Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jonah and the Great Fish

Here are pictures I took of some of the beautiful stained glass inside the Main Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  It was not surprising that the various windows highlight stories from the Bible having to do with the Sea.  Both Jonah and Noah's stories are pictured in several windows each. 

Those familiar with the story of Jonah will remember that God told his prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to them, warning of the need to repent or that they would be destroyed in forty days.  Jonah hated the people of Nineveh, as did all of Israel.  The Ninevites were well-known for their extreme brutality toward their enemy.  They never showed an ounce of mercy, why should Jonah be the instrument to extend God's mercy toward these wicked people?

Instead of heading out toward the city in obedience to God, Jonah foolishly thought he might be able to run from God.  So, he bought a ticket for a far-away city, boarded the ship, went below and fell asleep.  A bit later, a violent storm nearly tore the ship to pieces.  It was discovered that Jonah was to blame and the window above illustrates Jonah being tossed overboard.  As soon as he went over, the storm immediately stopped.  At that moment, a great fish swam by with his mouth open and Jonah was swallowed into his stomach.  Miraculously, God had prepared this very fish for this very moment - and He was totally in control.

After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, and quite a bit of praying and repenting within that dark, smelly interior, God caused this great fish to swim up to the shore and vomit Jonah onto dry land.  After he washed his smelly self up, Jonah started walking toward Nineveh (a very long walk!).  This time, there was no arguing.  Jonah was still not happy about his mission, but he was not going to botch this assignment a second time -- he might not live through it.

  And so, as soon as he reached the gates of the city of his enemy, he began to preach about God and repentance.  The really, really amazing thing is that almost immediately, everyone in the city repented and turned to God.  They even put on sackcloth and sat in ashes to show their sorrow -- even the king and queen.  It was probably the greatest revival in history.  How exciting and wonderful!
   Except - Jonah was not happy.  In fact, he was very angry.  To make a long story shorter, he whined and complained, and finally God let him know his anger was misplaced and he'd better get an attitude check.

This story tells us at least a couple of obvious things:  First, God's mercy is shown in a big way.  It's a beautiful story of mercy and grace, not only to the people of Nineveh, but also to Jonah (that God didn't just zap him).  It also shows us how God sometimes uses imperfect and reluctant persons to accomplish His plans and -- that His plans will come to pass.

I'm so thankful for God's mercy and grace - and for His willingness to use we who are flawed vessels to show His great glory.  Praise God!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sacramento State Capitol

Sacramento, California
State Capitol

State Seal - featuring a bear, a miner, shipping, and a Greek woman

Larry admires the marble statue of Columbus and Queen Isabella

We recently enjoyed a trip to California and Nevada that included visits to their state capitols.  We like to check out state capitols on our travels.  The fine building in Sacramento was built in 1822, and has room after room decorated with beautiful features.

This statue Larry is looking at has an interesting engraving near its base.  In this tableau, Christopher Columbus appears to be seeking funds to finance his great adventure across the wide oceans. Queen Isabella of Spain, agrees to fund the venture, saying, "I will assume the undertaking for my own Crown of Castile, and am ready to pawn my jewels to defray the expenses of it, if the funds in the treasury shall be found inadequate."  I was impressed by her willingness to sacrifice for what she believed in.

It made me think about we as Christians - are we willing to sacrifice for what we believe in?  When God places a burden on our hearts, or an opportunity at our feet, what do we do?  Do we give it our all for Christ, or consider the cost too high and let the opportunity pass?

I don't imagine Queen Isabella ever realized what a great deed was done that day when she put her all on the line for a simple sea captain to make a long and dangerous voyage to an unknown land.  Only eternity will reveal the extent of the outcome of our actions.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Thankful American


    I am so thankful to be a citizen of this great United States of America.  While our country is far from perfect, we have been a bastion of freedom, prosperity and hope in a world full of struggle.  I love our flag with its red and white stripes and fifty little stars on a field of blue in one corner.  Each time I see it, I feel a wave of patriotism at what it stands for and how thankful I am to be part of it.

    This grouping of flags was on display in front of the capital in Sacramento, California during a special tribute at the California Peace Officers' Memorial.  The flags stood crisply at attention as those officers who'd been slain, as well as those who still faithfully risk their lives to protect others, were honored.

   Our American flag is often used at times when people are being honored - from those quiet, somber moments at a graveside when a folded flag is offered to the family in honor of a loved one, to those exciting, happy times just before a baseball game when the Star Spangled Banner is sung and thousands of attendees gaze at our beautiful flag snapping in the breeze.

   Happy Birthday to our beloved country -- the home of the brave and the land of the free!  God bless America!