The Holy Land: An Introduction

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Sh'ma Yisra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha. On Sunday night I returned from a core-shaking, groundbreaking, life altering trip to Israel. It was an overwhelming honor to be invited, along with my husband and oldest daughter, by my dear friend Kathie Lee Gifford to tour the Holy Land and experience the same deserts, streams and valleys that Jesus, Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Paul, Mary and the disciples walked themselves, centuries ago. The words “blessed” and “honored” are thrown around casually, but I hope you hear the depth of my heart when I tell you how deeply honored and humbled I was to be one of 37 people from all religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds to join Kathie Lee on this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Attempting to unpack this trip in a single blog post wouldn’t do it the justice it deserves. Every day over the course of next week, I will be sharing some of the most profound moments of my time in Israel (Kathie Lee will be doing the same on The Today Show’s fourth hour at 10:00 a.m., so be sure to tune in!). I pray that the Holy Spirit would intercede and allow you to experience the same living and mighty power through what I share as I did standing in the soil thousands of miles away. Each morning in Israel began with a 7:00 a.m. wake up call and a quick lacing of my hiking boots followed by a recitation of the shema in both English and Hebrew (the Scripture the shema references is noted above). We spent 10 hours a day hiking the landscapes of this beautiful country. Along the way we would hear teachings that masterfully wove together the Old Testament, Jewish traditions, Greek and Roman history, and a piece of the cross. By the end of our trip, we had covered both miles and years and were left with an intricate tapestry in our hearts and minds reflecting the narrative that God masterfully wove together through the Bible and history to reveal His perfect nature from the very birth of Creation. I believe that He is still writing that story today… through my life, through your life, through my struggles, your trials, our shared victories… everything that happens is a small piece of a painting meant to point to the cross, His death, His resurrection, and our salvation. I don’t mind not having my hiking boots on today (my knees are thanking me too!), but I pray that as I leave Israel behind and move forward in Charlotte with this new learning, I will stay just as equipped and eager to hear from Him. I invite you to lace up your spiritual boots with me on Monday, and hike with me daily until Good Friday, as we prepare to encounter a powerful and magnificent Easter this year.