Checking our Motivation

July 20, 2018 - Leave a Response

Why do I do the things I do? Why do I try to reach out to help others? It is important to examine our motives.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke and wrote about these fundamental issues.

“It is not how much you do but how much love you put into the doing and sharing with others that is important. Try not to judge people. If you judge others,then you are not giving love. Instead, try to help them by seeing their needs and acting to meet them….

“We have the following words in a sign outside our chapel at the Mother House. They were written by Father Edward Le Joly after we had talked in 1977 and explain exactly what our work is about:

“We are not here for the work; we are here for Jesus. All we do is for Him. We are first of all religious; we are not social workers, not teachers, not nurses or doctors; we are religious sisters. We serve Jesus in the poor. We nurse Him, feed Him, clothe Him, visit Him, comfort Him in the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the orphans, the dying. But all we do, our prayer, our work, our suffering is for Jesus. Our life has no other reason or motivation. This is the point many people do not understand.”

By Mother Teresa
In A Simple Path, pages 93-94

These words challenge me to search my heart deeply as to why I do what I do.

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Life’s Journey

July 12, 2018 - Leave a Response

Before Ruth Bell Graham died in 2007, she chose for her tombstone an inscription that had nothing to do with her remarkable achievements throughout her life.

She told about an experience of driving one day on a highway through a construction area. There were miles of detours, slow progress, big equipment and cautionary signs. At last she came to the end of the work and saw this final sign: “End of construction. Thank you for your patience. ”

Later, Ruth decided on that very wording as the inscription for her tombstone:
“End of construction. Thank you for your patience.” *

All our lives, God is working in every believer to produce godly character and the fruit that the Holy Spirit brings. We are grateful for all who show patience with us as we journey through this process of spiritual formation.

* This story is told by John Ortberg in his book “Soul Keeping.”

Butterflies

July 7, 2018 - Leave a Response

July 6, 2018,
Today I saw the first monarch butterfly of the season, at a tiny field a block away from our home here in Harrisburg. Fortunately, the field has many milkweed plants, so the monarch, if female, will have many places to lay her eggs.

People who record statistics about butterflies say that the monarch population in America has declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years.

I do not try much photography of butterflies, but a few years ago I took this photo of a painted lady on zinnia plants in our front yard.

The largest butterfly I ever saw was this one in our neighbor’s yard.

Learning Many Things in Bethlehem

June 28, 2018 - Leave a Response

From May 26 to June 5, 2018, my friend Elias and I went to Israel and Palestine (West Bank).

Church of the Nativity in the center of Bethlehem in Palestine.

Nave of the Church of the Nativity.

We stayed at a hotel in Beit Sahour, a town adjoining Bethlehem to attend a 5-day conference called Christ at the Checkpoint, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College.

One of the buildings of Bethlehem Bible College.

Mural in the College building.

The theme of the conference was “Jesus Christ at the Center,” which is a marvelous theme, not just for a Christian conference, but for the whole church, and for any person’s life, for that matter.

Through various speakers and personal stories we learned about the current situation in Israel/Palestine; issues of the land, identity, justice and eschatology; the separation barrier (wall) erected by Israel on the border with Palestine; the realities of living in Palestine under military occupation by Israel; the complexity of the situation; the fact that some Israelis wish all the Palestinians would go away and leave the land to Israel only, and that other Israelis sympathize with the Palestinians and are working for a just peace; and the response of Palestinian evangelicals, which is always nonviolent because they take Jesus’ words about loving and blessing our enemies.

Separation barrier viewed from Bethlehem in Palestine.

There are 37 evangelical churches in Israel, 33 of them being in Nazareth and the north.

There are 43,000 Christians in Palestine, belonging to a number of different denominations. They comprise 1 percent of the population. There are 13 evangelical churches in Palestine, most of them in the Bethlehem area. Bethlehem is the only city in Palestine with a Christian mayor.

My burden for the evangelical church in America is that we will remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, and not support the State of Israel to the neglect of the Palestinian church. For many of these believers, their families have been in Palestine since the Day of Pentecost.

Around Niagara Falls

June 19, 2018 - Leave a Response

In early June 2018, we and our children and five of our grandchildren – eleven of us in all – spent a week of vacation in Ontario, Canada.

Here is the rental house where we stayed, six bedrooms and five bathrooms, a short walk through two back yards to a sandy beach on Lake Erie.

Going up the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Canada, is quite an experience. This is an observation tower 520 feet tall, with two restaurants at the top, one of them revolving. We rode the glass-walled bubble elevator to the observation deck but chose not to eat at the restaurants, which we thought were expensive.

The Skylon was built in the slip form method, in which the concrete is continually poured, day and night, into a form moving slowly up the tower. The process took 38 days as the slip form was raised at the rate of 1 inch every 10 minutes and gradually reduced in size as it move upwards.

From the Skylon, a view of the Horseshoe Falls, in Canada.

And a view of the American Falls. The larger main part is on the left; on the right is Bridal Falls.

On the American side, we went on the boardwalk that goes right next to Bridal Veil Falls. The ponchos provided to us protected us from being completely drenched. The wind was like a hurricane.

Several kilometers downriver, the Niagara Gorge has a White Water Walk along the turbulent rapids. From the upper-level bank we went down 230 feet via an elevator, then walked through a tunnel to a boardwalk along the rapids.

This is a class 6 rapids, the highest rating. It is considered unrunnable.

Geologists say that the rock layers are 410 million years old, which is way beyond my comprehension.

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?

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.