Friday, July 29, 2011

Galilee part 5: One whopper great day!

Then our big time field trips started in earnest. The whole family got up early and left with everyone for Tel Hazor. This is a great site with so many important things in it. 777 ft. above sea level. N 33* 01.012, E 035* 34.077. The site is huge, about175-200 acres large. In the lower section they found the vast remains of a city. Hazor was one of the largest and most powerful Canaanite city-states, one of the most important centers of the greater region. Between 18th and 13th C BC had about 30,000 inhabitants, spread out but within fortifications. Mari texts show that they had economic and political ties with Mesopotamia, including an ambassador of Hammurabi living in Hatzor. Egyptians started control by C 15 (conquered by Tuthmosis III, probably very strong influence earlier, they are mentioned in 19th and 18th C execration texts, which are probably reflective of earlier lists as well). Egypt had king of Hatzor act as a king on its behalf over other cities all around. Yadin found a sanctuary with a rough statue that had been toppled over by a blunt instrument. This is probably the Canaanite city that Josh destroyed. Canaanite palace is covered by a large roof (in area A). The heart was the 12x12 m throne room (cobbled floor originally covered by wood). There was a raised entrance, with two great columns. The new bricks used in the restoration were made of original decayed bricks. Vertical slots in the mud brick walls were for the cedar beams, there was also wood paneling. Yadin found evidence of a massive burning level to correspond with Joshua. In some places the ash was 1 m deep. In the palace the wood and oil made it burn hot, estimated as 2350 degrees F. It is like touching Joshua to be in that place.
We also went to the big six chambered gate that Solomon built. It is impressive, and again it is one of the three places that the Bible says he built up, and we find a gate just like this one in all three. So, we sang our six chambered gate song again, and had a great time. This is like touching Solomon.

My class inside the six chambers of the gate

My class jumping out of those six chambers

Then we went over to the watch tower that was built as they were preparing for the Assyrian invasion. On the way to it you can see a matsebah, a stone that became a focus of idolatry. As we talked about the destruction of Hazor by the Assyrians, we noted that this was the reason for it. As we have the chance to do so often, I asked the students to think about how they start out with something that may seem okay, but turns to idolatry. We went up to the watchtower and spoke of how the Assyrians conquered this place and from here they scattered Israel. I tried to give them a sense of how this was their family history. They are scattered Israel, our ancestors went forth from that place. We spoke of what we should do to prevent that from happening in our own life. I think it was some good stuff we talked about together. Then we went back to the gate and sang again. Fun stuff.

Alexia fighting with one of our two bus drivers, Ihab. Basam was the others. We really get to know and like these guys on the Galilee Field Trips.

From there we went to Tel Dan. That is such an incredible, beautiful place. We walked through beautiful forested area. We walked over the waters of the Jordan. We stopped at the place where it sprang from the rocks. The headwaters of the Jordan, the snowmelt from Hermon that literally springs out of the rocks there. At that place we talked about the difference between living water and water from cisterns. We talked about how that imagery is used in places like Jeremiah, and how the Savior drew on that imagery. From this imagery we talked about what it means to have Christ as our living water.

Class sitting on the very headwaters of the Jordan. Behind them s no water, in front of them water comes out of the rocks through a carst system

Kaleb and Jacob on the water that springs out from the Carst. The above picture of my students has them looking right towards Kaleb and Jacob (I may have been standing in between them droning on and on about stuff).

From there we walked to the high place, the spot where Jereboam built golden calves for Israel to worship. Again we spoke of the way that we worship both the Lord and the world at the same time. I gave them some time to think for a while. This is really ground zero for the fall of Israel. They fell because of what Jereboam introduced there. It may have seemed like a small deviation at the time, but it led to destruction. It is as significant a site in Israelite history as one can visit.

My class pondering at the High Place of Dan

My class jumping off the High Place of Dan

I tried to stop them, but my students still did a sacrifice there

We also looked over the area that had been the country’s border. Then we went to the Middle Bronze age gate of Tel Dan. Since Abraham rescued Lot when he had been taken to Dan, it is quite likely that he would have gone through that gate as he came to get him.

