Searching for Joy

I started writing an article on joy. It is important for our health and well-being. I believe that and science supports it.

But, darn, sometimes it is really hard to reach down and find joy.

I am, by nature, a joyful person. So far, nothing this world has thrown at me has managed to permanently steal joy from me. Yet. But I must tell you … sometimes it seems rather touch and go as to whether I might finally give it up for good, you know?

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It Takes a Little Rain to See the Rainbow

Do you see it posted on Facebook – “God is Good!” – presumably shouted loudly and with happy exuberance? I do. It is always, always, always shouted after someone got good news: their scan shows their tumors are stable, they have achieved no evidence of disease (NED) status, they have a new, beautiful grandchild, they had a great agility run with their dog…

I never see it shouted that God is Good when tragedy strikes. When bad news is revealed by the scan, when cancer is discovered or has spread, when someone dies, no one posts about how good God is.

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I will trust … I will trust in You

Someone posted this song in response to an article I wrote that was posted on LungCancer.net: https://lungcancer.net/living/faith-positivity/

I love the poem and want to share it with all of you … and I want to be able to find it again when I need to read it.

I Will Trust in You

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I try to win this war
I confess, my hands are weary, I need Your rest
Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

I will trust in You
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
I will trust in You
I will trust in You
I will trust in You

Songwriters: Lauren Daigle / Paul Marbury / Michael Farren

Battling Survivor’s Guilt

I recently got back from the trip of a lifetime to Israel. I had never traveled internationally before, so this trip was a really big deal to me! We booked the trip, which didn’t take place until mid-January, in early September. That left a lot of time for me to fret over what all I needed to do to prepare, what clothes I needed to take, what precautions I needed to make. I am not usually a worrier, but I must have read the information that the travel agency sent us a hundred times to be sure I was getting everything right.

But, this article is not about my trip to Israel. I’ve written a couple of other pieces about that. No, this has a sadder theme.

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What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

When I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, the only question I had for my oncologist was, “Can I keep playing agility with my dogs?” He was dumbfounded. He had just delivered the news that I had late-stage cancer and was expected to die within four months, even with treatment.

I guess I didn’t want to know about dying. I wanted to know about living.

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Staying Occupied When Energy Levels are Low

Treatments that we undergo for our lung cancer can really zap our energy. Someone recently posted a question on a forum on which I participate asking what kinds of things people do to occupy their time when they don’t have much energy. It was a popular question and there were lots of great responses. Below are some ideas that you might find useful.

Paint or color

Several people mentioned painting or coloring. Neither activity takes an inordinate amount of energy, but they are calming and enjoyable. One person is teaching herself to paint watching YouTube videos (is there anything you can’t learn on YouTube?). I personally bought some books.

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Journey to Israel … St. Peter’s Restaurant

I think just about every tour to Israel makes a trip to St. Peter’s Restaurant. Our tour did … and every tour I have looked at does. My mother went on an Israel tour back in 1978 or so … and her tour group went to St. Peter’s, too. So, if you go on a tour to Israel, chances are good that you too are going to have the opportunity to visit St. Peter’s Restaurant.

Going to St. Peter’s Restaurant for lunch

This restaurant caters to tour groups so there is a very large parking lot that accommodates several buses at any given time. Reservations are taken so there is no wait – or, we didn’t have one. In fact, the day we went to the restaurant, it wasn’t very full at all, at least not when we first arrived. There was a bigger crowd by the time we left.

The restaurant sits right on the Sea of Galilee. It is a lovely setting. While I am not aware of how I have read that there is easy access to the water from the restaurant.
I saw very few dogs while in Israel. I was surprised to find this little Chihuahua-type dog right outside of the restaurant. Being the animal lover that I am, I not only had to photograph it, I feel compelled to share it with you!
The restaurant is set up to serve huge groups quickly and efficiently. Notice that the walls are all glass so you can look out on the Sea of Galilee as you eat.
Menu in January 2019. There weren’t many choices. I don’t know if that was true for every visitor or just for those on tours. 80 nis translates to $22.14 US. Given how expensive things are in Israel, I guess that is a fair price, especially since the somewhat-limited salad bar was all you can eat.

