From Galilee to the Dead Sea, birds to humans, today was a day of healing and rejuvenation.
Today was our last day in Galilee. I woke up with that feeling in the pit of my stomach similar to what I always felt on the last day of camp – afraid to leave, afraid to lose the experience. I can only imagine how I will feel when it’s time to leave Jerusalem.
After breakfast, we left to go to out behind our hotel down to the Sea of Galilee. We boarded a boat and headed out to the middle.
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”” Mark 4:35-41
“The Sea of Galilee is the only significant body of fresh water in the Middle East. The ancient people of this region had no word to distinguish between a lake and a sea. They called these waters, only thirteen miles by eight miles in size, Kinneret, or Genessaret, or the Sea of Tiberias.
Then and now, powerful storms spring up suddenly on this Sea, as winds blow violently down the gorges, causing deep waves. Yet we are told that Jesus had the capacity to still the wild and chaotic winds and calm the waters. He simply spoke the words: “Peace! Be Still!” Hear those words today in the whisper of the breeze, the cries of the shore birds, the lap of the water on the boat’s hull.” – Casey Baggott
AND WE DID ALL THREE!
The sea was so flat and peaceful. We could look out at all of Galilee, we could see most’ve where we have been over the last four days.
Is There a Doctor on the Boat?
We moved around the sea for a few minutes until the captain announced we were going to be delayed for a few minutes. A small distance from the boat was a small mass of white, what we realized were two seagulls tied up in fishing lines and multiple hooks, so tight together like puzzle pieces, one of them was face up on his back.
The captain explained they (the crew) were going to do what they could to help the birds.
It reminded me of the parable of the Good Samaritan. These guys had every opportunity to say to themselves, “There will be other boats coming through that will be able to help these birds.” because there would have been,” Bob said moments later in his sermon. “Or they could’ve said, “There are plenty of birds near the sea” because there were.”
But they didn’t. And the rescue began.
For what seemed like an eternity, the crew worked to circle the boat near the birds and bring them in to the boat using a net, a pole, and a bucket.
It seemed like a doubled eternity while the team of bird doctors (not really, but they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night) worked together to clip the wire that had wrapped itself around the birds several times.
On and on they worked as our crew gathered around and watched.
Christians, Muslims, and Jews, praying for a miracle. I felt God’s smile.
We could see it too.
On cue, the sun burst through the clouds in a way that only a picture could describe.
As they clipped the last of the wires I realized that the fact that the sea was calm enough to remain still may have been a miracle in and of itself.
Eventually, they launched on freed bird back into the sea. He flapped his wings long enough to show his appreciation. I felt God smile again, and we were smiling too.
The other bird didn’t seem to be as fortunate as he landed back in the sea unable to turn over on his stomach. We were all a little sad. I decided that that bird was on his way closer to God, and in many ways, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, so was I.
We got off the boat just a mile and a half away from Magdela and visited a museum run by Messianic Jews (People who recognize Jesus as messiah but keep their practices with the Jewish traditions of Jesus) where they showed the preservations of a boat dated to have been 2,000 years old.
This boat would have been on of the rarer boats of the time, as it was bigger than most could’ve afforded. The odds are that Jesus was either on that boat, one like it, or certainly knew the owner of that boat.
Get On the Bus
So now we’re on a bus driving some two hours south along the Jordanian border toward Jerusalem, into a much dryer, rockier geography, and a terser more intense social climate. Today we go to the Dead Sea and Jericho
I watch the West Bank, the Mountains of Samaria turn from grassy and rocky to complete sand and rock. A shift is underway for our group.
I think of Jesus’ life in Galilee. And I think of how it shifted when he got to Jerusalem. In a different way, our time in Galilee has been necessary to transition us into what will happen in Jerusalem.
Even still, now going past security check points into Palestinian occupied territory, we are anxious but ready for whatever God has in store for us next.
Crossing into through Jericho into the Dead Sea, we are now some 1200 feet below sea level. Aside from the mountainous topography, this nothing like what we left. I think of Jesus’ first journey into Jerusalem as a boy. What went through his mind?
I’m in culture shock before I even reach Jerusalem. I imagine how Jesus must’ve felt as a boy! And I have the internet!!
The Dead Sea
We arrived to our hotel at 3:30pm local time and had about an hour and a half until sunset – though it was already growing dark. Some of us immediately changed into bathing suits and headed in our robes, crossing the street to the Dead Sea.
Behind us were tall orange mountains that look like caves that went as high as if to imply that the world stopped there.
We know better, though.
We went into the Dead Sea one at a time. Somebody had to be first and prove it was tolerable. It was 64 degrees!!
It was so worth it though. The Dead Sea has a salt density ten times that of the Atlantic Ocean. What does that mean? Well two things.
#1 – don’t drink the water. A rule that I tested, and now agree with.
#2 – It was so salty not only was it easier to float, but it was hard not to! Literally! When my feet hit the ground (only once) they would immediately bounce up as if I was hopping like an astronaut on the moon. Once you got the weight shifted to your butt (read for the kids: tooshy) it took many of us a good four or five tries to get back upright.
For kicks and giggles a few of us tried rolling over to our stomachs to give it a shot – now there was a sight to see! Wish I could show you folks back in America the video, but you know, what happens in the Dead See… (wait for it)… stays in the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is supposed to have healing power. Because of the natural salts and minerals in the Sea, many lotions and scrubs, salts and smells have been processed and sold not just in the Middle East but all around the world. (I wrote that last sentence for anybody who has never been in a shopping mall before)
Yes the Dead Sea is supposed to have healing power for your skin and beyond.
We arrived today, achy, tired, travel-logged, and perhaps a bit cranky (over emotionally-processed). We ended our day, many of us, laughing like children, flipping, and giving each other hugs and high-fives of encouragement. The Dead Sea is supposed to have healing power… and I would have to agree.
We have been revived by the Dead Sea!
Now On to Jerusalem!
A Note To Friends, Family, and Readers
Neither Phil or I feel like we are sacrificing by writing this blog.
But it has become, at times, a bit cumbersome. Phil has at points become worried about me sacrificing my time to process this once in a lifetime opportunity in order to journal. I tend to think that this is helping me process immensely (that’s one of the reasons I wanted to blog), yet other times I grew concerned he was right.
Today at lunch (lunch was a whole other story! We ate at a placenamed Temptation Restaurant after the overpoweringly high mountain where Jesus is believed to have been tempted! Boy were we ever tempted at this meal! The plates of food just kept coming! but I digress…)
Many of our travelers were asking me what Phil and I were working on. I explained that this is a personal lens of what I hope is a group picture. They are excited to have a travel log of our time together, and Phil and I are excited to be able to portray at least a portion of their feelings (at least as a part of our travel group) to their loved ones as well.
All that to say this, when we got back to our room between the Dead Sea and dinner we were greeted by several of your comments – both on our blog and my facebook page.
It is incredibly humbling to realize your support and care for us while we are here. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have been in our prayers, and I pray that you have been as blessed as we have been by your care and prayers.
It is also humbling to realize how many of you have shared that you feel as though you’ve been able to SHARE in the experiences with us. That is as fulfilling to me as the other miracles I have experienced on this trip.
Thank you for your willingness to share. I assure you, it has gone both ways.
God of abundance, I celebrate how big you are. Big as the Mountains. Big as the Seas. You are big enough to be at one end of paradise. And the Other.
May you give us the blessing of being able to feel what it’s like atop the Mountains of our lives. And when we are there, may we radiant enough, by your blessing, that those we love feel the warmth too. In the holy land where it began, and in all the holy land where it continues, Amen.