The Middle Bronze gate at Tel Dan

Then we did the two large gates on the outer walls of the city. One still has the remains of the place where the ruler of the area would have sat as he met with the people, dispensed judgments, etc. The other was where they found the Tel Dan Inscription, the oldest text that mentions the house of David. Fun stuff. And absolutely gorgeous. This is a very pretty place.

The place for the ruler of Dan to sit in judgment

From there we went to Banias, which is also known as Caesarea Phillipi. There we look at more of the headwaters of the Jordan, where the water springs forth. It was in the borders of this town that Peter said he knew Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. We talked about what it meant for him to know and bear testimony of that. We talked about the rock of revelation, and particularly Apostolic testimony born of revelation. I bore my testimony of Jesus Christ, the son of God. We sang, and had some pondering time.

The headwaters of the Jordan at Banias/Caesarea Phillipi


We also ate lunch. It was great. From there we went to a waterfall. The hike was hot, the fall was wonderful.

Must have been hot, people were buying hats and ice cream

And then we went off to Nimrod’s castle. I had told people that if they wanted to they could buy swords and bring them. Many did. We lined up, and I gave the speech that Theoden gave as Rohan charged near Minas Tirith. I struck all their swords, and then we charged the castle. It was pretty fun. I think everyone enjoyed it. I spent the rest of the time exploring the castle with Jacob. He had so much fun. Really, how many four year olds get to use their imagination as they play by running around a real castle. We killed crocodiles in the moat, monsters, bad guys, good guys, and all sorts of bats. We really did see bats. We went through tunnels, and in and around towers and dungeons. He had a great time, and while I didn’t explore the castle as I usually do, I had a lot of fun. Nothing could be better than helping your four year old boy play in a real castle. Last time was Kaleb time, this time was Jacob time. And in Jordan I had two castles that were BJ time. Me and my boys in castles. Pretty cool!

Nimrod's Castle

Nimrod's Castle

Where we killed the croc at Nimrod's Castle

From there we drove to Har Bin Tal, where we can look down into Syria. Everyone loves the view. Frank did the teaching there, and from the parts I heard, it was great. I didn’t hear a lot. Again, I was chasing down Jacob. Julianne had never been there, and wanted to know about the place. So she listened, and I chased. They have a full set of bunkers there from when it was part of the war area. That kid can run fast through stuff like that, and under and around things I can’t. Most of the time I wasn’t fully sure where he was, and I was always going as fast as I could but lagging behind. He is hard to keep up with. I think he had a lot of fun. So did the other of our younger kids. It is nice that sometimes they get to just run and play and not worry about things. Fun stuff, fun day. So much adventure, and yet so much spiritual power.

We may have worn these guys out

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Galilee part 4: Gan Hashalosha squared

