Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

It’s been way too long since I’ve done any blogsurfing. It’s good to be out browsing other people’s work today and exploring the cyber-world out there.

These are in no particular order or category, and all the sites are new to me so I can’t really add much other than to recommend them, so I’ll just say “grab a cuppa and enjoy”.

Bhavna Misrahttps://bhavnamisra.com/ – I love art. I love its beauty and creativity, and the unique way every individual views and expresses the world around them.  This young California-based artist has a real eye for color.

One Bottle, One Glasshttps://onebottleoneglass.wordpress.com/ – Addiction and its heart-rending consequences is all around us these days.  I’m always looking for things that might help reach people who are trapped in addiction.  First-person stories are powerful.  This thirty-something mother of two shares her very personal journey to sobriety.

Wild About Scotlandhttps://wildaboutscotland.com/ – Scotland is breathtaking, and this photographer captures views most tourists never get to see.  Stunning!!

Shopfront Elegyhttps://shopfrontelegy.wordpress.com/ – One of the best pieces of advice an undergrad professor ever gave us was: “when you walk around a city, look up!”  Urban architecture is full of beauty, history, humor, and surprises.  This blog preserves British storefronts – a unique online opportunity to get to know “the real England” and appreciate the vision (or lack thereof) of urban designers.


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Life on a Sandbar

 “The Outer Banks of North Carolina are not of North Carolina at all. Any minimally detailed map, let alone a satellite view from space, shows they belong to the Atlantic Ocean, as much a part of the sea as fish and waves, and as much at the sea’s mercy as sandcastles on the beach. This is particularly true of Hatteras Island, a 50-mile-long piece of dental floss constantly being redefined by wind and wave.”  – Ray McAllister, Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks

Fishing on Avon Pier (Avon Beach in background)

This is where hubby and I and the extended family have been for the past week: Avon, also known as Kinnakeet, Hatteras Island, Outer Banks.

Vacation?  More like enforced rest.  In a place like this a person MUST slow down, because there simply isn’t all that much to do.  Eat. Swim. Read. Sunbathe. Repeat.  If you feel like it, grab a rod and go fishing, or grab a snorkel and go snorkeling.  Then eat, read, sunbathe, repeat.

This is the life of a tourist, those of us who pool our resources for a week’s stay at a “McMansion” with a swimming pool and a private walkway to the beach, then return home leaving behind natives who are either slightly bemused or slightly irritated and somewhat richer for our having been there.

“McMansions” in Avon

But this was our fourth visit, and as we get to know the island better, another Hatteras is beginning to emerge: the Hatteras that existed for centuries as a collection of small fishing villages accessible only by boat.  The Hatteras that didn’t have an asphalt road or dependable electricity or phone service until the 1960s.  The island whose landscape changes yearly, even daily.  The island McAllister talks about when he writes, “It is wind and rain and sunrises and sunsets and blowing sand and churning surf and you’d-better-be-ready-when-the-storm-hits-because-it-ain’t-waitin’-for-you.  Count on that.”

Sunset over a Graveyard and Pamlico Sound, Pea Island, Hatteras

Hatteras is as famous for its hurricanes and shipwrecks as it is for its pristine beaches and picturesque lighthouses.  Fact is, every time we come back the place has changed. And I don’t mean change as in, they painted the local grocery store (which they have — looks nice!).  I mean change as in, fifteen miles of highway has shifted fifteen feet to the right from where it used to be.  A bridge has been washed out in one place and another has been erected somewhere else.  There’s sand where water used to be and water where sand used to be.  And our friends at the Methodist church have spent the past ten months rebuilding their sanctuary after Hurricane Irene filled it with four feet of water and a foot of sand.

Sunrise over Avon Pier

Life on a sandbar.  It never stays the same.  It’s always changing.  There are glorious days, and there are nightmarish days.  It’s breathtakingly beautiful.  It’s irresistible.  It’s dangerous.  It’s life.  On a sandbar.

Somehow those of us who live on the mainland are under the impression that our “real lives” at home are more solid, that the ground we walk on won’t shift beneath us, that we won’t ever feel our tires sinking into sand.  Hatteras teaches otherwise.  All of life and all of reality is always shifting, always changing, and there’s no stopping that process.  Any appearance of permanence is just an illusion, and any attempt at forcing permanence results in damage to the environment we depend on.

Family Portrait, Beach Access, Avon

The islanders have it right: there are days to enjoy and thank God for, and there are days to be amazed we’ve lived to see the sun rise.  And no matter what happens we are in God’s hands and we have each other, and that’s all that matters.  That’s the Hatteras way.

Life on a sandbar.


