Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Surface of Life



Living in the shallows, you miss out on the rich, calmer depths.  The shallows can mean the edge of the ocean with its crashing waves in the surf.  Standing in the surf, with foamy waves curling around your ankles, you're pulled to and fro, never able to remain steady.  It's exhausting.

A bit further from shore, past the waves, you find the surface of the water is calmer.  The depths give it a stability - and there is a richness to life below the surface of the sea.

In Sarah Young's Jesus Calling, she writes, "If you live on the surface of life by focusing on ever-changing phenomena, you will find yourself echoing the words of Solomon: 'Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!'"

If you live on the surface of life, you also miss out on the amazing depths of Almighty God.  I often think how learning about God - from His Word and from nature and from experience and from His Holy Spirit -- all of these adventures with Him are offered in layers. 

There's the layers that are on the surface of the water that we might liken to an iceberg.  Many people are content to learn what is easily seen, without delving below the surface.  Yet, it is a proven fact that an iceberg has far more bulk below the surface of the water than above.  It's even more true of the depths of God and His Word.  We can discover layer upon layer of truth when we dive into the depths.  Another bit of wisdom from Sarah Young's book says, "What you know of the world you inhabit is only the tip of the iceberg. Submerged beneath the surface of the visible world are mysteries too vast for you to comprehend."  Although we can never, ever figure out everything, just discovering new truths and depths are exciting and infinitely worthwhile.

Of course, we can never plumb the depths of God and his Word, but oh, what joy and adventure it is to spend your life going deeper and deeper with Him. 

May this new year of 2016 be the year you and I plumb the depths like never before. Let us dive past the crashing breakers and into the calmer depths of God's glory.  May we grow nearer and nearer to our precious Creator, Father, Savior and King.  The journey will be worth it all.  God bless your new year that is filled with possibilities.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sisters of the Soul


We ordinary women got together to praise our extraordinary God and to meet sisters of the soul who shared their stories in my recent book, Ordinary Women -- Extraordinary God.  I called it a Book Reception for lack of a better name, but it was primarily to let these lovely ladies meet one another,  receive their copy of the new book, and let me thank them for being a part of this.  I was pleased to see these gals getting to know one another.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity God has given us to share our stories and we're all praying that they will be used to encourage other women as well.

For those who have read the book and wish to put a face to the stories, here are the women pictured:  front row, Kyla, Cindy, me - Sandra, Eleanor; back row, Sandy, Holly (my daughter who is mentioned in a story), Mary, Gretchen, Peggy (one of my encouraging readers), Lora, and Judy.

I gave each gal a ruby red slipper bookmark along with their book and shared a quote from the Wizard of Oz that was told to Dorothy and I now told it to them:  "You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”  Then I told them, "That Power is the Holy Spirit Himself, working in you and through you to do great things for His glory.  Keep on keeping on – and -- Praise God from whom all blessings flow!"




Monday, November 16, 2015

"Ordinary Women - Extraordinary God"


Ordinary Women -- Extraordinary God


I started this book a little over two years ago.  It was a thought planted into my head by the Lord, I'm sure, because during these two years, I've stopped and started up again on the writing - always feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit when to move forward.  It's truly been a labor of love.  I also believe God chose the 12 women who shared their stories with us and that He will use what He's done in their lives to encourage His children and to glorify His matchless name.  Here's the blurb on the back cover of the book:
 
What do we do when life throws us a curve? How do we react? Does our view of God change? What is the secret to surviving crushing loss or sorrowful circumstances and still praising God?  This book contains stories of 14 ordinary women (and one ordinary man) who have gone through various degrees of difficulty or tragedy. These women have come through their trial (or in some cases, are still going through the trial) with a prayer on their lips and praise to our extraordinary God in their hearts.
 
Along with these present-day sisters in Christ, there are enlightening stories from a few Biblical sisters in the faith.  There are also messages from God’s word on such topics as fear, tears, His all-sufficient grace, and beauty from ashes.
 
