The more

time and energy

we invest

in discontentment

with people

and circumstances,


the less

time and energy

we have

for contentment

in God


– Susie Stewart


I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

– Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)


…godliness, along with contentment, does put us ahead but not in the ways some imagine.  You see we came into this world with nothing, and nothing is going with us on the way out!  So as long as we are clothed and fed, we should be happy.

– 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (VOICE)


I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

– 2 Corinthians 12:10 (VOICE)


…let each one live the life which the Lord has assigned him, and to which God has called him [for each person is unique and is accountable for his choices and conduct, let him walk in this way].

– 1 Corinthians 7:17 (AMP)


You will keep the peace, a perfect peace, for all who trust in You, for those who dedicate their hearts and minds to You.

– Isaiah 26:3 (VOICE)


Photo by Susie Stewart

Creation Speaks

The morning sings joy

and mercy


Do you hear it?


The noonday sun radiates righteousness

and truth


Do you see it?


The moon and stars whisper peace

and wisdom


Do you perceive it?


The whole earth

and all of creation

speak of Divinity


Listen well

and walk

in the morning joy,

the noonday truth,

and the nighttime peace


with your Creator


– Susie Stewart



The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    You call forth songs of joy.

– Psalm 65:8 (NIV)


He will spread out righteousness for you as a sunrise spreads radiance over the land; He will deliver justice for you into the light of the high sun.

– Psalm 37:6 (VOICE)


The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
    which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

– Proverbs 4:18 (NLT)


Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who alone does mighty miracles.

His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.

the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.

and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.

– Psalm 136:1-9 (NLT)


The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.

– Lamentations 3:22, 23 (NIV)


At every time and in every place— from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets— may the name of the Eternal be high in the hearts of His people.

– Psalm 113:3 (VOICE)


Photo by Susie Stewart



The way you treat people –

It’s all about HIM


The wisdom you instill in your children –

It’s all about HIM


The honest effort you put into your job –

It’s all about HIM


The person you are with your spouse –

It’s all about HIM


The faithfulness you display in friendship –

It’s all about HIM



all that you are

and all that matters in this life


must stem from your relationship

with Jesus


the most vital relationship you have


You are

and you do

and you exist

because of God


Any other effort

will fall short





to be


all about HIM


– Susie Stewart


Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to His will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making Him proud of you as you work hard in His orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

– Colossians 1:9-14 (MSG)


The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for Him, as if He couldn’t take care of Himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make Him. Starting from scratch, He made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find Him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; He’s near. We live and move in Him, can’t get away from Him! One of your poets said it well: “We’re the God-created.” Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

– Acts 17:26-29 (MSG)


I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead…

– Philippians 3:10 (NLT)


I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

– Matthew 28:20 (NLT)


Photo by Susie Stewart







You hear….

the whisper


And you know

it is unlimited power

brought quietly


You see…

the Artist’s brushstrokes


And you know

it is the Creator’s beautiful work

lovingly enveloping you


You taste…

the Bread & the Water


And you know

it is Jesus Himself

given to fill and sustain


You feel….

the uncompromising love


And you know

it could only come

from He who IS Love


Your senses tell you


that He is God


– Susie Stewart


After the fire died out, there was nothing but the sound of a calm breeze. And through this breeze a gentle, quiet voice entered into Elijah’s ears…

– 1 Kings 19:12 (VOICE)


 However, call on the animals to teach you;
        the birds that sail through the air are not afraid to tell you the truth.
 Engage the earth in conversation; it’s happy to share what it knows.
        Even the fish of the sea are wise enough to explain it to you.
In fact, which part of creation isn’t aware,
        which doesn’t know the Eternal’s hand has done this?
His hand cradles the life of every creature on the face of the earth;
        His breath fills the nostrils of humans everywhere.

– Job 12:7-10 (VOICE)


 I am the bread that gives life. If you come to My table and eat, you will never go hungry. Believe in Me, and you will never go thirsty.

– John 6:35 (VOICE)


…God is love.

– 1 John 4:8 (VOICE)


Photo by Susie Stewart


His was the kiss on your cheek

kind and sweet


His was the pat on your back



His was the embrace

warm and sincere


His was were the eyes

truly seeing


His was the laughter

enjoying your joy


His were the tears of empathy

when you suffered


His is the heart

who understands you


His was the life, pure and beautiful

ungrudgingly given for you


– Susie Stewart



We love because He first loved us.

– 1 John 4:19 (NIV)


May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in You.

