Holy Land Pilgrimage 2024

I invite you to join me on a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Holy Land. Our church family along with other guests will visit Israel from March 4-14, 2024.

Holy Land 2019Biblical scholars call Israel The Fifth Gospel because geography shapes the story of Scripture. Travel brings the Bible to life as pilgrims literally walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

I have traveled to Israel several times in the past, and each journey has transformed my understanding of the Christian faith. Indelible memories continue to mold my life and ministry. I look forward to the next trip with members from my Northside Church family.

The eleven-day trip will visit  many Old and New Testament sites , including destinations not typically covered in a standard tour. The inclusive pricing includes first class hotels, deluxe motor coaches, guided tours, airfare, and much more.

For additional information, visit this link to see the full brochure that contains all of the details: www.NorthsideUMC.org/holyland. You can also contact the church’s Executive Assistant, Melody Brown, at MelodyB@NorthsideUMC.org.

We will have two, no-obligation interest meetings on Wednesday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 26 at 12:30 p.m. Both will occur in the Board Room at Northside  Church. General information and brochures will be available along with a time for questions and answers.

A traditional Passover toast during the Seder meal is, “Next year in Jerusalem!”  We have the opportunity to make this prayer a reality in 2024!

Spiking the Ball

I grew up watching football on TV. At holiday family gatherings, the menfolk gathered around the tube to watch the games. I learned the sport through osmosis, listening to my elders discuss strategies, formations, and plays.

I played more baseball than football growing up; but the managers and coaches taught identical lessons about good sportsmanship and fair play. We shook hands with the opposing team after the game and downplayed our own accomplishments.

I nostalgically recalled those days during an afternoon of NFL football. I watched a wide receiver perform a dance in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. A running back dramatically pointed downfield after gaining a first down. A lineman struck a body-builder pose after sacking the opposing quarterback.

According to Wikipedia (the place of all true knowledge), Homer JonesSpike Football.png made the first touchdown “spike” in 1965.  Elmo Wright  performed what some believe was the original TD dance in 1971. Today, it’s the exception rather than the rule to see a player modestly hand the ball to the referee.

I could write a paragraph bemoaning the demise of good sportsmanship. I could lament professional athletes’ extravagant displays for simply doing their jobs. I could pontificate about the value of humility.

Instead, consider this simple point. Football teams are called TEAMS for a reason. No player single-handedly scores a TD. No running back makes a first down alone. No defensive lineman penetrates an offensive line by himself.

If you think about it, one player vainly glorifying himself for the accomplishments of an entire team seems rather silly. Our coaches always said there’s no “I” in “Team”; but there are several in “Idiotic!”

Groundhog Day

Each year the United States and Canada observe Groundhog Day on February 2. The rather bizarre holiday stars its namesake: the lowly groundhog.

According to legend, the large ground squirrel possesses mysterious, prognosticating abilities. If the rodent sees his shadow, then he retreats into his burrow in fear, predicting six more weeks of winter. If cloudy weather prevents the furred forecaster from seeing his shadow, then he leaves his lair, signifying the advent of spring.

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania hosts the most renowned Groundhog observance in America. The resident rodent known as “Punxsutawney Phil” presides over the affair.  Over 40,000 pilgrims gather for the annual festivities.

Not to be outdone, Atlanta’s General Beauregard Lee resides at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Georgia. The distant-cousin-of-a rat has received two—count them, TWO—honorary doctoral degrees from local institutions. The University of Georgia awarded him a “DWP: Doctor of Weather Prognostication.” Georgia State University honored the General with a “Doctor of Southern Groundology.”

 Authorities disagree about the accuracy of Groundhog Day’s prognostications. Rodent supporters claim that groundhogs possess a 75% to 90% accuracy degree—far exceeding the success rate of their TV colleagues. The folk at the Yellow River Game Ranch assert that General Lee boasts an astonishing 94% success rate.

The National Climatic Data Center reports a more down-to-earth average of 39% accuracy for groundhogs nationwide. One scientist laconically observed that regardless of predictions, spring ALWAYS arrives on March 20 or 21—about six weeks after Groundhog’s Day.

Bill Murray starred in a 1993 movie entitled Groundhog Day. He played an egocentric weather reporter named Phil Connors. His producer assigned the weatherman to cover Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Inexplicably, Connors finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After a series of misdeeds and misadventures, Phil recognizes that fate has granted him the opportunity to change his life. The movie ends when he . . . well, you need to watch it for yourself!

January 1st inspires people to make New Year’s resolutions. Many of us need a second chance at a second chance. If 01-01 didn’t work for you, then try 02-02. Regardless of sunshine or shadows, it’s never too early or too late to claim God’s power to start anew.