Category: Travel

A Visit to the Homeland

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat.
Go raibh cóir na gaoithe i gcónaí leat.
Go dtaitní an ghrian go bog bláth ar do chlár éadain,
go dtite an bháisteach go bog mín ar do ghoirt.
Agus go gcasfar le chéile sinn arís,
go gcoinní Dia i mbois a láimhe thú.

My great grandmother used to have a version of this blessing on a tile in her kitchen.  Though the tile has been damaged and repaired, it stands in my kitchen still.

I got to visit Ireland for the first time last week.  I was in Northern Ireland, which was the homeland of some of my ancestors on my mother’s side.  I was actually in Belfast for a conference, but I also had a day free to visit the northern coast.

This trip was the highlight of my year.  The conference was amazing (more on that later) and the presence of the Lord was evident.  But, beyond that, the people were so friendly and open to talking about any little thing.  For all of the troubles and all of the strife the city has seen I really was astounded by the geniality of the folks.  I was able to have conversations about Jesus with almost every one I met, whether they were “religious” or not.  It was a bit surprising (and vastly encouraging) to me as my normal experience is that most conversation shuts down when you move from a general discussion to the mention of Jesus’ name.  Maybe I was just feeling especially bold from the power of the Spirit so evident in the time at the conference and from the prayers of partners in ministry whom I asked to pray that the Holy Spirit would renew my passion.  Or maybe it was also that I was able to speak in English without hesitation due to language or understanding, but whatever the reason I am very thankful for the gift of this time.

The accents weren’t hard on the ears either.  I love the lyrical lilt of the Irish.  And don’t get me started on the beauty of the place.  I didn’t think that any place on earth could capture my heart the way the western and coastal Scottish highlands have, but as we turned onto the A2 Antrium Highway and headed up the coast I fell in love with northern Ireland.  I’m afraid I left a piece of my heart behind.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and not a lot of time to blog, so I’ll end here today with a picture of me in the Giant’s Boot on Giant’s Causeway and of a rainbow near the Carrick-A-Rede bridge.  It was raining on and off all day, so we saw rainbows at every turn.  I have this strange desire to return and chase the rainbow’s end looking for that elusive pot of gold.  But then again, maybe I already found it in the beauty of Ireland itself.

Back to the Real World

I had a great time with my cousin; showing her around Hungary, then traveling to Slovenia and even spending a day in Italy.  Now I have a million and one things to do before leaving for English Camp next week.  But before I go back to the real world, here are some shots of great times…

The Spanish Riding School Lipizzaner Horses at the Buda Castle.  (I didn’t have my good camera with me that day – what was I thinking???  I took this with Christine’s Point and Shoot)

One of my favorite places ever – the area around Lake Bohinj in the Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

Christine and the waterfall in Vintgar Gorge.

The pier in Piran.

Last day in Israel

On our last day in Israel we went to the Temple Mount and the Temple Institute.  I wish I had time to tell you all about it, but I’m busy trying to finish last minute packing and prepping to leave in the middle of the night tonight.  I’ll be taking a break from daily posts for awhile as I travel and see a doctor about my knee.  Thanks for tuning in for my Israel posts!


The Temple Mount was HUGE.  I was really shocked by its size.  You can see how small I am in front of the Dome of the Rock and that is just a tiny portion of the Temple Mount site.

Dead Sea and Masada

The day after we visited Galilee, Jennifer and I went to the Dead Sea and Masada. We both enjoyed a float in the Dead Sea.  It was quite an experience.


It was blazing hot at Masada, but our tour guide was interesting.  Here is some of the information that he related.

masadaThe cliffs on the east edge of Masada are about 1,300 feet high and the cliffs on the west are about 300 feet high; the natural approaches to the cliff top are very difficult. The top of the plateau is flat and about 1,800 feet by 900 feet. There was a wall around the top of the plateau totaling 4,300 feet long and 12 feet thick.  The fortress included storehouses, barracks, an armory, the palace and cisterns that were refilled by rainwater. Three narrow, winding paths led from below up to fortified gates.

According to Josephus, a first-century Jewish Roman historian, Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BC as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. In 66 AD, at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War, a group of Jewish extremists overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish rebels and their families fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountain top.

In 72 AD a Roman governor marched against Masada and laid siege to the fortress. After failed attempts to breach the wall, they built a rampart against the western face of the plateau, using thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth.  The rampart was complete in the spring of 73, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress.  When they entered the fortress, however, the Romans discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set the buildings ablaze and committed mass suicide rather than face slavery or execution by their enemies.

The account of the siege of Masada was related to Josephus by two women who survived the suicide by hiding inside a cistern along with five children.   Because Judaism strongly discourages suicide, Josephus reported that the defenders had drawn lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man, who would be the only one to actually take his own life.  Our guide repeated many times how only one man was actually guilty of breaking the law by committing suicide.  I found this extremely ironic, because the Law prohibits murder as well.




The Jesus Boat

Our next stop was to see the “Jesus Boat.”  It was fascinating and one of my favorite sites of the trip.