Read the stories of ordinary women like you and me.  You’ll cry over their pain and loss, laugh at their humorous tidbits, rejoice in their victories and, hopefully, whisper a prayer for those who are still going through the floodwaters.
 
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord…” Habakkuk 3:18
 
The book is available in print and ebook through Amazon.  I've tried to price it to be affordable to readers so that God's message will spread.  All praise to King Jesus!
 
 


Friday, November 13, 2015

Flowers & Fruit

 
     Beautiful, giant hydrangeas in soft pink and pale green/pink were in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
     Larry always asks why I take so many flower and fruit pictures.  The answer - because they are so pretty - it's that simple.  I hope you enjoy this lovely bouquet of flowers and fruit from around the world as seen on our recent trip to Europe. 
 
Morning Glories cling to an ancient wall in Lisbon, Portugal
 
 
Two views of delicate pink flowers blooming on a tree just outside
the ancient stone wall of the Alcazar in Seville, Spain
 
 
 
Both the pomegranate and the grapefruit were growing
on trees just below the stone wall of the
Castle of St. George in Lisbon, Portugal
 
 
A single tulip stands at attention in a flower market in
Amsterdam, Netherlands
 
"For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all of the nations" Isaiah 61:11.
 
 
 

 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Glimpse of Seville, Spain


SEVILLE, SPAIN
 
One of our port calls in October, was Huelva, Spain, the same port where Christopher Columbus sailed his three ships in 1492 on his way to America.  We took a private excursion (18 people) to Seville, about an hour bus ride away.  It was a warm, sunny day and we enjoyed seeing all the beautiful old and exotic architecture in the city of Seville.  Flowers, gorgeous tile work and Moorish designs were all exquisite.
 

On our walking tour through the old city, we saw this ornate black, iron cross above a fountain in a plaza.  It reminds me of a verse in 1 Corinthians 1:18:  "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."  And what power it holds!!

One of our main stops was the ancient Alcazar, a Moorish style palace built in the 14th century.  You can see from the elaborate archway above that it is intricately carved.  We walked through room after room after room, and archway after archway of amazingly beautiful design.  I was oohing and aahing through the whole building.  As far as I'm concerned, it's every bit as beautiful as the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Our last stop was the grand cathedral in Seville, a gothic 15th century masterpiece, it's the 3rd largest church in the world.  Since we've also visited the 1st largest - St. Peter's in Rome, and the 2nd largest, St. Paul's in London, we were surprised this was only 3rd.  It seemed bigger than the other two to us.  It's really huge inside - it just kept going and going.  Ole Chris himself is buried in an elaborate tomb inside (he died in 1506).

This stained glass window inside the cathedral is not only lovely, but offers a wonderful reminder to us of the amazing day of Pentecost that occurred shortly after Jesus ascended back up to heaven.  He promised He'd send the Holy Spirit to His followers and that's just what He did on that momentous day.  It was a unique day in the history of the world.

Acts 2:2 says, "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them."

WoW!  How exciting would that be!!  Although the Holy Spirit had visited various people in the Old Testament era, it had never been a permanent filling as it was on that day.  From that day forward, each of us who are born again, are immediately -- and permanently -- filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and He has promised never to leave us.  "Lo, I am with you always..." Matthew 28:20.

Although we tend to take it for granted, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a huge -- and I might add -- supernatural wonder that is the biggest blessing God gives us on this earth.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" Romans 15:13.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we neared the shoreline of the Netherlands (my husband Larry and I had flown through the night).  We soon landed in Amsterdam and took the train to city central and then walked a couple blocks to our Singel Hotel along the Singel canal.

Amsterdam was very much as we'd envisioned from pictures, but there's always something different about actually being there and experiencing the sights and sounds and "feel" of a place.  Although we'd heard there were many, many bikes whizzing around the city, we were still amazed by how extraordinarily many there were.  We had to be very vigilant not to get hit by a biker as we walked from place to place, not only that, but bikes are parked in every possible space.

