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The quiet noise of the Western Wall, the cold warmth of the Jordan

October 11, 2017

1011171240.jpgDr. Don Hudson approached me last year about taking our school students to the Holy Land.  I agreed.

I sit here, truly believing it was one of the best decisions of my teaching career.

Dr. Don Hudson has put together one of the most intensive, instructive, emotional and impactful trips I’ve ever taken.  King University should be proud to have this professor on their faculty.  The man has planned out a virtual college course in Biblical studies, and has been leading a private classroom for us at each stop.  At each stop, man.  It’s been an eye-opener at every new venue.  We have been piling in the van every morning at 8 and slipping back into the hotel at night at 7:30 p.m. for dinner.  Qumran Caves, Dead Sea, Jordan River, Masada, Gethsemane, Damascus Gate… I’m getting worn out just writing the list.

I mention to you that I am sitting here, because this is one of the few times this week that I have been able to rest.   We just got back to the hotel for a quick shower after bobbing like corks in the Dead Sea.  Lots of people have asked me about the Dead Sea experience, so I will give you a brief report: it’s warm and oily and strangely fun.  You walk down a long descent to the beach, past people who have slathered themselves with the seaside mineral-packed mud (Virtually all of them are over 40 years old – we all have an idea that it may have to do with an anti-aging, wrinkle-smoothing craving by the older set.  And please don’t ask me about the overweight octogenarian in the dirty white Speedo.  My eyeballs are still trembling.) and make your way to a grayish slow-moving shore.  You must be careful of the small sharp spikes of salt in the water – they could tear your foot open.  You wander out to waist-high water and you … well, you roll back.  Your feet will pop up like two corks and you can lean back.  Don’t get any of the Dead Sea saltwater in your eye;  Greg did and he was pretty much blinded in one eye for a spell.

After ten minutes you’ll feel like what our adult sponsor Linda accurately described as being “dipped in baby oil.”  It’s no longer fun; you really want to get the slimy feeling off of you.  Happily, there are outdoor showers where you can pull a chain and get a freshwater rinse.  And not have to look at Speedo Man anymore.

It’s been fun so far, but more importantly, it’s been a spiritual awakening to me.   Through the beginning of this school year I felt a fatigue, but even more than a physical fatigue;  I felt a hollowness.  I as afraid that things might become routine, and I would rather resign than become stale.  I prayed for the refreshing from the Christ to renew my Spirit during this week in this blessed land.  I needed to see the sacred things of the Lord once again, and experience the reality of Jesus.  I wanted solitude in a Scriptural walkabout study –  and in one of the busiest cities in the world, I started finding it.

One place was at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall.  This magnificent plaza was packed with Jewish Orthodox leaders, ladies with scarves, fathers with Bibles and children in tow, and a myriad of other blends of worshipers and celebrants. This is the annual holiday Week of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and as we approached the area we were amazed at the mass of humanity.   I knew I wanted to get to that Wall to pray.  Ethan, Christian, Ron and I made a decision to surge forward and get through the crowd.  As we passed a sea of people waving palm branches and holding up fruit in prayer, I spied a cart full of kippahs, the hats Jewish men wear.  We each donned one and made our way forward.  A kindly old man in a black hat spoke to me in Hebrew.  I nodded and he nodded back;  I realized that my white beard, black shirt, and determined walk toward the Wall gave him the impression that I was Jewish!

We each waited patiently for our turn. We knew the wall did not give us any special in-road to God; we just wanted to feel the history and enjoy the seriousness of those around us.  Each man stood shoulder to shoulder all the way down the wall.  I found a place and rested my head as I prayed.  I will not reveal all of my prayer, if you don’t mind, but I will freely admit that in that vast, quiet moment I asked the Father for a fresh new look at Him and to restore the joy of my salvation.

It was a sweet moment.

And my prayer was answered soon.  Very soon.

This morning we awoke and packed our gear for the Jordan River.  Six students:  Stacy, Brooke, Morgan, Simon, Emma, and Christian all wanted me to baptize them.  This was an honor that I cannot begin to describe.  The whole vanload emptied at the parking lot, and soon we were descending the wooden steps one at a time into the greenish waters of the Jordan.

May I state the greenish cold waters of the Jordan.  It took me a moment to speak because I lost my breath for a minute or so.  I didn’t need a second coffee this morning;  I was fully awake.

Ah, it was another sweet moment.  Each student gave their reason for being baptized.  Our group watched.  Other groups stopped and watched.  It was quiet, but there was a deep joy in the morning.

“… I baptize you as my sister in Christ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…”  “I baptize you as my brother in Christ…”

Then Ethan decided that he wanted to be baptized as well.   Seven in all.  What a grand, perfect number.

And like yesterday, in the quietness of the morning hour, Ron stepped forward to lead us in singing.  Dozens of people stopped, turned, and listened – some filming us on their phones – as we all stood in the water and sang.

We sang gently. Very gently.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Oh, dear Lord above, it’s been a sweet day.

 

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2 Comments
  1. Amazing! Thank you for sharing and giving us tidbits of your trip! 🙂

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  1. A rich history of ancient and Biblical Jordan to explore | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

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