty great day, as far as I am concerned.

In our group is a guy named Ali – he travels to Iran regularly for business. Israeli customs didn’t take kindly to that and so they detained and interrogated him. From my perspective, Ali had reason to complain. But even after having to find his way to the hotel we are staying at in Haifa, he couldn’t have had a better attitude. We were all thrilled to see him and he was all smiles. He told us he got to have a different experience – one that isn’t on the tour itinerary. He told us be got to chat and share stories with others who had been similarly detained.

So it comes down to this – it really does matter how you see things. Perspective, attitude, where your heart is at – these things WILL determine the kind of experience you have. That’s not always easy to remember or easy to live out. But the reminder is one I cherish, because when I am reminded that my attitude matters I can change my attitude. I can try living from a place of gratitude, and then even the big challenges that get thrown my way are something that I can be thankful for, something I can learn from.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
Proverbs 17:22 NLT

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Above: The Mediterranean Sea at night, with the lights of Haifa in the background.

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Above: The Mediterranean waves at night.

Beginning …

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Travelling – especially flying – is never easy on me. I admire people who enjoy the process of flying. But for me, all I feel is frightened and massively out of control.

Having said that, I made a deal with myself many years ago, that I would never allow my fear of flying stop me from having great experiences when opportunity came my way.

And so, right this minute, I find myself on a flight to Tel Aviv. In about another 8 hrs, I will land in a country that I have never been to before. But it is a country that has greatly shaped my life. It is where Jesus was born. Where he grew up, where he taught, where he laid down his life and where he took it up again on the third day. His teachings, his life, his death and his resurrection are the foundation of my faith – this thing inside of me that is a gift from God – the thing that drives me into ministry, which is also a gift.

Because of my fear and anxiety, I haven’t been able to enter into the excitement of this trip. I knew it was coming. Every day that passed was another day closer to our departure. But until this moment – as we cruise thousands of feet above the surface of the Earth – I haven’t been able to be excited about the experience I am about to have. Now the time of anxiety has ended (white wine and milk chocolate may have something to do with that), and anticipation has begun.

Now I wait hopefully, longingly, for this flight to end and the true excursion to begin. I know many of you have said many prayers for me and I am so deeply thankful for that. I pray now, that this experience would be one that deeply feeds my spiritual journey – that I would be filled up with the Spirit so that when I return home I might be poured out for the church that I serve.

Let the journey begin, friends!

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Waiting…

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Tonite I sit at choir as we begin to work on advent music. We are singing of the unexpected grace, hope and peace that God granted us in the Christ child. There is a line in our anthem that goes “when midnight sky is clear…” And I don’t know why it hit me at this point, but it did – in a week I will be in Israel. I will be standing under the same stars that shone down on the Christ child. I will be in Jesus’ backyard.

For weeks friends and acquaintances have been asking me if I was excited, and I haven’t been able to say yes. Not because I’m NOT excited, but because I am a terrified of flying (ugh) and there has just been so much else to deal with before I would be ready to go. But now I have finished the biggest things on the to-do list and the final preparations have begun.

And yes, I am excited. I can’t believe that the time is almost here. I can’t believe I get to have this experience with friends and colleagues in ministry. And I cannot believe that I get to go as advent begins.

My hope and intention is to blog daily while I am away. I would love it of you could pray for me and for the others on the trip – pray that our travel goes smoothly and that God speaks boldly to each of us on our travels. Pray that we come back enriched and ready to tackle the bustle of this busy season with renewed faith and vigor. Thank you in advance for your prayers!

The waiting is almost over, my friends!

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. Psalms 91:11, 12 NLT