Friday, June 5, 2015

Read Donna's blog!

Donna posts every day, with great pictures and commentary.  I post once a month or so.

As this trip comes to an end I am having a very interesting trip to Malta.  The skinny: little to DO; LOTS to see.

Malta is a beautiful island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy in Europe and Libya in Africa.  The Maltese language is a melange of Italian, French, English and Arabic, but nearly everyone speaks English.

I've posted my best photos on Facebook so I won't repeat them here except one - a vista from on top.  Today I am writing about Gozo, a small island - part of  the nation of Malta - just a couple of kilometers off the end of the island of Malta.  It has many cathedrals so I headed for the one in the castle at the top.  €3 to "enter" but entrance only at the extreme back: the entire church was roped off (closed) at 2p (maybe earlier - I arrived at 2p) because there was going to be an "adoration" at 5p.  I suppose they wanted an exorcism to rid the place of heathen (non-catholic) prayers because there was no place to pray.  No praying alllowed.  Bizarre.  I asked the woman who asked for my ticket to ask Jesus what He thought about no praying in the cathedral.  Silly question.  All catholics know that we can't have a relationship with God - Jesus' repeated statements to the contrary notwithstanding - that's what the professionals are for.

Inside the door, the cathedral still requested contributions. I contributed my €3 ticket and left.  I thought of shaking the dust from my feet but instead decided to walk and pray under God's clear blue sky for the people blocked from living in the Kingdom of Heaven by false catholic doctrine.

Seems every road in Malta is (a) choked with traffic and (b) under construction. I miss Donna.  I spent 3 hours today on busses and ferries, and 4 hours waiting for them.  I'm ready to move on and cool off.  I wish I could have gone diving here, but teaching PADI is such a money-making business, for the first time in over 31 years and over 200 dives my PADI card was greatly limited: to 36' IF I paid for an instructor to accompany me. No thanks.  Little to DO.  LOTS to see.

Wizzin' on Wizzair

This is not going to be a glowing report.  Today (May 23, 2015) we are taking a flight from Paris to Vilnius. Tomorrow we return.

We have purchased 41 flight segments for this trip, 9 for Shannon or Megan, and 32 for us.  Once in Europe (Istanbul on March 24) we have flown the four main budget airlines: Pegasus, Ryan, EasyJet and (only today) WizzAir. 

Flying into or out of Istanbul is very difficult.  Like Paris CDG and our home airport Atlanta ATL, Istanbul IST is connected by rapid rail and takes about an hour. But whether out of IST or the outlying airport Sabita Goçhen (which requires a train and a long bus ride but only costs TL 10.5 - $4), getting THROUGH the airport's seemingly endless lines makes me wince thinking of going to what is otherwise my 2nd favorite (to #1 Paris) city in the world. 

Paris' 3rd airport (Orly is #2) is Beauvais (BVA).  BVA is HARD to get to and very expensive to get to.  An example is this trip. We are flying 2 1/2 hours on a fairly new A330 Airbus carry 180 passengers.  The flight - like all of these cheap carriers - is very cheap: €38 each, each way ($42). Total airfare: €156.  But, the last bus to catch our 8:40a flight leaves the bus station at 5:40a and the Metro only starts at 5:30a so instead of using our transportation pass which covers all Paris transportation for a month (€110), we have to take a €16 taxi.  The bus is €16 each, each way.  And - here's the wizz on Wizz - they are the only airline that does not accept etickets AND they don't tell you until you arrive at the airport and they demand an additional €30 each for us using an eticket!  We have time so we hike over to Terminal 2, track down an internet kiosk (which won't accept credit cards) and pay €5 to print a boarding pass!

So €16x4 + €16 + €5 = €85 in add ons to €76 in flight cost!  We won't be flying Wizz or from BVA again.  By the way, EasyJet flies out of CDG, and seems much more efficient than the others.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


My daughter-in-law, Eleanor Campbell - is amazing!  I walked 11.5 miles today on a warm, sunny day in Budapest.  She walked all but the first 4 with me. [Photo] And she is almost 8 months pregnant! And she loves my son, her husband, Trevor.  And she flew from Poland to California and back ladt week. Last night she was on an overnight train from Krakow to Budapest.  And she looks great and has a wonderful attitude about life. Did I say she's pretty awesome?

Second, Budapest desperately needs a first world transportation system, not leftovers from the USSR. And how about some signs?  And while I'm wishing, how about what the rest of the world has: signs in their primary language + English.

