One day while idly scrolling through my Facebook account I came upon a post by a Facebook friend. “Is God unfair in not choosing to save everyone?” it questioned, “‘Fair’ would send everyone to hell. You don’t want fair. You want mercy.” John MacArthur.
I can feel the heated anger rising. I want to scream against this heretical insinuation. What is this statement actually saying? If you are a die-hard Calvinist of which John MacArthur is, there are certain beliefs that lie behind that declaration. First off, I should say, that I do believe we are all sinners and probably all deserve hell. But I have been taught all my life that Jesus (and God by inference) loves us and gave his life so that ALL individuals would have the opportunity to accept him as their Savior and obtain eternal life (heaven).
So back to the beliefs that underlie this statement that trigger my anger. The first thing the statement is saying is that God “choose” not to save everyone. As a Calvinist, one believes that God actually created man to sin. I had a young preacher sit across from me in his office and declare, “they (Adam and Eve) could not have done otherwise.” I am still shocked by that assertion. After that comes the belief that God has also determined (chosen) before he even created human beings who would be chosen to serve him and go to heaven. Conversely, this also means he choose those who would go to hell. So the statement that you don’t want God to be fair strikes me as totally hypocritical. Yes, I want God to be fair AND I want God to be merciful. I don’t think it is an either/or. If He set up this world as the Calvinist insists, then there is no mercy and giving people no choice in their final destiny is not only unfair, but also cruel and unloving. Holding someone responsible by sending them to hell for behavior they have no control over and has been pre-planned is irrational and heartless. Would I then expect mercy from such a God? Does the Bible really teach this?
My question is, is this the kind of God you believe in? Is God fair if he pre-determined before the world began which souls would be chosen for heaven? Is God merciful if that belief is true? To me the answer seems obvious. The comeback always is “God is God so he can do whatever he wants.” That is true but that doesn’t mean these conclusions are true as to God’s intentions and desires for man. The Bible does not say any of those things, but these teachings have become accepted by the majority of evangelical professing Christians today. In the seminaries and in the pulpits, the meanings of words used in the Bible have been changed to make this systemic theology seem to fit together. How do you invite anyone to love Jesus if you carry such underlying beliefs? There is no point in doing so.
I often wonder, does no one think about and question what they are being taught. Why do so many Christians I know blindly follow this theology. They sit mesmerized under the teachings at church and in Bible studies and no one speaks up. It surprises and saddens me that there is only silence when I write something like I have presented here. There is no negative response and no positive response. It is simply ignored. It is like people think if they just ignore what they know is not right but can’t explain, it doesn’t exist. The great wall of silence allows these teachings to continue on unchecked – with no one to defend the true Biblical reputation of God and His love for his creation. “For God so Loved the World, that he gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 This is what Christmas is all about.
Just in the last week, I have seen two different headlines of religious news that I have found shocking but, in many ways, not surprising. What am I talking about? Former Desiring God contributor Paul Maxwell leaves the Christian faith published in Christianity Today April 10, 2021 and A Pastor’s Son (John Piper’s son) Becomes a Critic of Religion on TikTok published in the April 12, 2021 edition of the New York Times. What these two people have in common is that they are connected to John Piper. Paul Maxwell wrote for his website and of course, Abraham is his son
Here is a more personal look at who John Piper is according to Roger Olson, on his blog Patheos,
I first became aware of the Young, Restless, Reformed Movement (YRRM) before anyone thought to give it that moniker. I was teaching theology at Baptist-related Bethel College and Seminary (now Bethel University) in Minnesota. John Piper had left the faculty to take the pulpit at nearby Bethlehem Baptist Church about a year before I arrived. He was still much discussed by students and faculty alike and seemed to have been a polarizing figure on campus. People tended either to love him or despise him. I had read his article about “Christian Hedonism” in HIS magazine (the now defunct publication of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) before then and had met Piper when I first visited Bethel a few years before joining its faculty…
Not long after taking my teaching position at Bethel I began to hear colleagues calling certain students (mostly males) “Piper Cubs.” It wasn’t long before I could identify them myself. They tended to quote Piper a lot and be passionate about Calvinism. One told me I wasn’t a Christian because I wasn’t a Calvinist!
Over the following years (approximately 1984 to 1999) I witnessed the beginnings of the YRRM. It was born and then grew and coalesced around Piper’s pastoral conferences at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
John Piper, in my opinion, has been one of the major factors in instigating and teaching a newer, more radical form of Calvinism that has swept the evangelical churches of America. Fifty years later, we are seeing the damage and the backlash of this movement in some people very close to this man.
Of course, it is not the man himself, but what he taught that can lead to total spiritual confusion if one really thinks about what he is saying. I would like to mention a few of his teachings that resulted in my husband and I personally stumbling from the faith we held into a land of questioning and doubt, struggling to regain a foundation for a faith that is workable.
I first came face to face with John Piper’s foundational teaching position through the use of his videos while participating in a Sunday School class at our church. One Sunday morning while watching a video, Mr. Piper, was talking about how everything is pre-determined in life and that we are just nails being used by the hammer of God. “Yes, I am a Calvinist,” He declared. What’s a Calvinist? I had never heard that term.
As soon as we got home from church, I proceeded to look up Calvinist. Whoa! I was shocked with what I found and more shocked to realize that something I had hoped to never encounter was in the midst of seemingly the most evangelical of churches. It is the belief that “every single thing that happens has been rendered certain (ordained) by God because there is nothing God does not either directly or indirectly cause (including sin).” More specifically, for those of you reading this who have no idea, from this belief springs several principles outlined in Calvinism by an acronym -TULIP. T stands for Total depravity which most Christians would agree with. We are totally sinful and cannot save ourselves. What would be in dispute would be the belief that goes along with this that we are also totally unable to believe the Gospel message (dead) without God making us believe (or regenerating us before giving us salvation). U stands for Unconditional Election or the belief that God arbitrarily chose, through no action or attribute of the creature (us), before the world was formed, who He would give the gift of salvation to (predestination) and who He would “pass over” or damn to hell. L stands for Limited Atonement or the belief that Christ died only for those who God pre-elected and not for the whole world. I stands for Irresistible Grace or the belief that if God has chosen you to be one of His “elect” that you cannot resist His saving you. P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. In other words, since it is already pre-determined who will be saved, one’s salvation (if so chosen) is guaranteed.
The most often voiced justification by evangelicals for Calvinism that I hear is that “God is God,” “God can do whatever he wants,” and “we all deserve hell so any one God choses to save is receiving his grace and mercy.” First, the overall problem with the Calvinistic viewpoint, as I see it, is that the premise from which the whole doctrine is built on is faulty. I do agree that “God is God” and “God can do whatever he wants.” I also agree that if God decides to save some and send others to hell that is his prerogative but who does that make God into? Why would a loving God make creatures with the whole purpose of throwing most in hell and selecting some for heaven? Is that a God of Love? The response of John Piper is that it is to show God’s glory. What….?? If one can’t know if they are one of the “chosen elect,” than what is the purpose of living a life of honor – you will go whichever way you are supposed to regardless? Also if this teaching is true, then what was the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross to save us? Everyone already has their pre-determined stamp on them, so Jesus dying for our salvation would make no difference. This whole teaching raises so many questions about the Christian faith and what does the Bible really say?