The “Jesus Boat” is an ancient fishing boat which was discovered on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The remains of the boat, which are 27 feet long and 7.5 feet wide, first appeared during a drought in 1986, when the waters of the Sea receded.

Innovative and sophisticated techniques were required for lifting and moving the boat. First, a massive dike was built around the site to prevent the lake from inundating it, while pumps were used to keep the groundwater out. The wood had to be kept wet during the removal of the silt from inside the hull, which was then strengthened with fiberglass and filled with polyurethane. Tunnels were dug under the boat and its sides strengthened. When the extremely fragile remains of the boat were safely packed, water was pumped into the big pit that had been created during the excavation, and the boat was floated to shore. It was placed in a specially built conservation pool at the Yigal Allon Museum of Kibbutz Ginosar, where the poly- urethane casing was removed and the boat re-submerged in water. In a process which took several years, synthetic wax was added to the wood, to give it sufficient structural strength for display outside the pool.

The boat was found lying perpendicular to the shore, its stern toward the lake; only the lower portion of the rounded stern was preserved.  It was built in the known “shell first” fashion, with mortise and tenon joinery and constructed mainly of cedar planks and oak frames. Much of the wood was in secondary use having been removed from older, obsolete boats. Additional wood fragments were uncovered nearby, attesting that the boat was found in a place that had served as a shipyard. It was large enough to carry 15 people, including a crew of five. Though apparently used for fishing, it may also have transported passengers and goods.

By the construction techniques and two pottery vessels found near it, archaeologists judged that the boat was from the Roman period. Carbon-14 tests confirmed that the boat had been constructed and used between 100 BC and 70 AD.

In the photos you can see two different projections on the wall.  One is of the timber structure and the other is of a period mosaic of this style of boat.



I asked Jennifer to stand behind the boat for a picture so that you could get a better idea of the size of the boat (and for her smiling face of course).


Today, similarly built wooden sailing boats take tourists out onto the lake.


The Sea of Galilee

The day we went to the Sea of Galilee turned out to be hot and hazy.  We didn’t have a clear view across the sea, but you can get an idea of what the area looks like from these photos.



Our first sightseeing stop was the town of Capernaum.

Capharnaum, or Capernaum, or Kfar Nahum in Hebrew, is located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.   This town was central to many of the events of Jesus’ life.

The remains of Peter’s house in Capernaum can still be seen, including the inner room which was used as one of the first Christian churches.

In Jesus’ day Capernaum was a poor fishing village. The Jewish inhabitants could not afford their own synagogue but a Gentile Centurion, who held the Jewish people in high regard, built one (Luke 7:1-5).  Jesus often taught in the Synagogue here. To this day you can view the original ruins of the town and the ruins of an early synagogue (circa 300-400 AD) built on the site of the original.



The stonework found at the synagogue contains some interesting depictions of the Star of David and what is believed to be a depiction of the Ark of the Covenant during its fateful transportation upon a cart.


The Camel

A couple of people noticed that I wasn’t posting pictures of myself on this trip.  That’s pretty normal since I’m the one behind the lens, but I did tell them that I’d make it up by posting a picture of me on a camel.

Today’s the day.

Al and Judy drove us up to Galilee for the day, but on the way we stopped at Sea Level by the Dead Sea.  There is a man who hangs out there with his camel, just for the tourists (imagine that).  After riding horses for so many years I didn’t think it would be very different, until the camel stood up.  WOW they are tall.





Walking through Jerusalem

After we left the Church of St. Anne, Jennifer and I walked back through the city toward our hotel.

We made a stop to take in the rooftop views from the Austrian Hospice.


Then Jenn grabbed some freshly squeezed Pomegranate juice.


We stopped to poke our head into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but we didn’t stay.  It was far too “religious” a place and held no real appeal for either of us.  It makes me sad to see people kissing stones and, in essence, worshiping a place, rather than our risen Lord.


Then we navigated the maze of shops and narrow streets to leave the old city.



Church of St. Anne, Jerusalem

Next to the Bethesda Pool stands the Church of St. Anne, which is a 12th-century Crusader church erected over the traditional site of the birthplace of Anne,  who according to the apocryphal writings was the mother of Mary.  St. Anne’s Church was built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a previous Byzantine church.  In 1192, Saladin turned the church into a Muslim theological school. Eventually abandoned, the church fell into disrepair until the Ottomans donated it to France in 1856. It was subsequently restored, but most of what remains today is original.

Saint Anne’s acoustics, designed for Gregorian chant, are  breathtaking. Tour groups often come to sing in the church.  Jennifer and I sat for a little while and listened to four or five different groups.  I found their song choices to be quite interesting and telling about the group itself.  A British group sang a praise song about Jesus that I hadn’t heard before.  They were followed by a group singing Ava Maria.

Another fascinating and unique aspect of the the church was the brightly colored artwork that it held.



Bethesda Pool

Our next stop was the Bethesda Pool or Sheep Gate Pool ruins, believed to be the site where Jesus healed a paralytic (John 5:1-15).

At this location they have uncovered remnants of twin pools that were covered when a Byzantine basilica was built over portions of the original site.