Good food.  Great Thai massage.  Did I say that Eleanor is awesome?  So is Trevor!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mighty Metro

Imagine this.  Paris started construction of its Metro in the late 1800s and now has 133 miles of track with no new construction.  New York: 1863 and 233 miles. London: 1863 and 250 miles.

Istanbul: 1992.  When the current construction is finished in 3 years: 400 miles!

The line that crosses UNDER the Bosphorous between Asia and Europe is 1,500 feet underground and the (park and ride) stop "Haciosman" on the north end of the like which goes through the business district ("M2") has a huge bus station on top at ground level, below which is a 5 story parking garage below which is the metro station. It takes 7 long escallators to get from the metro station up to ground level.  [Maybe the engineers decided that rather than having to stop construction for archological ruins in this 9,000 year old city, they would just have the lines go under all possible sites.]

Another day, another adventure

Today, April 20th, we headed out to a spa!  Not just any spa. No, not us. We headed out to a spa built 2,000 years ago by the Romans and still in operation today.  Water temperatures vary from 38C to 140C. My cup of coffee this morning was 140C.  That will hard boil an egg so I'm sure no one goes in that.  Flat Stanley [photo] got a free ticket to come along, so we brought him with us. He has never been to a spa and is looking forward to it, but he can't get wet, so I'm not sure what he'll do.  He can't get bent, so a massage is out of the question too.  To make matters worse, he speaks not a word of Turkish.

I'm slowly learning Turkish but the results are uneven.  After one effort in Turkish to get directions, a policeman asked me where I learned to speak Turkish. But when I was looking for the Arilik Çeşmesi metro stop and said "Hello, excuse me, where is Arilic Çeşmesi Metro?" - which is

"Merhaba. Afedersiniz, nerede Arilic Çeşmesi Marmaray?"

the person I asked said

"No speak English." 


After a 75 minute fast ferry ride across the Sea of Marmara, we caught a minibus [photo] to Thermal - that's the name of the area with the hot springs - for 3TL (US$1) each.

[How did that picture get upside down and how do I fix it?  FS doesn't know and neither do I.]

Anyhow, at the spa it says that it is the best in the world. Not on my estimation but it surely was nice, in a beautiful spot. Ojo Caliente in New Mexico and - particularly - Eco Thermales in Costa Rica are better. 

After getting into our bathing suits, Donna and I went into a 20' x 40' pool, about 3' deep.  The water was perfect for me: 104F.  It had a vaulted ceiling and an adjacent frigid pool which must have been in the 40sF.  Brrrr....  Tjere was also a sauna which was too hot to bear.  We decided against the massage, because it was only a 20 minute massage.  Then we went to the Olympic sized outdoor pool. The water was just as hot as the 104 pool but was probably 102 because the cool air was reducing its temp.

Hot springs wipe me out but we then went to a huge lunch which did the rest. I slept into Yalova on the minibus and we boarded the ferry.  If we come back, we will go see the waterfalls via minibus from the ferry harbor.

We have had a WONDERFUL month in Istanbul. Beautiful, friendly, adventurous, cultured, clean, efficient, delicious... just some of the adjectives we use about this city.  We are ready now to go on to Budapest - I'm missing pork sausage.  Donna and I both miss foot massages at the end of a long month of walking.  I'm really looking forward to seeing Trevor and Eleanor who will join us in less than 5 days!!

In 50 weeks or so we will be back in Istanbul for another month - that time living in Kadiköy - just south of Üskendar.  I know that right now Istanbul is my favorite city in the world, but after our month of May in Paris, I will be conflicted again between the two.

Friday, April 17, 2015


There are two such places.  One is out the Bosphorous to the West. The other is out the Bosphorous to the East. Today, in the Yenicapi Metro stations the two came together for a ride to the Levant stop.  Photo.

Before that I had come to the Iranian Consulate (no embassy here because the capitol is Ankara) to see about getting a visa for Donna and me to go visit Tehran.  I know we can book a tour, but that is a terrible way to meet locals.  So, I got some information and will write them a letter tonight.

Kisirkaya, it turns out, is the last stop on Bus #152 from Haciosman on the Green (M2) subway Metro.  152 ends just 100m above the shore of the Black Sea at the tiny village of Gümüşdere where I found the clear crisp Black Sea, went wading, then was the only customer in the local marina's restaurant "Onda".  Had good (B+: great cooking, just ok fileting) sea bass, really good salad, ok fries, tea and water. 55TL was high, but the view!  Photo.

