A very English response to the Holy City

This February, I had the most amazing trip of a lifetime to Israel.

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It’s virtually impossible to put into words how awesome the experience was … can you imagine visiting places such as the Western Wall, Jerusalem, Galilee, Joppa and Caesarea?

As you can see from the photo, we had the privilege of seeing Jerusalem in the snow – walking through a silent and almost-deserted Holy City.

The memories which stick with me include:-

- the sound of thunder during the night, as a storm came over, and it felt as if God himself was speaking

- seeing Galilee for the first time and being overwhelmed with being somewhere that Jesus had walked

- cycling around Lake Galilee, from Tiberias to the River Jordan at the south, then up to Capernaum, where Jesus lived

- standing by the shoreline of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water

- sharing time with people of all nationalities on their own spiritual journeys

- visiting the old port of Joppa, where Jonah set sail and Peter stayed

- climbing a mountain where Joshua was rumoured to have fought a battle

- the view from Mount Carmel, where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal

- walking around the ruins of Caesarea, where Paul was imprisoned for two years

Almost everywhere you travel in Israel, you’re close to some setting for a Bible story, either in the New or the Old Testament.

Most moving of all - walking along the Via Dolorosa, retracing the steps of Jesus, as he carried the cross to Golgotha …

… picturing him with the disciples in the Upper Room, at the mount of Olives as the soldiers came, being questioned and beaten.  Imagining the walk, the crowd who, only the week before, had been welcoming into the City, now turned wild and angry with hatred.  Then the cross, the painful hours, then death.  All suddenly very close, incredibly real.

It’s been nearly three months since my trip, but I only now feel able to share my journey. It has been such a holy thing, so sacred and precious, that it’s been impossible to communicate until now.

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Tales of the Unexpected

During my childhood, one of the most compelling TV programmes was an adaption of Roald Dahl’s “Tales of the Unexpected”.  These stories were full of the unexpected, hidden twists and daring endings – and nothing at all like real life!

My own tale of the unexpected happened following a wonderfully relaxing holiday abroad.  After a five hour journey from southern France, we returned via Eurostar, we unexpectedly faced a fifteen minute delay to our arrival at St Pancras Station.

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This short delay to our arrival meant that we missed our connection across the city, and thus our intended train home. The only option was to catch the very last train leaving after midnight and arriving back home in the early hours of the morning.  All this followed a full day of traveling, I was tired and just wanted to be safely home.

If I’m honest, my initial reaction was one of frustration and anger.  Frustration about the poor time-keeping of the train, anger that I was left to find my way home at such a late hour.  As expected, I arrived at Waterloo station just three minutes after my intended train left the station and with a long wait until final train departed.

As I found a seat to watch all the comings and goings around the station, the promises of God started to come to my mind.  It began to dawn on my mind that although this wasn’t what I had planned, that God had foreknew from the beginning of time that this was going to happen.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

If this was true and I believed His Word, couldn’t I hope for some positive to come from this, even expect it?  As my mind came into alignment with God’s word, remembering His promises, I was able to pray and ask God to show me the opportunities He had prepared for me.

As I boarded the train, I was expectant that an opportunity would present itself. Most unusually for me, I was drawn into conversation with a young man who, it transpired, was searching spiritually.  We spoke for quite some time, bringing some encouragement from God back into his life.

On arrival at the station, elated as I was by this God-encounter, I walked a few steps behind a young woman walking home from the station in the dark streets.  Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I was offered a lift home across the city, one woman to another, which she accepted.  I was thankful to be able to deliver her safely to her home, aware of the dangers on a city’s streets at that hour of night.

My change of attitude brought an opportunity – one which I was thrilled to experience, as God reached out and touched lives through me.

Life often brings us unexpected happenings.  Each time this happens we are faced with a choice, to trust Him that He is in the situation, or to panic and wonder how we can cope with it.

Here’s what your Father has to say about this:-

“No need to panic over alarms or surprises …. because God will be right there with you’, he’ll keep you safe and sound.”  Proverbs 3:25-26 (The Message)

Next time you find yourself facing the unexpected, whether in a hospital waiting room, a train station, or elsewhere, it’s time to make a choice.  Will you choose to hold on to His promise and look out for any God-opportunities He may be sending your way?

(Image credit Colin, Wikimedia)

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