Graven Images (Pt. 2)

Among the many artifacts and art pieces we enjoyed on our recent tour of Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, were the many statues, both ancient and modern, at various sites throughout these lands.

These are some of the statues we saw during our seven days in Egypt. Obviously, the Sphinx at Giza is one of the largest and most impressive statues in the world:

A smaller but still impressive sphinx is the alabaster sphinx at Memphis:

Also at Memphis, this statue of Ramses II:

And inside a museum is this colossal Ramses II:

The colossi at Memphis, which once adorned the entrance to a large temple, like those at Luxor and Karnak:

A depiction of the "female Pharoah," Hatshepsut, at her magnificent tomb adjacent to the Valley of the Kings:

A representation of the god Horus at Hatshepsut's tomb:

And some of the ram-headed sphinxes that line the entrance to the Karnak Temple:

And, a head (again) of the Pharoah Ramses II, this one at Luxor Temple:

Graven Images (Pt. 1)

Among the many artifacts and art pieces we enjoyed on our recent tour of Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, were the many statues, both ancient and modern, at various sites throughout these lands. This statue of Jesus is found in the Chapel of the Condemnation, the first station on the Via Dolorosa:

This image of the Virgin Mary as a child, with St. Anne, her mother, is in the Church of St. Anne, next to the ancient Pool of Bethesda:

This depiction of Jesus is in the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, the site of Caiaphas's house, where Jesus was imprisoned the night before his crucifixion:

Rachel and her children, at Ramat Rachel, the hilltop overlooking Bethlehem:

And, finally, this statue of St. Peter, is at Capernaum, near the site of Peter's house:

Ancient Art

One of the most mind-boggling things we've seen on our Holy Land visits are the strikingly preserved ancient art pieces, like these below, Byzantine mosaics from the area of Mount Nebo and Medeba in Jordan:

The mosaic below, one of the most amazing ancient mosaics you'll ever see, is from the Byzantine church that once stood on the spot of the Church of the Heptapegon, at the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand:

The four-thousand-year-old color on this image of the Egyptian god Horus is found in the tomb of Hatshepsut in Luxor:

And perhaps my favorite example of all is this fresco....from a Byzantine church that once occupied the Luxor Temple!

To the right of this painting was the remains of the apse of that ancient church, an amazing Christian presence in the midst of the Egyptian pantheon. A striking sight.

A Favorite Photo I Didn't Take

This photo of sunset on the Nile, taken at Luxor, is the work of Willa Patterson, one of our Holy Land/Egypt group who always seemed to get the best shots. Thanks, Willa.

Luggage Gremlins

Anyone who travels much knows that there are in many airports and airlines luggage gremlins, who will damage--or hide--your luggage, simply out of spitefulness. I was delighted to see, in the Denver International Airport, an artful depiction of such creatures, on a pillar in the baggage claim area. In case you ever wondered if they truly existed.

Bookend Restaurants

Before and after our memorable afternoon at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, the lovely Robin and I ate at two local spots (which is always our preference when visiting someplace).

Our lunch spot was Marlowe's, a nice joint at Glenarm Place and 16th Street:

My sirloin and potatoes were excellent, but Robin's shrimp dish was too spicy. But they freely replaced it with a stew dish, and all was well.

After our delightful visit to the bookstore, we went practically next door to Dixon's on 16th Street:

We both had eggs, bacon, and potatoes....and enjoyed every bit.

These are only two of MANY unique choices along the 16th Street Mall and in the LoDo area. Wish we'd had time to discover them all.

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Right for the Soul

Jerry Jenkins and his Christian Writers Guild staff do everything right at the Annual Writing for the Soul Confetence, just concluded last Sunday in Denver.

What an honor to share those few days with Jerry (above), and keynoters like (pictured below, in order) Max Lucado, VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, Philip Yancey, along with those whose pictures I didn't get--the delightful Kendra Smiley and aged Jim Watkins.

And, of course, never to be forgotten (no matter how hard one may try), the other keynoter, Dr. Dennis Hensley, whose picture I took (with his longsuffering wife, Rose) as proof that Dennis DID appear at this conference (and on Sunday morning, for shame!) without a tie!

What a blessing it was to spend those days with such gifted writers and speakers, appreciative listeners and students, efficient staff, and dear friends and people of God.

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Tattered Cover

After the conclusion of the wonderful 2010 Writing for the Soul conference, the lovely Robin and I spent some time at the Tattered Cover bookstore, in the LoDo section of Denver:

It is an awesome bookstore, two floors of rambling bookshelves and chairs and couches:

We could have spent several days here, but tore ourselves away after about four hours:

Even their children's department was exceptional.

If you're ever in Denver, I highly recommend the corner of 16th and Wynkoop.

