Holy Land Recap

It took fifteen years and a little peer pressure from her new friends in Midland, but my wife Carrie-Anne finally went with me to Israel and it was a blessing that defies description. Our youngest daughter, Carley, accompanied us along with 23 beautiful Christian friends from Midland, Amarillo, Henrietta, Fort Worth, California, and Hawai’i. What a thrill, personally, to share my love of the Holy Lands with Carrie-Anne and Carley, to show them the places that mean so much to me, to experience it in brand new ways through their eyes.







Carley endured the twelve-hour flight from JFK to Tel Aviv with earplugs, an eye mask, and an old Nike hoodie pulled together around her face. But once we arrived, she was all in. She would give our trusted guide Anton about 25-seconds at each site and then she’d be off with her camera, climbing the walls, going behind the ropes, breaking international laws. She never was as interested in what was happening as she was in what else might be happening. And her mood was a little too dependent on the kind of food that was available. So we were all much better off as a group when we found real Dr Pepper at that store in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter (where else?) and that delicious Papa De Pizza. Carley marveled at Caesarea on the Sea, hiked the ancient Serpent Path to the top of Masada, took the obligatory picture with an IDF soldier, climbed all those steps to the top of the tell at Beth Sha’an, and ate a lot of Slim Jims. We laughed a lot. We watched a generational storm together on the Sea of Galilee. And she read the Christ hymn aloud while we worshiped on the banks of the Jordan River.







I was a little worried about Carrie-Anne. She doesn’t like to sweat. Which is to say, she doesn’t like to be outside when it’s 73-degrees or hotter. And her hair requires an abundance of preparation and maintenance. But she did it. And I love her for it. She floated the Dead Sea, waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and tried falafel. Once. We sang “It Is Well”  together at St. Anne’s Church next to the Pools of Bethesda and wiped the tears from each other’s faces when we were through. She was disgusted by the garbage at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and enthralled by the view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. And she helped keep me organized and calm.

Carrie-Anne reminds me how to worship. And how to relax. And how to love Jesus. She is my partner. She reminds me how to receive and give the Lord’s grace. And I praise God that we finally did this together.






Doug never let up in his enthusiasm for the water and for the climb. Penny made sure we stopped at every single restroom from Dan to Beersheba. Elaine from Hawai’i brought the Macadamia nuts. Dale made sure we didn’t lose anybody. We never even lost Andy, whose motto must be: a picture is worth a thousand words and ten more minutes of everybody’s time. Betsey took a licking and kept on ticking, twisting her ankle and banging her leg up at Dan, but trudging on with grit and determination. Shelley never got her hair wet. Never. Kyle kept reminding us of the Scriptures and the Story. Kara showed us the kind of guts it takes to climb the Snake Path to Masada. Joe and Sara inspired us with their obvious love for each other and the Lord. Gary kept us laughing. Hans became everybody’s favorite fellow-tourist, within about two minutes of meeting him. Martha brightened the bus and every site with her gracious smile. Nanette showed extreme patience while we kept mispronouncing her name. DeAnn rode that camel as well as Kyle rides a horse. Gaye broke her foot the day before we left, but that boot didn’t slow her down at all; it just added a degree of difficulty to all her costume changes.

And Elaine was Elaine. As always, my dear ministry partner wisely and faithfully handled the schedules, the hotels, the keys, the tips, the luggage, the communion meal, the meetings, the brochure, the reservations, the COVID protocols, the questions, and the preacher. For ten years Elaine was at my side in Amarillo, keeping me from blowing my leg off, reminding me of names and dates, bailing me out of trouble, managing my impulsive behavior, and deserving so much more credit than she ever received. I miss her terribly and appreciate her very much. It was so much fun going to Israel with her again.







More than a couple of times, Anton told us that no tour group does more than we do in ten days. Kyle counted up at least 41 different sites we explored together, from Dan and Caesarea Philippi to En Gedi and Jerusalem and Jericho and Nazareth. We prayed at the Western Wall, recited the Apostles’ Creed in the Jordan River, sang at the Garden of Gethsemane, and ate more than our share of ice cream and shwarma,






Every paragraph of Holy Scripture contains geography, landscape, architecture, people, food, customs, dress, animals, agriculture, and ritual that serve to communicate the history and fact of our God and his activity in our world. And now we’ve been immersed in it – physically, emotionally, spiritually. We’ve explored the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes first-hand. We’ve embraced the story of our Lord’s faithful love as it swells and deepens to penetrate our hearts and souls in brand new ways.

And I can’t wait to go back.

We’re doing it again in November 2024. We’ll start taking reservations in October 2023.



Israel Eve

Finally! We really are – finally!  – going to Israel! After two-and-a-half years of COVID-related starts and stops, replanning and rescheduling, refunds and double-deposits, we are really heading back to the Holy Lands for the first time since 2018.

Elaine and I are taking a group of 26 this time: 15 of us from the Golf Course Road Church here in Midland, five from the Central church in Amarillo, and six other wonderful folks from Hawaii and California and Wichita Falls. This is my fifth trip to Israel and this time, for the first time, my wonderful wife Carrie-Anne is going with me. We’re also taking our youngest daughter Carley and I cannot wait to see the sites and share the experiences through them and with them during these eleven glorious days.

