While preparing a Bible Study on Deuteronomy chapter 8, specifically verse ten of that chapter, I was reminded how many times I focus on and love the gift more than the Giver. This last year, in October 2021, I was blessed to be able to travel to Israel again, in fact, just barely squeezing in the trip between Israeli shutdowns due to the Delta and Omircron variants of COVID 19. What a blessing that was, if you know anything about me you know how much I love being in Israel, but how could I ever love a tour to Israel more than the One who provided the tour? Easy – we take so much for granted!
When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.Deuteronomy 8: 10
Pastor Rich Anderson
Before October 2021, the last time I was in Israel was on a December 2017 tour, right before my husband, Pastor Rich of this website, was stricken with leukemia. When we returned from Israel that December he couldn’t seem to shake a cold and finally in May of 2018 was too sick to do the things he loved, lead worship at Capistrano Community Church, walk on the beach at Dana Point Strands. When all those activities became undeniably exhausting, he finally consented to go to the emergency room. It was there that we were told he had Leukemia and the entire next year, until June of 2019, our lives were consumed with all the things that you think of when the word Leukemia comes into your vocabulary. After a grueling and valiant struggle, Rich passed away on June 4, 2019.
I tell you all this in order to put that beautiful October 2021 trip to Israel in perspective – describing the blessing of that trip in the context of the desert that I wandered in after Rich left this earth for the arms of Jesus. Just like the Israelites, God went before me in the proverbial cloud and fire; never letting me descend into such a grief stricken state that I could not function. He kept my family and friends strong; just like the Israelites feet that never blistered or clothes that did not wear out in those desert wanderings, those beautiful people never wore out or let me dissolve into an inescapable puddle of sadness. It was God who planted the dream in my heart to go back to the Holyland. And it was God Who gave me the gift of Rich, who will never be replaced or forgotten, for 20 years and for that I adore God, the Giver of all gifts.
But let’s get back to that wonderful trip to Israel. If you have ever thought of going to the Holyland, you should not let anything stand in your way. A trip to Israel can shift so many paradigms in your life, not the least of which is loving the Giver more than the gift. Do you have a solid understanding of the Middle East? What is happening in that part of the world? Have you made some assumptions of who is in the right, who is in the wrong? When you mingle with Israeli Sabras, Israeli Muslims, Christian Arabs, and other ethnicities in the Holyland, while walking through Old Jerusalem, or sitting in a street side café, or enjoying the sights and scenes of the market from the Jerusalem Cardo to the Jaffa Gate, your knowledge of this volatile area will be based on your own experiences, not the information the media puts before the world.
The Fifth Gospel
It has been said that a trip to Israel is the fifth Gospel, that you will never read the Bible the same way after being in the Holyland and that your faith comes alive in ways you never imagined. All that is true but just like Moses cautioned the Israelites in Deuteronomy Chapter eight, cautioned them to not take anything for granted (not even their clothes!), exhorted them to understand that God was the author of all their blessings…any trip to the Holyland is an opportunity to become more in love with God, to become aware of just how much He loves us. Yes, we are precious to Him, but ask yourself; is He precious to you? Would you love Him without the blessings, without the gifts? He loved us without any overt act from us. In fact, we are precious to Him simply because of what His Son did on the cross to transfer His righteous to us, and not because of anything we were or anything we did.
Reconnecting With Ezer
For me, a beautiful blessing was reconnecting with Ezer, the guide of all the trips Rich and I took to Israel, both as participants and leaders. Ezer is a gift from God. He managed some really difficult issues with this trip. The trip was scheduled to start on October 4th, all the reservations and airline arrangements were made for that date yet, the Israeli government did not open to tourist groups until September 19th, just a mere three weeks before we were all to board our respective flights. In those three weeks, Ezer had to get all 100+ of us, ready with a mountain of paperwork. Suffice it to say, even once we were in country it didn’t stop. The morning of our first full day in Israel, Ezer had to submit two COVID test results for each of us to the Israeli Health Ministry before we could even board the buses for our first site…Mensa Christi.
Who Goes Looking For Who?
A very appropriate place to begin a tour to the Holyland, Mensa Christi, the site where Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection. If you want to know what it is like to be reborn, stand on the shore of the Sea of Galilee at Mensa Christi and take in the peace and beauty where Jesus went looking for Peter after he denied his Lord three times. Ask yourself, Who goes looking for who? If these past years of pandemic have you wondering what in the world is going on, just remember that God is in control and He never stops looking for you, working on your behalf or going before you.
People Are Gifts From God
God also never stops putting people in your path that are perfect for that particular moment in your life. I believe God hand picks people for each tour to Israel; travelers who need the inspiration of the Holyland to kickstart their faith and people divinely chosen to come alongside someone on that tour. This trip was no different. New friends and acquaintances are gifts from God. Kim whose penchant for finding out what makes everyone tick; two brothers and a sister with their respective spouses who insisted on getting to know me and my reasons for coming back to Israel on this particular tour; Carsten who renewed my faith in organized religion in America based on his experience in Germany and a daughter and her mom who were just plain fun, thoughtful and game for any new experience. There were many, many others who made the trip a true gift and I can tell you that it is the norm for any trip to Israel…God is the guide, leader and arranger of all faithbased trips to His Holyland.
When you walk the Holyland just know that God put you on that particular tour, He made all the arrangements. It is His money, His resources, His generosity that gives you the opportunity to see where His love met the world.
Travel to the Holyland – Love The Giver More Than The Gift