Alive Again!

I hope this reference to our visit to the Holy Land eases each of us away from our current worries for a little while…

When we sailed on the Sea of Galilee, I couldn’t help smiling. I knew this adventure would be a high point of this trip. It was more than unlikely that we had followed the precise route Jesus had taken with his fishermen disciples when they sailed this sea. Still, the water beneath me, the sky above me and the hills in the distance were all part of the view Jesus enjoyed every time he ventured out onto Peter’s or another friend’s boat. Archaeologists tell us that the Israeli sailors who hosted us likely resemble Jesus and his contemporaries. Though their contemporary clothing suggested otherwise, their love for that boat, the water beneath them and the priceless view all around them ushered me back to Jesus’ day.

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we retell the story of Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus. Though Lazarus succumbed to serious illness and seemed lost to all who loved him, the scriptures tell us that Jesus changed everything for all concerned when he raised Lazarus from the dead. As I consider what Jesus did for Lazarus that day, I cannot miss the similarity between this event and what occurred with another of Jesus’ friends these two thousand years later. Though this would be my third voyage with Daniel Carmel, I knew I would never tire of sharing the story of how his newfound life with Jesus came about.

Daniel was born to a young unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman who gave him up for adoption. The secular Jewish family who made him their own had no faith to share with Daniel. However, they did have a lot of love and a happy home to share with their new son. Daniel and his family lived in the port city of Haifa. This proximity to water inspired Daniel’s love for the sea and his desire to become a boat captain one day. Daniel’s family also nurtured his love for music. They gifted him with a set of drums early on. Though Daniel enjoyed a nurturing upbringing, he endured a personal crisis while in his twenties. This death of sorts urged Daniel onto a quest deep within himself. Because his family hadn’t kept his adoption secret, Daniel continued his internal exploration by finding his birth family. Daniel found not only his mother, but also four siblings. With the hope of building relationships with them, Daniel relocated nearby. He stayed in a Kibbutz and found a job on a tour boat.

When I first heard this, I recalled our tour guide’s experience growing up in a Kibbutz. There was no talk of God there. I assumed Daniel’s newfound family were Orthodox Jews as his birth mother had been, so there would be no talk of Jesus with them. Offering tours of “holy” places is big business and certainly not a religious experience for local Jewish and Palestinian businessmen. I puzzled over what it was that prompted Daniel to take that extreme step toward Jesus. Amazingly enough, Daniel discovered Jesus’ tangible presence on the Sea of Galilee just as I had. For five years, he listened to his passengers talk about their belief in Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) as they sailed. All the while, Daniel absorbed the prayers, the music and the scripture passages they shared. Every day, Daniel pondered all that he saw and heard. In the end, Daniel couldn’t help being moved. Something within Daniel came to life the day he realized that he also believed in Yeshua. Indeed, Yeshua had become Daniel’s most precious and life-giving treasure.

Daniel shares this treasure through his testimony and his music during boat tours and concerts in churches. Daniel sings the hymns which first inspired him. He has translated them into Hebrew for other Messianic Jewish believers to enjoy. Jesus’ passion for sharing God’s love is very much alive in Daniel. He expresses that passion in all he says and does in spite of being ostracized by many of his fellow Jews, secular and religious, who resent his belief in Jesus. As for me, Daniel’s music eases me into Jesus’ company every time I hear it.

It seems that Jesus has done for Daniel what he did for Lazarus so long ago. John’s gospel (John 11:1-45) tells us that, when Lazarus died, Jesus went to Lazarus’ sisters to comfort them. Martha and Mary responded by insisting that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been with him. How many times I’ve looked upward and declared the same, “If you were here, things would be different!” Daniel Carmel insists that Jesus is with us, that his miracle was repeated in him and that it is repeated in you and me every time we survive one of the major and minor tragedies of this life. The best part of all of this is that we can imitate Jesus’ miracle in our own efforts to renew the lives of those we’ve been given to love. Today, this seems to be more important than ever!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Alive Again!

Though I’m echoing sentiments I’ve already shared regarding my visits to Israel, they merit repeating. During our first trip, I quickly discovered that the precise locations of the events of Jesus’ life didn’t concern me. Breathing the air Jesus breathed and walking in the places where Jesus walked were quite enough for me. Being among people who resembled Jesus, his family, his neighbors and his disciples touched me deeply. During last year’s trip, I became attuned to what Jesus’ life may actually have been like. This year, a picture of Jesus of Nazareth formed within me. With every passing day, I felt I’d come to know Jesus more intimately than I ever had before. We were on the Sea of Galilee when I began to fully appreciate this remarkable phenomenon.

