Petra. Period.

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

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For anyone looking for something to outrank the Grand Canyon for spectacular natural beauty, let me introduce you to Petra. This natural wonder in Jordan can exhaust the use of superlatives, and can test the legs and stamina of anyone. It didn’t help that I brought a new physical limitation to my first visit to Petra. During the night, while walking from my bed to the bathroom, I hooked the small toe on my left foot to a chair leg. Dr. Brad Lauderdale, a member of our pilgrimage group, inspected it and said it might not be broken, but the swollen and discolored toe assured me that my time upright would be limited. But miss Petra because of a toe? Not in this life. So, with hiking boots on to help me emphasize my limp in an effort to gather more sympathy, I headed out of the hotel to the nearby entrance to this phenomenon.

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Nancy Kuhn and Mark Zimmerman on a horse drawn carriage

We had the option of riding a donkey to the first stage that leads to the canyon, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to go more than a mile to the spectacular treasury. But I walked to take advantage of the teaching of our guide, Sami.

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our guide, Sami Sahawneh, at the entrance to The Siq

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walking into The Siq where all the rocks you see are sandstone

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in some places, the canyon walls seem to almost touch each other

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the ancient aqueduct runs the entire length of The Siq: over a mile

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Lyn and Cam Ross enjoying the sunlight

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a view of The Treasury through the narrow walls of The Siq

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The Treasury, just over 128 feet high

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The Treasury, where Indiana Jones and his father found The Holy Grail

The walk through the narrow canyon, called The Siq, is downhill to the Treasury building (see pics above), but that meant walking back was uphill. Fortunately, I had company, the scores of young boys who were trying to get me to buy postcards for “One Dollah.” While I ended my Petra journey before noon, the rest of the group continued the hike, some going to very high spots and most going to the Monastery (see pics below). So, rather than subjecting you to read more about my toe or the 2-hour nap I took at the hotel, I’ll turn the text to Aran who didn’t return to the hotel with the others until 5 p.m.

Aran & Tony Walter, your bloggers, taking a selfie in Petra

Aran & Tony Walter, your bloggers, taking a selfie in Petra

Hi folks.  Aran here.  Sorry, can’t talk about The Treasury without referencing the film that brought it back into popular culture…

LOL . . . ok, enough of that.  So, this is actually my second time to Petra and I am thrilled to say, it was even better than before.  This is primarily due to my having the opportunity to go up to the High Sacrifice Places.  I’ll let you read more about it on your own at the Petra Wikipedia Page (<– click on that) but here’s a video I recorded from “on high” as well as some photos of the stunning views.

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Fr. Ralph, Nancy, Fr. Richard, Tom, and I walked to the High Places

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stunning views

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this is a 180-degree photo from atop of Petra. on the far left, at the highest peak, is the Tomb of Aaron, brother of Moses.

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looking towards Aaron’s Tomb

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the High Places crew, standing in front of The Rose Tomb

On our way down from the High Places, I had one of my “geeky church nerd” moments.  We came across an ancient banquet room, carved into the rock (as all of Petra’s rooms and homes and tombs are).  But inside was (so geeked out here) a Triclinium.  A 3-sided table, open at one end.  Those of you who’ve ever heard me talk about Jesus and his friends at the “Last Supper” have probably heard me talk about a Triclinium which was the table around which Jesus and his friends would have been reclining.  Not sitting.  They wouldn’t have been at a table like you and I sit at.  No chairs.  A Triclinium is a low to the ground table at which you pretty much spooned with your neighbors to the left and the right.  You shared the bowls and plates of food in front of you.  It was an intimate dining experience, one that wouldn’t fly at Grandma’s Thanksgiving Dinner!  Anywho, I had never seen one in person.  Just photos or drawings.  And now, here was one used in ancient times, dating back to the time of and even before the time of Jesus.  Take a look…

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Triclinium, 3 sides, left, back, and right. open towards you. very low to the ground. you would recline around the outside, propped up on your left elbow.

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check out the “painted” ceiling. minerals seeped through to form fantastic colors as well as reacted to the fireplace which you can see on the far left of the photo, the dark hole.

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standing at the head of the Triclinium looking out

The 5 of us reconnected with the rest of our group at lunch time, after which, many of us made our way up, up, up, up, and up to The Monastery.  This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful and breathtaking sight in all of Petra.  Many, however, do not go to see it because it is, well, it’s quite a hike.  Over 850 steps (not paces, stairs) along with a vertical ascent of more than 720 feet.  But, if you can get up there (and back down), it is one of the most incredible and deeply moving experiences of my life.  I heard one member of our group say, as we were about to leave, “I feel like I need to say good-bye to this place!” and they promptly made the sign of the cross and spent time in silent prayer.  It’s moments like this that cause me to realize that God truly is everywhere.  There is no place that we can go that isn’t already DRENCHED in the Presence of God.  The only question we must ask is, “Are we willing to seek and find it?”

