Jet lag and gratitude

I’ve been awake since 3 a.m., watching CNN’s coverage of the Moore, OK tornado. (Jet lag or midlife? Today, I’m pretty sure it’s the former.) My prayers are with the resilient people of the area, with those who are serving them today and beyond – and most of all, with those who’ve lost cherished loved ones.

This world can be simultaneously dangerous and beautiful. The paradox is palpable for me every time we visit Israel, a land with a history that simultaneously illustrates both realities. We returned from our trip there a day and a half ago, and I wanted to give you a quick summary of the final bits of our trip. We were there so Bill could participate in the board meeting for the Caspari Center, and we added some additional touring to a region of the country we hadn’t visited on any of our previous visits.

At the women’s section of the Western Wall

With gratitude to God and with thanks to those who prayed, I was able to walk by mid-week and our sassbucket cat was housed for the remainder of our trip by our kind, animal-loving friend. After his meetings concluded, Bill and I spent a day in the Old City. You can sense humanity’s ache for God and palpable spiritual conflict in this piece of real estate in ways that go beyond words or human reason.

Eastern European pilgrim group praying at the Stone of Anointing inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is said that Joseph of Arimathea anointed Jesus’ body for burial in this spot.

We headed to the Dead Sea for a couple of days. The photos I took of this stunning, desolate desert landscape don’t do it justice. I am grateful we had the opportunity to experience the place with all five of our senses. Unexpected night breeze, sulfur-scented air, thick silence, rocky lunar landscape barren of almost all vegetation, and undrinkable salt sea gave me a new understanding of those in Scripture who wandered – or fled to this wilderness in search of sanctuary. I gained new respect for the Desert Fathers and Mothers who sought their heavenly Father with incredible dedication in places like and including this region.

King Herod built himself the mountaintop fortress Masada. Or, perhaps better said, thousands of workers built this massive mountaintop stronghold. I touched the stones, and was struck with the fact that someone’s hand – a person created and loved by  God – added each stone to the next.

Masada, located near the southern end of the Dead Sea, is symbolic center of national pride for my people and a draw for tourists from around the world. Bill and I pondered what we would have done had we been on that mountaintop in 73/74 A.D. with the group of religious zealots facing the Roman legions after a long siege.

One of many massive food storage rooms at Masada; this warehousing system was the only way people could survive for months on top of this mountain in the desert.

We pray for our people – all people – to know true Shalom in the Son, the One who is our peace.

Bill atop Masada

We ended our trip with the blessing of an unexpected return to the home of the new friends who offered us hospitality at the beginning of our trip. As I looked out their window at the beautiful Mediterranean one final time, I realized once again what a privilege and responsibility God has given us as we’ve journeyed to this land. It has changed and reoriented both Bill and I – and I hope it continues to change and reorient the way we serve God with the remainder of our lives.

 

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. – Ps. 41:13

 

 

About Michelle Van Loon
  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Great pics and descriptions, Michelle, and it is wonderful to hear how the trip affected you and Bill. I am so glad your heel healed and your cat found hospitality back home.
    Our daughter has been on two study/service trips in Israel and loved it all, from Masada to Galilee, Tel Aviv to the River Jordan. Your post here reminds me of the stories she’s told too, and renews my desire to travel there with my wife.
    Cheers,
    Tim

    • Michelle Van Loon

      I hope you and your wife have an opportunity to visit Israel, too. You will never read your Bible the same way again!

      (I sound like I’m shilling for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, but it’s true!)


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