Of course, this means no cheeseburgers and no Tex-Mex until May 21. So after we took our PCR tests – three negatives – and filled out our Green Pass forms, we had our “last lunch” together today at Blue Sky and our “last supper” at Ajuuas.

From here on out it’s shawarma, schnitzel, and falafel in one of my favorite places in the whole world with some of my absolutely favorite people.



What a Mom

Happy Mother’s Day, Carrie-Anne. You are the absolutely perfect mom to each of our three daughters. You are a no-nonsense straight-shooter with an endless supply of selfless compassion and grace. Lots of grace. Always grace. And you consistently know exactly how much of what each girl needs at the exact right time.

You’re the same way with me, too. Encouraging. Challenging. Supporting. And loving. Faithfully loving.

I love you, darling. We all four thank God for the ways you reflect his glory in our family.


Surround Us, Lord

Surround us, Lord.
Surround us with the light of your presence, bright within this dark world.
Enable us to be overcomers of fear and temptation.
Enable us to be victors over sin and despair.
Enable us to become that which you would desire.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround us with the light of your presence.

Surround us, Lord.
Surround our family within the shelter of your outstretched arms.
Protect them in each moment of their daily lives.
Protect them in the decisions they face.
Protect their homes and relationships.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround our families with the light of your presence.

Surround us, Lord.
Surround this city with your love and hope.
Create a desire to listen to your message.
Create a willingness to understand and respond.
Create a need to reach out to Christ Jesus.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround this city with the light of your presence.

Surround us, Lord.
Surround this world with the joy of your salvation.
Where there is sickness and disease, bring healing.
Where there is hunger and despair, bring hope.
Where this is violence and oppression, bring release.
Lord of creation, Lord of salvation,
surround this world with the light of your presence.



Until Then

By God’s grace, more than 800 volunteers showed up here at GCR Friday night and Saturday to pack 260,000 meals for Ukrainian war refugees. Most of the workers came from dozens of different Midland area churches, but some were representing a few regional non-profit groups or local sports clubs. We bagged and stacked the rice and dehydrated vegetables, boxed and taped up the meals just like we were instructed, and loaded the pallets onto a massive semi-tractor trailer that took off immediately for Houston. All the food should arrive in Poland along the Ukrainian border by the end of this week.

I’m so thankful to God to belong to a church that steps up to help out. I’m grateful to belong to a generous community out here in West Texas that cares so much about others. And I praise God for the cooperation we experience in Midland, the mutual love and partnership between churches and organizations in doing Gospel work together.

Someday, there will be no more war. Someday, there will be no more violence. There will be no more hunger. No more fear.

Until then, we want to be the ones who provide the food. And bring the peace. And express the love and share the grace of God.




The divine command is to love. Love God and love others. Period. Our Lord says there are no greater commandments. All the Law and the Prophets, everything God says and God wills, is summed up in the command to love. Always. Everyone. Period.

Now, be ready, because you’re going to suffer. You’re going to be questioned. If you decide to love, you might even be mistreated or ostracized. Don’t be surprised if you lose the popularity contests when you choose to love God and love others. Love, period, as a command, as a commitment, as a way of life – that doesn’t fly with this world and all its groups.

But our God is not a group. He’s not a state or an institution or a party or a possession or a race. Hallelujah! He is the eternal Creator of heaven and earth and the loving Father of us all. And his love is everlasting. His love is open and welcoming. It’s inclusive and courageous and compassionate. And it has no fear.

Love doesn’t tear down, it builds up. It never divides, it always unites. And it doesn’t applaud leaders who promote hate and bigotry and division and violence as a way to get things accomplished. Love is humble, not arrogant. It doesn’t boast. It doesn’t repay evil for evil.

All the preaching, all the prophesying, all the giving – it’s worthless, it has no value if there’s no  love. The Bible says love is more important than faith and knowledge. Love is more important than hope and good works. Love takes precedent over our worship assemblies and our voting records. It’s more important than our budget meetings and party platforms and theological positions. Love is bigger and more important than any issue that can possibly be out there in our local paper or on the national news. And if that’s true – and we know it is! – we must be more committed to loving others than we are to any of those issues.

We have to place unconditional, God-ordained love in the primary position of our hearts and minds and in God’s Church. All our time and energy, all our passion and strength, must go toward love. Period.

Whatever you do as a child of God and a disciple of Christ must be done in love. If anybody tells you to do otherwise, if you get an email insisting that you forward something that’s not loving, if any leader or group urges you to act in any way toward anybody or other groups that’s not loving, you know that person or that group is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

If I don’t love, I am cutting off the very expression of God’s nature in my body and soul. To not love is to act opposite of our Lord. Love is where we find our ultimate fulfillment and realize our potential as God’s people. It’s not love, but… It’s never love, maybe… It’s not love, under certain conditions… It’s just love. Period.


Luka Doncic is only 23.

Go Mavs.


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