The next day it was back to classes. I was hoping to finish up early, but we had too many good things to talk about, and we didn’t get done very early. The classes were great, and I loved our time together there.
When we were done it was time for a little family trip. We had long been planning to go to this place that had natural hot springs, water slides, and a crocodile pond above which you walked and you got to see them feed the crocs. We got all ready, got discount tickets, and drove out to go. For whatever odd reason the place is actually open on Friday and Saturday, but closed on Sunday. That is weird, we really didn’t see that one coming. Oh well. We came up with plan B, which was going to Gan HaSholsha at this point, with the Judd class, and that way tomorrow the kids could rest and get ready for the last three field trips. So we did that. We had a great time with everyone there. Jacob and Sabrina swam their little hearts out, playing with Judd kids and the students. Kaleb and Alexia and I did some fun exploring of different parts. Jacob got in an exploring mood, and we had a ton of fun.
The next day I did the field trip without any of the family. It is a bit sad, but it was a great field trip. We went to Mt. Tabor. There we were able to get right up to the top, get in the church, into the Moses Chapel, and have a nice little devotional. We talked about Jesus appearing in glory there, about Moses and Elijah appearing and bestowing keys, about the witness of the Father. We sang The Spirit of God. Then we went out and looked over the valley and told the story of Deborah and Barak. It is such a great view and such a great story.
2050 ft at peak, 1156 at the climbing up point, 894 ft. difference, but it is 1210 feet above plain, very visible. N 32* 49.535 E 035* 39.037
In the meantime, Ray and Sandy Huntington were working on Nain for us. They place had been locked last time we went, and we couldn’t get in. Frank had also been unable to get in yesterday. But the Huntingtons kept asking around for how to get in. They found out that a guy at Mt. Tabor had the key. So while we were in the church they found Father Angelo. They found out he was just heading down to clean the church. So off we went to follow him. It turns out that the church had a broken window, and a bunch of pigeons took up residence inside, and the place was filled with bird poop. They cleaned it up quite a bit while we had a devotional outside about raising the widow’s son from the dead. I am always so touched by the Savior’s mercy when doing this. Jesus understood well that this widow had no one to care for her in her aging years when both her husband and only son were dead. Jesus takes care of those who can’t take care of themselves, and in the end that is all of us. When they had it cleaned enough we could go inside we went in for a moment to enjoy the nice pictures. It was a good stop.
640 ft. above sea level, N 32* 37.833 E 035* 20.992
From there we went to Megiddo. That is always a great site. We went over the story of Thutmosis III coming up the Aruna Valley in a surprise move and taking the city, which he described thus: “the taking of Megiddo is like the taking of a thousand cities.” We said that line about 10 times while there. We went through the Solomonic 6-chambered gate. There we sang Chadwick’s song: “Tel Hazor has a Solomonic gate, singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. Its got six chambers and its walls we call casemate, singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. The wall is (the wall is) Casemate (casemate), The wall is casemate and six chambers has the gate. Well Tel Hazor’s not the only one we know singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. There’s one at Gezer and there’s also Megiddo, singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. Hazor (Hazor), Megiddo (Megiddo), Hazor, Megiddo, but to Gezer we don’t go. Ohhhh, Nooo, to Gezer we don’t go! singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do. singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.” We had a lot of fun with that song. We toured the place, and especially enjoyed the view where you can see Carmel, site of Elijah’s contest, Nazareth, Tabor, Moreh, which has on its slopes the village of Shunem, where Elisha raised someone from the dead, and the spring of Harod, where Gideon’s men drank, and then you can see the valley where Gideon fought, and then Gilboa, where Saul and Johnathan were killed. We also saw the old Canaanite stuff, a great silo, wonderful mangers and horse areas, and of course walked through the water system. We also talked about Armageddon of course. I don’t have a lot to say about that, it is so hard to figure out what is literal and what is figurative, and most people have been so sloppy in what they have said about it. All in all I think it was a wonderful site.
367 ft. above sea level, N 32* 35.088, E 035* 10.928
We made a quick stop at Beit Alpha, where they have an unusual synagogue with a mosaic floor depicting Abraham sacrificing Isaac, a zodiac, and the temple. I went over with them some very interesting things Matt Grey and I have been talking about lately. From there we went to Gan Hashalosha, and had a ton of fun swimming. We spent good time letting the fish nibble on our feet, and I helped a lot of them get up the guts to stand there and let them do it. Weird sensation, kinda fun. We explored tunnels, and had a great time. Then we came home, had a nice dinner, and it was time for me to take them to Tiberias. But Tawfic and his family were there, and wanted to go to Tiberias, so I let him take them and I stayed home with my family. It was sad to have them go without me, but I am glad I did it, I need to be with my family as much as possible.
They had enjoyed a great day at the beach, especially celebrating Amanda Judd’s birthday. I think they are having the time of their life up here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Galilee part 3: of pigs and men

On Friday we did a half day field trip. We first went to Gamla. This is a beautiful site. You go way up into the mountains and then hike down a ways to a ridge that you then hike up. There sits a town built on the ridge. It was a hotbed of revolutionary/zealot ideas. It is often called the Masada of the north and that title fits it pretty well. The beginning of the first Jewish revolt began there, and it was the last place in the north to fall. It was very difficult for the Romans to get into because it is on such a natural hill.

The city of Gamla, set on a ridge. This is probably one of two cities set on a hill that people could see as the Savior used that metaphor. I think this one is slightly less visible than Hippos, but it would have been visible.

