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What aren’t you reading?

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3

Sometimes I think that we can get so used to reading through the stories in the Bible that we skim over the small parts that actually hold great significance. I am guilty of that. Truth is, we remember the majority of the stories by their major events; Adam and Eve falling into sin, Cain killing his brother Abel out of jealousy, Noah building the arch that would save him and his family from the flood, and Abraham entering into a covenant relationship with God. We remember the moral of the stories, which is good! But that also tends to pull our focus away from the small details within the story that actually hold significant weight. I was reading up on the story of Abraham and wanted to familiarize myself with the Abrahamic Covenant and found that, though I read the first verse, I did not even think twice about the reality of it.

“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

It was easy for me to read it and just keep going because I knew the end of Abraham’s story. He became the Father of all nations. He was given children and grand children. He was blessed with land along with the promise that his name would be great. I didn’t even think about how Abraham must have felt in that moment hearing what God requested of him.  “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” If we were to put that into today’s terms, it may sound more like, “leave the relationships that have helped to shape and mold you as a person along with everything you spent your time investing in and go unknowingly in the direction of My choosing.”  WHAT?! Abraham was asked to start over! Not only that, he was asked to go without knowing where he would end up! Abraham knew that he was going to be taken care of because God told him that, but I imagine it was still an unbelievably hard experience he had to go through in leaving. He was courageous and obedient, whether he was happy in that time and state I don’t know. the Bible doesn’t tell us, but I do know that he set an example for anyone today that might be finding themselves in a time of transition and uncertainty. Did Abraham know where he was going? No. But he continued to follow and obey. He trusted that God would protect and provide for his life, just as He has called for us to do.

Now I would say that’s a pretty big lesson that I almost skipped over…

 

Final Day

As I awoke this morning to our last day in Jordan, I thought back and wondered how the Israelites might have have felt their last day in Jordan as they prepared to cross over to the land God promised to them.

A highlight of the morning was gathering in the lounge at the Marriott Hotel with all our travel mates and singing two songs together. Fadi, one of our guides, played the piano while Jihan, our other guide sang a few verses of hymns in Arabic.

We then headed north and Jihan shared the last half of her amazing testimony during the bus ride.  We enjoyed the drive from the land of the Nabataeans to the land of the Moabites.

Our first stop was in Madaba at the Greek Orthodox Church which contained a mosaic map of the Middle East made in the 6th century A.D. We then walked to lunch at the Food Basket, which is owned by a Christian lady. There we were able to enjoy a lunch of local cuisine and were served Makluba, which is a wonderful  rice dish with chicken.

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Next we headed to Mt Nebo which is where God showed Moses The Promised Land, and what a view we had in spite of the haze. Pastor Jim shared some scripture with us before we were turned loose to take pictures and view the mosaics in the Memorial Church of Moses. We were able to see the Dead Sea to the southwest, the Jordan valley to the west, the hills beyond Jerusalem which is only 30 miles in a straight line. It is amazing to think that we stood and viewed some of the things Moses would have seen.

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We then stopped at an art store that make the most spectacular mosaics I have ever seen. Several folks were able purchase jewelry or mosaics. Our trek then took us north to the land of the Ammonites to the city of Amman.

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Amman is the capitol of Jordan where half the population of the country live. A small villa costs around $200,000 dollars. We spent the last part of our trip touring West Amman.

Lastly, our guides surprised us with a stop at Starbucks where coffee, drinks, mugs, and goodies were happily purchased. We are now headed to our hotel where we can shower and relax before our 11:30 pm departure to Amman airport.

We look forward to returning to share this wonderful experience with our Berean family.

 

 

 

 

 

Petra

Our day for Petra broke beautifully with a cool morning in Ammon, Jordan.  We had a journey of about 3 hours that began on Hwy 15, the Desert Highway, or the way of the wilderness.  This took us through the beautiful and modern architecture of Ammon. The roads through the city were the widest and best maintained of any we’ve had on our trip.

Jordan has six public and nineteen universities and their best graduates are exported all over the world to some of the largest corporations.

Editors note: I have been missing my ESPN sports channel and haven’t seen a golf course anywhere. Ammon apparently has the only gold course in Jordan and is brown, not green.

We left the nice roads oaf the city and moved on towards Petra on bumpy roads. We transitioned to Hwy 25/35, the King’s Hwy, about 45 miles from Petra. Petra has a long history and the area is also known for Wadi Musa (the Spring of Moses). Petra became a World Heritage site in 1985. It became an international phenomenon in 1989 with the release of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” that featured it as the place where the chalice (holy grail) a of Christ resided. In 2007 it was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Our first gathering place in Petra was the circular marketplace. It is clean and has eating good places and many shops for souvenirs and local headwear  (scarves that tie around your head). Many of us bought the headwear, but Jim F became the King of Petra, buying 3 scarves and vowing to wear them on fishing trips when he returns home.

The walk to the Treasury Building in Petra is about 1.5 miles through the Siq, (the Crack in the mountains). The site features tombs that are either free standing square blocks or carved into the rock walls. Pastor Jim shared that this may well be the region of Arabia that Paul went to for three years to receive his direct vision of Jesus.
When the Treasury Building of Petra first becomes visible it quakes your breath away.

