10 Trips That Will Change Your Life

(REBLOG)

Travel broadens the mind, makes us more creative and can boost our health and happiness. But some trips go the extra mile and leave a permanent mark on your being. If you seek to come home from your travels a different person, here are ten trips that will change your life.

Discover Europe’s Capital Cities on a Solo Vacation

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Traveling solo is liberating. Unencumbered by the needs of others, you can do whatever you please, whenever you like. Book a cooking class or a walking tour with a group to find your feet – or dip in and out of company when you feel the need. Wake up at dawn or stay up late with other night owls. But relish the chance to do your own thing: savor a Parisian museum, eat Sachertorte in a Viennese coffee house, island hop in Stockholm or contemplate the two-thousand-year history of London. You’ll learn as much about yourself as you will the places you visit – and that’s a game changer.

Hike the Inca Trail

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Part physical challenge, part spiritual journey, those that hike the Inca trail will never forget the moment they stand at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, with that iconic view before them. Machu Picchu has intrigued visitors since Hiram Bingham uncovered its ruins from the encroaching jungle over a century ago. In the intervening years, many have put forward theories as to the original purpose of this iconic Inca archaeological site. Was it a storehouse, university or Royal retreat? As you explore the grassy paths between its stone rooms, you can ponder the question for yourself.

Witness the Power of Victoria Falls

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Nature is at her most formidable where Zimbabwe meets Zambia. Every day hundreds of thousands of tonnes of water cascades over a rocky precipice and squeezes through the narrow gorge below. Not for nothing is Victoria Falls’ nickname “the smoke that thunders”. Once you’ve hiked the paths overlooking this, one of Africa’s most breathtaking sights, make your way to the bridge that joins the two countries. In the middle you’ll find a bungee jump to rival anything in the world. Put aside reason and face your fears as you jump into the abyss. If you can do this, you can do anything!

Rail Across Australia

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Of the world’s epic train journeys, a trip by rail across the vast deserts of Australia is a reminder of just how insignificant we really are. The epic Ghan takes 54 hours to cross the country from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the tropical north. Break your 1851 mile journey at Alice Springs. From there, take a detour to visit Uluru, the monolith revered by the Anangu people as the birthplace of their ancestors. Hop back aboard and make your way to the Top End, where you’ll alight. It’s the jumping off point for trips to Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, which offer some truly world-class scenery.

See Venice from the Water

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Some cities touch the soul like no others and Italy’s most iconic destination is one of those places. Eschew touristy gondolas and hop on the vaporetti ferries like Venetians do. As you bob on the lapping waters of the world’s most famous lagoon, gaze up at centuries-old mansions that are slowly sinking into the mud. There’s arguably no place more romantic on the planet. But you’ll only find it if you step off the well-beaten tourist trail. Ditch the crowds and high prices of St Mark’s Square and dive instead into backstreet neighborhoods and lesser-known islands. Seek out centuries-old bacaro, join the passeggiata and dine in locally-owned trattorias.

Discover Beijing’s Forbidden City

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The scale of Beijing’s Forbidden City is impressive. Spanning almost a thousand separate buildings and nearly 9000 rooms, this sprawling complex has to be seen to be believed. As you pass through courtyard after courtyard, you’ll get a sense of the place that was once home to the Imperial Court. Construction began in 1405 on what was to be the most important palace in China from the Ming to the Qing dynasties. It took 14 years to complete, despite a workforce of over a million people. Over the centuries, 24 emperors resided here until the last abdicated in 1912.

Stay at an Ashram in India

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Offering yoga, meditation, prayer sessions and more, India’s ashrams have been a magnet for spiritual travelers for years. It might seem a cliché to head off in search of enlightenment and inner peace, but for some, it’s an essential retreat from the pressures of everyday life. Detox your body as well as your soul and return home energized and ready for anything.

Dive Belize’s Blue Hole

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Seen from the air, the dark ultramarine circle that marks the Blue Hole is jaw-droppingly beautiful. To see it from below, you need to be an experienced diver. Since French explorer, scientist and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau introduced it to a global audience in 1971, it has become one of the world’s great bucket list dives. Close up, this collapsed sea cave is dark and forbidding, containing huge stalactites and a wealth of marine life which includes parrotfish and sharks.

Contemplate Life in Kyoto

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The Japanese fascination with nature is well documented: the nation’s obsession with cherry blossoms (sakura) and autumnal colors (koyo) is legendary. Whatever time of year you visit, build in some time for reflection and meditation as you stroll along the Philosopher’s Path in the former capital, Kyoto. Leading from the Silver Pavilion, Ginkakuji, to the neighborhood of Nanzenji, it takes its name from Nishida Kitaro who lost himself in his thoughts here as he walked to work at Kyoto University.

