RP's Stuff and Things...

The spot for my online journal entries. Be forwarned that I am a Christian and am the founder of the Christian Paintball Players Association, and I may have to rant now and again. Please keep in mind, though that these are my personal thoughts and opinions, and do not represent "Christianity", The COGOP denomination which I am a member, my local church, or the CPPA.

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Location: Norwalk, Iowa, United States

Friday, August 01, 2008

My wife.

I was just sitting here this morning thinking about the love I have for my wife. the romantic-feelings and aspect is there, yes, but more than that the commitment and lifestyle of love that I have for her is more predominant.

a bit of prose that came to me in that thoughtful moment of reflection:
In the day when the sun rises and the showers fall, the corn creeks and grows while the stillness of the farm overwhelms. To stand on the porch and watch, hear, and enjoy as my imagination continues; the love of my wife and the love for my wife envelops me like a home made blanket on a cold wintry day.

just thought I would share, especially since I hadn't blogged in a few months. a pouring of my heart seemed appropriate.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A smiley

feeling a bit combative, I thought I would share this "smiley". :)
I am not sure who the author is, but thought it was pretty kewl. you'll have to click it to see the animation. :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/4-5/07

Our trip was amazing. I am starting backwards and beginning with the last day first. besides the order, you will notice that I am putting Mary's journaling first, then I will add my comments. some may be long, and some shorter than others, if at all. I will begin with a link to the pictures for that day for each day we were on the trip. there are usually hundreds of pictures in each day's album. please be patient as it may take a LONG time to load if you are accessing the Internet via a MoDem.

Also, you will notice in the link that there are Google maps showing WHERE and when each picture was taken. some of the pictures may not have GPS information for various reasons, but about 90% do.

Another note about pictures, I took over 7000 pictures. I (ab)use the multi-burst capabilities of my camera, so I can be sure to get a "good" shot of the subject matter. It also allows me to take pictures in less than optimal lighting situations, with relative surity that one will catch the "still" image. Since I am not a professional photographer, my technique is to way-overshoot any given subject, so that I can get a got picture.

When I got home and downloaded them, I removed about 5000 as "trash" and kept a bit over 2000, and as expected, I got some great shots of each subject I was shooting (in my humble opinion). then I synchronized the GPS info with the images left for EXIF updating. This took me a couple days to figure out since DST changed the first day of our trip, and I had forgotten to change the time on my camera for that.

One other note about the journaling. Mary's notes became outlines towards the end, as our time-crunch began to increase and there was less time available to actually do any detailed journaling.


Sunday, November 4
Egypt Air Flight #748 departing Athens at 1:30 pm (3:30 pm arrival in Cairo, Egypt)
Transfer to hotel:
Ramses Hilton (2 nights)
1115 Corniche El Nile, Cairo, Egypt

Flight from Newark to Athens was on time – also very cold and mostly sleepless. Left Newark about 5:30, and arrived in Athens at 9:30 a.m. All luggage arrived with the flight, and we were ready to get tickets for our next flight before the boarding gates opened.

We were only on the ground for about four hours before continuing to Cairo. Airport security was much more lax – no problems clearing immigration or gate access. Athens’ airport is about the size of Des Moines. I thought we would have the some unique Greek shops while there – no such luck. Connecting flight on Egypt Air was a small plane – two hours flight time. We were bused from the tarmac – every thing at Cairo’s airport reminded folks of air travel 20 years ago – not much was automated or clean.

Luggage was all present and accounted for, and we started our 25 minute bus ride downtown to the Ramses Hilton. I believe the driving in Cairo will be the one thing that sticks with all of us after this trip. Cairo has 17 million people, 5 million cars, and 3 stoplights. Lane lines are merely suggestions, and three lanes often hold 5 rows of traffic. There were no pedestrian rights, and people often walked in the streets rather than the sidewalks.

Since there are no stoplights there are no crosswalks, so pedestrians cross wherever they can – usually between moving traffic. Most cars were about 20 years old, mostly European, and gas costs about $1 for 4 litres, as opposed to $2.79 a gallon when we left home. Eqypt is required to export no more than 30% of its oil.

After checking into the hotel (slowest process anywhere along the trip) we opened the doors to the best view I have had from a hotel room. It was about 5:30 p.m., and we were overlooking the Nile River and downtown Cairo from the terrace off our room. It was a great place to listen to the heartbeat of Cairo – or the symphony of horns, which are used in place of turn signals for almost every vehicle.

Supper could not come soon enough tonight. Buffet dinner at the hotel. Lots of choices – and the greatest variety of foods over the two nights we were there. The food was good, but very safe choice – nothing too spicy or out of the ordinary. The biggest adjustment for dining was to pay for water to go with the meals. It was recommended that we not drink the water, so we purchased large bottles for $3 each ($5.50 exchange rate).

To bed at 9:00 p.m. – wiped out. Egyptian sheets did feel extra wonderful - wish I could say they kept us asleep all night.

Monday, November 5
Morning at leisure, Giza Pyramids, Old City, Hanging Church and Ben Ezra Synagogue
6:30 wakeup call; 7:00 breakfast, 8:00 start (morning at leisure???)

Our first trip of the day is to Giza to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. These are actually located very near the city limits of Cairo, instead of in the middle of the desert. Much to learn here – tourism is the main source of income for many. Almost everyone in our group ended up with Egyptian headdress and many “relics” of ancient Egypt. A few had $1 camel rides – this is the inexpensive part of the experience – getting off the camel can be very expensive. It was hard to enjoy the sites when we were constantly accosted by the vendors.

