Category Archive: Travel

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ on the River …

That’s just what Don and I did as we enjoyed a river cruise up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Memphis a week ago. dsc08384 I’d not seen this part of the South before. Our American Queen antebellum steamboat was charming and romantic. Food was plentiful, and delicious. Multiple sitting rooms provided areas to sit and read, visit, or play games.


Courting chair in the Mark Twain Salon

We flew into New Orleans a few days early, and met our friends Joe and JoAnn Payne at the city’s National WWII Museum Sunday morning. A WWII vet, Don got some extra attention. The exhibits are very well done and the stories of different service men and women expressed the challenges, tragedies and sometimes heroism of war. I was glad to learn more of Don’s service in the medical corps as memories were prompted during our visit, and by questions JoAnn and Joe asked.

Freedom Park in Helena, AK was one of my most meaningful visits. During the Civil War, runaway slaves traveling the Underground Railway knew that if they could reach Helena, they would be under the protection of the Union Army. The Park is a peaceful memorial to the deep need of people to be free. While camps set up for these families left much to be desired in the way of adequate food and housing, they did provide hope of a future lived in freedom.

Frogmore Plantation in Natchez, Miss., my second choice, is the only historic & modern, 1800-acre working cotton plantation in the South. Its owners have a passion to share the South’s history, and the plight of slaves–even more deeply personal as this couple invests in ministries to those caught in human trafficking.  We began our tour on an original pew in an 1800s African American plantation church, as the mistress of Frogmore took us back in time. Music filled the air as two marvelous local musicians regaled us in song. After that we looked through a number of slave cabins, and learned cotton production, then and now.

One day, as we sat on a bench alongside the Mississippi, a young man sat to our left, head on his knees. During Don’s and my conversations with each other and with passersby, he barely moved. Finally I reached over and gently touched his arm.

Showing us how to pluck the cotton out of their "bowls"

Showing us how to pluck the cotton out of its “bowls”

“Excuse me, sir, are you all right?”

He raised his head and looked at us. “Yeah, I’m ok. Just had a big night of partying last night and am resting up to do it again tonight. But it’s nice of you to check on me.” We wished him well. The next day we saw him–same position, same bench. I was saddened to think this was the rhythm of his life, whether just during a trip or as a lifestyle.

Jesus is the Light of the world, and on this trip we saw both the pain of darkness; and the light of hope when slaves were protected, through people we met who are working to relieve human trafficking. May we be filled with the Light of Christ so we will reflect that to those in our circles of influence, to the glory of God.

“If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way…All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.” (II Corinthians 4:3-4, MSG)

May you be blessed with the Light of Life this Thanksgiving week.








View of the multiple shades of blue in the warm Hawaiian waters

View of the multiple shades of blue in the warm Hawaiian waters

We fly through enormous cotton candy clouds and look down to see whitecaps dancing on the blue and turquoise waters. Green fields of sugar cane enter our view through the plane’s window, interspersed with other crops, surrounded by iron-rich red soil, and interrupted by rugged, velvet-covered mountains.

Don and I are descending to the island of Maui for a much needed break.

Rene spoke Sunday about “beholding” – really seeing, focusing on, the beauty of God through His Word as well as His creation.

The last months have been full with preparations for a “zero” party for Don (for the uninitiated, that’s a birthday that ends in a zero) last weekend; preparing a rental house for sale; and dealing with our little Paigey’s health challenges as well as my own, which I wrote about last week.

Along with these practical tasks, we’ve had guests, visited dear friends out of state to say goodbye as the husband dealt with cancer, lost the friend we visited, and learned of several others with significant health challenges.

The season has been intense and painful and disheartening and wonderful.

So now we’re running away. Yes, we have good care in place for Paige and Kelly. The house is almost back in shape after the delightful party last weekend. And we grieve with our friend who is without her husband of many years.

But God has blessed us with this opportunity to relax in the sun, sleep, read, eat, sleep, sun, eat, read. Just the two of us. Time to put aside our side-by-side work over the summer and focus on our Creator and on each other as we walk hand in hand along beaches and kiss at glorious sunsets.

It’s at least fifteen years since I’ve been in Hawaii; for Don, more like 50! We want to stop, look, listen, BEHOLD and ADORE our God.

In such busyness, how and where do you “behold” your God?

Jerusalem Snow

Ten inches of snow fell in Jerusalem overnight. I wakened about 4 am andView from our room looked out our hotel window to see snow resting on tree branches and stacked on our balcony railings. Jerusalem looked like a winter wonderland. Roads were closed all over the city and priority is getting the road to the airport open.

Our thirty-one congenial travelers are enjoying learning to know each other. Meal buffets at the Dan Jerusalem are amazing. Choices are varied and extensive and we are learning a bit about kosher laws i.e. no dairy along with meat. Heard of a traveler who smuggled in a small packet of creamer for her coffee, only to have a Rabbi call her out on it in the dining room.

Salad bar

Salad bar

About 10 am we gathered in the piano bar. “Sparky,” one of our travelers, played “The Old Rugged Cross” and the mood was mellow.

Sparky at the piano

Sparky at the piano

Our pastor, Rene Schlaepfer, led us in a devotional time together. At 11:20 the sun came out in all its glory, so at 12:30 we boarded our bus for a city tour. Schools were out and children and adults were playing outside. As the bus was hit by some hard snowballs, we realized there were rocks in those snowballs, older revelers hoping to break a window.

