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Tips For the Traveler...
                           A Blog

Why Not Choose Joy? 

Traveler’s Tip #355 
If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere. 
                                                                                                                  - Billy Sunday 

 

Just a quick word… 

Love 
Joy 
Peace 
Patience 
Kindness 
Goodness 
Faithfulness 
Gentleness 
Self Control 

This is the fruit of God’s Spirit scripture tells us about. This is the character of God. This is Jesus. The real Jesus. 

Almost everywhere I look in the world today I see the opposite of every one of these attributes. Culture, entertainment, politics, and, sadly—and sometimes most glaringly—the Church. Why? He is so close. Why do we insist on seeking and glorifying the carnage of chaos when peace is right here? Why turn our backs on the God Who loves us and wants only the best for us? 

Please don’t trade the Beautiful Truth for a shadow. Right is wrong and wrong is right… It may be a different garden—but it’s the same old lie. 

But God is Love. God is truth. 

Not my truth, not your truth—the Truth. 

Don’t follow a politician. Don’t follow a movement. Don’t follow a church. Don’t follow a man. 

Follow Jesus. 

Joy is ours for the taking! 

I’m in, how about you? Let’s ride this life out together. And at the end, arms wide open, we’ll crash onto that glorious shore and never hurt again. 

Fair winds travelers, 

Buck 

 

P.S. 
Thanks to House of James Bookstore for the nice BOOK review! CLICK HERE TO READ 

 

New Book

FINDING JESUS IN ISRAEL 
Through the Holy Lan d on the Road Less Traveled 
GET IT HERE

Willow Stor--I mean Quezada 

Traveler's Tip #354 
You can let off the gas, but the miles keep coming. Don't waste a single minute... 

Thinking about my daughter today… 
Saturday I walked my daughter (and pal) down the aisle, handed her to her intended, and then stepped up front and married them. No kidding, I really did. 

    Cue tears, my friends. Happy Father’s Day to me. 

    Robert is a great guy. He loves the Lord. I love him. But, c’mon man, she’s my daughter! 

    When I got to the part in my notes that said Vows, I have to admit I almost lost it completely, but I wanted to hold it together for them. I did pretty good until the toasts started, then all bets were off. Tears continued on through dinner and then definitely through the father-daughter dance (Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me). 

    Lots of smiles. Lots of tears. Lots of dancing. A crazy happy sad day. 

    And now they’re in Hawaii and the air around here feels a bit emptier. I’m cried out. Both happy and sad tears, but isn’t that life? 

    Another stanza from the pen of the Great Poet. And on life’s pages, change is a constant thing. 

    Just the other day, I was the first person in this world to hold her. She was only a few seconds old. I remember it perfectly. She studied me—looked right inside me—with an intently serious look on her tiny face. I thought she had wise eyes, like she’d stepped into the world with answers to questions I hadn’t even thought of yet. In the end, I guess she figured I was okay and it’s been that way ever since. 

    Maybe I’m a little sad, and a little happy, and a little sad, and… but she’s in God’s hands and I wouldn’t want it any other way. She’s so happy and that thrills me. 

    Still, I can’t wait to see her. Come back, kid! 

    So, my friends new and old, we've seen some miles. And many more to come. Please raise a glass with me to one of the best souls on the planet, Willow Stor…I mean Quezada. Willow, I wish you and Robert a million years of the groovy kind of love your mother and I have always had. You still have wise eyes. You still look right through me. 

   God is good. All the time. 

   Aloha and fair winds, 

   Buck/Papa

Release Day! WARNING - This is not your average travel book! 

Hey everybody, 

It's release day! Even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool fiction fan, I really think you'll like this book. Step off the well-worn tourist path with me, hear a few stories, and meet some of the people and places that make Israel so special.  

Warning - this is not your average travel book! Here's a sample chapter to give you an idea. And if you like what you read, please pass it on! It's a HUGE help. Word of mouth goes a long way. 

Also, I have a few live interviews coming up over the next few days on radio waves across America. Click HERE for dates, times, and regions.  

Peace on the journey! 

