Saturday, December 23, 2023

Celebrating Our Lord


"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name
shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,"
Isaiah 9:6

"...when the fullness of the time was come, 
God sent forth His Son..." Galatians 4:4

Praise God from who all blessings flow and praise our precious Savior.  We celebrate Your birth, Your love, and Your amazing sacrifice!  Thank You for saving me and for keeping me!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Italy and Turkey Ports


A QUICK GLIMPSE OF Italy and Turkey Ports

           On October 13, my sister Ava and I left for a two-week trip around the Mediterranean.  After leaving NYC in the evening, flying across the Atlantic and riding an hour to Civitavecchia, Italy, here we are enjoying our first meal in the land of pizza.  It was yummy!  Here is a brief glimpse of our stops in Naples, Ephesus and Bodrum Turkey.

       The next day, we boarded the Odyssey of the Sea for a 12-night cruise (with 8 ports) and sailed to our first port -- Naples, Italy.  We were up early the next morning and walked to Piazza del Plebiscito where we went inside the Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco seen in the photo.  It was pouring rain when we came out and walked across the piazza to the Royal Palace.

      We spent two hours in this beautiful, grand palace.  The staircase itself is a work of art and led into a set of many ornate royal rooms which we enjoyed walking through.  This was my favorite site to see.

      This tiled cloister garden in the Church of Santa Chiara Napoli was another beautiful and unique place that I visited in Naples (Ava went back to the ship after the palace).  The garden was intersected by these tile paths that were lined with ornate columns and lovely seats.  Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to sit on these tiled seats as they are reserved for the nuns and monks.  

     Our next port was Kudasi, Turkey, and we enjoyed a tour of the ancient site of Ephesus.  This was our second visit to this wonderful site and, even though it felt like a whirlwind visit, it was good to see it again.  Just imagining the apostles Paul and John walking around in this city was meaningful for me.  In the background is the famous Library of Celsus, completed in 117 AD.  While we're looking at ruins, Paul and John would have been looking at a sparkling new building!

      I love taking photos of doorways -- and wondering where they lead.  This is one of my favorite photos in Ephesus.  It's quite amazing how well-preserved these ruins are.  And - who is that guy in the green shirt??

        This is a section of the Terrace Houses.  They are under a giant cover to preserve them and allow continuing archaelogical work on them.  This is a vast "neighborhood" of apartment houses built on a hillside.  You can see rooms and separate apartments throughout this large section of Ephesus that is on a hill to the left just before you get to the library.  It's interesting to see the ornate mosaic floors and the paintings on the walls of these homes where people lived around two thousand years ago and imagine their lives there.  Paul and John may have visited or lived in one of these homes.  I did a lot of climbing to see this amazing layout of ancient homes.

     I was excited to walk in the footsteps of Paul and John, who would have walked on these same marble slabs which make up one of the roads through the city (they are also slippery when wet).  Most Ephesians worshipped the goddess Artemis (AKA Diana).  You may remember that Acts 19:21-41 gives an interesting story about a riot in that city.  A silversmith named Demetrius said to other tradesmen in the city, "Not only in Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.  So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the gread goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed..." Acts 19:26-27.
      This verbal attack on Paul and his teaching about the Lord Jesus almost turned into a physical attack.  Here's what happened:  See photo below.

      The great ampitheater of Ephesus rises up the hillside in the distance.  After Demetrius riled up the tradesmen and more of the city, they all rushed into the theater in the photo above.  They had seized two of Paul's traveling companions and for two hours screamed, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"  Paul wanted to go into the theater and talk to the people, but the disciples would not allow him to go into that dangerous situation.  And so, the riot ended peaceably and Paul left the city to go to Macedonia.  
      It was very special to be in those places that we read about in scripture and to walk in the literal footsteps of men who God used to write the Holy Bible that we read today.

     Our second stop in Turkey was in what is considered an upscale port in Bodrum.  This was unexpected as it was one of three substitutes for our missed two-day port in Israel.  Due to the October 7 War, of course, all tourist visits were cancelled.  Our ship was docked in the picturesque Bodrum harbor with this view of St. Peter's Castle directly across the bay from our ship.

      I enjoyed my solitary 40-minute walk around the curved harbor to get to the castle.  It was early morning and shopkeepers were just opening their shops.  It was pleasant and uncrowded, which changed later in the day to hot and crowded on the way back to the ship.  

      The "castle" was more like a fort with thick stone walls and many coats of arms displayed from various grand masters and commanders from the 1400s and 1500s.  There are a lot of stone steps and uneven walkways which require careful climbing.  The photo shows parts of ancient columns along with a female peacock.

