Following God’s call

May 2, 2018 - Leave a Response

Only recently have I learned about the life, death and witness of Karen Watson of Bakersfield, California.

In 2003, Karen went as a humanitarian aid worker, and a missionary, to Iraq. In March 2004, she and four other workers were ambushed as they traveled in a vehicle. One worker survived; four others, including Karen, were killed. She was age 38.

After her death, her pastors opened a letter that Karen had written to them before going to Iraq. Here are selections from that letter.

You should only be opening this letter in the event of death.

When God calls, there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the Nations. I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory was my reward, His glory is my reward….

The Missionary Heart
Care more than some people think is wise.
Risk more than some think is safe.
Dream more that some think is practical.
Expect more than some think is possible.

I was not called to comfort or success but to obedience.

There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him….

I am deeply challenged by the testimony and witness of this woman, Karen Watson. What is God saying to you?

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Where Jesus sends us

May 2, 2018 - Leave a Response

On April 28 and 29, 2018, JoLene and I attended a missions conference in York, sponsored by Church and Community Empowering Enterprise, a missions organization founded and directed by Elias and Idotress Joseph, both ministers of the gospel, and both members of Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church of Harrisburg, PA..

At the conference, this quote was given, although I do not recall who said it:
“Jesus sends us to the highways and hedges, not the pews and carpets.”

Something to ponder. Easy to affirm, but in what ways am I practicing this?

Priorities in Government Spending

February 25, 2018 - Leave a Response

There are many opinions as to how the U.S. national budget should be spent. I resonate with this powerful statement that Dwight D. Eisenhower made years ago:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

Jesus Christ taught and lived peace, and taught and lived compassionate help for the poor. I think he would say that Eisenhower was on the right track.

Is our nation on the right track today?

In and about Miami

February 16, 2018 - Leave a Response

For a week in February 2018 we stayed at a condo in Miami Beach.

Miami Beach

We were three blocks from the beach. Several men were doing kitesurfing, which looked exciting and interesting, but not interesting enough for me to try it!

Vida Abundante

On Sunday we worshiped at Vida Abundante Brethren in Christ Church in Miami Gardens, where the pastoral couple are Robert and Mirta Colloca.

Cintrons

On two occasions we spent time with this couple, who have served in Spain and are home for a time of renewal. We ate at a Thai restaurant called The King and I. We had significant conversations about how to share the gospel of Christ effectively in a different cultural setting.

Miccosukee entrance

We went west of Miami to the Miccosukee (or Seminole) Indian Village.

Miccosukee house

A traditional Miccosukee house or shelter.

Miccosukee 2 totems

Miccosukee 1 totem

Trainer with alligator 1

A trainer put on an alligator show.

Trainer with alligator 2

I guess he knows what he is doing! He survived the show.

John & alligator

This little alligator is more my speed.

Spanish Monastery 1

In North Miami Beach is this Ancient Spanish Monastery.It was built in Sacramenia, Spain, in 1141 and was occupied by Cistercian monks for seven centuries. In 1952, William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloister and the outbuildings. The structures were dismantled, stone by stone, and packed into 11,000 wooden crates and shipped to the United States. Here, in North Miami Beach, the Cloisters were reassembled in what Time magazine call the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle.

Spanish monastery cloister

Spanish monastery cloister walkway

Spanish Monastery cloister center

Spanish cloister fountain

Today, the Monastery is the home of the Church of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, which is an active Episcopal congregation. It is also a popular site for weddings and photo shoots as well as filming for television and movies.

We also checked out the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, and urban greenspace, a lovely place to relax. See the next two photos.

Botanical Garden pond

Botanical Garden bridge

Herr's house in FL 1

We drove to Marathon Key to visit friends who have a home there, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Herr's house sunrise

Sunrise from their veranda is a beautiful sight. And at night, the stars are visible in huge numbers, and the Milky Way.

We returned home on Amtrak Auto Train, traveling from Sanford, FL, to Lorton, VA, just south of Washington D. C. A relaxing way to travel. This is said to be the longest train in the world. On this trip, it had 15 passenger cars and 19 vehicle cars.

There are so many marvels in our world, things that God created and things that mankind has developed. We thank God for his power, truth and beauty.

Tarpon Springs

February 15, 2018 - Leave a Response

Tarpon Springs is a lovely city on central Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Sign - Greek Heritage

Greek people settled here in the early 1900s and became divers in the sponge industry. The city claims to be the Sponge Capital of the World.

Welcome to sponge docks

Sponges

The street near the Sponge Docks has many shops that sell sponges and everything else. There are far more varieties of sponges than I ever knew existed.