The response of so many people to these articles recently about prominent evangelicals who are renouncing Christianity is Cluck, Cluck “They weren’t really ever Christians in the first place.” I am not sure if that makes them feel better about their own salvation or what. I don’t have to wonder why Paul Maxwell, Abraham Piper, Joshua Harris, Marty Sampson and others are angry and confused. They have finally realized that the teachings they have been exposed to are false and unworkable for a life of faith that is meaningful.
If you are interested in a more detailed understanding of our faith story and how Calvinism affected us, you can buy my book, Once an Insider, Now Without A Church Home by Amanda Farmer on Amazon. It is available as an old fashioned book, a digital book, or an audio book.
I am always looking
for new books to read. I especially love non-fiction novels about the lives of
others. I want to know how they dealt with the experiences in their lives and
how it worked out for them. I came across a book entitled “Educated” by Tara
Westover. It is a New York Times best seller. My curiosity was triggered, and I
bought the book.
It is a story about Tara
Westover’s life growing up in a Mormon family in Idaho. Even by Mormon
standards, her father especially, is an outsider in his own faith tradition.
Eccentric might be another term that one would use. Tara and some of her other
younger siblings are never sent to school and their so-called “homeschooling”
is basically no schooling. Her father believes school will contaminate his
children to the world- a world in which he sees himself as God’s prophet.
There are so many
psychological and religious issues in this story that I can relate to on so
many levels from my own personal experience. Although, I grew up Mennonite and
not Mormon and the religious beliefs are different, the cultural dynamics are
First, Tara grows up in a family where the father is the ruler and women are seen as needing to always be submissive to men. This is a standard Mormon belief as well as one of many evangelical Christians, but her father uses that belief to control and to manipulate his family into a separate kind of lifestyle ruled by paranoia of everything “out there”, religious superiority, and an expectation of family loyalty. He does this through demanding an adherence to a distorted preaching of his faith as the one and true faith, by shaming his children if they so much as show any interest in how others live and attempt to copy that behavior. I couldn’t help but make that connection to my own father. Though my father was not nearly as off-center as Mr. Westover, I recognized the same behavior from my childhood. The result is the child feels alone and unable to connect with anyone often for life.
Tara finds herself
alienated from everyone in her world except her family. She sits alone in
Sunday School and of course, she has no friends for two reasons. She feels
different from everyone else and her father makes sure that she has no time or
opportunity to cultivate friendships with others. He stresses that girls she
meets are not good enough for her. Her father uses his faith to condemn them as
not living the way a person of God should live. She, therefore, feels guilty
for even wanting to associate with such “wicked” people.
Tara, even after she
leaves home and goes to college, finds herself unable to fit in and at odds
with pretty much everyone. I don’t think she, for many years, recognizes that
this is a result of the socialization or lack thereof from her home life. It is
deeply and complexly rooted in the emotional, psychological, religious, and
cultural dynamics of her early years. I find it interesting that she titles the
book, “Educated,” as if obtaining an education is what moves her to a place in
society that she is accepted as “normal” by others. The lack of education is a
handicap and with certainty will keep her a captive in her father’s strange
world, but it is not what makes her feel alone, strange, and like she doesn’t
belong in the new world that she explores. Getting educated will not fix what
is broken inside of her from her childhood. It only gives her a better platform
from which the self can say, “Now I am somebody.” I did the same thing. I went
to school and got a master’s degree and a job that is viewed with respect and
awe. And while working in it, I feel strong, accepted, and like I have worth. But
outside of it, I still feel friendless and different from everyone else. I
watch Tara as the story progresses feeling this total alienation from others
and struggling with it. From my own experience, I have learned the feeling
never goes away. One simply has to learn to be comfortable with being alone and
knowing that this is who I am.
A part of her psychic also does the same thing that I did with my family even after leaving. It longs for the love of one’s parents and siblings. Tara, like me, keeps coming back to the family trying to convince them of reality and what is right. Even though on a logical level, one comes to understand that one’s family is mentally unhealthy, there is this deep seated need to stay connected to them. Afterall, if those who bore you and nurtured you in childhood don’t love you, then why would anyone else especially God. Tara loses herself and becomes mentally unstable for a year after she realizes that her family does not want to know the truth that one son has been viciously abusing other members. Her parents are not interested in addressing the problems in the family and the highest value of loyalty makes everyone choose to accept “the delusion that they are one big happy family” which will allow them to remain part of the family. Tara realizes that the family “truth” and loyalty are more important than loving her. This is devastating to her.
What really destroys her is that her mother betrays
her in this battle to expose evil. Her mother one minute acknowledges to Tara
that she knows about and will speak to her father about Shawn’s unacceptable
behavior. But when there is an actual confrontation, her mother turns against
her and sides with her father. Her mother tries to destroy Tara’s reputation
and character. For the mother to stand
against the patriarch of the family requires too high of a price. It reminds me
so much of my own mother who swung from seemingly being rational to total denial
and perpetrating vicious attacks on my character. It leaves one very confused
and in the case of Tara, she cannot concentrate enough to even study. She falls
into a deep depression. She had this deep-seated hope that her family would
change because of her speaking the truth. But her family, like mine, was
incapable of changing. Denial is a powerful substance that keeps the system
stable no matter how dysfunctional. Only the individual has the power to change
and often doesn’t because of these pressures from different aspects of society
to conform, especially the family of origin and one’s religious community.
If you enjoy exploring the complex dynamics of
families, “Educated” is a compelling read. My books “If You Leave This Farm”
and “No Longer a Child of Promise” also explore many of the same dynamics. My
third book, “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home” explores the same
dynamics and pressures within the evangelical church as found within the
family. One is only a friend and a member as long as one follows the dictated
expected behavior and norms.
I appreciate all those who have the courage to write
their stories. It helps me to know that I am really not alone and that I don’t
need to be ashamed to share my own story.
I love camping but putting up a tent and sleeping on the ground is good more for groans than a fun time when one reaches 60 years old. So I get brave and ask a friend if we can borrow their tent camper for this year.
have to tell you the lights don’t work,” she informs me.
a problem,” I declare, “Do you care if my husband fixes it for you?”
would be fine.”
pick up the camper on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks before our planned
trip in order to have time to make the repairs and test out our pop-up tent
raising ability. Our friends and Hubby struggle to get the camper trailer
hitched to the truck. The latch doesn’t want to drop over the ball hitch and as
stated, the lights don’t work – not even one of them. But the hitch finally cooperates
and snaps into place.
home, my Hubby who is wearing a neck brace after obtaining a C4 fracture from
falling down a customer’s stairs, has the privilege of backing the camper up by
the shed. He accomplishes this with ease in spite of not being able to turn his
head. That little camera on the tailgate in back of the truck is a nifty
addition to the backing up task. But when we go to unhook and crank the stand
down, the hitch has no intention of releasing the ball on the truck.
about a little WD40?” I suggest.
after a soaking in the magical fluid, the hitch remains tightly locked. Looks
like we are going to be attached to this truck from this day forward.
if I drive the truck ahead a little,” is Hubby’s thought.
coasts the truck a few inches. With a snap, the hitch rotates down and the ball
releases. Oh Wow! It might have worked better if we had thought of that sooner.
couple of days later, we decide to make sure we know how to put up the camper
before we set out on our journey. My hubby gets out his electrical handyman –
his voltage tester. All the electrical connections test out as working and when
we put the connections together, all the lights work except the right rear one.
