Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thoughts from TJ McKiernan....

Desert, palm trees, bedouins, and camels. A completely unique experience and yet I'm having difficulty focusing on anything but Jerusalem. Something within me is longing for Jerusalem, it's a deep craving that I didn't know I had until this morning. I'm feeling antsy and impatient. The bus continues to wind through the desert - more camels - more bedouins. I never would have anticipated feeling as I do. I mean I was excited to experience the Holy Land, but the anticipation I feel within me is very different than anything I've felt before. The bus enters a long tunnel that cuts through the base of a large mountain and I playfully hold my breath as we enter. The tunnel is far too long to hold my breath until we exit the other side. I exhale and laugh, wondering how old I'll be when I finally stop playing car games from my childhood. I worry that if I haven't stopped by now the answer might be never. As I silently scold myself for being so childish, the bus emerges from the tunnel. The left side of the road drops off sharply into a valley and before me - quite unexpectedly - stands Jerusalem. In unison and as if in unspoken agreement, the entire bus groans. The groan that escapes my lips is not voluntary, but mandatory lest I explode. I have no air left in my lungs. Something inside me has changed. Entering God's Holy City has done something to me. I'm not sure I understand exactly what that something is, but I know it is important, maybe even life-changing. It's as if something inside me has been made whole... like my eyes have been waiting my whole life to take in this view of the Temple Mount. It's rapidly becoming apparent that the desire to journey to the Holy Land has been in place much longer than I've acknowledged and is infinitely more significant than my spirit ever let on. In the moment that it takes me to catch my breath, indescribable joy fills my heart. My spirit knows something that my brain does not. My mind can't seem to figure out the celebration in my soul, but I know that I feel deep satisfaction and I have the strange sensation that I've just arrived home. I'm quite sure that for the rest of my life, few moments will have the impact that this one does. I'm still unsure of exactly what I'm thanking the Lord for, but my soul is groaning "THANK YOU LORD" over and over and over again.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Sharing Trip Photos....

Welcome back fellow sojourners!  What a great trip we had!  I hope you are all adjusting back to life in California....I got a solid 10 hours sleep last night and LOTS of snuggles from my babies and four footed son.  I feel somewhat human again.  I hope you get to enjoy watching the videos on the blog that your friends and family got to see while you were gone.  I added a Flicker Group to the right of the blog for group members to post photos.  If you click on the photo,  it should take you there.  I made the album public - so I think you all should be able to upload to it and then download any copies of photos from other group members you want for your own album.  Be sure to leave a title or a description of your photos!  Of course, you can also download any copies of my photos that posted in the other slideshow as well.  I hope this works!  If not, I'll try again!  I hope to take some of the best photos and make a hardcover photo book as a memory of the trip.  If any of you are interested, I can make extra copies, just let me know.  Also, those of you on Bus #2 (goats) didn't get to hear this....but I would like to get some testimonies from the group members on your experiences in the Holy Land.  What made the biggest impact on you?  What will you remember most?  How has it changed your life?  You can email me a paragraph or more with a favorite photo that you captured and I'll upload it on the blog so that you can share it with those of us who went and those who followed us on the blog!  I'd LOVE to hear your stories.  You can email me through the blog site or send it to  Thanks!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day 9 - Free Day in the Old City

Well, our time here is Jerusalem is coming to an end.  It's Wednesday afternoon and most of us have headed back from our free day to explore the Old City in Jerusalem.  Some of our group walked the ramparts on top of the old city gates, others hung out in cafes, while some haggled and bartered in the arab and armenian quarters. We are heading to the airport in about 4 hours and will start the journey home by going through customs.  One plane will depart Tel Aviv around 10:30 (Israel time) and the other around 12:00 am (Israel time).  Will will have a LONG night/day of travel ahead. 12 hr to NY + long 4 hour layover in NY + 5 hr flight to SFO.  We have been blessed to walk this holy land and the imprints it has left on us will last our lifetimes.  Pray for traveling mercies, peace, and sweet reunions with the ones we love!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day 8 - Amazing! Mt. of Olives, Gethsemane, Western Wall Tunnels, The Upper Room and The Garden Tomb!!

The view of the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives

VERY OLD olive trees in the Garden of Gesthemane

 Pastor Rick teaching at the Garden of Gesthemane

 A better picture of the Temple - the sun was out!!

The Western Wall

 Prayers stuck in the wall...

 The Courtyard at the Temple 

 The nearest wall stone to the Temple Mount - thanks to excavation!

 Original Herodian Stone from the original Western Wall (notice the chisel work)
Each wall stone is 40-45 ft long and 15 ft long.  Weighs something like over 100 elephants!

Golgatha - The Place of the Skull (where the crucifixion occurred)  Do you see it in the rock?

 Inside the tomb of Jesus

 The outside of the tomb

 Pastor Rick and Erin outside of the Garden Tomb

Here is the tomb!  Guess's still empty!

Day 8 Video - Mt. of Olives, Garden of Gesthemane, and The Garden Tomb

As we looked onto the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives, Pastor Scott sang... it was AMAZING!

Pastor Rick shared with us at the Garden of Gesthemane

The Garden Tomb

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 7 - Masada, En Gedi, Floating in the Dead Sea, AHAVA factory, and Abraham's Tent Dinner

Masada in the Judean Desert

Eastern View on Top of Masada over the Dead Sea toward Jordan

Pastor Rick Sharing a Challenge with Us on Top of Masada

The Hill the Romans Built to Take Masada

The Natural Spring at En Gedi - Where King David Hid From Saul

Bible calls these "rock badgers" but they are Helixes or "Coneys"

Where King David Would Have Gone to Hide from Saul

A View Toward the Dead Sea Through a Cleft in the Rock

Pastor Scott Floating in the Dead Sea

Rachel & Gradie Mixon (with other BVGers) enjoying floating

Time for Some Mineral Mud!

Nicely Packaged Mineral Products From AHAVA Factory

Abraham's Hill - The rains have caused a flowering plant to grow that will produce seeds for the sheep and goats to graze on in the spring - fall.  This is part of the DESERT!

A Camel Caravan to Abraham's Tent for Dinner

Sweet Little Camel Who Had to Lug Around Americans All-Night ;-)

Reclining at the Tables for Abraham's Dinner.... can you say stiff knees?!?

Our Dinner View - Looking Out Over the Judean Wilderness.  Abraham Would Have Seen This View Often.  If You Look Closely, You Can See the Dead Sea!

Day 7 Video - On Top of Masada and at En Gedi

If you've seen the movie "Masada", you will know about this site we were at today.  It is an interesting story of the Israelites vs. the Romans. This video is from on top of the mountain and Pastor Rick shares a thought about what you look out on...

Looking over the storehouses on top of Masada stronghold.  Masada was built by Herod the Great, but then Israelites took refuge in it until the Romans came after them.

To get up on the top of Masada, you take a tram.  Of course, you can walk up it....but only a couple CRAZY people from our group did that!

Climbing the snake pass up to Masada - about 6 did this!

This is from En Gedi - means "little kid".  En Gedi has a natural spring of water that flows out of the ground and the area is filled with mountain goats in the cliffs near the Dead Sea. This is where King David hid from Saul.  You will notice the "clefts in the rock."  

A couple of little mountain goats as our bus zoomed by...