A Quick Stop in Nazareth, Israel #travel #VisitIsrael

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It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Nazareth, the childhood town of Jesus. We'd already been to Old Jaffa, Caesarea, and Megiddo that day, so we were nearing exhaustion. We made a quick stop at the Basilica of the Annunciation. This Roman Catholic church commemorates Mary's Annunciation here and it's filled with beautiful mosaics that were gifts from around the world. I didn't take photos inside the church, to honor the holiness of the site.

The Book of Luke records the annunciation of Mary, which is in layman's terms is the time the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to tell her she would be the mother of the Christ child.

Luke 1: 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Just a few yards from the church stands Mary's Well, which we also saw as we drove through Nazareth. There is an underground spring in Nazareth, and many believe this well to the spring is the site of the annunciation. There is also a Greek Orthodox church a little higher on the hill that could have been the site of the annunciation. So, what we're really sure of is, it happened somewhere close to that vicinity in Nazareth.
Mary's reaction to the angel Gabriel appearing ("greatly troubled") seems small in the text in comparison to how she might have actually reacted. Think about it, what if an angel came to you and told you that you were going to become pregnant without having sex, and give birth to a child who will grow up to be the savior of the entire world? Even more surprising, Mary's age at the time is estimated to be between the age of 13 and 16 years old. Nazareth was a wonderfully humbling place to visit. It also made me smile to think of Jesus as a young boy, playing on the hills, climbing the trees, splashing in the springs, and gazing up with wonder at the same stars we see today.

As darkness began to fall, our group headed out of Nazareth, towards dinner and accommodations near the Sea of Galilee. I'll tell those stories next week!

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Giveaway! Little Bites Cinnamon French Toast Muffins

Disclosure: I received product at no charge in exchange for my honest review.
I have loved Entenmann's products since I was a little girl. I remember my mom buying their packages of chocolate chip cookies and they were delicious. I fully expected to love their new Little Bites Cinnamon French Toast Muffins.
I received a fabulous package with two boxes of Entenmann's Little Bites Cinnamon French Toast Muffins, four coupons for more French Toast Muffins, and a handy Little Bites drawstring bag. Each box comes with 20 French Toast Muffins total, four muffins in each of five bags.
I love the portion control packages, because I truly could have eaten the entire box. Little Bites Cinnamon French Toast Muffins are scrumptious! They are soft and moist with just enough cinnamon so that it doesn't overpower the french toast taste.
They are "mini" muffins so a pouch is just the right size for an easy after-school snack, or pair it up with scrambled eggs, some fruit, and a glass of milk for a well-balanced quick breakfast meal. If you need a fast appetizer, frost them with vanilla frosting and sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top, then add a maraschino cherry.
No matter how or when you eat Entenmann's Little Bites Cinnamon French Toast Muffins, you're going to love them. Plus, they have 0 grams of trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, are certified Kosher, and most Little Bites are 200 calories per pouch or less!
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Enter to win an Entenmann's Little Bites Cinnamon French Toast Muffins Prize Pack, just like the one I received! One winner will get two boxes of Cinnamon French Toast Muffins, four coupons, and a drawstring bag, a value of $40. Giveaway ends on 2/22/2016, so enter now! Open to US residents ages 18 and older. Enter below on the giveaway form.

Be sure you also enter the sweepstakes on the Entenmann's Facebook page!

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Armageddon - Megiddo, Israel #travel #VisitIsrael

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Northeast of Caesarea (our previous stop) is Megiddo, Israel, the site of the biblical Armageddon. The word Armageddon only appears once in the Bible:

Revelation 16: 16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

"Armageddon" is actually a combination of two Hebrew words - "Har" which is "mountain" or "range of hills" in English and "mgiddown" which is "Megiddo" in English. In the Book of Revelation, we can read about John's vision of future events. His vision occurred when he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea, for proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. He was a beloved apostle of Jesus and was over 90 years old when the vision occurred.

Revelation 16 tells us about the coming "battle on the great day of God Almighty" and details The Seven Bowls of God's Wrath that will be poured out on the earth. The Book of Revelation is both fascinating and terrifying. And there I was, standing on Megiddo, overlooking the fertile Jezreel Valley.
The valley is huge, stretching for miles in many directions, and I tried to take photos of it in a series, sort of like a panoramic picture, to try to capture the immensity of it. This valley is the place of many battles throughout history. Recent excavations of the Megiddo tell (hill) have revealed well over 20 layers of civilizations that date back 8000 years.
Megiddo is first mentioned in Joshua, the sixth book of the Bible. Joshua lived during the Canaanite period, and was second in command to Moses. Joshua was a great military leader who led the conquest of the Promised Land. In the Book of Joshua, there is a list of kings defeated by Joshua, including the one from Megiddo.