Tall, skinny houses with ornate roof-lines were everywhere -- so picturesque -- and canals were almost as plentiful.  We read that there are 1500 bridges in Amsterdam, which is helpful when you need to cross to the other side of so many canals.  It all makes for a unique and charming city.  We visited the Rijksmuseum of art, the Anne Frank House, and the Royal Palace, as well as doing a considerable amount of walking.


It was rainy and chilly during most of our three days in Amsterdam, but we enjoyed our visit and found bright spots, such as these bright and cheery sunflowers at a flower market.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to experience some of the wonders of Europe -- and we are always thankful to return to our dear homeland of America.



Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beautiful Butterfly Brings Joy

It's time for some joyful thoughts.  Seeing a beautiful butterfly sitting on an equally beautiful flower -- now that's something that brings a smile to my face.  This lovely little guy (or maybe it's a gal, who knows?) was busy around the butterfly bush in my backyard when I managed to snap a pic of him.  He wasn't still for long, constantly flitting from one flower to the next, busy about the work God created him to do. 

What amazing color and design and delicate detail God fashioned in this unique butterfly.

When God was speaking to Job, He made it plain to him that all of nature is well-aware of who their Creator is and of all His glory -- and they thereby glorify Him with their very being.  Not only that, but they offer messages to us of the Creator, as evidenced by God saying that "they will teach you."  Note God's words to Job and to us  "But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?" Job 12:7-10.

We have much we can learn from this little butterfly.  Have you ever heard a sound from a butterfly?  Yet, in his silence, he speaks loudly of his Creator.  If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we will discover God's messages to us through His creation.  As the Psalmist said, "On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wondrous works I will meditate" 145:5.  Meditating, being still before our mighty Father, these are usually prerequisites to seeing and hearing His messages to us.  What a delight to discover a personal message from the Almighty Himself!

Oh, what an extravagant, generous, loving Father we have!  "He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts..." Ecclesiastes 3:11.  Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!





Saturday, September 26, 2015

Photo "Painting"


   Here is a tranquil beach scene that looks exactly like a painting, but it's actually a photo I took during our stay at the Outer Banks.  As I stood on the beach, I zoomed in on this distant colorful umbrella and snapped the picture.  It looks so much like a painting you can almost see the brush strokes.  In fact, it looks more like a painting than a picture, which I think is really interesting.  I may even use it for a book cover for an upcoming book I have in the pipeline.

   Although I'm really thrilled with the way this picture turned out, I just can't miss the chance of using it as an example of a thing looking like something it is not. 

   Two of my recent posts referred to Satan's tactics to deceive us and that's what we are reminded of with this painting/picture.  We've been doing an Andy Stanley study, "Twisting the Truth," in our Sunday School class.  It's subtitled, "Learning to discern in a culture of deception."  And isn't that what the dark forces are trying to do in our lives daily -- twist the truth.  Notice, the word "truth" is still there -- and there is truth in what we see around us, but you can count on the truth being twisted ever so subtly in many cases, and downright blatantly in other cases.

   Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15:  "Beware of false prophets who come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves."  There again, we have a thing looking like something it is not.  It looks like a mild sheep, but is inwardly a hungry wolf.  We could use that simile to describe a false prophet -- or, sad to say, even a friend who might be tempting you to go in a direction you know you should not.  How many times in life do we see examples of the old phrase, "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"

   Paul tells his young friend Timothy to be careful who he trusts, saying, "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power, avoid such people!" 2 Timothy 3:5.

   The key to being able to discern rightly is being close to the One who knows what is real and what is not real.  A right relationship with the Lord will help keep you centered in the truth.  Our good friend Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them, "But test everything; hold fast to what is good" 5:21. 

   Enjoying a picture that looks like a painting is fun, but making a decision or accepting a thing that looks like something it is not can be dangerous.  We all desperately need to "learn how to discern in a culture of deception."