There are a couple of comments I have to make about the menu. When I saw “baked potato,” I expected what we get here in the United States: a big foil-wrapped potato onto which is slathered butter, sour cream, cheese, and maybe chives and bacon bits. Not so. You’ll see a picture of the baked potatoes below. You’ll see why I spent some time wondering when they were going to be bringing out the baked potatoes.

The same could be said about the coffee the menu says we will get. What we got was a tiny, tiny taste of coffee. A couple of small sips. For a coffee drinker like me who can easily drink a pot of coffee or more, that was just a tease!

The salad bar included hummus, some sauces with which I was unfamiliar, fresh veggies, and more.
This is the St. Peter’s Fish, eyes and all. It was mostly skin and bones. There was very, very little meat on mine. St. Peter’s Fish is tilapia, so it is a very mild fish. Notice the potatoes. Those are what were called baked potatoes! Perhaps they were baked, but they certainly did not fit what my mind saw when I read that we would be having baked potato with our meal!
I had a taste of my friend’s kebab. If I ever return to the restaurant, I will have the kebab. I thought it was really good and it would have been far more filling than the St. Peter’s fish was.
You can see the bar behind some of our tour group. The restaurant efficiently gets you in, fed, and back out.

 

Links to the Hope and Survive pages related to my 2019 trip to Israel:
Journey to Israel – The Beginning … Part 1
Journey to Israel – Getting There … and Getting Home … Part 2
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Part 3
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of the Nativity … Part 4
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of Saint Catherine … Part 5
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Shepherds’ Field … Part 6
Journey to Israel … Nazareth … Part 7
Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima
Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel
Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee
Journey to Israel … Ginosar and the “Jesus Boat”
Journey to Israel … St. Peter’s Restaurant

Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee

We spent our second and third nights in Israel in Tiberias, which is on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel, the Ron Beach Hotel, was remarkable and there was just something about being at the Sea of Galilee that filled my troubled soul with peace. Even today, just revisiting my photos and reliving the time I spent there is calming.

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You don’t have to be a Bible scholar, which I am definitely not, to know that the Sea of Galilee played a significant role in the ministry of Jesus. This is where He chose disciples, where He walked on water, and where He calmed the angry seas.

The beautiful Sea of Galilee. You may also hear it called the Sea of Tiberias, the Lake of Gennesaret, or (in Hebrew) Lake Chinnereth or Kinneret.
Notice the fertile, beautiful land on the Sea of Galilee. I didn’t expect such beauty when I visited Israel. Flavius Josephus, the first-century Roman historian, said, “One may call this place the ambition of Nature,” when writing about the Sea of Galilee and its surrounding countryside.

Logistics of the Sea of Galilee

Of all of the sites in the Holy Land that we visited, the Sea of Galilee is probably the least changed from when Jesus walked on earth. It is a beautiful, heart-shaped lake found in the hills of northern Israel. I didn’t realize that it sits almost 700 feet below sea level, making it one of the lowest-lying bodies of water on earth.

Though it is called a sea, the Sea of Galilee is actually a very large freshwater lake. At its widest point, it is about 130 miles long and only 8 miles wide with a depth of 141 feet. By contrast, Lake Michigan is 307 miles long by 118 miles wide, with a depth of 279 feet.

 "Astronaut photograph ISS020-E-31066 was acquired on August 15, 2009, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera fitted with an 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 20 crew."
This photo is from NASA Earth Observatory. The Jordan River is visible flowing in at the northern end of the lake and out at the southern end. Image of the day for September 14, 2009.

While I was unaware of it while I was there, Israel is currently very worried about the state of the Sea of Galilee. An ongoing drought and overuse are responsible for the fact that the lake is shrinking significantly.

The Sea of Galilee, which is both fed and drained by the Jordan River, is Israel’s chief water reservoir.  It is also a major source of income as it draws tourists from around the world.

The lake also played an important economic role in the time of Jesus. Then, it was filled with fishermen whose catches were sold all across the Roman empire.

Palm Trees in Israel

I probably should not have been, but I was surprised and fascinated by all of the palm trees in Israel. These trees do not produce coconuts, they produce dates. Unfortunately, I recently read an article that laments the disappearance of Israel’s date palms. Apparently, an epidemic of red palm weevils is wreaking havoc across the nation. I hope they get the pest under control. I hate to think of Israel without its regal palms.

These stately palm trees lined the walkway to where we were going to take our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I don’t know that I completely agree, but I read recently that palm trees provided the sweetness described in the Bible when God promised the Israelites a land of that flowed with milk and honey.

The National Bird

The bird below is a hoopoe. It was voted as Israel’s national bird in 2008. The chosen bird had to “represent Israel’s character, be a permanent resident of the country and appear in Jewish tradition.”

As I was doing my Bible studies recently, I was surprised to find the hoopoe listed in Leviticus among the animals that God’s chosen people were not to eat. It was in good company. Other birds that God told Israel not to eat because they were considered unclean included eagles, hawks, and owls.

We were fortunate to come across a hoopoe as we were walking to the pier on the Sea of Galilee. His crest opens, but while we were watching him, he kept it closed. This bird was completely unintimidated by a tour bus full of people ohhing and ahhhing over it.

Crown of Thorns

Before Jesus was crucified, his captors made mocked Him. After flogging Him, soldiers crammed a woven crown of thorns onto His head. See John 19. They didn’t know how right they were when they deridingly called Him “the King of the Jews.”

Crown of Thorns tree
These thorns on the Crown of Thorns tree are immature. They are green and have not reached nearly the length they will when mature. Still, they give you an idea of how sharp and long the thorns were in the crown that was crammed onto the Savior’s head before He was crucified. In addition to the pain caused by the long, sharp needles, GardeningKnowHow says that the plant is poisonous and its sap causes skin irritation.

Sailing on the Sea of Galilee

This man was playing the most soulful music as we approached the boat that would take us for a ride on the Sea of Galilee. He stopped playing just as I turned on my camera to record it. I wish he hadn’t. His music, played with such a simple instrument, gave me the chills it was so hauntingly beautiful.
Green and fertile – the gorgeous Sea of Galilee. You can see the pier in the distance where we will board our boat, the Matthew, for a trip out to “sea.”
The totem pole stood alongside the looooong dock we walked down to get to the boat. I’m not sure what the significance of the totem pole was, but I thought it was interesting.

These two boats, the Matthew and the Mark, take thousands of tourists for a short ride on the Sea of Galilee.Notice the American flag flying on the Matthew boat. It was raised while they played the Star Spangled Banner as we left the dock. For me, that was a very moving, meaningful and much-appreciated gesture.

Here is a video I took while riding on the Matthew. I’m certainly not a professional videographer, but hopefully, you can begin to feel the experience. Notice the song playing in the background, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Yes, He does and that never feels truer than when you’re cruising on the Sea of Galilee, remembering all He has done for you personally and the world in general.

Always the animal lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the seagulls that follow the boats as they “go out to sea.” Apparently, my enthusiasm for the birds was noticed by our tour guide. He brought me (and several other tourists) some old bread to throw. I was suddenly in heaven … and the birds couldn’t have been happier.

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Another wooden boat carrying tourists on the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee in Scripture:

Jesus calls four disciples: Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20

The miraculous catch of fish: Luke 5:1-11

Jesus calms the storm: Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25

Jesus walks on the water: Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52

The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:1-7:28

The Parable of the Sower: Mark 4:1-9

The miraculous feedings of the crowds: Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39; Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-9; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14

Paying the Temple tax: Matthew 17:24-27

 

Links to the Hope and Survive pages related to my 2019 trip to Israel:
Journey to Israel – The Beginning … Part 1
Journey to Israel – Getting There … and Getting Home … Part 2
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Part 3
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of the Nativity … Part 4
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of Saint Catherine … Part 5
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Shepherds’ Field … Part 6
Journey to Israel … Nazareth … Part 7
Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima
Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel
Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee
Journey to Israel … Ginosar and the “Jesus Boat”
Journey to Israel … St. Peter’s Restaurant

Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. A number of towns are located there. Perhaps most notably, Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, is located on its northern slope.

In ancient times, Mount Carmel served as a barrier to traffic along the coastal plain. According to BiblePlaces.com, “the 1500-foot high limestone mountain impeded armies and merchants traveling to the Jezreel Valley.”

Looking out from Mount Carmel on a very cold, foggy day

Elijah Challenges the Prophets of Baal

Mount Carmel is the site where the Prophet Elijah challenges Baal, considered the mightiest of the idol gods worshipped in Israel, to a contest to determine who was really God: the Lord, Yahweh, or Baal. For the challenge, Elijah asked King Ahab to send 450 prophets of Baal to meet him at Mount Carmel.

Elijah, at God’s behest, challenged the prophets of Baal to place a slaughtered ox on top of a wood pile and call for their Baal to light the fire to cook the meat. With much fanfare, the prophets pled with their god to send down fire to light the wood. No matter what the prophets did or how loudly they called upon their god, the wood remained unlit.

prophets of Baal begging that fire appear under their ox

When it was Elijah’s turn to prepare his ox for a fire, he had water poured on the wood and on the meat, just to make his God’s work a bit more challenging. When he called on the Lord God to send fire, the wood, meat, and all standing water were consumed in flames.

Fire consumes the wood, ox, and water

This display of the Lord’s power convinced those who were worshipping Baal to turn their allegiance back to Yahweh, the God of Israel. Subsequently, the crowd helped Elijah capture the 450 prophets before they could escape and Elijah killed them all. (For the actual Biblical account of the contest, see 1 Kings 18)

1 Kings 18:40. A victorious Elijah slays a prophet of Baal.

Visiting Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel, which means God’s vineyard or God’s garden, is a lovely place to visit. It is easy to see why it is a symbol of fertility throughout the Old Testament.

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Links to the Hope and Survive pages related to my 2019 trip to Israel:
Journey to Israel – The Beginning … Part 1
Journey to Israel – Getting There … and Getting Home … Part 2
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Part 3
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of the Nativity … Part 4
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of Saint Catherine … Part 5
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Shepherds’ Field … Part 6
Journey to Israel … Nazareth … Part 7
Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima
Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel
Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee
Journey to Israel … Ginosar and the “Jesus Boat”

Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima

The very first place our Gate1 tour of Israel took us was to Caesarea Maritima. It was very cold, very windy, and very wet, but the weather did not dampen my enthusiasm for the beauty of this spot.

This ancient city was excavated during the 1950s and 1960s. The site became part of the new Caesarea National Park in 2011.

I was awed by the Mediterranean Sea. It was just beautiful. Because of the stormy weather, the sea was really crashing into the shore. I can’t describe the awesome feeling I had standing there watching it hit those rocks, the same as it has for 1000s of years before and will for 1000s of years to come.

Caesarea Maritima was built in the Sharon plain on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar. Built prior to the birth of Jesus, the seaport included a forum, theater, temples, public baths, and paved streets. Perhaps most impressive, at least to me, was the elaborate aqueduct system that brought fresh water to the city’s 50,000 inhabitants from Mt. Carmel.

Magnificient Aqueduct System

Aqueducts, located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, were built by Herod the Great in Caesarea Maritima. Three parts (High Level, Low Level, and a pipeline) formed an elaborate system that provided fresh water to the inhabitants of the seaport city.
I am amazed that the aqueducts, likely built before Christ was born by Herod the Great, still stand on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea today in such good repair!

I was so taken by the area’s beauty today, that I failed to fully appreciate all of its rich history while I was actually touring Israel. If I ever get to return, I will go with a much better understanding of the places that we visit and their historical and Biblical significance. For now, I’m going to do it backward by trying to match the pictures I took to the history I am researching now.

Come along with me!

The Amphitheater

I think one of the most amazing things to me about visiting Caesarea Maritime, aka “By the Sea,” was the condition of the ruins. The city was built during c. 22–10 BC and yet it is easy enough to stand there and imagine the citizens cheering in the amphitheater as they watched chariot races, gladiatorial combats, and theatrical events. The structure, obviously, with many enhancements, is still used today!