What was wrong with it? Maybe the connections were a little corroded from
sitting around and that WD40 did its magic there too. At least there doesn’t
seem to be a significant problem.
start the process of cranking up the popup top. We make quite the pair. My
hubby in his neck brace and stiff me trying to crawl around under the bed ends
to insert the stabilizers and under the camper to put the feet down. I peer
inside the camper as the roof moves skyward. A small rivulet slides down the
inside screen and pools on the kitchen counter. A larger pool gushes off of the
expanding canvas into the front bed.
I holler, “We need to catch the leaks.”
up all the unwelcome water with 2 blankets close by. Still, the dampness meets
my hand as I touch the bed surface. The same dampness is present underneath the
mattress. Time to set up the fans and dry out the interior. We are not really
sure where the water actually came in. This could be a rude awakening if it
drips on us in the middle of the night. We are hoping it just came from the
unsecured opening in the top. At least our excursion has resulted in us feeling
proudly confident in our ability to set this thing up even as cripples.
next order of business is to change the hitch on the truck that we will be
using to one that allows the camper to tow more levelly. It soon becomes
apparent that the current hitch has been on the truck far too long. It is
rusted into place. The WD40 can is emptied and the hammer is swung over and
over. The hitch does not budge. I craw under the truck and try to hammer from
the backside. Soon I am covered in rust stains and WD40 spatters. Light beige
colored pants really are not a good choice for this job. Hubby soon goes off to town to buy another
can of WD40 and we begin our efforts again. Was that a little movement that I
see? After over an hour of spraying and hammering, the hitch begins to move
with each bang of the hammer. “Hurrah!” I cheer. “You have done it.” Now we are
ready to camp.
July 11, 2019
We get up at the usual time of 6:30 am. Hubby makes a trip downtown with instructions for his help and I feed the cat, move the calves around, and get the rest of our stuff together.
We have no problems with hooking the camper and soon are on our way. I think I have done well this time, but I am sure there is something that I have forgotten. Even with his neck brace, Hubby feels he can drive with a little assistance from me. We do have to stop at the shop and pick up his sunglasses.
We make several stops during our travels and realize that the camper trailer lights only work sporadically. Oh well! It pulls well with the pickup with being able to use the truck trailer braking system. The last time we towed a popup camper with our Toyota RAV 4, it made us extremely light in the front end and difficult to handle. That time we had to stop and move our bicycles to the top of the car to distribute the weight more evenly.
We decide to stop at the Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa run by Iowa State University. We wander through flowers and vegetables and butterflies- paths that twist and turn amongst beautiful waterfalls. It is a warm day but not totally uncomfortable.
Around 3:30, we head for Ledges State Park by Boone, Iowa. We miss the entrance on our first pass through. I am expecting a well-kept, well-staffed entrance booth. The sign that points towards the “Park Office” seems misleading. It looks like a maintenance building, not what I think of as a park office. After realizing we have passed the park, we swing around in the middle of the road and head back again towards what I think looks like a park entrance building. It is the right place but there is no one staffing it. It seems to be a “register yourself” kind of thing. Well, we have reservations, so we decide to just go set up our campsite. And there is the green reservation card waiting for us.
Our trial run of setting up the camper at home pays off as we are efficient and competent. Starting our little Coleman camping stove does not turn out quite so efficient though. It has been probably five years or longer since we have used it and Hubby just can’t get it to light. He pumps and he pumps and he pumps but it just won’t light. Of course, when all else fails and it looks like there will be no supper, one should read the directions. Reading them slowly and carefully is helpful too. It says “turn lighting lever up, with a lighted match over main burner, open valve completely and light. After flame turn blue, turn lever down.” Clear as mud. Which is the light lever, and which is the valve? Hubby does vary his technique and at least we get flame- leaping dancing orange flame but it is flame, just not blue flame. After some more fiddling around, he finally gets the flame under control and supper is in the making.
And I now discover what I have forgotten – the water jug to carry our water. It wouldn’t be camping without a major forgotten item. I search through the camper and come up with a shiny blue covered cooking pot. That will work dandily.
We sit outdoors in the warm evening glow and enjoy the birds singing, the mosquitoes chomping on us, and the myriad sounds of nature. We do realize that the bathroom is quite a distance from us. Around the circle, down the road, turn right, walk another ¼ mile and circle again. Bummer. Don’t think I will be going over there in the middle of the night.
July 12, 2019
Scritch, scratch, scratch, scratch… I am awakened in the dark of night. What is that scurrying in the grass outside of our camper? Hubby is awake too and hands me the flashlight. I press the light against the screen of our sleeping area. Two sets of shadowy eyes glare back at me from the top of the picnic table. Ugh… I had left one empty package from our supper on the picnic table as I forgot to take it away with the garbage. It was weighed down with the water kettle. But those little bandits have found it and are busily chewing away on the smell of chicken and noodles. At least it is not a boogie man.
The night cools off and the air becomes deliciously cool. We snuggle down in our sleeping bags, but I still have a hard time sleeping. Hubby rolls over every hour or so, rocking the camper like a ship on the wavy sea. I briefly wonder if those cheap metal poles designed for holding up this extended sleeping end of the camper really are strong enough. I have visions of us awaking looking at the ground.
We finally slide out of our bed around 7 am and begin the routine for the day. Our breakfast consists of fried sunny-side-up eggs cooked over our gas stove. This morning, the lighting of it goes much more smoothly. Hot chocolate, Italian bread, and donuts complete our meal. After cleanup, we are soon on the road to the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone. We have tickets for the 11 am train ride. Or at least, that is what I thought. The gentleman at the desk looks at me and says, “Do you have reservations for the 1 pm train?”
I pause. “No, we have reservations for the 11 am train.”
there is no train at 11 am on Friday. Your reservation is for Saturday.”
stare at the ticket and then I stare at my watch and back at the ticket. “Ah
man. I must be mixed up. I thought today was Saturday.” Anyway, its nothing new
to me to be confused. OK, I guess we will come back tomorrow.
and I wander around the museum for a while and then decide to head out and
explore. One of the items of interest that I had come across on the internet
and in travel brochures was the Kate Skelly Memorial Train Bridge. I could not
find an address for it and one person who had commented said that he had to
travel some country roads to find it. Google had marked it on a map for me as
being east of Boone at about U Ave off 190th St. We leave town
driving east. I do like the coolness of the truck in the 90-degree heat but as
we drive along, Hubby questions our direction. “We have to go down to the
river. There is nothing but flat farmland here. There would be no reason to
build a railroad bridge here.”
I pull out a bicycle map Hubby has picked up and study it. Maybe our underlying
information is wrong. The Des Moines River runs west of Boone and for the
railroad track to cross it, the bridge needs to be on the west side of the
city. We turn around and head west. There are no signs anywhere indicating
where this bridge might be. First, we follow a major route west from Boone.
