Americans in Paris

November 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

In April 2010 while in London on assignments for world missions we took some vacation time and went on a two-day tour to Paris. Now I find, to my surprise, that this draft was never published, so here it is, six years late!

We went to Paris by Eurostar, the “bullet train,” which travels at 120 mph and goes under the River Thames and the English Channel. Travel time from London to Paris is three hours.

We arrived in Paris on April 8 just before noon and had a bus tour of the city, including a stop at the Eiffel Tower and a river cruise on the Seine.

We took the crowded elevator (holds 80 people) to Level 2, seeing, as we rose, what makes the elevator work.

The views are spectacular. Looking west…

And east…

Next we took Batobus for a river cruise. There are 37 bridges over the Seine in Paris! Here is a partial view of one of the beautiful, the Alexander III Bridge. The limitations of the boat prevented my getting a full view, but you can always check it out online!

At the end of the afternoon the bus returned us to the railway station Gare du Nord. From there we set off for our hotel, choosing to get exercise and save money by walking instead of taking a taxi. The hotel was a few miles away, a walk of about an hour and twenty minutes, taking us past the famous Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill), location of lavish show girl perfomances – or so we are told!

Our hotel was Pavillon Villiers Etoile, 6 rue Labouteux.

Next morning we had a generous buffet breakfast at the hotel, part of the room fee. The rest of the day we had to ourselves.

Off to Notre Dame Cathedral, by Metro, not walking.

On a street beside the cathedral we had tea and crepes at a restaurant. The crepe preparation is done outside in the open air with a nifty machine that spreads the batter evenly and thinly along a stainless steel grill.

Here is the National Academy of Music, which, if I heard correctly, was formerly the place for operas but now features ballets.

I find fountains fascinating. This one is at the Place du Chatelet.

Next, we wanted to walk the boulevard Champs-Elysees, which they say the average tourist does twice during his visit to Paris. We started at the famous Arc de Triomphe at the top of the hill.

I thought the pharaohs were all in Egypt, but here was one at the Champs-Elysees!

Some advertizer has clever ideas.

We sat in the sun in the park known as Tuilieries and then walked the few blocks to the Louvre Museum (one of 132 in the city).

In the plaza stands a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe.

Also, the modern pyramid that serves as the entrance to the Louvre.

Inside, at another part of the building is another marvel, an inverted pyramid.

From there we walked again to the Place du Chatelet and had dinner at Au Vieux Chatele. We sat at a window and had an incredible view.

We were on the Right Bank (north side) of the Seine, but the river, bordered as it is by walls, was not visible. Straight ahead we saw the wall, with bookstalls and vendors and street traffic, and beyond that part of the Conciergerie, formerly a royal palace, then a prison, now a judicial center. To the left were the two towers of Notre Dame, and to the right, far away, the Eiffel Tower. “Can you believe we are actually here?” we said.

Finally, back to the Gare du Nord, and the Eurostar back to London, with so many memories of two special days in a beautiful city.

Paris is a delight.

Bluebird Sighting

November 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

Here is a photo I found from a few years ago. In December of that year a flock of bluebirds landed on the railing of our deck. I grabbed my camera and, fortunately,  got a photo before they flew away.

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Actually, I made them as a Christmas gift for several family members.

 

Remembering London

November 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

In June 2014, we were in London for meetings and appointments for the work that Brethren in Christ World Missions has in London. When we had free time, JoLene and I checked out a few sites around the city.

For my missions assignment, one of the couples we interviewed live in what is called a narrow boat, at a marina on a canal. England has hundreds of miles of canals, and many people, like this couple, have a narrow boat as their only home. Here are a few views of the canal and marina that we visited.

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We stopped by the Museum of London (not the more famous British Museum.)

We went there to see this.

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This large bronze plaque commemorates the fact that John Wesley experienced his evangelical conversion near this spot on May 24, 1738, while attending a meeting of a Methodist Society on Aldersgate Street. The plaque features text from Wesley’s journal describing his conversion experience. How gratifying to see such a clear witness to God’s saving grace in such a public place!

New Testament Christianity

October 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

Many people talk about “revival in our nation,” but not everyone thinks deeply and clearly about what this involves.

A. W. Tozer was a pastor, author and magazine editor in The Christian and Missionary Alliance church. He lived from 1897 to 1963. Here are his comments on revival and prayer from this book Keys to the Deeper Life.

“Prayer for revival will prevail when it is accompanied by radical amendment of life; not before. All-night prayer meetings that are not preceded by practical repentance may actually be displeasing to God. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” We must return to New Testament Christianity, not in creed only but in complete manner of life as well. Separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, cross-bearing; these all must again be made a living part of the total Christian concept and be carried out in everyday conduct.”

Will you join those who are returning to real Christianity?

Emanuel Church in Charleston

July 4, 2016 - Leave a Response

We have been in Charleston, SC, for a few days of vacation. Of special interest is Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Calhoun Street, the oldest AME Church in the South.

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This is the church where last year, on June 17, a 21-year-old fellow sat through almost an hour of the Wednesday night Bible study and then opened fire with a handgun, killing nine people, including the pastor. Two days later family members of the slain spoke words of forgiveness to the killer by closed-circuit television.