Buck

 

 

 

Chapter 2 

Kerouac, Starlight, and a Curly Haired Dog 

After a long day the sun sinks into the Negev on tired wings. Nothing comes easy in the desert. . . . 
     The beach city of Eilat hangs on the very southern tip of Israel like a drop of dew about to fall into the Red Sea. Egypt stretches to the west and Jordan to the east. South, across the water, the mountains of Saudi Arabia loom. The town itself is a modern place, but like everything in this part of the world, its foundations rest on hard-packed layers of history. Moses wandered here, for instance. In the Timna Valley just a few miles to the north, King Solomon mined for copper. The Queen of Sheba traveled through this area on her biblical journey to Jerusalem. 
     With access to both the Red Sea and the major trade routes of old, Egyptians, Nebateans, Romans, and others all have deep history here. Eilat is also Israel’s jumping-off point for visiting the mind-boggling ruins of Petra across the border in Jordan. The small group I was with booked themselves a tour to do just that, and I drove them down, planning a couple of stops along the way to see some other ruins. 
     It’s only a one-hour flight to Eilat from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but by car it’s a long, hot grind through the desert. We left Jerusalem early and headed south. The day shone clear and beautiful. Have you ever seen the desert? Well, my friend, that is desert. A hard, lifeless place. We drove hours of empty highway. Once we saw a young Bedouin boy herding goats on a hillside. Miles later, a couple of Israeli tanks out on some military exercise kicked up a tall pillar of dust. An hour after that we passed two men on camels. One waved; the other never even looked our way. 
     The highway rolled on. 
     City lights shone along the Red Sea waterfront, and the sun died completely as we—hot, hungry, and roadweary—finally pulled into Eilat. I’d booked our overnight at the Sunset Motel, a place that sounded more like Route 66 than Israel. I’d never been there, but after circling several blocks—GPS can be dicey—we finally found it. A concrete and plaster wall with a heavy wooden door hid the building from the street. I went in to make sure everything was cool while the others grabbed bags and belongings from the van. 
     Now, if you’re ever in Eilat and have some money in your pocket and want a nice hotel experience, there are plenty of great places, believe me. Try something down by the water—it’s beautiful there. But, if you’re on a serious budget and don’t mind rough-around-the-edges and a good dose of adventure off the tourist path, then the Sunset’s your place. The only word I can think to describe it is trippy. Think David Lynch meets Jack Kerouac, and then toss in a little Indiana Jones for flavor. Stepping into the courtyard, I found myself in another world, far removed from the dusty, desert-town street. Tree branches stretched overhead. Orange, purple, green, and blue lights splashed everywhere. The sculpted, cavelike walls had shapes molded over them—tree roots, branches, and tribal stone carvings. Low, built-in couches and tables bordered the wide patio with hookahs lining a shelf behind them. A big, curly haired dog cracked one eye open at me from its place on a wicker chair. Water dripped. I half expected to hear the theme song from Twin Peaks waft out from somewhere. 
     To my left, thick, varnished beams held up a shade structure. Beneath it, a young African girl manned a bar. She just stood there with arms crossed, leaning against a post, watching me. Her dress hung loosely from the straps over her thin shoulders. I smiled at her and said hello. She offered a bored blink and said nothing. I tried again, telling her I’d emailed ahead for a reservation. She said something in Hebrew. I asked her if she spoke English. She sighed and gave a shout toward the back. A male growl replied. 
     Enter Avi—owner, designer, and builder of the Sunset. He emerged a bit disheveled, hair askew, sandals, baggy pants, and an old tank top. He barked at the girl and, with a wave, shooed her scurrying away. Then he turned to me. 
     “What?” he snapped. 
     “Hi, I booked a reservation online—” 
     “I don’t know anything about it,” he interrupted, turning as if to head back into the shadows. 
     All I could think about at that moment were my tired travelers outside. “No, I’m telling you I booked online. I paid for four rooms on the website. My group is outside with our bags.” 
     Looking doubtful, he weighed the situation. He shouted, and the African girl came back. He said something in Hebrew. The girl sighed, gave me a look as if I’d insulted her family, then disappeared again. He sighed and shook his head. You’d have thought I’d asked him to cure the common cold or help me move. 
     “She’ll get some rooms ready.” He held out his hand. “Cash or credit card?” 
     “Like I told you, I paid online. The rooms are already paid for.” 
     He turned the volume up from three to eight. “And I told you! Cash or credit card!” 
     We squared off. “Look, man. I paid for four rooms. I don’t know what to tell you.” 
     Verbal sparring went on for quite a while, but we eventually worked it out. 
     Now, Avi—whom you just met—is what you’d call . . . let’s just say colorful. The poor guy gets a pretty bad rap in the hotel reviews. True, he yells a lot, especially if you want him to get out of bed in the morning to unlock the gate and let you out. (This request is apparently unacceptable.) But spend a little time with the guy, ask him about his motel, and he’ll warm up. He loves the place. You get the feeling it’s the guests he’s not crazy about. I don’t blame him. People can be a trial sometimes. Truth be told, I’d probably feel the same. Keep an open mind. He’s an alright guy. 
    Bags unloaded, rooms settled and arranged, we climbed back into the van and headed for the waterfront lights and food. The city vibrated with life; it was a calliope of color. We were all a little falafel and shawarma-ed out, so the aroma of grilling meat coming from the Burger Ranch had us circling like sharks drawn to blood. Burger Ranch—the only place I’ve ever been where you can order a ham-burger the size of a pizza. Brilliant. Let me tell you, when you’re starving, the Sliceburger ranks right up there with the PillCam, USB drives, and Waze GPS. Never underestimate the genius of the Israelis. 