Once we cross the Des Moines River with no sign of the bridge, we realize we
have gone too far. Time to turn around again. I remember a road that we passed
earlier that indicated it was a dead end. Maybe that is the one that goes along
the tracks and will give us a view of the famous bridge. As we drive along, the
road gets curvier and rougher. We bounce down the hill over rocks and washouts
until we reach the end of the road.
that was a waste of time,” remarks Hubby.
Look,” I point through the trees. “There it is.”
sure enough, the tall stately bridge is visible in the distance through the
trees. We tiptoe through the flood ravaged backwaters to the edge of the De
Moines River. What a magnificent view! We are only wishing that a train would
come over the bridge about now and Hubby would have the perfect photographic opportunity.
But it is a hot day and the mosquitoes think we are tasty, so we do not linger
long. We make our way back up the rock-strewn path and turn down another washed
up road that has the potential to take us maybe to the other side of the bridge
further downstream. This road does take us over the double railroad tracks on
our path downward to the river. “Look for Trains,” says a big sign on a
trailer. There are none to be seen.
This gravel road does give us a different vantage point, but the bridge seems further away, and we soon retreat to the coolness of the truck. As we drive back up and make the turn to again cross the tracks, I state the obvious, “Look for the train.” The words are no sooner out of my mouth and whoosh, an engine whizzes by followed by a second one just a few seconds later on the second track. Together the trains hurdle towards the Kate Skelley Bridge. “Ah Man! I wasn’t ready for that one,” blurts Hubby.
It is obvious that this tourist attraction is not advertised and only accessible to those who seek diligently. Hunger and heat soon drive us back to the campgrounds though, where we throw together a lunch of spam sandwiches, chips, and Oreo cookies. Then it is nap time.
We spend the afternoon driving around checking out Madrid and many back-country roads. We locate another high bridge, the High Trestle Trail Bridge, just out of Madrid that is used for a bike trail. The easiest access is a mile walk from the parking lot to the bridge. We shake our head that no, we do not want to walk a mile in 90-degree heat. We will come back later this evening when the sun is going down and it is getting cooler.
Later in the day, the sky has clouded over, so we decide to leave the campsite around 8:25 pm for the drive to the bridge parking lot. The sun is orange in the sky and sinking toward the horizon. We will be too late for a sunset picture at the bridge, but we are hoping with it now being cloudy that it will not be so hot. The trail slopes gently downward through the trees- not a hard walk. Even so, the sweat bubbles out on my brow and soon is making rivulets down my back. The mosquitoes decide to check us out as well and we soon slather more Deet on our already coated arms and face. Hubby keeps saying, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
you glad we didn’t try to walk this at 2 pm this afternoon?” is my comeback. It
is only a .4-mile hike to the actual bike trail. There we are met by masses of
people moving rhythmically toward the bridge – like worshippers drawn to the
object of adoration. We melt into the flowing crowd. Bicycles with lights and
loud music blast past us while the slower walking people meander along. Now
that we have reached the trail, it is only another .5 miles to the bridge. However,
with sweat running places you don’t want to know about, it calls for fortitude
and the persistence of putting one foot ahead of the other. The air is still
and hangs heavy in the slowly darkening sky. The moon sits high in the sky and
thrusts lengthening shadows for the silhouettes now moving on the path.
near the bridge, we can see the white light that illuminates the entrance
pillars. The bridge itself is another .5 miles in length as it spans the Des
Moines River from 130 feet in the air. Part way across, it is lit by blue LED
lights. This is the spectacle we have come to see. It provides a photo
opportunity for my hubby’s hobby. Below us, the river flows lazily along
illuminated by the light of the moon. We spend about a ½ hour on the bridge and
then turn to trudge our way slowly back to the parking lot on the now dark path
through the maze of ambling people and speeding bicycles. A moonlight walk on a
hot July night does hold some romantic essence to it.
July 13, 2019
The fans in the camper keep us cooled down enough to sleep. We get more rest than the first night. I awake to rain splotches on the canvas. But it doesn’t last long. The weather is cloudy providing some measure of relief from the heat. It is actually quite comfortable this morning. Hubby cooks some pancakes for breakfast and then we decide to head out to the Kate Skelly Bridge again to see if we can catch a picture with a train crossing the trestle. Rain drops splatter on our windshield as we drive, and we decide that we do not want to be drenched for our train ride later. Rather than going down by the river, we stop on top of the hill where the trains pass by before entering the trestle. Soon it stops raining. Then I notice the railroad signal has changed to green on one track and to red on the other.
“I bet there is a train coming on each track. One going one way and one going the other,” hubby deduces.
bet you wish we had gone down below,” I respond.
but it’s too late now.”
ten minutes, we are graced with a train horn and a speeding train. And then
another one. Bummer. We should have gone down to the river and waited. We have
missed the opportunity.
head back to Boone for our lunch train run at 11 am – the one I thought we were
supposed to do yesterday. It is an 11-mile trip to Wolf, IA and back in the
comfort of air-conditioned reconditioned train cars. For some reason we are the
next to last ones called to board and they need to ask us who we are.
have room for you. Don’t worry,” says the conductor.
are seated at our table, he brings us two tickets, “Here are your tickets.”
Hubby and I raise our eyebrows at each other and shrug. We already have tickets. Did we mess them up by picking up our tickets the previous day? We will never know.
ride is pleasant. It is hard for Hubby to turn to see out with his neck brace
and to top it off, he is the one going backward. They stop the train at the
trestle so that we can look out and take pictures. There are no guardrails on
the tracks. It is straight down from the railroad tracks to the valley below- a
little too freaky for this “afraid of heights” person. But the scenery is
magnificent and when we think we have been forgotten with the food; it arrives.
We have pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, and scalloped potatoes. Our ride
ends around 2 pm and we head back to the campground for a nap.
our morning drive to Boone, we had discovered the canyon and sandstone cliffs
that are part of the campground. We decide to return in the afternoon. There
are several places where the water flows over the road and we need to drive
through it. This morning, no one was around but now there are crowds of people
picnicking and frolicking in the water. The sweat again pours out of us with
little exertion and to walk seems like a huge effort. But I am drawn to the
water and I take off my shoes and socks and go wading. I expect a shock from
the cold of the water, but it is warm like bathwater – hardly cool enough to
cool one off. But it does feel sweet to the feet. Then I remember I probably
should not be wading with my cell phone in my thigh pants pocket – just in case
I fall in.
Children line the sides of the road where the cars drive through the flowing water and cheer for each car, “Faster, Faster, Faster.” Many drivers comply but Hubby just smiles and waves at them. I wonder how many cars end up with flooded engines from this practice.