Gaze at the Northern Lights

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The word “awesome” is bandied about carelessly, used to describe anything that makes us happy. Shouldn’t we reserve it for the truly amazing sights that quite literally make us stop and marvel at nature’s majesty? Worthy of the epithet is the sight of the Northern Lights. Even a fleeting glimpse of those dancing green and purple curtains in the sky will stay in the memory for a lifetime. Where you see them won’t matter, in the end, but if you are lucky enough to catch them above the iceberg strewn lagoon and beach of Jökulsárlón in Iceland, be certain you’ve just witnessed something magical.
About the author: Julia Hammond | Travel WriterEnthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

6 LARGEST ISLANDS IN THE CONTIGUOUS U.S.

When people think of islands of the United States, they probably think of lands like Hawaii or Puerto Rico. While it can be easy to conceive of the contiguous 48 states as one big land mass, it is actually quite dotted with large bodies of water and the islands that come along with them. Here are the six largest islands found within the lower 48 states.

Mount Desert Island, Maine

Aerial view of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine
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While it is the smallest island on this list (at only 108 square miles), Mount Desert Island has a sizable permanent community and a thriving tourism industry. It’s best known for housing Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor.

Acadia National Park offers rounded mountain tops, enormous boulders, and elongated lakes. Visitors can enjoy hiking the terrain, birdwatching, biking, and horseback riding.

The town of Bar Harbor is a small community of around 5,000 permanent residents. The town offers charming local hospitality to guests as well as the highest point on the eastern seaboard, promising visitors the first shot of checking out the sunrise. Mount Desert Island has also been home to many celebrities (at least in the summertime) including Martha Stewart, David Rockefeller, Susan Sarandon, and John Travolta.

Drummond Island, Michigan

Grasses and wildflowers in Drummond Island, Michigan
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The Great Lakes live up to their name with not one but two of the largest islands in the lower 48 states. Drummond Island is about 125 square miles and is located in Lake Huron.

The island has great historical significance as it was once along the French fur trader route. During the War of 1812, Drummond Island (then called High Island) was occupied by the British. There is a small group of permanent residents living on the island today, but the primary visitors are tourists who come there for a taste of unspoiled nature.

One fascinating natural feature of Drummond Island is its alvar regions. Alvar is a rare biological environment consisting of limestone with very thin soil. It primarily features grass and sedge and can only be found in three areas of the world.

Whidbey Island, Washington

Deception Pass Bridge with Fog Rolling In, Whidbey Island, Washington
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On the north side of Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is a 169-square-mile piece of land that houses nearly 60,000 residents. It’s only about 30 miles from Seattle, so it’s close to the action, but it feels secluded and calm in comparison. Two major towns serve as the primary tourist destinations.

Langley is on the southern side of the island while Coupeville is in the central region. Both offer opportunities to convene with nature and get some much-needed calm. The island also boasts plenty of local charm including bookstores and quaint restaurants. It’s the kind of place that feels a little lost in time in the best way possible.General3ptsTest Your Knowledge!Which country is NOT one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council?PLAY!

Isle Royale, Michigan

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park
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This is the largest island on the list to be fully surrounded by freshwater. This 206-square-mile island is located in Lake Superior. No one lives on the island, because the entire thing is designated as a national park. The island closes to visitors from November 1 through April 15, but in the warmer months it is an excellent site for adventure and exploration.

Padre Island, Texas

A view above the Bird Blinds at South Padre Island
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The next entry just barely beats out the prior spot on the list. At 209 square miles, Padre Island is the second largest island in the lower 48 states. The island is known primarily for its tourism, though it is also a permanent home to some 3,000 residents. While it may be a popular spring break destination, it is also a natural wonderland.

There is 70 miles of protected natural coastline and habitat that plays host to some incredible wildlife. History buffs will also find plenty on the island to keep them interested. The Curry Settlement dates back to the 1840s and is named after the Alabamian minister who settled there. The island is also the home to the San Esteban shipwreck, a Spanish cargo ship that crashed in 1554.

Long Island, New York

Aerial view of Port Washington on Long Island
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Running more or less parallel with the coast of Connecticut, Long Island is the southeastern most part of the state of New York. The island itself is an interesting mix of rural and urban. It contains Kings County (home to Brooklyn) and Queens County (home to the Queens borough). The eastern half of the island, however, is filled with farmland and beaches. Covering 1,401 square miles, it is the largest island in the contiguous United States.

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What Is the Rapture and Is it Biblical? (YOU DECIDE, PAT)

  • Ed JarrettChristianity.com Contributing Writer
  • 20209 Mar

What Is the Rapture and Is it Biblical?

