Jane Albright: Cracking the Code of the Holy Land Tour

The Western Wall and the golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel, on sunset

Anyone who has been a churchgoer for very long knows about Holy Land tours. Visiting sites—including where Jesus was born, baptized, crucified, buried and appeared after His resurrection—has become a must-do experience. Pastors and Christian speakers lead believers by the busloads. The Jerusalem Post reports that a record four million tourists traveled to Israel in 2018—a whopping sixty-one percent of them were Christians.

For decades I had wanted to go, not so much as a tourist, but as a pilgrim.  Friends had come home from the Holy Land with stories about how their faith had blossomed at the Garden Tomb or strengthened at the Sea of Galilee. Some said they could feel God’s presence or hear Him inwardly speaking to them. That’s what I wanted.

But could flying half way around the world really make the Bible come alive? How could my visit to the place where Jesus walked be more than a series of Instagram posts? How could I crack the code? A few months ago I set out to find out. I had booked a space on a LifeWay tour called “The Word Alive.” My hosts would be Lysa TerKeurst and Lisa Harper. The setup was promising.

Before I left the states I was given a bonus. “Here, take Dallas’s map of Israel,” my friend Jane Willard said, during a short stopover at her home in Southern California. Jane, who is Dallas Willard’s lovely widow, handed me a Carta’s Ancient and Modern version complete with short notes on archeological sites and a location map of the biblical twelve tribes. I unfolded the map slowly, feeling much as I did the first time I read her husband’s book The Divine Conspiracy. There before my eyes was an old map of the Holy Land. I was fascinated. It looked as if it contained a secret that could change my world.

To that point my faith journey had been much like my trip to Israel was turning out to be: me trying to read a map that didn’t make total sense. I had often felt that way when reading Scripture. I knew there was deep meaning tucked into the passages, but I didn’t completely understand all of the nuances. On the map, I recognized the Mediterranean Sea and the dot that located Jerusalem, but I didn’t know what all the symbols in the legend meant. To go deeper, I needed to “crack the code.”

Years ago my spiritual mentor James Bryan Smith had pointed me to Dallas Willard and his book The Divine Conspiracy. I devoured every page and eventually became personal friends with Dallas and his wife. His message and his wisdom helped me “crack the code.” The Bible came to life and I was not the same. Now I held his Holy Land map in my hands. Would it have a similar effect?

Jane Willard reminded me that in chapter six of Dallas’s book Renovation of the Heart he wrote that the single most important thing in a person’s mind is his or her idea of God and the associated images. How would my pilgrimage to Israel further shape the image of Yahweh in my mind?

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jane Albright