– Psalm 33:22 (NIV)


But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

– Psalm 86:15 (NIV)


See what great love the Father has lavished on us…

– 1 John 3:1 (NIV)


 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

– John 11:33 (NIV)


Photo by Randy Malsam








Willing To Risk

David walked right out

to meet the giant man


Paul faced persecution head on

in each town he entered


Mary bowed her will

and bravely carried God’s Son


Noah stepped into the unknown

in the face of ridicule and stares




My Jesus resolutely chose to die

for this world of people we live in



will I be a person

willing to risk it all

when God speaks?


Will I bow my will to His?


Will I live my life differently

because of my life in Him?


I will,

by His power


And I am able to step out in faith

because I serve a faithful



– Susie Stewart


David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”

– 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NIV)


The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

– Acts 23:10 (NIV)


The angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. See! You are to become a mother and have a Son. You are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the place where His early father David sat. He will be King over the family of Jacob forever and His nation will have no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen? I have never had a man.” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you. The power of the Most High will cover you. The holy Child you give birth to will be called the Son of God.

“See, your cousin Elizabeth, as old as she is, is going to give birth to a child. She was not able to have children before, but now she is in her sixth month. For God can do all things.” Then Mary said, “I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel went away from her.

– Luke 1:30-38 (NIV)


Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

– Genesis 6:22 (NIV)


 Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”

Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

– Matthew 26:36-39 (NIV)


Photo by Andy Stewart in the Garden of Gethsemane







Baby, It’s Hot Outside!

For the majority of our time in Israel we stayed at this hotel – Prima Kings.  It’s a very nice hotel within walking distance of the Old City.


Andy and I liked sitting on this terrace and people watching.  It was such a busy intersection right underneath us.  People are aggressive drivers and like to honk a lot.  Made for interesting entertainment.


So, our last touring day.  We headed to the desert.  And, Baby, it was hot!  Notice the changing geography as we headed out of Jerusalem into the Dead Sea area.


Date palms.  They use cherry pickers to get the dates at the top.  Donkeys mow the grass below.


Camels by a gas station.


Bedouin camps


The terrain gets rocky and barren very fast.

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Kidron Valley below.

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We arrived at Masada.  I didn’t know anything about this towering mountain until I toured it.  Such an interesting and unexpected place.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see where the gondola reaches a station at the top.  You can take the gondola ORrrrrr you can climb that path.  What would you do in 100 degree heat?


At the bottom of Masada at the visitor center.


Getting ready to get on the gondola.  There were about 50 of us in it, all standing close to one another.  No air conditioning, so it’s good it went fairly quickly.  You can see some of the stairways leading up to the top.


Whew, we made it!  What a view!  You can see the Dead Sea in the background.


We learned about how this place was built as a palace and fortress for Herod and was later used as a fortress for fleeing rebel Zealot Jews after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.  Around 74 A.D. Roman soldiers were able to finally breach the walls of Masada only to find that all 960 inhabitants, except for a couple of women and children who escaped to tell about it, had committed mass suicide and burned all their buildings and supplies except for the food storehouse.  They wanted to show that their death was not caused by starvation.  It was so heart-wrenching to think that fathers killed their wives and children, and the men killed each other, ending in a suicide, so that their families would not end up as slaves, mistreated terribly.

I encourage you to read the signs I’m posting.  It is so interesting.

The Snake Path is the winding one up the side of the mountain.

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Here is a google photo of the top of Masada.


Look at the model below that Sheila is taking in.  Can you imagine this palace being built on the side and top of that rocky hill?  Many slaves died building it.


What an incredible view from the top.  The rectangular areas are where the Romans camped outside of Masada to get ready to storm it in pursuit of the Zealots living there.



The tiered palace on the side of the mountain.


The birds are used to friendly visitors.



Entrance to Bath House.


They had different rooms for cold, tepid and steam baths.



Huge cistern for water.


Model showing how the water came down the valleys into cisterns and was gathered.


More Roman encampment areas.


The Synagogue.


A boy’s bar mitzvah with family.



Animals for eating and for sacrificing were kept here.


Headed back down.


We drove along the Dead Sea again.


Because the water level is so low, sink holes are popping up all over near the coastline.  It’s a big dilemma because water from the Jordan is pumped to so many other areas.  It can be very dangerous to walk in these areas because you can fall in a hole 10 to 15 feet deep!


This road and tourist area were destroyed.


It’s taking down trees.


A family of Ibex!


Coastline of the Dead Sea.  You can see the salt around the edges.