Tarpon Springs bicycle

Blue and white, the colors of Greece.

St. Nicholas Cathedral

Here is St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, modeled, in small measure, after Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople.

St. Nicholas Cathedral interior

 

St. Nicholas Cathedral ceiling

It was a privilege to pray in this place.

Greek boy holding cross

On Epiphany, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop, from a barge in the bay, throws a golden cross into the water, and immediately young men dive into the water, crowd each other and churn the water in search of the cross. The throwing of the cross symbolizes the casting of the bread of truth upon the troubled water. The diver who retrieves the cross climbs onto the barge, kneels before the Archbishop, hands him the golden cross and receives a blessing.

The above statue, outside the Cathedral, honors this tradition. We were not in Tarpon Springs on Epiphany, so we did not witness this remarkable event.

The advertisements for Tarpon Springs give this invitation: Visit Greece without leaving Florida.

Environment, Trails, Forests, Wetlands, Birds – and oh yes, the Universe

February 12, 2018 - Leave a Response

Because of my passion for nature, responsible use of our world, and birding, we spent some time at Brooker Creek Preserve near Tarpon Springs FL

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Entrance to the Environmental Education Center. The boardwalks make it easy to get around through the main areas of the Preserve.

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One display shows how to have a Florida friendly garden, making the land around your house a friendly place for native plants and birds.

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The preserve consists of 8,700 acres, primarily forested wetlands and pine flatwoods, but with other habitats as well.

Back to the Education Center, they show this quote by naturalist John Muir: “Tug on anything at all and you will find it connected to everything else in the universe.” As I later researched this statement, I learned from the Sierra Club that it is a misquote. The actual quote was this quaint wording: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Regardless of the misquote in the Education Center, you will find a world of beauty and wonder at Brooker Creek Preserve. Along a waterway we saw an anhinga sunning, with its wings spread wide; why I failed to take a photo of that amazing creature is a mystery to me. We also saw a bald eagle nest on the tower of a power line. We saw both parents and two chicks. The nest was far enough away that I didn’t even try a photo of the birds.

 

 

A Cafe with Something for Everyone

February 12, 2018 - Leave a Response

Sweet Sage Cafe is a whimsical, colorful place, a block from the Gulf of Mexico, on Gulf Boulevard in North Redington Beach, FL.

Sweet Sage Cafe

It has indoor and outdoor seating, is pet friendly, features a gift shop, and thoughtful, witty or quirky sayings fill the walls and shelves. One such bit of wisdom: To keep yourself in perspective, you need a dog that adores you and a cat that ignores you.

The servers wear name tags that list the city the person came from. “John of Philadelphia” was our server this time.

We eat at Sweet Sage every time we go to the St. Petersburg area. The food is delicious, the portions generous, the fresh-squeezed tangerine juice a treat, and the whole experience makes me smile.

Holiness Camp Meeting

February 12, 2018 - Leave a Response

We had a 2-week trip to Florida in late January and early February 2018. It was a working vacation; I did some work on world missions every day and had appointments with various workers and church leaders. We also had time to relax, visit some friends and enjoy some sightseeing.

Our first days were spent in the St. Petersburg area. We we went to Camp Freedom, a Brethren in Christ camp meeting in the holiness tradition. This tradition emphasizes the kind of teaching that John Wesley did in England in the 1700s, the biblical teaching that God gives sanctifying grace to the Christian believer so that he or she can be freed from the power of sin and enabled to live a holy life. Holiness is about love – loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

I set up a display table about the World Missions department of the Brethren Christ Church in the US and gave greetings and a report on Missions Day. You can learn more about our missions work at this site: https://bicus.org/missions/

Camp Freedom tabernacle

This is the tabernacle, the main meeting area.

Camp Freedom interior

This is the platform area.

Camp Freedom live oak

Throughout the South, live oak trees keep their leaves all winter and are often majestic, as this one on the grounds of Camp Freedom.

Think through this

October 7, 2017 - One Response

A friend found this statement on a mug and sent it to me.

Yes, English can be weird.

It can be understood, though, through tough, thorough thought.

How’s that for confusing a person who is trying to learn our language?!

Holiness and Love

July 28, 2017 - Leave a Response

There are many aspects to God’s nature. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) comments on two of God’s qualities in The Mark of Love.

“The Christian really has a double task.
He has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. The Christian is to exhibit that God exists as the infinite-personal God; and then he is to exhibit simultaneously God’s character of holiness and love.
Not His holiness without His love: this is only harshness.
Not His love without His holiness: that is only compromise.
Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists.”