The Earthquake leveled it all…never to be heard from again.

              View of the column-lined Main Street of Beit She’an from the top row of the theater

This continues our series on the Holy Land Adventure.  We are touring Israel and the West Bank with a bunch of rowdy James Madison University students.  It has been a blast, and we’re only 3 days in.  Here is a guest post by Julie Kasulis, a rising junior at JMU.

With sun kissed skin and mispronunciations of Arabic words, we had an unmatched second day here in the Holy Land. The overarching theme of the day was simple: worship. We started at Mt.Carmel learning from the life of Elijah that when things are tough the Lord is not punishing us but preparing us. We learned it is how you hear and obey the Lord that allows your life to be a living sacrifice that worships Him. [You know the problem with living sacrifices?  They always squirm off the altar… added by Pete] Next, we walked through the Caesarea Theater by the Mediterranean Sea. We meditated on the idea of our current culture and compared it with the Greco Roman culture of old. Personally, I was shocked at the similarities and how historically humans worship the same Earthly things despite the century. We were reminded that Caesarea was the exact place men and women decided that what Jesus offers is meant for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, you and I alike. We then toured Megiddo, seeing the ruins of cities built upon cities. The day ended with what was my favorite spot so far, Beit She’an. Beit She’an was like the Las Vegas of biblical times. Except what happens in Beit She’an stays in Best She’an…until its ruins are uncovered. This city was a visual of how storing up treasures on Earth and worshipping anything but God is fleeting; one of the most majestic cities of its time destroyed by a simple earthquake. At Beit She’an I was convinced even more that it’s all true, and it’s all real.

We continue our trip pondering the questions: When your life is over, what will last beyond your time?  What will stand the test of time?  Where does your treasure lie?

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Is it really true? Adventures in the Holy Land

Our group (minus some fellas cut out on the right!) sailing across the Sea of Galilee

Hello there.  Sorry it’s been a while.  Over the next couple of weeks I will be sending periodic updates on our adventure here the Holy Land.  Our first guest post is by Sara Cummings, the new College Director for James Madison University Young Life College.

Shalom! (That means “Hello” in Hebrew.) A couple nights ago, all 31 of us arrived safely to our cute little hotel located in the heart of Nazareth. We hit the ground running yesterday at 8AM! We started the day at the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. All of the guys on the trip had memorized different parts of it and recited it for the group! We then visited Korazim and Capernaum, took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, ate St. Peter’s fish for lunch, and ended our day near Tabgha, where Jesus fed 5,000. Not bad for Day 1!

Today we learned about Jesus as a Rabbi, which is defined as a great teacher. A Rabbi lived simply, was always moving, and always teaching. It is said that the Rabbi kicked up dust behind him as he taught. Pete asked us, “Are you covered in the dust of the Rabbi?” As I walked along the dry mountainside, I was struck by this question and wondered if I am following Jesus close enough to be covered in his dust. I sure want to be. It is wild to be here visiting the very places where Jesus walked, taught, healed, and revealed the love of our Father to many people. One thing I know for sure, we are all ending today a little bit more “dusty” – literally and figuratively!

Thank you for going on this journey with us.  It’s all real and all true.  Have a great day!

 

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Who will be at your funeral?

 

Take a minute to think about your funeral.  Morbid, I know.  But close your eyes and imagine what it would be like.  Who will be there?  What will they say?  If you passed away tonight, how would you be remembered?  Would people be sad?  Would people be indifferent?  Who would be there saying you made an impact on them?  Have you made a difference in this world?

Unsettling, isn’t it?  Sobering?  Because we all think we are going to live forever.  But there is bad news:  The death rate is holding steady at 1 per person.  You will die.  It’s just a matter of when…and how.  Dead people can’t enjoy their stuff.  Or their money.  Naked you come, naked you go.  So that means we are temporary stewards of everything in our life.  This is bad news in one sense but good news in another.  It is freeing.  No possessions last forever, nor are they meant to.  So if we figure out what matters we can have a life well-lived.

Stephen Covey says that we should begin with the end result in mind.  He lists this principle as one of the 7 habits of highly successful people.  Have you ever applied this to life in general?  Most people vaguely want to have a very meaningful life.  Most people have no idea what they are after.  And if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.  Who do you want to be?  A meaningful life and a life well-lived do not “just happen.”  You don’t get to have significance by binge watching Netflix every night.  (from time to time is OK though)  No one ever drifts into greatness.  No one ever drifts into making a difference.  You need intentionality.  You have to do this on purpose.

Find out what’s important, and give yourself to it.

What is important to you?  If you don’t quite know yet, that’s OK.  Most of you reading this are in a discovery stage of life.  You are exploring, finding out what matters. This is a wild truth:  Lots of things will try and coax you away from investing yourself in the important things.  Some of them will even be “good” things.  Some of them will seem urgent but not really matter in the grand scheme of life.  You need to pick the “best” thing.

You may have experienced a sense of loss, sadness, or disappointment when you graduated college.  That transition is really difficult, maybe the most confusing and disorienting one in our whole life.  You always hear people talking about college as the “good old days”, the best four years of your life.  If this is true, we are all in big trouble.  That means the rest of your life is a slow, depressing, downward spiral.  You peaked when you were 21?  Baloney.  I can assure you that every season of life brings the opportunity for more satisfaction and fulfillment and joy.  Imagine if you get married and have children.  Those stages of life are not going to be better times than college?  College is an incredible time of life, and a special time, but the truth is your best years are yet to come. Will you begin with the end result in mind?  Will you visualize what and who you want to be?  Will you give your life to what’s important?