[The 150 bus goes out to the European side intersection of the Bosphorous snd the Black Sea at Rumelfeneri.]

Whether you take the 152 or the 150, the view along the Bosphorous is amazing.  It's a full hour on the bus back to Haçiosman metro. Arrived at 3:30p. Had to rush a bit as we have a dinner engagement with Ilhan's family at 7p. Got to get to Yenikapi, then Uşkendar (get location and time on minibus to Atasehir) then Kuzgunçuk then home, shower, change clothes back to Uşkendar then to Atasehir at 7p.

BTW, from the Black Sea to Haçiosman to Yenikapi to Uşkedar to Kuzguncuk (each a change of train or bus) takes 2.5 hours and costs US$2

And the evening topped off the day: we were invited to dinner at the home of our friend Ilhan who spent last Christmas season with us. He called from America during the dinner which was a spectacular feast.  I have not had such a meal in a long, long time.  Home by midnight.  Donna says she is sleeping in tomorrow so I won't wake her before 7a.  ;)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Caribbean and Copenhagen

You might think that today we travelled from Istanbul to an island in the Carribean then dashed to Copenhagen to see the tulips in Tivoli Gardens.  No, we just walked around Istanbul. The water is in the harbor in Istanbul: crystal clear harbor water - what a seeming oxymoron.  And tulips were actually developed here in Istanbul and exported to Denmark. We walked through Yildiz Park just north of old Istanbul, on the water.  Finally, we asked a young girl to take a picture of us in the park - and it's one of my favorites.

Other than the Ataturk Airport, Istanbul is a hassle-free zone.  Unless you like movies and don't speak Turkish. While many - or most - of the movies are in English with Turkish subtitles, NONE of the theater websites and NONE of the theater marquees are written in English and NONE say whether they are shown in English. So, for example, we saw several movies where we knew three or four of the lead actors - all British or American - but no idea what the name of the movie was nor whether it was being shown in English.  Oh well, we have a vpn and Netflix.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Agamemnon, Achilles, Priam and Hector

Troy.  That's where Donna and I - and our friend Robert Hinton from England went. First, we took a "fast ferry" from Yenikapi out the Bosporous and across the Sea of Marmara to Bandirma where we rented a large, boxy European Ford and drove 200km to Canakkale for lunch [3 photos]  and then on to Troy. [3 photos]

Troy was another special place. [Photos]

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Istanbul Archeological Museum

It seems so strange that Istanbul should HAVE an archeological museum because Istanbul IS an archeological museum. Outside the walls of the Topkapi palace the ground is littered with Roman columns that had been buried in the rubble base for the walls. Hagai Sofia has been open and operating as a giant cathedral then mosque then museum every day since it was completed in 532 by the Roman emperor Justinian. So Flat Stanley, Donna and I were dubious about a museum IN a museum but we had to see.  First stop: Early Orient Museum. When they say "early" in Istanbul, you can bet it's old - and we weren't disappointed. Orient did not mean China as it often does in English. It meant "east of here".  For over 200 years - since so described by Napoleon - Istanbul considers itself (and I would not dispute) "The Capitol of the World".

Here, Flat Stanley is hanging out with a 3,000 year old gate guard.

Jesus, of course, spoke Aramaic.  Here is a sundial that was 100 years old when He was born.

A thousand or so years before FS' buddy was carved, Egyptians were mummifying their dead. Here are a couple of photos of real mummys.

Speaking of Jesus, shortly after His crucifiction the Jews rebelled against Rome and the temple built a thousand years earlier was torn down by the Romans.  One of the blocks was later dug up and brought here: "No intruder is allows in the courtyard and within the walls surrounding the temple.  Whoever enters will cause death to himself." reads the inscription in LATIN - the Hebrews knew the rules.

Now the Egyptians thought to assure immortality through mummification; the Romans sought eternal fame through ostentatious tombs - Donna stands by one of scores here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gobekli Tepe: all that and a LOAD of chips

Gobekli Tepe.  I read an article about it in the NY Times in the summer of 2014 and so - after Donna and 2 of my traveling buddies declined for "safety" reasons (ISIS was fighting the Kurds 30 miles away in Kobane.  I knew that while ISIS might be tough, they were pussycats compared to the Kurds who were fighting to keep their homes.  The Kurds smashed ISIS who quickly retreated never to return. Donna decided it was safe enough so here we are. Gobekli Tepe.  Not only is it TWICE as old as Stonehenge, it is many times larger!  No one knows who built this huge complex (the hill where Donna is in this first photo is ENTIRELY artificial and as far front to back as it is left to right: zoom in and you will see her at the top).

