If you know me personally or have been reading my blog for very long, you know that my husband and I love to travel and you may not be surprised to learn that we’re busy preparing for another trip. I included a hint to our destination in my last post, but no one guessed where we’re going. Since I’m bursting at the seams with excitement and can hold it in no longer…
Richard and I are leaving Canada on January 21st for a ten day tour of Israel! Although we’ve explored a number of fascinating places over the years, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited about a trip as I am about this one. When someone asked me recently if it was a mission trip or a vacation, I wasn’t sure how to answer. It’s definitely not a mission trip, but I hadn’t really been thinking of it as a vacation either. So what is it? Our pastor came up with the perfect term. We’re going on a pilgrimage!
Pilgrimage, a journey undertaken for a religious motive. Although some pilgrims have wandered continuously with no fixed destination, pilgrims more commonly seek a specific place that has been sanctified by association with a divinity or other holy personage. (www.britannica.com)
Knowing that I’m going to stand on Mount Carmel where the prophet Elijah called down the fire of God and the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus Christ delivered his Sermon on the Mount; enjoy a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed the storm and walked on water; float in the Dead Sea; visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, and Nazareth where he spent his childhood; pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and view the modern city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives almost takes my breath away. These are just a few of the highlights of our very busy itinerary!
I’ve prepared differently for this trip than for any other. For me, doing lots of research before a trip is part of the fun of traveling, but this time I’ve done less of that and a lot more spiritual preparation. On Christmas Eve, I started reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in my NKJV Chronological Study Bible. Frequently referring to the maps at the back of the book, I jotted down the various locations and what happened at each of them. I’ve read all these accounts many times before, but this is the first time I’ve specifically focused on where things happened and it has really helped tie everything together. I finished that today and will spend the next few days looking at some Old Testament references.
As always, God’s timing is impeccable. My ladies Bible study group recently started doing Beth Moore’s study, Stepping Up, on the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120 to 134). In ancient times, Israelite pilgrims sang these psalms as they made their way up to the holy city of Jerusalem for the three great festivals of the Jewish calendar: Passover, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. What fitting preparation for my own pilgrimage which will culminate in that very city!
Of course, when people hear where we’re going, some of them think we’re crazy. “Aren’t you afraid?” they ask. No, I can honestly say that I’m not. I’m not naive; I know what’s been happening in that part of the world, but afraid? Not in the slightest. I feel a deep sense of peace knowing that we’ll be as much in the palm of God’s hand in Israel as we are anywhere else on the planet. We are going on a guided tour though. We’ve wandered some pretty sketchy parts of Asia on our own, but I do draw the line at the Middle East. There, I want the safety of a group and a reputable tour company that has sent hundreds of people and brought them all home safely.
We’ll be staying in some pretty nice hotels where Wifi will be available, but this is the trip of a lifetime and I don’t plan to spend it sitting at a keyboard. The blog will be silent while I’m away, but I will have lots to share when we return!