  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

By The Sea

The first week of September we enjoyed a vacation at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The first few days, the ocean was calm and warm.  Notice how few waves are in the photo I took.  It was lovely to wade on a long sandbar and relax in the soothing water.  Although we were not on a ship, I did think of the words of the Psalmist because we too saw the wonder of the Lord as we gazed across the great expanse of Atlantic Ocean in front of us:

"Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business
 on great waters, they see the works of the Lord, and
 His wonders in the deep" Psalm 107:23-24

 
Around the middle of the week, the water got rougher, as you can see in this photo.  Red flags went up and swimming was no longer allowed, although surfers were out enjoying the bigger waves.  It was pretty to see the white ruffles of waves following one another to the shoreline, ending in a wide froth of foam.
 
"Thus says the Lord, who makes a way through the sea
 and a path through the mighty waters" Isaiah 43:16
 
 
The Saturday we were going to leave and go home, the ocean was very rough, what I call "boiling."  Wave after powerful wave crashed along the sandy shoreline.  It was beautiful!  Surfers were out in force, but even they had difficulty battling the strong pull of the water.  And to think -- God holds all of that mighty force in the palm of His hand as if it were no more than a droplet of water.  He is awesome!!
 
"'Do you not fear Me?' says the Lord. 'Will you not tremble at
 My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea,
 by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it?  And
 though its waves toss to and fro, yet they cannot prevail; though
 they roar, yet they cannot pass over it'" Jeremiah 5:22
 
 
I thought these three little kids looked cute as they sat just above the waterline in their life vests, watching the amazing power of the ocean pounding at their feet.  It was a very good thing that God only allowed the waves to go so far and no further.  Though they roared, they could not reach the children.  Praise God for His protection!
 
"The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and
His hands formed the dry land" Psalm 95:5
 
 






Friday, September 11, 2015

A Tribute to the Memory of 9/11

 
A Tribute to the Memory of the 9/11 Tragedy
"Meet Me in The Stairwell
by Stacey Randall
 
You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11th, 2001.  Neither will I.
I was on the 110th floor in a smoke-filled room with a man who called his wife to say “good-bye.”  I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, “Honey, I am not going to make it, but it is OK.  I am ready to go.”  I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.  I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn’t coming home that night.
 
I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to Me for help.  “I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!” I said.  “Of course I will show you the way home; only believe in Me now.”
 

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.  I was with the crew as they were overtaken.  I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faith has saved them.

I was in Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan and Afghanistan.  I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.  Did you sense Me?  I want you to know that I saw every face.  I knew every name – though not all know Me.  Some met Me for the first time on the 86th floor.  Some sought Me with their last breath.  Some couldn’t hear Me calling to them through the smoke and flames;  “Come to Me…this way…take My hand.”  Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.  But I was there.

I did not place you in the Tower that day.  You may not know why, but I do.  However, if you’d been were there in that explosive moment in time, would you have reached for Me?

September 11th, 2001, was not the end of the journey for you.  But someday your journey will end.  I will be there for you as well.  Seek Me now while I may be found.  Then, at any moment, you know you are “ready to go.”  I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.               Love, the LORD
 
When I read this piece in our church newsletter, I wept the whole time I was reading.  I weep for the sorrow and the loss and the horror of it all, but also for the fact that God was there with every soul going through the crucible.  Knowing how Jesus wept after the death of his friend Lazarus, I can only imagine that the Lord felt great sorrow for all His creation was having to endure as a result of the work of the evil one, Satan. 
Praise God, the day will come when Satan is the one in the flames and we can at last be free from his influence.  Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.


-Photos:  these two photos came from the 9/11 Museum in NYC

 
 
 

 


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Know the Truth

This photo depicts a person who is chained -- a captive -- a person who is enslaved.  No one chooses to be a captive -- or, do they?