We sloshed through melting snow, around Gethsemane and its olive trees, and into the Church of Gethsemane. All the restaurants Kenny wanted to take us to were closed, so we hiked up the hill to a small food stand and enjoyed the man’s offer of hot coffee, tea, and grilled cheese sandwiches.


Church of Gethsemane

Entering the Old City via The Lions Gate, we walked to the site of Pilate’s judgment seat and on to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed by the Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Coptic Christians, Arminians, and two other groups to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. We wandered through the souks and down the Via Dolorosa, where retired police officer Robert struck up a conversation with some of the Israeli soldiers. By the time we returned to the hotel we were soaked, head to toe. Don used his engineering skills to rig up an umbrella to hold one of his tennies right under the air vent so the shoe would dry overnight.???????? (It worked!)

Dinner ahead tonite, Dead Sea tomorrow.

Bet She’an


Bet She’an

A “tel” is a hill that’s a site for an archeological dig. About ten percent of Bet She’an has been unearthed, and the 10% we saw Thursday morning was outstanding. To put Bet She’an in its biblical context, King Saul and his son were hung on the hill above this city after the battle in which Saul killed himself by falling on his sword rather than being captured.

This enclave included a large bathhouse, Roman theater, mosaic street, enormous pillars that fell from the temple during an earthquake, and lots of other structures.

En route to Jerusalem we pulled into a rest top, where two of our women took a short camel ride. We also gave a lift to three young Israeli soldiers. The military were called into the City because of tonight’s expected unusual snow. Because people were supposed to either get into or out of the city by noon, local buses weren’t going their way, so they were heading in by foot. There are backhoes with buckets parked all around the city in preparation for the snow, which is supposed to begin about 11 tonight.


Temple Mount, currently a Mosque

Near Jerusalem, our driver, Yaniv, put on a recording of “the Holy City.” I felt a deep sense of awe and wonder, and tears rolled down my cheeks. As the song ended, we pulled into Jerusalem and saw the golden Dome of the Rock to our left. We are in Jerusalem. Home of our Savior, or the prophets, kings, tribes … Incredible. The song that followed the Holy City was “We are standing on holy ground.” Amen!

At the Museum of Israeli architecture we saw a precise model of the old city in Jesus’ day scaled 1″ to 50′, I believe. The Old City encompassed only 10 acres, just a little over 3x the size of our property. That blew our minds. Key sights included Herod’s sarcophagus and the Dead Sea scrolls which had beautiful, precise and straight handwriting. We moved between heavy rain, a little hail or snow, and were COLD.


Herod’s Sarcophagus

It is SNOWING – 4:15 am and I just looked out the window … 3-4 inches are covering the balcony, railings, and trees. It’s beautiful!

Galilee and the Galilean

We began our day at the the Mount of Beatitudes, where there is a lovely convent and church. Rene taught us from the Beatitudes, and we had time to wander and pray.

Convent at Mount of Beatitudes

Convent at Mount of Beatitudes

From there we traveled to Capernaum, where Jesus lived for several years. A Church has been constructed over what are believed to be the ruins of the apostle Peter’s mother-in-law’s home. Most interesting to me was the detail of God’s plan. Capernaum was on a major highway, a route that anyone traveling between five countries had to travel.  Nothing of God is simply chance.

Capernaum Ruins

Capernaum Ruins

Nearby, we walked onto the shores of the Sea of Galilee and imagined Jesus calling some of his disciples.

Boarding a boat in the sunshine, we left one shore. About halfway across the Galilee we hit a sudden squall which included slamming rain, which  stopped before we docked on the opposite shore. We sang along to wonderful Jesus songs from the 70s and 80s, were taught the Hava Nagila dance (“Let us rejoice”), and laughed at our missteps. It was amazing to be part of the same kind of weather Jesus and the disciples faced in their day.

We next stopped on the Jordan river which had about eight areas set aside for baptism. Those wishing to be baptized changed into their swimsuits and covered them with provided white gowns. Folks must not have realized how transparent these white gowns were when wet … some who didn’t have anything on underneath might have been quite surprised that nothing was hidden! Fortunately, our folks all had swimsuits. Two of our group were first-time baptisms, the other seven wanted to recommit and to be baptized where Jesus was.????????

The Jordan Baptism Site

The Jordan Baptism Site

Afterward, I heard groups praising God in different languages. Tears came to my eyes as I heard Asians singing on one side,  Africans on another. The unity I felt with these brothers and sisters in Christ brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. As the church, we are one in Christ. What will heaven be like?

Wonderful day in every possible way. Time for bed.

Wednesday – Dan Nature Preserve, city of Dan under the rule of Jeroboam, and the gates of Canaan, the oldest known gate being excavated. This is the gate Abraham would have walked thru to find his nephew, Lot.

Then on to the Baniass Nature Preserve and spring, site of the Temple of Pan, source of the words panic and pandemonium. How appropriate that worship of this, or any false god, brings pandemonium.


Looking down into a bunker


Golan Heights signpost

We wandered the fortifications at the Golan Heights, 4500 feet above sea level, from which we saw Syria and Lebanon. Had some wonderful mocha coffee to warm our hands and innards … The remaining snow and a hefty wind kept it chillingly cold!!!

I’m amazed at the topography in Galilee. Beautiful, green, fertile; almond, orange and lemon trees in abundance, along with banana and date palms. The green hills are absolutely spotted with rocks. The Israelis have brought wonderful productivity to a rocky land.

Tomorrow, Jerusalem!