What is the rapture? And what does the Bible say about it?  Many are familiar with the term. But all too often their understanding of the rapture is based more on popular writings like the Left Behind series than Scripture itself. The intent of this article is to look at what the Bible has to say about the rapture.

What Is the Rapture?

Rapture is not a word that is found in Scripture. But it is used to describe a very biblical doctrine; the return of Christ and the gathering up of his elect. This doctrine is central to the hope that we have as believers.

There are many scenarios of the end times that have been drawn from Jesus’ Revelation to John. But I do not find that there are any unambiguous references to the rapture contained in Revelation. Much of how one interprets Revelation is based upon their eschatological perspective. So, for that reason, I have chosen not to include anything from Revelation in this discussion. But there are three passages in the New Testament that do provide us with explicit information about this event.

Matthew 24:30-31 is a portion of Jesus’ teaching about his return. In this passage he says that all the peoples of the earth will see him coming in the clouds. And that with a trumpet call, he will send his angels to gather his elect from throughout the earth.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul defends the future resurrection of believers. And in verses 50-55 he describes what that will be like. It will happen in a moment, at the last trumpet. When the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, and the living believers will be changed.

The third passage is also from Paul and is in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In this passage Paul is seeking to encourage the believers in Thessalonica concerning some of their members who had died. He assures them that the Lord will return from heaven, along with a trumpet call. And when that happens, the dead in Christ will be raised, and those still alive will be caught up together with them.

These three passages do not share all the same details. But they do have enough in common to point to a common event. They affirm that Christ will return visibly for all to see and the last trumpet points to this event being at the end. It will involve the resurrection of believers who have died and the transformation of those who are still living at his return.

When Is the Rapture?

When will this second coming of Christ and our being gathered to him occur? The best answer we can give with any certainty is that it will be at the end of this age. In Matthew 24:3 Jesus’ disciples ask about Jesus coming and the end of the age. Jesus’ response to their question culminates with the passage mentioned above with Jesus’ return and our being gathered to him.

But exactly when “the end of the age” will be is a big unknown. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus tells his disciples that no one, other than the Father, knows when that end will occur. Not even the angels in heaven, or even the Son. And, in Acts 1:7, in response to his disciple’s question about the establishment of the kingdom, Jesus says that it is not for them to know the when. The end will come in the Father’s time, and he has not chosen to share that with us.

Another passage that deals with the when of the rapture is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. In this passage Paul cautions the Thessalonian believers not to become concerned that the Lord’s return and our being gathered had already occurred. He assured them that it will not come before a great apostasy first takes place and the antichrist is revealed.

But, while we may not know when the rapture will occur, it should not take us by surprise. In Matthew 24:42-51 Jesus tells us to keep prepared for his coming. While we do not know the when of the event, we should expect it at any time. 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8, Paul expresses that the Lord’s return will be like a thief in the night. But we are not in darkness, so that day should not be a surprise to us. So always be ready, living in the light, and wearing the hope of salvation as a helmet.

What Will Happen at the Rapture?

When the rapture does occur, what will happen? In Matthew 24, Jesus simply tells us that we will be gathered by his angels. But Paul’s writing gives us a little more detail. Both 1 Corinthians 15:52 and Thessalonians 4:16-17 tell us that the rapture is not just of those who are living at the time, but that those believers who have already died will be resurrected and together we will meet our Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 15:45-54, Paul gives us some additional information about this rapture. When the Lord returns for us, we will be changed. The bodies we have now are not suitable for an eternal existence in the presence of God. This perishable and mortal body will be changed into one that is imperishable and immortal. Just what it will look like though is unknown. Earlier in this fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul expressed that what is sown often bears little resemblance to what is raised. So it will likely be with our bodies. At the resurrection/rapture our bodies will go through a radical transformation and may or may not resemble what they do now.

There are some who would propose that at the resurrection we will be purely spiritual beings, like God. But Scripture tells us that we will have a body – a body that will be like Christ’s. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 Paul contrasts the body we have now with the one that we will have. That coming body will be imperishable, immortal, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. Identifying it as a spiritual body lends support to a resurrection that is spiritual in nature. But note that it is a spiritual body, not a spirit. And we will bear the image of the heavenly man, Christ. What our bodies will be like is unknown. But we can be certain that we will have bodies.

A Difference in Timing

No discussion of the rapture would be complete without pointing out that there is a relatively recent school of thought that separates the rapture and the visible return of Christ by a seven-year tribulational period. As an amillennialist, this is not something I agree with. But apart from that there is agreement among the different eschatological views concerning the rapture; the gathering of believers at the end of the age.

So, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Because of the hope we have, we should let nothing move us from serving our Lord. Know that our service will not be in vain.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/YoriHirokawa


Ed Jarrett is a long-time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of three. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.