Verses in 2 Timothy 3 describe how men and women will behave in the last days - things like being "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, unholy..." and a host of other ungodly traits.  Then, it goes on to say, "For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Here we have a picture of captive women who fail to learn and know the truth, fail to make truth part of who they are.

On the other hand, Jesus tells us, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" John 8:32.  What does it mean to "know" the truth?  Well, it doesn't say that you shall "hear" the truth and it will make you free, nor does it say you shall "read" the truth and it will make you free.  Rather, Jesus specifically says that you shall "know" the truth and it will make you free.  What does it mean to "know" a thing?

The definition of KNOW is:  to perceive or understand clearly and with certainty.  In scripture, the word is sometimes used to describe an intimate physical act between man and woman.  In other words, to "know" a thing as Jesus describes produces a deep, intimate belief and understanding that is powerful and life-changing.  It's not just head knowledge, but seeps into being heart knowledge.

Knowing the truth will make you free.  Free from what?  Free from whatever lie Satan has been feeding you to keep you chained to him.  Satan is the father of lies and he is a master of persuasion and perversion.  What sort of lies has Satan (or more likely, his minions) been feeding you?  The list of lies he spreads could fill a library of books.

So, what is this truth that will make you free?  The truth is simple -- Jesus loves you.  It's so simple that the well-known children's song is sung by children all over the world.  "Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so...."  Notice, that even children can "know" that Jesus loves them. 

Knowing the truth will make you free indeed.  I choose freedom.


Photo notationI took the photo of a statue of a woman chained to a stake on the Island of Bermuda.  The statue represents Sally Bassett, a slave who was convicted of murder in June 1730.  She was tried on "suspicion of poisoning several persons."  Although Sally maintained her innocence, she was still burned at the stake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Evil One Scores Again

I think I may have used this photo before, but it seems like the most telling to use for this post.  The subject captured in this marble statue is the ugly head and clinging fingertips of a demon.  Although we can't actually see these evil creatures in the world around us, they are there and they are actively seeking to harm us.  This particular demon appears to be sticking his tongue out as he gazes up to heaven -- perhaps, audaciously taunting the Almighty with the attitude of, "Nanni-nanni-boo-boo, the evil one scores again!"

We've seen in the news this week about a dating website (which I will leave unnamed) whose long list of members' information has been stolen by hackers.  This is no ordinary dating website.  When I saw the logo for the site that is shown on the newscasts, I was shocked and appalled.  My first thought was, "This is an obvious work of the devil!" 

Many of you have already seen this in the news, but for those who haven't, I will describe the picture displayed on their homepage:  it shows the lower half of a woman's face with a finger to her lips as she whispers, "Shhh!"  Below the picture are the words, "Life is short, have an affair."  When I saw that picture and those words on the newscast, I felt a shiver down my back.  To me, it was as if the face of a demon was overlaid across the picture and Satan was whispering those words to the weak, foolish men and women who would take advantage of such an offer. 

The whole idea of the website is so Satan-inspired, I'm amazed that so many people fell for his ploy.  But then, I shouldn't be.  Haven't people fallen for his lies since Eve plucked that fruit from the tree?  It seems that no matter how blatant are his efforts, he always finds suckers who will follow the pied-piper right over the cliff to destruction.  As Jesus so plainly told us about Satan, "...there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" John 8:44.

The brouhaha that has arisen from supposedly secret information getting into the wrong hands reveals a lot of shame, hurt, destruction and even death that results from following the path of the evil ones.  A verse in Numbers 32 reminds us, "...take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out."

Life is indeed short -- that much is true, but twisting the truth is one of Satan's great skills.  Having an affair because life is short is as far from the truth as Satan's goal is from God's goal.  Even Christians have fallen into this trap.  We should all take note of Paul's letter to the Ephesians and practice his admonition to:  "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."  Life is short -- live it to the fullest in the light of God's grace as you follow His sweet path.