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Leaders of the Anglican Church from Africa, Asia, South America, and the West Indies met this past week in Singapore to discuss the future of the Anglican Church in the Global South and to call for a worldwide “Decade of Mission”.  Also present were representatives from Anglican churches in Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.

According to an article on the website of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), among the many concerns addressed by the Encounter, the summary communique recognized the recently-organized  ACNA and said:

“We are grateful that the recently formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a faithful expression of Anglicanism. We welcomed them as partners in the Gospel and our hope is that all provinces will be in full communion with the clergy and people of the ACNA and the Communion Partners.”

Archbishop Robert Duncan, attending on behalf of ACNA, responded by saying,

“We are moving forward in mission and relationship with Anglicans all over the world.  Our unity and shared commitment to the work of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is a reason for great joy.”

Click here to read more of the article and the Global South communique.

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A longtime friend and local pastor is leaving tomorrow morning on her first trip to Israel.  I can’t wait to read what she has to say!  It’s been almost a year since my pilgrimage (hard to believe) and it’s a life -changing experience I wish I could share with everyone I know.  I’m glad she’ll be blogging… reminder to self: check frequently.

Holy Land Pilgrimage

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I remember the day.  I remember how breathtaking it was, and still is, to see pictures of people walking on the moon.  It was a day when anything seemed possible.

Kudos to the men and women who continue to develop our space program.  I look forward to the day when the first human being walks on Mars.

In the meantime, just taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to acknowledge astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, and say “awesome!”


(photo credit: NASA)

P.S. – Interesting to note that Buzz Aldrin’s first action on the surface of the moon was to celebrate communion.  Read about it here.


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Here’s an attempt at describing the trip in a way that someone might be able to imagine being along for the ride.  I hope it works.  By request.  This one’s for you, schnookums. 😉

As I sit here eating some fresh tabbouleh (sp?) I just made, I reflect on the journey.  Ahh, the tastes of the Near East… especially the fresh salads, cheeses, and fish dishes.  The breakfast smorgasbord (and I do mean smorgasbord!) that greeted us the first morning in Bat Yam was so spectacular we all jumped up to take photos of it.  (They didn’t come out – drat!)  The variety and richness of foods is something no American has ever seen or could imagine.  Similar smorgasbords greeted us at our other hotels.  I got used to eating tabbouleh for breakfast (yes I know it’s a dinner salad, I ate it for lunch and dinner too) along with all kinds of delicious things I don’t know the names of.  I could eat a Mediterranean diet for the rest of my life and be happy as a clam.

Breakfast at Bat Yam offered another treat: because the hotel’s restaurant was on the 7th floor, we were surrounded by spectacular views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.  If the weather had been just a few degrees warmer we would have eaten out on the deck.  Here’s a photo taken from the deck.  Not a bad view to eat by, eh?

Mediterranean Sea, Bat Yam, Israel

Mediterranean Sea, Bat Yam, Israel

We stayed our first night in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv.  The first day we arrived didn’t allow any time to start touring, so the tour bus took us straight to the hotel, where we freshened up, had dinner, and met Iyad, who would be our tour guide for the entirety of the trip.  Iyad reminded us of the local time, customs, expectations, etc (things like, this is Israel, don’t ask for bacon with your eggs in the morning and we’ll all get along just fine 😉 ).

Before dinner my roommate/friend/travel-mate and I had had just enough time to wander down to the beach and wade in the Mediterranean and collect some shells… and take a few photos…

Bat Yam - Beach

Bat Yam - Beach

Just about now I begin to realize I’m going to be dealing with language bigtime on this trip.  I had been planning on trying to learn enough of the Hebrew alphabet to read the street signs, but the jewels of this language just begin to fall into your lap.  We’re told, for example that “Tel” means “man-made hill”, so Tel Aviv is a man-made hill named Aviv.  And “Mediterranean” means “Middle Earth” — long before Tolkein dreamed it up.  And Bat Yam — “Bat” means “daughter”, and we’re staying in a city called “daughter of the sea”.

And the first stop on our first day of touring is the city of Jaffa (or Yafo or…. there are about 5 legit spellings) – which means “beautiful”.  Judge for yourself:

Jaffa, whose name means "Beautiful"

Jaffa, whose name means "Beautiful"

Here also is where the tales of faith begin for us.  Jaffa is, or was, the home of Simon the Tanner, where the apostle Peter was staying when he received the vision that eventually led him to welcome the first Gentile believers into the early church: Cornelius and his household.