More sink holes.


Another tourist area destroyed.  Sue on our team said that she had swam there about 8 years ago.


Baby palm trees planted.


Next, we traveled to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  Three Bedouin shepherds were tending their sheep in these mountains, tossed a rock into a cave and heard it hit something.  They went in to investigate and found some scrolls in jars, took them into town, tried to sell them to a dealer in Bethlehem who said they were worthless.  Later they were sold to a Syrian Christian man.


Next we got to go swim in the Dead Sea!  What a trippy dip!  You get in and it feels like regular water but then you try to sit on the bottom and you only bob like a bobber.  You can’t sink.  If you get onto your stomach, you feel as if your face is going to go under, so you have to turn on your side to get upright.  In the deeper parts I tried to push my arms up in order to touch the bottom.  Couldn’t happen.  In the Dead Sea there is 10 times the amount of salt as in the ocean, so you are 10 times more buoyant.  You have to wear shoes here because the sand is SO hot in the summer and you can hurt your feet because of salt formations.  The dark clay at the bottom felt amazing and soft.  It’s no wonder they sell so many beautifying treatments from the Dead Sea.


Back to Jerusalem where we met King George!  He is a shop owner who is an Arab Christian.  These Christians are persecuted by their muslim neighbors.  We were glad to give him some business.  He sold beautiful works of art made out of olive wood.


Notice how Andy isn’t enjoying the shopping?  I think he’s worried.  The big nativity set in front of him is probably a few thousand dollars.


My favorite piece.


So, that was the end of our journey.  The next morning we got up at 2:45 am and had good, uneventful flights back home.

We now have Israel in our hearts, like never before.

I’m so thankful for this amazing team and for our fearless leaders, all a testament to the Holy Spirit’s power and grace.  I can’t wait to get back to Israel.

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Thanks for coming on this journey with me!


The Lord gives strength to His people;
    the Lord blesses His people with peace.

– Psalm 29:11 (NIV)


The LORD bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!

– Jeremiah 31:23 (NIV)


Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.

– Isaiah 61:9 (NIV)


Photos by Susie Stewart






Our next day was a day of contrasts.  We started out at the Wailing Wall.  It is a relatively small segment of a much longer ancient retaining wall, known also as the “Western Wall”, as a whole.  It is considered holy because of its connection to the Temple Mount.  Jews and Gentiles alike bring prayers written on paper to slip into the cracks of the wall.


Men and women are split into two different sections.  Women actually stand on the plastic chairs sometimes to peer over the little fence that separates.  I did this to get the photo of the men.  It gave me a taste of what it would have been like in Jesus’ day when women worshiped in a separate area from the men.


Many people held their Torahs and rocked back and forth as they prayed and chanted.



This woman caught my attention.  She was crying into her Torah, literally “wailing” quietly, staining the pages with her tears.


The Orthodox, or Hasidic Jews wear mostly all black, and the males have the curled side burns coming down from their temples.


Looking at the photos below, notice the wall that fits adjacent to the wailing wall.  This is part of the Muslim Quarter.  There is conflict because the wall cuts into the Western Wall as a whole and the Jews want access to it.


In contrast, we then went nearby to the security area leading to the Temple Mount, currently controlled by Muslims.  We were told to cover up to the neck and below the knees, men and women.  People who try to come in with tank tops and shorter shorts or dresses are sent to a certain area where they need to buy something to cover up.

We came into this courtyard, mostly barren, with just dirt.  No beautiful trees or flowers.  There were crows cawing and cats walking around.  It was quiet and felt lifeless to me.


A very large mosque that can hold 3 to 4 thousand.


While Daniel was teaching to us quietly, Israeli guards walked in with a Jewish family.  We were told that most Jewish families do not come in here, but certain people insist on it.  They are told by the muslims that they are not allowed to pray.  They are escorted by the Israeli police for their protection and followed by muslim men to make sure they don’t worship or pray.  It was a sobering sight to see.


We were told not to touch each other in pictures and forgot.  We were reminded after this photo.


Chris and Kelly forgot too.  It just comes so naturally.



We headed up the stairs to the Dome of the Rock, a muslim mosque.  It is also the site believed to be where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac.


The smaller dome structure is called Dome of the Chain and has been used as a place of prayer.



We stopped to watch Israeli helicopters in the distance.


We were walking behind the structures and stopped for Daniel to read a few verses of Scripture.  A man came over to put pressure on us to stop and so we moved on.