Photo notation:  I took this picture in the garden of a museum-mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.  There were four demon head/torsos clinging to a fountain -- which I thought was a rather strange choice of subjects.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Walking in another's Moccasins


All my life I've heard the old saying about not judging another person until you've walked a mile in their shoes.  It's taken me many decades to realize the truth of that wise saying.  I also recently learned the true origin of that old saying.  It comes from a poem by Mary T. Lathrap, "Judge Softly," written way back in 1895.  Here's one of the verses of that poem:

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
 
 It's so true!  It goes along with the Bible verse, "Judge not that you be not judged," Matthew 7:1, but also has a connotation beyond that of simply judging a person's behavior.  I've been struck by not realizing how I'm going to feel about a situation until it happens, and when it does, I'm sometimes stunned by my reaction to the happening.  I may have imagined a totally different reaction before the situation actually happened.  Have you ever done that?

The truth of that kind of goes along with not judging the behavior of another person.  For instance, a friend might lose a spouse and three months later the person is still grieving.  We might think it's time to get a grip and move on, but until we've been through that same loss, we can't know what it's going to feel like.  We might imagine what it feels like, but could be totally stunned at the feelings we might experience should such a loss befall us.

So -- just as Mary Lathrap entitled her poem, we should "judge softly" when we observe other people and their reactions to events.  Perhaps we should be more liberal with our patience and sympathy -- and attempt more understanding when people don't respond to a situation as we expect they should.  You never know, the next time, the moccasin (or shoe) might be on the other foot.



-Photo:  I took the picture of these beautiful, beaded Indian moccasins in a museum in Medora, ND.

 


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Butterflies and Purpose

Butterflies

This morning, I zoomed in on this elegant butterfly delicately perched on a blossom of a butterfly bush in my garden.  I was sitting there knowing I needed and wanted to spend time with God, while also feeling the "call" of the many tasks I felt I needed to accomplish today.  The sight of a butterfly always challenges and reminds me that taking time out of a busy schedule to spend with God is the most important part of our day.

It's the short poem by Rabindranath Tagore that always reminds me of that truth:  "The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough."  There's a profound message in that short statement as well as in that short life.  The average lifespan for an adult butterfly is 20 to 40 days -- that's slightly over 4,000 minutes to perform its entire life purpose -- yet, it is "time enough."

God has a life purpose for each of us and even before we were born, He allotted the time for each of us to accomplish that purpose.  Psalm 139:16 tells us, "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  So -- God's Word is basically telling us that we have time enough to complete the purpose He created you and me for.  I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is - what is the purpose for which God created me?  Do most of my days head down the path of accomplishing God's purposes, or do I tend to digress and spend much or most of my time working on my own purposes?

So - how do we find our purpose?  The Westminster catechism tells us that the chief purpose of man is to glorify God - and that is what our entire world and its surrounding universe was created to do -- to glorify God.  With that in mind, how should we go about our days?  Moses asked God to "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom," Psalm 90:12.  Moses also knew how much He needed God's leading and presence and wisdom to help him handle the huge responsibilities he had leading the children of Israel.  He said to God, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here," Exodus 33:15.  I love that!

In all the many activities and tasks that we do each day, we need to always seek to glorify God and to seek Him - to deepen our personal relationship with Him.  That is the key - an intimate, personal relationship with the God of the universe, our holy Father -- that is our primary purpose, because the closer we draw to Him and learn of Him, the more we will end up delighting in Him and glorifying Him and fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.  We must "Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10, and "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" Matthew 6:33 KJV.

We might say that Jesus lived a short life since his journey on earth lasted only 33 years, but according to God's purpose - He lived the perfect amount of time.  He finished the work He was brought on earth to do and He said, "I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do" John 17:4.  Ah, to be able to say those words when our time is up on this earth.

Like the butterfly, we are beautiful creations with a purpose.  Let's live that purpose for Him and we too will have time enough.  "...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" Philippians 1:6.




Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jurassic World


Jurassic World

I don't give many movie reviews, partly because I don't go to many movies in the theater.  I was excited, however, to go to the first showing on Friday afternoon of the newest Jurassic Park installment.  It was great!  I really enjoyed it and was not in the least disappointed - as I had been with the second and third Jurassic movies.  Here's how it goes:

Before there was ever even a Jurassic Park movie, I read the book by Michael Crichton and loved it.  It was a unique book and quite exciting - the kind that it's hard to put down.  So, when the movie opened in 1993, I was there the afternoon of the first showing and I loved it!  I've seen it several times since then and always enjoy it.

The second installment in 1997, Lost World, was so bad, I only saw it once and was thoroughly disappointed -- even though I like Jeff Goldblum.  Jurassic Park III in 2001 was somewhat better than two, but still not up to par with the first.  Well, now, the first one has a partner.  Jurassic World is right up there and possibly even as good as the first one.

I love the fact that "The park is open" and all these people are visiting the island and enjoying the dinosaurs when, of course, something goes wrong and things start happening.  It's very exciting and I do a lot of jumping in my seat and getting tensed.  There's also several really good bits of dry humor that made me laugh out loud.  The lead characters do a great job.  Blythe Dallas Howard who plays Claire is absolutely beautiful and does a nice job with her character. And Chris Pratt is perfect for the role of the macho man.

I'm so pleased to at last see a really good Park movie to bookend the first.  I look forward to seeing it again on DVD in a few months.  If you liked the first, you'll enjoy this one too.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mort Kunstler, artist

Mort Kunstler, artist
Since I was in Winchester for an article, I was part of the media invited to the opening of an art exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.  It actually opened the next day, but we got a special preview (I felt so honored!).  Mort Kunstler himself was there and he spoke to us for an hour, sharing stories of various paintings that are on display.  There are four large rooms filled with a great variety of Mort's artwork.  At age 84 years, he is still painting and still doing well.  I really enjoyed hearing him tell stories about his work.  He said, "It's been a wonderful life - a dream come true.  Do what you love and get paid for it."  He and the museum staff were all so gracious and I so enjoyed my visit to the whole museum.

This painting, entitled "Respect of an Army, Appomattox Court House," was done this year.  He had intended for it to be his last Civil War painting (he's done hundreds of them), but then he did one more since then.  Now, he says he thinks he's finished doing the Civil War.  Mort tries to be as accurate as possible in presenting a scene.  He even put puddles of rainwater in the foreground because it had rained the night before the surrender on April 9, 1865.  Now, that's what I call meticulous!
Mort told how it came about that he illustrated the cover of MAD magazine in 1976.  The magazine asked if he would do a cover and he said, "No way.:  When his daughter heard about it, she said it would be so cool if he did one, so he called back and said he would.  He signed with the pen name "Mutz," because at the time, he wasn't so sure he wanted to claim it.  I think he later changed his mind when he saw how popular the magazine became.

After our tour through the museum, we walked through the adjacent garden and saw these beautiful tulips, along with other very nice plantings and a historic house.  It was a beautiful, warm May day and we enjoyed seeing God's beautiful creations.  Time to go home!
 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

More Winchester

More Winchester
This is one of the handsome, historic houses in downtown, right on the Mall walking area.  It's no longer a private residence, but just knowing it was around during the Civil War shows it has seen a lot of action and makes it special.  It's built from blocks of limestone, as are numerous houses around town.

Since I was in Winchester to get background for an article for a magazine I occasionally write for, I had a full schedule provided by the very nice Downtown Manager, Jennifer.  In the photo above, I'm peeking from a slanted window that's part of a quirky building at the children's Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum.  It's a great place for kids to spend a couple hours having fun and learning in the process.  It has three floors packed with hands-on activities.  Even the parents will enjoy the visit.
We popped into George Washington's Office Museum and learned a lot about his early years spent in Winchester as Commander of the Militia and his part in helping build nearby Fort Loudoun.  This was his office from Sept 1755 to Dec 1756. Even though the museum is small, it's packed with interesting historical facts and artifacts as well.  There's even a few strands of George's very own hair that was cut in March 1797.  I learned a lot and enjoyed my visit.

