This is the part of the trip where you’re supposed to become deeply philosophical and share great pearls of wisdom.
I’m having the worst steak in the world at the restaurant at my hotel. I’m sure the chef is a vegetarian. I could have gone to a much nicer restaurant, but I was being lazy.
Don’t be lazy.
I’m on my way home. I didn’t change my travel schedule at all as there was no need to. The first leg of my journey back is from Jordan to London. I have a long layover in London, so I splurged on a hotel room where I am writing this email. Tomorrow will be from London back to DFW.
Thank you again to all of you who sent messages to check up on me. I was in Ashkelon the day before Hamas attacked, visiting the national park and flew from Tel Aviv to Jordan that afternoon. The next morning, while I was at the Baptismal site in Jordan, I started getting alerts about the attacks. So I don’t actually have any stories to share regarding the Hamas attack because I wasn’t there. Jordan was business as usual.
My flight to London did take a bit of a detour around the trouble, just for good measure. The flight was uneventful, thought we were in a little bit of a holding pattern over London. The immature side of me really wanted the pilot to make just one more loop over London…
I was relieved when I got to London. I could actually read signs and ask people questions and understand what they are saying. My mind relaxed after being in overdrive for three weeks with the cultural differences, language barriers, and being nomadic. I missed my house, my car, and all of you.
At the same time, and within minutes of relief, also came a sense of conflict.
The last night at my hotel in Wadi Musa, I was out on the patio chatting with an older couple from Canada, a younger couple from Tanzania, and the hotel owner, whose name is Mohammed (of course it is…). His hotel, the Petra Guests Hotel, is small but fantastic. Mohammed and his family own and run the hotel, he even does some of the cooking if you choose to partake in the dinner buffet.
I asked him where he was from – and his answer was not at all what I expected.
Mohammed proudly explained that he is a descendant of the Nabateans. If you don’t know your Petra history, the Nabateans built Petra. He can trace his family lineage back 3,000 years! He built his hotel using the rocks from his grandfather’s house to preserve the heritage of their properties. I was disappointed that I had to leave the conversation to go to bed and that it was also my last evening at the hotel. I wanted to hear more!
I’ll send a separate email about Petra, as there is a lot of amazing information to know about it, but I did want to share my two favorite pictures.
This is the monastery and it’s pretty famous, so If you’ve seen pictures of Petra, you’ve either seen the Treasury (featured in Indiana Jones) or the Monastery. Everything in Petra is huge, as you can ascertain from the the specksof people standing in front of it.
Petra was an enormously wealthy city as it was at the cross roads of major trade routes during its prime.
The monastary is reached by walking up several hundred stone stair steps, so it’s isolated from the bustling city center and has magnificent views of the area.
We can only see the bones of Petra, however, and not the soul. Missing from this construction wonder are the several statues that likely filled the rectangular cut outs. This is true for all of Petra, we can only speculate at who the Gods were that occupied the minds of the Nabateans.
The second thing missing brings me to my next favorite picture.
Once upon a time, all of the stone bones of Petra’s structure were coated with plaster or lime and brightly painted. This picture shows one of the very few locations where you can see the plaster with its paint. It is very likely that these buildings were very intricately painted, possibly very similar to how Greek Orthodox churches are decorated.
Here is an example from the Jordan Baptism site:
Now its about to get deep…
When I started this trip, I had a laundry list of sites, read several books, and studied maps and timelines. At the same time, I didn’t really have any expectations – I didn’t have a schedule and didn’t have a cat herder trying to corral me for the next sight.
God set the schedule (and it was His plan that I left Israel the day before Hamas attacked). All I had to do was follow His lead. He wasn’t present in the very important rocks that are scattered all over.
The story that kept showing up in a variety of ways on this trip is about following God. Every person that I encountered and had an in depth conversation with had the same message, epiphany, or heart. Being open, vulnerable, and unscripted towards others. Dropping the barriers and taking risks and allowing others to see deeply into my own heart.
The Bible came to life in the people that I interacted with.
The sorts of hurting souls that Jesus took pity on.
The people from other counties that I met who followed Jesus in their own ways.
The old man who thinks I drive a really large bus for a living.
People who’s hearts are open.
The world will always see us as cogs in a machine – just another social security number to be managed, each of us interchangeable with others.
Only God sees each of us as uniquely and wonderfully created.
Make it a point to be a part of His story and not just an extra for the world to grind up and spit out.