From here we continued to venture north along the coast and came to Caesarea Maritima.  This is not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi which is a “fur piece” down the road, and considerably more inland.   “Maritima” means “by the sea”.  If you’ve ever been to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, you have a feel for what this area is like: wind-swept, warm, sunny, semi-tropical, and stunningly beautiful.  Now drop a few Ancient Roman ruins into the mix and the picture is complete:

Herod's Answer to NASCAR - Racetrack at Caesarea Maritima

King Herod's Answer to NASCAR - Racetrack at Caesarea Maritima

The photo above was the ancient world’s answer to Daytona — the racetrack by the beach (yup that’s the sea on the left).  Note the expensive seats on the right.  In the distance are ruins of the palace and port Herod built.  This palace is the place where the apostle Paul gave his defense before Festus, Agrippa and others, and made the “appeal to Caesar” that eventually landed him in Rome.

After this I can’t remember any more what order we visited places in, and I’m sure I’ll miss a few.  It was not unusual for us to tour 6 to 8 sites a day, or more — a real whirlwind.  So here are some highlights.  Leaving Caesarea Maritima we headed east and inland toward the Galilee region.  We stopped in Nazareth, which was a tough town back then and still is today; but now as then it has its moments:



Nazareth is home to an ancient synagogue where it is believed some of the first Christian worship was held, and where Jesus Himself might have taught:

Synagogue-Church, Nazareth

Synagogue-Church, Nazareth

Nazareth is also home to sites purporting to be Joseph’s carpentry shop and the place where the angel told Mary she was going to have a child.  This last is memorialized at the Church of the Annunciation:

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Our stay for the next two nights was at a hotel in Tiberius, on the Sea of Galilee.  Here’s a photo taken from our hotel room balcony:

Tiberias in Galilee

Tiberias in Galilee

While in the Galilee region, we visited (in no particular order)… the Mount of the Beatitudes (this has a proper name but I forget what it is)…..

Somewhere near here Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount near here

The Church of the Pater Noster, built near where it was believed Jesus taught His disciples how to pray using the words “Our Father, who art in heaven…”.

Church of the Pater Noster - the "Our Father"

Church of the Pater Noster - the "Our Father"

The church houses and displays the Lord’s Prayer in over 150 languages from around the world — a very moving sight.

The Lord's Prayer in Greek

The Lord's Prayer in Greek

As you can see from the photos above, the region of Galilee is absolutely gorgeous.  Green, peaceful, full of life, and in many ways full of faith. One author described it as “the Israeli version of the Lake District” and that’s not too far from the truth (helpful, however, only to folks who have visited England! 😉 )

While in the area we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  Our boat was a little bigger than this one but not a whole lot!

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Here’s a photo taken from on board our boat:

View from the Sea of Galilee

View from the Sea of Galilee

It is believed the church in the photo below was built on the spot on which Jesus said to St. Peter “on this rock I will build my church”.  Roman Catholics interpret these words to mean that St. Peter is the rock, the first among the disciples/apostles, which makes the heir of St. Peter (the Pope) the first among church leaders.

Those of us who aren’t Roman Catholic make note of this but interpret the passage differently: “the rock” is not Peter but rather Peter’s words of faith “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” — anyone who believes these words stands on the rock.  But I’m not here to get into a theological argument… back to the subject…

Tabgha - The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

Tabgha - The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

What I particularly liked about this location is that the church’s property goes all the way down to the lake’s shore.  We got to dip a toe in the Sea of Galilee (very comfortable!) and could see fish playing in the water not far offshore.  A place to fish indeed!  It was also noted that many believe this particular beach is the one on which Jesus said to Peter three times “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”  It was good to be here and reflect on that commandment and the reality of it.

Of all the places we visited in the Galilee region, my favorite was Capernaum.  It was here that I felt closest to Jesus and His disciples, because it was here that many of them lived, and it was here that Jesus taught and performed miraculous healings.

And because it is not overly touristy.  The whole area is maintained by a Roman Catholic order (Franciscans?) and has all the peace and tranquility of a monastery, only outdoors.

Capernaum, the ancient village, is still being excavated to this day, and it would be a thrill to visit again in another 10 or 20 years and see what they’ve uncovered.  Already much can be seen: the foundations of the synagogue Jesus taught in (on top of which another synagogue was built, as shown in this photo) :

Capernaum: Iyad leans against a pillar of the Synagogue

Capernaum: Iyad leans against a pillar of the Synagogue

Also visible are the streets, houses, doorways, gardens, olive presses… a complete town, or at least the bottom 3 or 4 feet of it.  It doesn’t take too much effort to supply the missing parts in the eye of one’s imagination…

Capernaum - the Ancient City

Capernaum - the Ancient City

Also while in the region, we visited the Jordan River baptism site, and most of our group chose to be baptized in the Jordan.  (I chose to just be sprinkled as a “renewal”, having been baptized by immersion once before and feeling that was sufficient.)

