Wednesday, July 20, 2011


"Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other's gold."

We used to sing that song in Girl Scouts, sitting by my friends around the campfire.

A few weeks ago I got together with my friends from my youth...38 years since we have all been together. We talked as if it was just yesterday that we graduated from Springboro High School. Granted we had a lot of news to catch up on, spouses, children, major challenges along with the successes. But once we were together, no discomfort, just a joy at being with one another again.

These were the girls with whom I ate lunch almost every school day from junior high until we graduated. We were all college prep, so took a lot of the same classes, participated in the band, chorus, sports, and worked in the library. We shared laughs and heartaches...we also had some struggles with one another. You can't get 7 girls together and not have issues...especially when we liked the same boys. But all in all, we enjoyed one another and that did not change. These are ladies that I would choose today to be my friends.

It has made me consider friendships over the years. As we've moved, some have come and gone in my life. There have been a few lost because of foolish expectations, words or actions. But friends have been there for me in the joys and sorrows of my life...special gifts given by God for our enjoyment and support.

So, here's to the golden friends of my youth. I could not have made it through those years of struggle without you. And here's to the silver friendships, both new and renewed...I don't want to make it the rest of my life without you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Philistine Cities

One of my favorite OT stories is found in 1 Samuel 4 and 5. The people of Israel battled the Philistines, and in an attempt to win the battle, they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the battle. They didn't ask God, they believed that with the Ark leading the battle, they could not lose. Where once the people respected the Ark as the place where God dwelt, they now looked at it as a good luck charm, a sign of how far the priesthood had wandered from the Word of the Lord.
The Philistines, at first afraid because they knew the stories of how the Israelites defeated all foes when the Ark led the way, instead of retreating, they fought with all they had and routed the Israelites. They took what they considered to be the god of Israel to the house of their god, Dagon, in Ashdod. The next morning they entered the temple and found Dagon face down before the Ark. They put the statue back on its stand and when they entered the next morning, Dagon was not only on his face, but his head, hands and feet were cut off...that is what the Philistines did to conquered kings. After a sojourn in 4 of the Philistine cities which experienced boils and sores until the Ark left, the Philistine leaders sent it back to Israel on a cart pulled by nursing cows. They said, if the cows turn to their calves, then it was all coincidence.
The Philistines recognized the hand of God when the cows carried the Ark into Israel.

We visited Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron, 3 of the 5 Philistine cities. Ashkelon has an excavated original Canaanite mud gate, from the time of the Judges. The archeologists in our group were thrilled. They talked about the gate, how it was made, what it means that it still exists...We walked through the gate and then around the park, visiting the rest of the ruins. The park was filled with picnickers enjoying a holiday. The aroma of bar-b-ques emphasized that I was hungry. Music and laughter filled the air, much like a holiday at home.
Ashdod contained a Roman citadel, blocked off so that we could not get in. Our car got stuck in the sand, in fact 2 of the 3 cars we took got stuck in the sand. We got them out and continued on our way.
We searched a Kibbutz for Ekron and finally found an arrow pointing to a field ready for planting. They covered the ruins to plant food. They commented about the archeologist who had worked hard to excavate Ekron and how disappointed she'd be to see it all recovered. We did find a display of the items found in Ekron including pottery, a potter's wheel, a weaving loom, a Philistine cart, and a burial jar.
I walked in places that had only been in the Scriptures, it was exciting to be where it happened...walking history.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Olive Press, Day One Israel

After 10 1/2 hours on the plane, I arrived in Tel Aviv Israel. I changed some dollars to shekels and headed out to catch a sherut, a taxi-shuttle to Yad Hashmonah. I tried to take in the scenery as we drove. I noticed lots of rocks and hills, and towns and cities on the tops of those hills. Tall cedars towered above all the other vegetation. But mainly, there were lots of rocky hills.

I checked into Yad Hashmonah at 9 am and took an hour nap. I decided to take a walk in the Biblical Garden. Bemoaning my loneliness...okay, I just got there and hadn't met anyone as yet, but I was asking myself, "Why was I here?" Then I came across a beautiful red poppy, blooming all alone, surrounded by rocks. God's assurance, I was where I needed to be.

They had some interesting things, a spring flowing into a well, a grape stomping and wine storage area, a watchtower, and an olive press. I stopped by the olive press since a man was giving a tour and listened in.

He explained the workings of the press. The farmer placed fresh olives into a large vat called a sea and then pushed a rolling millstone over the olives, going round and round crushing the olives with its weight. The olive oil flowed out a hole in the side into a storage vat. Then he used a ladle to draw the oil out and put it into storage jars. The oil from this first crushing was the best oil, the oil of the finest quality. The guide asked a question, "What happened to this first oil?" Guesses included selling it, keeping it...the answer, said with some disdain, "It went to the temple. The first and best oil went to the temple." He didn't consider that it was to be given to God, it went to the temple. And it is written in the law that the first went to God, an act of faith that God would supply all that was needed.