Herod’s Amphitheater.
Herod’s amphitheater, built decades before the birth of Christ, once held chariot races and gladiator fights. The structure has been modernized and is in use today.

The Ruins

My video skills are not the best, to say the least, but I couldn’t capture the magnitude of the ruins at Caesarea Maritime with stills. So I tried to make a little video. If you watch the video, you’ll hear how windy it was the day we visited!

Hopefully, this picture helps you see how phenomenal this city was back in its day! I am amazed that so much of it remains today!

First-century Roman Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, said that the harbor built in Caesarea by Herod the Great was as large as the major harbor in Athens, Piraeus. The city grew quickly and was soon the largest city in Judaea.

Stones from some of the remains. Notice the various sizes of stone used.

The sign on the column says, “The Doric Capital appeared first in the 7th Century BCE in Greece. The Doric Order found in Caesarea was very popular until the 1st Century CD. Doric capitals excavated in Caesarea were made out of local limestone only.” The Doric order was the first style of Classical Architecture. It was said to “set the standards for beauty, harmony, and strength for European architecture.” 
Columns and part of the wall. Just from the remains, you can get a feel for how magnificent it all must have been all of those many years ago.
The Roman Well. A sign beside the well told us that 60 lead scroll fragments, dating to the 4th century A.D., had been found in this well. The scrolls had been deliberately thrown into the well as a magical practice.
When dedicating the Holy Sepulchre in 335 A.D., Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, firmly condemned these widespread practices, calling them the “curse tablets of forbidden sorcery.”

Biblical Significance of Caesarea

Herod the Great, whose name was bestowed, not because he was a great leader, but because he was a great builder, including Caesarea, was appointed King of Judea by the Romans in 37 BC. A few years later, when he heard that the “King of the Jews” (Jesus) had been born in Bethlehem, he was consumed with jealousy and was determined to kill the baby.

God warned Joseph and the wise men of Herod’s intentions. They fled Bethlehem before Jesus could be killed. When Herod realized that the baby was no longer in Bethlehem, he ordered that “all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under,” be put to death. (Matthew 2:13-16)

Apostle Paul’s Ministry

Paul, who was called the apostle to the Gentiles, and likely some of the other apostles, preached along the Mediterranean coast, from Joppa (Tel Aviv) to the Roman city of Caesarea. Paul spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea. During that time, he had opportunities to witness about his faith in Christ to Felix, the Governor of Judea, and his wife, Drusilla. (See Acts 24)

Did the apostle Paul stand here when answering claims that he incited a riot?
Apostle Paul was sent to Caesarea to be tried by the governor.

Pilate lived in Caesarea, as did others who ruled the land. (Interestingly, until 1961, there was no archeological evidence that Pontius Pilate ever existed. Needless to say, some people used that fact to say that the Bible was untrue since Pilate played such a pivotal point in the crucifixion of Jesus (see Matthew 27:11-26). However, in the summer of 1961, a team of archeologists uncovered a limestone that read, “To the Divine Augusti Tiberium … Pontius Pilate … perfect of Judea … has dedicated …”)

This is a replica of the Pontius Pilate Stone discovered in June 1961. The original is on display in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum.

The Roman soldier Cornelius was stationed in Caesarea. He was a centurion, which means he had command over one hundred Roman soldiers. The Bible says he was also a generous and God-fearing man whom God chose to be the first Gentile Christian convert. (See Acts 10 – 11)

Home of Philip

Philip the evangelist lived in Caesarea. Paul and his companions stayed at his home “for many days” after finishing a voyage from Tyre. (Acts 21:7-16) It was while Paul was here that the prophet Agabus warns him that he will be imprisoned when his ministry took him to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:26-36)

 

 

Links to the Hope and Survive pages related to my 2019 trip to Israel:
Journey to Israel – The Beginning … Part 1
Journey to Israel – Getting There … and Getting Home … Part 2
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Part 3
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of the Nativity … Part 4
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of Saint Catherine … Part 5
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Shepherds’ Field … Part 6
Journey to Israel … Nazareth … Part 7
Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima
Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel
Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee
Journey to Israel … Ginosar and the “Jesus Boat”
Journey to Israel … St Peter’s Restaurant