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This Morning at Writing for the Soul Conference, Denver

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10 Advantages to Traveling with a Great Company

I've often thought of traveling to Israel (and even living there) on my own, but this past trip--more than any other--has underscored what a great company our travel group, Educational Opportunities (EO), is...and what a blessing they are. Here's just ten reasons:

1. Advance preparations. Even though the lovely Robin and I have traveled often to Israel and other destinations, it's a great help to have an organizational partner like EO to make sure details are taken care of, before AND during the trip.

2. When our outgoing connection from Atlanta to New York kept getting delayed (putting our flight to Amman at risk), it was good to have a company hotline number to call, and have that person communicating with the airlines about potential alternate plans ahead of time. Brought me a lotta peace at the time, I gotta say.

3. Great guides. We had a better-than-ever experience with our guides this year, from Samer in Jordan (top) to Nader in Israel (middle) to Emad in Egypt (bottom).

You can always find a guide in country, of course, but you never know what you're going to get. With EO, we do.

4. Transitions. Every time we landed or arrived at a new airport, EO had someone there to greet us and shepherd us through the maze of lines and checks and inspections and so on. It was invariably a much smoother and shorter process with our local contacts at the helm.

5. Accommodations. EO does a great job of keeping a trip affordable while providing more-than-adequate (sometimes luxurious) accommodations. The hotels they choose are as reliable as they come.

6. Food. EO also does a fine job of not only letting us know what and when and where to eat or not eat in various countries, but also of choosing midday restaurants that are reasonable in cost....and safe for the ol' tum-tum.

7. Luggage. When in Tiberias one of our group's suitcases got mistakenly loaded onto a bus bound for Jerusalem (we were heading around the Galilee and then into Jordan), EO managed to arrange for its transportation back to us within a few hours. I can't imagine what would have happened without their intervention.

8. Transportation. Especially in Cairo, where the traffic was cuh-RAZY, it is such a blessing to have full-size buses (even for our group of 19, which enabled AJ to stretch out in the back!) and very accomplished drivers, which has always been our experience with EO.

9. Peace of mind. While cruising in a felucca on the Nile (I just LOVE saying that)...

...the local waterway police motored up to our sailboat and asked our ship's crew for their papers. A moment of uneasiness disappeared when our guide reassured us, explaining that it was routine and there was no problem. This peace of mind also operates when choosing vendors, shops, felucca drivers, etc., with the guidance of our EO guide!

10. When we landed in New York after a thirteen hour flight and learned that all our connecting flights had been cancelled, I placed a call to the EO emergency number...and was told that hotel rooms had already been booked for our group at the airport hotel, just in case! It turned out we didn't need them, but it was good to have someone watching out for us.

I like an adventure as much as the next guy, but I'm grateful for a company like EO that keeps the adventure...enjoyable.

18 Churches in Seventeen Days

Our recent pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel, and Egypt was a wonderful two-and-a-half weeks of fellowship, education, and inspiration. And, during the course of those seventeen days, we managed to take in at least eighteen chapels or churches. I thought it would be fun to REvisit them here, in roughly the order in which they are mentioned or figure in the Gospel story:

The Church of St. Anne, according to tradition the mother of the Virgin Mary.

The Church of the Annunciation, in Nazareth, on the site of the angel Gabriel's announcement to the Virgin Mary.

Shepherd's Field, where tradition says the shepherds were camped on this Bethlehem hillside when the angel appeared to announce the birth of Jesus.

The Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem.

The Church of the Holy Family, on the site where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived (according to ancient tradition) in what is now Cairo, Egypt.

The Church of the Wedding, in modern Cana.

The Church of St. Peter in Capernaum, a new church suspended over the excavated remains of the house of Peter in Capernaum.

The Church of the Beatitudes on the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Church of the Heptapegon (Seven Springs) at Tabgha, the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand.

The Dominus Flevit Church, on the site where on Palm Sunday Jesus stopped and wept over the city of Jerusalem.

The Basilica of the Agony, or Church of All Nations, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.

The Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu, on the site of Caiaphas's house, where (among other things) Peter denied Jesus.

The Chapel of the Condemnation on the possible site of the Fortress Antonia, where Jesus was condemned to die.

The Chapel of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a complex that actually encloses multiple churches and chapels, on the site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Syrian Orthodox Church and St. Mark's Convent, on a site marked since ancient times as the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark.

The Chapel of the Ascension, atop the Mount of Olives, on or near the spot where Jesus ascended into heaven.

The Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, in Bethlehem, over the cave where Jerome translated the Scriptures into Latin.

We entered all of these, prayed in most, read Scripture in many, and--very memorably--sang in one (the first, the Church of St. Anne).