Since I started this blog a year ago, I've talked here about my wonderful job - teaching in a private Christian school where I get to watch my students grow up year after year, my career as a writer (third book is coming out at the end of this month!), my crazy life as a husband, pastor, father, and artifact collector (when the rest of my crazy life gives me the chance to go and play!). I've also shared a good bit of my political thinking (you guys may be getting tired of that by now, but politics fascinates me and always has, so I can't promise there won't be more to follow!) and my love of bad movies.
But there are three passions that really define me as a person, besides my love for my God, my wife and daughters. First of these is my love of history. I am a devoted student of the past, reading books and doing research all the time to learn more about the world that was before us, especially the civilizations that gave rise to ours - the mighty heritage of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian world. I simply can't consume enough history to slake my thirst for more.
Second, my love of archeology. The quest to find that elusive bit of the past and hold it in your hand; to know that someone in a previous generation of humanity made and shaped this little object long ago, and held it in their hand even as you are holding it now. Artifacts, whether Roman coins, jade carvings from China, flint arrowheads, or bronze figurines - they are a physical way of connecting with the past that mere study and book knowledge cannot match.
Last of all, my deed and abiding fascination with Biblical events. I believe that the stories chronicled in the Gospels are literally true and factually accurate. The "historical Jesus" IS the Jesus of the New Testament, for only the New Testament was written by men who knew Him and walked with Him. So many archeological details discovered in the last hundred years have confirmed even the small details of the New Testament narrative that books can (and have) been written and the subject is still far from exhausted.
I have always dreamed of visiting the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked. To see with my own eyes the streets of Jerusalem, the waters of the Sea of Galilee, the Garden of Gethsemane. To stand atop Masada, where the Jews made their last stand against the Romans; or to see the fortress where John the Baptist spent his last lonely days in prison; or to view the caves at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. What a journey that would be!
But it was just a pipe dream. My wife and I have twin daughters in college and we pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. There is no way that I could afford to go and visit the Holy Land, no matter how much I wanted to.
But last month I got the invitation from a fellow Greenville pastor. With a small group of local history buffs and under the auspices of the Austin Graduate School of Theology's Biblical Archeology Class, on March 20 I will be flying in to Tel Aviv on a ten day archeological tour of Israel's many Biblical sites! I still feel like it is all just a dream, but it's not. The passport application is on my dining table behind me, to be filled out this weekend. I have a copy of my itinerary already; we'll be seeing everything from the Dead Sea to the Negev Desert to the Sea of Galilee in those ten days. I couldn't be more excited!
Paying for it is going to be a challenge. All told, it's going to cost me around $3500 to make the trip. I'm excited and nervous at the same time - that's a healthy chunk of dough from our household budget. But one encouraging note is that many of my students and their families, as well as old church friends, have told me they want to help me raise the money to go. So I did create a GoFundMe page where anyone who wants to can chip in a bit. I know, I know, this isn't a life or death thing and there are many more worthy causes out there. But, if you would like to help me achieve this lifelong dream, here's a link you can follow to do so. In the meantime, keep me in your prayers, and watch this space and my FB page next spring for LOTS AND LOTS of pictures! God bless you all - I'M GOING TO ISRAEL!!!!!!!!!