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“Success to Significance”

“California?” Eyebrows lifting behind the frames of his glasses, the man walking toward us in blue jeans on the other side of the gate gave us a wide grin.


“Welcome!” He opened the gate and led us into the area of the Garden Tomb, believed by many to be the place where Jesus was buried following His crucifixion.

“I’m Joe.” He led us to a seating area from which we looked out at the hill of Golgotha, just a few steps away.

“When I first came to Israel, this was the place that touched my heart most,” Joe explained, “so I love returning and leading tour groups.”

Unassuming, gentle, quiet, with a smile that creased his face, Joe’s appearance wasn’t outstanding in any way. He was just a nice man who loved Jesus. But we later learned that Joe had in fact been a powerful business mogul. Having published ROLLING STONE and NEW YORKER magazines, as well as several other publications, Joe was in the upper echelon of New York society. While Jackie Kennedy was still alive, he periodically escorted her to events; and lunched with her weekly.

According to a blog, “Joe Armstrong, who is otherwise known as the Mayor of Michael’s, took his usual perch, Table No. 3, on Tuesday as the suits began filling the room.”

“Carly Simon was once quoted — in an article by William Styron’s daughter — calling him ‘probably the most loved person in New York.'”

Success? or Significance?

Success? or Significance?

But this power broker now volunteers as a tour guide at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem two months a year; and at Habitat for Humanity seven months.

Why was he willing to exchange his power lunches, elite dinner invitations, and fame in order to volunteer, living in a small apartment while helping others?

I love Joe’s answer: “I made a choice to move from success to significance.”

Wow. That statement challenges me for sure. How about you?

Hope because Jesus Lives!

The sun rose early that Sunday morning. Mary of Migdal had been grieving since Jesus was arrested Thursday evening. She was shattered at the death of her Lord, the one who forgave her when others wanted to stone her, who told her to go live a new life. She went to the tomb, planning to sit with the body of her Master.

Nearing the tomb, she stopped short, her eyes wide. The stone, that several-ton rock that had been rolled in front of the tomb to prevent anyone stealing Jesus’ body, was no longer in front of the grave’s opening. Running, she peered inside the tomb. It was empty!

Turning, she saw a man standing near. Thinking he was the gardener, she spoke through the tears streaming down her face. “Sir, please tell me where you have taken my Lord.” Then he spoke her name. “Mary.”

He is Risen - Just as He promised

He is Risen – Just as He promised

A little boy once said you know someone loves you “when your name is safe in their mouth.” Mary’s name was safe in Jesus’ mouth, and she realized it was Him speaking to her, risen just as He promised. Radiant, she ran to tell the disciples the good news.

The apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians about the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead …” (I Cor 15:17-20a)

After my first husband passed away, I fell into a pit of despair. What if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? What if all I believed was a lie and I would never see Jerry again? I agonized, unwilling and unable to share my fears with anyone. After about three weeks, God brought a scripture to mind.

After many turned away from Jesus, He asked the disciples “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter replied, “Where else would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-69). God spoke those words into my spirit and my doubts were lifted as I thanked God that because of Jesus’ resurrection, I will indeed see Jerry again–and even more, one day I will see Jesus face to face. Glory!

How has Jesus’ resurrection changed your life? I’d love to hear.

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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!

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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!

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french hornThe brass instruments were polished to a mirror gloss. The soothing notes of Handel’s “Allegro” from Concerto Grosso #10 flowed out from the five horns, sweeping over my spirit like water flows swiftly down a canal. The two trumpets, trombone, French horn, and tuba blended–perfection in sound.

Transitioning to “The Queen of the Night’s Aria” from Mozart’s Magic Flute, the first trumpeter changed to a piccolo trumpet. Half the size of a regular trumpet, this small instrument played a much higher range, echoing the shrill, high-pitched sound of an angry woman. It was easy to hear her rage.

Next, the two trumpeters switched to flugelhorns, each with a large cone and wide brass wraparound. Mellow tones streamed out of the horns like liquid gold. The trombone, french horn and tuba filled out the sound and provided bass support. None tried to take the spotlight, but rather played the right notes, enriching and deepening the sound. Trumpet

I thought of the Apostle Paul’s description of the spiritual gifts given to the Church. No gift is for the gratification of its owner; rather, it is given for the good of, and service to, others. Just as the different instruments contribute their own tones to an Aria, each of us adds a unique service to the world.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” I Corinthians 12:4-6

I am no more and no less than any other believer. Is the piccolo trumpet better than the flugelhorn? Or the regular trumpet than the piccolo? No. Each is uniquely prepared for a specific contribution. Where my gifts may not be appropriate in certain situations, God will ‘pick up’ another individual who better fits that need.

Recently, I spoke with a young friend I made in Florida six years ago. We met in the hospital when both our husbands were facing organ transplants. Periodically I would invite Natasha and her five-year-old son, Isaiah, to join me for dinner or to play a game. We shared our faith and prayed for each other. Mike was in and out of the hospital while Jerry was hospitalized until he passed away. In this call Natasha told me her Mike passed away in June of this year. We had a meaningful visit and promised to keep in touch.

As I turned off my cell phone, I thanked God that He has gifted me to develop and maintain relationships for the purpose of encouraging others. I am not envious of anyone else’s gifts, nor do I need to denigrate my own. I am humbly grateful that God has given me gifts which are specific to meeting certain kinds of needs.

Who has God created you to be? Have you sometimes struggled with envy or do you recognize that God has created you for the good of others and will use you specifically through your unique giftedness?

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” I Corinthians 12:7, 11