The story of the siege and of 5000 people jumping off the cliff rather than coming into Roman hands is quite striking. We talk about it as we hike up, and at the breach in the wall.

The breach

The other striking thing there is the synagogue. This is an actual synagogue during Christ’s day. The stones are the same stones that were there when he was alive. And it is a town right near the lake, and the gospel writers agree that he taught in all the synagogues of all the towns around there. So there is a very good chance that the Savior sat on those very stones and taught in that very synagogue and did miracles in that very spot. The fact that they were so looking for a political messiah may have made him wary of that place, but I think it is quite likely that he was in that synagogue. When we finished with some nice devotional time and time for thinking and writing we then let people hike all over.

The synagogue at Gamla

My class in the synagogue at Gamla, sitting on the stones we wish could talk and tell us the stories of Jesus we love to hear

I hiked a bit, but was not having the best day ever. BJ had been ready to come with us on this field trip (the others weren’t coming). But we have had some issues with his wearing flip flops on trips like this when he is not supposed to. He came in flip flops. I told him he had to change. He ran to his place and found it was locked and he didn’t have the key. He ran back and got the key (his apartment is way out there). He ran back to his apartment, but by then everyone had been on the bus for a while. I stalled for a bit, but he still wasn’t there, so we had to leave. I looked out the window but never saw him. Apparently he was trying to chase down the bus but didn’t make it. I hated leaving him, I really hated it. But what could I do? It made it so I did not have the happiest of feelings on the trip. I was quite sad for quite a while.

Jumping below the synagogue

Gamla is 1369 ft. above sea level, N 32* 54.709, E 035* 37.836 at the top of the mountain where you head down, and in the city it is 997 ft above sea level, N 32* 54.154, E 035* 44.386
After Gamla we went to Kursi, the place where the man possessed with a legion of devils is supposed to have met Christ. We toured the big Byzantine church there, and then went out to the little one that is supposed to commemorate the spot.

My piggy class at the spot built to commemorate where the man possessed with a legion of devils met Jesus

The spot without my little piggys in it

There I pointed out how the text really goes, and the spots where it might work. We saw the place we call “piggy hill,” a spot that is the most likely place for a steep place where the pigs would run into the deep and choke themselves, as the text says. It is 1.2 miles away, and very visible. The text describes the herd of swine as being a good ways off. The setting is perfect.

Piggy Hill as seen from Kursi

piggy hill from up close

Then the story goes that the people taking care of the swine run to the owners and others in the city. Hippos is 1.5 miles away from that spot. For a number of reasons that has to be the city they are talking about. So they ran there.

Some of the ruins of the city of Hippos

Then they all come and find the possessed man sitting with the Savior. People there tell them what happened. That only makes sense when you realize that the swine-herders were far enough away that they didn’t know what had happened, they just knew the swine had run into the lake. The whole story works so perfectly in that geographical location with those three spots. I am fairly convinced that this is the place it all happened. It is a wonderful story with some rich and deep symbolism about how the Savior, Jesus Christ, frees us from the devil and saves us from death and the tombs and misery and clothes us in robes of righteousness and takes care of us. I love this story, and am so happy to have gotten the real spot down so well. Great stuff.
After that we did lunch, and got ready to float the Jordan River. We went with about half of the students and rented rafts and as a family we floated down the river, almost to the Sea of Galilee (we started floating upstream for the lake). It was a beautiful, peaceful, blissful time. I loved it, and I think the whole family did. It is the best way to see what the Jordan is really like. There were a few fun mini-rapids that we enjoyed. We had some communication problem with the bus, and it took us a while to get back, but we made it and had a nice dinner and went to bed. It was a great day.
The next day we slept in. Then we took our family up to Hippos to see how well it works as a city set on a hill and as the place where the owners of the swine lived.

Watch out on hikes around the Golan, such as the one to Hippos. Better stay on the trail!