     Dance clubs, restaurants, and a waterfront midway—nighttime 
     Eilat throbs with noise and energy, a playground for the young and young at heart. Out past the promenade the noise quieted to a dull, rhythmic thump as I stood in the dark, knee-deep in the Red Sea. Ships lay at anchor on the calm water. Across the way, the lights of Lawrence of Arabia’s Aqaba winked from just over the Jordanian border. I dialed home on my cell. It felt like heaven to hear my wife’s voice. 
     Later, back at the Sunset, no one felt ready to turn in. So we gathered some chairs and camped awhile beneath the patio lanterns, talking and letting the day slip away at its own pace. In a far corner, Avi sat on a worn couch chain-smoking and petting the curly haired dog. His cigarette glowed in the dark, faded, then glowed again. On a whim, I asked him to join us. I figured he’d either decline or ignore me altogether. Glow . . . fade . . . glow. At length he shrugged, lit a fresh one with the tip of his last, eased his lanky frame up, and dragged a chair over. The dog followed lazily and then sank to the concrete beside him. 
    Conversation, slow out of the station, gradually picked up steam, and Avi mellowed. We asked him about his motel, then about his life and history. He humored us, smoking and walking his mind back through the desert and the decades, his words laced with the struggles and joys of carving out a life in that hard land. I knew he still held his cards close to his vest—there were things he wouldn’t give up to outsiders—but we took what he offered. After all, this was history unwritten, stuff you couldn’t Google or watch on a PBS documentary. He talked through at least half a pack, and we lost track of time. At last, after the moon dropped beneath the patio wall, Avi stubbed out his last butt, saluted a goodnight, and headed for his room. The curly haired dog followed close on his heels. 
     The group left early the next morning for their Petra excursion. I found myself with a free day. I gassed up the van, grabbed some truck-stop coffee and chocolate croissants—the best in the world (the best croissants, not coffee)—and headed south along the western edge of the Red Sea. After a few miles I pulled a U-turn close to the Egyptian border and cruised the beaches looking for a likely spot to pass the day. Resorts, bars, and dive shops lined nearly every foot of the water’s edge. 
     The Red Sea’s crystal-clear water and abundant sea life is a diver’s paradise and draws scuba enthusiasts from around the world, but I wasn’t in a diving frame of mind. After days and days of travel, I just wanted my own little piece of beach and some rest. I found a parking lot with some vacant spaces and a sign promising beach access through the thatched-roof pub. The girl at the bar looked me up and down as though I had three eyes and had just parked my spaceship outside. But when I bought a couple bottles of water and gave her a good tip, I guess she decided I was okay. She only spoke Hebrew but somehow understood my question and pointed the way to the beach. Once out on the sand, I understood her surprised reaction to my presence. This was no American hangout. Pure Israeli all the way. My baggy board shorts were all by their lonesome in a sea of speedos. I found an empty beach chair, downed half my water, and leaned back for a nap. A group of elderly guys—you guessed it: speedos and shirtless—played dominos around a table. Families frolicked, children laughed, and I slept. After a while I swam a little, then slept again. 
     I woke up to see a rail-thin, very feminine-looking man standing in front of me slathering himself head to toe with some kind of silver, sparkling sunscreen. He made a serious production of it. By the end of the application, he looked like a glittery Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. He sauntered ankle-deep into the water and somehow managed to get himself onto a beach raft without getting his impressive pompadour wet. Propped on one elbow, he used his free hand to paddle back and forth, up and down the beach. Poor guy was dying to be noticed, but everyone just went on with their vacationing. In the end he gave up and flopped onto a beach towel. I wondered about his story, but I was too tired to ask. 
     By late afternoon I was pretty crispy—but not as crispy as some of the speedo guys. I headed back to the street in front of the Sunset, our rendezvous spot. The group hadn’t come back yet. It was past checkout time, and I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I really didn’t feel like waiting in the hot van. I took my life in my hands and pushed through the wooden door.  All quiet in Twin Peaks. True to form, Avi lounged and scratched the curly haired dog behind the ears. The young African girl rested her elbows on the bar and watched a woman sing a Middle Eastern melody on the TV. I asked Avi if I could hang for a while. He squinted and paused, then shook his finger-scissored cigarette at me, speaking in Hebrew. By the tone and the look on his face, I had no doubts I was about to get tossed out on my ear. I held my ground. In the end, he sighed and waved me to a chair. I sat. He went back to scratching the dog, his thoughts far away. He never said another word. 
    Yeah, Avi’s an alright guy. 
    My friends finally made it back. We drove through the night to make a flight in Tel Aviv. Somewhere in the middle of the Negev, we stopped to look at the riot of stars. They vibrated in the sky and overflowed to the horizon, so bright I felt I could hear them if I listened hard enough. A billion Tin Men paddling through their inky sea above a world distracted by the glow of a phone screen. The van engine ticked as it cooled, loud in the desert stillness. I thought about a God who could imagine a sky like that. Could fill it to overflowing with moons and suns and planets—celestial bodies dancing side by side with an African girl’s dreams. It hit me then. I knew in that moment that this place wasn’t lifeless at all. It was, in fact, filled to the brim. Pressed full with God and His radical star-drenched love. 
     He imagines universes. He paints the sky with His fingertips. 
     And He smiles down on a crusty motel owner, an African girl, and a curly haired dog.