We head back to the campsite mainly because we are not tolerating the heat very well to relax some before our supper. We struggle with the camp stove again as we do at every meal. Beef stroganoff is the food on the menu followed by Smore’s. It is too hot for a fire, but one cannot go camping without roasting marshmallows over a fire and making finger licking smore’s. The fire is soon crackling away. We settle into our camp chairs to read until our one bundle of wood burns away and the mosquitos are urging us to “take it indoors.” I decide to leave the garbage on the table until we make a trip to the wash house before bed. Then we will go by the dumpster and dispose of it. We are only in the camper an hour before we decide to make our last trip to the bathroom and turn in. I pick up the garbage bag and realize it has two huge holes in it and the garbage is spewing out on the table. Son of a biscuit! In that hour, the racoons have stealthily made their visit. So much for delaying the delivery of the garbage to the proper place of disposal.
prepare to get ready for bed, we try to figure out how to get undressed and
redressed without flashing the community around us. We don’t have privacy
curtains. Last evening, there were no neighbors around but tonight, we have
neighbors on all sides. The solution we decide upon is to turn out the lights
and change in the dark. It really is not that dark as the moon is moving
towards full and there is light reflected from the adjacent campsite. I am
confidently washing up and feeling quite secure when out of the door of the
camper next to us comes a man with his flashlight. It hits me full in the face.
Really? This is annoying. And then he sits down or so it seems, and it
continues to shine into our camper. Is he watching? Is this entertainment? He
probably doesn’t even know that it is pointed our way. But I do. I end up
having to crouch down behind the stove to be insured that I am not providing a
July 14, 2019
We climb out of our bed around 7 am and Hubby cooks our breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then it is time to tear down and head out. The temperature is already climbing, and rivers of water pour off of us. Our plan is to visit the Iowa Arboretum just south of the campground before heading home. The day is beautiful, and the flowers are magnificent, but Hubby and I move slower and slower. The heat has sucked all the energy out of us.
“I think I am going to throw up,” he says. Time to get ourselves to the cool truck and start our journey homeward.
make one last stop in Clear Lake, Iowa looking for the Guardian Wayside Chapel
which Hubby has seen advertised. The ad says it is located on South 24th
St. There is no house number. I type a random 620 into the GPS. We follow our
guide’s instructions to exit the freeway and take the second left. We drive
maybe a ¼ mile on 24th street and the GPS announces that we are at
620. No more than it has said that than Hubby declares, “There’s the sign.” I
don’t see any sign but good thing his eye caught it as it is weather beaten and
peeling. That was way too easy. Maybe it is the guardian angel that has led us
We walk back a grassy path into a secluded area of the woods in the middle of this city and there it is – a beautiful white chapel. It is quiet inside and peaceful and we spend a few minutes meditating as I read the story of the chapel’s history aloud.
Then it is time to find a place to satisfy our hunger and travel the remaining miles home. Our journey into nature has been successful. Our creaking not-quite-as-bendable bodies say, “thank you” to the popup camper and its owners for putting an extra few feet between them and the hard ground.
May 20, 2017 marks 30 years of working for Mayo Clinic. My how time flies. Part of being honored by Mayo is being allowed to choose a gift from an on-line catalog. There are thousands of choices for consideration. As I scroll through the countless pieces, I realize that there isn’t really anything that I need. A bicycle would be nice but I already have a bicycle, albeit it doesn’t always shift so well. Finally, I settle upon a Global Positioning Device. My hubby and I have never owned one and have always laughed at those who use such things, sometimes to their detriment. Does no one think anymore? Now, I shall see if I can join their ranks. Maybe it will help to lessen our total frustration of trying to navigate together when we go traveling.
I open the box when the device arrives. There are no directions. The manufacturer must think that everyone is capable of figuring out electronic boxes. After finally getting it mounted in the car on the only place that the suction cup will stick (right in the middle of my radio screen), I decide to see if it can find my hubby’s apartment or shop in town. “Unable to find address” is the only response I seem to elicit from it. Oh, great. The next day, Sunday, we decide to drive to the Bluegrass Gospel Music session, part of the Bluegrass Festival, being held at Houston, MN. This is the perfect opportunity to try out this device. I soon realize trying to type in the address while we are driving is impossible. I am getting more and more frustrated as the car bounces just a little each time I hit a letter. Finally, I am able to input the street address but it has no place to enter the city and state. Fifteen minutes of failing at getting correct input, then having it tell me no such address exists leave me fuming and agitated.
Alright, I say to myself, we are just trying to have a nice day and I am getting totally bent out of shape over a small box that talks to us. I take a deep breath. Finally, I am successful in having it recognize where we are trying to end up. It does faithfully lead us to the right destination. Going home is much easier. Since I previously entered our home address, I just need to hit “Go Home” to start the little brain thinking. We soon discover that we can mess with its little computer brain. Each time we turn the wrong way, it patiently recalculates, and tells us to turn again and again in an effort to get us back going the way it thinks we should be going.
All of a sudden, it hits me. A GPS system is like our Heavenly Father up above. Once we decide we want to follow Him through life, He plugs in the “home” address. He gives us the steering wheel to the car (free will) and tells us to drive towards home. All along the way, He guides us with his calm gentle voice. If we turn the wrong way, His voice keeps talking to us, trying to get us back on the right road towards home. He doesn’t condemn us. He doesn’t scream at us. He doesn’t scold us. He just gently recalculates each time we make a wrong turn and instructs us again and again until we finally turn back in the right way. And unlike the GPS that has no instruction manual, God has given us an instruction manual. We just need to remember to read it.
“Come Bella,” I call from the bottom of the stairs. I repeat the summons several times before Bella staggers down the stairs and stumbles out the door to go potty. I sigh. A feeling of hopelessness creeps through my chest and into my heart. For several days now Bella has refused to eat, no longer desires to play, and lies upstairs puffing. She has grown thin and emaciated. I am at my wits end. I took Bella to the vet for the third time three days ago for these same symptoms. “She has a temperature of 104 degrees F,” was his verdict. We do not know why.
Early in January, during her last excursion outdoors before bedtime, her frantic barking alerted us. On the security camera, we could see her aggressive stance as she faced off with some unknown creature in the yard. A few minutes of protecting “her” property and she returned to the house, seemingly unscathed. But a few days later, she seemed mildly lethargic and had stopped eating. I wasn’t too worried as she has had times of skipping meals in the past. She continued to bring her indoor ball to me when I would come home, begging me to play. I did notice a small area of black on the bottom of her tongue. I don’t remember her tongue having a black colored spot there. I quickly dismissed my observation as irrelevant. One evening, I noticed very bad breath arising from her mouth each time she delivered her treasure to me. Whew! That smell was enough to knock me over. Still not giving it much thought, a few more days went by. One evening, as she stood panting, waiting for me to throw her ball, I noticed part of her tongue was missing and the remaining slit looked swollen and infected. So maybe that is why she wasn’t eating properly.
After a trip to the vet for some antibiotics and prednisone pills, Bella began to eat regularly again and to play like her long-forgotten puppy self. Being between 7 and 8 years old, she is no longer a puppy so it was obvious that the prednisone had transformed her into the energetic frisky dog she once was. It seemed that all was back to normal. All of us were happy and returned to other life concerns.
But the good times were not to last. About 4 days after the last of the prednisone pills, Bella again started skipping meals. Oh well. I’m sure she will come around in a couple of days and be OK.
“Bella is not eating at all,” my concerned hubby conveyed to me a couple of evenings later. “And it seems like she is puffing more than normal,” he continued.
Oh dear. I had to work for the next day so I couldn’t make an appointment until the following day. “She has a fever of 104,” was the vet’s observation. “Let’s just treat her conservatively with Doxycycline for a couple of weeks and see what happens.”
