Let there be light – all year long

I know some really efficient people who take down their tree and decorations the day after Christmas.

Most years, I’ve preferred to wait until at least January 7, the day after Epiphany. The 12 days of Christmas, after all, are said to run between Christmas Day and Epiphany.

However, in recent years – especially while enduring season after season of pandemic-related isolation – I’ve been reluctant to take the decorations down even in January. The lights, especially, create such a cheery mood in a gloomy time.

So in 2021, I left everything up until just before Easter. Then, in 2022, I decided, “Why take it all down for Easter?”

That’s when I started outfitting my sun room with an “Ordinary Time” theme, complete with tree, lights and decorations.

Just before Easter Sunday, I traded in the Christmas ornaments on the tree (above) for some bird and butterfly ornaments and cute little bows.

Here’s a close-up of bird and butterfly ornaments on the tree.

I replaced the Christmas wreath and red bows above the windows with a wreath full of spring/summer flowers and some sunshine-yellow bows.

In the rest of the sun room, I swapped out the poinsettias and other Christmas decor for “growing season” flowers.

I exchanged more Christmas decor for spring and summer flowers in another corner of the sun room.

Still more flowers fill a third corner. Yes, that’s a cat bed in the chair.

Our Champie often prefers the floor, however, especially if he can bake his little brains in a shaft of sunlight while I do morning meditation.

The swing below is where I sometimes sit for morning meditation.

Above the door leading from the sun room into the living room is one of my favorite Bible verses.

I’m not sure when I’ll take down the Christmas decor this year. The first day of spring, perhaps? Or maybe I’ll get motivated to take it down earlier, now that I have something just as cheerful to replace it with.

Meanwhile, here’s a panoramic view of my “Ordinary Time” sun room, as it looked for most of this past year, with all the “growing season” decor – and the lights blazing.

No time for gloom in this room!

Our annual Christmas letter

This Christmas, quite frankly, finds us in a rather challenging place.

In October, Pete was diagnosed with bladder cancer and is now undergoing chemotherapy. And just as he was preparing to begin his chemo treatments two weeks ago, I was taken by ambulance to the ER for chest pain and really bad heartburn that turned out to be … a heart attack. So I got two stents for Christmas.

Despite the distressing news, we both consider ourselves fairly lucky. Pete’s cancer was actually discovered accidentally, while he was being screened for something else. If his cardiologist hadn’t spotted the mystery mass on his CT scan, who knows how far the cancer would have progressed before it was caught? And my heart attack was caught early enough, the doctors don’t think there will be permanent heart damage.

We also had some major sadness in our household earlier this year. We lost our sweet Olaf DaVinci in the spring. Oley was a big, beautiful, majestic and totally lovable Maine Coon cat with a flamboyantly irrepressible personality. He had a studious little face, thick luxurious fur and a magnificent plume of a tail. He loved to sit on laps. We miss him terribly.

Here he is on the table in our sunroom, the king of all he surveys.

The coming months are going to be a bit of a challenge as Pete continues his chemo, followed by surgery, and I begin cardiac rehab. So everyone’s prayers are greatly appreciated!! Luckily we have been surrounded by the love of supportive family and friends as we go through all this, along with delicious meals sent our way by some special angels.

We’ve even gotten support from complete strangers who probably have no idea how much of an impact their small action is having. When we’re out and about, we make a point of driving by the house on MacArthur Boulevard with this sign in their yard.

Despite the sad and scary stuff, there have been some bright spots this year.

Pete turned 80 in September, and about 30 friends and relatives turned out for our Zoom birthday party. It was GREAT seeing everyone, including people from California, Colorado and upstate New York, as well as Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, most of whom probably would not have been able to attend an in-person celebration.

We’re now part of the Associates Program for the Dominican Sisters in our community. Associates assist, among other things, with the Dominicans’ social justice activities. We had both admired the Dominican Sisters for a number of years. During our 20-plus years of working for human service agencies (me) and teaching at Benedictine University (Pete), we saw up close the many valuable contributions they’ve made to our community and the world.