 

Like it so far? Get your copy HERE

Finding Jesus in Israel 

Hi Guys, I'm happy to say my new book is available for pre-order pretty much everywhere. It's already getting some nice press and, even better, seems to be touching lives with God's Love. I thought I'd offer a snippet. The following is the introduction. Hope you like it! 

Peace on the Journey, 
Buck 

Israel: A Crossroads 

This place is a crossroads. Nowhere else does David’s harp hold down the root chords to Robert Johnson’s blues. This place wrecks you and uplifts you, breaks you and inspires you. It leaves you no wiggle room. It demands your attention. 

When I was first approached with the idea of writing a book about my travels to Israel, I nodded politely, dropped it on the floor behind me, and gave it a firm kick under the rug. I didn’t mean to be rude, but while I love history, I’m no historian. I love the Bible, but I’m not a world-class theologian. I look forward to Christ’s imminent return, but I’m certainly no eschatological genius. I know several who are all of the above. I’ve worked and traveled with them. We’ve broken bread together. I respect them. But I don’t pretend to be one of them. 

What I am is a songwriter. I’m a novelist with a couple of books under my belt. I’m a traveling troubadour and an observer of people. . . . I’m a storyteller. And truth be told, that’s why—when no one was watching—I pulled the idea out from under the rug, wiped the dust off it, and turned it over in my hands a few times. 

You see, Israel draws me. Just when I think I’m done with the place, off I go again, winging halfway around the world. The smells, the tastes, the sights, the feel of the air. . . . It’s a land of extremes and a place of incredible dichotomy—exactly the stuff of which great stories are made. It’s the land of patriarchs and prophets. Of Jacob, Job, and Jesus. Of wars and rumors of wars. Of Jezebel’s dogs and jets kicking dust up off the Negev as they scream below sea level. It’s David and Bathsheba and legal prostitution advertised on the tart cards beneath the sturdy walking shoes of tourists rushing for buses that will take them to the Garden Tomb. 

This land and its people have always played a part in my life. 

I grew up with Bible stories. Sunday school in the church basement offered the flannelgraph kid version, but the real impact for me came during evenings listening to my grandpa pull tales from his old King James. The stories he told weren’t about pairs of cartoon giraffes and elephants or a mellow, surfer Jesus with feathered hair. No, this was darker stuff. Battles and blood and sex and fire from heaven. Angels and devils in a great wrestling match over mankind. Here were kings and strongmen. Lion killers, prostitutes, heroes, and liars. If it had been a drive-in theater, my mom would have shoved my head down behind the back seat and told me to stay there. No, my grandpa’s Bible wasn’t rated PG-13, but in his living room I heard it unfiltered. I heard about men and women flawed to the core but loved wildly by their Creator and used for His glory. 

I also heard about a shifty con man named Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel. 

Israel . . . 

Years later my grandpa finally made it to that land where so many of the stories he told took place. He returned with stories of his own, new friends, and five smooth stones from David’s brook. 

To me, my grandpa was a giant killer. 

When he passed, I was asked if there was anything of his I’d like to have. Without hesitation I asked for that old King James Bible. 

A decade or so later, my wife and I were invited on a Holy Land tour. Off we went on our first trip to Israel, I with guitar in hand and neither of us really knowing what to expect. I was so grateful to be invited to walk through the settings of the very stories I’d heard and read all my life. Caesarea, Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee—these places impacted me deeply. I could have left Israel satisfied and gone back to my own journey, my own tales. 

But then I had a moment. 