That sounded good to me. Bella has always been an easy dog to give pills to which makes treating her easy. Wrap the pill in a piece of meat and give it a toss. She just opens her mouth wide and swallows whole whatever you are tossing her. Over the next couple of days, she slowly improved and went back to eating and behaving normally.
One day, however, while taking her for a walk, she was panting with maximum open mouth. As she and I puffed to the top of a steep hill, she was slightly above me and I had an unimpeded view into her open mouth. I noticed two slits on her tongue running lengthwise with her tongue further back in her mouth. That is weird. Is it possible that she has a rough or sharp tooth that is cutting her tongue?This really doesn’t make any sense.
I stopped at the vet clinic the next day and asked to make an appointment to have her sedated so that they could inspect her mouth and teeth for mechanical reasons for the slits and poor appetite.
“I would like to have you finish the antibiotics and then come back and we will take a look,” was the desire of the veterinarian.
OK, I guess I can live with that as Bella seemed to be totally back to normal. I made the appointment for a week later on March 30. I was hoping that they could also clean her teeth and x-ray her front shoulders while she was sedated as she had been limping on her front end off and on for over a year. Apparently, I did not communicate this well as when I brought her in for her appointment, I was told they did not have time to do all I was requesting that day.
“Then let’s make a new appointment when you can do all those things while only sedating her once,” I requested
“We are very busy and don’t have any opening for any kind of surgery until April 11.”
That date is almost two weeks out but I agree to the change. After all, Bella seems OK at the moment. Several days later about 4 days after completing her course of doxycycline, Bella has stopped eating again. By the following Friday, it is evident that she is seriously ill. “Bella is not going to make it to her appointment on Tuesday,” I explain to the receptionist who agrees to take her that day. “Can you draw labs too and check her for Lyme’s disease?” I implore.
They sedate her and inspect her mouth. “Her tongue looks pretty rough,” the receptionist conveys to me when I pick her up, “but it is completely healed. The only thing the doc finds abnormal is that she is running a fever of 104 degrees again. He left some antibiotics for her.” I pick up the bottles and look at them. There is a bottle of Flagyl and one of Amoxicillin. The course of treatment is for 10 days. I was hoping that he would give me more of the doxycycline since it seemed to work the last time. “I want to give her doxycycline again and try an extended course of antibiotics,” I explain to the receptionist. “Did he check her for Lyme’s” I continue my questioning. She shouts to the veterinarian who is working in the back room and he shouts back to her, instructing her to give me two more weeks’ worth of the doxycycline. I am frustrated by the lack of one-on-one communication and the inability to get what I believe is needed. He did not believe it necessary to check for Lyme’s so did not draw that test. “All of her other labs look pretty normal.”
“Alright, I will try this,” I say, “but I don’t think it is going to work.”
By now, Bella is so sick that she refuses not only her regular food but all treats as well. It has become impossible to get her to take her pills. She just smells what I have to offer and turns away. I want to cry. If I can’t get her to take the pills, she is going to die. “I can’t handle another loss,” is the sentiment expressed by my hubby. What am I going to do? There are two pills to give morning and night. There is nothing to do but pry open her mouth and shove them down the back of her throat with my fingers. Hope wells up each morning and I hurry down to see if she has started to eat her food. But each morning and night, it lays untouched. Three days go by and Bella shows no signs of improvement. Each day, she slowly deteriorates. She no longer asks to play, she no longer walks with me and goes out only to urinate. She does continue to drink water and urinate which is a good sign but I have resigned myself that she is going to die and there is nothing I can do about it.
“Should I make an appointment for Bella at the clinic where I work?” reads the text from my daughter.
“Yes, go ahead,” I respond. What can it hurt? I see no hope with what we are doing.
With a sense of foreboding, I take Bella 30 miles to this other vet clinic. She reacts weakly to the Lyme’s test. She is still running a 104 fever. But this vet and I agree to put her back on doxycycline at a higher dose and for a month. This vet also gives me a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to reduce the fever and a drug to increase her appetite. Will it work? I do not hold out much hope but it is the last ditch effort. Is it silly to pray for the recovery of a dog, I wonder? At this point I don’t care how silly it is. We pray every night for Bella to get better.
The problem this new regime creates is that I now have five pills to get down her throat every morning and she is not the least bit interested in our attempts to help her. There must be a better way. When I took care of cows, we had a pill gun to give pills to uncooperative cows. What can I use to make a pill gun? Then it comes to me. Vaginal estrogen cream and vaginal anti-fungal creams come with applicators. This is unconventional but I craft one into a pill gun for Bella. I find that if I mix some yogurt around the pills, they slide out nicely and into Bella’s mouth. Ever so slowly, Bella gets better over the next week. She begins to ask to play again, agrees to go for short walks with me, and gingerly starts to eat small amounts again. She still won’t touch her dog food but readily gobbles down the cat food. If she wants to be a cat, I guess we are OK with that for now. My hubby and I cheer when she finally gulps her pills wrapped neatly in bologna. Will this recovery be permanent or will she again relapse when the month is up? Only time will tell. I never realized the love of a dog could pull so hard at one’s heartstrings especially since my heartstrings tend to be loosely tied.
Today is our last day in Israel. It is chilly and only partly sunny. Our first stop today is at an archaeological dig site to shift through debris from the temple mount. The temple is occupied by the Muslims and apparently, they decided to expand their mosque without contacting the antiquities authority as required. Truckloads of artifacts and debris were hauled away in the night and dumped on the Mount of Olives.
Lecture with Directions
Sifting through buckets of stones is not really my cup of tea but we are here so participate we do. We are assigned to a sieve kind of thing in groups of four. Son-in-law, Daughter, Hubby, and I are a group. We are to dump a bucket of the debris on our wire sieve, wash it with a garden hose and then sort through it. Things that we find that are old metal, pottery, mosaic, glass, bone, or unusual stones are to be picked out and put into a muffin tin. The whole mess looks like regular old stones to me and what little interest I had is soon gone. Hubby sticks with it.
Picking up pretty stones is more his thing. Other groups have some success with finding valuable items. Our picking is mostly a failure.
We board the buses again about 10:30 to make our way to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It is a somber experience as we remember the many lives lost through the cruelty of the Germans. The sad reality is that world leaders are now trying to tell people that it never happened. I cannot understand this phenomenon – how educated people can deny this tragedy. It is also unfathomable to me how men can be so depraved and heartless on one hand and on the other, there were those who risked their own lives and futures to save as many Jews as possible. What I am most shocked by is that Christians in the early centuries after Christ returned to heaven (200-400AD), considered the Jews subhuman and persecuted them for not accepting Christ as the Messiah. We eat our noon meal at the Holocaust Museum then relax for some time standing in the sun until everyone is ready to go.
Our last stop of the day is in the garden which contains one of the places believed to possibly be the burial site of Jesus. Our tour guide is a Swedish gentleman who talks to us about the garden and about Jesus sacrifice for us on the cross. As he is explaining about the Hill of the Scull
where Jesus was crucified, a booming loud speaker blares out the Muslim call to prayer. It is so loud we cannot talk above it and need to wait for the call to be over. Often, we are told, the Muslims call their people to prayer more than the 5 times required by their law just to interfere with the Christian activities such as this. Trying to protest or stop this kind of behavior would result in WW III so the behavior is quietly tolerated.
