Equal Opportunity Offender: The Gun Control Economy

As my oldest son Alex would say as a toddler: “For you to know” this blog isn’t ultimately intended to express my political opinion and change minds. Alternatively, it hopefully expresses realities concerning market forces behind what happens with regulation. Honestly, I don’t have a dog in the fight. But watching the media is like watching an “adventure in missing the point.” Like you, I want our children to go to school and arrive home safely. Believe me…if I were to attempt to fire a double barrel shotgun, you’d better move the pick up and Google the number for the nearest SafeLite Autoglass installer because that windshield is going down!

Did you grow up in a neighborhood where kids played cowboys and Indians pretending to battle with bows, arrows and guns? Better yet, did you play Cops and Robbers in a more innocent time when police could effectively do their jobs without fear of nearly unlimited repercussion? “Bang, bang you are dead, brush your teeth and go to bed.” Not only is it now politically incorrect for kids to play this way, but it’s going to offend somebody that a Native American Indian is being injured and mocked.

It reads like a rewrite for lyrics from Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Sandy Hook, Vegas, Charleston, Parkland, Umpqua Community College, San Bernardino, Columbine, Pulse Night Club, Bataclan. They’re just a sampling of the the site of the worst of the the worst massacres by gunmen

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t use CNN as a resource; however, its online article dated 2/19/18 gives an excellent summary of (US) shootings that are, sadly, beginning to define our era and this generation. The URL to the article is included at the end.

A couple of disclaimers: (1) Second amendment rights remain vital to American’s ability to (protect) life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and (2) to quote a youth group friend of mine from years ago: “the proliferation of guns is an accelerant; (Trent: I agree)

Politicizing Gun Control— what happened to “family values?”

I sound like a broken record: something needs to be done. Gun control should not be a political issue; it is a humanity issue. But, like everything else Washington and the media politicize it for their selfish ratings-profits gains and get re-elected benefit. Rather than solutions we continue to get rhetoric.

Every single time one of these events occur the cycle repeats: Democrats call for gun control; Republicans defend second amendment rights. The media blow up with coverage. Finger pointing goes on: “(W)here’d he or they get the weapons? Guns don’t shoot people, people shoot people; How did the background check not catch this?; an 18 year old shouldn’t be able to purchase that kind of weapon at Wal-Mart; how’d that nutcase remain under the radar this long; why wasn’t the FBI notified?”

The truth is the answer to any one of OR all of those questions remain irrelevant after a life has been taken. What goes wrong in a human life so incredibly tragically wrong and horrible that makes him or her desire to take the lives of other people in highly notable and prolific ways?

Rather than rehash ad nauseam every detail of each potential cause, we know the ones people point to most frequently:

Substitute Parenting (video games / electronic devices): At the expense of sounding like Ward Clever, it’s true to note most families don’t sit down at a dinner table to connect with their children regularly. Youth are left to fend for themselves, grow up on their own, and figure things out…influencers, quite wrongly, by extraneous factors, where quality parenting and loving guidance once molded preceding generations ahead of them.

Virtual relationships (anything that replaces human touch, interaction and deepening one-on-one relationships; i.e., texting-social media): We Skype, FaceTime, Text, Snapchat, we everything else. What we do not nurture is interpersonal relationships any longer. Lack of connecting eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul has led to empty spirits and souls longing to be wanted and accepted. When they are not the consequences prove disastrous.

Bullying—piling on the bandwagon quickly. In A Christmas Story when the kids in the school yard fought it out, and that was it….move on. In Grease when Danny Zucko and “Pizza Face” raced for pinks in Greased Lightening it was actually healthy competition. The current generation has the ability to magnify “the fight” against enemies by employing social media, by screen shoting messages & photos, and creating quasi smear campaigns against kids.

We have nowhere for kids to safely express pent up aggression.

Instant Gratification— we live in an entitlement generation. I know two families both of whom experienced the death by suicide of their young teenage sons. During grief counseling last Fall for one group the lady proposed that the boy who suffered death at his hand was the person MOST surprised not to be among us. A similar concept must be true of the people who commit these atrocious killing sprees. There are some things that once they’re done cannot be undone.

The Government

The political right…or some of it…has suggested arming teachers. Is it just me or is that really rather stupid? Maybe some teachers, but all? I visualize my first grade teacher, Miss Boone, with a gun in her top drawer….whoa!

The political left calls for government intervention.

Where has government intervention substantively worked?

Almost every time it attempts to control markets, the potential for a black market arises. It may be crass, but simple economic principles will ALWAYS prevail. Where there is supply and where there is demand these dirty little X & Y axes are going to intersect. Consider, for example:

Marijuana: It is illegal to purchase it in my home state. Of course I live in the holy rolling Bible Belt state of North Carolina. Nonetheless, I could leave my home at this moment at drive you to any of 20 places within 20 minutes and purchase for you whatever amount of whacky weed (or if you live near the Arboretum heroin or meth) you want.

Prohibition: Charlotte and many cities in the southern U.S. are full of NASCAR fans. What a lot of people don’t know is how the highly profitable sport got it’s start. During the 30’s when the feds banned the production and sale of alcohol, bootleggers needed a way to distribute their good. Cars were souped up and engines turbo charged to be able to outrun law enforcement. This fascinating concept eventually evolved into NASCAR.

As interesting as that history may (or may not) be to you, the fact is that when alcohol was made illegal, people still found a way to produce it; drinkers found a way to obtain it. Had I been around I guarantee I would have had a spot in a local speakeasy…that culture had to be something to behold.

Prostitution: this one may make you uncomfortable, but it is, after all, the world’s oldest profession. I’ve known more than a few myself…umm…let me be clear….finding out after the fact they are in the business, my customers renting property from our property management business. Here’s the point: where there is demand for a service (or good in the case with firearms); then there will be supply. It’s crude and crass I know, but true, nonetheless. You cannot legislate morality. It does not work.

Pharmaceuticals: Who needs a doctor and Wal-Greens? Do you want prescription diet pills, Propecia, Viagara, you name it? A very simply Google search, a credit card and little trust that your shipment will get through Customs and you can be thin, hairy, and….well…you get the picture.

Abortion: Let’s just open up this little can of worms. Almost everyone has an opinion. Pro-life or Pro-Choice. Politicians typically promote their platforms and do not hesitate to share stances regarding this. You either support Planned Parenthood and want to see government funding or you don’t. You either support Roe v. Wade or you don’t. There is generally not a lot of common ground, rape, incest, life of the mother excepted. Throughout the history of human procreation regardless of what the law says women have been able to seek ways to “take care” of unwanted pregnancies.

Murder: now this one is going to be a shocker. All the way before Moses got the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai…it’s numero 6, I believe, it’s been morally wrong and civilly illegal to murder. All the way through now we have laws on the books that say murder is illegal. Big regulation from the Supreme Law maker: Thou Shall Not Kill!

Gun Laws: Codified gun laws exist. Take the training class, endure the waiting period, pass the background check, etc. Guess what? Just like the weed mentioned or the booze decades ago if you want it, then you can go out your door and buy it…completely usurping the domestic law.

Usurping the law. Now there’s an interesting concept. What makes anyone think a person resolute on killing is going to be law abiding. Forget mental instability, forget demographic profiling, forget any box into which we try to force a person when we all, after the fact, attempt to explain and rationalize the most tragic “mass shooting.”

It boils down to this: If a person wants to hurt people, then he or she is going to hurt people. The weapon is not the killer; the weapon is the tool. Disagree?

  • Ask the people of Nice, France;
  • Ask the people of the Middle East who live in fear of car bombs;
  • Ask the people who survived the nut case who drove into the crowds in Times Square;
  • Ask the victims’ families from last week’s FedEx attack.
  • Ask the victims of the Boston Marathon bomb from several years ago;
  • Ask the survivors of the Twin Towers at 911;
  • Ask the family of the homosexual soldier who was murdered by being beaten to death on the streets of Wilmington NC outside of a nightclub (c. 1990);
  • Ask the people who witnessed cars attempting to run them down on Tower Bridge in London; ask commuters on The Tube;
  • Ask…



there are so many I couldn’t begin to name them all.

In none of these cases were guns involved. In all of these cases existed evil and the intent to kill.

The world we occupy is frightening.

Back at you Kevin

Maybe the answer is we as Americans and human beings stop the decay of our societal foundation. The second week in February I posted a response to one of my best buddy, Kevin’s post on FaceBook (I’ve got his link at the end as well—worth the read). I still believe today the long term answer lies somewhere in this:

Rights need to be preserved, entitlement needs be harnessed and curtailed, and people (parents) have got to resume responsible parenting. Media is the Anti-Christ regardless of who is in office. Why the *&%$ do people listen to anything these people say (and I could have said the same thing during the Carter-Clinton-Obama administrations). Guns don’t shoot themselves, news stories don’t broadcast themselves, and presidents don’t elect themselves. WE have empowered everything to be in the status quo we endure presently. A killer will kill if that’s the intended desire (Nice, France; Tower Bridge in London; 911; Times Square New York—-and I just happen to be responding to you from the car bomb center of the universe: the Middle East. I went through 4 security checks & borders patrol crossings <machine gun militia> just TODAY so that we could tour holy sites and say prayers (note: Thaedra and I had ridden in and out of the separation wall between Israel and Palestine twice that particular day getting to and from Bethlehem / Jerusalem).

Gun control doesn’t stop a black market (look at the drug problem). What will make a difference, as you suggest, is when people care about something bigger than themselves: the future, our children; and families as God intended them to be. I’m proud you took the time to author this. You’re hopefully showing a lot of people how to be part of the solution. Thanks, Kevin!”


Consider this incredibly poignant fact: there are more firearms in the United States than there are citizens. (I would cite sources, but there is much discrepancy regarding the numbers. I considered many that counted only the guns manufactured and sold since records have been kept; this completely discounts the tens of millions prior to that time).

Write every law imaginable, but how do written words remove more than

320,000,000; that’s three hundred twenty million guns from our streets?

Florida has taken steps to increase the age from 18 to 21 to purchase a weapon, it makes sense to vet persons through background checks, increase waiting periods and data bases if you want to, conceal-carry permits are great: those measures regulate only law abiding citizens.

We All Help Support Part of the Problem Sometimes

Dismantle the Hollywood elite and music industry that influences our culture with extremely violent film making they call “art” by their profession, and then use personal fame platforms to call for gun control (it is potentially the most two faced thing in modern history….I have absolutely zero respect for most entertainment elite).

November 2012: I picked up my wife and several friends up from the Madonna concert in Charlotte. Only months before (July 2012) a nutcase shot ruthlessly into the crowd in Aurora, Colorado. The United States and the world experienced “shock and awe” that this could happen. As Thaedra and the other ladies climbed into my car they were laughing and commenting and talking about the show, but the one thing I’ll never forget is how they commented about Madonna’s use of stage props in her show…just about the entire show…she theatrically shot faux machine guns toward the audience throughout the show. One of the most politically liberal, anti-gun, vocal entertainers of our age “shot” a mixed message that evening…she typically does (remember—-she’s the one who’s thought so much about blowing up the White House). Yes, we bought that concert ticket…and supported Madonna’s behaviors <for the very last time may I add>)

I close with this Madonna story to say… in the United States we live and die by the market economic forces we drive by consumer decisions (even those that transpire in the black market).

What decisions can we make to positively impact the next generation?

CNN LINK: https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/us/20-deadliest-mass-shootings-in-u-s-history-fast-facts/index.html

KEVIN’S LINK: https://www.facebook.com/kevin.ray.1029/posts/1999088016785864

Pink Floyd, Peter Paul and Mary, I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane

Pink Floyd, Peter Paul & Mary, I’m Leaving on A Jet Plane

Okay, I admit it publicly…at almost 50 years old. It was the mid-1980’s when I was in high school, a Myers Park Mustang. My dad and step-mom travelled quite often. My two buddies, Scott and Mike, and I would raid my dad’s bar mainly for his Crown Royal. Dad was a Crown & Coke man in those days … ugh … as they said in the 80’s “gag me with a spoon!” What were we thinking? We’d hunker down with that bottle and Scott’s VHS tape movie of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” I had a copy, but my sister, Robyn, stole it. She’s reading this and should still feel guilty, right sis? This scene repeated over and over I cannot tell you how many times. It was fun times; just a “another brick in the wall” of our High School experience.

We’ve seen a lot of walls over here and heard a lot about walls in the news lately.

Here’s the Western Wall. For my sons’ pediatrician and scouting comrade, Jon Kocmond, we placed this note of prayer he brought to us in memory of their teenage son, Nathan. Pilgrims and people offering prayer alike pray at The Wailing Wall leave notes, slips of paper and more in the cracks and crevices. Each year at Yom Kippur workers clear these prayer tokens and bury them on Mount Zion. According to Jewish tradition Zion is where our Jewish brothers believe a messiah will return. Jon, Sarah and family: Thaedra and I wish rest for Nathan and continued prayers for your family as you move forward always remembering the incredibly rich dimension Nathan added to everyone who knew him. I’m bringing you this olive cross. It has been with me to every Holy site we’ve visited since our Monday arrival in Jerusalem.

There is a massively extensive separation wall between Palestine and Israel and the wall separating the West Bank from Israel. These walls serve an important purpose. It is absolute fact that since these walls have been constructed terrorist car bombings in Jerusalem have decreased by 99%. That’s HUGE! As a tourist, it is also comforting. As an American Christian here to see sites, it is tremendously comforting. Truly, these people would kill one another. As importantly would be the destruction of the Holy sites we have seen this week.

Of course, there are the Old City walls. Built to protect and see this city through the ages, the wall has always been a symbol of division. And even though tourists get excited about seeing it and traversing the City gates, it remains an outer surrounding for a place characterized by conflict and division.

There has been so much talk about walls lately especially the border wall our current administration wants to build. I don’t know if a wall is America’s answer; will it effect the change we desire? That’s neither a rhetorical nor open ended question by the way. There remain, among others, the issues of drug inflow, MS-13, unlicensed immigrant drivers who don’t understand our culture who endanger us everyday-everywhere, and ineffective immigration. Believe me I’ve seen it personally in my career many times.

We’re heading home. If you talk with anyone who has been here, then I think they’ll agree they leave a part of themselves here. It is truth to admit that you bring home part of this place, too. I don’t mean chunks of Dead Sea salt, a piece of Rock from Masada, or an piece of something \from Gethsemane (don’t tell anybody I did that-both times).

The part you bring home is the relationships you build. This trip our group was blessed to spend an evening in Palestine (Bethlehem) with a family in their private home for dinner. They welcomed Bishop Farley and several of us for native meal shared a glimpse of their lives and opened their home and hearts to us (I wrote about them in an earlier blog: Get a Piece of the Rock). Bishop said grace before dinner. Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve ever been blessed by a bishop (at least he didn’t bless me out).

To get to know Victor better and glean from his extensive knowledge has been the best. When Brandon, Susi, Mark, Juna and I visited 2 years ago we departed knowing we had a friend who is at the top of his game. To any of my 2016 Red Bus comrades, you cannot imagine how much more awesome he is now. Still melodic in speech, his gentle, genuine desire to share his homeland’s deeply rich cultural and Christian history with us.

As I write these words we are flying directly over the Aegean Sea. Like Peter Paul and Mary sang, I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. Honestly, I probably never will be. Now that I’ve shared this experience with my beautiful bride and soulmate, I’m good.

I want to share a few sites I haven’t taken the opportunity to share up to this point and to give a few final reflections.

Garden Tomb: Discovered in 1867, it is a place outside of Old City Jerusalem some people claim may have been the actual cruxifiction site, Golgatha, and the site of His burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. I think people are easily convinced this might be the real place simply because it looks like what people expect to see (I personally gravitate toward Holy Sepulcher being the place). Here are a few shots from the Garden Tomb.

Holy Sepulcher: This is the most venerated place on earth. By the time Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, Christ’s followers and the early Christians had already been meeting here for worship for a few hundred years. The Emperor’s mother, Queen Helena, declared this to be a true site (based on quite a bit of fact: a cruxifiction site called Golgatha located outside the City gates was here. The stone is cracked from seismic activity and descriptions correspond well with historic and scriptural records. People get confused when they see the protective Holy Sepulcher Church presently. It’s difficult to imagine this highly ornate place steeped in tradition having been a killing and burial site.

(This is the Golgatha Stone. You can see a huge crack in it proven to be cause by earthquake. The stone runs stories deep into the earth. The cracks can be seen by visitors stories below this surface shot. The image below is the top area of the stone covered as worship space and is said to be the spot where Jesus died.)

(Place believed to be where the Cross of Christ was erected.)

(The images above and below show the outside of the highly decorated and preserved tomb. Through the wall you can seen the bedrock into which the tomb was originally carved.)

Dead Sea: It is a truly amazing place. Unfortunately, severe drought has caused the level of the Sea to fall approximately 18 feet since the late 1990’s. Israel has a serious water issue.

Masada: One of 7 of King Herod the Great’s desert fortresses. It offers spectacular views. Interestingly, this is where the Zealots occupied after the Roman Rebellion around 70A.D. Scripture and history records that the 900 Zealots had been held under siege here. Once they realized the Romans would capture them…killing the men, raping the women, and selling the children into slavery, the men decided to die was better than living under the conditions that would face them. The evening before the Roman legions stormed Masada every man killed his family. By casting lots the men killed one another until 10 remained. One of the 10 killed the remaining 9 men and then “fell upon his sword.”

Anunciation in Nazareth: This Basilica is constructed over the remains of the Virgin Mary’s childhood home. Historians and archeologists agree with a great deal of certainty that this is the place where she would have been when Gabriel announced to her she would bear a child by virgin birth.

Capernaum: Called the Town of Jesus, it is where he resided in the upper Galilee region for a large part of his ministry. It just so happens that He lived in the home of the Apostle Peter (Stretcher Bearer guys: I cannot wait to share a full and. detailed version of the time we spent here when we meet in May.

I do know this: after two trips to the Holy Land I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend this place as a must. Not necessarily for religious education, but simply to see some of the most incredible sites from the ancient world, to experience a culture unlike ours, and to understand how life works and our place in it a little bit better.

The difference between Jerusalem and other major world cities, for example, is that many are extremely touristy. Israel requires a sense of adventure, stamina, bravery to be where people live on edge and bit of resolve to delve into a region characterized by Islamic & Jewish conflict to discover the roots of our own Anglo-Saxon traditions and cultures. If you are looking for something common, keep looking. And as much as I love a tropical island vacation I’ve yet to find a frozen pina colada with a little paper umbrella here…and I looked!

Here relaxing means learning and living with the fact that world does not revolve around us and how completely insignificant our individual problems are. It is truly a freeing place to be. In one of my first blogs in the 2016 series I said I’d hoped the trip wouldn’t change my life. It did not. This one has not either. Both of them, however, have changed my perspective.

Do you ever just want to go back and feel the security you felt when you where a little kid? I hope you have these memories. You know, when your mom or dad took care of all your problems: stumped toes, lost toys, drove you around with the windows up while smoking Winstons & Virginia Slims….wait….that helped nobody! When you visited your grandparents…they would snuggle up and read a bedtime story to you. Or do you, like I, remember drifting off to sleep as a little kid exhausted after a long, adventurous day without a worry in the world listening to the adults in the other room? I can get back those peaceful moments in my mind’s eye in just a second.

I think this peace is the same peace I have gotten from both of my trips to the Holy Land. Moments of worry free tranquility. And although I’ve uploaded 1000’s of pictures to the cloud and walked tens of thousands of footsteps I am bringing a piece of this place home with me. In the same child like fashion I am grateful for the chance to have left my little part of the world and visited this part. Grateful for family, friends and grateful to know that despite every problem, every messed up thing in this world, it’s like that kid’s song we used to sing reminds us: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

If you’ve watched the news in the last few days, then you know the Middle East, especially Syria, is in turmoil. Keep the people in your prayers. From the Holy City of Jerusalem, big-blog-theory signing off for a while.


Final thought:

Thanks to all of you for the amazing support of this blog, for helping honor to people to whom I’ve dedicated articles, and for walking through this geographical and Biblical time capsule highly dedicated to preserving the past so that we can be well rooted for the future. Big-blog-theory.com and Holylandbucketlistadventure.com (2016) have received more than 1400 hits in recent weeks and the numbers are growing.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem-

Get a Piece of the Rock!

Get a Piece of the Rock

This is no sales pitch and I promise there is no ulterior motive to channel you toward a Prudential agent. I’m not even sure I know one…and that’s not an invite to call. Therefore, it’s okay to relax and keep reading.

Bags must be smaller than a typical backpack and placed on the conveyor. You must go through the metal detector. Military guards armored with automatic assault riffles- intensely serious looking- might watch you closely. I even saw explosive sniffing dogs closeby. These people do everything they can reasonably do to make you feel as safe as they can to ensure your safety on your flight. Except…wait! At this check point you cannot wear Christian jewelry or even carry Christian literature let alone a Bible. They say it is propaganda. This is not the airport. This is the non-Muslim entrance at the entrance to Temple Mount: the site of the Dome of the Rock.

The sign over the entrance reads:

This blog hopefully clarifies why some of the problems exist in Israel between the Jewish nation, Israel, and its Muslim inhabitants and neighbor nations. You, too, can be like Marty McFly jumping into Doc Brown’s time machine (that’s a Back to the Future reference / DeLorean vehicle for those of you who are too young to……..never mind). Fasten your time machine seatbelts, this stuff is both fascinating and tragic.

We hear about it on the news; we select politicians based on their views on it, but we truly are far removed from the issue(s). On Tuesday evening, Thaedra and I were privileged to join Bishop Farley from the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church (yep- that’s your boss, Brandon D.) and his son, a Providence Sr. High grad, to have dinner in a private home in Palestine. After talking with this family and listening to the struggles they face, the division among factions here seems all the more real. The photo below is of Therese, Roed, their twins, Mais & Majd, Bishop, his son, Brandon; Claire and Lauren two U.S. exchange students. I’ll follow up on this in “final thoughts” at the end.

I have taken my notes from touring in both 2016 and again today and compiled them. Written simply, I hope this post gets to the down low of the most the highly recognizable of Middle Eastern sites. I’d dare say here is where much contention began, Isaac & Ishmael excepted—-and I know that’s a HUGE exception folks!

Back in the day King David bought the property where Temple Mount exists. We now recognize this property by it’s prolific gold dome. It is the Dome of the Rock. You remember David, the one who watched Bathsheba taking a bath from his Palace’s terrace (then sent her husband Uriah to the front lines of battle knowing he’d be killed so that David could have Bathsheba for himself—-another story altogether).

(King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion.)

King David’ son, King Solomon, built the first temple on this site. The Arc of Covenant was placed here in the section call the Holy of Holies. In 586 B.C. Babylonians conquered the region and exiled the Jews. The Arc of Covenant was lost. For you movie fans, Indiana Jones & company spent a lot of time racing against Nazis looking for the Arc (spelled Ark; Hollywood style). For reference, it is believed the Arc contained the remaining pieces of Moses’ stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

70 years later King Herod rebuilds a new temple. He used no slave labor. Rather, he employed 10,000 men to rebuild and expand the temple mount. This temple is the one where Jesus, Joseph and Mary would have visited. It’s where He overturned moneychangers’ table, sat among the teachers, and taught on the steps (this picture is my 2016 group on the “teaching steps” originally one of the main Temple entrances in use during Christ’s life. Mary, Joseph & Jesus would have walked on these steps (pictured below). Clearly, some are restored; some are not. The original walls behind us have been sealed over the centuries.

Eventually, General Titus conquered and destroyed Herod’s new Temple.

Islam was begun by Muhammad (born in 570) . The Koran says God took Muhammad (accompanied by the Angel Gabriel—-yep, same one) on a journey to the furthest mosque. Interestingly, nowhere in the Koran does it specify this event happened in Jerusalem. However, based on the surroundings described, the Muslims built there mosque on the spot where they arrive. The stone under the dome of the rock is the stone where Muhammad landed on the winged horse. The story goes that he stood on the rock before ascending into heaven and meeting prophets (including Jesus—-who is acknowledge by Islam as a prophet) from this very place. During this meeting Muhammad received instructions to pray five times daily (in case you ever wondered where this tradition of Islam originated).

This place is the 3rd holiest place in Islam. It is both ironic AND interesting to me that Allah decided that he needed this holy site to be built on a place so pivotally important to Jews (and subsequently to Christians).

The Byzantines (Christians) who controlled the area up to this point were a weak sect. They were overtaken by a Muslim conquest. In 691 the dome of the Rock was built. 90% of what one sees today is original. Other mosques and surrounding buildings were constructed around 705. It is spectacularly beautiful; but as a Christian I feel eerily blasphemous (not sure this is the correct word) for being here.

A Muslim dynasty become well established by approximately 710.

For the Jews the Temple Mount is the #1 holy place because the Holy of Holies (Arc of the Covenant) stood where the rock is. They have no access inside the domed mosque. Jewish people (any non-Muslim for that matter) cannot access the area inside as non-Muslim prayers are banned from the Temple Mount.

The closest Jews can get to the site of the Temple Mount is the Western Wall. They call it the Wailing Wall because they pray and wail there at this closest place they are allowed to the original Temple site until the 3rd temple is built. It is a beautiful hope and expectation revered by approximately 10 million Jewish people worldwide.

Muslims protest when Jews ignore Torah Law and come to walk the grounds. Jewish presence causes violence and protests from both sides. Thus, the reason there are guards, security precautions, riot shields and everything else you see.

To go into the problems about the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and the real estate surrounding Israel (Jewish, democratic/Theocratic) far exceeds the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that Israel wants to claim / reclaim more land while other nations (Muslim, essentially non-democratic/dictatorships and monarchies) want to claim / reclaim more land in a part of the world where land is tight and natural resources make people rich. Just as importantly rooted in this is religious pride and national sovereignty.

Just for fun I’ll point out an interesting fact when we see an image of the dome we see it’s gleaming gold roof. It has not always been as bright as it is today. In the late 1980’s King Hussein of Jordan, a Muslim, ordered and funded the installation of the 5000 glittering solid gold plates we see today adorning the dome. Incidentally, there is an American tie. King Hussein’s 4th wife, Queen Noor, was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in California. She was an American citizen and worked as Washington, D.C. urban planner until their marriage.

I do not know the answer to the problems among the factions (and I’ve only mentioned two). The emotionally charged history runs deep. The one thing I know for certain is in the era when the U.S. has committed to move it’s embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s diplomatic capitol, back to Jerusalem, the historic capital, the Jerusalem story, the Temple Mount story will continue to unfold. Everyone, it seems, wants to get a piece of the Dome of the Rock!

Final thoughts: On the surface the division here does not seem to impact family life on one side of a wall or the other. The revealing truth is that all people here are severely impacted. A few things we learned at dinner with our new Palestinian friends:

-Israel controls the flow of water (I’m talking in pipes that service individual properties). Water is only turned on by the governments sporadically and it is typically unannounced. Thus, water conservation is a HUGE issue. Private homes have storage tanks on their roofs so that residents can fill up and stockpile water in hopes they don’t run out between open flow periods.

-Palestinians and other “non-Israel” residents must obtain a pass to be able to cross through security check points at the international borders. This is much stricter than a Passport issue. For example, the family we met currently has a pass, but can only get one per year to cross into Israel. This is a big deal if you want to buy furniture, see a particulate doctor, attend school, and just about anything else.

-Even in predominantly Christian communities…everywhere here for that matter the mosques play Muslim prayers aloud…VERY LOUD so that they can be heard all over the place.

-West Bank, Gaza Strip, Bethlehem residents, cannot fly out of Israel even though it is the closest airport. They have to drive through the mountains to get to Jordan to fly anywhere.

-Israeli 18 year olds are required to service in the military before seeking higher education and other personal goals.

The Hooker, The Bakker, The Promised Land Taker

The Hooker, the Bakker, the Promised Land Taker

You’ve heard the saying that well behaved women rarely make history. Today I was reminded of this as we visited Jericho … the oldest city in the world, well, what’s left of it.

She emerged from the heavy cast bronze doors amidst a sea of reporters. In the forefront local Charlotte news investigative reporter Chris Clackum, who’d been avidly following the story for years, stated that her husband had been sentenced to federal prison . The painted lady broke into song at the top of her lungs right there on the steps of the federal courthouse: “On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” If you were in Charlotte, NC in October, 1988, then you’ll know I’m referring to the unmistakable Tammy Faye Bakker. The same Tammy Faye who’d been the butt of jokes around the Carolinas, if not the nation, for overdressing, and definitely over primping—make up galore! I’ll never forget the “I ran into Tammy Faye” t-shirts.

Who knows why Tammy Faye followed Jim Bakker all the way through the rise and fall of the PTL empire? Many of my FB friends grew up with me in Huntingtown Farms immediately adjacent to the first PTL property. Buddy, Dawn, Reid, Cameron, David, Doug, Gary, Frank, Lisa, Kim: we all remember PTL’s stately, imposing Georgian mansion. Accordingly to neighborhood kid folklore it was haunted. It still stands just off of Park Road on the property Forest Hill Church now calls home.

The Old Testament chronicles Joshua’s quest to continue Moses’ journey to get the Hebrews to the promised land. It was when they hit Jericho, the mighty walled city, that they needed, once again, to rely on God. But it was here at the world’s oldest City that God’s servant happened to be a woman practicing the world’s oldest profession. Enter: Rahab.

These piles of rubble are what remain of Jericho. Here Rahab’s home was built into the walls. Scripture records that she served God by hiding Joshua’s spies from the King. In return, she and her family were spared when Joshua’s armies marched around the City blowing their trumpets causing the walls to fall to offer the Hebrews safe passage.

Archeological evidence shows little evidence to support what the book of Joshua records. However, this is not the point. I’ll leave that for scientists and Theologians to debate. Daddy always says “who am I to let the facts stand in the way of a good story?” I can tell you this; the American Ambassador’s Fund is paying for the excavations here (political neutrality on my part practiced here). The research work began in Jericho in 1952, just a few short years after the formal establishment of the State of Israel. The tallest peak in this first image is the venerated place of Christ’s temptation in the Judean Wilderness known here as the Mount of Temptation. There is a monastery at the tip top.

(It is commonly agreed based on the finds, studies, and discovery of agricultural techniques that Jericho is the oldest developed city on earth. What you see here is simply ruins in a National Park managed by the Israelis Antiquities Authority, but the modern town is a resort area where people from places in Israel escaped to during colder times of the year).

As someone I know and deeply respect frequently says: You don’t know what you don’t know. It applies to the two women I’ve mentioned here: Tammy Faye & Rahab.

Who knows what Mrs. Bakker’s purpose was to serve and how, in the end, her life’s will fit into the ever unfolding puzzle of God’s story. I simply cannot imagine.

A lesson we learn from Rahab is that God often uses the most unlikely people. Sometimes He uses the least, the lost & the last – the weakest, the most down trodden, the most unlikely to serve His purposes. If not for Rahab and her willingness to serve, Joshua may not have conquered Jericho to move forward into the Promised Land. I believe God uses whom He wants when He wants and where He wants us. It also makes me realize, alternatively, that there is truth to the philosophy “To whom much is given, much is expected.” (This predates Peter Parker by generations for all you Spider-Man fans). This blog is dedicated to a man, a leader, and a friend to many.

On January 2nd our Charlotte, NC Boy Scout Troop 118 lost it’s founding Scout master and leader for nearly 45 years, Stephen Pace (pictured above in our T118 traditional Pace purple). One could write volumes about this man’s approach to leadership, family life, Christian living, citizenship, parenting and business ethics. Suffice it to say, unlike most people, Mr. Pace spent his life investing in people. The foundations he built will live on through the 192 Eagle Scouts born of Troop 118, the the neighborhoods developed through his business, through deep and true friendships, and the amazing and accomplished family he nurtured during his life. I thought of Mr. Pace today observing Jericho and remembered he built his house’s foundation on rock. The scripture that says:

Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

As I gazed upon this pile of rocks…10,000 years old I am reminded that like Tammy Faye sang out loud (who am I to question her)…. a little dramatically I must admit…that God is the Rock, He is the foundation, and on Him we can stand. My friend, Stephen believed this. Every word spoken at his memorial reflected that His life shone this light.

It’s quite strange, but true: two painted women, an Old Testament warrior, Joshua, who led the Hebrews to the promised land and the remains of this oldest of cities made me think today about my sons’ scout master and how deeply I respect his life’s work and how solid a foundation he built in people’s lives. That we may all be so inspired.

Final thoughts: We saw some of the most unbelievable desert in the Judean Wilderness; our camel’s name is Shu-Shu. We floated in the Dead Sea, and spent quite a bit of time at The Old City (walled city). Here are some views of the remainder of the day.

(This is Victor. He’s been my guide both trips here. He is an exceptional guy. Prayer group guys: I’ve got 2 videos, 1 of him explaining some things from Capernaum, for our May group).

(Some of the other tour members in our group.)

This is the Western Wall / Wailing Wall…most people recognize it. I’ll have a special final post about this place on our final day).

Dungeons, No Dragons, 2 Kings….and a Castle

Dungeons…No Dragons…2 Kings…and a Few Castles

As the bus took us to the top of the hill, JoAnna, Thaedra, Tim, Mark, Jackie, Jennifer(s), Chet and the crew heard the sultry voice sing the words from his enduring 1961 hit from Blue Hawaii “But I can’t help falling in love with you.” (You’re welcome…now that song will be in your head all day).  The doors opened and we had arrived at Graceland  Even for non-Elvis fans, it is a place to behold.  Time seems to stand still inside its doors.

A throwback into Americana, this Memphis landmark makes you realize how this man shaped our culture—more people watched him in the first live televised concert than watched Neil Armstrong take the first step on the moon & he was the first singer to earn a cool $1 million for a film. I have travelled quite a bit and highly, strongly recommend this nostalgic, quirky, fun place as much as any place I’ve seen.

It is probably a fair statement to say most people believe Elvis died very rich and extremely famous.  By today’s standards is that true?  One thing you absolutely learn about this talented American entertainer and philanthropist is that he denied himself nothing.  He was the King of Rock & Roll and Graceland Mansion was his castle. 


Today we visited the church of St. Peter Gallincatu.  Built on a steep hillside of Mount Zion, this is known to be the accurate historical location of Jewish high priest Caiaphas’ palatial home.  You remember this guy.  He’s the one who sent Jesus back and forth between himself and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, during Passover. Neither Caiaphas nor Pilate wanted to “stir the pot” and compromise his comfortable, powerful position.

I love this picture (below).  Standing here gives tremendous perspective, both present day and historical.  In the foreground is the Church- a melting pot of Judeo-Christian history; in the distance is the separation wall dividing Israel & Palestine.  Just beyond the wall is the town where Mary, Martha and Lazarus where lived.  In Bethany Christ raised Lazarus to life and explained to the sisters the importance of each one’s work.


Being here makes faith real.  A lot happened here.  Gospel meets humanity here.  Jesus told Peter he would deny Christ 3 times before the roster crowed at dawn.    All four gospels report that this happened (in the courtyard of Caiaphas’ home).  I If you can get past all don’t the surrounding the authenticity of most Holy Land sites to consider Peter’s denial occurred here, it becomes a very sobering thought. By the way, there is no historical archeological doubt the the Jewish High Priest resided on this piece of property.

How many times in a day do my actions or do my thoughts deny my faith or deny Christ?


Note to self:  need to work on this!


Peter’s denial shows us what people do, but what about what God does?  To seek the answer is to step deep into the basement dungeons of this building.  Having been excavated from centuries old buildings (Byzantine churches once stood here to commemorate the site of the House of Caiaphas), historians and archaeologists alike determined there to be a network of dungeon prisoner cells underneath this building.  Hewn out of bedrock in the mountain side you descend into guardrooms, cells with stone pillars and bowls carved into floors, and hardware used to hold prisoners tightly to the walls.

Although debate remains, many believe Christ, the King of the Jews, spent His last night in this dungeon cell before finally being arrested before crucifixion.  Unlike the time a pilgrim spends trodding the Via Dolorosa and walking through Holy Sepulcher, this dungeon prison is neither a visual nor sensual feast.  Rather, it focuses one’s attention on one thing: death.  Standing in the prisoner’s cell and considering you could be standing on stone floor where Christ stood the final hours of His life; well…., there are no words…none.

In 2016 my friend, Brandon Dirks, was with us in this space and read us the scripture from the Gospels about Christ’s last night on earth. The words he read were narrative about the events that took place in this very space.  I do not know how he was able to get through it.  




You may have read those lists of celebrities who are worth more dead than alive.  They include people likes Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Michael Jackson, and absolutely, the King…that hunka hunka burning love, Elvis Pressley.  But more important than Elvis’ money (which they say has grown from the mere $10 million at the time of his death to several hundred million now…depending on what you read…thanks to Priscilla’s hard work) is his legacy and enduring, classic work.  It probably helps that the guy has his own channel on Sirius XM channel radio, too!  The point is, Elvis’ fame and fortune are much greater now than when he was living.  And although Elvis Pressley was simply an entertainment pop culture icon, his case study makes an easily understandable segway for the historical growth of Christ’s story.  It was after Christ’s earthly life that His story was spread by his disciples and followers…that His bride, the Church, was born and grew.  


The lesson from St. Peter today is twofold.  First, like Peter how am I denying God in my life?  And second, after Jesus was no longer physically with us on earth His story spreads, His legacy endures, His dominion reigns.

What will we do for God today, to affirm Him and not deny Him? Dawn is coming.

Final thought: to anyone who has ever participated in Walk to Emmaus, in this place the term DeColores never becomes more poignant and real.

King of the Hill: Herod, not Hank!

King of the Hill, Herod. Not Hank!

Henry the 8th had Hampton Court; Louis VIX & Marie Antoinette had Versailles, Ludwig II built Neuschwantstein, for 1000 years the Brits have had Windsor. From each of these famed places monarchs have shaped history, ruled kingdoms and influenced culture. We don’t necessarily think about these people, but their continued presence in our lives, no matter how trivial, remains. Henry VIII, for example, is truly as responsible for the creation of the Protestant movement as Martin Luther. Ladies, if you wore a white wedding gown, you can thank Queen Victoria for beginning the tradition when she married Prince Albert (no cigar jokes —-and he’s not in a can). And who among us has not quipped crediting Marie Antoinette with “Let them eat cake!” During the French Revolution? Historians now believe she never said those words.

Many years ago riding with the daughters of our friends, Pam & Ron Robinson, we left SeaTac airport on the road headed toward Seattle. With Anna and Mary Kathryn in the rental car Thaedra and I took off to take these girls to spend their Spring break with their parents. Ron was at the Fred Hutchinson Center receiving extended treatment after having received a bone marrow transplant. If not for being there with this family we would not have seen it. While passing by the Boeing plant … which stretches miles along the highway … we sawMount Rainer. It is so incredibly large that it doesn’t look as if it could be real. It arose in the distance, a mass of earth protruding into the sky capped with snow all around. We all couldn’t believe this massive natural wonder in front of our eyes.

Driving through the desert just about 10 miles south of Jerusalem in anticipation of seeing Herod the Great’s final resting place I was reminded of Mt. Ranier’s grandeur. Curious to know if the Herodium mount might compare. To set the record straight, it did not…although it was big. Only God can make a Mt Rainier, but Herod, known as the master builder, created quite the impressive fortress. His intent was to built high enough that it could be seen from the Holy City, Jerusalem. From the top you can see the Mount of Olives just beyond the Kidron Valley.

Herod served as Judea’s Jewish ruler from approximately 50 B.C. – 4 A.D. I’m sticking with the Before Christ and Anno Domini. This before common era & common era political correctness thing is a bunch of hooey. Shocking I know, but iNotes doesn’t recognize Domini as a word, but knows what hooey is. Not sure why I’m surprised from a technology out of the Silicon Valley.

Think about this guy for a moment. He is the Herod who rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem (2nd time). He built more than 15 palaces, 7 massive fortresses and multitude of public buildings. He lived an opulent lifestyle, ruled powerfully, maintained the power of the world in his hands.

At the news of Christ’s birth Herod is the guy who sent the Magi, he’s the guy who ordered the murder of every Jewish baby – subsequently what made Joseph and Mary to escape with Jesus to Egypt by night (for reference, Bethlehem is only about 5 kilometers from this spot; the Sinai peninsula to where they escaped is approximately 270 kilometers south).

There were many truths about Herod. Two resonate with me today:

First, a little baby born a few miles away in a cave among livestock manure to a teenager intimidated him. Second, as powerful as he was, Herod was an extension of the Roman Empire and ruled (basically served) at the pleasure of the Roman government. It was good work if you could get it.

As Herod approached the end of his life he ordered even more dirt and rock be placed upon the top of this mountain palace. By continuing to increase it’s height, Herod helped insure himself a prolific eternal tomb. He is buried within a tunnel system deep inside the mountain. This high vantage point also affords views of the Judean wilderness where Satan tempted Christ for 40 days. Like many places in the Holy Land, years of digging and excavating have revealed what visitors can see today atop this huge hill.

But Herod, just like everyone died. I’d dare to say that if he had not been so prolific in Jesus’ story he would have faded away with the mists of time except for some placeholders in Israel & Middle Eastern history. He was, in the end simply a man, who ended up as my daddy’s favorite comedian, Jerry Clower, would say “Grave yard dead.” Earthly kings come and go, dynasties and monarchies rise and fall. This is a good place to be reminded that nothing lasts forever except God’s providence. Let me just leave it at that and share some images of what’s left of Herod’s man made mountain fortress.

Armageddon, ‘Merica, Can I get an Amen?

Armageddon, ‘Merica, Can I Get An Amen?

To the men of my Stretcher Bearers group: this speaks, somewhat, to Jay’s comment at Kevin’s house back on Feb. 8th. Remember? Jay said: With all the news: CNN, NBC, BBC & FOX put out there at us constantly,take some time everyday to step back and “breathe.” These pics are just a of the guys from Stretcher Bearers. Now, on to Megiddo.

It plays upon our deepest fears…..the unknown.  Anticipating the forthcoming with no clear idea of what exactly lies ahead.  


This is Tel Meggido.  The place is beautiful and peaceful, but it has not always been this way.   Translated back into its Greek and Hebrew name we recognize Meggido as Armageddon.  If you don’t know about this, then let me introduce you to the place I have twice personally visited rather than the fear inducing future event I learned to dread as a child.  


Growing up in a church as many of us did, people around me used words and terms like “the rapture,” “the second coming,” and  “the end of days.”   Ironic, funny or sad some churches have historically scared or coerced followers into obedience with guilt and fear all the while preaching a message of love.  This control mechanism allows(ed) hierarchical churches to become power brokers in people’s lives and, for The Roman Catholic Church, for example, to amass some of the greatest earthly fortunes recorded (if you’re offended by this thought, log off now).

Revelation, written by the Apostle John, mentions Armageddon only once (Rev. 16:16) stating the kings of the world would be gathered here in the final conflict against God.  The prophesy that Christ will fight earthly governments and bring an end to human suffering in this place recalls images that scare little kids, like I once was, who grew up going to Vacation Bible School, Royal Ambassadors (a Baptist boys’ thing) and Sunday School.  Trying to teach children about prophetic, imagery rich poetry adults cannot understand is futile.  Yet attempts are made, people get turned off; and, for the most part, discussion of the “final conflict,” end times, and eschatology (big S.A.T. Seminary word for the study of end times) is kept closed mouthed.


Ask around and you’ll hear people mention every excuse imaginable for not being involved in a faith community.  So many “reasons” and “rationales”: Our son’s baseball league travels on weekends, we have “so much going on” (seriously people, who doesn’t), people in the church are hypocritical (no joke—every single one of us is ), Sunday is our family time, I don’t like the preacher (I’ve never met one who appeals to all people), the church wasn’t there for us when we needed it (where were you when the church needed you?), etc.  


The one thing I have learned is this:  Christianity is not for perfect people.  I think this is the biggest misconception among people involved in faith communities and people who are not.  Christians make mistakes all day every day.  We gossip, we spend too much, we eat too much, we work too much, we set double standards, we drink too much, we lust, we fail to seize opportunities to serve, we pass by people who need our help, and we pass judgment way too much.  Yet, we remain hopeful that people will look at us and say: “Hey, I really want to be a part of your Christian fellowship.”  Hard sell?  Maybe.  We don’t help ourselves a lot of times. Despite all of this God offers forgiveness and grace.


On January 29th I watched the State of the Union address.  Republicans cheered while Democrats sat stoically in position out of obligation.  The posture of the entire chamber evidenced the character our American political system has assumed…and it is truly pathetic!


Our founding fathers envisioned a democratic republic.  There always has been and always will be contentious debate.  The difference between now and a couple of hundred years ago, for that matter—prior to CNN; (thanks Ted Turner) is the drama is broadcast constantly over multiple media venues.  The continuous 24 hour news coverage brings drama to American mainstream life.  Moment by moment commentary does not in any substantive way reflect the truth of the party system our founding fathers envisioned.  The pendulum will swing among administrations and within the terms of administrations.  Rather than detailed coverage of each spoken word, it is the end product of the political process that is important.  As Americans we have all become prey to news network moguls: CNN if you’re liberal; Fox News if you’re conservative.  They ALL seek to entertain us and capitalize on America’s collective need to be constantly fed and entertained.


The media exacerbates the power struggle.   But what the heck does any of this have to do with a 10 acre rock fortress remain in the Jezreel Valley?


Historically, Meggido controlled an important juncture along a road, the Via Maris, between major trading powers , Mesopotamia and Egypt, in that cradle of civilization on the Fertile Crescent (bet most of you haven’t thought about those words since 3rd or 4th grade social studies). This positioned Megiddo to be a prime place for battling.  If you controlled this fortified city, then you controlled the passage way to one of the major trading routes in the ancient world….and everyone wanted that power.  The story here unfolded from 3400 B.C. until it was abandoned around 350 B.C.


Archeology has revealed 25 layers of civilization where approximately 30 cities existed one built atop the previous one. Megiddo saw massive, epic battles resulting in complete destruction. This site’s history is as rich as it is deep.  One of the dig sites shows civilizations’ layers lost to history.  Estimated to have been established during the Bronze Age, the town has seen building by and control of Persians, Babylonians, Canaanites, King Solomon – (the period of the first Jewish Temple), Assyrians, King Ahab (a real person, Jezebel’s husband – not just a Ray Steven’s song character), Persians, and Egyptians.   It is safe to say that life here was anything but safe and peaceful.  It is hard now to imagine this site has seen more battles than any other site on our planet. 

(This shows a dig section where people fro the University of Pennsylvania has dug to unearth the layers of rebuilt and conquered and rebuilt again Megiddo).


I am not one to question Biblical truth.  However, within Methodism founder John Wesley’s Reason-Tradition-Scripture-Experience paradigm approach to faith I believe it is prudent to consider where historical Biblical lessons and current events intersect to navigate our future.  


Back to our State of the Union.  The internal American power struggle we face is as powerful as the external threats Megiddo’s citizens faced over its multiple B.C. millennia history.  The old cliche about a house divided falls is….well, look what happened to Rome.  


We are so incredibly worried about charging Hilary, finding Russian collusion, threatening government shutdowns to prove a points to Trump and to the Pelosi-Schumer delegation about immigration, releasing memos, and talking about that dossier that we cannot make progress (or admit any has been made).  Our two parties are so busy fighting each other’s credibility that the media will not focus on issues impacting day-to-day life.  By the way, who uses the word dossier? It cracks me up to hear tele-journalists throw this sophisticated sounding word around and in the same report cannot get subject-verb agreement and personal pronoun use correct.


Truth: both sides of the aisle need to be careful; politicians live in glass houses; almost all of them. Some more vocally than others – cast stones.  Yet, we continue to empower these people with our votes, pay them with our tax dollars and support them generously into retirement.


It is not a pretty picture.  One final thought on the political state in America as it relates to my aforementioned thoughts. At the foot of the cross, there is no differentiation between Democrats or Republicans, Dreamers or Natural Born Americans… and, well, you can populate your own list.

And people say they have issues with church?


So, what do you fear?  Armageddon, the event described in Revelation as opposed the place shown and described here?  Do we fear America’s future?  Seriously, beyond our individual personal political persuasions how truly “scared” are you for yourself, your family, your neighbors, your finances, your freedom to express your beliefs and faith?


It’s something to think about; it’s something to pray about; and it’s something ask ourselves as both Christians and Americans: are we ushering in an American Armageddon?

Other notes: Today we also visited Caesarea Maritima built by Herod the Great. It is the place Jesus’ followers were first called Christians and the placed from where Paul was sent to Rome as a prisoner. Here are a few shots.

What if Mary Magdalene Lived in My Trailer Park

From the foot of Mt. Arbel on the other side of this “hill” from Nazareth lies Migdal; we know it by it’s most famous resident, Mary of Magdala.

You might know her simply by association. The woman at work…you know, the one they say cheats on her husband. People talk about her behind her back, an easy subject of juicy gossip. After all the rumors are….(you fill in the blank). The problem with this scenario is that it is not true; the problem is complete misconception and an explosion of untruth by people who don’t talk with her and don’t invest anything in a relationship with this woman who desperately needs a friend. Follow me through a couple of paragraphs to set a stage.

Professionally, I operate and administer a mobile home park investment company. If it involves mobile homes, trailers, modulars, you name it, then my family, my staff and I have probably seen it. One of my favorite jokes is: What do a hurricane and an Alabama divorce have in common? Sooner or later one of them is gonna claim the trailer!

Mobile home parks in the South have historically been called trailer parks. They come with all kinds of pre-conceived, and often well deserved, bad reputations (poor management can mess up anything). Think: jacked up cars, mangy dogs tied to trees, chicken coops, beer cans —- or Jack Daniels if the party was good, and rusty appliances sitting on dilapidated decks.

People in “trailer parks” also get a bad wrap. You can rest assured if there is a tornado in Mississippi that CNN will go directly to the place where the worst mobile home destruction has taken place. I won’t mock anyone, but you can bet the words “truck… AND I’ve never seen nothing like it…” will be spoken by someone with a “The South will Rise Again” hat. I say this somewhat in jest, but why is it you do not ever see a school teacher or office manager interviewed? Seriously, people in the South do have teeth (and so do almost all people in Mobile Home Parks).

Demographically, we think about trailer park residents as second class citizens. Before I continue let me clearly and emphatically state that nothing could be further from the truth. Society has systematically relegated drug dealers, hookers, low wage factory workers, red necks, etc to places like trailer parks. Thanks, Hollywood. Like everything else, your stereotypes screw up everything!

The truth is that our residents (and I’ve had tens of thousands over my 27 year career) are just like everyone else. Our market is a mix of moms and dads, single parents, young couples, singles, young professionals, contract workers, paralegals, nurses, chefs, skilled factory workers, hospitality workers, some college educated … all seeking to build a better life. For financial reasons, sometimes for lease flexibility options, they choose to reside in manufactured homes.

It’s fair to say over the years we have had our share of unsavory characters. We’ve also had some of the best. I share all of this information to ask: how likely would you be to engage in a relationship with someone unlike you simply because we don’t relate to a place he or she lives? How likely are we to talk with and engage the misunderstood woman at work or a modern day Mary Magdelene?

(Inside the chapels here, this is one of 4 mosaics. 160,000 Murano glass tiles depict Jesus driving out Mary’s 7 demons).

Ironically, the first place we see Mary of Magdala mentioned in scripture (Matthew 27:56) is at the end of Jesus’ life as he suffers on the cross. Yet in the additional 13 times Mary Magdalene is mentioned we learn more about this mysterious woman.

Today we visited Magdala or at least the place it once existed. Like many Holy Land sites its history reveals itself through the puzzle of archeology. It was a small village of 3000 to 4000 known as a fish processing industrial town at the foot of Mt. Arbel. It’s story is fascinating, there is a link included at the end if your interested.

(Excavations of town and the synagogue in Magdela.)

Mary M. Is often misunderstood. People frequently think she may have been the female sinner mentioned in Luke 7, but reread it. There is not any reason to believe it is her or reference specifically to her. We know Christ cured Mary M of seven demons.

We also know Mary M accompanied Mary, mother of Jesus, to the tomb the third day after the cruxfiction to find him missing. Can you, especially you moms, imagine the stone cold numbed Mary M feels as she accompanies Mary Mother of Jesus to prepare His Body after cruxifixction? Mary M, frequently, is in the company of other women. She supports Christ in his ministry.

More interesting than any of this, scriptures tell us Mary Magdela was the first person to witness Christ after this resurrection. He charged her to go tell the disciples He was risen. Can you imagine, simply imagine after everything that had happened what she must have thought? And the disciples? They were probably wondering who spiked the olive oil!

As for rumors and discussion she married Jesus: I don’t know. I truly don’t care. I’ll leave that to the wondering, hypothecating minds of speculative theologians and guys like author Dan Brown who make millions writing Da Vinci Code genre novels.

If this woman were formerly of ill repute (and she was absolutely someone who was previously “demon possessed”) in modern day terms and she was from somewhere outside your demographic—-the trailer park at the county line, for example, then how would you treat her? How do you treat her? We encounter Mary of Magdala in someone we meet every time we leave our homes!

Like many other Bible characters we are given just enough information to make Mary M tremendously misunderstood. I have this quirky approach I like to call FaceBook theology…maybe philosophy. Even if you’re not on Social Media you’ve seen the MEMES. My favorite and the one that applies most appropriately to today is this one:

Who knows what Mary M was battling then; who knows what the Mary M you’ll meet tomorrow is battling?

As we drove away from Magdela today I thought about Mary M. and this place she lived. Why did they bring us here….to a place that is not even a place any longer? What would the takeaway be? It hit me: Be kind.

We live in a world characterized by division. Division by racial tensions, inequality among the sexes, struggles across demographic classes, and more. Every group jockeys for position. It’s tiring and sad; there is no end in sight.

The truth is if we are all created in God’s image, then I believe He doesn’t divide us as we divide ourselves. We are called to treat one another with kindness, to respect the dignity of humanity and the Divinity He placed within each of us even when we don’t understand (and I often don’t understand), and to honor God by loving one another as He commanded. Be kind

Hook, Line and Stinker

Hook, Line & Stinker

For Michael Adams, Martin Davidson & Tim Enten & Jason Goebel

We boarded the boat this morning just like the last trip, except today I knew what to expect. My travel companions did not. We’d see the shores of the Sea of Galilee, learn about how much of Jesus’ life revolved around this body of water, sing Amazing Grace or another hymn, do some other things, and recall how fishermen since ancient times have cast nets in these waters to harvest fish for a living. Today my mind returned to last September.

On Labor Day morning 4 of us loaded the gear and headed out of Little River, SC on Jason’s boat. It was time to fish. At a nearly infinitive number of spots along the way we saw schools of bait size mullet. Those little things stink stink stink when they die…ugh! As we got really close to shore approaching some dense schools Jason gave control of the 28’ Regulator in shallow fast moving water over to Michael. Tim and I mentally high fived each other when we realized we weren’t even on the radar to maneuver the boat. Jason, carefully balanced on the bow, threw the 10’-12’ cast net repeatedly into the schools attempting to pull in bait fish. In jerky motion with water smacking us from many directions, no fault of Michael’s, the boat went back and forth—I swore, through not fault of his, Jason was going to end up in the water. The banter between those two was stressful, but very funny at the same time. I, not being much of a sportsman, had $20 and a cooler that could’ve saved the whole scene had we stopped by a tackle shop…but think, then we would have missed all of this! We made memories that day.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. My very best buddy, Tim, the one from the Labor Day boat trip decided he wanted to learn how to masterfully cast a net. Our friend, Martin, spent hours instructing us, mainly Tim, how to throw a cast net into the surf at Holden Beach. After we realized we’d have to put down our cigars to be successful, things took a positive turn. Even though we have A LOT of fun we’re not always the brightest duo. Again, we made memories that day.

The stories and mystique of the water at the Sea of Galilee run deep (pun possibly intended). On these shores Christ met Simon Peter & Andrew casting their nets (Matthew 4:18-22) much more masterfully, I am certain, than my friends do (not me…remember, I’m the wuss at the tackle shop). Christ calmed these stormy waters by His hand; He invited Peter out of the boat and had him walk on the water; Jesus fed the 5000 on the banks of this Sea (at the place now called the Church of the Multiplication), and into these waters the demon possessed swine ran and drown themselves after Christ drove the evil spirits away.

Water’s imagery pervades the Bible everywhere. It signifies life, trust, and purity. It is beside a well in Nazareth, where Gabriel first appears to Mary to announce to her she would bear God’s son (this place called Mary’s well now housed inside a Greek Orthodox Church is not a place with which many people are familiar). Even the essentially lifeless Dead Sea offers capitalists a plethora of opportunity to sell bath & spa related products (somebody please tell me now how I’m going to keep Thaedra from shipping home 25 pounds of bath salts——they are pretty awesome I must admit).

Jesus told Simon-Peter and Andrew to fish for men.

Here are some images of the ride today.

(Leave it to me to find birds, not fish on a sea,)

I began today this story talking about a few of my friends and their cast nets. I very specifically selected them for a reason (none of them, other than Michael, had any idea I’d be publishing this—-sorry fellas). In a sense, I’m calling them out, because if you saw them on the street you’d think they were simply regular guys living regular lives. To know them a little better means to know that they reflect Kingdom work.

Michael is one of many people I know who has worked in missions abroad serving in Guatemala. He has left his extremely comfortable first world life to serve and to build to be an instrument of grace and agent for change among people he’ll never see again.

Martin (white shirt, below) might be the smartest person I know. I’ve only begun to know him well, but in this time I have watched him serve our church, become highly committed to our men’s prayer and devotion group, and recently step up after his father’s death to be a rock solid foundation on whom his mother can depend. He is a model son.

Tim (green shirt) has worked intensely hard for our church (much of it behind the scenes) to edify it and improve it for current and future generations. Congratulations to him for recently being recognized with a prolific and well deserved missions-service award. In many ways he is an unsung hero people will not ever understand.

Jason (Capt. in the white) inspires me. Vocationally he uses his extreme intelligence to help people navigate medical and cardiology issues. But he is just a real dude…the kind of person you like to hang out with and want to get to know better…approachable, sincere, a you get what you see kind of man. He is real people there for folks when they are really scared about heart surgery.

You wouldn’t look at this group of men and see a 1950’s era bunch of conservative, maybe a little socially repressed “church men.” They are by every standard, modern, open minded full throttle ahead guys who who reflect the light of Christ—and I’m pretty sure they don’t even think about it. In identifiably unique ways each of these friends has been and continues to be a fisher of men. Today on this Lake called Gennesaret, this Sea in Galilee, I am thinking of some of these friends and what we are all called to do with our gifts and how we are called to cast our nets.

All The Way to Hell & Back-

All the Way to Hell and Back-

I think Winston Churchill must truly have been a crusty old fart! Our friend Jacquie has a precious new baby bull dog who’s face reminds me of Sir Winston. But I also think he was pretty awesome….the polka dotted blue bow ties & Romeo & Julietta cigars add an endearing charm. Mr. Churchill is often quoted. Recently, just before the credits rolled at the end of “Darkest Hour” his quote rolled across a black screen reading: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Inspiring, right?

The Prime Minister is credited, and probably not enough in my humble opinion, for standing up to Hitler and saving not only the Commonwealth, but all of Europe. During all of this Churchill said: “If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going!” Speaking of Hell, we saw the gates of it today.

Walking toward the hillside it’s the kind of place you’d expect to see on a Disney or Universal backlot tour. There should be action adventure shots filmed here or possibly a take of Kong as this could be a great backdrop for Skull Island. But as you arrive at the imposing red cliff ahead you realize you have arrived at the remains of Biblically prolific Caesarea Philipi. The names sounds so adult Sunday School and so Biblely or Christiany— my friend Tim made that word up a few years ago; it fits. In actuality, this place was a terribly ungodly settlement.At the expense of sounding like Andy Rooney I’ll ask: Do you ever wonder why we gauge stuff in the Bible as all happening two thousand years ago? Seriously, everything did not happen when Jesus was around.There was a highly mixed population here who worshipped the pagan god Pan, a creature that supposedly had a 1/2 man & 1/2 horse body. He was the god of outcasts. Caesarea Philippi was a Pagan community worshipping Pagan Gods.The people here believed that the entrance into this cliffside through the pagan temple was the actual gate to Hades….yeah, I didn’t go in (and don’t anybody tell me to, either). The rocks and ruins in the side of the mountain below show the remains of temple to the pagan god Pan. Now about that 2000 year thing…the answer here is easy. Christ reveals himself here in very real ways. Jesus knew what a wicked, pagan, cultural mess Casarea Philipi was. He brought the disciples here. Imagine Him talking to the Disciples here and the power of symbolism with the proclaimed gates of Hell in the hill just behind him. Here He said to Peter: “I tell you that you are Peter and on this Rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” The name Peter is derivative of Petra or Petros meaning “stone rock.” (Matt 16:18). It is easy to consider literal and figurative meanings.Here Jesus also asks His disciples “Who do you think I am?” Check out the full reference in Matthew 16:13-20From a historical perspective the Palestinians conquered this area in the first century, B.C. They wanted someone who would have a very strong hold on this place. Herod the Great took the crown and reigned over this territory. His son, Herod Philip, eventually ruled over this area. This was named Caesarea after Caesar Octavian and Philipi to differentiate this place from the Caesarea (Maritima) on the coast (the one where Paul was held before being sent to Rome). There are remains of Herod’s absolutely gargantuan palace (there were lots of Herods and even more palaces). The interesting thing is that it is so big that when archeologists unearthed it a major, modern road had been constructed over it. Ironically, one of the palace tunnels runs directly under the road…seriously…. visitors can safely pass from one side to the other. (We saw it on the first trip, but not today).Jesus literally took His disciples to the place many people believed to be the gates of Hell to reveal Himself. For a place to have been pagan filled and evil ridden to be the back drop for Christ’s revelation that He is the true Messiah created a study of contrasts. Against the gates of Hell in ancient Caesarea Philippi 12 men saw the hope of the light Heaven and one man, Peter, the Rock, became the foundation of the Christian Church. Churchill’s words apply to faithful living “…failure is not final.” There is hope. “The courage to continue is what counts.” No group of people ever learned this more than the disciples. They went all the way to hell and back to learn this lesson, to forge ahead, to build the Church.Other stops:We spent a little time at the Primacy of St. Peter. It’s a place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus appeared to the disciples after His Resurrection. We also visited the Mount of the Beatitudes. I’ll post about it later. Katie, Thaedra & Meagan all remembered their Baptisms in the very cold Jordan River; those images are theirs to share.

Final note: a few friends I knew about,and quite a few more unbeknownst to me attended Andrea Bocelli’s Romazna 20th Year Tour in Charlotte on February 9th. He surprised the audience when the incredible Kristin Chenoweth joined him on stage. She enthralled and entranced the entire Spectrum arena with her version of “Upon this Rock.” The entire time she sang this I could not help but recall being in Caesarea Philippi the first time in 2016 and anticipate our return today. If you have a another few minutes, then check out the video someone posted on YouTube from a similar performance from the NYC tour stop. https://youtu.be/n3oLAQmWn_4