Joshua 12: 20 the king of Shimron-meron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; 21the king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; 22the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam in Carmel, one;
More photos of the valley view from the top:

You can see why Megiddo is a great place to build a city! You can see for miles in many directions and would know when an enemy was advancing on the city.  

Below, you can see there is a road. This road, the Via Maris, translated "the way of the sea," was the most important ancient trade route from Syria in the north (ancient Mesopotamia) to Egypt in the south. Having control of that trade route in ancient times was invaluable. The same general route still exists today.
Ancient stone steps leading up to the top of the Megiddo tell (hill).

King Solomon of Israel was instrumental in building up the city as one of his main fortresses, and had these mighty gates built at Megiddo.

1 Kings 9: 15 And this is the reason for the labor force which King Solomon raised: to build the house of the Lord, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.
Excavations have revealed remnants of temples, palaces, buildings, storehouses, stables, and much more. I even saw two horse troughs chiseled in stone.

In the picture below is a huge circular altar that was used for animal sacrifice during the Canaanite period. It measures almost 26 feet in diameter and 5 feet in height. There is a wall around it and to the lower left of the altar is a set of steps leading up to the top of it. Notice too, how deep the ground was dug to reach it, compared to the dirt of the hill behind it.
Below is a grain silo that was discovered at Megiddo. It holds 450 cubic meters, or 118,877 gallons, of grain. Standing at the edge, all I could think was, "I hope I don't fall in!"
Along the inside of the wall of the grain silo, is a ramp of sorts, like steps, that could have been used to go down to get grain as supplies got low (and to get out while it was being constructed).
The most important element for any city, is, of course, water. The area of Megiddo has several springs of fresh water. The best way to destroy a city is to ruin its water supply, so an elaborate water system was built. It is believed to have been built by Ahab in the 9th century BC so that no one would have to leave the safety of the city walls to get water. It was dug out from both ends, meeting in the middle.
We walked down the 30 meter (98 feet) deep shaft that was chiseled down from inside the city and walked along the 70 meter (229 feet) long tunnel that led out to the spring in ancient times. The tunnel entrance was covered so enemies couldn't find the water system. The water system was dry when I visited, except for one small area near the spring end of the tunnel.
I found this drawing online at http://www.netours.com/content/view/139/26/1/3/ that demonstrates the water system:
Megiddo is rich in history and there are hundreds of websites and books in which you can read more about its past and its prophesied future. It was humbling to be standing on Megiddo, hearing about all the battles that have been fought there, even up to 1918 between British forces and the Ottoman empire. It's even more humbling to read the Book of Revelation about the coming final battle between Good and Evil.
Israel is an amazing place to visit! Historians will love the stories of the past, artists will love the beauty of the country, and Christians will love walking in the steps of the biblical people they've met through the stories of the Bible.

Learn more about visiting Israel at the website of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

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Bloggers Wanted! Magical March Giveaway Hop March 7-17

Join LeahSay's Views and Planet Weidknecht

for the "Magical March Hop Event"

The event will run March 7th - March 17th, 2016.
The Magical March Hop event is not "themed"

When you add your blog home page link below, you are agreeing to the following:
And yes, some of the things listed should be standard, and we've removed blogs from events for not following our simple rules. If you have a question about a prize being acceptable, please ask.
Post your own dedicated giveaway for this event, from March 7, 2016, at 12:01 a.m. (one minute after midnight) until March 17, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. Everyone should set their post according to EST.
Your Giveaway may be self-sponsored (with a gift card or PayPal ONLY *no exceptions*) or a company-sponsored (prize shipped directly from the sponsor to the winner). Giveaway prize must be family friendly and valued at a minimum of $25.00, not the suggested retail price, the SALE price must meet the $25 minimum.
Blogs without a giveaway post live at 9:00 a.m. on March 7th with ALL requirements will be removed from the linky. Sign up closes on March 5, 2016.

***You are not required to post in advance of the giveaway event, HOWEVER... if you would like to help promote and bring in more participants, please place the event button in your sidebar, and link back to this post so others can join the fun.

We encourage you to also join the Weidknecht Events Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/WeidknechtEvents/

Your giveaway post on March 7th must include the following:
Magical March Event Button
Links (nofollow, right click to copy the hosts links to insert into each host's name) to the hosts, LeahSay's Views and Planet Weidknecht (LeahSay is one word)
The provided linky "showing/listing" the links to all participating bloggers, no exceptions.
Your giveaway description, along with a photo of the NEW prize, and your contest form.
Giveaway Hop reminder and linky code will be provided at least one day before the hop begins, by email (make sure you double check your email when signing up).

Questions can be directed to [email protected].

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Caesarea, Israel - King Herod's Ancient Port City #travel #VisitIsrael

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Another fascinating stop on my evangelical tour of Israel was the ancient city of Caesarea, which is over 2000 years old. Located north of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, it was once a thriving city built by King Herod, who named it Caesarea to honor Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor.
King Herod built Caesarea into a grand port city, with an aqueduct that supplied the city with spring water, an enormous hippodrome where chariot races were held, and a large amphitheater where even today events are held. Caesarea is an important historical site to Christians for several reasons.
Caesarea was the Roman capital of Judea during Jesus lifetime. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed at the time of Jesus. A tablet with the name of Pontius Pilate was found near the amphitheater and it is the only archaeological evidence of his existence. It is also the site where Simon Peter (a disciple of Jesus) converted Cornelius (a Roman) to Christianity. Cornelius was the first non-Jew to believe Jesus is the son of God.
The book of Matthew in the Bible tells us that Jesus also visited Caesarea:

Matthew 16: 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
The book of Mark also notes the same event:

Mark 8: 27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
The photo above and below both show the remains of the once-luxurious pool that King Herod built as part of his palace.
The next three photos are the hippodrome, which held 20 thousand spectators, where King Herod hosted chariot races. Can you imagine all the noise of the people cheering and the pounding of the horses' hooves?

The next two photos show the incredible amphitheater, which faces towards the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Much of it has been reconstructed so that concerts can be held there now.

A characteristic Roman Arch located near the amphitheater:
Intricately carved column capital:
A burial sarcophagus:
Caesarea was also the site of the apostle Paul's two-year imprisonment. In the fourth century, it was the center of the Roman Christian Empire. Throughout history, the port city of Caesarea fell to many different civilizations, but even today we can see the greatness of King Herod's early building skills.

I cannot emphasize enough how interesting and inspirational it is to visit Israel. To be able to see these historical sites and walk where Jesus walked has made a lasting impact on me. I encourage you to take this journey!

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Weekly Giveaway Linky - Wednesday Wealth (February 17-23)

Wine Tasting in Israel - Recanati Winery #travel #VisitIsrael

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Perhaps you think of France or Northern California when you think of wineries, but Israel's history of wine goes back centuries. The Bible is filled with stories that highlight grapes and wine, and before France was even thinking about wine, Israel was exporting it. We visited Recanati Winery to learn more about their wines and to taste the wine that Jesus himself may have enjoyed.
Recanati Winery produces marawi, a white wine that is the first to be commercially produced from Israeli grapes. There are many excavated sites in Israel that have turned up charred grape seeds and researchers are working on ways to recreate ancient wines. During my trip, we saw a number of ancient wine presses throughout the country.
As we toured Recanati Winery, we were shown the processes used to create their wines and we explored the large, cool warehouse where the wines are aged. Then we were invited to sample a variety of their wines, and of course we wanted a taste!
The four of us, three writers and our tour guide, were seated along the Recanati Winery bar near the front of the winery, where cheese and breads were displayed on plates. Whenever you are tasting a variety of wines, it's important to eat something in between each variety to cleanse your palate to properly taste the next wine.
When wine is poured into a glass, you should swirl the wine in the glass to mix the flavors with oxygen. Always breathe in the flavor of the wine with your nose before drinking the wine to get the full effect of the flavors.
We tasted a number of Recanati wines and were a bit giggly towards the end of our visit to the winery. I heard our tour guide, Michal, say something in Hebrew to Kobi Arviv, the winemaker who was pouring our samples, and I encouraged her to drink up because we had a driver, to which she laughed and said I was beginning to understand Hebrew.
The wine below is the wine they believe Jesus drank. Recanati Wines are excellent! I wish I could have brought back a bottle of each of the wines we tasted. Fortunately, their wines can be purchased online at their website - www.recanati-wines.com - and shipped to the US!
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