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A red sandstone structures that was rediscovered in the 1830’s. We were all “gazing” at the structure for the longest time.

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And then it was time for camel rides! Are you kidding me?? Riding a camel in front of Petra (can you say bucket list!!) Young and old took a ride including Sharon and Jennifer.

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We stayed and hiked around for a couple of hours and then a had to say goodbye to this wonder. No one wanted leave the beautiful circular shaded viewing area, but it was time to hike back.

We a had a perfect finish to a perfect day by swimming in the pool at the Petra Marriott Hotel. Special thanks to Pilgrim Tours for finding these great accommodations along the way. The view of the sunset over the Petra mountains from the cliff where there hotel was perched was magnificent!

Our guide, Fadi, treated us to some beautiful piano praise music of praise and worship in the hotel lobby. We sang along with him until it was time to board the bus for our last day. Heavy sigh.

Mark T

Jerash, Jordan

This morning we bid farewell to Jerusalem and our wonderful tour guides, Jeremy and Kathryn.  From Jerusalem we drove East to Jericho, then North to Beit She’An, where we again turned East to cross the Jordan River into the country of Jordan and met our Jordanian tour guides.

The hills in Jordan are higher than in Israel with more trees. We stopped for lunch before traveling to the ancient city of Jerash, with spectacular ruins of a Decapolis city that was thriving at the time of Jesus.

While the majority of our group walked about the ruins, Maureen, Norma and I sat in the shade of Hadrian’s Arch and had a delightful conversation with a friendly Jordanian man, named Mahmoud, about 24 years old.  He told us about his country and his life and his attempt to get a visa to visit a friend in California (he was denied a visa).  He wanted to know what we thought of his country and what was it like in America.  We traded questions and answers for about an hour.  When it was time to leave we wished him well and that he would someday get the opportunity to visit America.

Beth

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Last full day in Israel

One of my most memorable and inspirational moments was Pastor Jim serving us communion in the beauty and quiet of the garden away from the traffic and crowds. I am sure whenever I take communion I will remember this time. The songs we sang, “Low in the Grave He Lay” and “I Serve a Risen Savior” were so meaningful, reminding us that He is Risen. Praise the Lord.

We went through the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, the Davidson Center, that was all under dirt until 1967. That is where Jesus walked. He would have bought his sacrifice there and walked up the steps through the Temple Eastern Huldah Gates. As Jim read Psalm 120 we could hear the Muslim call to prayer.

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In Bethlehem we met the Christian family that owns the olive wood factory. There are only about 20% Christians in Bethlehem we went through the church that is believed to be where Jesus was born. For many of us it was a disappointment; not a simple stable in our minds. It’s a large ornate church is built over it and is controlled by three church groups, Armenian, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox.

We evening ended with a pleasant, informal presentation by Kathryn Abraham Vandervedk. She was one of our guides and is a musician and recording artist. She’s a professional cellist with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra. She shared about learning at age 17 that she was Jewish and how God brought her to a saving knowledge of Him. She blessed us playing her Celtics harp and singing Shema and the Aaron ice blessing from Deut 6.

This was our last day with our Israel guides, Jeremy and Kathryn. Pastor Jim said this was his first trip here with Christian guides. We were so blessed to have their knowledge of Scripture and Israel.

What a remarkable, blessed day for us all as we concluded our days in Jerusalem.

Sharon

Garden

We started our morning with a visit to one of the possible locations for the Garden of Gethsemane, the crucifixion and Jesus’ tomb. We heard a convincing explanation of the criteria that area meets, which make it seem quite plausible that it was the actual site.

We took some time to look around and had the privilege of sharing communion together, lead by Pastor Jim.  This was a very meaningful way to spend our last morning in Jerusalem.

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Via Dolorosa

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Today began early! We had early appointments for a tour under the western wall but also stopped to see the Wailing Wall. Men and women are separated and with heads covered we could approach the wall with prayers written out and rolled up. Watching the young Jewish women with their faces in their prayer books and rocking back and forth made me so grateful that because of Jesus, I can talk to God directly. I’m also thankful the Holy Spirit prays for me when I have no words.

We made our way to the Via Dolorosa, the “traditional” path that many believe Jesus walked carrying the cross. As we walked I was reminded of the distractions we all have. Shopkeepers were calling out, “Twenty postcards, five dollars. Come into my shop and I will make you a special deal.” Jesus also would have been walking along a path where vendors would have been out. Vendors today sell smooth, polished crosses. Jesus’ cross would have been rough and splintered.

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A group of Catholic pilgrims came down the street following a man holding up a cross. They visit the “Fourteen Stations of the Cross”. Every few yards they had to side step a pile of garbage, leftover reminders that people work in the shops that crowd against the street on each side.

It is difficult to focus on “the cross of Christ” when we have so many distractions in our lives. A hymn that comes to mind, “I have decided to follow Jesus” The stanza says, “The cross before me that world behind me… No turning back, no turning back.” We need to follow Him through the difficult days. This time of challenge can strengthen our faith. Stay behind Jesus and depend on His wisdom and care. If He can handle the foes of hell, He can whatever circumstances you are facing.

Karen