We make our way to the garden tomb and each one of us gets a chance to take a look into the empty tomb. Then we gather together on some benches to sing hymns and worship. Pastor Mark brings us a short message and then communion is shared together. The communion cups are made of olive wood and we can keep them as a remembrance. The wind has started to pick up and it is quite chilly as we sit there. It is 4 pm by the time we wrap up the service and head back to the bus and the hotel.
Several people, including Daughter and son-in-law, want to get off at the Jaffa Gate to do some last minute shopping so the bus makes a drop off stop there. The rest of us go back to the hotel to rest until the 6:30 drop off time for taking our suitcases to the bus. Then it is time for the last supper. A gourmet meal it is.
Bus 2 Group Photo
We board the buses at 8:30 pm for our trip to the airport where we say Good-bye to our bus driver, Shalom, and our guide, Eli. Our excursion through the airport turns out to be a stressful challenge. We are first told to get our boarding passes at the many kiosks designed for such purposes. Brother, his wife, Hubby, and I are successful at doing so. However, by that time, we realize that all the other 100 some have been told to just get into line and we are left at the end of the line. Son-in-law and Daughter have left us in the dust. They are far ahead at the front of the line. I keep thinking having our boarding passes and luggage already checked should allow us to bypass some of this line but it does not seem so. My stomach muscles are getting tighter and tighter as this line progresses with the speed of a turtle. I keep looking at my watch and thinking that we are going to end up missing the plane. As we are all standing in line, we find out that El Al Airlines have overbooked the flight by at least 15 – 20 people and they are asking members of our group to stay. Apparently, the pilots have also been on strike since Sunday which we knew nothing about. Just last evening, all flights were canceled.
The clock has ticked away an hour and a half before we finally reach the first security point where they compare our passport with our face and ask numerous questions. This one we zip through. Then we are told to get into the line for checking our bags in.
“Can we check our bags in somewhere faster?” I ask “since we already have luggage tags.”
Of course the answer is, “No, you need to get in that line.” As the man points to the line that snakes around 3 rows of slowly crawling snails. I am starting to feel somewhat panicked as we wait again for 30 minutes. Finally, we head for the next stop which is the physical security checkpoint where we need to go through the metal detector. We are allowed to keep our shoes on which makes this line move at incredible speed. As we leave the metal detector, I look around for the signs pointing to the D concourse. I see nothing like that. Confusedly, I lead my pack of four around in circles. Finally, I decide to ask. The TSA agent I ask is visibly irritated by this ignorant idiot, “You have to go through passport verification first,” she snaps. I have no idea what that means but head towards a line marked “foreign passports.” Another official looking lady waves toward some strange machines on the wall,” You can use those automatic ones over there.”
OK, I have no idea what to do with those things but I wander over and read the directions which say, “Put passport under scanner.” Amazingly, it likes my approach and prints me a little ticket. Feeling confident that we are now on our way, I tuck everything away and we are funneled through 1 small opening towards the boarding area. No wonder I could not see it before. We have not gone more than 20 feet and we come to more machines that indicate we need to scan our pink card to get through. “Pink card? I don’t have a pink card.” Then I realize this must mean the little slip of paper we just got. It has a faint ting of pink across the top. Finally, we reach the boarding area. Are there any more hoops to jump through I wonder? We have about a ½ hour wait before boarding the plane. They make an announcement that any liquids we have bought cannot be brought on the plane and that they will be going through our carry-on bags looking for liquids. You can’t be serious! Again? This line moves quickly as the search is not terribly thorough. The last straw awaits me on the plane. We realize Hubby and I do not have exit seats as I paid for and we are stuffed into the middle of the plane with someone between us. I make myself at home in the middle seat regardless. It makes no sense for someone to want to sit between us. When that person finally arrives, she is fine with our arrangement as it will put her husband just across the aisle from her. In all the confusion of the Airline’s overbooking and moving people around, we are left to stuff ourselves in the regular seats for 12 hours and the money I paid extra for exit seats has been swallowed up in the mess.
Other than being unable to breathe or move properly for 12 hours, all goes well with our flight. We land in Newark, NJ 45 minutes late but safe and sound back in the US. Our connecting flight to Minneapolis is uneventful. We break through the heavy clouds into light rain. By the time we retrieve our bags, it has started to snow heavily. Welcome to winter in Minnesota.
This time the hare beat the tortoise as we get home before my brother and his wife who drove home from the Newark airport.
Clouds darken the sky today for the first time since we have arrived here. The temperature is chilly and I surrender my belief that it is still summer by putting on a sweater. We are on the bus by 8 am and headed for Masada.
The drive south along the Dead Sea is beautiful in its own way. We pass areas of what they call “desert farming.” They drip irrigate using the sewage water from Jerusalem to save water.
As we go further south, the land becomes more barren with huge hills of wasteland to the west. Masada is the ruins of an ancient city built upon the top of a 1000-foot-high flat top hill. King Herod, the Great, first built one of his fortresses high on this hill. Later, it became a place for the Jews to flee for refuge around 70 AD when they were defeated by the Romans in a crushed uprising. After 3 years of refuge, the Romans are able to breach the hill and all the rebels there die. It is an awesome sight to look up at this hill high above our heads as we drive into the parking lot. If one were young and ambitious, he could hike up the Snake Trail to the top of Masada. None of us are either of these, so we board a cable car/Tram to be hoisted to the top. We are told it holds 80 people and they are serious about this as they jam pack us into the car. I am starting to feel the rising panic of claustrophobia when I find I can’t move.
Tram going down from Masada
It is a beautiful day here – not too hot and not too cold. We spend about an hour and a half at Masada exploring the ruins and viewing some of the great inventions of Herold the Great. Probably the most remarkable invention is the water collection and storage system.
Israeli flag over Masada
The one or two huge rains per year are the only source of water. As we stand listening to the tour guide, I hear a clatter of something on the stone. It is Hubby’s glasses lens. He has lost the screw to hold the frame together. We brainstorm as to how to fix this but can do nothing about it at the moment.
Around 12 noon, we head back down on the cable car and board the bus for the Qumran Caves Museum. This is where we will eat lunch. It is the usual chaotic scene getting through the lunch line. We see a group of Mennonites who instantly make contact with Brother and his wife. That is how it is with Mennonites. They recognize each other anywhere and feel a bond. We exit through the gift shop to wait for our tour guide. I notice a bunch of sunglasses and we decide to buy a pair in the hopes that we can use one of the screws to repair Hubby’s glasses. Getting through the checkout line is a bit of a challenge as people are everywhere and buying the skin care products manufactured from the Dead Sea. I finally am able to get outside into the crush of people there. Our guide today, Bruce, finally is able to get us away from the masses to explain the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We make a short tour of the Essene ruins and then head back to the bus.
Our last stop is the beach of the Dead Sea.