Some of the ruins of Hippos, a very visible hill from the Mt. of Beattitudes, with huge, striking buildings upon it

The family in front of an Odeon right out on the point of the city's hill, something that would have been very visible from so far away

A building in Hippos that is easy to see from all around

Then we went to Kursi and went through the devils and swine story again, this time with our kids. Then we went back and got ready for church. On the way to church we told the students our engagement story. We only got half way through it by the time we got there. Church was great. I just called on two people to bear testimonies, and then allowed anyone who wanted to bear their testimony. Kaleb was one of the people I called on. I am not sure he was thrilled about it. He didn’t know what to say at first, but I suggested he just say something he knows is true. He spent about two minutes bearing testimony of things he knew. He bore testimony of Jesus Christ, and it was a wonderful moment. I think he had an experience where he just opened his mouth and the Lord filled it. What a nice time.

The class at Jordanit

We told more of our story on the way home, and stopped at Jordanit, a popular baptismal site. It is pretty there, and we had a nice time. We barely finished the story of our engagement as we pulled into Ein Gev, and that was hurrying it at the end. But the students seem to like to hear it all. Then we came home and had a nice dinner, spent some time doing family games, and went to bed. I felt like it was a blissful, peaceful, wonderful Sabbath.

My family and class on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after church

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Galilee part 2: life can't get any better than this

On Wednesday we did one of the best field trips in the world. We start out by traveling across the Sea of Galilee by boat. We sang “yo ho, yo ho” as a family for everyone. They put up the U.S. flag and played the national anthem. Then we had a while of fun, and then they stopped and we had a devotional.

Some of the family on the boat

Class on the boat

We read the account of Jesus calming the sea as found in Mark 4,and sang Master the Tempest is Raging. We spoke of how Jesus will take care of us. Sometimes life’s storms will be crashing about us, and certainly the storms of death and hell will because of our sinful and fallen nature. At times it will seem like Jesus is asleep, and we will wonder why he doesn’t come to rescue us. But when the time is right, and often just before we sink, he will calm the storm for us. After all, “no water can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies.” We talked about the need to have Jesus on our ship, or in other words, having him in our life and part of all we do. Without him in the boat we have no promise, but with him we can be sure that the boat won’t be swamped. We also sang Jesus Savior, Pilot Me, and talked about the need to have him at the helm of our lives.

"Earth's sun in the calm lake is mirrored," a view taken from our boat

Then we read of Peter walking on the water as recorded in Matthew 14. We spoke of his faith, and of the large waves and wind that made him doubt. We gave him credit for wanting to be with the Savior so much, for having faith to walk, and for, even when he was sinking, of having faith to cry out to the Lord for help and still believing Jesus could and would help him. And the Savior did, he reached out immediately, despite Peter’s doubts and faltering, and rescued him and took him back to the boat. Jesus Christ will do this for us as well. Despite the fact that coming to him is a task too big for us, we can with his help. And surely sometimes we will get distracted by the storms of life. But if we believe he can save us, he will. Jesus Christ will not let us sink just because we have doubted and fallen, no matter how many times we may do that. If we cry out to him to save us, he will raise us up and bring us back to the boat.
It was a nice moment. We let everyone have some time to think and write in their journals and read. I was so very pleased with the whole thing, it was a wonderful time for the students and my family.

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is 678 feet below sea level, is ca 160 feet deep, the starting point for our voyage is about N 32*49.516, E 035* 34.252.
When we got to shore we went to see the ancient boat. It is always nice to better picture what the Savior may have been in. Then we drove to the Mt. of Beattitudes. 276 ft below sea level, N 32* 52.858, E 035* 33.360. There a sweet sister named Mary Rose, who is in charge of the place now. She came and spoke to our students about the way Jesus would like us to be as portrayed in the Beattitudes. It was a wonderful, spirit filled discussion. This good Catholic sister taught with the spirit and I believe spoke the words of the Lord, and our students learned and were edified.

Tashara, Sister Mary Rose, and I

Then I had them go through the church and see it and get some pictures. We pointed out the likely spots for the sermon and why it worked well there. We sang, gave some time for reading, then asked a few people to share what they learned from the sermon on the mount. We had some very nice moments there, and then we moved on to Capernaum.

The class where we met together on the Mt. of Beattitudes

It had been so very hot for the students the day before, and they struggled with the heat at Capernaum. This is the most important and profound spot we go to all day, so I rearranged the schedule and went there before it got hotter. We went immediately to the synagogue and read several accounts of what happened there. It is a great place to do it.

