Monday, June 29, 2015

Reminder from 1942....

 Sometimes you find the most amazing things when you clean!  I know, I know!  I've said that more than one time on this blog.  So I cleaned my scrap room and took 4 large bags of books to Goodwill on Saturday.  That was actually just the tip of the iceberg on books that needed to go.  Today Ken and I actually took another 5 big bags of books to Goodwill!  We dusted and cleaned off book shelves and reorganized.  In the middle of the day we realized that Ken needed a book shelf for the Camera Room.  So off to IKEA we went for yet another assembly project.  There was more than one amazing find in
this cleaning process, but this was really amazing.
This little book belonged to Ken's dad, Mervin Rowley.  He served in the Navy in WWII and this was the book he carried with him.  When I opened the book, I couldn't believe what I found on the front cover and flyleaf....

I particularly liked that this prayer was important enough that it was pasted on the front cover.  The sweet little book includes a complete Protestant service, a Catholic service, and a Jewish service.  It also includes about 100 Hymns.  In the back of the book there is a guide for Army and Navy funerals, showing placement of honor guards.  And there are several special prayers for certain ranks.  Quite a complete little book.  

And here is the reason for this blog.  I was so saddened by an article I saw last week about a Marine who is now unemployed and without Veterans benefits because of a Bible Verse. 

A United States Marine was convicted at a court-martial for refusing to remove a Bible verse on her computer – a verse of Scripture the military determined “could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.”
The plight of Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling seems unbelievable – a member of the Armed Forces criminally prosecuted for displaying a slightly altered passage of Scripture from the Old Testament: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
Sterling, who represented herself at trial, was convicted February 1, 2014 in a court-martial at Camp Lejune, North Carolina after she refused to obey orders from a staff sergeant to remove the Bible verses from her desk.
She was found guilty of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer.

Doesn't that just seem impossible? How did we get to this point from that wonderful book of my Father-in-Law?  From 1942 to 2015....... wow!.  Instead of giving out a powerful little book of prayers and hymns, our military men and women may get a dishonorable discharge for posting a one line passage of Scripture.  That change happened in under 75 years.  Yet that prayer from Washington had been around for 153 years! Yes, it seems there has been a sad decline in the last few years.    

 I know that even as there are so many people just seeing gloom and doom for the United States, this just sort of adds fuel to that fire.  But my message tonight is exactly the opposite of that!  I am really encouraged by this little book tonight.  I am blessed to know that my Father-in-law thought enough of this book to keep it.  And I know that my dad most likely had the same book.  I am thankful that our country has these deep, deep roots of faith and trust in God. I am blessed by this prayer of our first President.  I am thankful for all of the seeds that have sown by our military as they have prayed and trusted in the provision of Jesus.  And I am encouraged by the body of Christ that is still standing and praying today.  Jesus is Lord.  He is on the Throne and He reigns over the United States, whether we acknowledge Him or not.   

Jesus, thank you for the years and years of blessing and protection you have given to the United States.  Holy Spirit, bring encouragement and hope to all who are feeling overcome by fear and doubt.  Thank you Jesus for reminding me, even with the discouraging news these days, that you have a destiny for the United States and you are faithful to bring it about.  Thank you for people who are willing to take a stand for you, no matter what the cost.  Bless Monifa Sterling and the many others like her who are being persecuted for their faith.  Thank you for courage and boldness to proclaim your great power.  Amen  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Watching the signs...... or not!

Today I had the experience of driving into Chicago.  And I mean INTO the LOOP!  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I do not often DRIVE into the city.  But today I was able to take Ken to a conference that he has been looking forward to for a long time.  He had way too many bags to take the train....hence the trip!  It was raining... of course.  And the street that the hotel is on had sewer work, so it was closed.  So I had to take a different street.  Which led me to another street that had this sign exactly where I needed to turn left....
So I had to go a couple of streets further in order to make that left turn.  And then I ran into a few streets with this sign........
And again, unfortunately I wanted to turn LEFT onto streets that were one way with a RIGHT HAND turn!  So, I followed the signs and finally made it to the street that I needed to be on to EXIT the city!  Not a totally uneventful trip, but close!  I managed by following the signs! (I was driving my car which does NOT have navigation, sadly.)

I was thinking about how hard I needed to watch the signs and make sure I was in the right lane  and following all of those pesky traffic rules.  And I remembered something that I saw yesterday on my phone........
Look closely at this picture.  It is a screen shot of the weather page from my phone YESTERDAY - June 25, 2015.  Look at the forecast at the bottom of the picture.  FLURRIES OR SNOW SHOWERS POSSIBLE EARLY???????????   Obviously, you can not always believe or follow everything that you read.  With the weather it is always better to stick your head out the door or window and look at sky and feel the temperature.  But as you can see, it was 81 degrees with a predicted low of 60, so the potential for snow was ZERO!  So you can't always follow what your see with your least not what you see on the internet!

It's true that you always have to make a decision about those signs around you.  Are they real?  Is that road actually closed or is that just a left over sign from last week?  With all those dark clouds out there, should you bring an umbrella?

You have to be very careful what signs you follow.  But Jesus gave some very clear direction to us about signs.......  Mark 16:17  "And these signs will  accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons, they will speak in new tongues, they will pick up snakes with their hands, and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all, they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."    And as you read further in the New Testament, Acts is full of these kind of "signs" as the Apostles spread the Good News of Jesus.  Isn't it interesting that we don't always look for these signs today?  Even though Jesus clearly left the instructions for us to follow?   I am thankful that I have been surrounded by people who are looking for signs to follow them as they walk with Jesus.  In this all, the most important thing, is to be listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to Jesus as you walk (or drive) through your days.  That is the sign that we all need to follow.  The sign that really matters the most.  The minute by minute leading of the Holy Spirit as we walk through each day.