Next was the Beautiful Gate.  It was sealed by those who would try to keep Jesus from coming back at that spot.  I think it would take a lot more than stone blocks and metal bars to stop the Lord Almighty.


Women in their head coverings watched as we exited the Temple Mount area.  One stopped Andy to ask where we were from.  When he said America, she said, “May God take care of you.”  We weren’t sure if it was meant in a kind way or not.  It saddens my heart that we don’t speak of the same God.


In contrast, as soon as we left that area (and were able to expose our shoulders and knees) we came upon a beautiful garden.  It was like an oasis after being in the desert.


It was right next to the Pools of Bethesda!  Daniel pronounced it Bet-hes-dah.  The area was so large.  The place where Jennifer is standing next to these stairs all the way to where the people stand in the background had not yet been excavated.


Can you find the weed eater in this photo? 🙂


From the pool area we walked next door to a beautiful stone church.  There we sang praises as a group to our great God of freedom and grace.  The acoustics were the most beautiful I had ever heard.


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From there we traveled outside the Old City walls to the place believed to be where Jesus had communion with his disciples in the Upper Room.  The Last Supper.


Lions’ Gate


Another beautiful view.


The upper room where the last supper took place was at the site of this building.  It made me wonder if the picture in my mind of a quaint home may have been wrong all along.  No one knows for sure.  This church is said to be built over David’s tomb.



Daniel told us that peacocks symbolize eternal life and pelicans symbolize Eucharist (remembering Christ’s sacrifice through communion).  They are both carved into this pillar.


Back through the Zion Gate this time, we traveled through the Jewish Quarter to areas excavated and exposing Roman roads and columns.




This man is a Messianic Jew who has had biblical store for 30 years.


Everywhere we went, we saw adorable children.

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We spent time shopping and eating lunch at a restaurant called The Quarter Cafe which had a spectacular view and delicious food!


We met two men who were biblical scribes.  It takes them about a year and half to print one copy of the Torah with feather quills.


Traveling on from there we went to The Israel Museum where they had a huge replica of ancient Jerusalem.  It was so neat to hear Daniel point out the different areas where we had walked.

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And then the Holocaust Museum.  I had never been to one, and it affected me deeply.  This statue really got me.  It is a representation of Dr. Janusz Korczak who was offered a position as a doctor with the Nazis and he chose to stay with the orphaned children he took care of, all the way to the gas chambers.  After spending many years working as director of an orphanage in Warsaw, he refused sanctuary repeatedly and stayed with his orphans when the entire population of the institution was sent from the ghetto to the Treblinka Extermination camp.  No photos were allowed inside the museum.


A tree planted for each family or individual who helped protect and hide Jews.


Driving back to the hotel I was reminded about how Daniel told us that Jewish families have white water barrels on their homes.  Muslims have black barrels.  Everyone knows where you fit into society by how you dress and the appearance of your home.


A day of contrasts.  A day to ponder.  We know our spiritual struggle is real.  Here in Israel, it is glaringly apparent.

I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.

– Genesis 12:23 (NIV)


Photos by Susie Stewart and Lorie DiSaia







Jesus Journey

Our hotel was very close to many landmarks and so convenient.  I snapped this photo outside the Old City walls.  If you look closely you can see the rock it was built on.  Such a spectacular sight.  Below is also one of the many gates into the old city.  IMG_0253IMG_0254

This day took us on a sacred journey through the places Christ traveled right up to His death and resurrection.  What a powerful day!

We started at the top of the Mount of olives overlooking the city.  There we took a photo of our awesome group, met a man taking photos with his donkey, and some of us road a camel!


The man gave Dean a kiss when offered some money as a token of appreciation for a photo.



We took some stairs and a walkway down to look at the many, many tombs with Jewish people buried with their feet toward the Temple Mount so that they can be ready for Messiah when He comes.  Muslims are buried near the gate He will come to as a way of blocking Him.  No chance.



Some graves were so ancient that the tombstones were falling apart.


The spires you see here are of Saint Mary Magdalena Greek Orthodox Church.


We were then on to see some 2,000 year old olive trees and the area known as the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed out to His Father to take the cup of death away He was about to endure.


While there, a private garden was opened to us and we spent time in the Scriptures with Guy and were able to pray and mediate alone or with friends and family.  I thought a lot about the anguish Jesus went through as He thought about His pending death and it made me cry.  I thanked Him for bowing to His Father’s will.