It was a very cold and wet afternoon in the Golan Heights. A soldier stood beneath the darkening sky talking to our group about an October night in 1973. It was Yom Kippur—for Jews, the holiest day of the year—and Israel was under attack. They faced overwhelming odds, an Arab coalition led by Syria to the north and Egypt to the south. The word went out for all hands on deck, and our soldier was called out of bed to fight. I listened that day in the Golan as he spoke with deep emotion of friends and brothers who gave their lives in the hills above to protect the land of both their ancestors and their children. 

As his story pulled me in deeper, the sky thundered and began to rain. All around me, people grumbled, broke away from the group, and headed back to the dry warmth of the bus. The soldier still talked, but only a couple of us remained. I saw tears in his eyes. And somehow, in that moment, I knew without a doubt I would return to this place. 

It hit me hard: the story of Israel—the real story—isn’t found in books. And not even in the comfortable baritone of my grandfather’s voice. Israel’s real story is written in the hearts and lives of her people. It is the unspoken tale behind a tired soldier’s eyes. It tells of a journey that grinds on—haunted, hard, and beautiful. Here was Israel. Here was Love. 

Israel is beautiful. Israel is vibrant. But Israel isn’t clean. Far from it. Israel is sin, redemption, passion, and blood. At its heart, it’s human and filled to the brim with the world—people of every religious, social, and political bent. The very ones God loved so much that He sent His son to die for. Israel is a Palestinian kid on a roof in the old city beneath stars that dance like angels. It’s the Jewish vendor in The Shuk—Jerusalem’s huge outdoor market—cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, yelling and haggling with a housewife over the price of a fish. The guy in front of a desert gas station flirting with the female tourists and hawking rides on his sleepy-eyed camel. Pilgrims soaked in vibrating ecstasy as, on Easter morning, they march the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked on His way to the cross. 

At its very foundation, Israel is the story of God’s interaction with mankind. 

Me? I’m a self-admitted lousy tourist. The “back on the bus please exit through the gift shop” stuff definitely isn’t my thing. So a few years ago my wife, Michelle, and I decided to start taking a few friends at a time, rent a van, and see Israel off the well-worn tourist trails. In the pages ahead, I don’t promise facts and figures. I won’t even swear to absolute accuracy. But you will see an amazing place, meet incredible people, and experience a living, ongoing story told to the best of my recollection, from the perspective of me—my grandpa’s grandson.

 

Finding Jesus in Israel

Through the Holy Land on the Road Less Traveled

ORDER HERE

Flying Hats—Can We Really Have Peace in this World? 

Traveler’s Tip #353 

Earth hath no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal. 

                                             —Thomas Moore 

 

    I had breakfast with a friend the other day and he told me I reminded him of a Buddhist nun he used to know. I honestly didn’t even know Buddhists had nuns. Not that it means much. The only real exposure I’ve ever had to nuns of any kind was 1960’s Sally Fields. I kind of wish I reminded him of Sally instead—at least she had a cool flying hat. 

    “Why do I remind you of a Buddhist nun?” I said. 

    “Because even with everything in the world crashing—politics, wars, natural disasters, everything—you seem like you’re always happy and peaceful. It's weird.” 

    So we talked about Jesus for a while. 

    I guess I’m a lousy Larry Durrell (a super clever Somerset Maugham reference for all you literary types...). I don’t feel the need to travel the world looking for truth. Jesus found me early and He’s never left, even on the darkest parts of the road.  

    We’ve come some miles, He and I. And I do feel at peace. And happy, if you’re wondering. Not that I don’t get down at times. And stress still presses once in a while. But when it does I never carry it alone. 

    I’ve been thinking about Enoch lately. Enoch walked with God: and he was no more; for God took him… One, simple sentence that says so much. The constant, perfect presence the Maker. It sounds unattainable. Something reserved for the giants of the Old Testament. But if you thumb through the pages for a minute you’ll find those people were people—messy people—like me, like you. 

    The imperfect, doubting, stubborn kind of people loved by God. 

    Nothing’s changed since then. Modern Romans still shake their fists. Now they even have smart phones to tweet their rancor. Pharisees still pound their pulpits and work the masses while the name Jesus is relegated to the third verse of a Mumford sounding worship song.   

    And still He waits… 

    And He waits some more.  

    Offering untold peace is for those who truly call on Him, even while the waves crash the door and the devil screams in the streets. 

    The truth is, we don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to make it up on our own. 

    Earth hath no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal… 

    The story’s already written. 

    I’ll choose peace, will you? 

    Lord, let me walk like Enoch walked, that’s all I really want. 