The photos below show us with our sponsor during the commitment ceremony at the Motherhouse in May.

We continue to be involved in our own congregation. Since COVID broke out, we’d been “attending” church online and doing book group and Bible study sessions via Zoom, and we continue to do so due to our health concerns. We miss being in our church’s choir, which we sang in for years. But we’re finding other ways to contribute our time and talents in our congregation.

Since January, we’ve been leading a new adult faith formation class called Sundays@6, which meets on Zoom. So far, we’ve covered subjects ranging from the 10 Commandments to evangelism to what we can learn from Christians whose denominations are different from our own. The group has about 8-10 regulars who “attend” each week, and the discussions are great!

This year we also had extensive landscaping work done in the spring. I planted lots of native perennials, as well as an abundance of annuals. I’ve found gardening to be therapeutic, and the yard is looking beautiful! We’ve turned our flower beds into a welcome center for hummingbirds and bees and butterflies, and managed to attract some much-loved visitors (above).

And we still have our sweet, lovable, ornery, beautiful Champie Cat. He has been such a source of joy to us as we’ve survived this past year. I often refer to him as our furry little comforter. He was a “rescue kitty” we adopted from a shelter 15 years ago, but there could be a definite debate about who’s rescued whom. We love him so much, and he has us utterly wrapped around his paw!

Here’s hoping everyone has a safe Christmas and an even better New Year.

Our Holy Land pilgrimage: the Old City of Jerusalem

Ten years ago this month, Pete and I took the trip of a lifetime – a tour of the Holy Land. (Hard to believe it’s been that long ago!)

In previous posts, I’ve shared photos of the famous archeological and historical sites we visited (link HERE), the cities and towns where Jesus walked (link HERE), and the memorable experiences we had such as sharing communion on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee (link HERE).

One of the more fascinating parts of the trip was touring the Old City of Jerusalem. Walking through its narrow streets and alleys felt like stepping back in time.

Surrounded by ancient walls, the Old City is home to sites considered holy by three major religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine are all located there.

Here is a panoramic view.

Via Dolorosa – Latin for “Sorrowful Way” or “Way of Suffering” – is a processional route through the Old City. Believed to be the route that Jesus walked to his crucifixion, the path has been followed by Christian pilgrims for centuries.

Fourteen “stations” along the Via Dolorosa’s roughly half-mile path signify events mentioned in the New Testament and Christian tradition, and many pilgrims stop at each station for a short session of prayer and reflection.

Among the events commemorated are the places where Jesus was condemned to death, where he fell while carrying his cross, and where he was stripped of his garments.

Some of the stations are located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pictured here, including a site believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified and another site believed to be Jesus’ empty tomb.

The Western Wall is a place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people. The wall is believed by devout Jews to be the last remnant of a retaining wall that surrounded the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

The Western Wall has a men’s entrance and a women’s entrance (above). Below, people stand next to the wall to pray. Again, there is a men’s section and a women’s section.

The Dome of the Rock (pictured below) is an Islamic shrine revered by Muslims as the spot from which they believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.

The Foundation Stone and its surroundings which lie at the center of the dome are also considered the holiest site in Judaism. The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Jewish Temple.

Below is a close-up of the Dome of the Rock’s tiled facade.

The Cardo in Jerusalem’s Old City was the city’s main commercial avenue for 500 years. Cardos were generally lined with shops and vendors, and served as a hub of economic life, making them the “heart” of ancient cities.

Pictured above are ruins of the Cardo, and below is a mural depicting what the Cardo would have looked like in its heyday.

Today’s marketplaces in the Old City remain colorful. Tiny shops, open-air markets and food stalls fill the crowded alleyways. Throngs of tourists from all over the world make for some fascinating people-watching.

Some of the little shops are truly amazing.

Outdoor cafes offer delicious local favorites such as falafel and hummus.

A gentleman sitting in an alley with his very colorful pet bird attracts lots of attention from passersby.