That’s the end of my words for now.  I’ll let the photos of The Monastery do the rest of the talking.

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The Monastery at Petra

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it’s huge. and the carved it from the top down. yeah.

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how big is it? here’s some perspective . . . that’s me at the base of the “front door”.

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and that’s Fr. Ralph, in the red shirt, standing front and center.

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no words

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18 of us went up, up, up to see and experience The Monastery at Petra

Sorry, one last thing.  Do continue to pray for us as we cross from Jordan into Palestine and Israel tomorrow afternoon.  But most of all, please continue to

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

River Jordan, Mount Nebo, Madaba Mosaic…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

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on our bus

There is no way to make a day sound routine when you’ve visited the site where Jesus was baptized and where Moses first saw the Promised Land. Those were among our stops on our first full day in Jordan, a day that ended with us at the 5-Star Mövenpick Resort in Petra. Our Jordan traveling team began the day with two important additions – our guide Sami Sahowneh and a Jordanian police office who went with us for any security that might be – but wasn’t – needed. Sami was a first-rate guide and was one of those initially chosen to be one of the men to participate in President Obama’s recent visit to Jordan.

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renewing our baptismal vows

After a buffet breakfast, we boarded the bus and drove for 45 minutes from Madaba to the Bethany Site where John Baptist is known to have baptized Jesus. It is important to note that Jesus was most definitely not baptized on the Palestinian (now Israeli) side of the Jordan River.  There are massive excavations on the Jordanian side (see photo below) and archeologists and historians agree that to visit the true site of Jesus’ baptism, one must come to Jordan.

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the site where Jesus was baptized, in Jordan

The Jordan is quite muddy but it felt good to step into it as the temperatures were in the upper 70s. A major difference from the time of Jesus was the fact that you could pick up a wifi signal near the site today. Just 20 yards across the river on the Israeli side, a group of people – Jewish we believe – were having a prayer service.

Aran, cautiously stepping into The Jordan (he didn't fall in like he did in 2012)

Aran, cautiously stepping into The Jordan (he didn’t fall in like he did in 2012)

Aran and Fr. Ralph then led us on a renewal of our baptismal vows at the spot where Jesus was baptized. That’s a fact that is hard to grasp as it’s taking place. The site has seen five different churches built – one on top of the other – over the past 2,000 years. As each one was destroyed or fell apart, a new one was built. Archeologists have uncovered remains of the last one. The site is 600 feet below sea level. Near the site, we went into a Greek Orthodox Church, where men are required to remove their hats. Also nearby are the sites that have been given to different Christian denominations to build their own church. The Anglicans have land but no church there yet.

shish kabob

Sami is a fountain of knowledge. He told us that shish-ka-bob is an original Iranian word. Shish means 6 and kabob means meat. So if you get something that doesn’t have six pieces of meat, it’s not a shish-ka-bob. So thought provoking.

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a top Mount Nebo

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use the above picture to know what you are seeing in this picture

From the Jordan River site, we drove 45 minutes up nearby Mount Nebo, and I keep fearing I’m going to call it Mount Nemo. This involved a windy road that took us to the top where there was a spectacular view of Jericho but also into Palestine and then further to Israel. This is where Moses, on returning from Egypt, was able to view the Promised Land before he died. The site is owned by the Franciscans, who helped preserve it over the past 80 years. Every member of our pilgrimage group is managing to take scores of pictures.

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We left Mount Nebo and started south. Soon we stopped at a business where those who are handicapped and people with special needs help make mosaics, and the shop was filled with some spectacular work.

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Madaba Mosaic Map

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the oldest map of The Holy Lands in the world

We stopped in Madaba for lunch – salad and baked chicken – then walked a couple blocks away to St. George Orthodox Church where a mosaic that dates to the 6th century and was rediscovered in 1884 by Christians, is on the church floor and provides a religious history of the Mideast. Our guide, Sami, tells us it is the oldest map of The Holy Lands in the world.  Then it was off to Petra three hours away, where we had dinner that included lamb stew, chicken and every type of salad and dessert imaginable. Afterwards, we met as a group to begin plans for our full day in Petra on Saturday. Walking, climbing and being in awe are on the agenda.

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sun set in Al Hasa, Aţ Ţafilah, Jordan (on the way to Petra)

We love that you continue to pray for us.  Please know that Jordan is one of the safest countries in the Middle East.  We are all doing well and can’t believe it’s only been our first full day.  Your prayers are much appreciated but please, also . . .