    And maybe a flying hat… 

Peace on the journey pilgrims, 

Buck

Should We Keep Our Mouths Shut? - The Academic Attack on Faith and Why I Wish I Had Dawkin's Frequent Flyer Miles 

Traveler’s Tip #352 
  
“The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ – cannot hear the music of the spheres.” 
—Albert Einstein 
  
A while back I posted a statement that one of my daughter’s Criminal Justice professors made to the class—“Christians are a nightmare to work with and anyone with religious convictions doesn't belong in the criminal justice field at all.”  I was somewhat surprised at the huge response to the post. Many voiced similar experiences and frustration although a few put the onus on Christians and my daughter. My favorite was, “Tell her if she can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen”. That one actually made me laugh—he definitely doesn’t know my daughter. That girl will handle herself. 
  
Now I know we ignorant faithful are supposed to sit back and take the discriminatory abuse or risk the unforgivable brand “intolerant hater” but hey, I have a blog, a few people who read it, the first amendment, and something on my mind so here you go…     
  
It’s no newsflash that my daughter’s experience was just one in a continual barrage of anti-theist rhetoric taking desperate precedent over actual subject matter on our campuses. Here’s another more recent dig at faith by the same professor: 
  
I’ve never been more disappointed in academia than when I saw a picture of Jesus hanging at Gonzaga University”. 
  
I take pride and comfort in the love, empathy, and unwavering quiet faith my daughter displays. To be honest, I mostly want to punch somebody in the neck (Lord give me patience). Let me say this to you students who dare to come to the logical but unpopular conclusion that a detailed, mathematical universe might have intelligence behind it and didn’t explode (for no reason at all) out of absolutely nothing into perfect order—you are not the hillbillies you’re made out to be by the academic elite. Keep your eyes open. Use your mind. You aren’t alone. In colleges and universities across the country it seems students are enrolled in the same class no matter the name on the schedule—Only Uneducated Hicks Believe in God 101. (Oh, and please make sure to leave your tuition checks with the finance department). 
  
As for me, I’ll readily admit I’m too ignorant to be an atheist. I’m definitely not well traveled enough to proclaim the empirical truth to the pathetic faithful that no God exists anywhere in the universe. You see, unlike Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Richard Dawkins, and my daughter’s Criminal Justice professor I haven’t been everywhere in the universe. But man, I’d love to have those frequent flyer miles… 
  
So, all you uneducated bumpkins out there, join me in raising a glass to higher education and all those classroom-pulpit-pounding smarties who condescend to teach us the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth… Wait…what? And speaking of bumpkins, we’re in interesting company. I thought for fun I’d throw out a few quotes from some other pseudo-intellectual hacks. Poor guys, they should sit in on my daughter’s class sometime. Maybe they could learn a few things and finally contribute something useful to society… 
  
Keep your feet on the path pilgrims, truth wins.

Fair winds, 
  
Buck 
  
Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God. 
--C.S. Lewis 
  
  
“As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and beauty, but we do not see our goal, we do not see the horizon; in the distance tower still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects, and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasized by every advance in science, that ‘Great are the Works of the Lord’.” 
—Sir Joseph J. Thomson, Nobel Prize winning physicist, discoverer of the electron, founder of atomic physics. 
  
  
“A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world.” 
–Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., who received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the first known binary pulsar, and for his work which supported the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe. 
  
  
“God [is] the author of the universe, and the free establisher of the laws of motion.” 
—Physicist and chemist Robert Boyle, who is considered to be the founder of modern chemistry. 
  
  
“It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion.” 
“People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature-the laws of physics-are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.” 

–Physicist Paul Davies, the winner of the 2001 Kelvin Medal issued by the Institute of Physics and the winner of the 2002 Faraday Prize issued by the Royal Society (amongst other awards), as cited in his book God and the New Physics (first quote), and from his acceptance address of the 1995 Templeton Prize (second quote). 
  
“Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them. Geoffrey Burbidge, of the University of California at San Diego, complains that his fellow astronomers are rushing off to join ‘the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.’” 
–Astrophysicist Hugh Ross, former post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology and author of The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. 
  
“Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover….  That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.” 
–Astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Robert Jastrow. 
  
“I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism.” 
“If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God.” 

—Lord William Kelvin, who was noted for his theoretical work on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale based upon it. 
  
“God created everything by number, weight and measure.” 
“In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” 
“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” 

—Sir Isaac Newton, who is widely regarded to have been the greatest scientist the world has ever produced. 
 

Is There Still Hope? Intellectuals, Jesus, and Round Couches 

Traveler’s Tip #351 
Stuck in the middle of the night in the San Diego airport? The round couches are your only option.Try them. And you might find yourself at an appointment that was set before the foundations of the earth...
  


I wanted to share part of a note Michelle received from a new friend we met at the San Diego airport some months ago--a young woman completely chained by the social agendas and intellectual pride that defines our modern human existence. I’m so encouraged and amazed that the God of the Universe is still insistent on reaching out to the beautifully broken.
  