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

– Luke 22:39-44 (NIV)


We next drove nearby to the Church of Saint Peter in Galicantu, a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion just outside the Old (walled) City of Jerusalem.  It is believed that Jesus appeared to the High Priest Caiaphas here, was sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin, and was the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus three times.


Underneath the church we went down into some dungeon pits  where Jesus was likely beaten and kept overnight.


In this pit, we together read Psalm 88:

Lord, You are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to You.
May my prayer come before You;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom You remember no more,
    who are cut off from Your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all Your waves.
8You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
     my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to You, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to You.
Do you show Your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise You?
Is Your love declared in the grave,
    Your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are Your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or Your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to You for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before You.
Why, Lord, do You reject me
    and hide Your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne Your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
    Your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.


We all could feel the sadness and loneliness of that place.

In the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus, regret was there.


We were able to see the actual Roman stairs where Jesus was brought up from the Garden.


We then entered the Old City of Jerusalem by way of Herod’s Gate into the Muslim Quarter where we found tight hallways and alleyways with merchants.  We then came to the Christian Quarter and the place where Jesus was brought before Pilate.



“Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’

If He were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’

Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’

‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death He was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’

Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed You over to me. What is it You have done?’

Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place.’

You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.

Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’

What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’

They shouted back, ‘No, not Him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped Him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw Him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’

But Pilate answered, ‘You take Him and crucify Him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against Him.’

The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God.’

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free You or to crucify You?’

Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed Me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, ‘Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!’

‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.”

– John 18:28-40; 19:1-16 (NIV)



We heard excellent teaching from Bob about Pilate and the politics of the crucifixion.  And we realized that we were standing on the stone where Jesus was flogged, beaten and given a crown of thorns to wear.  I felt a pit in my stomach.


These were inscriptions found at the site.


As we walked, we saw one of the only Lutheran Churches in the area.


From there we went to lunch and looked out over the city from the balcony of the restaurant.



The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was next in the Old City.  It was massive and there were many people there.  This is a church that holds a number of different devout religions.  It is thought to be the site of Jesus’ death and burial, by the catholic church.  People who believe this wait for so long in lines to see in this building within a building where they believe Jesus’ tomb was.


Coming out of the Old City we were shown the places where bullet holes can be seen in the wall and small slits where guns were fired from.


And then on to the Garden Tomb site where others, including myself, believe that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the grave.  When we entered this place it was so incredibly peaceful and beautiful.  It is kept up by Christians and run through donations.


When we entered we sat in this shaded area, listened to teaching by our leaders, and had a time of reverent communion.


We were led into a time of Biblical and archaeological learning by a guide.  He was so solid in the Gospel and a joy to listen to.  He showed us the place of the skull, called Golgotha in Greek.  We get our English word “Calvary” from the Latin Calvariæ Locus.  Golgotha is right outside the walls of Jerusalem and Jesus would have been crucified on the road (not on a hill) and the cross would have been close to the ground to humiliate the criminals on them.


If you notice, the area right next to the Golgotha hill is currently a muslim area.

Adjacent to Golgotha is the Garden Tomb area.  There our guide told us about the inscription found at the site of this tomb believed to be the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where Jesus’ body was laid.


It was a sacred and exciting moment for us all as we went into the tomb and came out.  Jesus is alive!!


As we left that garden we saw this verse

… that means everything.


What a day it was, sacred and profound.


Photos by Susie Stewart








Jericho Has a Gondola?

Hey Everyone!  I intended to blog everyday, and tried, but I just didn’t have the time, energy, or bandwidth to be able to.  So I will do my best to recapture each day, if not only for myself, to keep the memories alive.  This was the most special trip I’ve ever been on. Profound is an understatement.

Our hotel, the Ma’agan Eden Kibbutz Village on the Sea of Galilee was very beautiful, as you can see by these photos.  This is a Kibbutz, which is a communal living cluster of homes and occupations.  The hotel is part of it.


What these photos don’t really show you is the sweeping view of the Sea of Galilee.  Taking that in was so beautiful.  Tiberius was right across the lake through the haze.  This time of year typically has a lot of haze.

It was interesting to observe Jews as families living and vacationing together.  A wonderful sense of community and togetherness.


From this resort we headed out for a day of touring.


As we were driving around in our bus we would often see huge groves of banana palms covered in a massive box of netting to speed up growth and preserve as much water as possible inside.

We headed to Capernaum (or as our tour guide Daniel referred to it, Ca-per-na-HOOM), first thing this day because it can be one of the hotter places.  Jesus spent two years here.