Little gardens are tucked into the landscape everywhere.

When we were there, one of the flower beds contained a prayer I imagine millions of people have sent up over the years.

Walking meditation

This year I celebrated my birthday with a three-day weekend dedicated to prayer, meditation and reflection. Only instead of sequestering myself indoors, I tried to stay outside as much as possible.

A highlight of the weekend was a trip to Jubilee Farm, where my husband Pete and I walked their labyrinth for the first time.

Jubilee Farm was established in 1999 by the Dominican Sisters as a center for ecology and spirituality, according to their web site (link HERE).

The labyrinth – one of the farm’s more amazing and popular features – allows us to follow a defined pathway to the center of the circle and back out again, praying and meditating as we go.

Many labyrinths are located in churches or other buildings, but the one at Jubilee Farm is outside.

For more than three millennia, millions of people have used labyrinths as an aid for prayer, according to the Jublilee Farm web site (link HERE for an article about the labyrinth itself).

One of the most famous labyrinths – and the one replicated at Jubilee Farm – is embedded in the stone floor of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres, France. 

At the entrance to (or exit from) the Jubilee Farm labyrinth is a bench where we can sit for a moment to gather our thoughts.

The labyrinth is a single circular path which takes us to a center place and back out again,

At Jubilee Farm, the labyrinth path is mowed right into the pasture grass, as pictured above and below.

There are no wrong turns or dead ends in a labyrinth, the Dominican Sisters assure us. There is one way in and one way out. 

There is also no right or wrong way to pray while walking the labyrinth, a Sister who lives at the farm assured us the first time we visited Jubilee Farm in the spring.

We can pray for people or situations that are on our mind. We can ask a question and leave space for the Holy Spirit to respond. We can give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

Or we can walk in silence, observing the scenery around us and drinking in God’s presence.

All along the path at Jubilee Farm’s labyrinth, Pete and I encountered an abundance of milkweed, red clover and wildflowers.

We also encountered this little guy, who reminds us God wants us to pay attention! Is he magnificent or what?!

Finally we came to the center of the labyrinth, which had a couple of stumps where we could once again sit for rest or contemplation if we wished.

Walking to and from the labyrinth was an experience in itself. On the way back to our car, we walked past this pretty little pond.

Below is a close-up of the water lilies and lily pads in the middle of the pond.

Millions of people around the world use labyrinths as a spiritual practice.

At Jubilee Farm, walking their labyrinth turned out to be nature prayer at its finest! And a great way to start my personal new year.

Our annual Christmas letter

Dear Family and Friends,

This holiday season finds us so sick of the pandemic we want to stick our fingers in our ears and scream until the frustration dissipates. And how are you??

We’re slowly beginning to grasp the reality that things aren’t getting “back to normal” anytime soon – if ever – so we might as well adjust to “the new normal.” Or – as we like to joke – “the new abnormal.” (Nobody’s ever been normal around our house.)

Among other pandemic activities, we’ve been growing ponytails. My hair hasn’t been this long since high school, and Pete’s wasn’t this long even during his hippie stage. Now that our hair has grown out, we’ve both decided we kind of like it that way. We can just stick it in a ponytail on bad hair days instead of having to fuss with it. Check out our “before” and “after” photos below.



Despite our COVID fatigue, this Christmas is a time for immense gratitude! We survived a major scare in October that culminated in a two-week hospital stay for Pete. His heart raced along at 130-150 beats a minute for several days; he had pneumonia; and to top it off, a CT scan showed a quarter-size mass on one lung, which the doctors seemed convinced was cancer. He was admitted to the hospital for a cardiac ablation, a PET scan, a biopsy and treatment for his pneumonia. For two agonizing weeks, we both pleaded with God. Our prayers were answered. The mass on his lung turned out not to be malignant – GLORY HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!! – and the ablation procedure went without a hitch. His pneumonia is slowly healing.

Prior to the hospital stay, we were beginning to feel like characters in the movie Groundhog Day. Since Feb. 29, 2020, we seemed to be living the same day again and again … and again. Once the hospital adventure ended, however, we decided, “Groundhog Day is over!” Time to turn the calendar to a new day.