Last year, our guide Yossi had made special arrangements for this voyage. He’d insisted that we sail on Daniel’s boat. This year, though Daniel had taken the day off, he ventured out to offer us the tour we were promised. How relieved I was when I saw Daniel at the helm! After we made our way out onto the water, I settled in as Jesus might have two millenniums ago while Daniel shared his music and his story. The now-familiar tale of this remarkable man served as the backdrop to my own musing regarding the time Jesus spent on the shores of this historic body of water…

Daniel is a Messianic Jew who believes that there is no more waiting for the messiah. Daniel was born to a young unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman who gave her son up for adoption to a secular Jewish family. Though his family had no faith to share, they provided Daniel with a loving home in the port city of Haifa. This proximity to the water inspired Daniel’s love for the sea and his desire to become a boat captain one day. Daniel’s family also nurtured his love for music by gifting him with a set of drums early on. Unfortunately, Daniel endured a personal crisis as a young man. This death of sorts urged Daniel onto a quest deep within himself. Because his family hadn’t kept his adoption secret, Daniel continued his journey by finding his birth family: his mother and four siblings. After meeting them, Daniel relocated nearby. He stayed in a Kibbutz and found a job on a tour boat.

I recalled our tour guide Yossi’s experience growing up in a Kibbutz. There was no talk of God there. I assumed that Daniel’s newfound family were Orthodox Jews as his birth mother had been, so there would be no talk of Jesus with them. Also, offering tours of “holy” places is big business and certainly not a religious experience for local Jews and Palestinians. What was it then that prompted Daniel to take that extreme step toward Jesus? Apparently, Daniel discovered Jesus’ tangible presence on the Sea of Galilee just as I had. For five years, he listened to his passengers talk about their belief in Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) as they sailed. All the while, Daniel absorbed the prayers, the music and the scripture passages they shared. Every day, Daniel pondered all that he saw and heard. In the end, Daniel couldn’t help being moved. Something within Daniel came to life the day he realized that he also believed in Yeshua. Yeshua had become Daniel’s most precious and life-giving treasure.

Daniel responds to Jesus’ presence in his life by sharing his music and his story during tours. My second encounter with Daniel transformed Jesus to the Yeshua of long ago. Daniel, Yossi and the Israelis I passed in the marketplaces, our hotels and at the sites we visited aren’t very different from the people who inhabited these places with Jesus. Daniel is ostracized by well-intentioned Jews who feel he has forsaken his faith. Yossi puzzles over local politics just as Jesus’ followers and his enemies did. Today’s Israeli’s struggle, just as people always have, to care for their families, to live peacefully and to at least taste the freedom to follow their hearts’ desires.

I share all of this because Jesus seems to have done for Daniel what he did for Lazarus two thousand years ago. Today, John’s gospel (John 11:1-45) tells us that Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had taken ill and died. When Jesus went to Lazarus’ sisters to comfort them, Martha and Mary insisted that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been with him. Do you know how many times I’ve looked upward to declare, “If you were here, things would be different!” Raising Lazarus was among Jesus’ greatest miracles. Daniel insists that this miracle was repeated in him when he welcomed Jesus into his life. I know that this miracle has been repeated within me every time I’ve survived one of the major and minor tragedies of my life. Jesus brings each of us back to life over and over again. The best part of all of this is that we can imitate Jesus’ miracle. Like Jesus, we can renew the lives of those we meet along the way as only we can.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Singing Boat Captain

Jesus said to them, “Come after me.
I will make you fishers of men.”

Mark 1:17

As it happened, our guide Yossi isn’t the only musician I met in Israel…

I recall that, last year, Yossi was very concerned that we board Daniel’s boat the morning we sailed on the Sea of Galilee. We waited in a long line to do so though other boats were available. Five minutes into our cruise, I understood Yossi’s determination when Daniel Carmel’s crew-mate took the microphone to introduce his captain. The man told us that Daniel is a Messianic Jew who operates his boating business for two reasons: To make a living and to spread the word about Jesus of Nazareth.

Daniel was born to an unwed Orthodox Jewish woman who gave him up for adoption to a secular Jewish couple. Though Daniel’s adoptive family gave him a wonderful life, a crisis in his late twenties prompted Daniel to connect with this birth mother as well. In the process, he discovered a second family who also welcomed him into their lives. To get to know them better, Daniel moved nearby. His new home on the shores of the Sea of Galilee prompted him to take a job on a tour boat. After years of listening to pastors preach about Jesus on the very sea he frequented, Daniel felt that this Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, was calling him just as he called Peter, Andrew and the rest. When Daniel purchased his own boat, he began to preach as well. He continues to do so today with his amazing singing voice.

