"WHAT DO YOU MEAN DON'T MAKE PLANS?!?!?"…..(insert groan, ignore racing heart)

23 Days out from trip to Morocco……and I’m starting to panic So if anyone knows me, they know that I am a planner….I typically have everything planned out and am prepared for anything and everything, lol. Well this trip to Morocco, I am not. Originally I had planned out the B&B’s I would stay at, and the basic sites I wanted to visit, and which cities I would likely need a guide to help me navigate the Medina corridors and winding alleyways that lead to the markets in Fez and Marrakesh. Well I have a friend of mine who got me in touch with his friend who is like a brother to him when he lived there. Well he put me in touch with him, his name is Omar, and he is going to be my tour guide in a way when I get there. Essentially pick me up in Casablanca (because its cheaper to fly there), and then travel around Morocco seeing what the Berber culture is really like. Well….lets just say I can be a bit much on the anxious side when I don’t have plans; to the point that I end up getting highly annoying. Omar and my friend have been very patient with me in this regard. When I started to talk to my friend about this trip, he told me I shouldn’t make plans, that I should just go and enjoy being there. This was like telling me to wear a bikini to the beach, something I have never done & feel SUPER awkward and feel naked even thinking about wearing one at the moment. My response to this advice was, “what do you mean don’t make plans!!”; my friend laughed and said that people in Morocco are so hospitable and kind and open that they will likely invite me to dinner about 5 different places every night, until I am begging to not eat anything else. So for the last 5 months I have been waiting, and trying my darnedest not to ask ‘so whats the plan for our trip’; one because my sweet 87 year old Grandma is so afraid of me going to this country alone, and two not having any plans is really testing my ability to remain calm the closer this gets. Thus I am turning to blogging about this instead of driving these guys batty with my incessant need to know whats going on. But seriously, wouldn’t you feel a bit nervous if the guy that is suppose to be your guide doesn’t know if he will have the full 2 weeks off or not 24 days out, and realizing in your panicked mind that you have no plan B? I will keep you posted on how this all goes, it really is a fear of mine to not have a plan, and especially when traveling abroad.

17 days out and still no word….

hmmmm……but I have less anxiety about it now than I did a few days ago. Its almost calming to just let the chips fall where they may. Good news though, I’m going to Morocco and fulfilling a life time dream 🙂

10 days out and have bad news…..

So Omar is still waiting for approval from his job for the vacation, I think we are both starting to think that the vacation will not be approved. He says not to worry, that we will plan everything out. I told him I was scared, and he said not to worry. I know Moroccan’s are very very very hospitable, but my internal anxiety is back & I am starting to plan for the worst. What is the worst? I could get to Casablanca and no one is at the airport, and I suddenly have to learn how to read Berber and Arabic or French— and find my way to Rabat where I was planning on starting this 15 day journey. I could also ask someone for directions when I get there, but what if they are a sex trafficking person & lie to me like in the movie Taken? Well I just will have to make a rule not to talk to anyone that is not in a uniform if I start to get nervous. I will have to see what time of night I will be arriving and make sure to stay in the more public areas & don’t leave the airport completely alone. Maybe I can even talk to someone on the plane and get rudimentary directions. I did look up how to take a train/bus from Casablanca to Rabat; I found this on Trip Advisor….
Moroccan train schedules can be found at www.oncf.ma (horaires). To reach Rabat from the airport, take the train from the airport (Mohd V) to Casa Voyageurs and then switch to the train to Rabat.
Ok, so I have a sort of plan. I’m sure I can find  a hotel or something & I am arriving on a weekend, so I’m sure that Omar will be able to come a get me. Just have to trust other people which is very hard for me to do at times. I have a little mantra when I start to have anxiety like this, “People in general are good –remember that, use your instincts, follow your gut & everything is going to be ok” #Ivegotthis.

So what’s Next?

I leave for my trip to Morocco on April 7th & will be tied up with several things until then (Wedding for friend, packing and getting documents and everything ready to go) — so I will let you all know when I get on the plane and how this thing all turns out once I arrive in Morocco. Lets all pray I get there safe and return safe…. I have a 8 hr layover in Paris, so I am just going to focus on that, and send out some positive vibes until I get on the plane, lol. And if something goes wrong, well I’m just gonna be able to tell a really good story in the end, so it all works out ( I hope, lol). Until April 7th adieu…..]]>