Next, we had big burgers and crispy fries at the 50/50 Tap House Restaurant, courtesy of the oh-so friendly owner Jason.  He just opened his spacious restaurant a few months ago and its doing very well.  He's obviously worked very hard and its so nice to see his efforts being rewarded.  They have a whopping 50 different kinds of hamburgers to choose from - and the meat is ground fresh daily using short ribs, brisket, and chuck.  Makes your mouth water, doesn't it!

Our next stop was Bright Box Theater, where we joined about 60 or so in the audience to listen to the bluegrass music of a group called Springfield Exit.  They could really tickle those strings - and the lead fellow had a good voice too.  It was a casual evening in what might be called an intimate space.  They had us tapping our feet and clapping our hands during their performance.  It was good entertainment.


My last stop of the day was to take a Ghost Walk with Jean and J.P. of Ghost Tours of Old Town Winchester.  They were kind enough to give me a private tour, complete with history of the town and stories of various "spirits."  Although we started in the light (at 8:15pm), it got dark quickly and by the time we got to the Civil War cemetery, it was totally dark.  I don't get spooked easily, since as a Christian, I know God is stronger than anything and He will protect me - so no spirits bothered me, but it was interesting learning about the local "haunts."  We walked around town and Jean regaled me with many stories.  She and J.P. were very kind and I enjoyed getting to know them.


Last, but not least, is the wonderful hotel we were treated to.  The George Washington Hotel is right downtown, which makes it super-convenient.  The top photo shows the original outer façade of the hotel that has now been brought indoors and the second photo is the elegant Grecian pool at the hotel.  The hotel was opened in 1924 and was very popular for about 50 years and then had to close.  It became a Home for mentally challenged adults for 18 years and then sat empty and desolate for 11 more years.  Then, a local couple bought it for $650,000 and began renovation.  It's not likely they imagined that it would cost $30 million to bring it up to its present elegant stature.  It opened in 2008 and its doing very well.  There are numerous original elements in the building and lots of interesting memorabilia scattered about.  The rooms are comfortable and elegant.  We were so pleased with our stay there.  Its warm and friendly and I'd stay there again in a heartbeat.

"Thank you, Lord, for these wonderful opportunities and for all the nice people we met along the way."  God is so good!!





Saturday, May 9, 2015

Winchester

Winchester, Virginia
The first photo looks down the pedestrian mall in the center of old town.  Winchester is a most charming town and almost everything you'd want to see or do is within walking distance.  The town was founded in 1744.  The mall area above is two blocks long and is lined with historic buildings of many styles and eras.  There are shops and restaurants, museums and musical theater - and also a fun splash pad for kids (along with free public bathrooms).  If this all sounds like a tourist ad -- well, it sorta is, because I'd highly recommend a visit of several days to this beautiful town!

Right in the center of the mall area is the Old Court House Civil War Museum -- a very stately looking building and handy to pop in for a tour.  Winchester is a mecca for Civil War buffs.  I was told that during the Civil War, the town changed hands between the north and south over 70 times!  That has got to be a record!

Here's the kid's splash pad I mentioned.  It's free and fun.  If you forget a towel, the General Store across the mall always has a supply on hand.  By the way, Larry took these three pictures above and he did a good job too.

This is a handsome, aristocratic looking building.  It looks like it would be a university or some other very important building.  It's actually the Handley High School in Winchester.  Do you think the kids who go there appreciate how beautiful and special it is??  It seems John Handley donated a goodly sum of money to the town back in the 1800s and the money was used to build a beautiful, ornate library -- and this amazing high school.  It is actually the only privately-funded high school in the entire country. 
Pretty cool, huh!