Next week:  Your deathbed regrets

 

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Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a Uhaul?

 

The phone rang.  I was the only one in the office so I answered.  A low, gruff voice on the other end said “I need to speak with the person in charge of your chapter at Princess Anne High School.”  Uh oh.  These calls were ominous.  I was on staff with a non-profit organization that worked with high school students and we never knew what to expect. I responded saying that person was me and asked how I could help.  “I want to meet you” the bellowing voice said.  “OK, may I ask what it is in reference to?” was my reply.  “I want to know how I can help you” the deep, gravelly voice said back.  Whew!  Dodged a bullet.  The next week I would meet a man who would forever change my life.  His name was Jack Birsch.  When I met him he was well over 300 lbs and had a shiny, bald head and was smoking a big cigar. At noon. In a Holiday Inn restaurant (one of the few places left in Virginia Beach you could smoke indoors).  Thus began a friendship which would change me deeply and the way I viewed the world.

We started meeting every couple of weeks, then every week for an hour, then it became 2 hours.  He had a twinkle in his eye and had a way with words.  Jack was big on grace.  Jack was big on love.  Jack had a big personality.  After we had met several times, he asked me a question in his booming voice that would become a splinter in my mind:

Jack:  Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a Uhaul?

My answer:  No.

Jack:  Of course you haven’t, because naked you come, and naked you go.  So you better find out what matters in this life and give yourself to it wholeheartedly.

Find out what matters in this life [what’s important] and give time, effort, priority to it. 

Jack continued to ask me that question every few weeks until it became engraved on my heart.  As I got to know him, I realized the impact of his life was still echoing all over Virginia Beach and all over the world.  It seemed like almost every day I would meet someone who would say: “Oh Jack?  He was a huge influence in my life.  Yes he showed up when I needed him most.”

What matters to you in this life?  Are you giving yourself to it wholeheartedly?

Advent is a good time for reflection.  Reflection about our life and our year.  What was most important to you in 2016?  Did you give yourself to it?  Did it matter?  “Evaluated reflection turns experience into insight.”  –John Maxwell.

If not, how can you recalibrate and redirect your efforts to what matters in 2017?

 

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What I learned from watching the Olympics…in person! Part 2

ipanema-with-rio

I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.” — Mia Hamm, American soccer player and 1996 and 2004 gold medalist.

When I was in Rio a couple months ago at the Olympics I had the privilege of meeting several gold medalists.  One of them had medaled in the 2012 London Olympics, a guy by the name of Jason.  He is now in the FBI. I asked him what it was like getting back after accomplishing such a phenomenal goal.  He said the day he got back he stepped onto the ground from the plane and thought to himself:  “What the f@*& do I do now? I didn’t know who I was.” His identity was so based in the sport that he didn’t know how to do life outside of it.  Every day for the 4 years previous (and probably much longer than that), Jason had something he was pursuing.  I was challenged on a couple levels:

  1. Am I taking my life mission as serious as Jason?  Is there something that I am passionate enough to attack with the ferocity that these Olympic athletes do?  If not, why not?
  2. What is my identity based in?  What is it that, if it was taken away or accomplished, would leave me confused and rudderless?  Who am I becoming?

Thoughts about Challenge #1:  Can we think of ourselves as athletes and be committed to our “cause” or our life mission as much as they are?  What are you attempting to do that’s important?  If you are not attempting something important, what needs to change?  Because you have something important you are supposed to do on this earth.  These athletes are attempting to clear a bar or throw a disk or run 100 yards faster than everyone else.  It is exciting but really on September 1, what does it matter?  They have a saying “Gold medal on Monday.  Ebay on Tuesday.”  What impact does it have on the world?  It is a spectacle of sport and competition and a worthy endeavor, but we are dealing with an endeavor just as grand and just as important—changing people’s lives.  And this can be done wherever you are planted—the marketplace, the non-profit sector, the home, the family, traveling, in being an employee or an employer.  So why can’t I even give 1/10 of the commitment that these athletes give?

The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” — Bobby Knight, American basketball coach of the 1984 gold medal-winning men’s team.

5-rings-on-beach

Thoughts about Challenge #2:   Big doors swing on small hinges.  Small things matter. Little things. Like the angle you take off from.  The difference between the gold medal and not even placing is split seconds in the 50 Free and 100 and 200 yard dash. There are small changes that have disproportionate impact.  This power of habit (check out the great book HERE) would say that small things in our life can have big impact.  We are the sum of all of our small decisions.  What are your patterns?  What are your habits?  Where is your identity found? If you don’t like who you are becoming, this is the great news:  YOU CAN CHANGE IT.  TODAY.  It’s never too late to change direction or to start a new path, even if you feel like you’ve failed.  A lot.  One good place to start is Michael Hyatt’s life plan resource.  Another help is this “big rocks” video about the big things in life and then this article that explains it.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career … I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan, American basketball player and 1984 and 1992 gold medalist.

 

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