The pyramids were amazing to see, and we got some great pictures from a scenic overlook. Then on to the Sphinx and into town to visit gold and papyrus stores (supposed very cheap in Egypt).

After lunch, we traveled to the Old City/Coptic Quarter and visited the Hanging church and Ben Ezra Synagogue. The synagogue is said to be where Joseph, Mary and Jesus stayed while they were exiled in Egypt – 3 months at this location, and 13 months total in Cairo. During the Six Day War with Israel in 1967, the 12 pillars (representing each of the apostles) were documented as crying blood. During times spiritual movement in the church, and columns have been “warmed” by the Holy Spirit.

After the Coptic Quarter, we visited the Egyptian Museum (http://www.egyptianmuseum.gov.eg/home.html), which houses the remains of King Tutankhamen tomb. The Roman’s built the museum as a gift to the Egyptians, and the government has required that all those visiting must stay on the grounds for at least one hour. We could have spent the whole day.

King Tut’s tomb was found in 1923 in Luxor, Egypt. The site had not been raided because King Tut was the poorest of the Pharaoh’s and thieves did not think is was worthwhile to raid his tomb. He was Pharaoh for 10 years, between the ages of 8 and 18, when he died. He and all of his belongings were buried within 10 gold plated boxes in the tomb. Items included four beds, three chariots, many urns, and ship, food for the journey to the “other” life, and his thrones, which are about the size of kitchen chairs.

A copy of the Rosetta Stone is also at this museum. The most impressive artifacts were the walls and walls of hieroglyphs – truly amazing in detail, scale and scope. Most of the displays were not hermetically sealed, and the hieroglyphic walls could be touch – so amazing. The museum was only a block from out hotel, so a short ride back for dinner. Many went shopping – we showered to wash away the desert and downloaded pictures for the evening. Early to bed – still not over jet lag yet. I slept for an hour an then was awake for four – bad way to start the day.

My Notes:
this is the first (last) of the notes and comments for this trip. I have been posting the days starting from the end. The pictures for this section are grouped together for the 4th and 5th, so wanted to make my comments together for the one album.

I highly suggest using the map view, if your Internet connection is fast enough. the pyramids are a site to behold. and when you can see them from the satellite view as well as my pictures, it makes it more clear just how big they are.

I will say one thing about the people here. If they weren't sales people, they seemed to be friendly. the challenge for me was that just about everyone we came in contact with wanted to sell us something. one dollar, one dollar was heard a lot. the scams that were allowed at the pyramids was unacceptable, but at least we were warned ahead of time. I will not use this blog as a complaint session about this, but one couple from our group did get taken by a camel jockey, it nearly ruined their trip.

but back to good stuff. when we saw the Sphinx, it wasn't as impressive as I was expecting, it is closer to the city and so more hustle bustle around it. Pictures don't do it justice as to the size and proportions of it. to me it is very clear that the "original" had the head of something/someone else and the current pharonic head was carved out of that, simply because of the smaller proportion. that is pure conjecture on my part, but it sure seemed obvious to my common sense as I looked at it from the ground.

I couldn't help myself thinking about that this would be a great place to play paintball as we went through the ruins around it (in fact, this was a continuing thought in many of the places we visited). the large pillars, and sturdy rock walls., the terrain - it all pointed to me as a paintball field. :)

There was not really any Biblical significance to the area, but I have to assume that the Israelites were at least aware of these structures, and knew about them. they would probably have been further north in the Nile delta area. but to get to see a wonder of the world is something I will not forget. even if I make another trip over there, I will probably not revisit the pyramids. After all is said and done, I think that most of the things that I felt like I wanted more of was in Israel.

With that said, I need to reiterate that just because we were one of only two couples in the group that spoke English only, I don't feel like we missed anything from the tour. the volunteer translators did a great job.

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/6/07


Tuesday, November 6
Depart Cairo and travel to St. Catherine at the base of Mt. Sinai
Wadi El Raha, St. Catherine, Egypt

5:30 wakeup call; 6:00 breakfast, 7:00 start
Leaving Cairo today for Mount Sinai region – all day drive. Today’s trip gave a great view of the variety of apartments in the city. Most buildings appear to be bombed out or falling down, and have many families living inside. Others are new, but only have a few floors built and an unfinished roof waiting for enough funds for the next floor. You can also see that many units are occupied before the building is complete – including outer walls. Windows appear to be completely optional, and no though is given to making the outside look finished, even if the apartments inside are very nice. Clotheslines seem to be the required hardware to make a house a home. Apartments are generally $100,000 for 2-3 bedrooms. All must be paid in cash or other collateral provided. Payment must be fully made in 12 years.

I was not feeling well today, so I didn’t leave the bus until we stopped for lunch. We did stop at the wells representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Only three have been uncovered. From here, you could also see the Red Sea. Also learned that we were not to give money to any of the children along our route. They would only ask for candy, but could easily make more money in a day than their parents did in a week if we gave them our spare change. A big push is made not to give money, so that the kids will go to school rather than staying home waiting for the tour buses.

An interesting part of our trip today included the number of military checkpoints along the way. I would guess we stopped at least 10 times
Arrived at St. Catherine’s late in the afternoon, after traveling through a tunnel under the Suez Canal. This will likely be they most interesting hotel location. We are in the Sinai Mountains, at the base of St. Catherine’s monastery. The rooms are bungalows – three to four per unit, and about 40 units altogether. All are built in stone, and include a refrigerator that is not plugged in, the promise of someone available to fix a TV that does not exist, and twin beds. Outside is the real eye catcher – we are in a desert valley between two mountain ranges. There is another set of hotels about one mile away, and the monastery is the only other building we see. This is really off the beaten path.

