We just returned tonight from a 3 day trip to the south (of Israel). We did SO much in these past days. I have learned a great deal, and my eyes have been opened a smidge more. I think I'm just gonna list some things here as I am not entirely sure of the best way to organize my thoughts.
-I stayed in a youth hostel for the first time. I didn't know what the squeegee in the bathroom was for - until I showered that is - had a nice little reenactment of the flood thanks to that hostel shower!
-I swam in the Mediterranean Sea Wednesday at Ashkelon, and it was absolutely amazing and refreshing and beautiful, despite the onset of the jellies, and my minor stings (don't worry Mom, all is well - they weren't big)
- I floated in the Dead Sea today. It was seriously amazing. I could NOT touch bottom - my feet simply would not go down. You can float on your back, side, stomach, with all your limbs in the air. You can literally walk on water. Incredible experience.
- Climbed Masada today. It means stronghold. We sang "A Mighty Fortress is our God" in the cistern (huge and good acoustics) at Masada. Though this city fell, I know that GOD is my fortress, and He is always and He is strong. This used to be Herod's palace complete with swimming pools, mosaics and frescos ten miles from water, hundreds of feet up on top of a mountain. I am mad at Herod. He was selfish, and full of himself. Yet - thinking about it, I see how his cruelty and selfishness only serve to illuminate the true Kingship of Christ - his humility, faithfulness, provision, and love in contrast. Kind of like how Pharoh's hard heart and cruelty only served to do the same in showcasing God's power and provision and revealing his glory.
- We went to Qumran today. I saw the cave where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- At the Springs of Engedi where David probably was camped out for awhile, we read a psalm drowning in water imagery as it is so scarce here. We then hiked to beautiful waterfalls and springs in the desert there (and got to go in!). After climbing cliffs in 107 degree heat I better understand what it means to thirst for God, to know him as living water. I then watched as an ibex deer (the same kind of deer David would have seen) panted for water, and then drank from this spring.
-A couple days ago I was up on Temple Mount where there is now a Muslim mosque and park, but it used to be the location of the temple till it was destroyed in the year 70. I stood with a small group of peers on this place of God's temple - his physical dwelling and residence and sang "How lovely is your dwelling place . . .better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere". It blew me away - singing this in the literal dwelling place of God, a place now in Muslim hands (we sang off in a corner and quietly - you are not allowed to take Bibles up there at all), and knowing that Jesus was in this temple, and knowing what this place was and is to God's people. AMAZING.
-We took a hike through a barren wasteland in the Negev. It was so hot and dry and we had to climb ladders up a cliff at some points, but I was in awe the entire time - reciting Psalm 23 over and over in my head, and knowing that the LORD leads us and guides our steps.
-God chose a weak people in a land with the lowest point on earth, where little grows, with a "poison lake" - a rough land - and He showed himself faithful HERE. He is the same to me and to all of us anywhere. Rest and find hope in that. God is awesome!!!!