We walked around and in the area of where the synagogue was.  You can see the difference in the color of stone from ancient times to more recent.  In Jesus’ day the stone was at the bottom, darker, volcanic.


Being in Capernaum thrilled my heart.  I imagined Christ walking in this town, spending time with people, teaching, and healing.  He healed Peter’s mother most likely in this spot a modern-day church has been built over.  We spent some time praying in the church.


We looked out at the water from Capernaum and stood with a statue of Peter with the inscription, “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church.” ~ Matthew 16


We then drove through Tiberius.  What a cool town on the hills of the lake!  Andy was kind of obsessing over Tiberius.



On to the Mount of Beatitudes!  Catholics have made this site, thought to be the place where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes, into a very beautiful spot to visit and worship in.


By the way, we were very blessed to have Bob Siegel and his wife Dana along with us.  Bob is extremely knowledgeable in all things Bible and has his own radio program (  He spoke to us on descending stairs as Jesus would have spoken to the people on that hill, being at the bottom of the group. The Missions Pastor from our church, Crossroads Community Church, who did such a great job of leading our entire group to the Holy Land, is standing next to Bob teaching.  Bob is his brother-in-law.

As we drove away from the Galilee area and headed south to the desert, I though a lot about how it would be to travel in the hot sun through these parts.  Not an easy thing.  Below is when we passed over one part of the Jordan River.


As we followed along the Jordan River path, we were right next to the border with Syria and with Jordan.  You can see the security fences in the photos below.  It was sobering to see first hand what the Jews need to do in order to protect themselves from hostile neighbors.

Trees planted always made a stark contrast with the rocky desert.  Did you know that in the last 100 years, Jews have planted over 200 million trees in Israel?  It adds so much!


One of the most shocking things for me during this day, was seeing Jericho.  In all my imaginings growing up, I did not expect Jericho to look like this!  Aaannd, modern day Jericho has a gondola!  Who knew?!

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In Jericho we stopped for lunch at the Sultana Restaurant.  When we stepped off the bus it was 117 degrees and when we left it was 119.  What?!?!  The food was delicious and I especially loved this dessert.  The staff of the restaurant were entertaining and made even our meal a drama.  One of our team members, Carlie, was used as a model to demonstrate a dead sea mud mask that you take off with a magnet!

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This man asked us if we wanted to buy a flying carpet.  🙂

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One thing I didn’t realize before visiting Jericho is how close in proximity it is to the Dead Sea.  All such a barren desert area.

Our guide brought our attention to a monastery cut into the mountains where they have kept the skulls of priests for hundreds of years, and to a very old sycamore tree like the one Zachaeus climbed.

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As we headed to Jerusalem, large areas that have held refugees were also pointed out to us.


We saw surprising Jewish settlements in Arab areas, like this one on the hill.


Bedouin camps camps at the foot of mountains.

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and Palestinian neighborhoods

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I was struck by the differences in Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.

We drove steeply uphill through the desert until we got to


What a vast, interesting, beautiful place.


We overlooked the city from a place where many names were recorded of people who had given over a million dollars to help enhance and build Jerusalem.  One of the names you might recognize – Steven Spielberg.  Many Jews from all over the world contribute generously to furthering the building, education, agriculture, and more.


Not far from this site, was Bethlehem.  We overlooked the city and the hills where the shepherds saw the angels at night.  It looked nothing like I had imagined.  I felt thankful to see what it was really like.  Bethlehem is a town that is mostly muslim now, which also surprised me.


I took a small piece of this hyssop plant and brought it home.  It has a very strong scent.

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” ~ Psalm 51:7

“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.” ~ Exodus 12:22

“A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

– John 19:29-30 


This was a sharp, beautiful thistle, and a ginormous aloe vera plant.


As if all of this wasn’t enough to fill a day, we got to go to a portion of the Jordan River and get baptized!  How wonderful is that?


Thank you to Bob and Guy for baptizing us!  And thank You Jesus for giving us a reason to testify to new life in You!


We capped it all off with a night out near the Old City at a happenin’ mall.  We happened to be there for a light show and presentation.  The old is mixed with the new in so many amazing ways in this city.


My favorite part of the evening was watching people dancing in the streets together.  It was joyful and just made me happy.


So!  Believe it or not, that was all in one day!  The whole week the Israel Tour Company did such a phenomenal job making sure we experienced everything we intended to experience with the longer stay.  I’m so grateful.  Onto the next day!


I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
    in your gates, Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”

– Psalm 122:1,2,6,7 (NIV)


Photos by Susie Stewart