“Where’d she go!?!”

For those of you who may have wondered where I went, since I haven’t written each day, we’ve been SO MANY places and seen SO MANY things! We’ve been blessed with the wonderful curse of having days that have been incredibly full. Let me do a bit of catch up.

First, this is a college class. Unlike this past summer’s pilgrimage with almost daily free time, this pilgrimage involves 3 credits of graduate work. With days over twelve hours long, the huge amount of details & information feels a bit like “sucking on the fire hose” with breaks for meals and not much else. The pace is intense!

Throughout the day, I take copious notes using the Memo app on my phone. At the end of the day, I transcribe my notes into my journal. In two weeks time, I have accumulated 112 pages of notes and journal reflections…enough to fill this site for a great deal of time to come! The intent has always been that my journal will get pulled out from time to time to review notes for sermon preparation. (Now, if only I could hand in my journal instead of writing a albeit brief 3-page paper reflecting on one city.) Unfortunately, that has meant I’ve been absent from writing here because of being up past midnight transcribing notes. Sorry.

Back to the question at hand: “Where has she been?”

The River Jordan (a return engagement for me, though on the ‘tourist” Israeli side, not the actual site I visited last year on the Jordanian side) where we renewed our baptismal vows.

North to Syria and the springs where the Jordan River begins. It is the place where Peter responded to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”

To the coast of the Mediterranean at Caeserea Maritima where Herod the Great built a deep water harbor and an aqueduct to prove to the Romans that he was a valid leader.

To the south, to Masada where Herod the Great built a fortress, one of several, to get away from the pressures of his rule. At this place, though, you can see details of his intelligience AND his paranoia.

Near Masada, to Qumran, where original scrolls by the Essenes (the Dead Sea Scrolls) were found and have answered some longstanding biblical questions.

And for a float in the Dead Sea.

But, the most important parts of this journey have been the places where we’ve come to understand Jesus’ teachings in a new way thanks to what the locals call “The 5th Gospel”…the actual locations of Jesus’ life. Nazareth, Galilee, Capernaum, Nablus (biblical Shechem), and, of course, Jerusalem. Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Gethsemane, and the final days with his Passion and resurrection. These places, have included so many new insights!

For instance, at Nablus, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-42, we spent time reflecting on verse 28 in which the woman leaves her water jar behind. All these years, I’ve read that passag and never paid ANY addition to that one detail. A very small detail that deemed important enough to the gospeler to include. For me, I’ll need to ponder this one a bit more. But, think of it, the whole reason she came to the well was for water. Yet, once she meets Jesus and receives “living water”, she leaves her water jar behind in order to share with those who also need to hear Christ’s message. It is often the small details that garner the greatest insights.

There is so much more. I look forward to sharing it here. We are in our final days, and are walking along with Christ’s final days. We are forever changed and marked by this experience. For six of us, externally marked as well, having spent our only “free” afternoon at Razzouk Tattoo...a family business since the 1300’s. The Razzouk family has been marking pilgrims and using stamps that have been in use for, in some cases, 700 years. We are now part of their story, also. My own choice, an Epiphany stamp with its Star of Bethlehem and the three crowns of the visiting magi.

It has been an amazing journey that is only just beginning. I am ever thankful for the group of pilgrims I’ve had the opportunity to share this journey with! Stay tuned. More details to follow.

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