Capernaum, Church of Primacy of Peter, Bet Shean: My Pilgrimage through Israel

Capernaum (Kfar Nahum) was established in 2nd century BC, it was strategically located on the main trade route between Damascus and Egypt. It was here where the Roman toll booth’s were, on the road or near the harbor that they collected taxes on your goods as you would go from one town to another. In the time that Jesus lived here, there were approximately 2,000-4,000 inhabitants of mostly fisherman, farmers, and merchants comprised of mostly conservative, devout Jews. [gallery ids="1404,1408,1409,1410,1411,1412" type="rectangular"] There is very little Archaeological evidence to support that Gentiles lived in this town at that time. In Bethsaida there is much more archeological evidence that Romans and Gentile influence, a Roman garrison was actually stationed nearby. A Roman centurion actually paid for the synagogue built for the Jewish community. Peter’s house was actually in this same area, and over the years several worship houses were built on top of this, but virtually all were destroyed in the earthquake of 747 A.D. Peter’s house was not rediscovered again until the late 1800’s. The Franciscans acquired the ruins in 1894, and ultimately built a monastery and church over the site of Peter’s house. Peter’s house was actually pretty significant in Christianity, due to the fact that Peter’s house is commonly where Jesus would stay while he was in Capernaum as he did not hold or own a home of his own. Actually most of the miracles & hearings happened in Peter’s house, or rather Peter’s mother-in-law’s house (since it was tradition for people when they are married to live with their parents). [gallery ids="1405,1407,1406" type="square"] Capernaum was a small Jewish community, so there was no need for reading and writing. This likely means that Peter was illiterate. Now think about what Jesus tells him, ‘through small and weak or humble things that the Lord can make them strong’.  Interestingly enough, Matthew the Publican (or Tax collector is from Capernaum). If you were to come into Capernaum the first thing that you would notice is the smell, it was a fishing village. There were fish that were dead or dying, women smoking the fish, children running in and out of the water, men mending nets and casting nets — so in essence it takes a village to catch enough fish to sustain it and its occupants. The fishing boats were usually out all day long, and Capernaum would have been a chaotic and active with this work. The houses were usually covered with boughs of palm leaves and mud for a type of stucco. (Remember this for when you read the story of the men breaking the roof to lower a man into it). Lunch was in a little café by the side of the Sea of Galilee, where we had fish that was caught just like it would have been in Jesus time. It was a little hard for me to see the fish’s head and eat it and peel the skin off myself, but it was good because I was so hungry anyway. [gallery ids="1414,1415,1416" type="rectangular"] It was in Capernaum that Peter, James and John are asked to be fishers of men, where he teaches at the synagogue. There were many miracles that occurred here, so much so that you could call it “The City of Miracles” here is a list of Miracles that occurred in the town itself with corresponding scriptures.

Healing of Nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54), Calling of Andrew, Peter, James and John, miracle of catching fish (Matt 4:13-22; Luke 5:1-11), Savior’s family comes to visit (John 2:12), Teaching in the synagogue (Mark 1:21), Casting out unclean spirit (synagogue)(Luke 4:31-37), Healing Peter’s mother-in-law (right after casting out an unclean spirit)(Matt 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-31), Healing all manner of people (in Peter’s house, right after healing his mother-in-law)(Mark 1:32-34); Forgiving and healing of Paralytic (in Peter’s house?)(Mark 2:1-13; Matt 9); Calling of Matthew (Mark 2:14-17; Matt 9); Eats with publican (Matthew), Pharisees question him (Mark 2:16-22); Eats corn from fields nearby on Sabbath (Probably near Capernaum)(Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5); Heal’s a withered man’s hand (in synagogue)(prob Capernaum)(Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11); Taught by the sea side (Mark 3:7-9); Questions of fasting (Luke 5:33-39; Matt 9), Healing of Centurion’s Servant (Luke 7:1-10); Raising of Jairus daughter (who also happened to be a leader of a synagoge)(Matt 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43); healing of two blind men (Matt 9); Casting out devils from a possessed and dumb man (Matt 9); Bread of Life Sermon (synagogue)(John 6:22-71); Paying trubute/catching fish with money in its mouth (Matt 17:24-27); Question about who is the greatest among the Apostles (Mark 9:33-37); Heading towards Capernaum when Savior walks on water (John 6:17-21); ?Healing of demonic boy? (Mark 9:14-27); ?Sending forth of teh 12? (Matt 10)
But I think my personal favorite was when Professor Brent L Top told us the historical significance behind healing the woman with the ‘issue of blood’ (Mark 5:25-34). The issue of blood was actually a term in that time that referred to Menorrhagia, and in this instance was from the time she was in puberty until now. Under the Law of Moses, a woman is ‘unclean during menstruation’– this means that she could not worship in the synagogue, she could marry or have children, be a wife, an have posterity…..but she can’t. People are thronging in the narrow streets of the city. As Jesus is walking through these narrow streets, everyone is touching him; and yet all the sudden he turns and asks “who touched me?” Why wouldn’t she just approach him like the rest? Because she is already a social outcast, and so she stays on the edges and then reaches out and touches the edge of his garment. It is important to note that in ancient times there is a hem along the bottom of the traditional garment that represents the Abrahamic covenant— this actually represented posterity & fertility. So for this outcast woman with the issue of blood to touch the hem of his garment, is actually quite significant. The fringes that come out from under the shirts of those Jewish people we see in modern time, those are actually reminders of the same thing, the Abrahamic covenants. So when she touches him, he immediately feels the ‘virtue’ leave him, but this word virtue actually means power, so he felt his ‘power’ leave him and turns to ask who touched him. So just the hope of the promise of touching the blue hem along the garment to partake and have children according to the Abrahamic covenant. All of us have hopes and dreams, the woman was hopeless because she would not have blessings and because of her faith, Jesus promises that those hopes and dreams be fulfilled. This was very significant for me, I remember being very moved by this story. Not only did I have my own ‘issue of blood’ as a teenager, that luckily was corrected thanks to modern medicine. But I am now also 33 years old, have a great career, have dated a lot, but somehow it never ends up working out. I feel that my hopes and dreams are slipping away for my own dream of having children and a family. Most of my friends are now married, some divorced and remarried, I look at pictures of children on Facebook and it makes my heart ache ever so slightly. I try to push this feeling off as, ‘don’t be jealous’, but I also need to acknowlege that it is a real feeling, that the loss I am beginning to feel is real and not just based on jealousy. In my religious culture, the women get married VERY young, so being 33 now I’m sort of a misfit and in my own way, feel a little like an outcast as well. So I identify with this woman completely, on so many levels. If there was a way to heal some of the more painful things I have felt over the years, if there was some person that I could just be near that would erase all of that, I would do whatever I had to- to heal the broken heart and my fading dreams. Now I don’t want you to think that I am depressed and focusing my life on this, I have a wonderful career where I get to care for and heal people myself. I work in the Medical field and it brings a sense of fulfillment and healing when I can heal others physical ailments, its like a portion of my emotional ailments (aka fading dreams and broken heart) that are buried so deep are slowly being healed as well. I don’t know if I will get married or have children, I don’t know that ‘it will all work out’, I feel like slapping people who say ‘oh you still have time’ — one thing I do know is that I’m happy with where I’m at right now, I have dealt with these demons (aka heartaches) & know that God will shape my life in such a way that I will always be able to feel my soul is fulfilled in other ways. Even if the ways that he directs me to fulfill my soul are not the ways I would have thought or wished, I know he will take care of me & help me survive & flourish until the end of my days on Earth. Next we go to The Church of Primacy of Peter…. [gallery ids="1403,1401" type="square" columns="2"] At this point in Peters life, he has been witness to the resurrection and all the miracles and the life of Jesus Christ. In my own way, I think of this as a great movie or tv series of sorts…. you get into the story, into the characters, and then all the sudden the funding for the series is cut. Or think about if they were opening a Disneyland or some other theme park near you, and you see it being built, the send out commercials on TV you are excited, your kids are excited — then the whole theme park is blown up or destroyed in an earthquake. Or you just built a house, your down payment is settled, and you have all your furniture bought and ready to move in; then find out your best friend betrayed you and took your matches and lit your house on fire. I think of Peter at this time, how he must have felt, the guilt of betraying Jesus, maybe feeling slightly unworthy to carry on the cause, maybe felt like it was all over now that Jesus was gone, maybe trying to lay low so that the Romans wouldn’t come for him next. So Peter ends up doing what he knows how to do best, he goes back to fishing….. While he is fishing, he is interrupted by a figure on the beach calling out to him, “children have you caught anything?” The stranger said to cast the net on the right side of the boat. This is the same sort of incidence and likely a deja vu moment for them & suddenly the recognized that this was no stranger, this was their Savior. Peter ends up leaping over the side of the boat, and swims to shore. IMG_3180 Jesus then asks Peter, “Do you love me more than all of this? (meaning fishing)” Peter responds yes of course, and Jesus asks him 3 more times, and here we see Jesus in his mercy allow Peter to love him 3 times. In a way I think this was a tender mercy for him, in denying him when he needed his support the most, and now he allows him to love him 3 times — I like to think that this is the first time we see Jesus offer the Atonement for all this is had been and all that it will be, to one of his Best Friends and Disciples. Then Jesus asks him, why he is there? I imagine him saying to Peter, why are you here at the same place, at the same shore…fishing? If Jesus wanted fish, then he could get them. He is likely asking, ‘I need you to feed my sheep, I need dedicated Apostles, those who will labor/teach/love/serve loyally about me and my gospel’. He is asking Peter to go out, and nourish the souls of those who believe and continue to believe in him. Its about gathering his children. It is here that Jesus ‘calls’ Peter to lead his Church at that time and era; and Peter finally gets it, its about protecting and preaching– and for the rest of Peter’s life, we see that he is never the same after this event. Next we go to Bet Shean…. IMG_3254 This is a ‘house of security’, it dates back to 1468 B.C., what you see today began in 1986 — $20million was spent on this site to preserve it. Now it is the best preserved Roman and Byzantine period city in Israel. Interestingly only about 10% of the city has actually been excavated. Its sister city is Jerash, across the Jordan River. The population of this city rose to about 40,000. It was destroyed in the great earthquake of 747 A.D. Located on the fault line of the Great Rift Valley. Beth Shean has significance in both Old and New Testaments. It became known as Scythopolis, 18 archeological strata have been identified ranging from 4000 BC to 8th century AD. [gallery ids="1420,1421,1422,1423" type="rectangular"] Old Testament Significance: The city was assigned to Manasseh (Josh 17:11), but the Israelities could not conquer it because of the iron chariots of the Canaanites (Josh 17:16; Judges 1:27). When Saul dies in the battle with the Philistines, they take his armor and puts it on display in the town’s temple of Ashtoreth and hung his headless body on the city wall (1 Sam 31:10-12). New Testament Significance: Capital city (and largest) of the Decapolis–which included Damascus and Philadelphia (Amman). It was the only city of the Decapolis on western side of the Jordan River. It is mentioned three times in the New Testament (Matt 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31). [gallery ids="1424,1426,1425,1427,1428,1429,1430,1431,1432,1433,1434,1435,1436,1437,1438" type="slideshow"]  ]]>