I love when I have days like today.  I can look back and see and appreciate how the Holy Spirit helped to guide me through my day today.  There were signs and I knew which ones I needed to follow.  And I was reminded to listen carefully to the voice of Jesus.

Jesus, thank you for reminding me to listen carefully to you!  Holy Spirit, thank you for those nudges that steer us away from danger and keep us on the right path (or road).   Help us to listen to your voice, to expect those guiding directions, and to watch for those signs from those around us.  Open our spirits to expect signs and wonders and miracles!  And Jesus, bless Ken and all that are attending that conference this weekend!  Amen

Monday, June 22, 2015

The power of the written word!

I began the clear out of the scrapboooking room today.  This included sorting through piles of papers that were stored in two metal file cabinets that were moved into that room awhile ago.  There was a wild mix of stuff from old bank statement to insurance stuff to just plain junk.  But there were a few treasures among the junk!
I found this really sweet letter.  I really didn't remember receiving it.  It was addressed to me from Gwen.  This was during her second year away at college.  I love the VeggiTale stickers on the outside of the envelope!  I love that the letter is addressed "Dear Mommy" (from my 19 year old!).  I love that the letter is all about the little stuff that is going on at college.  Mostly, I love that she even bothered to take the time to write to me.  It just makes my heart happy.  Yes, there is something really so powerful in the written on paper.  I know that this is sort of a silly comment coming from a "Blog" (which is NOT ink and NOT on paper).  But this just affirms for me, how important it is to not lose the art of letter writing.  

Now I know this is going to sound really silly, coming after that paragraph, but I am also SO HAPPY that most of our "important" accounts (bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc) now are NOT sending us paper statements anymore!  We do all of that stuff on line and get our statements via email!  And boy oh boy, is that better than all of the stacks of stuff I went through today!  I am so grateful that I will not be spending hours and hours shredding stuff!  And the good news about today is that I now only have one small box of must keep items out of two metal file cabinets!  So it was a very successful day.  

This whole "letter" thing was another reminder to me of how important my actual Bible is to me!  I know I have talked about always having my "EBible" with me on my cellphone.  But, when I pick up my well used, all marked up with notes, Bible and feel the weight of it in my hands and see those pen marks, I just feel that rush of love.  Yes, that also makes my heart happy!  

Thankfully Gwen knows that I keep all of the thank yous that I receive from the kids and always include them in my yearly scrapbooks.  I just know that someday they will love to look back on these.  And just like Gwen's letter, these make my heart happy!  
Yes, there is power in the written word.  No matter what the content, no matter what the occasion - or no occasion at all - there is power.    So I guess that the final thing about all of this is, the written word is important!  Whether it is ink on paper or typed in an email or into a blog or even on an app on a cell phone, every word is important.  This has me thinking about all of the letters that I need to write.  My encouragement to you today is to sit down and write that letter, that thank you or that little note you have been meaning to send.  Pick up a few blank cards the next time you are at the store and just ask Jesus to show you who might need a thought or a prayer from you.  I am sure that we can start a cascade of blessings by doing this!  Let's make someones heart happy today!

Jesus, thank you for letting me find this special letter from Gwen.  Holy Spirit, you bring encouragement to us so often through other people.  Remind us to take the time to put words onto a page - either in ink or on email.   Jesus, thank you for Your Word - the Bible.  What power there is in those pages. Holy Spirit, give us creative ways to share Your Word with others!  Amen

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Day weekend....according to us

Ken and I spent the entire weekend working on the house.  Or at least one part of the house....Ken's Camera Room.  He has been in the process of preparing the room by painting the walls and ceiling.  We had cleaned out the closet and decided exactly what he was going to have in the room, we just needed to actually do it.  So this weekend we actually completed this project.  We started with the flooring.  Ken and I decided on carpet tiles.
The project was actually quicker and easier than I expected.  We love the finished project.  From there we moved on to furniture.  Now IKEA stuff is usually not so bad to assemble.   But as we were almost in the home stretch of desk assembly, we noticed that the top of the desk had a dimple right in the middle.  So, a second trip to IKEA was required.  So, needless to say, it was a long day and a late night last night.  Today we had to hang the wall cabinet that we had previously purchased. We made a couple of trips to the store to actually get all of the screws, anchors, etc that were necessary to complete this process.  This morning we purchased a desk chair, which was the last thing assembled, just a few minutes ago.  Here is the finished project.....
Ken is very pleased with the room and that is the most important thing. I am so thankful that Ken is willing to take on all of these projects and complete them.    The next project is my scrapbook room.  I have already selected the paint, but we have lots of cleaning to do before we can even think about painting.  Seems like there will be many weekends ahead filled with projects!

All day today, I could think about was how very similar Ken is to my dad.  I can't list the number of times that my dad spent weekend, after weekend doing some project or other around the house.  It seemed that no project was outside of what my dad could accomplish.  There was never a time without a project at Lake Maud.   And when I was thinking about my dad, I was remembering when he put central air conditioning into our house in 1969.  And he did it all by himself.  Yes, he never met a project that he didn't love.  My dad has been dead since 1985.  But on a day like today, I wish that he could see our finished project.  My dad really loved Ken.  I know that he felt that Ken was a kindred spirit.  I remember that at my wedding, dad told me that he was sure that I had picked a good one.  He was right.  So, on this Father's day, I am celebrating who my dad was, and who Ken is and also the great fathers my grandchildren have.   

Yes, this was perfect way to celebrate this "hallmark" holiday.  Amid the really hard work, I remembered all that my dad sowed into my birth family.  And then I also saw that same spirit at work in Ken.  Even when not everything was "perfect" in my family growing up, Jesus is reminding me to see from His perspective. When I do that, I remember my hardworking dad.  And I feel very thankful for my hardworking husband.   And just like my last blog, there are so many things that we just seem to overlook. Today I also took a bit of time to do some yard work.  I pulled a bunch of weeds and then planted some flowers.  So now our house has a "pop" of color!  It's funny that looking at those flowers, I don't remember all of the weeds.  And that is just about what happens when we see from Jesus' perspective.  The weeds are gone and we are able to see the flowers in our life.  I highly recommend it!  