Prior to Gobekli Tepe, discovered archeological ruins went back to the period of Stonehenge, the pyramids of Egypt, and temples on Malta.

When Abraham was born here, a mile or so from our hotel, Gobekli Tepe was 9,000 years old. No one knows who built this huge complex because it was built before writing or pottery.  More photos - words just don't fit.

Sanliurfa, Turkey

Early this morning (April 8, 2015) Donna and I left for Sanliurfa - a 2 hour jet plane flight to the SE, 30 miles by road from the Syrian border. Giant snow-covered mountains surround endless fields of various crops getting started.  As we landed I could see the effect of being so close to a war zone: every 250m around the airport perimeter are watchtowers with spotlights.  Here's a photo from our portable sauna - I mean bus - that transported us 20 miles or so to town.  There were no openable windows and the temperature was 95 F or so with the heater running full blast.  Outside: a comfortable 60 F.

We arrived at the end of the bus line (20L) then took a taxi (15L) to drop off our bag at the hotel, grab an early lunch, then a taxi to Gobekli Tepe!!  On the way, we drove across a dam on the EUPHRATES RIVER - as in "Fertile Crescent" and "Dawn of Civilization".  

The Jews and the Muslims don't agree on much.  The Jews all descend from Abraham's son Isaac.  The Muslims all descend from Abraham's son Ishmail.  They don't agree which son is the elder. They don't agree on very much.  But they do agree where the Patriarch was born. Urfa.  All my adult life I thought that was Ur, as in Erech in Iraq.  One American archeologist in charge of excavating Ur says that city is Ur of the Chaldes and that Abraham was born there. The Bible does not say where Abraham was born, but does say his brother was born in Ur of the Chaldes.  But Urfa - recently (20th cent AD) having "Great" ("Sanli" in Turkish) added to its name, is here where Abraham was born. Today I went to the cave where he was born [photo].  Today I drank water from the spring coming out of that cave where Abraham - then "Abram" - was born.  #1 on my bucket list for 30 years - done!!!!!!

April 8, 2015 AD.  And, Shannon, last month we were in the Amazon River basin.  Of course we are!! What a month!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Istanbul straddles the Bosporous - a 40 mile long 1 or so mile wide body of water that connects the Black Sea (Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, et al) with the Sea of Marmaray - a small "sea" which connects via the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean which, in turn, connects to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Med is tidal: it goes up and down a foot or two everyday.  The Black Sea is not.  So billions of gallons of water rush through the Bosporous each day.  Now there are two very congested bridges full of vehicles going back and forth (a 3rd is under construction).  And a subway line going under it.  In my first visit here in 1973 there were no bridges or subway and ferries were the only way to cross.  Now there are lots and lots of ferries and a book of schedules. Here's one page. [Photo].  We live this month at Kuzguncuk and, fortunately, there is a ferry that stops there - if we time it right [zoom photo]. After waiting through several ferries, the correct one arrives right on schedule and home I head. [Photo]  The concrete dock and the ship are spanned by a floating dock which is a carney ride getting aboard today.

$.55 and 25 minutes later... Kuzguncuk ferry and a 5 minute walk home.  Cold today. A bit damp. But tomorrow we leave for Sanliurfa at 4a. It will be warm and dry there.


Early this morning Shannon headed back to the USA. It has been such a delight having her here - her first trip outside the US other than to Paris 2 years ago with us.  As she said upon seeing Istanbul: "This ain't Kansas!"  Indeed.

Tomorrow morning Megan heads on on her journey - this leg to Bologna.  And Donna and I leave for 2 days to Sanliurfa Turkey - Abraham's birthplace - and Gobekli Tepe - the world's oldest archeological site.  I'm glad that Donna is coming: she was afraid because it is so close (30 miles by road) to Syria. But we are repeatedly told it is safe - so off we go.

Today Donna and Megan (and FS) were headed off to do makeup and museums (I prefer the other M&Ms, but the chocolate here is very good) so I headed out to walk and photograph the Golden Horn around outside of Topkapi's walls.  Those walls were cut at places for the railroad.  At other places, they are in a state of collapse. But they were built by Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century so they are very old.  I hope Blogger lets you zoom on the panorama - even though it is looking away from the walls - because it shows much of Istanbul from the Sea of Marmaray to the right, left to the Princes Islands, left to Asiatic Istanbul, left to the Bosphoro Bridge, left to European Istanbul.

After a great lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then a to go Baklava (ok, 3) I stopped at a Turkish cafe for... cafe.  Americano (thus not chewy).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Written March 31, 2015 in Ephesus

I ask to speak with you today about my journey to find Truth. I would like to be able to tell you that I had engaged in exhaustive research, read thousands of sources and - based on my great ability - found Truth.  But that would be un-true: a bad way to start the part of my journey that is today.  The truth is that I have been led to this truth and not from my ability - not even from my intent. Nor am I suggesting that there are no passages in the Bible which appear to be inconsistent with this. But stay with me through these 2,600 words of my search.

My journey began as a spiritual journey of a decade as a Baha'i - a religion related to Islam as Christianity is to Judaism.  But on the first Sunday in May, 1986, I stumbled in to Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church - because it was cool on a hot morning and I was waiting on my lunch date to get out.  There, for the first time, my heart heard the truth of Ephesians 2:8: "For it is by Grace you have been saved, and not by works, lest anyone should boast."  "Saved"? From what?  Why? I asked.  Does God love me as much as... as my Daddy?  It seemed so impossible, so... bizarre, yet inescapable.  Yes!  Over the next few months I turned away from my ambivalence toward God, as well as from my political affilliation which was - to me - clearly and inescapably in opposition to being a follower of Christ.  That truth seemed so obvious, so universal, that I considered if perhaps I was one of the last people on earth to have his eyes opened. Of course I understood with my left brain that there were billions who had not seen. It took another 3 decades to understand what I am writing about today.

I ask in advance that you forgive me if this Truth I have been led to offends you. It is not my intent to offend anyone, but I would be remiss if I did not do my best to at least present it clearly as I have been led to find it. 

I also ask two other things.  That you accept that I am writing only to those with whom I can agree on the core issues of Christianity: that Jesus exists - and has always existed - as part of the triumverate with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  That He came to earth in human form and died a sacrificial death so that we can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  And that He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven but in the three years or so prior to ascending, He taught important truths for all mankind.  Then, lastly, I ask that you be willing to consider that human organizations (which require power and money for their existence) could - could - have corrupted the lessons you believe to be from God.

Not knowing those lessons, I started with a blank slate.  To come with me on this journey, you must be willing to reconsider these (what I ask you to consider as) non-core beliefs. Not "un-important."  Non-core. Consider that you may have been misled for the oldest and most ubiquitous of purposes: power and money.

Immediately after encountering the truth in May 1986, I decided to marry the girl I was living with. She said yes and we were married in November.  We were truly "unequally yoked" and what I call "the 20 dark years" began then. There were four bright spots in those 20 years: Rollin, James, and Tiana were three. The brightest was being carried in the arms of my Savior in those darkest times.

I emerged from the 20 dark years in February 2007.  During those two decades I walked with God, talked with Him or Her, challenged Him, raged at Him, thanked Him, sought and received forgiveness from Him.  Mostly I engaged in a relationship with Him, and tested over and over again - literally hundreds of times - the claim of Romans 8:28 "for we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His Purpose."  I can assure you that even on the darkest of all of the days during the 20 dark years (Feb 6, 2006) Romans 8:28 was proven true. I tested it using my training receiving a BBA and MBA degree.  I tested it using my training using my Juris Doctor degree.  I tested it using my training in seminary and in serving as an ordained minister.  It is true.

So having emerged from the 20 dark years (incidentally, it seemed that it  would have been nice if - during those 20 years  - I had known they would eventually end.  Except that then - perhaps - I would have just hunkered down and suffered through rather than reaching up to be carried along by my God) I saw that God made even the 20 dark years a blessing.

My journey to The Truth began in earnest with a single word: "Tetelestai".  It is a word in Greek.  In the New Testament, part of the Truth is obscured by Tetelestai being translated two different ways. In the Gospel of Matthew we find Jesus saying :"I came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Not one iota of the law shall pass away until" and Matthew writes "Tetelestai."  Then, as He is dying on the cross - dying of asphyxiation -  (the Apostle John, who was there, writes that) Jesus pulled Himself up to get one last breath of air and used that last breath to shout - the only time Jesus shouted in His ministry.  He shouted out one word. One Great Word. One word to set the whole world free!  John writes "Tetelestai". Jesus, who spoke Aramaic, used "ha meshalom" both times.  [Even so, they are not translated the same which creates confusion. What possible reason other than to hide The Truth?]

So, if "Bill" and I were hanging out one afternoon and I said "I'm going to order a pizza at 7 o'clock" and then later said "It's 7 o'clock" Bill would know I was going to order a pizza.  Jesus said the law did not go away until ha meshalom and then ended the law with His last breath, His sacrificial death, His shouted command.

Ok, the law is over and we are under Grace.  But why were we under the law to begin with and what was the law?  I learned in seminary that in addition to the 10 Commandments accepted as law from God, rabbis had added over 600 more laws.  The first 10 were clearly to give the Israelis - who had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, never being allowed to make a choice - some fundamental societal rules once they were out from under the lash.  The other 600+?  I "hear" the need for increasing power and control within the state religion.

Anyhow, they are gone.  Next I came to understand that God seeks RELATIONSHIP with us.  I had learned that all of His plans are for our good, but did not then yet realize how that was to my benefit. I did know that God did not need my time - He wanted me not to need it.  He does not need my money - He wants me not to need it.

Jesus said, in summary, Love God, Love all of your neighbors, tell people about that love.

For thousands of years the tithe was a celebration of new life, of growth, of friendships.  Of the 19 references to the tithe in the Bible all but one describe people bringing their tenth to a huge celebration where the tenth was eaten by the people (not donated to the priesthood) - and every third year the priests and widows and orphans were invited to join in the feast. The other time? Deuteronomy 14 is clear that money is not to be given to the synagogue, but rather to be used to purchase whatever your heart desires - be it "oxen or strong drink."

In the 4th century AD the Roman emperors starting with Constantine had a political problem. They were converting the Empire to Christianity - a faith that never had had buildings. Meetings were in people's homes. But the priest class had temples to Zeus and Juno and Hera, to Venus and the other panoply of Roman gods.  What would happen to the temples, the powerful priests, where would the funding come from to take care of them? 

By decree, the pagan priests became Christian priests, the temples often became churches.  The high pagan holiday of December 25 was adopted as Jesus' birthday.  The symbol of the fish was replaced with an overlayed Greek Chi (C) and Rho (R) - the first two letters of Cristos - which form a cross.  And the tithe was usurped to fund the organized, state, religion. Organization and rules replaced relationship and true freedom.

The next two steps seem obvious now. They did not so seem then.  The first was the translation of the Old Hebrew "ZR".  Hebrew lacks vowels so we don't know how ZR was pronounced.  But in the Torah we find that God said to Adam "It is not good that man should be alone. We will make for you a" ZR.  Later, Moses names his 2nd son "El ie zr": God is my zr.  It is generally accepted that Eliezr means "God is my defender and protector."  So, too, was Eve for Adam. She was the defender and protector of Adam's heart as her relational prime directive just as Adam was the defender and protector of her person as his prime directive.  Why would male translators translate zr as "helper"?   Hmmm....

The second inevitably came from 1 Corinthians 7:12 where Paul writes that that instruction is not from God but rather just from Paul.  So if not all of the NT is authored by God, how is it the infalible word of God?  The question that commanded an entirely new look at the NT was "Is the NT what IT says it is, or is it what WE say it is?"  IT says it is - at times - the Word of God.  At times it says it is not.  And at times it just doesn't say which.

Paul and Peter and John were humble, truthful men. They spoke with authority because it was given to them by God.  And sometimes He spoke through them. I concluded that whenever they say some instruction is from God, it is. They wanted everyone to be clear about that. When Paul says it is not, I believe him. And when they don't say, I believe the instruction is from them because they would not weaken an instruction from God by not giving it the proper authorship.

So God wants relationship with us and among His creation.  Clearly He is willing to go to great lengths - sparing no expense so to speak - to redeem His creation. So why did Jesus have to die?  Could He not have just snapped His fingers and forgiven sins?  Surely.  So, why did He have to die?

Jesus said "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand".  Was He wrong?  What is the kingdom of Heaven and how does that relate to why Jesus had to die?  In the Gospel of John we find it said that everything that was created was created through Jesus. That in the Trinity all creation emerged through Him. And in that same book we find Jesus saying that "If [when] I am lifted up to heaven, I will gather all people to me".  Well, that was quite a shock to me!  All means all. So everyone gets "in"?  What about the passage that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus? Well, if Jesus says He will bring all mankind to heaven, and no one comes to heaven except through Him, isn't that the same thing? That's what it says and presupposes a God whose love is so unlimited that He welcomes into heaven even those who reject Him. But if that is the case, why did Jesus have to die? 

The answer clicked while reading The Shack.  Mackensie asks Jesus "Does that means that all paths lead to heaven" to which the character representing Jesus says "No, most paths don't lead anywhere, but it means I will take any road to find you."

I have concluded that Jesus came to die so that those sons of Abraham known as the Jews would recognize the sacrifice: He was born within their faith, a Son of David; they had an organization that had grafted on to God's word hundreds of sacrifices and the observation that without the shedding of of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin.  So, because that is all they would understand, He came and suffered and died. But when they irrevocably rejected the great I Am, He took away from them the Kingdom of Heaven and gave it to another people (us - the Gentiles).

Which leads to the next two questions in this journey - the last two I will cover here.  What is the Kingdom of Heaven and what is sin?

If God is love and if God wants relationship with us, then sin is simply anything - anything - that interferes with my relationship with God. And nothing else. NOTHING ELSE. Thus sin is its own punishment as we will see in a moment. For I believe the Kingdom of Heaven at hand means that Jesus opened the door for us - IN THIS LIFE ON EARTH - to walk hand-in-hand with God.  We are all going to heaven (wow, my friends in organized religion are going to hate that contention, but it's not mine), but most of us are missing out on the incredible gift in this life of being a most favored child of the Creator of the Universe.

Having walked with God, having been led and carried by Him, I can tell you I'd rather give up air than give up being carried and led by Him. Halting that... communion is painful. It is the consequence of sin. And thus sin is individual.  Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He is saying it is exceedingly hard for someone who has focused on gaining money to walk with Jesus in this life where money is merely incidental.

Sin is individual - just as love is individual -  thus YOU can't see what interferes with MY relationship with God.  Gambling - which existed during Jesus' ministry and was not condemned by Him (the Apostles even cast lots - gambled - to see who would replace Judas) might not interfere with your relationship with God.  Alcohol might.  It's the reverse for me.

So, finally, the reason that we are not to judge others' behavior as sinful or not is because we are not on the inside of that person's relationship with God. We are to live in the joy that is the here-and-now Kingdom of Heaven and invite all others to the party - and not require them to change to participate. 

Joy... Triumph.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 3

Day 2 - see Donna's blog.

Easy day

It was supposed to rain this morning but I awoke to sunshine. Donna didn't sleep well so I started a load of laundry then headed out to find Tesla - the big grocery store. After a 20 minute walk, I learned that this says "Tesla Purchasing Office"!!!  So I bussed back to Uskandar, bought groceries, and headed home.

We then bussed back to Uskandar, went under the Bosporous to Sirkeci and then wandered up a couple of team stops on foot to the #1 Trip Advisor restaurant in Istanbul. It's really not a restaurant as we would think of it. It is a hookah (waterpipe) cafe with lounging sofas, oriental rugs, narrow, winding entrance off of a narrow winding single lane cobblestone road... ih, and a delightful food menu but "the cook in the hospital" the owner said. So we exited and instead ate at the Mozaik Cafe - of course very expensive for us (lunch was $50) - which was the best meal I have had in quite awhile. We started by sharing an appetizer of grilled squid - pieces the size of an American hamburger!  Then I had East Anatolyan baked lamb, served in the baking dish swimming in veggies.  Donna had minced beef and lamb served with charcoal grilled eggplant

We rolled back to Eminous (sp) ferry dock and took the 25 minute (55 cents) ferry tide back to Kuzguncuk dock and walked home.

Jet lag hit Donna today (me 2 days ago) so we had an easy day.  As Tiana might say: "What the heck... it's vacation!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 1, morning 1, Istanbul 2015

Sunlight at our apartment happens at 5a, so I got up, took a photo out our back deck [photo], then left FS and Donna snoozing away and walked down to a hole in the wall spot that was open and had a cup of Turkish coffee (a bit chewy!) $1.10 - then a sandwich of cheese, tomato, and bell pepper $1.45; then walked to the park 150 meters from our apartment and took a couple of photos [photos].  Then bought a tokem $1.45 for the 25 minute ferry ride across the Bosporous to Galata Bridge and Eminou, then a 75 cent tram ride to Sirkeki, then figured out how to get change and added $8 to each of our Istanbulkarts, then took the Marmaray train back under the Bosporous ($1) to Uskandar, then a bus to Kuzguncuk and a 150m walk back home.  Ferry to home was 1 hour.  FS and DLL were still fast asleep.  Went out shopping while they hot ready.  5 baclava for $2.50, a gallon of drinking water for $.75, a pound of ground beef for $7 (expensive) and a medium chicken for $4 (half of US price).  Now out to our local Wednesday only vegatable and spice and egg market.  More later.