I hear the water was quite cold.  “Chills the body but not the soul” says pastor John.  I think he just enjoys getting people wet…!

Baptisms in the Jordan

Baptisms in the Jordan

After our mad dash through the Galilee region we stopped at one more place on the way heading south… an unexpected delight.  Beth Shean (or Bet’ Shean or a number of other spellings).  I didn’t recall ever hearing of the place before, but it is indeed mentioned in the Bible, in the Old Testament… one of the many cities mentioned in connection with one of a seemingly gazillion battles fought in Old Testament times.  Being IN one of these cities brought a new sense of reality to these ancient tales, and this one with some poignancy:  it is believed Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle near here.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean - the "Cardo" or Main Street

Of course the place didn’t look like this in Saul’s day.  There are some ruins of the old Hebrew kingdom at the far end of the town, but the ruins seen here are of the Roman town that was built on top of it.  This town was abandoned in the 700s after a massive earthquake, and what remained standing still stands pretty much untouched.  The photo above shows our group heading out onto the Cardo – the Roman equivalent of Main Street where people would have shopped.  (and there’s another language-lesson: “cardo”, the “heart” of the town… Latin this time…)

As a member of a NASCAR-loving family, I must mention Beth Shean, like all self-respecting Roman towns, also had a race track.  It was, however, much smaller than the one in Caesarea.  “Short track” I mused out loud, and all the NASCAR fans cracked up.

Race Track at Beth Shean

Race Track at Beth Shean

This post is getting far too long, and I’ve only talked about the first three or four days!  For me, these were the most enjoyable days… surrounded by beauty, touched by the childhood places of Jesus and the disciples.  I wish we could have spent more time here.

Will continue in another post.

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No pun intended… in searching for words to describe the Israel experience, yesterday I tripped over N.T. Wright’s The Way of the Lord at the library.  It’s a series of talks he wrote in part to prepare a group of parishioners for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

He nails it.

Here’s a bit from the chapter on Jerusalem: “It is often said that Jerusalem is a focal point for three great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam; but it is actually a focal point for four, because to these we must add another ‘ism’, namely Tourism.  Tourism is the modern, secular version of pilgrimage, in which we go to famous places, or to see well-known sights, not to meet God or to receive healing or blessing, but to see things that our culture tells us we ought to see… to buy souvenirs… to take photos and videos… and make it part of our own private reality. […] Jerusalem is a place where it’s very easy to be religious, and also very easy to use religion as a tree behind which, like naked Adam, to hide from the personal presence [of God]…”

“…the test of whether pilgrimage is genuine is therefore the question, whether you’re prepared for God to remake you instead, lovingly to break the brittle ‘you’ that you’ve so carefully constructed, to soften the clay in his hands until it’s ready to be remoulded, and then to make out of you what he had in mind all along, which may be quite different from what you wanted or expected.  Jerusalem is a symbol of God’s great expectations, which by no means will coincide with our own.”

He starts out the chapter by saying “The way to Jerusalem is paved with great expectations.”  So true!  The approach to the city is anticipation all the way.  You begin in a valley, and wind your way up into the foothills, passing small Bedouin settlements on the way.  The hills become larger and steeper until you realize you’re on a mountain… and going around the curves you begin to catch glimpses of a white city at the very top, shining in the sunlight.  Jerusalem!  This is the place of scripture and history and legend.

And massive traffic jams, mostly of tour buses.

From the minute you arrive till the minute you leave, the challenge will be to develop the art of dodging the souvenir-sellers (many of whom are extremely aggressive) and find some trace of the real faith among all the religious tourist-traps.  Everything in Jerusalem is labeled ‘holy’, so much so that when I spotted a cigarette-seller on the Via Dolorosa it was pure instinct to nudge my pastor and say “look — holy smokes!” I even had the same experience N.T. Wright describes in his book of being “elbowed out of the way by a posse of monks” at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built over the spot where it’s believed the crucifixion took place.

Yet, as Wright points out, if it’s possible to find a quiet moment here or there, somehow the depth and meaning of Jesus’ self-sacrifice, and the reality of the worldwide body of believers as His Church, comes through more clearly and in a more real way than ever before.  Up till now, reading about places like the Temple Mount or Gethsemane or Calvary had something of the aura of legend, not imaginary exactly but somehow apart from the world we know.  Now you’re there.  This tree, these stones, this pavement, all knew the Master’s touch, and an echo of His presence and personality is still there.  You know Him, and yet He’s not what you expect.  “Did e’er such joy and sorrow meet…” His sorrow moves you, more deeply than you knew it would, but (as CS Lewis pointed out) it’s His joy that surprises you.

More to come…

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