Jesus, thank you for my father and his hard work.  Thank you for the reminder to see the bright and good things.  Holy Spirit, help us to keep our eyes focused on your working in our lives.  Jesus, you have an amazing plan for each of us that begins with our birth families.  Help us to appreciate the heritage that you designed for us.   Pour out your blessings on all fathers.  Amen

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thankful for water..........

This is my backyard this week.  The little creek behind our house is way beyond flooded.  As are all of the rivers and creeks around here.  And it poured rain this morning......again.  All of the ground is saturated, squishy, and waterlogged.  But, hey, look at how green the grass is!  Which brings me to what has been on my mind all day........water.

Early this morning I saw a post on Facebook from "Humans of New York".  I love this particular page.  They post interesting stories of random people that they meet on the streets of New York.  Here is the post from today.....
“I’m single, unemployed, and late middle-aged. But I don’t really get sad. I just don’t think sadness is in my brain chemistry. When I go home to my apartment, I’ve got a faucet that releases both hot and cold water. You know how many billions of people don’t even have clean drinking water? And I’ve got two types of clean water: hot and cold.”

I just could not get this off of my mind, all day today.  How powerful and thought provoking.  We are so blessed!  We have a solid roof over our heads, we have protection from the elements.  We have safe HOT and COLD water.  We have lights and power for appliances, we have computers and televisions and cellphones.  And so, so much more.  Isn't it amazing that it takes a single paragraph post on Facebook to cause me to stop short and really think about just how blessed I am?   So even though we have had a bit too much rain, and we have a bit of flooding, we are still so blessed.

I was remembering last January.  I was at a conference and Heidi Baker was speaking.  She is a missionary in Mozambique Africa.  Just before the conference there had been disastrous flooding in Mozambique.  I mean really devastating.  Their entire base had been wiped out.
Even before the floods, they didn't have much.  But just like this man in New York, Heidi Baker was just so grateful for what they did have.  And how very blessed they are...because they have Jesus.  

I have not been very much like that man in New York or Heidi Baker.  As a matter of fact, I would have to say honestly that I have not been very thankful for these little things (which are really BIG things).  After reading that post this morning, every time I went to the sink, I thought about that clean water pouring out.  And I remembered all of the people around the world, who don't have a sink or clean water anywhere.  Those that have to walk miles and miles for dirty and contaminated water.  Or those that simply don't have any water.  Would you join me tonight in praying for all of those people?  And would you also pray that those of us with access to clean water, would not take it for granted.  Most of all, would you join me in prayer for them to know Jesus, the living water!   I can't help but think of  John 4:13-14....

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life".

Jesus, thank you for this reminder today of all of the great blessings you have poured out on us. Holy Spirit, help us to see all that you have provided for us.  What a gift water is to us.  Thank you for missionaries who give their life to bring the Good News to other nations.  Jesus, you are the Living Water!  Amen

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Time sitting on the lap of Jesus.....

Today I spent time with my small group in worship and prayer.  In the quiet and peaceful atmosphere we were all feeling as if we were sitting on the lap of Jesus.  It was such a comforting place and it was so easy to hear the gentle whisper of Jesus reminding us that we are his daughters and He sees us very differently than we see ourselves.  We spent some time talking about "body image" and other ways that our society has changed the way we view our value as women.  It was a good reminder that we are children of the King of Kings.  We prayed not only for ourselves, but for our daughters and granddaughters and future generations.  I was thinking of yesterday, watching Anna playing in the park.
She had Lia's sparkly purse and she was putting it on her shoulder and walking on the path.  She was very intent that the purse had to be just right.  It's hard to imagine that at 16 months old she is already being impacted by watching her sisters.  I am so thankful that Gwen has done a good job of talking to the kids about their bodies being a temple of Jesus.  They are developing a very good sense of their true identity as children of the King.

Yesterday I got this amazing video from my sweet little Lia.  This little nine year old recently was given a cellphone that only enables her to text certain people.  I am one of those fortunate enough to get her texts. I was brought to tears as I watched her read this little book to me.  I had made this book for her when she was very young.  And here she was, now able to read this book, sharing it with me!  I was thinking about the way that we have influence over our children and grandchildren often through things that we don't expect.  When I assembled this little book, I never imagined that she would be reading this as a nine year old.

Yes, I believe that I will be paying more attention to ways that I can have an impact on my grandchildren.  Meanwhile, I will be spending some more time just sitting on the lap of Jesus.
Don't we all need that?  I know that I do.

Jesus, thank you for pulling us closer when we come to you.  What a gift it is to be in your presence and then to be pulled even closer.  Jesus help us to keep our focus on how YOU see us and to remember that we can show the world who you are, through our eyes.  Holy Spirit, keep our mind free of the influence of our society and give us the mind of Christ.  Thank you for our families.  Remind us that we can influence future generations!  Amen

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flag Day revelation.............

Home from vacation, good nights sleep (in my own bed), unpacked and 4 loads of laundry done and put away, refrigerator filled up with now I am ready to get back to my normal life.  I was so tired last night but I could not fall asleep.  So I picked up my Bible and started looking at those 5:19 verses and just for good measure, I looked at the 51:9 verses also.  I got stuck on Jeremiah 5:19... "And when the people ask, "Why has the Lord our God done all this to us?, you will tell them, "As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own."

