Israel Pilgrimage Journal Monday, April 27- Tuesday, April 28

It was a dark and stormy morning on Monday, April 27. There were tornado warnings and even confirmed tornadoes for Baton Rouge, Gonzales, and near New Orleans, where I was supposed to fly out at 5:30 PM. New Orleans Advocate story and pictures of stormy weather on April 27, 2015  I ran the bulletins for the May 3 service and ran a few errands before loading the car about 12 PM. We stopped in Ponchatoula to eat and the let the New Orleans airport clear a bit because the weather was so bad that they were diverting planes after closing the airport earlier that morning. Arrived at the airport about 2 PM. I said goodbye to Jana and started my Israel adventure.

Security at the airport was long, but moved fast. I guess it was everyone leaving New Orleans the day after Jazz Fest. When I cleared security and got to the gate, people were running to catch a plane to Atlanta, their schedule delayed by the bad weather. My own flight to John F. Kennedy airport in New York was also delayed, not leaving until about 6.

I was on a small regional jet and one of my carry ons had to be stowed under the plane. I snuggled in next to the person in the adjoining seat and we were off to JFK. I read and played games on the way to NYC, hoping that I would be tired enough to sleep some on the 10+ hour flight to Tel Aviv.

When I landed at JFK, I was basically one level below my gate for the flight to Tel Aviv. Emile met me at a burger place in JFK just down from our gate. I ordered a burger and fries and finally received it after a long wait. The restaurant was in a hurry to clean up, so that they could close at midnight. Our flight must have been one of the final flights out of JFK because the airport was almost empty, even in “the city that never sleeps.” After eating, we went straight to board the plane. It was chaos. The waiting area was too small, so many of us were forced to stand.

The variety of people was interesting. There were many orthodox Jews with hats and conservative dress, others wearing a yamaka on their head. There were also many Christians with Bibles or study guides. As we started to board, we went through another level of Israeli security. I forgot to take off my watch and the metal detector alerted. I removed my watch, they scanned it, and I went back through security and passed!
Finally, I boarded the plane. It was 9 seats across! The biggest plane I have ever been on! I was near the back of the plane- aisle seat on the left side. I was seated next to 2 women from Florida. They were also Christians headed to Israel for plilgrimage. One was working on a study guide.

The flight was LONG! I watched “Exodus- Gods and Kings”, read my Israel tour book and tried to sleep. But I soon discovered there was not much room! I think I got about 2 hours of sleep. The flight was pretty smooth, just a little bumpy over the Mediterranean sea and as we left JFK.

When we arrived in Israel, the passport control long was quite long. When I finally got there, the official asked me who I was touring with. “Gordon Tours” I replied. “Is it a Delta company?” he asked. “I don’t know” I replied. He asked to see my boarding pass and let me through. I guess he decided that I had not swam to Israel!

We found our baggage quickly and our tour guide. She put us in a cab driven by Ronnie. Ronnie rarely spoke to us, but I only thought I was going to die a few times, so not too bad a ride in a foreign cab! Got to the Grand Court hotel after about an hour and a half drive from Tel Aviv, made longer by construction. We checked in to room 937. It was a long walk to reach our room from the elevator, as our room was on the opposite side of the hotel.

Supper plate from the Restaurant at the Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem

Supper plate from the Restaurant at the Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem

We arrived in Jerusalem a little after dark, about 7:30 PM. We went to the room and unpacked a little, then went down for supper. Supper was good- chicken, beef, broiled fish, and lots of salads and vegetables. Lighter than American fare. Lots of desserts and they were very good! We were hungry after the airplane meals.

Our Room at the Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem

Our Room at the Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem

After supper, we walked around a little, buying a few bottles of water at a nearby corner shop. We walked through a little shop at the next door Olive Tree Hotel, then returned to our hotel. We considered going to the Old City, but we weren’t sure exactly how to get there. My phone was dead and I had left it in the room to charge, so I was no help. I mostly wanted just to sleep anyway. We returned to the room, did some unpacking, and turned out the lights about 10 PM.

Forgiving ourselves

Wallpaper featuring Dan Fouts, Quarterback of the San Diego Chargedr from 1973-1987

Wallpaper featuring Dan Fouts, Quarterback of the San Diego Chargers from 1973-1987

On Saturday, August 23, I sat in my recliner after a busy week of ministry to watch my favorite professional football team, the New Orleans Saints, face the Indianapolis Colts in their 3rd preseason game.  The announcers for the game were Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts,who was providing the color, or expert, commentary.  Dan Fouts certainly qualifies as an expert in the game.  A pro football Hall of Fame member, Fouts threw for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns during his 15 years with the San Diego Chargers (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Fouts).

During the game, Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, underthrew a receiver late in the second quarter and the ball was picked off by the Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.  What surprised me about the play was not the interception, nor the underthrown ball, but Fouts’ reaction to it.  Fouts said that Andrew Luck would remember that throw, just as Fouts said he remembers every one of the 242 interceptions that he threw in his career.

I found it surprising that Fouts remembered the exact number of interceptions he threw and that he claimed to remember every one of those mistakes.  I wondered if he could remember the great plays and throws he made over the years and if he knew the the exact numbers of all the positive things he did in his career such as the many touchdowns and thousands of yards mentioned earlier.  My guess (and it is only a guess) is that Fouts could probably not remember all of the great throws and great moments he had to help San Diego have so many successful seasons.  I couldn’t help but wonder why it is the bad things that we remember rather than the good things.  Why is it so  hard for us to let our past go and forgive ourselves for our past mistakes, which are sometimes much worse than an interception in a football game?

The Bible is full of verses about God’s forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Micah 7:18-19 says “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  My favorite verse on forgiveness is Psalm 103:12, which reads “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” These are only a few of many bible verses about God’s forgiveness. So if God is willing to forgive us and remove our sins and mistakes from us, why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves and forget our mistakes?

I am reading a book by Adam Hamilton titled “Forgiveness:Finding Peace Through Letting Go.”  I am reading and studying it in preparation to use it as our fall study at Pine Ridge and Tangipahoa United Methodist Churches.  While studying and considering the content of the book, I discovered some unforgiveness in my own life and I am trying to let it go.  Who was the one I had to forgive the most? Myself!  I was still holding on to mistakes and regrets in my own life that were stumbling blocks to me personally and professionally.  Maybe that is why what Adam Hamilton calls the six hardest words to say (I am sorry; please forgive me) are in the first person tense.  Maybe that is why Dan Fouts remembers the 242 interceptions rather than the 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns.  Maybe if we are going to get serious about forgiveness, we need to start with forgiving ourselves and letting go of our mistakes.

Questions to consider:  When have you had a hard time forgiving yourself for past mistakes?  Why?  How did (or have you) made peace with those mistakes?  If God is willing to forgive us, why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves?