Israel Travel Blog Day 7: Journey into Conflict

It would be easy to write tonight’s column about visiting the place where Jesus was crucified, to talk about what it was like to pray there, to describe the emotions from praying where he was laid to rest, and what it was like to visit the entire Old Jerusalem areas. I will save those for another occasion.

Tonight I’m drawn to the many interactions of conflict we encountered as we walked throughout Old Jerusalem. You couldn’t help but notice it. The signs of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians were all around us. Continue reading

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Israel Travel Blog Day 6: O, Holy Town of Bethlehem

So far, traveling in the Holy Land has been an eye-opening and breathtaking experience. Others have described it as the Bible coming to life. I’ve sort have seen it as getting a reintroduction to my Introduction to the New and Old Testament courses in seminary. Every day you feel like you are gaining something new and, as well, a deeper appreciation for the history, culture, and challenges that plague the area.

Today was no different. Every moment of the day were filled with experiences that, in time, will affect how I preach and interact with others. More so than any other day we’ve spent here it will be hard to put into words to describe all that we did and encountered. Continue reading

Israel Travel Blog Day 5: An Unforgettable Moment

It was a moment I will never forget.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and standing on a row of bleachers at Roman theater at Caesarea Maritiama, I was able to deliver a devotion for our tour group. The passage was from Acts 10 where Peter goes to Caesarea to meet with Cornelius and recognizes that God shows no partiality in regards to expressing love. I talked about how we are called to welcome all people and to make room for the people in a world that seeks to keep people out who are different than we are.

It was easily one of the high holy moments of my ministry. I would rank it up there with being commissioned, all the baptisms I’ve been able to participate in, and preaching at my hometown church. Continue reading

Israel Travel Blog Day 4: By Land and By Sea

Our second full day of touring was a challenging day. Well, at least that is for me.

Since we landed in Tel Aviv on Monday evening I’ve been dealing with a swollen foot. It comes with the territory when flying for 11-hours and, as well, when you have a right foot that easily swells and sprains. Yesterday’s touring just made it worse, which led to me visiting an Israeli drug store to purchase an Ace bandage.

That seemed to help today, but for most of the morning I was in a lot of pain trying to walk around. The trip to the Holy Land is an experienced filled with walking, so to be down a foot has been difficult. Walking to our boat to tour the Sea of Galilee was an exercise in hopping more than walking. The same goes for our tours of the church that honors Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and the one that honors Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples following his resurrection.

One of the things that I committed myself to doing was not stopping. This is an once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I was not going to let a bum foot keep me from enjoying the day.

I’m glad I had that perspective, because today was a wonderful day of holy encounters meeting the presence of God in these sites. Continue reading

Israel Travel Blog Day 3: An Amazing Journey Begins

Breathtaking. Amazing. Wow.

Those were the words that often expressed my sentiments at the various sites we visited on this our first day of touring in Israel. The amount of Scripture and history we covered in just a few short hours is enough for a lifetime. That we have seven more days to go is just unbelievable.

We began the day by visiting the Gospel Trail. This is a former Roman Road that Jesus would have walked during his journeys in Upper Galilee. It is known as the Gospel Trail, today, because it connects Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth together. The whole purpose of this trip was to walk where Jesus walked and to gain that experience firsthand. On the Gospel Trail we literally walked where Jesus walked.

That began to put the day into a holy context from the start. The rest of the day would build on that moment. Continue reading

Israel Travel Blog Day 2: What Day is This?

We have arrived in Israel. Physically that is. I am so exhausted from the day-long journey from Lexington to Tel Aviv with an extended bus ride to our hotel to know that I am clearly travel weary. I’m exhausted enough that I left behind my reading materials for my next Residency meeting on the plane.

Oops.

Other than forgetting an important book on the plane, the trip to Tel Aviv was fairly uneventful. There were few moments where it seemed like we were on a roller coaster over Europe, but that and not being able to sleep more than about 90 minutes were about the biggest enjoyments of the flight. Continue reading

Israel Travel Blog Day 1: Onward to Israel

Today the journey begins. I, along with several others from the Kentucky Annual Conference, will head to Israel for a 10-day pilgrimage. This is an annual excursion for our annual conference and for many it will be a return trip to the Holy Land.

This will be my first time in Israel. For that matter, it will be my first time leaving the United States since 1996.

While I am in Israel, I will offer daily thoughts and observations in this space. I recognize that for many the idea of going to the Holy Land is an “impossible dream,” so I want to share as much as I can about the trip in order for others to experience it for themselves.israel-flag

Today is about traveling and getting ready. Our flight leaves from Lexington this afternoon and, then, from Newark later tonight. We hope to arrive in Tel Aviv sometime around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (or 9:30 a.m. EST). Since most of the day will be about surviving an 11-hour flight, I thought I would respond to a few of the questions I have received since deciding to go on the trip last year. Continue reading