Hello friends!

We are back!  Linda Plummer, Annette and Mark Wildin, Jane Beeman, Nancy Cumberland and Dave and I boarded a plane on January 9th and flew to Tel Aviv.  We returned on the 18th, jet-lagged and happy.  We were on the go the entire time.  Wake up call came at 6 am and we spent the day touring holy sites.  In the evening there were lectures and activities and we dropped off to bed each night tired and excited, our minds filled with more than we could process.  Several people have said they would like to see our pictures and we are planning a time when we might share them with you, but the trip was more than what we saw.  It was what we experienced.  Great hospitality from the Arab-Muslim-Palestinian-Christians who fed us and guided us and drove our bus.  Friendship among the 100 Iowans on the trip.  (A shout out to the people from Indianola, Iowa City, Adel, Grinnell, and Rippey!)  Inspiring moments when Bishop Laurie renewed our baptism in the Jordan River.  Lots of care.  How often one person climbing down the steps of a ruin would turn and extend a hand to the person behind them helping them climb down the rocky terrain.  Lots of laughter—some of it as we waited in line to use public restrooms.  (It takes a long time for thirty women to use a public restroom.)  We always felt safe, warmly welcomed, among friends.

There is more than I describe in a blog post, so let me just tell you about one experience.

One morning we found ourselves sitting on some steps on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The water was calm and the shoreline was rocky.  Our guide, Victor, was telling us all about the history of the place.  I don’t think we were paying close attention.  I would guess most of us were just trying to process it all.  That beautiful water in front of us was the Sea of Galilee.  Images from the bible of fishermen repairing their nets played out in our minds.  This is the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed storms, where Jesus walked on water and Peter didn’t.  The Sea of Galilee where the Risen Christ appeared to the fishermen and cooked a breakfast of fresh fish for them on the shore.  After Victor was done talking, we walked down to the water and took our shoes off and waded in.  The water was cool and clear.  We cupped it in our hands.  We touched it to our foreheads in memory of our baptism.  We all looked at one another.  He was here.  He is here, our hearts told us.  We prayed.  The air was fresh with grace.

Water, of course, flows and evaporates.  Water is fluid and mingles with water.  The Sea of Galilee, like Jesus, like grace, is not confined to that shoreline.  Today as you turn on a faucet, that water has mingled with the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  That Christ who stood on the shore and said “follow me” still calls us.  Not just in Israel, not just on 8th and Grand, but in the depth of our heart.  We too are water and grace.

I am glad I went to Israel.  And I glad to be home among you.  Grace like water flows among us.

This is a big weekend at West Des Moines United Methodist Church.  on Saturday night at 5 pm, we will have our Annual Meeting Celebration.  We will thank our retiring leaders and install incoming leaders and look to our future.  A reception follows at 6.  You are all invited!

On Sunday afternoon at 4 pm, Max Wellman will jazz it up our sanctuary with a concert.  What a great way to warm up on a winter afternoon.  Come!  And bring a friend!

And of course worship, at 8:30 am and 11:00 am we will renew and rejoice and rejuvenate our faith.  What could be better!  See you there!

Every blessing to you,

Pastor Cindy

Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines Iowa 50265