Brent is in heaven – baklava at every meal so far.

My notes:
a day of driving.

We did stop at a location of some ancient wells that are said to be from the 12 tribes. there were three there. they say the others weren't discovered yet. it brought to my mind how that there is not much care for things that are Jewish or Christian. Even though we are tourists and bringing in a lot of their economy, it didn't seem that it mattered.

I am glad that we decided to make this trip. I really enjoyed the fact that Mary was with me. this is something we will remember for ever. even if we ever go back, it will always be the trip of a lifetime. For various reasons it is difficult to stay in a very "sacred" attitude, but it is easier when we are on the buss and there are no pushy souvenir sales and I can enjoy the scenery and imagine Israel traveling through this area led by Moses.

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/7/07


Wednesday, November 7
Visit Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine Monastery. Take ferry to Jordan and overnight in Petra.
Taybet Zaman
Wadi Mousa, Petra, Jordan

6:30 wakeup call; 7:00 breakfast, 8:00 start

Our first trek today was to the monastery of St. Catherine (http://www.touregypt.net/Catherines.htm). St. Catherine (Katrin) was beaten to death trying to bring Christianity to Egypt. Her remains were said to be carried by angels to this location, and her remains are buried in the church. This location was a Christian stronghold in the 6th century through the Crusades. St. Catherine’s is now best known for the illuminated texts and icons held in its museum and library. Many of its holdings are gifts from the early centuries AD.

This is also the historical location of God appearing in the burning bush to Moses, a plant that regenerates itself for many years. The Mountains of Sinai are also were Moses received the 10 Commandments. (This is a mountain range, rather than one specific mountain).

Brent was wearing shorts today, and was not able to enter the temple because his knees were showing. He climbed the mountain outside the monastery, and took pictures looking into the grounds.

We left the monastery by 11:15, so we could arrive at the docks in time to catch the 2:00 ferry to Jordan. You have to be checked in at least two hours prior to departure to make the trip. When we arrived at noon, we were told the ferry had mechanical problems, and would leave at 3:00. We went to a restaurant on the Red Sea for lunch and a walk along the shore – a great break and beautiful location. The sea was so blue and clam and warm. Brent enjoyed wading through the water and picking sea shells and rocks. The camel riders and jewelry sellers were right on the shore with us – inside the hotels has been the only place we haven’t seen them.

By 1:30, we were back at the dock to clear immigration and to await the ferry – and await - and await. The last ferry came in at 6:00, loaded by 8:30, and arrived in Jordan at 9:30.

You know, when Kaylene talks about foreign transportation systems, it seems funny when she is so upset about everything being late. I total understand her frustration now. Although we docked at 9:30, they did not start unloading the passengers until 10:30. WE loaded the bus, drove ¾ mile, and unloaded the bus for immigration check through. It was 1:00 a.m. before we were on the road to Petra, and 2:00 before we were checked into our rooms. We all were very thankful to make it to the hotel tonight. Unfortunately, this was also the day we needed to get up early for our tours. Three hours of much needed sleep tonight.

My Notes:
The Sinai mounts are beautiful. being from Iowa, mountains are not something we get to see or enjoy. :)

When we went to St. Katharine's Monastery, I didn't go in, since I was wearing shorts, and I wasn't warned that wearing shorts is not allowed. I took lots of pictures as I climbed the cliff area next to the Monastery to get a better view of the area and the trails they used to go up the mountain.

I suggest that when looking at the pictures that you also look using the map view. the region is incredible, thinking about trying to manage a small group of a couple million or so people through a land like this, and having them camp and live.

when we went to the port at Newibia to cross the red sea (Persian gulf side) on a ferry as part of our Exodus tour, we had to hurry and wait ( a couple times :) ) something I will not soon forget. In any case, it did give us a chance to relax by the red sea. I had picked up a few sea shells, and was able to go wading in the water, that was not even cool, in fact the water was warm. we got to see someone go out a ways further down the coast and was working on his nets in the water. I thought he was fishing, but it appeared that he was repairing the net in the water to help make it more maneuverable, I suppose.

we went back and after waiting a long time and going through customs, we got on the ferry and made the journey crossing the red sea. I didn't get to take pictures of this as it was late at night by now and I wasn't allowed to go out of the inside of the boat to take pictures anyway.

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/8/07


Thursday, November 8
Petra, Mt. Nebo, Moab, Jerash and cross border to Israel. Overnight in Tiberias
Sheraton Moriah (2 nights)
Habanim Street
Tiberias, Israel 14103

5:45 wakeup, 6:00 breakfast, 7:00 start

They could have recorded another episode of “Night of the Living Dead” at our hotel outside Petra today. Great, rustic resort, but we spent so little time there, no one got to use or even see all of the grounds. This location matched St. Catherine’s hotel in uniqueness. Brent was so tired, he didn’t even get pictures of the rooms. This location was built like an adobe village.

Our first stop today was at Petra (http://nabataea.net/petra.html) – our second wonder of the world on this trip. A truly amazing location on the top of a mountain where a sea used to be located. Most of the stone is limestone, and as the sea became a river, it created a narrow canyon through the rocks, stretching about 1 mile to The Treasury. In 300 BC to 300 AD, this was inhabited by a village of Nabateans, who engineered a water filtering system, and made the most of the topography to protect their village from attack. The Roman Army did over take the village in the 1st Century AD, and paved the canyon with cobblestones. The views throughout the walk were spectacular – think about walking through the Grand Canyon, but only having about 30 feet between the two walls, 250 feet up.

Petra may be linked to Sela in the Bible, and may be the site referred to as the “people in the rocks” in Jeremiah; and a strong/fortified city of Edom in Psalms. Isaiah also references Seal and Ammon, a town nearby.

