Sh'ma Yisrael

"Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Deut. 6:4 

In Judaism, the Sh'ma is an important part of daily prayers, and it includes reciting Deut. 6:4-9.

 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your house and on your gates."

The photo above is a charming necklace John gave to me for my birthday while we were in Israel. It was handmade in Jerusalem in the Old City. Its unusual shape is a pomegranate, one of the delicious fruits cultivated in Israel. The ruby red stones are garnets. The engraving is the Sh'ma in Hebrew--Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. I love the beauty of this necklace and its powerful message.  

Love God with all your heart, soul and strength.  Simple. And yet hard. 

Impress them on your children. This strikes me as especially significant in light of our trip last weekend to visit Megan at college. Although children grow up, and sometimes even move away, while they learn to live out their faith in their own lives, parents should never stop impressing God's commands on their children. I thank God my parents have never stopped impressing on me God's love, truth, grace, and forgiveness.

Sh'ma Yisrael: Adonai Elohenu Adonai ehad.

Good bye Israel

It was hard leaving Israel. After spending some time in the north, we missed Jerusalem and the students so much we returned to visit one more night before leaving Israel. Returning to Jerusalem and seeing the students again felt like coming home. Surprised to see us again, they greeted us warmly. It was hard to tear ourselves away.

We forgot that Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) was the same day as my birthday. We were invited to a Rosh Hashanah celebration and went for a short while. Almost all places closed early--restaurants, too. Finding somewhere to have dinner proved a bit of a challenge. Finally we found that the YMCA across from the King David Hotel was serving a buffet dinner so we made our way there. It proved to be a most memorable experience. We had a good laugh. They were serving chicken--one of the few things John does not eat. There was no dressing for the salad and the bread was like store-bought white Wonder Bread, not the yummy fresh bread so common all over Israel. For birthday cake, we choose the only cake available, chocolate cake. I think they forgot to add the sugar. We had a good laugh about it.

Our plane left at 5am so we had to leave our hotel at 1am. We took an Arab taxi (Hebrew transportation was not running). Our driver took us another route--through the West Bank, to get to the airport. The road was one of the most excellent roads in Israel/Palestine and delivered us quickly to the airport. Once we checked in and got through security, we relaxed to wait for our plane. I ordered coffee and an almond croissant. They were so yummy I could hardly stand it! Hurrah for adventures!

Sermon on the Mount

"Now when [Jesus] saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them..." Matthew 5:1-2

Words cannot begin to describe the "Awesome-amazing" experience at walking where Jesus walked. As John and I begin our short time by the Sea of Galilee, we are reminded of how much of Jesus' ministry was done in this area. One of the highlights for me was returning to visit the Mount of Beatitudes, where tradition holds is where Jesus gave His "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. The Sermon on the Mount is full of rich teaching, including the "beatitudes" and teaching on prayer. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of serving You.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Matt. 5:8

Teaching on prayer

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Eph. 6:18

I praise the Lord for the opportunity to return to the Golan Heights to resume my previous teaching on prayer. This time I taught on prayer in spiritual warfare. Did you realize that Paul mentions prayer in Ephesians 6 when he talks about putting on the "armor of God" in spiritual warfare? Prayer is one of our spiritual "weapons," so to speak. May our prayers please the Lord.

For this is what the prophet has written...

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem." Matthew 2:1

OK, I know I'm not too savvy when it comes to geography, but I really didn't know Bethlehem was sooooo close to Jerusalem. Yesterday we took a day trip to visit the site where tradition says Jesus was born. It was so very interesting in many ways.

First we met with some Palestinian believers and had some good fellowship over lunch. Then we visited the Church of the Nativity (and the Grotto of the Nativity, which is supposed to be the exact cave where Jesus was born), the Shepherd's Fields, and Rachel's Tomb.

My overall impression of Bethlehem was much better than I had expected. It reminded me of Jerusalem, some old and some new parts. I was pleasantly surprised at how much new building was taking place, beautiful buildings. I saw many sign with "U.N." on them. When I asked about the signs, I was told it has to do with the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. this week. This news will be worth following.

Please pray for peace for Israel and her neighbors.

Walk About Zion

"Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end." Psalm 48:12-14

Have you heard the phrase, "my dogs are barkin'"? I'm told it means "my feet are hurting." I have no idea what hurting feet have to do with dogs barking. Odd American saying when you think about it...

Tonight my dogs are barking. But, it's a good bark, as far as barks go. After church this morning and lunch, John and I decided to walk around the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, it kind of just happened that way. We ventured out the visit the Garden Tomb and Skull Hill, starting at Jaffa Gate. But by the time we actually found it (yeah, we did get a bit lost getting there), we discovered it was closed. Bummer. By that time, we realized we were by the Damascus Gate. Since we weren't too far from the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, we decided to keep hoofing it and visit my favorite place in Jerusalem. It was not a disappointment. In fact, this time, we made it all the way to the top of the Mount of Olives. Half way back down the Mount of Olives, we met a nice Palestinian man who gave me a bottle of olive oil and took our photo with the East Gate and Dome of the Rock in the background. He told us all kinds of great stories about living in America, and then moving back to Mount of Olives (where he lived) and meeting famous people like Richard Gere and Benny Hinn. By the time we got to the bottom, we decided to forgo taking a taxi back to Jaffa Gate, thinking it was only about a 20 minute walk. Well, the 20 minute walk turned into 50 minutes. We had already been walking about 4 hours by then. Although it was a challenge, I'll tell you it beats going to the gym back home for a work out!

Interestingly, after we returned to our room to collapse, elevate our feet and cool down, John found the passage in Psalm 48:12-14. Wow! We had just done what the Psalmist had said to do. We had walked around Zion, full circle around the Old City! Hallelujah! 

Tunnels to the ancient city


Saturday we arrived in Israel safe and sound, after having totally rescheduled all our connections when we arrived at LAX on Friday morning due to our first flight being cancelled (entirely different airlines going through entirely different cities and countries). Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken.

Sunday and Monday were spent mainly settling in, getting acquainted with the students, and lots of walking to get the best deals on fresh groceries. We managed to squeeze in a walking tour of the underground tunnels at the Western Wall. Fascinating! I had no idea the current "Old City" of Jerusalem is built on top of an ancient city. In the tunnels, we could see much more of the Western Wall and the ancient streets and city of the Herodian period when the second temple was built. We're talking over two thousand years old!  There is a special spot underground called "The Cave" and is purported to be the closest access to the Holy of Holies, if one presumes the temple is directly under the current Dome of the Rock, which many believe it is.  The Western Wall or "Wailing Wall" as it is known, is the only area of the Western Wall that is accessible above ground. It is presumed to be the closest spot--above ground and open air--to the Holy of Holies, making it an incredibly popular place for prayer. John and I visited the Western Wall and offered up our own prayers, knowing that God hears our prayers no matter where we are.

After visiting the market, we stocked up on a few days provisions, namely fresh pita bread, hummus, peaches, plums, honey, milk, cherry preserves, almonds, pistachios, and coffee. Last night we had a slice of pizza from a restaurant around the corner. Mine had veggies, salami and lots of green olives. Yum! 

Today John begins his teaching. I can't wait. It is so refreshing to meet college age students who really love the Lord, know how to worship, and have already mastered the daily discipline of personal time for prayer and devotion. It gives me great hope for our future. They come from a variety of backgrounds, locations and experiences. Each one has an interesting story and a special purpose in being here. Precious.