  
Michelle,
Hi, I hope you are well! I have been struggling with temptation a lot lately and have fallen into sin that I am repenting for. Just wanted to share that night at the airport completely changed my life. There is no denying God and Christ in my life anymore. Thank you SO much! I am blown away with the kindness you have shown me and am so excited about starting the Bible study. We are studying the book of John! It was amazing. I had such a wonderful time and love the fact that it is just women- that is exactly what I need. 
  
      I went to the Cavalry Church on Saturday night for a prayer meeting which I’ve never even heard of before. It was amazing! I am starting to get plugged in. I am starting to feel a lot less shameful of my past through the Bible, which is really surprising to me. Part of my fear was that I thought I would find myself being rejected once I read parts of the Bible. I didn’t realize how I was putting false idols in front of me. Well, there’s a lot I didn’t realize about the lifestyle I was living as it relates to the Bible. I like to think I am so intelligent and know what this world is about, but reading the Bible and starting to understand the history in that time and the struggles that they went through is eye opening. The Bible has both humbled me and I have found solace in the fact that if I have a question about life I can actually find it in the Bible. That itself is hugely comforting! Not only that, but I didn’t imagine I would find myself relating to the struggles of some of the people Jesus came across. I’m slowly starting to understand that Jesus died for my sins too! That I can be saved as well! That I am not unworthy of His love! Thank you for listening and guiding me- I am eternally grateful for the kindness you’ve shown me. Thank you so much for introducing to me Jesus’ love in such a gentle and non-judgmental manner- it was definitely no accident that I met you! 


  
Be encouraged, my friends!  No matter what this world throws our way we can know we will be forever loved. The intellectual pride, social agendas, finger-pointing, name calling—all the things the devil does to discredit the wild, holy, love of God and His people can be discouraging, but they might as well be matchsticks in a hurricane. Our Jesus cheerfully shreds them to bits to reach the broken soul. 
  
He will not be deterred! 

Fair winds,
Buck  

Election Eve...  

Traveler's Tip #350
In the words of the great Woody Guthrie, "Jesus Christ for President... Let us have him for our king." 

America, as with every nation, has had its ups and downs. It’s wars, rebounds, dustbowls, and real estate booms. In our short history we've commanded the respect of the world because, and only because, we have been good. We have offered hope. But, again as with every nation of note, world power has its pitfalls. Like Rome, or the Greek Empire—the list goes on—America slogs on with blind, single-minded determination, leaving behind a reputation of virtue, honor, and goodwill toward men and wind-sprints towards a finish line that promises complete moral bankruptcy. In fact, we demand it in the name of tolerance. We have been fooled and we’ve loved it. We haven’t lost our compass, we’ve crushed it with our boot heel. Today we are dumb and numb. Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin have been bumped off by Fiddy Cent and the modern Romans go wild. 
  
We are divided by design, folks. And one thing is certain--no matter the outcome, tomorrow night we will be a country even more split than we are today. 
  
Should one candidate win, my heart breaks for women. There are so many wonderful, qualified, moral and wise females out there, and yet you very well may be represented in the pages of history by one of the most corrupt and condescending career politicians ever to hold office. She does not love you. You are a means to an end. 
  
On the other hand, there are so many good and qualified men. Men who respect the common good. Men who are temperate—patient to listen and slow to anger. Men who are quiet and strong and command respect without bluster. And yet these are our choices. 
 
So where do we turn? Not to the church it seems. The new western version has become for the most part nothing but mini corporations captained by celebrity CEOs. No answers there. Not to Hollywood. Not to the Facebook wars. Certainly not to our crumbling and corrupt political system. We must turn to truth--the God who loves us.
  
The thing is, no matter whose name follows the word President, true peace and happiness only come from the Maker, the One to whom we all owe our breath. 
  
But we must break before we heal…if we will. 
  
Jesus said- 
     
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
Blessed are those who mourn, 
    For they shall be comforted.  
Blessed are the meek, 
    For they shall inherit the earth.  
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
    For they shall be filled.  
Blessed are the merciful, 
    For they shall obtain mercy.  
Blessed are the pure in heart, 
    For they shall see God.  
Blessed are the peacemakers, 
    For they shall be called sons of God.  
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, 
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 


Where among those clamoring for our votes are the humble? Where are the pure in heart? Where are the peacemakers? 
  
Are we as a people willing to humble ourselves? Are we willing to seek righteousness and strive for honor and truth rather than selfishness and pride? Are we willing to become the least of these so that we might be great again? Because this is the only road to peace. The good news is we weren’t created for division. We were made for unity. We were born to love and be loved. This was and is God’s plan for you and me. 
  
Lord, teach us to kneel so we might stand together. 

Give us peace... 
  