Well, this certainly hit a cord with me.  I couldn't help but reflect on all that I saw in Washington DC and New York City.  It was so clear that God was a part of the establishment of the United States.  Every document, every display, every where you turned, there was God.  I simply don't understand how anyone could not accept and embrace that the United States welcomed the presence of God and He is the solid foundation that our nation was built on.  When you look at the current state of things, it is quite clear that many have turned their back on this reality.  The thing is, whether they like it or not, or want to admit it, this land belongs to God.  

And then I visited a sight of an attack on our own soil.... of terrorism, death, and destruction.  And the reality of war - here at home... well it was real and it was right there. There was one part of the museum that had the "response" to 9/11.  The first wall was pictures of flags.  Lots and lots of American Flags.  As a matter of fact, it said that Walmart sold 22,000 flags in one day.  They sold out their entire warehouse of flags and had to order more from the manufacturer.  There were videos of people saying that they had gone from store to store to store and could not find a flag to buy. 

As I was putting away our suitcases and kind of cleaning up in my scrapping room, I noticed this sitting on the table.......
Before we left on vacation Ken and I were cleaning out some closets.  We had saved this magazine from September 20, 2001.  I hadn't really looked at it before we left, but I read it from cover to cover this afternoon.  What really struck me was the bold title......GOD BLESS AMERICA!  The terrible event brought us back to our foundation.  To God.  As we were raising the flags, we were asking for God to rescue us.  To bless us.  To restore us once again.  

How interesting that today is Flag Day.  I am so sure that there are not many flags flying especially today.  But I was thinking about this........
I was reminded of a newspaper headline that I saw, not long after 9/11.  It said, "They wanted to change America forever on 9/11.....and they have!"  It reminded us that we need to stand up and be American and to ask God to bless us.    Yes, it accomplished something.  

I love how Jesus has given me some clear direction on how to pray for America.  I will be praying for us to remember the foundation....the strong and clear basis of our country.  

Jesus, thank you for bringing me to those 5:19 verses.  Holy Spirit help us to stay out of the fear of terrorism and keep us IN the peace that passes all understanding.  Jesus, bring truth into all of the political arena.  Bring revelation and wisdom to everyone in our government.   Give courage and boldness to all of your people Jesus, so that they can rise and shine amid the darkness of this world.  Help us all to effect the environment around us!  Amen

Friday, June 12, 2015

End of a great vacation........

 I actually missed a day of blogging yesterday... it was a very busy day.  We went back to New York City...lower Manhattan... and we went to the 9/11 Museum.  I could most likely do an entire week or more about all that we saw and experienced there.  Most of the museum you are not allowed to take photos, so that explains one reason why I didn't blog last night.  Plus, it was more of an emotional thing.... I needed some time to let everything sink in.  I know that it has been almost 14 years since that event, and it has been easy to put it out of my mind.  But as you walk through the timeline of the events, it all comes flooding back in your mind.  I actually saw....LIVE...on the Today Show, the first plane hit the tower.  I just happened to be getting coffee in the kitchen of the church I worked at and the Elder Daycare center that shared our space had the TV on.  It was so frightening... we thought it was an accident at first.  But then as the coverage continued, it became clear it was something else entirely.  It was eerie to walk on that spot.  The museum is actually constructed BELOW those memorial pools I blogged about yesterday.  There is a room with floor to ceiling (VERY TALL CEILING) pictures of each of the people who died in this tragedy.  In another room, there is a constant recording by family members about the family member they lost, with videos.  It went on and on.  Through a time table of events, the search and hope for rescue (only 14 people were found alive) and then the terrible task of cleanup.  There was a burned and crumbled fire truck.....   There was one display that I stood in front of for a long time.  It was a map of the United States showing the airline traffic at 8:53am and then at 9:31am.  There were no planes in the air after that over the United States.  Ken and I remember how odd it was to not have planes flying over us.  And this was such a visual of the impact of that day on so many people. The museum did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It made me remember.

Yesterday we also went back to Trinity Church and actually walked through the cemetery and inside the church.  It was a great place to be, after spending several hours at the 9/11 memorial and museum.
I could have spent hours in the cemetery just reading the tombstones.  I can tell that I haven't spent much time in the East.  I am just not used to things being so OLD!  I saw more than one from the 1760's.  It certainly helped me get my focus back and to see Jesus on the throne, reigning over it all.  I loved one tombstone I saw that read, "Here lies Elizabeth, awaiting her glorious rising with Jesus".  Yes, it was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time!

We also went to Federal Hall and Wall Street.  We ate New York Pizza for lunch.  And Ken walked 1/2 way across the Brooklyn Bridge!  I waited in the shade at the City Hall Park.  It was 91 and very humid.  I wanted to protect my feet, but alas, I got another blister...this time on my heel!  (I think my new socks may have something to do with this).  We finished off the day having dinner at Tops Diner, which is supposed to be the best diner in New Jersey!  It was really good food and Ken splurged on an amazing desert..the first of the vacation!

Today was our last day in New York.  We realized that you just can not do it all in one trip, so we scaled back our plans.  We took the train to 33rd St this morning and saw Time Square.  Good Morning America was filming some kind of Army presentation (we never did figure out what it was exactly but there were soldiers all around).  We saw bagpipers and then this band played the National Anthem.  It was pretty amazing to be in Time Square for something like that, especially after the 9/11 museum!
We walked on Broadway and saw Macy's flagship store. They have a sign that says "World's Largest Store" and we thought it was just some kind of slogan.  But when you walk and walk and walk and it is still the Macy's store, yes it IS possible that it is the biggest.  And then we walked to Ken's happy place.......B & H Camera!
His camera actually came from this store (shipped to us, of course).  And he had never actually been inside of this store.  To quote Ken, "This is sort of like a super mega big Best Buy, with a whole floor of Camera stuff"!  He was certainly happy.  We actually got out of the store only spending $36, which is quite amazing.  

From there we walked to the Empire State Building.  We decided NOT to take the tour to the top.  Instead we had a really nice lunch in a pub in the building.  We took an early train back to our Hotel.
A bonus shot of us on the train.  It was a good decision to leave and start our trip home.  We drove 4 hours and shortened our trip tomorrow to just 8 hours.  

It has been an amazing week.  We have seen so much and covered so much ground.  I know that I have walked more miles in this week than I have walked in months!  Both of our destinations had so much history.... so many things to much to take in.  One thing is certain, we will need to go back again.  And mostly again.  

We have been so blessed on this trip.  Our travel has been good.  All of our activities have been outside and we have not had any rain.  We knew that we would be walking so we bought rain gear and never opened it!  (We did have one evening/night of rain in DC but nothing during the day!).  Our hotels have been just great.  We met so many really helpful people.  All of our train/subway trips went smoothly and we never got lost!  And every time I have felt my perspective shifting, or felt the ground a bit shaky, or been overwhelmed by what my eyes have seen, Jesus has always been there to bring me back to exactly where I need to be.  Yes, what a blessing.  

Jesus, thank you for time away from our routines.  Thank you for museums that preserve the past so that we do not forget our triumphs and our sorrows or our mistakes.  Thank you for your guidance and wisdom so that we do not repeat the mistakes of previous generations.  Help us to leave a legacy filled with you Jesus, for the generations to come.  Amen

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

From the heights to the depths....

We started out our day with a first for me!  We rode the subway into New York City.  I know, this might be strange.... but here I am, 60 years old and I have never ridden a subway.  That is until today. It was interesting and very much like I expected.  A very nice young gal helped us find exactly the right track for our train, helped us with our Metrocard so it was uneventful.  We exited the subway at the World Trade Center.  I had a mix of interesting emotions thinking about 9/11.  Our first stop was the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  There is SOOOOOO much construction still happening around the World Trade Center.  Even Battery Park was mostly closed because it is being renovated.  (Just a side note...On Saturday in Washington DC we walked on the mall and took pictures of the Capitol and the Washington Monument.  On Monday the entire mall was closed and ripped up - they were renovating it!) But I digress.....  We got on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty with no problem (other than my camera malfunctioned, which we managed to fix after we got to Liberty Island).  It was windy.... but wonderful.  The weather was perfect.  We couldn't have asked for a better day.

The Statue of Liberty was amazing.  It was extremely crowded but the island is beautiful.  
We were able to get some amazing pictures of the New York skyline, as well as Ellis Island and the Statue, of course.  
On the walk down to the ferry, we walked right by Trinity Church.  I couldn't help but remember all the stories I saw about this amazing place.
This church was spared when the towers collapsed and then it became a haven for the recovery workers.  Even now the doors are open and the pews are full of stories and pictures.  It was another reminder of the very real presence of 9/11.  

We decided to do the Observation Deck at One World Trade Center.  It just opened on May 24 so some people really didn't know that it was even open!  We were able to buy "timed tickets" on our phone so we had about an hour to wait.  So we went to see the 9/11 memorial pools.  Ken was walking around and taking pictures, and I was just sitting and watching the people around the memorial. 

I noticed the names immediately.  It is stark and beautiful and quiet (in spite of the city noise).  And then I saw a young women approach the memorial, right in front of me.  She almost threw herself on the wall and was obviously crying.  A number of people nearby started to approach her, but in a moment there was a policeman right there, shooing the people away.  He stood guard there, with his back to the lady.  She left a rose at one of the names.  Suddenly, this was a personal, very real place of grief and remembering.  I was taken back in my memory to that day of tragedy.  I am so thankful that these pools remain.  Each of them are on the footprint of a tower that fell.  When you look at the center, there is what appears to be an bottomless pit.  It is a spiritual experience in the middle of a busy city.  

The Observation Deck (Floors 101 - 103) of One World Trade Center is really amazing.  The elevator ride is fast and you don't feel like you are even moving.  There is a movie that plays on the walls of the elevator that shows New York City from the 1700's until today.  Really cool. The most interesting thing is that you don't feel like you are up that high.  It is sort of like looking out the window of a plane.  There is no swaying and you are set back from the edges of the windows.  But the 360 degree view is really neat.  And you could see the Atlantic Ocean.  

Grief is an interesting thing.... You can go from the heights (like the 103rd floor) to the depths (like that deep seemingly endless hole in the memorial) in just minutes.  And when the grief is personal... this shift takes you by surprise.  Even when you don't expect it.  I saw the towers fall on television.  I watched the horror of it all unfold in the following days.  I remember feeling, sad and angry and terrified......and relieved that I didn't know anyone personally effected by the event.  But today, it was so real to me.  Looking at those names.  Each one was someones mother, father, son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, family member.  And I was sitting in the middle of New York City, missing Lucas Jacob Rowley.  And it had nothing to do with 9/11 but everything to do with loss.  I don't think I really "got" it before last November.  Today, I had a better frame of reference for that young women.  And I was so thankful for that policeman that respected her need for some privacy in that very public place.  

Not what I expected at all from my day in New York City.   But I think it was exactly what I needed.  There is a strong connection between the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and 9/11.  It is the freedom and the welcome for immigrants that made it easier for this attack to happen.  But I ended the day with a panoramic view that is billed as "See Forever".  A place that is far above everything.  All I could think about is seeing from Jesus' perspective.  What a comfort it is to know that Jesus sees things in a way that IS seeing forever!  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  He is the one that sees us and sees forever.  

Jesus, thank you for this opportunity to experience so many new things and new places.  It is such a comfort to know that you see each person who is in the midst of grief, and you get it.  Thank you for the reminder that you are eternal and your eyesight is perfect.  Help us all to look above our problems, our situations and even our griefs to see from your perspective.  And Holy Spirit, give us a big shot of hope and joy when we need it!  Amen

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

There must be a message in this..........

Is there a message in this?  We stayed in a very nice hotel in Washington, DC for the last 4 days.  It had 9 floors and was really more upscale than the hotels that Ken and I choose.  We were in room 519.  Today, we left Washington and drove to New Jersey where we are staying at a hotel convenient to the train station into New York City.  When we checked in this afternoon I almost fell over when the desk clerk handed me the key 519.  This hotel has 6 floors and is a different chain. Okay, there MUST be a message in this!  What are the odds that this would happen?????

In DC we had this view out the window........ the Washington Monument.
In New Jersey we have this view out the window.....the One World Trade Center.
Seems like this is not a coincident at all, but there is something that I need to learn/share/understand about 519!  Along the way today we decided to take a side trip to see the ocean and the second tallest lighthouse in the United States.  I'll share about that later, after I have uploaded my pictures!  Here is one snapshot from my phone.  
It may be the Atlantic, but Florida it is NOT!  The water temperature at this sight had just gone UP to 57 degrees from a very frigid 50 last week.  Not swimming weather at all.  

So, my first thought on 519..... what does Scripture say in chapter 5 verse 19?  I went to John first (my favorite book)  Jesus gave them this answer: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also."    Interesting..... I have often pondered this passage.  I love the thought that Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing.... somehow it makes his miracles seem even more amazing.  It certainly gives us something to think about!  I love to stop and realize that everything that Jesus does, is also being done by the Father.  Isn't that wonderful?  It's easy to kind of let our image of the Father be distant and well....regal.  It is quite another thing to consider each of the things that Jesus did as something that the Father was doing.  I love these verses that are "Trinity" verses - when you can see the action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  So to be "Christlike" in our actions, means that we will be "Fatherlike" also!  WOW!  I know there is much more that Jesus is speaking to me about 519.... so more to come in the days ahead!

Tonight, when I am thinking about this "God-incident" of being in room 519 twice....I am just so thankful for Jesus and His love and care for us.  When I stood on that jetty this afternoon and looked out over the Atlantic, I could feel Jesus acting in the little things.  Any vacation that does not include the ocean is hard for me.  I really miss seeing the waves, smelling the salt air, feeling the spray... just the immense power of the ocean.  We did not plan on seeing the ocean.  It was a last minute side trip.  But it was all part of the plan that Jesus had for us.  That two hour adventure to the light house, changed our arrival time at the hotel....and the room that we got assigned to us.  Yes, it was a great day today.  

One more rather big thing about today for me..... I added two more states to my list of "VISITED STATES!"  We went through Delaware and I am in New Jersey!  So now I only have 11 states left to visit and Ken only has 7.   The four that we have in common (Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Maine) are on really opposite sides of the United States!  But I am very proud to be down to 11 states not visited. Thanks to Delaware and New Jersey!  There will be more vacations in the future!

Even on vacation Jesus is speaking and acting on our behalf.  We just need to remember to take the time to SEE and HEAR him.  My encouragement to you today, no matter what you are doing - at home or away -  stop and consider all the little ways that Jesus has been there for you.  I am sure that you will be as amazed as me!

Jesus, thank you for the time at the ocean today.  Holy Spirit, continue to speak to me about 519 and all that you have to say through this!  Thank you for giving me amazing views - even from a distance and the provision to visit these structures, up close!  Help us all to see your provision, even in the little things.  And help us to remember Jesus that you only did what you saw the Father doing!  Amen

Sunday, June 7, 2015

When you need a little get around!

This morning my feet were slightly better.  I could walk to the bathroom without cringing the entire way.  After my shower I used the new "Blister Bandaids" that I bought yesterday.  And with the cushioned ball of foot insoles I got for my shoes, I could ALMOST walk normally.  I could still feel the pressure of those blisters, but I wasn't in as much pain as last night.  We had already planned to use UBER (which is a really neat, almost taxi like service that has people using their own cars to shuttle you all over) today to get to the Zoo.  The really cool thing is that you request a ride, tell them the destination and your location, they arrive, take you to where you want to go and they get paid automatically through the credit card that you set up on your account.  So no fooling with payment or having cash.  We could not believe how quick, easy and CHEAP it was to use this service!  We took three different UBER trips today and it only cost us $22 (our first trip was free for starting the service, but it would only have been around $10).  Each time we waited less than 5 minutes for a pick up!  MY FEET LOVED THIS SERVICE!  I highly recommend using UBER!

We started our day at the National Zoo.  Our goal was to see the Pandas and the Elephants (sadly the two Zoo's in Chicago no longer have elephants).  We entered the Zoo nearest the Pandas, and went there immediately.  There was a volunteer talking to some people at an overlook, so we went there first.  And there was BoBo, the baby (2 years old) Panda eating his breakfast.  We got a better view of BoBo from the actual Panda viewing area.  So Ken got some great shots of BoBo eating a frozen snack that had been given as a treat!  The two adults were never out when we were there, but we were just glad to see any Panda!

  The Elephants are right next to the Pandas and we saw several!  One was even taking a bath.

 We saw lots of amazing birds and then a real "highlight" of the trip was watching this orangutan cross the zoo on this high ropes course kind of thing!
It was interesting that this was totally out in the open!  I really wondered why he didn't just jump down (although it was really high)!  There were Zoo employees watching very carefully and reminding people not to stand directly underneath her as she crossed the walkways!Orangutans are not "potty trained" and will relieve themselves whenever and wherever they are! It was amazing to watch her swing along, sometimes using her arms and sometimes her legs!  