Petra is a fortified city, with caves high in the walls all along the trek. For our generation, it is probably best known for being featured in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. The Treasury is the best know of the sites, which is three huge stories tall, all carved into the limestone face of the canyon. This was definitely worth the walk in and difficult walk out. We could have easily spent a day here There are many other carvings in the valley, and it is still inhabited. Our guide said it would take three days to walk the full length of the valley.

After a strenuous trip out, we continued onto Moab and St. George the Dragon Slayer Greek Orthodox Church. Four Christian and monotheistic religions started in this area. St. George’s is the oldest original church structure still standing. This area is know for its mosaic handwork, and a large portion of the floor in the church lays out a map of the Middle East during the early centuries BC.

Next, we went to Mt. Nebo, where God showed Moses the Promised Land. From here, you could also see the Dead Sea, the historical reference to where Jacob wrestled with the angel of God, and was named “Israel” from that point forward. Pastor Reyes gave a message on the twelve spies sent into survey the new land, and the murmuring of the Jews, the people of Israel. We prayed for unity in our churches and for peace in Jerusalem.

We also toured the Greek Orthodox Church at this site. The grounds included a sculpture of Jehovah-Nissi – The LORD is My Banner – a serpentine cross. This represents the serpent hung on a staff, which provided hearing to the people of Israel who had been bitten by snakes in the desert.

Dinner was at the base of Mt. Nebo. We also cross over from Jordan to Israel tonight – a 2 ½ hour process to travel 1 ½ miles. We feel like we are on the Exodus tour in the desert.
One comment on security and military personnel in Egypt, Jordan and Israel:

One member of our tour group described out progression through three countries by centuries. Egypt is still operating in the 19th Century – garbage everywhere, no traffic control, people living in unfinished buildings, heavy military involvement and visibility.

Jordan moves into the 20th Century – more relaxed military checkpoints, organized transportation, higher standard of living, not as many peddlers at the sites.

Israel was compared to the 21st Century – great highway system, no visible military, easy to travel, organized agriculture, roadside bushes and flowers. We have not bee uncomfortable about our safety at any point in our trip, and have found people to be friendlier as we have traveled from Egypt to Jordan to Israel. Israel’s checkpoint was to be the most stringent, but actually took less time start to finish then all of the others – and the agents were friendly.

Staying at the Sheraton Moriah hotel in Tiberius tonight and tomorrow – checked in at 10 p.m.

My notes:
I helped Mary with her journaling, so I will try to not repeat. Waking up in Jordan was a memory, I won't forget. :) after having been in Egypt for a couple days, I had been getting used to the smog and diesel/gas smell from all the cars in Cairo. here, the air was clean and the area was wakening. We arrived late, so I missed the scenery coming in.

Mary pointed out some Arabic writing on the wall at the hotel that appeared to look like it said "paintball" not sure what it said, but it kinda does look like it says paintball.

If you do the map view of the album of the pictures for this day, you can see that the Petra pictures are in a very mountainous area (south). hopefully that satellite view will help gain a better understanding of the Petra pictures. I had a great time with this area. though not much "Biblical significance" (at least not that many are aware of), I was amazed when I had been studying of the history of this place and that in the first century the Romans had repaved the road into the Petra area. and that some of that "paving" was still walked on.

The pavement was large rocks. I couldn't help but imagine roman engineers picking and then modifying rocks for this purpose, and that we were walking on the very same rocks. these rocks that were walked at about the same time as Jesus. I knew that this kind of thing might not be very prevalent in Israel, so I cherished this time. I know it sounds silly, but it was a special time for me.

again, referring to the satellite image and my pictures at the Mt Nebo area, you can see that it is a high place that overlooked the the promised land, from "this side" of the Jordan. I wondered if I was in the place of one of the 12 "spies", what kind of report would I have brought back some time before they got to Nebo. I don't know. I know my faith right now, and it's based on a salvation that is a gift. the Jews thought of the law as a gift, as I understand and especially their personal covenant and being chosen by God, but It is difficult for me to imagine that kind of relationship, that seemed to lack a personal paradigm.

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/9/07


Friday, November 9
Sea of Galilee Boat Ride, Capernaum, Peter’s Primacy, Mount of Beatitudes, Casearea Philippi, Golan Heights and Jordan River Baptism
7:30 wakeup, 8:00 breakfast, 8:45 start

First overcast day here – amazing how chilly it gets if the sun is not out. Very busy day ahead.
Our first stop today is at the Temple of Pan, which is dedicated to many gods, and is said to be the location that Jesus told Peter that he would be the rock of the church. (Jesus = Petra – the rock; Peter = Petros – a piece of this rock). The setting is a cliff from where many niches have been carved to honor different idols. Jesus asked His apostles “Who do you say that I am?” at this spot, to distinguish between the false gods and the True Savior.

Pastor Reyes talked about taking the message out to our friends and families, and three women accepted tot Lord as their Savior at this location. This is also where the well that is the start of the Jordan waters is located.

After leaving these gardens, we went to the Mount of Beatitudes for a sermon on the poor in spirit (not needing worldly things, but recognizing they need the Holy Spirit daily – they shall see God).

Next, we went to the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberius, where Jesus called the apostles. We took a boat ride across the sea, stopping halfway across to work and praise God for all His works. The sun shone on us while we were in the middle of the sea – one of the few times it was out this day. Beautiful ride – songs and dancing. The crew of the boat were from Spain, and they enjoyed our company.
Lunch was on the sea – family style: salad, fries, fish, soup and dessert.