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

We’re Not In Wisconsin Anymore…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
(please remember all Red Bold Text is a link to click on)

Well, we aren’t in Wisconsin anymore.

Wisconsin Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

The pilgrimage group spent the better part of 24 getting to Amman, Jordan but did arrive at 5 p.m. (Jordanian time) which was 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 in the Midwest. It will only be a 7 hour time difference after tonight as the Mideast version of Daylight Savings Time goes into effect after midnight here.

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traveling pilgrims

We arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare Field shortly after noon on Wednesday and went through all the complicated steps of getting checked in, something that puzzles me in this day of technology. The only drama was added by me – Tony – when I unknowingly dropped my passport in side O’Hare, only to have a gentleman behind me point it out and pick it up for me.

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But after reaching our gate, we learned that our initial flight to JFK Airport in New York was delayed by two hours, meaning we wouldn’t make our connection to Paris. Fr. Ralph went into conversation with the Delta folks and we soon learned that we could be rebooked on Royal Jordanian Airlines and flown directly to Amman. It meant 12 hours on the plane but it was a fair tradeoff. We flew at 10 p.m. and arrived in Amman 11 hours later. We were fed a dinner and breakfast enroute by a very competent flight crew.

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walking to the bus

In Amman we were met by a man named Allaa, an associate of our host and guide, Bishara Khoury. He led us to the baggage claim and we were pleased that our bags – minus one for Brad Lauderdale and one for Sue Giles that should arrive tomorrow – arrived. It is a brand new terminal and the Muslim Call to Prayer was broadcast over the public address as we waited for our bags. Our passports were collected and Allaa took care of the customs details. Outside the terminal, we met Bishara and his wife, Rana, and our bus driver, Soud.

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The Mosque of Jesus Christ

We loaded up and Soud drove us about a half hour to the Best Western Grand Hotel in Madaba, a suburb of Amman. On the way, Bishara pointed out a brightly lit Muslim mosque that is named The Mosque of Jesus Christ (the English translation). He said it was the named this because the Muslims in Jordan wanted to emphasize how the two faiths could live together in the country. It was nice to hear after reading so much negative opinions about the Muslim faith.

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Amman reminds me of Tucson, Arizona because it’s in the desert. But Thursday was the last day of the work week in Jordan so there was plenty of traffic as we headed to the hotel. There we were assigned our rooms and fed a wonderful buffet dinner that included fish, chicken, rice, pickles and stuffed leaves.

tomorrow

We sang Happy Birthday to Father Ralph, who celebrated his birthday by flying overnight. Then we met with Bishara who outlined the plan for Friday. We will go to the Baptismal Site on the Jordan River where we will renew our baptismal vows, visit Mount Nebo where Moses viewed the Promised Land, tour St. George Orthodox Church to see the ancient mosaic map, then drive to Petra for the night.

Nope, we aren’t in Wisconsin anymore . . . but please continue to

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

Travel Changes…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

  
As you read this we are all together at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.  But, there’s be a MAJOR change in our itinerary.  Our original flight from Chicago to New York was seriously delayed which means we would have missed our flight to Paris.  BUT, God is good and faithful and we have been rerouted and rebooked onto a 9:30 pm Royal Jordanian Airlines DIRECT FLIGHT to Amman, Jordan!!!

  
We are blessed for sure!  We’re all doing well, we’re all feeling good, and we’re all quite excited about not having to make any connections!  We know you are praying and we love it.  But also . . .

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

first step

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

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The Israel trip has taken what is probably the most boring – driving to O’Hare in Chicago. Checking through Delta almost needed an act of Congress, and the flight to JFK in New York is delayed a half hour, which makes our connection to Paris a little tight. Sure glad God is steering this.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

Rendezvousing…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

Rendezvous

ren·dez·vous
ˈrändəˌvo͞o, ˈrändāˌvo͞o/
noun
1. a meeting at an agreed time and place

rendezvous 1

Today, we depart.  But we’re not all together . . . yet.  Actually, we are.  God’s Spirit unites us.  And yet, we are not all in the same place.  Some of us are meeting in Neenah, WI.  Others in Oshkosh, WI.  Still others in Sheboygan, WI.  We’ll be driving to Chicago to catch a plane.  But we still won’t all be together.  We have two pilgrims who will be meeting us further along on our journey.  It won’t be until Thursday morning on October 29 that we’ll all be together . . . in Paris.

we'll always have paris

We hope to also do a good bit of “rendezvousing” with The Presence of God on this pilgrimage.  And we hope you’ll follow along on this blog.  Please, continue to keep us in prayer, but as always . . .

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6