So we’re now doing something quite new and different: We’re in training to become part of the Associates Program for the Dominican Sisters in our community. Associates assist, among other things, with the Dominicans’ social justice activities. We’ve both admired the Dominican Sisters for a number of years. During our 20-plus years of working for human service agencies and teaching at Benedictine University, we saw up close the many valuable contributions they’ve made to our community – from serving as board members or in other volunteer capacities, to mentoring and helping nonprofit organizations with badly needed funding, to working with the Christian community in Iraq and Kurdistan.

We continue to be involved in our own congregation, of course, but in some rather new ways. Since COVID broke out, we’re been “attending” church online and doing book group and Bible study sessions via Zoom. Our church’s choir, which we sang in for years, is not active at this time due to safety concerns, but we’re finding other ways to contribute our time and talents. After the beginning of the year, we’ll be leading an adult faith formation class on the Ten Commandments. We’ll do this on Zoom, which means we’ll need to get up to speed on that technology. Wish us luck.

On the home front, we started growing milkweed in one of our flower beds a couple years ago and this year we got our first monarch caterpillars. Six of them!! We were so excited. We loved watching them busily munching away on the milkweed as they grew … and grew. Those little guys are voracious eaters. Then they wandered off one by one to begin their pupa stage.

But later we spotted a small flock of monarch butterflies sipping nectar from the other flowers in our yard and we like to think these were our former caterpillars. To increase the possibility that we’ll get to host lots more caterpillars next year, we’ve added several more milkweed plants to our flower beds. In fact, we’re doing our best to turn as much of the backyard as possible into a giant butterfly garden. We like to think of this project as “God’s work, our hands.”

Oley and Champaign continue to be their feisty, sweet, ornery selves. So, we can’t finish up our Christmas letter without including at least a couple of cute kitty photos.

Here’s hoping everyone has a safe Christmas and an even better New Year.


Recipe: Ostkaka

This Swedish dessert is a favorite at our house during the Christmas season, and has been passed down in my family for several generations.

The name ostkaka can be roughly translated as “cheesecake” – “ost” meaning “cheese” and “kaka” meaning “cake.” But the dessert is a bit different from American cheesecake, not quite as sweet and with a slightly different texture.

To make it, older generations of my family used curdled milk, produced by adding rennet to a mixture of warm milk and flour. They then added heavy cream, sugar and eggs to make a batter. My parents’ generation simplified the recipe, using cottage cheese in place of curdled milk, and it tastes the same (at least to me). Needless to say, the latter version is much easier to make.

Over the years, my mother and I developed a few additional recipe adjustments to accommodate diabetes and other dietary restrictions. I use fat-free cottage cheese, substitute egg beaters for the eggs, substitute half and half or even whole lactose-free milk for the heavy cream, and replace sugar with an equivalent amount of sugar substitute. Rice flour can be used to make the recipe gluten free. The result is still delicious.

Our family likes to serve the ostkaka with lingonberries, but if these prove hard to find, strawberry jam or sliced strawberries can also be used.


  • 4 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
  • 3 cups fat-free cottage cheese
  • 2 cups half & half or whole milk
  • 1/3 cup regular or rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • Sweetener equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
  • Lingonberries, strawberry jam or sliced strawberries


Blend together the eggs, sweetener, cream or milk, flour and extract until smooth.

Stir in the cottage cheese until well-blended and pour the mixture into a cake pan.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour, or until it rises a bit and is slightly brown on top.

Allow the dessert to cool at least four hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Top each individual serving with about a tablespoon of lingonberries, strawberry jam or sliced strawberries.

Nutrition information

My version, made with egg beaters, whole milk and sugar substitute, topped with a tablespoon of lingonberries.