      One of the highlights of our visit to Bodrum was the Air Show we watched over the harbor.  This just happened to be the day they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the modern republic of Turkey.  We had been "warned" there would be jets flying overhead at 2pm so no one would be alarmed and wondering if we were being attacked (after all, a war was being fought not far from Turkey in Israel).  So, Ava and I sat on our balcony and watched as two jets that looked like raptor birds zoomed and dove and climbed through the sky for about 20 minutes.  It was exciting!

       I end this post with a picture of an anchor which was on display in St. Peter's Castle, Bodrum.  I am always reminded of the fact that as a Believer of the Way (as it was called in Paul's day), Jesus Christ is my anchor in stormy seas as well as placid waters.  Paul writes in Hebrews, saying, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast..." 6:19.  He is, of course, speaking of the hope and  assurance of our safety in Christ.  Even a giant ship like the Odyssey of the Sea needs anchors.  No one is beyond the need of an anchor for their soul.  Jesus Christ is the Only Anchor we can depend on!  "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus," Philippians 4:19.

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Rapture - New Book Release



     I just finished my latest book and released it today.  I'm excited about the topic and the short stories I've written for the book.  The sub-title is "Imagining the Day that Changes the World Forever."  

     The ten short stories in the book each have different scenarios featuring people going about their everyday lives when boom!  The Rapture happens and their world is turned upside down.  In a few of the stories, the characters are Christian believers and we see them caught up to Jesus and their amazing first-hand experiences of Heaven.  In other cases, the unbelievers that are left behind go through a variety of frightening, confusing experiences on the day that millions of people disappear.  One reader wrote, "It was impossible to start reading a story and not finish it."  Another reader said she cried through every story -- which is a real compliment to an author!  That same person said, "You knocked it out of the park with this one!"  

     Along with the fiction short stories, there are chapters of fact-based information about the times surrounding the upcoming Rapture.  One chapter tells about the War of Gog and Magog written about in Ezekiel 38-39.  Another chapter is entitled, "What's the Deal with UFOs?"  There are seven fact-based chapters.

     The ebook version of the book is only 99 cents for the first month of its release.  I won't have print copies available for another month, although they will be available for purchase on Amazon by Sunday.

     Thank you to each person who reads this book!  I hope you will be blessed as you read  about an exciting upcoming event in the history of the world -- an event that changes the world forever!            Link to book:  Amazon - The Rapture

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Blessing/Miracle Box


      Four years ago, I heard a speaker talk about having a Blessing box.  When God sent her a special blessing, she wrote about it on a slip of paper and put it into her Blessing box.  Occasionally, she pulled out a slip and it reminded her of blessings she'd forgotten about.  This can be especially helpful if you're experiencing a down-day and need a reminder of God's love.
      I liked that idea and decided to add the idea of "miracle," which is often what a blessing is anyway.  So, I found this lovely box sprinkled with stars (I love stars!) and I've been adding stories of miracles and blessings since then (when I remember to do so).  I just added a new one today.
      This morning, I was once again blown away by God's attention to detail and to me and my tiny life in the midst of this vast universe!  I was trying to read my morning devotional in Jesus Calling, which said, “There is a mighty battle going on for control of your mind.  Heaven and earth intersect in your mind; the tugs of both spheres influence your thinking…”  As I read and reread the opening, I was unable to focus. Myriads of thoughts were zipping through my mind, the sound of the dishwasher was churning, and the noise of a large-scale tree-cutting project around the corner was drowning out everything.  It reminded me of the verse, “Be still and know that I am God."

      Immediately, another thought popped into my mind.  Hmmm…yesterday I saw a truck with a Jesus Saves decal and a license plate border with the words: Psalm 46:10.  I remember thinking that I was going to look up that verse and see what it said.  So, at the very time I had the Jesus Calling book and the Bible in my hand, seeking a quieter place to meditate, I felt the need to look up that verse.  Oh - the precious hand of God!  It was a pure miracle of my sweet Father.  That verse says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Recognizing the hand of God in that whole thing, I began to weep.  When I feel God's direct Hand in my life, I am overwhelmed by His grace and it always brings tears!

Such amazing moments when God reaches down and works what might appear to some to be a small miracle (I think it's huge!), Heaven and earth do indeed intersect and we can feel the loving Hand of God reminding us that He is here with us all the time - every moment of every day.  There is nothing too large, or too small for God to work through for our good.  God says, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you," Jeremiah 31:3.  What a blessing!


Friday, September 15, 2023

License Plates Again



     I like to picture some form of transportation when I feature license plates and this is the best I could do.  This Gypsy wagon sits in the forest at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. Put a couple of horses in front of it and I'm sure it would be good to go.