For much of our cruise, Daniel Carmel sang familiar hymns in both English and Hebrew. His passion for his Lord touched everyone on board. This year, Daniel once again sang a most inspiring and prayerful homily.

Loving God, thank you for inspiring our prayer and for listening to us however we pray.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Brought Back To Life!

While in Israel, I quickly discovered that the precise locations of the events of Jesus’ life didn’t concern me as much as breathing in the air Jesus breathed and walking where Jesus walked. Meeting people who resembled Jesus, his family, neighbors and disciples awed me. Having said that, I admit that my perspective changed on the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus’ presence was almost tangible.

As our guide led us toward the water, he insisted, “Wait here. You must get onto Daniel’s boat.” Yossi returned quickly to lead us aboard. As we pulled out onto the water, I absorbed the images around me: the sea, the boats, the hills in the distance and the faces of those who sailed with me. I looked upward to ask, “What were you thinking when you looked at all of this?” Before I received an answer, a gentleman came forward to offer a commentary regarding the sea and Jesus’ impact there. I was surprised by this. His passion implied that this presentation was far more than a tour narrative. I assumed this man was Daniel until he stepped back to introduce our boat captain. Seconds into Daniel’s remarks, I understood Yossi’s reasons for booking this tour with him.

Daniel explained that he is a Messianic Jew. He was born to a young unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman and was given up for adoption to a secular Jewish family. Though his family had no faith to share with him, they provided Daniel with a loving home in the port city of Haifa. This proximity to water inspired Daniel’s love for the sea and his desire to become a boat captain one day. Daniel’s family also nurtured his love for music by gifting him with a set of drums early on. Unfortunately, Daniel endured a personal crisis in his late twenties. This death of sorts urged Daniel onto a quest deep within himself. Because his family hadn’t kept his adoption secret, Daniel continued his journey by finding his birth family: his mother and four siblings. With the hope of building relationships with them, Daniel relocated nearby. He stayed in a Kibbutz and found a job on a tour boat.

I recalled our tour guide Yossi’s experience growing up in a Kibbutz. There was no talk of God there. I assumed Daniel’s newfound family were Orthodox Jews as his birth mother had been, so there would be no talk of Jesus with them. Offering tours of “holy” places is big business and certainly not a religious experience for local Jews and Palestinians. What was it then that prompted Daniel to take that extreme step toward Jesus?

Apparently, Daniel discovered Jesus’ tangible presence on the Sea of Galilee just as I had. For five years, he listened to his passengers talk about their belief in Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) as they sailed. All the while, Daniel absorbed the prayers, music and scripture passages they shared. Every day, Daniel pondered all that he saw and heard. In the end, Daniel couldn’t help being moved. Something within Daniel came to life the day he realized that he also believed in Yeshua. Yeshua had become Daniel’s most precious and life-giving treasure.

Daniel has responded by sharing his testimony and his music during tours. He sings the hymns which inspired him and translates them into Hebrew for other Messianic Jews to enjoy. The day we sailed with him, I witnessed Jesus’ passion in Daniel. The love he expressed for Yeshua with every word echoed Jesus’ deep love for you and me. Daniel has recorded these hymns and his own works in an effort to tell all who will listen about Yeshua. He does this in spite of being ostracized by many of his fellow Jews, secular and religious, who resent the beliefs of Messianic Jews. As for me, Daniel’s CD eases me into Jesus’ company every time I listen to it.

I share all of this because Jesus seems to have done for Daniel what he did for Lazarus two thousand years ago. Today, John’s gospel (John 11:1-45) tells us that Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had taken ill and died. When Jesus went to Lazarus’ sisters to comfort them, Martha and Mary insisted that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been with him. Do you know how many times I’ve looked upward and declared, “If you were here, things would be different?”! Raising Lazarus was Jesus’ greatest miracle. Daniel will tell you that this miracle was repeated in him when he welcomed Jesus into his life. I will tell you that this miracle has been repeated within me every time I’ve survived one of the major and minor tragedies of my life. Jesus’ miracle is repeated in each of us over and over again. The best part of all of this is that we can imitate Jesus’ miracle in our own efforts to renew the lives of those we’ve been given to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved