Shattered Expectations in the Middle East



Sea of galilee group shot

Our group on the Sea of Galilee



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On the Mt. Precipice in Nazareth

This post is coming to you from the Middle East.  I am helping lead a trip of 30 James Madison University students in a Holy Land Tour and service project.  We arrived safely (with our 48 pieces of checked luggage which is a miracle in itself!) on Sunday and went to Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea.  Then yesterday was a packed day with us visiting Capernaum, a different Caesarea philippi, Korazin, Peter’s Primacy (traditional place where Peter was reinstated), took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, and ended on the Mount of Beatitudes.  The guys of the trip had each memorized 10-15 verses of the Sermon on the Mount and spoke it to us.  It was a powerful time.

Today we visited Nazareth Village, a 1/20th replica of Jesus’ village, church of the annunciation, Cana, Mt. Precipice, Mary’s Well, Nazareth Baptist school and hung out with a bunch of precious local teenagers, and finished with a modified Young Life club (in the hometown of Jesus).

We have 2 photographers but have not downloaded their pictures from their nice cameras yet.  Here is the link for our Instagram hashtag.  You can see pictures here


Quotes from the trip so far:

“Everything is so intricately related and planned out, it has to be true.”

“This trip has already changed my life.”

“Love is a decision.  And Jesus made the decision to love us.”

“I’ve been taught the Bible for a long time but now I feel like I am experiencing it.”

“Jesus is for all people.”


We start and end our day with reciting part of the Shema.  It goes like this:

Hear O Israel.  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Love your neighbor as yourself.  Amen.



10 Things to do the day you leave for vacation

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I leave in a day for the Middle East (don’t worry mom and dad, someone is living at my house while I’m gone-they said never to post that you will be gone on social media, and they are probably right!) so there will be some posts about our travels and adventures while we are there.  I am going with 31 college students and several other adults.  We will tour the holy sites and help run a Young Life camp in the West Bank for Palestinian kids.  Bon Voyage!


  1. Adjust the thermostat
  2. Unplug heavy electronics
  3. Empty fridge of perishables and remove trash from your house
  4. Start automatic timers for your lights if you have them
  5. Set your security system if you have one
  6. Lock all windows and doors
  7. Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly
  8. Set vacation responders—email and phone message (and extend it to the day after you get back—this will allow you to get caught up)
  9. Move your spare key (maybe not under the mat or in the flower pot)
  10. Close your curtains. (helps with the utilities and with creepers)

Extra international tips:

  1. Make copies of important documents (passport if going international, or drivers license) and stash them in your carryon.
  2. Call your cell phone company and find out what the dealio is. (I got home from the Middle East once and had a phone bill that was 10x my monthly bill!)
  3. Call your credit card companies and let them know you will be traveling. Don’t want to get caught in the middle of Australia and not be able to rent a snorkel.
  4. Find out the electric where you are going and get adapters

What did we miss?  Tell us in the comments.


What will you forget to do before vacation?

Iphone dump July 21 2013 184


Have you ever gone on vacation and as you arrive wondered if you had locked your door?  Or even if you had closed the door?  I got from being away for the weekend a couple years ago to my front door wide open.  How embarrassing.  In my panicked frenzy to leave I forgot not just to lock the door, but to close it.  Luckily all my valuables were still intact (really just my TV and cigars).  I know vacation season has begun so I wanted to give you a gift.  Stuff to do beforehand.  You can make your own checklist but this will be a great start. Lots of credit to my mom and dad as the most prepared travelers in the world—they were big contributors on this series.

Top 3 tips for any kind of travel:

  1. Make a list! Make your list of things to do and also things to pack (included in future posts).  This will take the guessing game out of vacation/going away.  Keep it in your phone or somewhere easily accessible for the future.
  2. Buy an extra phone charger and put it in the suitcase you most frequently use. They are really cheap.
  3. Compile a complete toiletry kit with new toiletries. Don’t use any of these daily.  That way you’re not having to pack everytime you go away for the weekend, you just grab it.

5 Things to do the week before vacation or longer travel:

  1. Email your itinerary and travel plans to a trusted friend. (my parents always send my sister and I this when they travel)
  2. Let a trusted neighbor know you will be gone and to keep an eye out.
  3. Put a hold on your mail and newspaper (do people still get those?). The USPS has a place to do that online HERE.
  4. Check any bill due dates and pay them. Getting a late fee after a great vacation is like a punch in the throat.
  5. I have a rule where I don’t pack the day I’m leaving. This makes me pack the night before and gives me some time to remember things that aren’t on the list.

Next post:  10 things to do the day that you leave and in honor of our soon-coming trip to the Middle East, some international tips.


The harm that American Idol has done to young people

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“My friends tell me I’m good!”

“I’m always singing for my family.”

“My mom tells me I could be the next American Idol.”


Well, your mom has lied to you my friend.

American Idol has done a lot of good and a lot of harm.  Mostly good.  The harm is this: young people are led to believe they really can be anything.  Which is not true.  I will never be a professional basketball player.  Even if that’s my dream.  Cause I’m not tall enough nor athletic enough.  I will never be an artist.  Even if that’s my dream.  Cause I can’t draw.  If I’m on your team in Pictionary and the answer is not “stick figure, house, smiley face, or sunshine”, we’re not getting that point.  We’re going to lose.  Even if I took a lot of art classes, read a lot, was tutored 1-on-1 by Van Gogh, I’m not going to make it as an artist.  Maybe I would move from a 3 rating to a 5 (out of 20).  That is what we classify as a hobby.  There is something that everyone “feels alive” when they do.  Now this can be a hobby or it can be a career.  I think that depends on if you are starting as a 3 or a 17 natural talent rating.  Then enters the role of hard work—of grinding.  Nobody can be great at anything without hard work, no matter the amount of raw talent.


Now let’s not blame this completely on American Idol.  It has a lot of contributing factors:  everyone getting a trophy, no losers, no one being said no to growing up, hearing “if you can dream it, you can do it.”  You can’t be anything you want to be.  Because you were made with certain gifts, talents, and abilities and if these don’t match your dream, you’re not going to get very far.  Just ask those terrible auditions from AI (like William Hung from the picture above).  As they say through tears: “My aunt said I was great.  My friends said I was really good.”  Well, you have terrible friends.

But you can be what you were meant to be.  And everyone is destined for greatness.

You can have any hobbies you want but to “live out your dream” and become whatever you want is actually a lie.  And pushing this ideology has done our young people a disservice.

So continue to dream big.  Pay attention to clues that show you what your dreams should be.  They can be signposts as to what you are meant to do.


5 reasons American Idol is 100x better than The Voice

American idol vs the voice 3

Don’t get me started about American Idol (AI) versus The Voice.  Can you name one artist from The Voice?  Me neither.  Can you name one hit song?  Me neither.  In comparison:  Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Phillip Phillips, Jennifer Hudson, David Cook, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, Clay Aiken, Katherine McPhee, Scotty McCreery, Elliot Yamin, David Archuleta, Ruben Stoddard, Adam Lambert, and lots more hail from AI.  Here are 5 reasons why AI is 100x better than The Voice:

  1. American Idol (AI) provides contestant comic relief. The Voice has no terrible auditions.
  2. AI is about the contestants. The Voice is about the judges.
  3. AI is about discovering talent. The Voice is about producing an image.
  4. Except for the finale, the judges in the Voice have complete control over everything compared to AI where America makes the decisions.
  5. AI is about helping the contestants become great and get better at their craft. The Voice is about the judges being celebrities and who can be wittier than the others.

AI’s least successful winner (2010) Lee DeWyse sold 146,000 albums, more than 3x The Voice’s most successful winner (2011) Javier Colon, who sold 48,000.  Now I know that American Idol’s ratings have been steadily decreasing as they lose market share to The Voice, X Factor, and other similar shows.  But the Voice finale has yet to trump AI finale in ratings.  If I wanted to watch celebrities bicker and banter, I could tune into the E network.  For all its problems, American Idol is still about the contestants, and helping them become great.  And that is something I would turn my chair around for every week.

Next post:  What’s the harm that American Idol has done to our young people?