    Here are my latest entries into the world of cute and clever license plates:

--Some plates that are food related can make you quote this plate:  I HANGRY

--Other plates will tell us how they feel - 

---These are just cute and clever
GOT2WK     STA SHRP     4RPAPA     BR3THE   GAS GUZLA (on a big blue pickup truck) 
          MCYMS            H20LVR       R3NGAD3         O1DCRO   

--The two who designed these plates should get together

--a couple of my favorites:   STRMTRPR       FLT ERTH

--Then we have the plates that always warm my heart and make me feel like a brother or sister in Christ is in that vehicle

Praise God for the testimonies that turn our eyes toward God that we sometimes see on  license plates.  I'm reminded of the verse in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that tells us, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" -- and that can include license plates too!

Friday, August 4, 2023

Beautiful Butterflies

 Beautiful Butterflies

         This little beauty sat on a leaf in the Butterfly House at the Life & Science Museum in Durham, North Carolina.  I use past tense because butterflies have such a short life span that this little guy is no longer around.  The thing is -- this butterfly was created by God for a specific purpose, it fulfilled it's purpose and then left us.

         Some years ago, I wrote a piece about the brief life of the butterfly in my book, Joy in the Journey - a Traveler's Tale with a Twist.  I'm going to share excerpts in this post:

          “The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough” is from the short poem, “Time,” by Rabindranath Tagore.  This fragile little creature has a life span that varies according to species from three days to six months.  The average lifespan for an adult butterfly is 20 to 40 days.  So, when we say, “The butterfly counts not months but moments…” that’s no exaggeration.  A butterfly that lives for three days has slightly over 4,000 minutes to perform its entire life purpose – yet – the last part of that quotation reads, “…and has time enough.”
Although its life is short to our viewpoint, the butterfly does not frantically rush about trying to accomplish as much as possible.  No, rather this dainty creature gently flutters its wings, flitting from flower to flower, unhurried -- quietly doing its job.  Along the way, the butterfly not only pollinates flowers and vegetables as God ordained, but also provides bright spots of delicate beauty for those who see it.
The butterfly brings glory to God, its Creator, during its short life journey because it faithfully performs the duties for which it was created.  It reflects the beauty and creativity of God by its mere existence.

Certainly, we all have responsibilities and there is no easy, one-fits-all-answer to the accelerated age in which we live.  “Time” tends to be an enemy far too often.  A poem came across the Internet recently that started out:  “I knelt to pray but not for long, I had too much to do.  I had to hurry and get to work for bills would soon be due…”  This poem states a major problem in the Christian’s life – being too busy to pray.
Jesus knew the vital importance of prayer.  His journey on this earth lasted only 33 years.  Most of us would say he died young or before his time.  In fact, He lived the perfect amount of time for the purpose God had for Him.  In John 17:4, Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”  He finished the work He was brought on earth to do, and it was time to move up and out.  Although He lived what we might consider a short life, He “….had time enough.”

God is not bound by time and neither is His purpose for your life.  How can we be sure that we too will be able to say with Jesus – “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do”?
           How?  By using this time He has given us to do what He created us to do.  Jesus knew how to use His time wisely and He spent much of it communing with His heavenly Father.  In spite of all the preaching, healing, and traveling, He never became too busy to pray.
We are told to, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10.
That’s the key to “having time enough” -- spending part of it in God’s presence.  When we meditate, praise and bask in His presence, we are lifted above time and the world.  Ask God what purpose He has for your life journey.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33.  If you sincerely seek the answer, He will show it to you in His time.

If you cannot yet verbalize what you believe your purpose is, don’t despair.  God has said, “Seek and ye shall find” – in His time, not yours.  Learn the lesson of the butterfly and you can rest in the Lord.
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


Friday, July 21, 2023

An Unexpected Hike


AN UNEXPECTED HIKE - to Stone Mountain

      The end of June, we stopped by Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, North Carolina, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Our intention was to walk along an easy one-quarter mile trail to a scenic view of the stone mountain.  At least, that is what I thought I read in the brochure.  However, it appears that I must have imagined such a trail, because it doesn't seem to exist.

       These words by Alexander Graham Bell had special meaning when we ended up taking an unexpected two-mile hike in the woods:  "Don't keep forever on the public road, going only where others have gone and following after the other like a flock of sheep.  Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods.  Every time you do so you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before." 


     Well, we did "dive into the woods," and in spite of everything it turned out to be a nice adventure with a lot of good exercise - up and down and all-around on what seemed at the time to be a never-ending trail.  We were able to maneuver over tangles of roots, fallen trees, numerous wide steps, and a sad lack of signage to finally arrive at our destination -- a stunning stone mountain, complete with a furnished homestead and outbuildings from an extended family who lived there for over a century, beginning in 1855 when they built the house. 

    I'm reminded of the many wonderful Bible verses that speak of mountains, here are just a few:

--"For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," Isaiah 55:12.

--I will lift up my eyes to the hills -- from whence comes my help?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth," Psalm 121:1-2.

--"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God," Psalm 90:2.

--"He puts His hand on the flint; He overturns the mountains at the roots," Job 28:9.

--"For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you," Isaiah 54:10.