Donna and I then went out to the local Wednesday fresh market and bought olives, lettuce, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, chesse, bananas, apples, potatoes, mushrooms, eggs all for about what we pay at Ingles, but much fresher.  

 We then took the 15 bus to Uskudar for lunch.  FS came along.  [Photo]  On the way back we bought coffee, olive oil, sunflower oil, honey.

Nap.  Then back to Uskudar, under the Bosporous, and out to the Spice Market where we bought vanilla, oregano, cashews, walnuts, pepper, two types of tea, curry.... Then we went to the grocery store for shampoo, paper towels, butter, bar soap, honey, jelly.  Then wine (Turkish only) and fresh bread.  Home for dinner.  Trying to stay awake to overcome jet lag....

Sunday, March 22, 2015


What is our purpose?  Why is it that - at 55 1/2 years old I finally - FINALLY! - found my life partner?  Why the 20 years of darkness prior to that? Why - of the billions of people on earth - were Donna and I given the interest, the ability, the understanding, and the resources to go to these far-off lands and speak with whomever comes into our path, about life, and love, and the Author of love?

I was reminded of why at Sunday School today.  Donna and I are "Done"s - by that we mean we are believers in Jesus, followers of Jesus, but Done with the organizational structure known as the church which was annexed on to our faith over a third of a millenium after Jesus' resurrection by edict of the Roman Empire - the same Roman Empire which had killed Him in the first place.

But I attend Sunday School most Sundays when I am in town.  Today, while preaching from the Book of John (which is more about God's love than any of the 65 other books), the preacher began a rant against homosexuality (while wearing a blended cotton/wool suit: Leviticus 19:19 - "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.").  He ranted on about we have to "preach the truth" to the immoral people of the world. That is what the church teaches.  What does the Bible - particularly this very same Book of John - say?

John 1:1-4 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men."  In other, simpler, words: everything was made by Jesus.  From within that tripartite relationship, the world was created through Jesus.  Everything came out of Heaven through Jesus.  Then what? 

John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."  All.  Not "all Christians". Jesus was Jewish. He wasn't Christian. For 200+ years after His resurrection, followers of "The Way" (now called Christians) considered themselves Jews. All.  All gays, Muslims, Hindi, athiests.  "All" does mean "all". So when John writes that no one comes in except through Jesus - he is repeating 12:32.

So what is "sin"?  For the church, it is whatever the preacher does not like.  For me, it is whatever interferes with my relationship with God. And nothing else.  So I can't judge your sin, nor you mine, but the church pretends to be able to do so.

And what is the Bible?  The biblidolators say it is the inerrant word of God, even though it says otherwise. 1 Corinthians 7:12 "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away."

What does It say It is?  After the stories of the life of Jesus, It says it is a series of letters of advice (sometimes from God, sometimes not - and sometimes it does not say whether or not it is from God; I believe in such instances it is not, because a message from God deserves such reference) and a final prophesy (even though the Gospel of John was written by John from Ephesus AFTER he wrote Revelation).

So, our purpose? To testify how our walk with Jesus has been incredibly blessed, to apologize to those who are put down by the church, and to always remember - as the tattoo on my right arm says: I am "Rescued from Darkness, Dancing in the Light."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Table for two, in Istanbul

Well, I'm packed - all but my razor.  One small carry-on bag for 11 weeks - and the bag includes an extra pair of shoes for me (size 14) and Donna (size 11) plus her computer and my queen-sized hammock with ropes.  Yes, there are clothes in there too - and all the various electric plugs, charging cords, jump drives, etc - two pair of dress nylon convertible pants (the legs zip off to make shorts/bathing suits), two nylon short-sleeve shirts, 6 pair underwear, 4 pair socks, plus I'm wearing jeans, collared short sleve shirt, nylon hoodie and nylon rain jacket. Extra glasses, batteries, 2 flashlights, and meds plus first aid and a candle for a romantic dinner.  I think this is the best organized I have been for a trip.  Donna's bag will be about the same size as mine - no checked luggage means customs is quicker, moving from city to city is easier - and on the no-frills budget airlines in Europe - much cheaper.