I do not plan to float but simply to wade. The Dead Sea is 33% salt so the water is toxic if taken orally or gotten in the eyes. We receive our towels and make our way gingerly down the steep hill that once was the banks of the Dead Sea. The use of the minerals and water from the lake for commercial purposes has caused the shores of the Dead Sea to recede several hundred feet over the last 40 years. The mud is a dark gray color. I step gingerly into the water. As I move one foot ahead of the other, it drops over the edge into a hole. After several attempts, I decide to move to a different location and am able to enter the water. As I stand there watching others smear black mud all over themselves, a man holding a cell phone steps into the water in the place I formerly tried.
His leg disappears into a hole and down he goes, cell phone and all. Now why would someone take their cell phone along into a salt bath? Is my question. After wading about for approximately 15 minutes and getting splashed by others falling down, I decide it is time to get out before I end up totally wet. After washing off my feet, Hubby and I find some ice cream to enjoy at a small picnic table under a spreading tree. Hundreds of chirping birds seem to be perched in its branches. I am just about done when I feel a wet drop on my forehead from above. Gross! A bird has just pooped on my head. It is time to move on back to the bus.
We are back at the hotel by 5:45pm and catch up with Daughter and Son-in-law who did not accompany us today but decided to wander around by themselves and relax. I spy the pipe cleaner on our suitcase and use it for the repair so badly needed on Hubby’s glasses after we can’t get the screw out of the new sunglasses we bought. It works. Only one more day before it is time to head home again.
Today hands us another beautiful sunny morning to greet us. We are on the bus and heading for Mount Scopus by 8 am. Here we spend a few minutes having photos taken of our bus and of the whole group. Winding through the narrow, hilly streets of Jerusalem is quite the experience. Buses sometimes miss each other by inches. This morning, because we are going to Bethlehem into Palestinian territory, we have been asked to bring our passports and we need to exchange our Jewish guide for a Palestinian one. Israeli citizens are not allowed to cross into Palestine. A change in plans is made because of the number of people and the times of mass at the Church of the Nativity and we are taken first to a shop in Bethlehem where Arab Christians make beautiful decorations using olive wood. I wander around the shop and am somewhat disillusioned by the prices. There are some beautiful praying hands with the last supper carved on the palms. It is almost $3000. Well skip that. We finally settle for a small camel, a shepherd, and a sheep for $85.
Machine making multiple olive wood figurines at once
A short trip to the basement workshop finishes out the visit to this shop. We are informed that our bus has a water leak and we will need to divide out onto the other two buses to make the trip to the Church of the Nativity. We feel like foreigners on this other bus. We need to walk awhile after exiting the bus. The walking trip feels chaotic with all the people on the street. “Use your horn liberally” seems to be the expectation of the day especially when the American tourists are in the way. Masses of people resulting in long lines are at the church. The church is under re-construction so leaves something to be desired for picture taking. We do not have too long of a wait to get into the cave with the Star of Bethlehem and the areas where baby Jesus was laid. I am saddened by the shrines built to commemorate everything. I just want to see the simple cave in which Christ was born.
We attempt to get back on the same temporary bus after we leave the church but we must be confused as Hubby can’t find his camera bag and the lady in the seat that we think is ours, thinks we are deranged. We finally get on the right bus and are headed for Shepherd’s Field which is a preserved site showing what the cave might have looked like that the shepherds lived in and the field where the angels proclaimed that good news of Jesus birth to the shepherds.
Inside shepherds cave
We all gather in the cave for a reading from the Bible about the angels coming to the shepherds and we sing Joy to the World together. By now, I am getting extremely hungry and irritated due to a lack of bathroom stops. I am going to the bathroom whether we have time or not. Our bus is repaired by the time we are done at Shepherd’s field and it is back to the correct #2 bus. This feels right and comfortable.
Lunch is at a kibbutz that now caters to guests because the city has surrounded them and taken their fields. It is the same mass confusion getting through the lunch line but we finally do it. We keep losing either Brother and his wife or Daughter and Son-in-law in our lunch lines’ confusion. Our next stop is the upper room where Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples. It is not the actual room which has been destroyed and rebuilt but the actual place. This room is also believed to possibly be the place where the disciples waited and received the Holy spirit at Pentecost.
View from Caiaphas house toward Jerusalem
Hiking through the upper room, then up the steps to Caiaphas’ house gives one the general idea of the distance and site of these important events in the Bible. Our last stop is to see the dungeon or prison cell where Jesus might have been imprisoned and tortured the night before his crucifixion. This is something I have never thought about before. We sing an old hymn here. As we walk up the hill to the buses, it has grown dark and a huge moon is just rising over the horizon. It is supposed to be a super moon, the biggest one since Israel became a nation in 1948.
Moonrise over Jerusalem
The day is a little cooler today. Breakfast is the usual time of 6 am and we are on the bus by 7:45 am. We are headed today to explore the old city of Jerusalem. Our first stop of the day is to view a 15 minute 3-D film of the history of Jerusalem. We emerge into the bright sunlight and sit on a bench while Eli, our guide, talks to us. Eli is an entertaining and informative guy for a guide. He in mild -mannered and always has a joke to share or is laughing at himself for his own foibles.
Eli’s cap “I am their leader – which way did they go”
Maneuvering steps going down to an archaeological dig of David’s Palace is the next order of business. We then make our way through the City of David and enter the old aqueduct system of many years ago that has been re-excavated. It is 2 foot wide by approximately 5’ 10” high. It is bordered on both sides by stone walls. We file through the tunnel single file. I am somewhat claustrophobic and have to keep telling myself I am fine. At one place the tunnel is so narrow, Hubby has to go through sideways.
We squirm our way through what seems like hours of walking until we come out under the newer excavated western wall and emerge again into the light. After some more education, we circle up around above the Western Wailing wall and come in through the metal detectors. The Western Wall is all that remains of the temple and visiting it brings the visitor as close as possible to the Holy of Holies. Men and women go through the metal detectors separately and then are expected to visit the wailing wall separately. I point out to my brother that the Western wall section for men is longer than for the women even though the women’s side is packed. Brother points out that the men have podiums to stand at and the women have chairs to sit on.
Western Wall – Men’s side
In other words, “the men are to preach and the women are to be quiet.” We both laugh. This is reference to the beliefs of our upbringing. I do not wish to leave a prayer on the wall as I believe God hears me equally from wherever I pray. However, we do make our way to the wall and touch it. I feel no zing, no electric shock, no special revelation from heaven.
We leave the western wall and walk through the Jewish quarter and into the Armenian quarter for lunch at an Armenian restaurant. We have a relaxed hour and then it is back out to walk through the various quarters of the old city. We stop at the pools of Bethesda. Our last order of the day is to walk the stations of the cross or the Via Dolorosa. I think the most touching part of the afternoon is acapella singing in the chapel of the only church left from the era of the crusades.
A lady who grew up Mennonite leads us in the traditional way of singing Amazing Grace and It is well with my soul. Wow, how I miss that singing and those old hymns.
We continue our trek along the “Way of Sorrow” through the narrow over-crowded streets. The weather has turned and a cool chill breeze has sprung up. It is growing dark by the time we leave. The bus in not waiting as we are told it will be and we spend at least ½ hour wondering if we are going to be picked up. One last stop of the day is at a shop for us to shop. I see nothing new and/or that I can afford. They have swapped buses again because ours is needed for a trip to the airport. We get on the wrong bus before we decide that this doesn’t make sense and get back off. (to be continued)