The seats inside the synagogue

There we were sitting on the stones of a later synagogue, but it was built on the visible basalt structure that existed in the Savior’s day. It is incredible to realize that you are in the place of so many profound stories. There he cast out devils. He healed a man with a withered hand. He gave great sermons, such as the sermon on the Bread of Life. We read through much of that sermon together, and talked about the symbolism of partaking of Christ. I asked them to picture in their minds the Savior as he taught. Then I had them read the part about the Savior saying he would lose none of those the Father had given him. I wondered aloud with them if when he was saying that he might not be picturing them there in that synagogue trying to picture him.

The white stone of the later synagogue on the black basalt of the synagogue from the Savior's day

Then we went around and looked at likely places for the raising of Jairus’ daughter, for healing the Centurion’s servant, and other great things. We went to the place that very likely is Peter’s house. We talked about the miracles that happened there, such as healing Peter’s mother-in-law, healing various people, and probably healing the man with palsy who was let down through the roof. We talked about how the Savior really had no place of his own, but thanks to Peter this was probably the closest thing he had to a home.
Then we walked through the incredible day in Capernaum that is Matthew chapter 9. By this I mean we started at Peter’s house and walked a bit here and there to see places that may be the areas where some of these things happened. We never really go far, but moving and looking helps to make it seem real. Since the story involves Matthew in a crucial way, I give precedence to his account of these events. In his account it is clear that the man with palsy was healed. From there Jesus went and called Matthew to follow him. He dined with Matthew and was questioned by the Pharisees and disciples of John. As that finished he was called to heal Jairus’ daughter. On the way he healed the woman with the issue of blood. Then he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. As that ended he healed two blind men. Then he healed a man who was possessed and dumb. That is one incredible day. But it gives us just a taste of how things were in cities like Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, but most especially Capernaum. Here is just a brief idea of the kinds of things that happened there:
Capernaum Events
The City of Miracles

Healing of Nobleman’s son John 4:46-54
Calling of Andrew, Peter, James and John, miracle of catching fish --Matt. 4:13-22; Luke 5:1-11
Teaching in the synagogue Mark 1:21
Casting out unclean spirit (synagogue) Luke 4:31-37
Healing Peter’s mother-in-law (right after casting out unclean spirit) Matt 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-31
Healing all manner of people (in Peter’s house, right after healing his mother-in-law) Mark 1:32-34
Forgiving and Healing of Paralytic (in Peter’s house?) Mark 2:1-13; Matt. 9
Calling of Matthew Mark 2:14-17; Matt. 9
Eats with publican (Matthew), Pharisees question him Mark 2:16-22; Matt. 9
Eats corn from fields nearby on Sabbath (probably near Capernaum) Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5
Heals a withered man’s hand (in synagogue) (probably Capernaum) Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11
Taught by the sea side Mark 3:7-9
Questions on fasting Luke 5:33-39; Matt. 9
Healing of Centurion’s Servant Luke 7:1-10
Raising of Jairus’ daughter (Matthew has it as going from healing palsy to calling Matthew, eating with publicans (Matthew?) to raising daughter, with woman healed along the way). Matt 9:18-26;
Mark 5:21-43
Healing of the woman with an issue of blood Mark 5:25-34
Healing two blind men Matt. 9
Casting out devils from a possessed and dumb man Matt. 9
Bread of Life Sermon (synagogue) John 6:22-71
Paying tribute/catching fish with money in its mouth Matthew 17:24-27
Question about who is the greatest among the Apostles Mark 9:33-37
Heading towards Capernaum when Savior walks on water John 6:17-21
? Healing of demonic boy? Mark 9:14-27
?Sending forth of the 12? Matt. 10

I give the students this chart and let them have a little time to go by the sea shore and think about what happened there, and about calling the apostles while at the shores of Capernaum, and to write in their journals, and enjoy the church there. I think everyone had a very nice time. It is a highlight for me every time I go there. I love, just love the city of Capernaum. After all, the scriptures call it Jesus’ own city. Places like this make me feel closer to Jesus and make him even more real. I don’t know how he can become more real to me, he is already ultimately real. Yet each time I go there I can picture it better, I feel closer to him, and it all is just a little more tangible.