Serving size: 3/4 cup | Calories: 120 | Carbohydrates: 14 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 2 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 13 mg | Sodium: 300 mg | Potassium: 240 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 9 g | Vitamin A: 9% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 17% | Iron: 1%

A great giving opportunity: Micro food pantries

One of the niftier ideas to gain traction in recent years has been the micro pantry movement. We now have about 20 of these miniature food pantries scattered around our community – including one we just installed this year at our church.

Micro food pantries operate on a simple premise: “Take what you need. Leave what you can.” There are no sign-ups and no strings attached. If we are in need, micro pantries are there for us. And if we’re extra-blessed, we can help someone else.

The micro pantry movement provides another source of help for those who may be too embarrassed to seek assistance from a traditional food pantry, those who feel intimidated by the bureaucratic paperwork involved in receiving assistance from a government program, or those who don’t quite qualify for public assistance but are still strapped for cash between paychecks.

These little pantries – which have begun to pop up in communities all over the country – have also provided a wonderful low-contact, high-impact way for neighbors to help neighbors during the pandemic when more traditional, face-to-face volunteer activities have posed too much of a health risk.

Our church built our own micro pantry this year. About the size of a large kitchen cabinet, it turned out to be fairly easy to construct. Click HERE for a link to the design and instructions we used.

We placed it in a well-lit area next to the sidewalk leading up to one of our front entrances. People can safely access it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no questions asked. Congregation members are encouraged to bring items and help keep it filled.

Once our little pantry was built, here are some examples of nonperishable items that have made great micro pantry offerings.

  • Fixings for sandwiches: Bread, peanut butter, jelly, canned tuna, canned chicken, mustard, mayo, pickle relish.
  • Canned goods: Soups and stews, chili, fruits and vegetables, potatoes or yams, corn, baked beans, jars of baby food.
  • Canned or nonperishable meats: Tuna, chicken, Spam, sardines, Hormel Compleats.
  • Boxed meal kits: Macaroni and cheese, mixes such as Hamburger Helper, pasta noodles and pasta sauces.
  • Other shelf-stable foods: Rice, dried beans, Ramen noodles, instant mashed potatoes, powdered milk, evaporated milk, powdered eggs.
  • Breakfast items: Dry cereal, prepackaged instant oatmeal, fruit juice, fruit cups, shelf-stable breakfast pastries.
  • Healthy snack foods: Crackers, granola or cereal bars, trail mix, peanuts, almonds or any nuts, P3 protein packs, jerky.

We also like to put items in our micro pantry that people can’t buy using SNAP benefits.

  • Grooming supplies: Toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, body soap, disposable razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes, tampons or pads, baby wipes.
  • Cleaning supplies: Dish soap, laundry soap, bleach, sponges, paper towels.
  • Disposable face masks. I’ve ordered them online in boxes of 50 and put them in plastic sandwich bags in batches of 5 or 10 per bag.
  • Pet food: I sometimes even like to leave a little something for Fido or Fluffy – small cans or packages of dog or cat food.

When contributing items for the pantry, I like to leave a combination of small serving/individual-size items for single individuals, and larger economy-size items for families.

I’ve also repurposed those little packets containing napkins and plastic silverware that come in to-go restaurant orders. That way, homeless people who avail themselves of food in the pantry have something to eat it with. The sample-size soap and shampoo picked up from hotel rooms are perfect as well.

Our church’s little pantry has been getting well-used and it has been a fairly easy project for our community service committee to maintain.

Perhaps just as importantly, it has provided a great way for my husband and I and other congregation members to keep contributing to our community despite quarantining and other restrictions imposed by this endless pandemic.

This adds up to a win-win situation for everyone, giver and receiver alike.

Our Holy Land pilgrimage: Immersing ourselves

One of the best things about the Holy Land tour my husband and I took several years ago was the chance to totally immerse ourselves in once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

These unforgettable experiences included attending a church service conducted in three languages simultaneously, taking communion on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, placing our own written prayers along with millions of others in the cracks of the Western Wall, feasting on delicious food, taking a dip in the Dead Sea and even meeting a camel face-to-face.