Overcoming the immobilization of Fear, a rock warriors way…

After the climb, Brie gave me a book called ‘The Rock Warriors Way’, its a book about how to overcome fear when you are on the side of a mountain & feel like you are going to die. Now I’m not telling everyone here that they need to go and start climbing mountains to overcome their fear; but I am saying that it helped me train and talk my mind into working through the fear. brie climbing After this experience, and continuing to climb with another friend of mine name Joe; I was able to overcome my fear of falling from great heights. Trust my gear, trust my body, and be able to experience the amazing views that were the reward of doing so. Trust me, I came home from JTree bruised from armpits to my knees, and have taken falls, and would still get terrified if I took a risk while climbing. But unless we take risks, and push those internal boundaries, we will never grow. [gallery ids="1369,1364,1366" type="rectangular"] There are so many aspects of all of our lives that I think fear of ‘what if’ or self depreciating thoughts that inhibit experiences that can really make our character grow. So what I would suggest is this, start small, start by going out to dinner on your OWN — especially you ladies. We all know girls these days can hardly go to the Restroom by themselves because they are social creatures. But seriously, try and go to a Restaurant, sit at a booth, put your phone away and on silent, observe the people around you, SAVOR your food, be in the moment and calm your mind. If you start getting uncomfortable, have a conversation with your waiter and ask them what their goals are, or their kids, or what they do on their off time. After you have mastered this, take a local road trip, where you are gone the entire day by yourself, exploring your city. Look at Trip Advisor, see what people recommend, I think you will be surprised at some of the things people find on there in your own town that you never even knew about. Once you master this, and can do it without fear or self doubt or self pity, then you can start thinking bigger. Think about going on a trip where you have to fly, somewhere within your own country, where its just you, and you won’t be meeting up with family or cousins or what not. My first solo trip was actually to Israel and Jordan (I know, go big or go home right). You can read those stories in another blog post here at www.gypsysouladventure.com. But still I was meeting up with a tour group there. I think this was a GREAT baby step for me traveling solo, its like I went solo, but then met some amazing people within the tour group and didn’t feel so alone anymore. We all stayed at the same hotel, had the same transportation, and people got tired of each other after awhile and wanted to know why this 20 something girl was traveling to these places most people are afraid to travel to, because of what they see on the news, all alone. jerusalem My first TRUE solo trip was actually to Scotland, I stayed in a Hostel for most of the trip, all over the country (the blog about Scotland will be coming soon, so stay tuned). Yes at times I felt a little lonely, and thought it would be nice to have someone there to see all the amazing things I was seeing. But I think the feeling of how liberating it was, to know that I ALONE was the one who made this trip happen. No one else held my hand, I didn’t get lost (well not a lot anyway), and was able to see a land where my ancestors came from & find out that I actually have a lot of history and connection to this beautiful place that I now feel is partly my home. I had been through some traumatic things about 6 months before going on this trip, and I think going alone gives you time to reflect, and think, and that in and of itself can be scary. scotland 1 But seeing all the different cultural things, talking with people around me, saying hello etc… made my problems seem small in a way that made my mind be able to logically compartmentalize them more to where I felt at peace again. As Anthony Bourdain says “if you are physically fit, hungry to learn and be better–I urge you to travel, as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how others live, eat and cook. Learn from them, wherever you go”. scotland 2 I think the thing that is most edifying and enlightening is really connecting with people around the world. As human beings, our minds like to protect us from things that may potentially harm us, so it convinces us to fear and avoid those things, even if those ‘things’ are people, cultures races. Traveling helps you see past those stigmas and see why people think they way they do, and help break the boundaries either you create, the media creates, or someone helps you create. As my Boss always says, ‘Seek first to understand’; and I think the quote that really sums this thought up is by Maya Angelou, “perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but, by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends–“. So this is what we at Gypsy Soul Adventures are trying to create here, a place where we can share stories of overcoming stigmas, breaking those social boundaries, and lines that people tend to cross, and overcoming the fear of traveling alone or with children & help you understand each other a little more so that we can all grow from our collective adventures together.]]>