Alexia has been building up a rock wall to protect this tree at Capernaum every time she comes for several months now

When we finished there we went over to the Greek Orthodox church of Capernaum. The gardens are beautiful, the place is peaceful. We ate lunch near the shore and read the story of Peter catching the fish with money in its mouth to pay the temple tax, and taught from that. They went inside the church to see the beautiful artwork and to hear the monks chanting as part of a service.

Looking out at the sea from our lunch spot

When we finished there we went to Tabgha, and talked about multiplying the loaves and fishes. It is a sweet place, and I love the mosaics, and I was especially happy to be there with Alexia because she loves that mosaic of the loaves and fishes so much. Somehow that image has just taken her, and I think it is a wonderful thing to be taken with.

Alexia with her favorite mosaic behind her

Then we went to the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy (571 ft below sea level, N 32* 53.035 E 035* 33.344).
We spoke of Peter again wanting so much to be with the Savior. We talked of how he was sent to feed Jesus’ sheep, and that we have the same calling. We had several sweet moments. We sang in the church, dipped our feet in the lake, took a picture, and had a wonderful time. I love seeing my children be so touched by these things.

Kaleb, Bj and I in our matching hats at the Church of St. Peter's Primacy

We took a little detour that Kent Jackson and I had explored and figured out would work well. We stopped at what is called the Bay of Parables. There we sat and talked a little bit about the parables of Matthew 13. Very nice moment.

Class at the Bay of Parables

The Bay of Parables

Finally we went to Bethsaida. 468 ft. below sea level, N 32* 54.710, E 035* 37.838. We walked into the Old Testament portion, where we saw the matsebot (stones meant to represent God but always becomes a form of idolatry). They are next to the gate, a strong gate but a gate that fell when the Assyrians came in. We spent a lot of time talking about how we often worship the things of the world and God at the same time. We compared that to what the Israelites did and talked about how if we do it we will fall just as surely as the Israelites did. But then we spoke of how God is always working with us to bring us back. We spoke of that for a while and had some really great moments. They didn’t know I was basically quoting to them from my book that will come out in about two years. The spirit was strong there, and I felt like it was a powerful and important time.

The gates at Bethsaida

We worked out way through the city, talking about the fishermen who lived in the city and how Peter and Andrew were from there, and wondered if John ever came back to visit. We read the account of the blind man who was healed in stages and likened that to how we are all coming to see the Lord more clearly. We read of how the Lord cursed the city because they didn’t end up listening to him. We likened this to the earlier fall of Israel in that place. There are so many parallels for our life, and I think they got it.

The plains of Bethsaida and the Sea of Galilee looking from the city

All in all, this was one wonderful and powerful field trip.

We swam a little when we got back, and had dinner. I had so many students wanting to ask me so many questions, but I didn’t want it to take away from family time. So I told them they could ask whatever questions they wanted at my place that night at 8:30. A bunch of people showed up (it got larger as time went on because so many of them had to go next door to turn in papers to the Huntingtons, and they saw us and just joined). Several students ended up asking some questions that were obviously fairly important for their personal lives, and we had a great discussion. These are such incredible people.

Moonrise over the mountains behind Ein Gev

The next day classes were wonderful. I love teaching this stuff, and these are such good students. They are so full of light and goodness and soak all this stuff up. When class was over we went out and sat on the sea shore and talked about multiplying the loaves and fishes and applied that to how Jesus makes whatever we are or can do enough. Jesus always makes us enough. It was great. Then we had naps, fun on the beach, and took all the students and the whole family to the Ein Gev fish restaurant.

Eatin' fish, havin' fun

We ate St. Peter’s fish, cooked so well. It was a beautiful night, and we enjoyed being by the seaside. Life is bliss. Kaleb has been reading a ton, we swim, we play games, we learn, we love. Kaleb called it the best vacation ever. He’s a smart kid.

BJ at the restaurant's sea shore

Julianne and Jacob at the dock by the restaurant, which is also where we get on the boat to take our Galilee voyage