Above is the kibbutz where we stayed for the first part of our trip. Everywhere we went, we encountered the most amazing food. We visited restaurants with whole tables full of vegetable dishes, like the spread below. Good thing, too, because there were equally large tables full of irresistible pastries.

At one of our stops we got to meet a friendly camel. We were offered a chance to ride a camel, if we wished, but I settled for petting this one. Below, several members of our tour group took the opportunity to wade in the Dead Sea.

The Ancient Galilee Boat, above, also known as the Jesus Boat, is a first-century fishing boat discovered on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Members of our tour group shared communion in the middle of the Sea of Galilee while in a replica of the Jesus Boat, below.

For the communion service on the boat, we obtained the bread and grape juice, pictured below, from a little shop in Cana.

Several times during our trip, I found myself remarking, “This is what Pentecost must have felt like.” At each holy site we visited, we could hear tour groups, like the one above, from all over the world singing hymns or sharing devotions in every language imaginable.

On Sunday our own tour group attended a service at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, pictured below. A German tour group was also present, along with the local church members. Everyone prayed and sang the familiar hymns in their own languages, so during the service, we could hear English, German and Arabic being sung and spoken simultaneously.

During the church service, we thumbed through a hymnbook in which we found Silent Night in Arabic. Note that the music and text are read from right to left on the page.

The “Pentecost feeling” continued at the Church of the Pater Noster, part of a Carmelite monastery in Jerusalem, where the walls are used to display the Lord’s Prayer in more than a hundred different languages and dialects. Below is the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Our tour group visited several programs operated by the Lutheran World Federation, including Augusta Victoria Hospital, above, in East Jerusalem. The hospital provides speciality care for Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Quilts like those below, made by members of our congregation, are often sent to this hospital, and we were told the patients truly appreciate the quilts.

A special highlight of our trip was a visit to the Western Wall, below, a Jewish holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has long been a practice to insert slips of paper containing written prayers to God into the cracks and crevices of the Western Wall. It is estimated that more than a million prayer notes are placed there each year. Of course, Pete and I added our own.

Our Holy Land pilgrimage: The Bible comes alive

Jerusalem … Bethlehem … Nazareth … the Sea of Galilee … the Road to Damascus.

From the time I was a child and began reading all the Bible stories, I had always visualized in my mind what these places looked like.

When my husband Pete and I checked off one of our bucket-list items several years ago and toured the Holy Land, many of these places turned out to be somewhat different from what I envisioned.

For example, the Sea of Galilee turned out to be … a very large lake.

I had always pictured Bethlehem and Nazareth as quaint little villages. While they actually were humble agricultural villages in the time of Jesus, they are now bustling densely-packed small cities of about 30,000 and 75,000 people respectively.

Modern Jerusalem did turn out to be much like I’d imagined, mostly because I’d seen so many pictures of it in the news media over the years.

Even though some of these places have changed considerably since Bible times, being there was an amazing experience. I had a sense of the Bible stories coming alive while I walked where Jesus and other people of the Bible lived and walked.

Here are some of the places we had the privilege of visiting, along with their Biblical significance.


The Bible mentions Jerusalem more than any other place (about 800 times). It was the city to which Jesus was brought as a child to be presented at the Temple and to attend festivals, where he preached and healed, and where he died and was resurrected. Pictured here is a panoramic view of the Old City.


The oldest still-inhabited city in the Middle East, Jericho is perhaps best known as the site of the Battle of Jericho described in the book of Joshua. Pictured here is the entrance to the modern city.


Bethlehem is where David came from, and where he was crowned king of Israel. And, of course, it was later the birthplace of Jesus. While many of the streets of the modern city had bumper-to-bumper traffic, parts of the city actually did look like I envisioned it looking in Bible times, including the street scene here.


The Gospel of Luke tells us Nazareth was Mary’s home village as well as the site where she learned from the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus. Joseph and Mary resettled there with young Jesus after returning from the flight to Egypt from Bethlehem. Pictured here is a panoramic view of the modern city.

Jordan River

The Jordan River features prominently in the Hebrew Scriptures as the border of the Promised Land. The Gospels tell us John’s baptism of Jesus took place there, as did many more baptisms conducted by Jesus and his disciples.


According to the Gospels, Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt there. Pictured here are ruins of the Ancient Synagogue in Capernaum, one of the oldest synagogue buildings in the world.


Caesarea, once the Roman capital of Palestine, was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus and where Paul was imprisoned before being sent to Rome for trial. It was also the residence of Philip the evangelist and Cornelius the centurion. Pictured here are ruins of the city’s amphitheater.

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee was the scene of many, many stories told in the Gospels about the life of Jesus. Among other events, it is where he preached his Sermon on the Mount, walked on water, calmed a storm and showed the disciples miraculous catches of fish.

Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives is first mentioned in Genesis when the dove returned to Noah’s ark carrying an olive branch in its beak. It also appears in the Gospels as the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem and where he ascended to heaven. The photo of the olive tree below was taken on the Mount of Olives.

Road to Damascus

According to the Book of Acts, the Road to Damascus is where the Apostle Paul had his conversion experience that led him to stop persecuting the early Christians and become a follower of Jesus. Here’s the modern road, as seen from the back of our tour bus.

Golan Heights

Land now known as the Golan Heights was referred to in the Bible as Bashan. The word “Golan” appears to be derived from the Biblical city of “Golan in Bashan.” The land of Bashan is mentioned in several places throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The photo below was taken on a bluff from which we could see into Syria.

Our Holy Land pilgrimage: Where Jesus walked

Several years ago, my husband Pete and I took the trip of a lifetime – a tour of the Holy Land. The tour, hosted by St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Illinois, invited us to see the stories of the Bible unfold while we walked “as a pilgrim along the paths of Christ and the early Church.”

Titled “Peace Not Walls,” the trip went beyond simply touring the famous archeological and historical sites. We got to see the international church in action by visiting programs sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, met personally for conversations with people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and attended a church service conducted in three languages simultaneously.

Needless to say, visiting the holy sites themselves was an amazing experience. In many places, churches or shrines have been built in the exact locations where – based on best estimates by historians, archeologists and others – events mentioned in the Bible are believed to have taken place. Some of the churches themselves are hundreds of years old and still conduct services.

Shepherd’s Field (above) is believed to be the place where an angel appeared to shepherds and announced the birth of Jesus. The site is considered one of the best places from which to view Bethlehem as it would have been seen by the shepherds. Below are the ruins of a fourth-century Byzantine church at Shepherd’s Field.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (above), built in 565 A.D. over the site where Jesus is believed to have been born, is the oldest continuously functioning Christian church in the world. Today, custody of the church is shared by the Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Orthodox churches. Below, a 14-point star in the middle of the grotto located under the Church of the Nativity’s main altar is said to mark the exact spot where Jesus was born.

Tourists flock to the place along the shore of the Jordan River (above) where Jesus is believed to have been baptized. We saw a number of people getting baptized at the time of our visit. In the photo below, one can see in the distance a monastery built where Jesus is believed to have been tempted in the wilderness. (The monastery is nestled about halfway up the hill toward the right in the photo.)

In the photo below are the ruins of what is believed to be the house Peter shared with his mother-in-law and his brother Andrew. It was in this house that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the paralyzed man and others.

The Church of the Multiplication (above) was built on what is believed to be the site where the miracle of the loaves and the fishes took place. The Church of the Beatitudes (below) is located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the traditional “mount” where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

The Garden of Gethsemane (below) is where Jesus experienced the agony in the garden and was arrested the night before his crucifixion.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (above) is built on what are believed to be the locations where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. It is considered by many to be the most important holy site in Christianity, and is visited by more than a million pilgrims each year. Inside the church (below) one can see the Stone of Anointing, where the body of Jesus was laid down in preparation for his burial after he was taken down from the cross.

The photo below was taken in the garden outside the tomb where Jesus is believed to have been buried, and where the women were told, “He has risen!”