Sailing on the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is in the City of Tiberias, this lake is actually lower than Death Valley and is 209 meters or 685 feet below Sea Level. The Fish within the lake actually include Tilapia, Sardines, and Catfish…. for this lake, I thought that was pretty impressive. The lake is only 7-8 miles wide but 13 miles long and 130-150 feet deep. Fishing in the time of Jesus is about the same way they do fishing today. In the 1st century, there were lots of little towns and villages around the lake, as fishing brought a lot of trade and livelihood for the people. Tiberias was one of these towns, and was actually the largest. Some of the other towns, of the time of Jesus, that also actually surrounded the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Tiberias) were Capernaum, Magda, Bethsaida, Chorizin, Ginosaur (Gennesaret), Gergesa (Kursi), Gadara (Jordan). A large Jewish population was actually on the western side of the lake in the towns of Tiberias, Capernaum, and Magdala. The Greco-Roman population was on the east side, in Jesus times, these were Hippos; Harnat Gadar (hot springs). The Lake is gorgeous, but as I was here on a pilgrimage, this place moved me so much. One of my favorite scriptures is where Christ asks Peter to walk on water. The day that we were there, the Sea was calm and quite and sunny and beautiful. But with the low level of the Lake, and the surrounding mountains, I could see how the storms would sweep into the Jordan Valley Rift and suprise the fisherman in their small boats. The waves attempting to swallow them and their catch to its depths. IMG_2966http://www.parentpassion.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/8-ocean-storm.jpg In Matthew 14:22-33 and another account in John 16:16-21 read the story, and imagine this place and the men in the fishing boats. Seeing what you think is a shadow begin to approach the boat in the chaos of the storm; I would feel it was the Devil himself come to drag me and my boat down to Hell. Then as the image becomes clearer, you realize that it is Jesus of Nazareth, walking across the water towards you like he was walking down the street. I wonder if I was in that same boat at the same hour, and same time, if I myself would have believed that he was a Savior for the World. But what an example Peter was to me in that moment…. he, without really thinking about what he is doing, jumps over the side and starts to walk, then I think realizes what he is actually doing and starts to lose faith. The most tender part of this whole story, is that Jesus IMMEDIATELY reaches out his hand and tenderly tells Peter he lacks faith. Now if I was to put myself in the shoes of Jesus (hypothetically) I may be a little bit disappointed in my friend Peter, not having enough faith in who I was and all I knew I was going to do, all he has seen me do and preach, and he lost faith. But then I think Jesus must have known his heart, and I do not think fear or doubt is something that plagued a man’s mind that was perfect and half God. This story made me think of different areas of my life, where I felt that there was no way that I could do something… and no matter how hard I tried, my spirit would not let me back away from doing it. The pull and tug, towards something that I would probably cry over, doubt myself over, convince myself I should stop for one reason or another…. and yet… he would ask me to believe in him, in a way, He would ask me to walk on water and trust that he would take care of me. How often in our lives do we limit ourselves, with this illusion that amidst the storms of life we think the greatest safety is in the man made boat/home/financial situation. Fear has become a huge part of our lives, with terrorists, uncertain financial situations, social situations. But I feel that even when writing this, that Fear is the enemy of Faith, and I need to constantly remember Peter and this story and this place. What would it take for me to be able to trust Jesus Christ enough to walk on the troubled waters of my own life, and know that he would save me should I stumble/fall/or sink. You don’t know until you try, and everything that is hard is worth doing as these are the things that shape the soul into something polished and beautiful in the end. Every experience, every hardship, and every thing that tests the mental and emotional limits of our frail bodies, can be and will be for our benefit in the end and will make us stronger. If you doubt it, what could it hurt to believe that its true? Everything that is good is worth accepting into your life. Something to think on as we continue on our journey to one of the beautiful spots looking over the Sea of Galilee… the Mount of Beattitudes. Other Scriptures of note for Sea of Galilee: Matt 8; Mark 4:35-41 (calming the storm), Mark 7:31-37 (heals people in the cities along the sea); Luke 5:4-11, John 21:6-8 (the miracle haul of fish – was 2 separate events); Mark 16:9 (hometown of Mary of Magdalene- modern day Migdal, NW shore); Matt 15:39-16, Mark 8:11-12 (Jesus comes to Magdala after feeding 5000 delivers great discourse about signs and gives Pharisees the ‘sign of Jonah’; Matt 8:28-34 (casting evil spirits into herd of swine at Gergesa, on East shore); John 6:1-14 (feeding the 5000 on the plains of Bethsaida – NE shore- which was also the home town of James and John); Matt 14: 34-36, Mark 6:53-56 (Jesus heals many at Gennesaret (modern-day Ginnosaur) some people just come to touch the ‘hem’ of the garment just to be healed (Matt 9:20). ************************************************************************** The Mount of Beattitudes: [gallery ids="1058,1056,1055,1053,1051,1052,1049,1050,1044,1047,1022,1045" type="slideshow"] I didn’t realize the Mount of Beattitudes actually is a hill that overlooks the sea of Galilee, and there is actually no archaeological evidence of where Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was given. There are traditional sites that are held up as the places where things in Christ’s life actually took place. The Sermon on the Plain was probably given on the plains of Besthsaida (Northeast). The Sermon on the Mount itself was actually a call to righteousness to the ‘true believers’. The meeting was intended for the Quorum of the 12 apostles, it was intended to push their spiritual walls and boundaries. If we look at the type of teachings the Savior was giving, he fed the 5000 with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. Anyone who sees a miracle such as this, it is easy to believe, but here the symbolism of taking his Apostles to a ‘High Mountain’ is a symbol of rising to a higher level of spirituality. This Mount is located right by one of the lowest places in all of Israel, the Sea of Galilee, which is 700 feet below sea level; this….this is where he gives his Apostles a new and higher law…. the Beattitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit & the pure in heart who come unto me; blessed are those that morn for most of their life & its when they come to a higher place that they finally find peace. All of us have made mistakes in this life, there was only one that can claim perfection. Here in the sermon on the mount, I imagine him telling me, “your example is going to be made manifest, we can be a bad example by not being what I would have you be— being Neutral is not an option when you choose to lead a righteous life. Choosing a righteous life, means knowing who you are, what you stand for, and letting my light shine through you because you do”. Jesus is the light, he is the candlestick that we need to hold up. We want people to say ‘they are of the Lord, they are a disciple of Christ & love him’. The small gestures we make in our life by living a gospel centered life are manifested in our lives to others in great love. Its not about hearing someone say ‘your a good example’, its NOT ABOUT US, its about HIM & the light that other people see of us in him. It isn’t about the fact that ‘oh you are a good person because you don’t drink, you don’t do drugs, you don’t swear… that means you are a true disciple’ — look at the scriptures, look at what Jesus focused on… he focused on the Lepar, not on how many steps the Lepar was taking on a Sunday; he focused on the gentile woman at the well, not what everyone said about this woman being unclean. Who are the Lepar’s and gentiles of our day? Sometimes I ask myself this question when I meet people that I am afraid of, like a drug addict on the street, or a homeless person; but when I SERVE those people, when I sit down and ask them how they got there, what their dreams are, my heart swells and I realize that maybe….just maybe….. these are the people of our day who are like the Lepar and Gentile woman at the well. So may we ask ourselves, the famous saying, “What would Jesus do?” If you have ever seen the Disney movie, The Prince of Egypt, there is a scene in there that Moses meets his wifes father and they are all sitting around the fire, and his soon to be father in-law starts singing to him about his worth when Moses doubts himself, this one line has stuck with me forever, “How can you know what your life is worth, or where your value lies. You must look at your life through Heavens eyes” — I would change this to something different when you are out on your travels or where ever you may go when you come across people who are different or seemingly scary, ask yourself, “How do you know what their life is worth? Who are you to say where their value as a fellow human being lies? Try looking at their life, through Heavenly eyes”.  I feel like this is a way, we as a Christian people (or even those who aren’t Christian) can improve this world, by asking ourselves these few questions about whoever we may meet. Another thing to think about as a ‘higher law’, is that of being quick to anger. Under certain circumstances you may feel that you are justified in being angry, but it takes a REAL disciple to NOT be angry. But the natural man will want to remain angry. The Mosaic Law is walking along the Sea of Galilee, the Higher place or Higher law of being on a Mountain is the inner righteousness, that determines true discipleship, not the outward appearances. We don’t need more evidences of what is true, we need more of what has been burned in our soul as being true.  Like turning the other cheek in cases of abuse, we have to forgive them & not just in how we behave towards them. We know that they will be punished for how they treat others, but the higher law he is teaching is about whether or not we enjoy it or not that they ARE being punished. After we were taught and had this amazing discussion about the Sermon on the Mount we were given time to reflect on it, and looking around at all these different people from all over the World, from all walks of life — it made me realize and solidified how true this really was. It made me love people so much more & so much more deeply. I don’t know what it was officially called, but there was a pole, with a bunch of Peace words on it, and in this setting I really felt like Israel was a place where people truly did long for peace and happiness and prosperity & I was so grateful I was able to come to this place to feel it. IMG_2969 Next we went to the Precipice or Mount of Temptation: It is about 1300 feet above Sea Level, and is actually the ONLY steep cliff around the city of Nazareth. This is where the people tried to throw Jesus off the Precipice for declaring that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, when he was teaching in the Synagogue, and was given the scriptures and asked to read a chapter, and he decided to read Isiah 61– which also happened to be on the Sabbath day. And here is where he pretty much said he was the one the Jewish people were waiting for by saying ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon ME’ — declaring himself the Savior by reading this Messianic scripture after which he closed the book and sat down, which obviously didn’t go over very well to the people here. He then sat down and all their eyes turned to him and he said that ‘today this scripture is fulfilled’, which then made them so angry that they decided to throw him off the edge of a cliff. Which is strange because they had actually accepted him as a Prophet and a great teacher, but then when he said he was actually the Messiah, it didn’t meet their idea of what a Messiah SHOULD be. I can understand this point of view, if you think of your FAVORITE book, one that you have read several times and imagined the characters in it. Then all the sudden they make a movie and you are upset that the characters were not cast correctly, or they just didn’t have the acting skills like your imagination was able to provide. So you get angry, post that the movie was terrible all over Facebook, and then say that no one should see it. I can’t imagine how hard it was for them, the people of that time, to be able to truly BELIEVE that this is a man that your Holy Scriptures have taught of for decades, even thousands and thousands of years. I think it would be so difficult to be in the Jewish community at this time and hear this, it truly would be a test of faith for me I think; so lets not judge the people of that time too harshly, as we ourselves would likely have our own doubts as well. Read:  Luke Chapter 4, Isiah 11:1-4 & Isiah 61. DSC01063.jpg Caesarea Phillipi & Tel Dan, and Druze Villages For a short period of time Caesarea Phillipi was a Roman City at the base of Mount Hermon.