As we travel to different sites today, our tour guide Salo shared a great deal on the history y of Jews in Israel, and on other inhabitants of the land. Most of the region we were in was previously thousands of acres of swampland, which was drained and became the agricultural center for the country. Land was given by the government – if you planted Olive trees, the ground was your to occupy and harvest. Olive and banana groves are very common. There are many fruit orchards, too.

Our last stop for the day was at the Jordan River for a baptism service. Almost half of the 73 people in our group were baptized or renewed their baptism in the Jordan, including Brent and me. It appeared to be a very religious experience that took your breath away – but the looks on our faces were less of awe than of sheer reaction to the temperature of the water – BRRR!!!
Shopping and back to the hotel tonight

My notes:
In Casearea Philippi, the Temple of Pan was a cliff side area where Jesus probably asked his disciples who He is. and Where Peter told Him that He is the Christ. when Jesus tells Peter that he is "Petros" and on Petra, he will build the church. the innuendo is more clear among the rock carvings and cliff area.

Something that I wasn't expecting was that at this location, there were 3 women that accepted Christ as Savior from our group. it was an amazing experience.

The ruins of Banias is a wonderful site. I only wish we had more information on the Hellenistic period, the last years BC when it was settled. In ancient times, it was a giant spring, gushing from a cave in the rock, which is the source of the stream Nahal Senir. The Jordan River arises from this spring and two others at the base of Mount Hermon.

From here, we went to the Mount of Beatitudes area. the garden was again, beautiful. As we were lead to the garden and sat at a staging area, we listened to a sermon about the sermon, and was semi-interrupted by a nun (yes, a church at this site too), that was telling us that we had to leave because they were closing. I believe what that meant was that they were actually getting ready to have a service, and didn't want us being loud out in the garden while they had their internal service. but I am just guessing. :)

when we went to the shore of the Kineret (Sea of Galilee, lake Tiberius, etc, all the same place) the way to the port/dock was a kewl flowing "aqueduct". my pictures show this. the scenery was gorgeous at the lake and shorelines etc. some of my pictures show in the Google maps that they were taken from the middle of the lake. yes, we were on a boat.

An interesting "coincidence" was that as part of this boat trip, we stopped about half way across, and had a praise and worship type service. lots of rejoicing and praising God. the interesting thing is that the day had been overcast all morning, and yet about when we stopped to have some talk and praise, the clouds split apart and the sun seemed to shine on us in the middle of the lake. Maybe super-spiritualizing, but I believe that God was showing us His hand, as Jesus calmed the storm on this very same area in the first century.

We then got back on the buses and drove to the area that is said to be the location where John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. I don't believe that it matters where you are baptized. I don't even believe that God's Word teaches that we MUST be baptised in order to have salvation. but I do believe (as in paying the tithe), that it is something that a Christian should do.

I have been baptized before. It was an amazing feeling to be baptized in Israel, and especially in the Jordan River, not to mention the same area that Jesus might have been baptized. The significance is that the Jordan represents "death" and the Israelites crossed death into life when they entered the promised land. The Christian symbolism is strong here as well.

As I believe that the act is not an actual cleansing of original sin, nor is it some other kind of cleansing of sin, but I believe that this is an outward, public expression of being Christian. As Christ had died, "buried", and rose from the dead, so too, we associate with that by dying, being burred, and raised from that death in the Jordan river in Baptism.

I know that this is a doctrinal issue for many, but for me it was a special time of renewal in my faith. As I mentioned earlier about the sun shining through, this time, about the time we were baptised (Mary and I went in at the same time, there were three pastors baptising at the same time), it began to rain. did I tell you that the last time I was baptized at Grays lake in Des Moines, Iowa, that it began to rain their as well, and the time before that at Easter lake, it began to rain their as well. Interesting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/10/07


Saturday, November 10
Cana, Nazareth, Church of Annunciation, Megiddo, Valley of Armageddon, Caesarea and overnight in Jerusalem.

Hotel Le Meridien, Dead Sea
Ein Bokedk, Dead Sea, Israel 89680
Tel. 011-972-8-659-1234

6:00 wake up, 6:30 breakfast, 7:30 start

Leaving Tiberius for the Dead Sea today. The first stops are in Capernaum at Peter’s Primacy and home. Peter’s Primacy is on the Sea of Galilee, and is where Jesus appear after the Resurrection and called Simon Peter to “feed His sheep.” The foundation of a 4th Century synagogue built on the foundation of a synagogue Jesus may have taught in and Peter’s “home” were nearby. It was rare to find a 1st Century synagogue, as most groups gathered in homes, city center or caves during that time.

Next, we drove to Cana, where we renewed our wedding vows with about 15 other couples. Recognition was also given to a woman who lost her husband earlier this year and is scattering his ashes in Jerusalem. A ceremony was also held for the single women for a blessing on their lives.

Nazareth was our next stop and we visited the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, which also houses Mary’s Well. Although we did not go to it, there is also a catholic church near this site that recognized the Annunciation.

Last stop of the day – through Megiddo and the Valley of Armageddon. This is foretold to be the location of the final battle in Revelation, where armies from the North, South, East and West will fight before Christ returns. This is a wide, flat valley, with access from all side, and mountains around for cover. Even Napoleon stated it would be the perfect place for a battle. At the overlook for this site, there was a museum showing the fortress at Masada, which we will see tomorrow.

Finished our day by traveling to the hotel at the Dead Sea – beautiful location, fantastic hotel. This is an oasis of hotels without a town, but it does have a small shopping center – with a McDonald's. All of the hotels have boardwalks down to private beaches on the sea.