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People still bring floral tributes to the church.

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We attended the almost three-hour service on Sunday morning, July 3. Rev. Eric Manning is the recently installed new pastor.He preached today on Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.”

I estimated the attendance to be about 350. When the leader asked the guests stand, surprisingly, it was nearly half of the congregation.

The service included communion, served as worshipers knelt at the long altar rail.

I do not know if the chancel furniture is normally draped in white, or if this has to do with Communion Sunday, or with remembering the church members killed a year ago.

A police or security officer stood in the balcony most of the service, looking over the congregation carefully.

The service had a great deal of ritual and congregational participation and was quite meaningful. We considered it a privilege to identify with the trauma and grace that these brothers and sisters have experienced.

Israel – Final Comments

March 22, 2016 - Leave a Response

For the last part of my visit to Israel-Palestine I took a two-day tour north to Galilee and back to Tel Aviv, with a tour guide.

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My guide is Sahar Saado, a Messianic Jew from Jerusalem.

We went east from Jerusalem to the Jordan River Valley, an area where abundant produce grows, and then north through that valley into the area of Galilee.

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At my request we went to Hula Nature Reserve, a vast area of protected land, water and farms.

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The huge flock of Gray cranes was delightful and noisy, but since I had no telephoto lens, you are not likely to be impressed with this simple photo.

Gray crane was one of the new species I added to my bird list on this trip, so my “life list” now stands at 658.

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Our next stop was Galilee’s Miracle Center to see the remains of this boat recovered from the mud of the Sea of Galilee and restored – a boat from the first century, similar to the one Jesus and the disciples would have sailed on.

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Welcome to Capernaum, Jesus’ home base for his public ministry. This what is left of a fourth century synagogue, built on the site of the synagogue that was here in Jesus’ day.

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At this same location is a statue of the Apostle Peter, with the Sea of Galilee in the background.

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In the evening Sahar and I went to a grille restaurant for lamb and chicken kebabs. Before the kebabs came, we had flat bread to be dipped in 19 side dishes!

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We stayed in a hotel in Tiberias, looking east over the Sea of Galilee.

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On my last day of touring we start out at Arbel, a high cliff overlooking the valley and, to the right, off the photo, the Sea of Galilee.

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The excavations of Zippori (or Sepphoris), which was the capital and largest city of Galilee in Jesus’ day. Here are the pillars and mosaic floor of a synagogue from the first half of the fifth century.

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Still in Zippori, a floor mosaic from the house of a wealthy  person. The woman in this scene is called the Mona Lisa of Zippori.

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Next stop  – the town of Nazareth. We spent time in Nazareth Village and had a narrated tour of the re-creation of several things typical of Jesus’ day – a sheep pen, a cave tomb, a winepress, a watchtower in a vineyard, an olive oil press  and a synagogue.

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And a carpenter’s shop.

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We had a lunch of foods typical of NT times. The delicious flatbread was baked in the oven you see here by a baker who is a volunteer from US.

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The large, modern Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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The inside view of the rotunda.

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In the lower level a shrine and grotto.

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In the courtyard stands a statue of Mary. Many pilgrims pause to hold her hands and pray.

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We went to Mt. Carmel, the site of the prophet Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of the false god Baal. The interior of the chapel.

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Elijah about to kill one of the false prophets.

From an observation roof we saw the large, fertile Jezreel Valley, but the fog and haze rendered my photos not worth showing.

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Now we are in Jaffa (also called Joppa and Yafo), the ancient port city on the Mediterranean Sea out of which Tel Aviv grew. Here we are looking north along the Sea to modern Tel Aviv.

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A friendly-looking resident of Jaffa.

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A house in a location similar to Simon the Tanner’s house, where Peter stayed and saw the vision from God that persuaded him to be willing to go to the home of the Gentile Cornelius.

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Still in Jaffa, St. Peter’s Church, a Franciscan Church.

My last night in Israel was at Gilgal Hotel in Tel Aviv, a hotel owned by a Messianic Jew.

In these two days I learned important insights into Israel and Palestine from my guide, Sahar. His perspectives were not always the same as what I learned at Christ at the Checkpoint, but I was able to affirm him and bless his role as a peacemaker for Christ.

One of his important comments about Palestinian and Jewish believers was this: “Both sides need to open their hearts to each other.”

God certainly opened my heart in new ways through the many experiences I had in Israel-Palestine.

Thanks for traveling with me.

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Israel – Part 12

March 21, 2016 - Leave a Response

After attending a four-day conference in the town next to Bethlehem I went to Old City Jerusalem.

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I entered through the Damascus Gate, dragging two suitcases over uneven stone pavements.

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Looking back at the same gate from inside the city.

I stayed two days and nights at Ecce Homo Pilgrim House operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion convent.

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The Pilgrim House in on the street called the Via Dolorosa, traditionally, the route Jesus walked from Pilate’s judgment hall to the place of execution.  The entrance to the Pilgrim House is on the right, under the Ecce Homo Arch, so called because somewhere near here Pilate presented Jesus to the Jewish authorities, saying, “Behold the man!” John 19:5

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Several floors below the Pilgrim House you can see and walk on the Lithostrotos, or Gabbatha, an ancient stone pavement like the one (or the actual one?) where Pilate sat when he ordered Jesus to be  crucified. See John 19:13.

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The Pilgrim House has several roof terraces with dramatic views of the old and new city. Here you see on the right to gold roof of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

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We are now at the courtyard and entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of Jesus’ burial.

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The specific traditional site is inside this shrine.

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A few steps away from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, where I attended an organ concert.

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Here is the well-known scene of the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, in the very center of the photo. The area above it is the Temple Mount, with the gold-topped Dome of the Rock. As you have been noticing from my blogs this Dome is the central feature of the Old City. We have been seeing it from many different vantage points.

Muslims have control of the Temple Mount, and they allow only  a few non-Muslim visitors to the area and will not allow any non-Muslim to hold prayers there.

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A closer view of the men’s section of the Western Wall.

I also had various experiences outside the Old City.

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The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, just east of the Old City, at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

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Now we come to the Garden Tomb, two blocks outside the wall of the Old City, a site that many believe is the real place where Jesus was crucified and buried, not in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This place fits the descriptions given in the Gospels about the garden and tomb of Joseph of  Arimathea.

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At one end of the garden is a cliff that, with a bit of imagination, resembles a skull, which is the name of the place where Jesus was crucified – Golgotha.

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And here is the famous cave tomb in the garden. To visit this garden, and meditate and pray here, is a soul-refreshing experience.

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One day I took a taxi to modern Jerusalem to the small bird observation center located not far from the Knesset, the parliament building. I found, to my delight, that this is the start of the spring migration when 500 million birds pass through Israel on their way from Africa to Europe, and bird banding was in process.

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I was able to observe the banding of seven birds, including this Eurasian siskin, which is in the same genus as the Pine siskin we have in North America.

When you visit the Old City, you need to be prepared to do a lot of walking. One day my Smartphone recorded that I took 17,658 steps. (At home a big day may log 6,000 steps.) At the end of that day I was ready  to sit down and rest.

 

I was constantly thanking God for a good heart and good legs that kept me going.

Israel – Part 11

March 20, 2016 - Leave a Response

More about the conference Christ at the Checkpoint 4, with its sub-title “The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism.”

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a relief, service, community development and peace agency of the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches, has an office in East Jerusalem, so the MCC staff sponsored a luncheon for all Mennonite and Brethren in Christ persons attending the conference.

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Then on the day after the conference I went to the MCC Jerusalem Office, which rents a few rooms from the Lutheran World Federation Building.

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From the veranda you look south along the Mount of Olives and see the tower of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension. There are also several other ascension churches along the ridge.

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And when you look southwest, you see the Dome of the Rock in the Old City.

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Anna Johnson, from Iowa, the Connecting Peoples Coordinator, met with me and explained the work of MCC Jerusalem.

The office began in 1949 as a response to the refugee crisis that followed the establishment of the State of Israel. Now the office works with 16 partner groups, providing grants for work in agriculture and water. Water supply is a crucial need in the West Bank. Sadly, sometimes the government of Israel opposes the efforts to restore a good water supply to Palestinians.

Increasingly, MCC works with advocacy for justice, for instance, advocating in Washington, D.C., for conditional financial aid to Israel. At the present the US gives almost $5 billion a year to Israel with no conditions, so the money may go to projects that do not foster justice and reconciliation with Palestinian people.

Israel – Part 10

March 20, 2016 - Leave a Response

More about my time in Israel-Palestine. Let’s return to a photo I posted in Israel – Part 5.

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This is a wall on a street in Bethlehem in the West Bank,or Palestine. It is the work of Banksy, an English-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director of unverified identity. He is known for satirical street art on publicly visible walls. How he remains unidentified when he creates art in public places is a mystery to me.

On this piece if you look closely, you can see the cross hairs of a gun or tank trained on the dove of peace.

Later, I found a small store that featured reproductions of Banksy’s works in photos or on ceramic tiles. But one wall of the shop featured a Banksy original on a section of wall that seemed to have been removed from some other location and installed in this little shop.

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It was protected by glass, hence the glare. The boy who ran the shop, with his mother seated on the floor caring for a baby, gave me permission to photograph the wall, so I asked to have his photo, too.

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He seemed to be an alert entrepreneur.

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This Banksy piece, reproduced on the door of the shop, is one of my favorites. Instead of lobbing a grenade….

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Here is an evening view of the separation barrier on the north side of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Israel – Part 9

March 20, 2016 - Leave a Response

In earlier blogs on Israel, Parts 1 and 2, I mentioned my Palestinian Christian friend KB. By this time I have his permission to mention his full name and post his photo.

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Here you see Khaled Banourra and his wife and their two sons in their home in Beir Sahour. They also have a younger daughter, who was not available when I took the photo.

Khaled would appreciate prayer for his family, his job (as the maintenance person at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem) and his decision as to whether the family should stay in Palestine or leave.