Saturday, February 12, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage – Lessons from the Carpenter Shop

Note: In January 2011 my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a very moving experience. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I sensed while on this life changing trip. You can read about the entire trip in the devotional book Touching the Footprints of Jesus.

When we read stories in the Bible about angels talking to people or miracles that God did in those people’s lives, it is easy to forget that those people were “real” people. Those people actually existed in history. They worked jobs. They cooked supper. They cleaned the kitchen. They swept the floor. They did laundry. They had to do all the ordinary things necessary for life. In the midst of those ordinary activities, God did some extraordinary things.

While in the Holy Land last month, my wife and I toured some spots that were “common” places that people in the Bible lived and worked. One day we stood above the carpenter shop where Joseph taught Jesus how to use tools. A church has been built over that site and you could view part of the site from above or could go into the basement and see some of it up close. Though anyone who has read the Gospels knows that Jesus was a carpenter, few have thought of how he learned to measure a board, saw it and then use wooden pegs to secure it to whatever item he was building. That is the “ordinary” side of His extraordinary life.

We also visited the ruins of Mary’s house. It was just down the street from Joseph’s. It was an ordinary house for that time period and her life in that house would have been similar to the lives of other young girls in that community at that time in history. But in that house God did an extraordinary thing. God sent an angel to tell Mary that she would bear the long awaited Messiah. That extraordinary experience changed the world. Though the house itself was extremely modest, the church built above the site of Mary’s home was very extravagant. I doubt Mary would have recognized her simple home nestled in those very decadent surroundings.

I spent some time praying at one of the kneeling benches and when I finished I noticed a pigeon flying around inside the top of the church. It was fluttering here and there and seemed confused about how to get out. It made me think about how confusing we Christians have sometimes made religion. Religion is supposed to be something that real life people can experience and be enriched by. Somehow, we have forgotten the “real” aspect of church and focused on fancy buildings, lofty theological statements, and man-made traditions. We tend to chase after the “extraordinary” instead of appreciating the simple aspects of faith that are the most important. Perhaps instead of seeking the extraordinary, we should simply live out our faith in ordinary ways. In the process of doing that, we may experience the extraordinary in ways we could have never expected.

Lord, help us recover that child-like faith that You told us would lead us to Your Kingdom.


  1. I enjoyed your post and insights today. I came over from Ken Mickel's blog. God bless you in your work!

  2. Lord, give us such "uncommon" experiences on a common basis.