My notes:
the church of Peter's primacy location on the sea of Galilee is a beautiful place. the traditional location of where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection and told them to fish on the other side of the boat and they drew in 153 fish. Jesus met them on the shore and made a fire and ate with them. this is where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and Jesus told him to feed His sheep and take care of them.

when we visited the site of Peter's house and the synagogue next to it, I had already done a lot of research on these places. the archaeology continues to be interesting to me as a 4th century synagogue was built on a 1st century synagogue, perhaps one that Jesus taught at.

we then went to the city of Cana and Mary and I renewed our wedding vows. it was a moving experience for me. since we were with a large group of Spanish speaking folks, I was not expecting much more than a group renewal in Spanish.

turned out that they did have a mass renewal in Spanish. and then the two English speaking couples had separate renewal ceremonies. so it was more than special. I love my wife.

Next stop was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, it was bee-ee-a-you-tee-ful! it was interesting that a mosque was right across the street and there are apparently several churches claiming the location of the Annunciation.

the valley of Armageddon and megiddo was a pastoral view. at the site of Megiddo, there was a message on end times given and the scale and scope of these things came to life as we could see across the valley's and see how it "could" happen.

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/11/07


Sunday, November 11
Judean Desert, Qumran, Masada, Dead Sea and Jericho
6:30 wake up 7:00 breakfast, 8:00 start
Today was Brent’s favorite day – visited Masada and Qumran, and ended the day with a soak in the Dead Sea.
Masada = strength, heroism
1st Century – fell to Romans – committed suicide rather than become slaves/captives

My notes:
On the way to the Qumran site, we drove by the dead sea and there were many beautiful sites and views of the dead sea area.

When we arrived at Qumran, I was expecting to see more activity of the archaeological nature. the site was much as I expected from my studies and reading articles etc. As expected, they directly correlated the Essenes and Qumran and the scrolls found in the various caves surrounding the area.

At least, unlike the visit to Kansas City. there was mention that this is theory and that other theories are prevalent as well. it was great to actually be able to see the dig and what was excavated. we were told that the earlier layers at this site was that this would have been a "port" on the dead sea, but it has lowered so much that the site is on top of a mesa-type area now.

The "scriptorium" and other places that were marked were expected as a "tourist" site and location. I still found the archaeological aspects very interesting for the various layers that were shown in some places. this was exactly the kinds of stuff I was wanting to see when we were deciding to come on this trip. the holy places are great and their sacredness means much. but for me, these real life-ways of "touching" the peoples of the past are most impressive to me.

to be at the same place and touch the same places and stones that they has touched and used. my mind was whirling as I imagined myself in a community that lived here. Essenes, maybe, maybe not, but a community that at least was in an area that was wilderness (and still is). perhaps a pottery factory. perhaps a "monk-like" existence. perhaps a secluded community that just preferred to be private.

Masada. visions of war, and conquest come to mind for me. when we visited the site, we took the cable car up to the site.

The Zealots that fled and headed to Masada after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70ad, found themselves at a standoff with the Romans. the short story is that after 3 years or so of the Romans building a siege ramp to enter the stronghold, the troops entered the location and discovered that the 900 or so people that were there had pact-ed with themselves to kill each other and commit suicide rather than be held under Roman rule.

there was apparently a woman or two and a few children that survived. An interesting point here is that the location of the lots that were used to select the killing of themselves, was discovered. the ostracon (potsherds with writing, and in this case, names) that was found there brought home to me what the internal struggles that they must have felt as the siege ramp was beginning to see to be something that would be breaching their community.

this site and the representation here for the Jewish people began to be extremely important in their nationality, to never give up. this paradigm can be seen and understood even in modern Israel and the IDF and national understandings.

A partial description of my comments in the account given by Josephus of the tragedy of Masada: To escape capture by the Romans, ten men were chosen by lot from among the occupants of the fortress, 960 in number, including combatants and non-combatants, men, women and children, to slay the rest. From these ten one was similarly chosen to slay the survivors, and he, having accomplished his awful task, ran his sword into his own body (Josephus, BJ, VII, ix, 1).

We had time for a "dip" in the dead sea this afternoon. the thing that struck me the most was that the water was so salty that it wouldn't dissolve any more salt. walking up to the beach, and it looks like white sand. it was salt.

we were so buoyant, that it was weird as center of gravity was seemingly affected as we were in the water.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/12/07


Monday, November 12
Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane , Bethlehem & Church of the Nativity
Hotel Jerusalem Renaissance
Ruppin Bridge at Herzl Blvd, Jerusalem, Israel 91033

6:00 wake up 6:30 breakfast, 7:00 start
Road to Jerusalem – also the road that of the Good Samaritan
Jews – Jerusalem = Moria, where Abraham was led to sacrifice his son Issac

9:50 – gray dome with three towers - site of the last supper
Muslims – Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. The Temple Mount (built 720 AD) is the historic location on Mohammad's’s dream (625 AD) of traveling on a horse to Mecca. All Muslims had prayed toward Jerusalem prior to the dream, then changed to Mecca – conflict.
City of David – overlooks Kidron Valley, where Judas hung himself
Church of Russian Czar – gold onion domes
Garden of Gethsemane – Mt of Olives – oil press
Christians = “one – coming from the root” as an olive tree does
1924 – Church of the Agony in the Garden
Mt of Olives – Bible
Platform where seven red cows were sacrificed (as opposed to many 100’s of other animals). Jews mixed ashes of Red cow with oil and flour, and this became the ashes used on the 10 lepers = beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3)
11:00 – Valley of Kidron – Hezekiah's tomb
City of David – Dung Gate
Caiaphas’ house – 11:00

Bethlehem is in Palestine
“House of Meat” – Hebrew
“House of Bread” – Muslim
80% of economy - tourism
Arabic language – 45,000 people

My notes:
Traveling on the road to Jerusalem, probably the same stretch of land/road that the good Samaritan story is based; I can see how that it would be a primary path, as the terrain is very mountainous and this would be an easy way to get from city to city. I also can see how that it might have been a place of people with malevolence in mind. cliffs, and "no escape" routes.

As I recalled the scriptural reference, I thought about the religious folk that would have passed by on the other side of the road (just as they might today, in order to stay "ritually clean".) I wondered, if given the circumstances what I would do. I came to the conclusion that I may not have been a good Samaritan. I may have tried, but I am not sure I would have gone to the same lengths as he did in that teaching.

I am not proud of that, but it is an honest evaluation. in fact this is something that God is working with me about. I am not a very good "people person". and for reasons I wont get into here, I actually prefer to avoid crowds and "strangers". I am much better than I was only a few years ago, but I still am working on this and with God's help will be much better as I continue to be obedient.

From across the Kidron Valley at about the Mount of Olives area, the Temple mount area is a beautiful site. the Muslim occupation and the dome of the rock doesn't seem to mean anything to anyone when observing Mount Moria area. It is beautiful, even though looking across all the graveyards.

I was amazed at the olive trees at the Gethsemane area (Mt of olives). the trunks are large and gnarled. we are told that many of the trees there were dated to over 2000 years and may have been there during the first century and Jesus time.

I was taken back again in my mind to the references of this area. that Jesus first shed blood here in apparent anguish of upcoming events, and His desire to be obedient as the sacrifice for my personal atonement.

The Church of Agony at that location was interesting. apparently the "stained glass" is actually Alabaster rock, and not glass at all.

When we went to Bethlehem, we had to go into Palestine area. the walls separating the metropolis areas were not invisible. the graffiti and posters that appeared to make fun of Jews on the Palestinian side were prevalent. It is no wonder there is conflict. it seems to be "personal" to them.

The church of the nativity in Bethlehem was very beautiful. I was particularly interested in the early century mosaics in the "sub" floor of the church. Again, there are "traditional locations" of this event, and as I understand at least 3 different churches proclaiming to be "the one". It is no wonder that from the outside looking at "Christianity", the other Abrahamic, monotheistic religious traditions tend to look at us with some disdain and disbelief. we argue among ourselves. we fight within, we judge each other's salvation and are so petty when it comes to things spiritual.

The night view from the hotel to Jerusalem, here is not spectacular, but it is very beautiful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/13/07


Tuesday, November 13
Temple Mount, Wailing Wall, Holocaust Museum, Yad Hashemona (Salo’s home) for lunch; Israel Museum, Shrine of the Book, Model City
Hotel Jerusalem Renaissance
Ruppin Bridge at Herzl Blvd, Jerusalem, Israel 91033
Tel. 011972-2-659-9999
6:30 wake up 7:00 breakfast, 8:00 start
Wailing Wall – archeology dig, separate men and women
Holocaust Museum – purchased Torah
Lunch at Yad HashemonaSalo’s community – 100 families in commune/kibbutz living – Christian Jews
Israel Museum – Model City and Shrine of the Book, Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit – windy & cold!

My comments:
The temple mount area and dome of the rock was an awesome site. I asked the tour guide if he knew where the trench was that they dug with a backhoe, he did not know. I looked for it and based on what I saw on the web, it was the other side of the area we were located, and I wasn't comfortable going to the other side alone.

We could have entered the Al Aqse mosk, if I recall correctly, but we would have had to verbally proclaim that Jesus is not God. or at least that's what I am told. We entered the area from a wooden bridge, and over some archaeological digs. they were active,a s I could tell, but nobody was actually there.

we then went through the cotton gate to the "wailing wall". the last fragments of the second temple was this section of the wall, according to tradition. After a time f prayer at the wall; I prayed for Israel and for Christs manifestation to them and realization and "quickening". we went inside an area that had lots of "libraries", I assume most of which were Torah and Tanach.

there were a couple places that had thick glass or acrylic locations in the floor to see a couple stories down to the original foundation stones and the excavation areas below. it was awesome, and I wish I could have been able to actually go down there.

The holocaust museum was a moving experience. I found myself behind a group of German/Austrian tourists, I found that there were a few in the back that were making fun of the travesty being presented around them. the others were not like that, but there were a few in the back that I sensed that they felt that it was all a sham and made-up to get sympathy and to make money. I began to cry.

Yad Hashemona is the Kibbutz that the tour guide, Salo, a Messianic Jew, lives. we had lunch there and walked around there a bit. the Biblical Garden was a peaceful and beautiful place. there was a time of worship and praise (in Spanish :) ) and a message about end times being now.

Off to the Israel museum and the shrine of the book. a place that housed the dead sea scrolls in a hardened vault. I thought that the Isaiah scroll was going to be on display. what was there wasn't even a replica. it was a picture. I was a bit disappointed in the displays, but not the content. I think I was able to see more actual DSS fragments when Mary and I went to a museum display in Kansas City.

The model of the old city was very impressive, and larger than I was anticipating. the locations and buildings are traditional in architecture and location. as I am still formulating an opinion on the temple mount location and the area next to it as the Antonia fortress. but currently, I believe that it should actually be something a bit more south and the fortress should be much larger than shown. Even so, it is a wonder to see the model and the traditional views.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hoefling Exodus Tour 11/14/07

Our trip was amazing. I am starting backwards and beginning with the last day first. besides the order, you will notice that I am putting Mary's journaling first, then I will add my comments. some may be long, and some shorter than others, if at all. I will begin with a link to the pictures for that day for each day we were on the trip. there are usually hundreds of pictures in each day's album. please be patient as it may take a LONG time to load if you are accessing the Internet via a MoDem.

Also, you will notice in the link that there are Google maps showing WHERE and when each picture was taken. some of the pictures may not have GPS information for various reasons, but about 90% do.

Another note about pictures, I took over 7000 pictures. I (ab)use the multi-burst capabilities of my camera, so I can be sure to get a "good" shot of the subject matter. It also allows me to take pictures in less than optimal lighting situations, with relative surity that one will catch the "still" image. Since I am not a professional photographer, my technique is to way-overshoot any given subject, so that I can get a got picture.

When I got home and downloaded them, I removed about 5000 as "trash" and kept a bit over 2000, and as expected, I got some great shots of each subject I was shooting (in my humble opinion). then I synchronized the GPS info with the images left for EXIF updating. This took me a couple days to figure out since DST changed the first day of our trip, and I had forgotten to change the time on my camera for that.

one other note about the journaling. Mary's notes became outlines towards the end, as our time-crunch began to increase and there was less time available to actually do any detailed journaling.

Wednesday, November 14
Mt. Zion, Upper Room, King David’s Tomb, St. Anne’s Church, Pool of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Garden Tomb, Communion and Farewell banquet.
6:30 wake up 7:00 breakfast, 8:00 start
Mt Zion – the Last Supper (paschal feast – Easter/Passover – sour vegetables, flaky bread)
John 13
Luke 22
8:35 – upper room – bronze olive tree with grape vine – represented Jesus’ life and blood
9:05 – King David’s tomb
9:40 – Lion’s Gate / Stephen’s Gate (one of 8 gates to the city)

9:55 – St. Anne’s Church – Only woman present at Jesus’ presentation (circumcision)
Luke 2:21–36

Pool of Bethesda – John 5:1 – healing of the man by the pool (religion v. faith)

10:30 – Via Delarosa
Church of Condemnation – Jesus received the lashes
Stones on floor show Roman Soldiers games
10:50 – Spot where Pilot asked the people who he should release
10:55 – Jesus falls the first time – Armenian Catholic Church


Garden of the Tomb – English!
Place of the Skull - 1800’s by English Captain Gordon; outside the wall of Jerusalem on a main road - where stoning's were likely held, possibly including St. Stephen.

John 19:17 – Golgotha

May be property of Joseph of Armethia – Cistern and wine press would be owned by a wealthy man. “Not a tomb, but hewn by hands”

This became a meeting area for 1st Century Christians with a cross and a baptistery

Communion here – wooden cups
My notes:
the traditional location of the last supper was an interesting place. the olive tree and grapevine depiction was a bit confusing for me at first. the tree has cut-off upper branches that signifies that Jesus life was cut off. an the grapevine represents the lifeblood of Christ (grapes/wine).

It was interesting architecture.

The place that was the traditional location of King David's tomb, was a holy place and as with a few others like it, the men and women had separate entrances.

The lions gate was interesting, but with many of these places, it isn't the "original", but the reconstruction. it is ancient, but Jesus prophesied that "no stone would be left on another", as I recall for the temple, and when Rome sacked Jerusalem in the middle/late 1st century, it would have been destroyed.

The archaeological dig location of the pool of Bethesda area was kind of a mish-mash of various levels and was difficult to see what was there, and had to be pointed out, even with markers. this was one of my favorite places, probably next to Masada and Qumran.

When we went on the Via Dolorosa, I had tried to be prepared for it not being very "holy" or sacred, but when I got there, I was still disappointed. I can deal with the open markets there, but there was no sense of sacred at all, anywhere.

there were souvenir salesmen, and money changers that kind of "ruined" the ambiance. to further challenge was that there was a number of people in the group that could not help themselves and keep from "shopping". we ended up stopping about half way through (I think we go to about station 7 or so), and giving folks a "break" (so they could go shopping). we were told in the information packet for the tour that this was NOT a shopping trip, but it is difficult to not shop when it is so prevalently available (at least for some. :) )

We had Communion in the Garden tomb. the area is a traditional location of the tomb of Joseph of aramathea, and location of Golgotha. Finally a place where the information presented was in "evidence-form". they didn't insult my intelligence by saying that "this is the exact location of..." it was well presented, and understandable. I was very impressed.

Instead of commenting on the pictures here, after I get finished with the blogging of each day of the trip and as I get time, I will add comments to the pictures at the picasa site itself.

the final banquet was great. we got to meet the minister of Tourism for Israel. we received our Baptismal certificates and a certificate about our exodus tour itself. the Wedding re commitment (at Cana) certificates were not available. we have pictures of that day, so it was no big deal.

a beginning note (on the final day's notes) about the trip. Mary and I were unaware that the tour was going to be completely in Spanish. Honestly, had I known this - we probably would not have chosen to go. I am GLAD we didn't know!

Sister Olfa Reyes was missed, as she was essentially the main reason we decided to make this commitment and go. after she talked us into going (essentially), it never really dawned on my that this would be a Spanish-speaking tour and guides. The people on our group was friendly and we didn't feel like we missed much at all. I had been trying to learn Spanish for a few years, but had lacked a way to "practice" in conversation, so I had forgotten most of what I had studied. Being "immersed" in Spanish, was not what I had in mind when going to Israel - heheeeehehehee. the volunteers that helped in translating didn't seem to mind helping us. so it was enjoyable. had I felt that I was putting anyone out, it might have been a bit more stressful. as it was, everything worked out well.