Perhaps it’s the fact that a decent night of sleep accompanied me last night for the first time in quite a while, or that coffee is finding its way into my daily life here more often than usual – but this morning brought with it an awakening for me, allowing me to be truly present in this place since we have arrived – finally slowing my racing mind and multi-tasking notions enough to embrace and drink in the sacred moments here that can become so easy to miss.
We left our hotel in Tiberias as the dawn quietly began peeking through the fog-laden scenery surrounding the Sea of Galilee. There was something beautifully meditative about the chill of the air and the drizzle sneaking from the hovering pillows of rain clouds. It was such an unassuming morning. And something Pastor Lyon said last night struck me – he mentioned how important it is to note that this place is somewhat unassuming and yet this is where God chose to reveal Himself out of all other places in the world – and the people He often used (and uses) are typically unassuming (Mary, Peter, Mother Teresa…) – with this framework in mind, it is quite striking to let the realization take hold that He can yet do something extraordinary with our own unassuming lives.
As we drove throughout the morning, I began to think of the quote,
The best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. (Helen Keller)
Those words encompassed me as I looked through our bus window realizing I could never capture the depth of beauty of the scenery in words or in photos. And those words sunk even deeper when I placed my iPod on shuffle and the song ‘Yahweh’ began playing. My eyes closed as the lyrics and melody swept over me and somehow the modern Israel began to drift away and the land Moses, Joshua, Peter, Paul, etc. would have viewed filled my imagination. As the lyrics “We look to Yahweh, our hope is Yahweh…He shall reign forever…” played, it was as if the song from the days of Noah and Abraham and onward filled my spirit – the song of those who have gone before us – the song of those who declared that regardless what the world said, they would look to Yahweh – the song of the cloud of witnesses.
I have never fully been able to comprehend that great cloud of witnesses with my logic, but as the aforementioned quote said, I feel it with my heart. It is what fuels me as I have opportunities to be a lead-worshipper – that somehow we are connected to that cloud of witnesses of those who have gone before and those who will follow. After ‘Yahweh’ overwhelmed my heart and played several times, I turned to the Gungor song, ‘We Will Run’ – and it was as if that was the song of our current generation in my spirit – the song of The Church around the world – the song of those who are continuing the sound that has been recorded throughout history of those who again say that they will look to Yahweh regardless of what the world says.
There is something about this place – I remember feeling it as well especially in the place of ancient Antioch where we were last year – you can almost hear the voices of those few known and countless unknown faithful followers urge you to keep going – to keep pursuing – to keep pressing on to your own promised land. And to be honest, I need this Truth to be constantly on my mind.
Speaking of pressing forward, we pressed on with another nonstop day beginning with Caesarea Philippi – this ancient pagen center of worship served as the famous setting for Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 16:13-20, in which Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ and Jesus declares that ‘upon this rock (Peter) I will build my church.’
We then had the opportunity to go to the Sea of Galilee and view a boat excavated from the area dating back to the First Century. Afterwards, we boarded a boat called ‘Faith’ and sailed to the middle of the sea (more accurately termed a lake).
As we were sitting on the serene water, we worshipped with a small worship team who owned the boat. It was beautiful as the songs flowed from Hebrew and English words. Yet what consumed my thoughts most often was the question of whether or not I would be willing to jump in the water and walk in faith as Peter had done. It is easy to say that I would until I stand on that very water and realize that endless doubts would probably fill this over-analyzer’s mind. (Will most likely be wrestling with this for a whole – in an important and healthy way).
Onward we marched to the Mount of Beatitudes as the sun began to shine through the beautifully dreary day.
Our final destination of the day was the site where Jordan River baptisms are held. Eighteen members of our group decided to be baptized in the murky and nearly freezing water during the last few moments of daylight – each had a unique and personal reason for this act of obedience and testimony in the story of their faith journey – it was a beautiful and powerful site.
More to come as our journey continues tomorrow to Bet She’an, Mount Nebo, and more…