The Zoo reminded me a bit of the San Diego Zoo.... it is built on a hill.  Thankfully we entered at the TOP of the hill and the entire trip was downhill!  We exited at the bottom of the hill and got picked up by the UBER car within minutes!  We headed off to the Botanic Gardens.  This was a good place to visit today since I could sit and rest my feet at benches around every turn.  It was quiet and peaceful and really is an incredible display of plants, flowers, and trees.  I saw this.....
Yes, this is a Banana Tree!  I don't think I have ever seen one before.  It is interesting that the Bananas grow UP! Around one turn I saw this waterfall.....
I stood and stared at the water for a long time.  I love waterfalls!  The flowing water always brings me back to my life verse...... John 7:38  Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them". Yes, it was a day of lots of quiet prayer and people watching for me!  It was a perfect spot to spend several hours on a Sunday afternoon.

We ended our day at the Museum of the Native American people.  We had a wonderful lunch at the cafeteria there (thanks to a recommendation from a friend....Buffalo Chili and Elk burgers!) and then toured the museum.  We got deposited back at the hotel by Uber much cooler and far less tired than the previous days!  As a matter of fact, we went for a rooftop swim!  Yes, a wonderful day.

That UBER ad is actually on our very well used map of Washington DC.  We have used that map over and over as we have walked the city.  I know that we could just use our phone maps, but there is something so satisfying to me about actually seeing clearly exactly where we are going.  I am kind of "old school" about this.  I have only recently stopped bringing a paper atlas when Ken and I take these road trips!  As I was reading the Bible today, near that waterfall, I was thinking about this exact thing.  I could read my Bible because it is an App on my phone!  Without that, I would not have been lugging my Bible around with me.  So, I have grown and changed in many ways.  I have graduated to a digital Bible (for when I am away from home....I still like to hold my favorite Bible in my hands and read from that).  And I use Goggle Maps on my phone for directions.  But I also love that crumpled map of the city.  And I am thankful that I can even find my way around on that paper map!

Jesus, thank you so much for this day.  Thank you for new, innovative services like UBER and the wonderful drivers we met today!  Bless each of them as they go about their days.  Holy Spirit, thank you for provision for hurting feet...quiet benches and wonderful gardens to relax and catch our breath.  Thank you for the animals of the world!  Jesus thank you for reminders of all that we often take for granted.   And Jesus, thank you for your continue healing of my feet!  Amen

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A bit of an overload of vacation.....

Yes, these are the bottom of my feet, and these are very icky, painful blisters.  And the reason is a most likely from our day yesterday (with a lot of today thrown in for good measure).  We arrived in Washington DC around dinner time yesterday.  We are staying in Logan Square area (which is supposed to be walking distance to the mall.  It is actually 1.4 miles to the mall - at least a part of the mall.  By the time we got back to the hotel (around 10:45pm) we had walked and walked!  Today we discovered that we had actually walked around 10 miles!  And then we set off this morning and walked some more!  By this afternoon, the bottom of my feet were really burning.  Since I figured that I had some blisters, we stopped at Walgreens and got some blister bandaids.  And just to prove that that is really a Walgreens on every corner.....
Yes, we were in Chinatown!  This has been a really interesting vacation.  It is the second time that we have visited Washington DC so we had a very specific list of things to see that we missed on our first visit.  The 10 miles yesterday were mainly so that Ken could get some night photos of the monuments.  I really enjoyed the WWII memorial which had wonderful fountains. And there is just something special about the Lincoln Memorial at night.    It was worth the very long walk.  We saw much more today than we expected but still have several things to do on our remaining couple of days here.  And all of those things involve walking.  Sigh.  I'm praying that my feet heal overnight and that the blister bandaids help cushion my feet!   And we still have three days of walking in New York City!  

I had a couple of interesting "God- Incident" experiences today.  The first was seeing so many churches around the city. These are churches that have been here for a long time.  Most have dates from the 1800's.    As a matter of fact, there is a really amazing church directly in front of our hotel.   You can't help but know and feel that the presence of God has been welcomed here in our capital.  In spite of what has been happening in the political arena, there is no doubt that God is here and He has always been a part of our government.  Standing in the National Archives today, looking down at the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the evidence is clear.  The United States were founded on God and Godly principles.  

Then later today, when we were making our second trip to the mall, we were walking towards the Capitol.  A young couple approached me and asked if I happened to have any sunscreen.  They were both already badly burned.  Of course, I had sunscreen in my backpack.  I have never seen people so happy to get a few squirts of liquid in their hands!  I made sure that they got covered to prevent any further sun damage.  It was supposed to rain today so they had not been prepared for the sun and the heat!  I knew that it was all about being in the right place at the right time.  It might not seem like anything really important happened in this event, But I spent the next several minutes praying for this couple (and the older lady who was with them).  They had already walked away, and Ken was busy taking pictures of the Capital, And I was sitting comfortably on a bench in the shade.  It was a really wonderful time of prayer!  I don't know why this couple decided to ask ME for sunscreen!   I guess I just look like a mom/grandma who might be prepared for any emergency?  I saw it as a chance to pray for 3 people that I would not have even noticed, without the sunscreen.  I prayed that they would be touched by the SON and also not suffer with their sunburn. It was a really neat way to end the day.

Vacations are interesting on so many levels.  We started out this vacation visiting the town where Ken lived for the first 10 years of his life.  It was so good to actually see the house where he lived and visit places that he has talked about for 43 years.  I really liked this small town.  It was a pleasant beginning to our trip!  I am sure that there is much more in store over the next few days.  And I can't wait!

Jesus, thank you for these times to get away and discover new places and new things.  Thank you for reminders that you are the foundation of our great nation, Jesus.  Bring us back to our foundations Lord!  Thank you for chance meetings and also the chance to see important places from our pasts.  Jesus, I am trusting and believing in your healing power for that sunburned couple from Minnesota and also my blistered feet!  Thank you Jesus!  Amen

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Where did the years go???

Where did the years go and why do I feel so old???  This is another one of those days.... it is Gwen and Tim's 14th Wedding Anniversary!  Yes.... 14 years!  I told Ken tonight at dinner that I feel like we have only been married.....I don't know......maybe 20 or so years??????  I know, it is 41 years, but really.... where did the time go?  When I look at this picture, I don't see Gwen and Tim looking one bit older.  This looks exactly like the way they look to me today!  I suppose that they would not agree with that... they most likely FEEL like they look a lot older.  Let's face it, four kids take their toll on their parents!

Remembering this day is amazing to me.  Gwen looked so wonderful.  I love her dress.  It was the first dress she ever tried on - and my mom and I were with her.  Of course she tried on lots of other dresses, but ultimately decided that this was the dress.  And she did not make a mistake.  The wedding was held at the college where Gwen and Tim met... and it was beautiful.  Ken would tell you that the aisle was VERY LONG and Gwen would tell you that aisle was VERY STEEP. And one of the most important things to mom was able to be at her wedding!  (This was not necessarily a given since my mom was 86 at her wedding!)  The wedding went off without a hitch.  I remember that we all were expecting something to not go right, but really it was perfect.   At the end of the night, Ken and I were surprised to feel so happy and not nearly as tired as we had expected!

There was no question that Jesus was very present in their wedding.  What a blessing that is.  To see your children begin their married life, with God at the center of their relationship. It's been wonderful to see their family grow.  It's been a fast and eventful 14 years!

I have to follow up on our day yesterday.  Our "hot water heater" event yesterday was really perfect timing.... like only Jesus could have arranged.  If our heater had started leaking just two days later, well it could have been a major disaster.  Ken and I leave for vacation in two days.  It was not just a little leak, it was a MAJOR leak and we did have a pan around the heater that went straight to a drain.  So we may NOT have had major flooding.  But what we would have had was a MONUMENTAL WATER BILL!  As fast as that water was pouring out, more was pouring into the heater.  I can not begin to imagine the gallons of water that would have drained away.  Thankfully Ken heard the water running as soon as it started.  So we shut off the water to the house.  Quickly.  And we had no showers this morning.  I called our heating/plumbing people last night at 9:45pm and left a message with their answering service, just asking them to call today.  Believe it or not, in less than 15 minutes the owner of the company called back and we had a time all set to get new hot water heater, installed.  What perfect timing!  This was certainly one of those times that I knew that Jesus was watching over me.  Don't we all need times like that?  It may seem like you are not seeing anything happen in the BIG things.  But then something little (that is really a big thing) happens and you can see evidence of Jesus keeping his eye on you. So I am feeling so thankful as I just wash my hands at the sink - in the nice hot water!  This will be a special vacation time, knowing that Jesus is watching over us!

Jesus, thank you for your care and love for us, even in the little things.  Thank you for your perfect timing.  It was that perfect timing that brought Gwen and Tim together.  Holy Spirit, continue to pour out your presence and your Spirit over Gwen and Tim and their children.  Jesus you are trustworthy and faithful.  Thank you for the reminder that you are taking care of things in the exact right time!  Amen

Monday, June 1, 2015

When you are just a bit out of your "league".........

Yesterday Ken and I went to a birthday party for a one year old!  First Birthdays are so much fun, even though the guest of honor rarely seems to understand what is happening.  The guest of honor was the son of Gwen's best friend since childhood.  It is so special that Anna is so close in age to Dexter.
But the day was less than stellar weather was in the 40's and windy and cloudy.  Yes, it is one day short of June, but this is Chicago!  At any rate, the kids were outside playing and I was watching this....
Zeke was playing baseball.  He was waiting for anyone to pitch the ball to him.  Yes, I said PITCH the ball to him.  And just a reminder, Zeke just celebrated his 4th birthday!  He is only 4 years old.  I watched him hit ball after ball after ball.  And the sad thing is that when he is finally old enough to play organized sports, he will need to play Tee Ball for several years. Sigh.  He clearly could be playing now, but he will need to wait awhile!  Anything that involves a ball is just fine with Zeke.  I wasn't the only one watching.........
Anna saw every thing Zeke did.  As soon as Zeke had moved on to football, Anna went for the bat. And as you can see, it is as big as her!  She would not stop until someone threw the ball towards the bat and it actually made contact.  She was so pleased with herself!  At just 16 months old she has lots of time to wait till she can actually play ball.  

I was thinking about this picture of Anna.  I know that there have been lots of times that I have picked up on something that was really way too big (or way too heavy, or way too hard, or way more than I can handle).  Sometimes, like Anna, I have been watching someone else using a gift or talent or practicing a skill, and then I decide that maybe I should try that.  Wow, this is usually a big mistake. At least Anna was only holding a plastic bat that didn't weigh very much.   There have been times when I have found myself in a very sticky place when I have ventured into an area that I should never have even thought about walking into.  You know it is a fine line between trying out new things and taking on a task that someone else should do.  Yes, it is good to know your gifts and your talents and also to know your limits.  It is often better to let someone else do the job...or to call on someone else to do the task than to attempt it yourself.  I am sure that there is a deeper message in this tonight...I think I will have to take awhile to let it sink in.  

Tonight I am thankful that Ken knew that he could not replace our hot water heater.  So tomorrow a very good plumber will come and install a new water heater for us. We will not have to go to multiple stores to buy the new water heater.  We will not have to worry about getting a very BIG heater home in our very small cars.  We will not have to make the always multiple trips to the hardware store that ANY plumbing job requires.  We will not have to worry about getting rid of our old heater.  And I am so thankful tonight that tomorrow night at this time, we will once again have hot water! 

Jesus, thank you for birthdays and times together.  Holy Spirit, help us to know our limits and to use our gifts and talents wisely.  Thank you for gently reminding us when we are considering something outside of our gifts and talents.  Continue to give us revelation of all that you are speaking to us through this.  Amen