After the first crushing, all the olives were placed into woven bags about 18 inches in diameter. They were piled up and placed under a heavy stone, a weight called a gethsemane. The weight settled down over the bags and squeezed more oil out of the olives. Not as high grade of oil, but still quite good for selling and use. Then the process was repeated, the olives placed in the sea and crushed again, then replaced under the gethsemane and squeezed. Each repetition produced oil, not as high quality as the first, but usable.

I thought of the significance of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on his final night. He was in the garden of the olive press, very symbolic as we consider the weight that fell on him there, so intense that he sweated drops of blood. I don't think we realize the immensity of the pressure on Jesus that day. Sure it says that for the joy before him, he endured the cross, but the night before it all happened, he was looking for a way out. "If it is possible, remove this cup from me."

He was facing something he had never faced before, death...but even more, he was facing total separation from God as he took on the sins of the world. He had never been separated from God, God was always there, his Father was always with him. And we see the desperation in his cry on the cross, "My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus knew the reality and recognition of God's presence all his life, except for that time on the cross when he experienced hell...absolute separation from God. He suffered the agony of separation so that we could be reconciled to God and never have to experience total separation from God. We may feel isolated and alone, but because of Jesus' sacrifice, it is just a feeling, not a reality.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Traveling to Israel

Norm and I left early in the morning to get me to Newark Airport where I planned to catch a flight on El Al to Tel Aviv, Israel. A blue tape cut off any access to the counter and I was met by a security agent. To get to the counter I had to answer questions. Did you pack your bags? Did anyone give you a package to bring? Has your luggage been out of your sight? Where are you going? Why are you going? Why isn't your husband going with you? I answered honestly, and finally made it to the ticket counter where all the agents were speaking Spanish. Unexpected...
I made it through the second security gate with 3 hours to spare and wait. The plane sat at the gate being loaded with luggage and supplies. I watched, then walked around, ate some lunch and waited some more. A lot of Hasidic Jews prepared to board the plane. I guess I always thought they were like the Amish and didn't use modern conveniences, but a lot of them had cell phones and computers.
After we took off, many of the men got up. They stood all up and down the aisles and put on black robes, top hats over their yarmulke, wrapped a cord around their waist, and began to bow up and down, a few bowed right and left. One led in a chant. I noticed a few men were standing, but not praying.
They finished their prayers, took off all the extra clothes, spent some time talking and then sat down. A few hours later, they got up again. They put on the coat, hat and rope and bowed in prayer again. Not so many joined the prayer.
Later, just before the plane landed, they got up again. This time they put phylacteries on their foreheads and arms and placed a prayer shawl over their head. Each action deliberately and carefully done. The steward tried to get them to sit down in preparation for landing, but most refused. Finally the pilot told them to pray from their seats.
I thought about the visibility and frequency of their prayers. They prayed faithfully, several times a day, very steeped in tradition, the clothes, the phylacteries...very much outward actions,in the open for all to see, but I couldn't tell what was going on inside. Were they sincere? or was it because it was expected of them? Probably a mix, just like in our churches.
It made me consider my own prayer life. I don't consider myself a prayer warrior, but I do consider prayer an essential part of walking with Christ. I don't have a set time each day when I drop everything and pray, but I know of its benefits.
The real question: How much do I value prayer? Jesus rose early to pray. He spent time with His Father, it was a priority of His life.
"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pre Dig Jitters

Tomorrow morning I leave for my first trip to Israel. After 18 years of trying, finances and Norm saying yes coincided for the first time and I'm going on an archeological dig with ABR, Archeological Biblical Research. We are digging for proof of the city of Ai at Khirbet el-Maqatir. You can find the story of the conquest of Ai in the book of Joshua, chapters 7-8. I'm also hoping to be able to do some tours and take in the places Jesus walked...Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Galilee...maybe even swim in the Dead Sea.
Why a dig? I considered archeology as a career before choosing to become an elementary teacher, and I always wondered if I would have enjoyed it.
Why Israel? I am a student of the Scriptures and just going where it all took place will be awesome.
I'd appreciate your prayers as I travel 10.5 hours to Tel Aviv and then try to find my way to Yad Hashmonah where I will be staying. I've not met anyone on the team, I hope I fit in. And I need stamina to do the work at the dig. Our day starts at 4:30 am.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