Anciently, the site of Banias was a center for the cult worship of Baal (storm and fertility God); but as Greek culture began to manifest itself in the Holy Land, Banias became a center for the worship of Pan (God of shepards/forests/mountains/rivers), a Greek deity that had horns and goat legs. The worship of Pan continued through the Roman period in which Jesus lived. Carved representations of Pan were placed in rock niches in the cliffs of Caesarea Philippi, where the people came to worship.

This place had such a long history of idolotry, that “Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi” and “asked his disciples, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven,” (Matt 16:13-17)

[gallery ids="1097,1100,1104,1098,1103,1102,1101,1099,1105" type="slideshow"] Stopping for Lunch at the Druze Village: [gallery ids="1147,1148,1149,1150,1151,1152,1153,1154,1155,1156,1157" type="slideshow"] This was a very interesting place for us to stop for lunch, it provided a place for quite a bit of reflection of all that I had learned and seen up until this point. It also gave me the opportunity to really LOOK at the people I was travelling with, have intimate and open conversations with them in ways that I normally wouldn’t do so at home. Some of them were so inspiring, and others their souls were just beautiful, despite all the travel, bus trips and overload of information about this beautiful country and its people, I really came to cherish this small moment to see those around me & to learn about this secretive people that were providing us lunch. The food was fresh and delicious, the little stream in the area soothed us all under the shade of the building. People were laughing, sharing stories, and really connecting on this significantly spiritual journey for all of us. Its always been fascinating to me to imagine what people’s lives are like inside their heads, what makes them passionate? What makes them think the way they do? Do they believe what they believe because that is how they were raised, or is it a belief system that truly makes them feel fulfilled and complete? All these questions lead me to ask myself, who are the Druze people and why are they so secretive? The Druze are an Arabic-speaking esoteric ethno-religious group originating in the Middle East who self identify as unitarians. Jethro of Midian is considered an ancestor of all Druze and revered as their spiritual founder as well as chief prophet. As an ethnic and religious minority in every country in which they live, they have frequently experienced persecution, except in Israel where they serve in the highest echelons of society, including judges, parliamentarians, diplomats, doctors, etc. Even though the faith originally developed out of Ismaili Islam, Druze are not considered Muslims. The Druze’s social customs differ markedly from those of Muslims or Christians, and they are known to form a close-knit, cohesive community that does not allow anyone into or out of it, but also integrate fully in their adopted homelands. The Institute of Druze Studies estimates that forty to fifty percent of Druze live in Syria, thirty to forty percent in Lebanon, six to seven percent in Israel, and one or two percent in Jordan. This religion actually dates back to 1016 when ad-Darazi and his followers openly proclaimed their beliefs and called people to join them, causing riots in Cairo against the Unitarian movement including Hamza bin Ali and his followers. Before this time there were secretive meetings known as ‘Sessions of Wisdom’. In Israel Druze people  form a religious minority of more than 100,000, mostly residing in the north of the country. In 2014, the population of Israeli Druze citizens numbered around 140,000. Today, thousands of Israeli Druze belong to ‘Druze Zionist’ movements. Their basic religious beliefs, according to what I researched consist of the fact that they believe that in God, there are no attributes distinct from his essence. He is wise, mighty, and just, not by wisdom, might and justice, but by his own essence. God is “the whole of existence”, rather than “above existence” or on his throne, which would make him “limited”. There is neither “how”, “when”, nor “where” about him; he is incomprehensible. Incarnation is also a core spiritual belief in the Druze. In a mystical sense, it refers to the light of God experienced by certain mystics who have reached a high level of purity in their spiritual journey. Thus, God is perceived as the Lahut [the divine] who manifests His Light in the Station (Maqaam) of the Nasat [material realm] without the Nasut becoming Lahut. This is like your image in the mirror: you can look in the mirror, but you don’t actually become the mirror. The Druze manuscripts are emphatic and warn against the belief that the Nasut is God … Neglecting this warning, individual seekers, scholars, and other spectators have considered al-Hakim and other figures divine. After researching and understanding all of this, it really made me appreciate these people we were spending time with in this small community. How old the religion actually was, I admired their sense of community and that they looked after each other. This is an outsider looking in to something I’m sure I don’t completely understand all the details to, but it made me understand that after all the persecution they have endured and I’m sure they will endure, it made sense that they were so secretive, if only to protect this ancient religion and its people.   Weather in the Sea of Galilee by month… to help you plan your trip or holiday. January Average Temperatures: 4-9 Centigrade = 40-49 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level: 52-82% February Average Temperatures: 4-10 Centigrade = 40-50 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  58-86% March Average Temperatures: 6-13 Centigrade = 43-56 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  52-80% April Average Temperatures: 11-20 Centigrade = 53-67 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  42-62% May Average Temperatures: 14-25 Centigrade = 58-75 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  31-63% June Average Temperatures: 17-28 Centigrade = 63-83 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  30-60% July Average Temperatures: 19-30 Centigrade = 66-86 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  33-65% August Average Temperatures: 19-30 Centigrade = 66-86 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  36-68% September Average Temperatures: 18-28 Centigrade = 64-83 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  38-73% October Average Temperatures: 15-24 Centigrade = 59-75 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  37-71% November Average Temperatures: 10-17 Centigrade = 50-62 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  48-75% December Average Temperatures: 6-11 Centigrade = 43-53 Fahrenheit Average Humidity Level:  62-87%]]>