Keep looking in, and keep looking up, Pilgrims. And no matter what happens, remember, the King is, and will remain, on the throne. 
  
Fair winds, 
Buck

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When Anger and Frustration Drag you Under... 

Traveler’s Tip #349 
  
“When everything is falling apart, everything is falling into place.” 
                                  —Mike Evers 
  

Dear Travelers, 
  
Just a quick note of encouragement today. 
  
I know it feels like you’re hanging onto the end of a rope while the inmates cackle and saw away at the top. I know it feels like your beliefs, the things you hold dear, your very contribution to society are attacked and despised. 
  
And they are. After all, we humans are insistent on repeating history. 

This is frustrating because you do your best to love others. And it feels like you can't defend yourself.

But you don't have to.
  
Be at peace!  When everything is falling apart, everything is falling into place. Our hope, our security, is in the End of the Story. 
  
There will be justice. 
There will be goodness. 
There will be peace. 
There will be love. 
  
Don't worry. Let go of the rope, my friends. The fall is beautiful… 
  
  
Psalm 46 
  
God is our refuge and strength, 
A very present help in trouble.  
Therefore we will not fear, 
Even though the earth be removed, 
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;   
Though its waters roar and be troubled, 
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah   
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, 
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.  
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; 
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.   
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; 
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.   
The Lord of hosts is with us; 
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah  
Come, behold the works of the Lord, 
Who has made desolations in the earth.   
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; 
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; 
He burns the chariot in the fire.   
Be still, and know that I am God; 
I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth! 

  
Fair winds, 
Buck

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On Racism… Bill’s Life Mattered 

Traveler’s Tip #348
Headed for California next week. In-N-Out Burger. Enough said. 
  
It’s been a nice break at home for the last couple months but now Michelle and I are gearing up for a September/October tour. Watch for us, we might be headed your way. Give us a wave if you see us pass. 
  

Meanwhile, somewhere out past the patio lanterns hanging across my back porch the world continues to lose it’s mind. I guess that cosmic moral compass doesn’t have a glow-in-the-dark needle. And, brother, it looks dark out there. 
  
Some of you have asked if the characters in my novels are based on actual people. Mostly, the answer is no. But today, as quarterbacks sit out the National Anthem, talk-show hosts rant, candidates jockey and shoot cap-guns across the imaginary aisle , and David Duke and Al “The Pal” Sharpton two-step across the grave of MLK, I’m thinking about Mort, my blind, black, fountain of wisdom in The Miracle Man. 
  
I like Mort. And Mort has me thinking about Bill Moore. 
  
I met Bill not long after I moved with my family to Hayden, Idaho on Thanksgiving Day, 2000. I didn’t know it at the time, but back then Hayden was famous (or infamous) for being the home of the Aryan Nation in America. Which makes it ironic that one of the first (and lasting) good friends I met was African American. Funny, looking back I don’t remember thinking about Bill as any particular race or ethnicity. To me he was simply one of the best people I ever knew. He overwhelmed us with goodness.  
  
Bill wasn’t rich. He sold used tires for a living and worked hard every day. He asked for nothing. He’d give you anything. I never heard Bill complain. And as a black man living in Hayden, I imagine he had a lot to complain about. But the thing was, Bill had an agenda. An agenda bigger than himself, bigger than the Aryan Nation, bigger than any human ideology.

An agenda I wish we all had... 
  
You see Bill followed the great example of the Great Example. And as such he loved and served only one race—the human race. This is the reason he could—and did—walk in to a local breakfast joint one morning and shake the hand of Aryan Nation leader, Richard Butler. Bill had the courage and confidence of knowing his Creator. Richard Butler had nothing but the empty blustering bravado of hate. Bill left him speechless. I don’t think the man knew what hit him that day. 
  
Paul the Apostle said: 
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 
  
Let me tell the fruit of that one precious black life—a life that mattered. When Bill succumbed to cancer a few years back several hundred gathered to celebrate his life. Old, young, black, white, men, women—for hours they shared stories of how this unassuming man spoke into, encouraged, blessed, and changed their lives. A man with no microphone or political platform. No books or talk shows. No guest spots on Fox News or CNN. Just a seller of used tires. Just love, humility and honor wrapped in human skin. And when real love, humility, and honor are at work—note to Mr. Duke and Mr. Sharpton—they unite, they never divide. 
  
And against odds, Bill Moore was a uniter. He brought people together in the name of Jesus who he loved. This was Bill’s legacy. What will yours be? 
  
Bill’s skin happened to be black. Mine happens to be white. He was my friend. Lord, make me more like Bill. Make me more like You. Make my life matter… 
  
All for now—keep your eyes on the prize, pilgrims. 
  
Peace, 
Buck