This past year we traveled a lot of places, Maine, the Southwest, of the things Norm enjoys photographing are sunrises and sunsets, and so do I. I used to get up early with him each day, but last year in Maine, I told him, "No more switchbacks before breakfast." After that, I slept in while he drove around Acadia looking for the best places to take a sunrise shot.
One of my favorite places for a sunrise is Bryce Canyon. Of course that means getting up well before sunrise so that I could find a place at Sunrise Point to watch the sunrise. In the cold, I waited and waited, watching the colors of the sky change as the light permeated the darkness and the shadows changed. Everyone oohed and aahed as the sun rose and finally the golden ball broke above the horizon. Within minutes, Sunrise Point was deserted, but I stayed around and discovered that after the sunrise, the real show begins.
As the light filters through the canyon, the hoodoos take on a translucency, they seem to glow from the inside. I felt that the people who had left, missed the show. Sure they were part of the main event, but they missed the spectacular.
Cadillac Mountain in Maine has a wonderful sunset. Again, everyone arrives well before sunset to get the best spot to view the descent of the sun. And as soon as it is down, they all disappear into their cars. But once the sun is down, the real show begins as the reflected light changes colors, yellow, to orange, pinks and purples, a palate of glorious colors reflecting off the clouds.

In our lives we experience lots of main events, birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, trips...the time up to the main event is filled with anticipation and excitement. But the excitement gets lost in the day to day normalcy of life that follows.
So what can we do? Having a big event? Enjoy the time before it, revel in the excitement, set aside the fears. When it is done, bask in the specialness of the event. What went well? What was special? What was humorous? Hang onto the event for just a little bit longer, there may be a surprising, wonderful continuation that enhances the main event.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Canyon Overlook

Last fall Norm and I spent time in Zion Canyon, Utah. We had a wonderful time and did a number of hikes, some difficult, some easier than others. We drove up Route 9, following the switchbacks and entered the 1.1 mile Zion-Mt. Caramel Tunnel. We missed the parking for the Overlook Trail and traveled a few miles before finding a place to turn around and return to the Trail Head for the Canyon Overlook, a 100' elevation climb. The weather cooperated, neither too hot nor too cold but we took our hat and gloves just in case.
The first stretch of the hike involved a series of switchbacks. A few steps and a a railing helped to make the steep section doable. Then it leveled out for a while. We soon found ourselves walking along the canyon wall. We crossed a wooden bridge, 800 feet below us, we caught glimpses of Lower Pine Creek. I was glad for the railings on either side of the bridge. We took a break in a wide cavern before proceeding on.
While resting in the cavern, a lady came and pointed to an area ahead of us. "That's the roughest part. There are a couple of other narrow areas, but they have handholds."
Okay, I had come this far, I might as well go for it. We arrived at the narrow section. It was less than a foot wide, on one side the canyon wall, on the other, the drop to Lower Pine Creek. I hugged as close to the canyon wall as I could and carefully crossed. "Whew! That was done." I cheerfully pressed on.
We came to the next narrow section, about a foot wide, around a bend with a downward slope on the other side. I looked for the promised handholds and didn't find any. After a deep breath I shimmied around the bend and continued on. When I reached the third narrow section, again around a bend, I began to complain to Norm.
I had a decision to make. Turn back or move forward. I had come so far, I just couldn't bring myself to cross back over those narrow areas and go back to the car in defeat. I stopped complaining and walked on.
We reached the summit. The beautiful view could take one's breath away. But not me. I took a quick look and sat on a rock while Norm scrambled over the rocks trying to find the best picture.
I struggled. I did not want to go back down. Would it be possible to have a helicopter come and rescue me? Those three narrow sections terrified me. Sure I made it up, but I dreaded the return. I couldn't enjoy where I was because of what I feared lay ahead.
I thought of the song, "Mountain Top" by Amy Grant and understood completely the desire to stay on the top of the mountain. Walking with the Lord has its ups and downs and walking through the valley can be rough, illness, issues with family and friends, failures and expectations of ourselves and others. But the dread of the future can keep us from enjoying what we have.
As I waited for Norm, several groups of people arrived. They commented on the beauty and eventually I walked to the fence and studied the view. Someone had left a love lock on the fence. I guess it's a European tradition of lovers to signify undying love.
It truly was a great view of the Canyon, Route 9 snaked up the side of the Canyon like a shiny black ribbon. I watched cars wait to enter the tunnel. Must be an RV in the tunnel. Sure enough, soon an RV exited and the cars began to move. A mist began to waft up the canyon and Norm said, "Let's go. We don't want to walk down in the mist."
The trip down was not as bad as I thought. I only froze at two of the sections, I didn't even recognize the third. I stopped in the cavern where the lady had given me the heads up on the trail. Usually on the way down I will say to others, "It's rough, but worth it." I couldn't encourage this time. I've been on harder hikes, steeper, narrower ledges, but for some reason this one spooked me.
I don't want to go through life fearing what lies ahead. Sure there are going to be tough times, and there will be paths I don't want to walk. But I want to take time each day to enjoy the pleasures that God sends my way. To set aside the fear of the future rejoice in the Lord.