Preparing for Christmas

December 4, 2015 - Leave a Response

The following is an Advent prayer written by Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, theologian and writer, who lived from 1932 to 1996.

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”


From Madrid

October 19, 2015 - Leave a Response

In June we took our family to Madrid for a week to celebrate early our 50th wedding anniversary, which will be on December 22. We stayed in a vacation apartment three blocks from Puerta del Sol, Gate of the Sun, the very center of the city.

Here is a photo of the anniversary couple in front of the royal palace.

John & Jo at palace

Unfortunately, the king was busy with other things, so we had to dine at an outdoor restaurant by ourselves.

How we came to this anniversary so soon is a mystery, but we thank God for his mercy and goodness to us in so many ways throughout our married life. Yes, we have had some losses and pain, but God’s grace is sufficient.

Prayer for the work we do

September 12, 2015 - Leave a Response

I came across a prayer about work, which I then edited it for greater clarity. I welcome any comments you may have.

Lord Jesus, as I enter this workplace, I bring your presence with me. I speak your peace, your grace and your perfect order into the atmosphere of this place. I acknowledge your lordship over all that will be spoken, thought, decided and accomplished within this place of work.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the gifts you have given to me. I do not take them lightly but commit myself to using them responsibly and well. Give me a fresh supply of truth, patience and love on which to draw as I do my job.

Anoint me with creativity, ideas and energy. Help me to see that even my smallest task can bring you honor if I offer it to you. When I am weary, send fresh strength and power from your Holy Spirit.

Grant that the work I do and the way I do it will bring blessing and encouragement to all whom I contact today. And even in my most stressful moments, grant that I may rest in you.

In the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.


Family photo

September 12, 2015 - Leave a Response

We had a photo taken of our entire family at my niece’s wedding in August.

Our family 2 - August 2015

Twelve of us. We are grateful to God for our family.

Ovenbird Nest

June 8, 2015 - Leave a Response

The PA Migration Count is an annual one-day snapshot of bird populations within our state. The count is held on the second Saturday of May and seeks to answer such questions as: Where are the birds? How many are there? Do migration patterns change from year to year?

This year the Migration Count Day was May 9. I went with my son-in-law Ed and my grandson Jeffrey for the morning, heading out at 5:15 AM. We went to Mt Holly Marsh Preserve, which, sure enough, contains a large marsh, with skunk cabbage and cattails and elusive Wood ducks, but also a large mountain area.

Ed is really good at identifying birds by sound or sight; in our 5-hour walk we saw or heard 54 species. Some special sightings were the female Scarlet tanager, Northern parula warbler, Philadelphia vireo and Worm-eating warbler. In the woods and on the mountain we constantly heard, but did not see, the elusive red-eyed vireos. We counted 135 of them!

We got good views of an ovenbird, low in some small trees. We guessed the pair had a nest nearby, but their nests are on the ground and very hard to spot. But I looked around and saw, right along the path,  a small mound of sticks and leaves, and sure enough, it was a nest.

Ovenbird nest 1

Ovenbird nest 2


In the old days, ovens were rounded, and the oven-like shape of this bird’s nest led to the naming of the bird.

This was the first time either Ed or I had seen an ovenbird nest, so it was the highlight of our day.

Have any of you who read this blog seen an ovenbird nest? If so, post a comment to let me know when and where you saw it.

Happy birding!


An old-fashioned necklace

April 27, 2015 - Leave a Response

After my mother passed away last fall, we found in her possessions an old-fashioned  “necklace” that I recall from my childhood. In our extended family it was a children’s toy rather than a something an adult would wear. Here are two views of it because the background contrast shows the color of the beads in a bit of a different way.

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And above is a closer view, to give a clearer idea of the shape of the beads.

I had to do some research to learn what this necklace is made of. It consists of the seeds of Job’s Tears, also known as coixseed or tear grass. The scientific name is  Coix lacryma-jobi. This grass is a tall, grain-bearing tropical plant that can be grown in United States. It produces a pearly-white seed with a hole through the middle and a shiny coating, so the seed serves as a natural “bead”  readily suited for being made into necklaces and other objects. Sources say that Job’s Tear seeds were used by for decorations as long ago as 2,000 B.C.

You can learn more about Job’s Tears from the internet or other sources.

Have any of my blog readers seen this item before? Do you remember it from your family or your childhood? I would be glad to hear your stories.

Grandchildren and Easter

April 27, 2015 - Leave a Response

Our children and grandchildren were with us on Easter Sunday, and we had an egg hunt (plastic eggs filled with small goodies) at Sheryl and Ed’s house here in Harrisburg. Actually, our oldest grandson, Yohannes, was absent but the rest were there.


Melanie’s youngest, Kayla, in Grandpa’s stocking cap.


Ed and their daughter, Zariah.


The children clowning with bucket hats.

We are grateful for family times.


Inside Out

March 26, 2015 - Leave a Response

We live in a society that puts an inordinate emphasis on outward appearance. Unlike the Bible, where God repeatedly tells us to pay close attention to our inner self and our relationship with God.

Here is an additional thought on the inner life.

“Image and appearance tell you little. The inside is bigger than the outside when you have the eyes to see.” William Paul Young

What are you seeing?

Flowers and Plants on Display

March 18, 2015 - Leave a Response

Have you ever visited the United States Botanic Garden?

In February we spent a weekend in Washington, D.C. On a bitterly cold and windy day we went to the Botanic Garden, on the mall, just down the hill from the U. S. Capitol. What a relief to be in a warm place where plants and trees were growing and flowers blooming.

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I was especially drawn to the orchids.

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A fascinating exhibit called “Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots” showed the ways plant roots are a vital part of the earth’s ecosystem. Posters and photos presented the work of Agricultural Ecologist D. Jerry Glover.

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In two long rows we saw the actual root systems of wheat, alfalfa and a lot of other plants that I cannot remember.

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It is my impression that many visitors to our nation’s capital go to the more  well-known sites and museums and miss the beauty and education of the Botanic Garden. You may want to include this place when you visit Washington, D.C.

Reflection on the season of Lent

March 18, 2015 - Leave a Response

Lent is a time to prepare for Easter celebration through serious thought, repentance and prayer. God is using the following quote to guide my thinking and prayer these days.

“Lent is the season during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance. As the buds open and the days lengthen, this is a season which calls or greater openness to God and a conversion in every area of our lives. It is time to face the darkness within and expose it to the light.”   -Michael Ford

What are your thoughts this Lent season?

Candles and cross




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