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.

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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.”

Trip to Spain 2017

July 4, 2017 - 6 Responses

From May 28 to June 12 we were in Madrid, Spain, and nearby areas as part of my work for the World Missions department of our denomination, the Brethren in Christ.

During the first week we led a learning trip for two couples, and the one couple had their 4-year-old and 2-year-old sons with them. The little boys showed great adaptability as we traveled by Metro, bus and train, had many meetings and kept late hours.

Here are David and Christine, with their sons.

And here is the other couple, Elias and Idotress, on the right, talking with a member of the Madrid Church.

During the second week, JoLene and I had meetings and appointments with our workers as we discussed in depth several important administrative matters.

Cafe del Gato 1

Cafe del Gato 3

In Madrid, we ate several times at Cafe del Gato, the Cat Cafe. There were no real cats on the premises, just the art decorations. In the first photo, the window reflects the street opposite the cafe, and if you look carefully, you can see me as I took the photo.

The Madrid Cathedral, also called the Almudena Cathedral, or the Cathedral of St. Mary the Royal, of La Almudena. La Almudena is similar to the Arabic word, “The Castle.” A modern structure, it was completed in 1993.

Above, the apse, the area beyond the altar; and the ceiling above the altar.

Palace - front

Across the plaza from the Cathedral is the Royal Palace, the scene of state and formal events. King Felipe VI lives in a different palace, somewhere outside the center of the city.

Plaza Mayor 1

Plaza Mayor, a main plaza located a few blocks from the Puerta del Sol (the Gate of the Sun), which is the very center of the city.

Mariachi players and singers in Sol. Like all the street performers, they are looking for donations, so for the privilege of taking this photo I dropped a few coins in the hat.

 

Mercado de San Miguel, San Miguel Market, a glass-walled, indoor upscale market. All kinds of tapas (small portions, a bit like appetizers), seafood, fruit, large stuffed olives (which our group we really liked) and all kinds of drinks.

In Plaza de Espana (Spain Plaza) the Cervantes Monument, a tribute to the famous novelist and poet, author of Don Quixote. Below the statue of seated Cervantes you see Quixote (taller) and his squire, Sancho Panza.

Our church in Madrid meets for worship at noon on Sundays (Spaniards eat lunch at 2:00 PM.) On the first Sunday we were there, they had an international meal. Delicious entrees and desserts, many of them from Latin America. We contributed Hershey’s Chocolate Miniatures.

For our workers, serving means not only singing, Scriptures and sermons, but also clean-up duty. What a pose!

It was a privilege to pray with, bless and encourage our workers.

The members of our two churches are involved in works of compassion. We joined them in packing non-perishable lunches for the members to give to homeless people they meet on the street. I gave my package to a man sitting on the sidewalk outside McDonald’s at Puerta del Sol.

 

This is the storefront (the street level and basement) that serves as the meeting place for our church in the town of Hoyo de Manzaneres, about 15 miles from Madrid.

Here you see Antonio and Aida, the pastoral couple at Hoyo. They are gifted servant-leaders and have a heart to see the fire of God settle on the people of their church and town.

In Hoyo we walked through the town, praying for God to work in mighty ways. On a more mundane note, we saw a huge stork nest, with an adult stork feeding one of its two chicks.

 

We took a bullet train to the city of Toledo, location of the huge Toledo Cathedral, which is impressive on the outside and richly decorated on the interior.

Interior, above the main altar.

Interior, The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco.

This is the Cathedral Monstrance, a structure to exhibit the host (communion wafer, the body of Christ) in a once-a-year procession through the streets. This Monstrance is one of the most famous in the world. The literature says it is made of pure silver, but to me it appears to be gold. Is it silver covered with gold? It is carried on the shoulders of several people, in a procession takes place in the month of June, some time after we were there, so we missed seeing the procession.

Also in Toledo, we spent time in the small museum called Ancient Instruments of Torture, showing many instruments that were used during the Inquisition, which was established by Queen Isabella I in 1478. Originally, it was mostly to ensure the orthodoxy of those who had converted from Judaism and Islam. After seeing the instruments and machines and reading the descriptions, we left the museum with sober thoughts and heavy hearts.

Also in Toledo, we visited a shop where they make damascene plates and jewelry. Damascene is the art of inlaying gold and silver in a darkly oxidized steel background in intricate patterns. The English term comes from the fact that the finished work resembles the rich tapestry patterns of damask silk.

On a day off we went to the town of San Lorenzo of El Escorial to see the Royal Site, a vast building complex that was once a monastery, royal palace and burial place for the royal families. It was conceived by Phillip II and completed in 1584.

Today it is still a monastery of the order of St. Augustine and also a tourist site.

The photo above is the iconic view of the building, which is laid out in an immense square and has spacious gardens of three sides.

The main entrance.

After you enter the main entrance, you step into a courtyard facing the basilica, or church.

This concludes our photo tour of Madrid and surrounding areas. Thanks for joining us.

Please post a short message on my blog so that I know you are there!

God Speaks

June 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

In the Bible we learn that there are many sides to God’s nature. He is kind and gentle, and also strong and powerful. In Psalm 29, King David, with repetition and lyric beauty, tells about the powerful side of God’s nature.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Psalm 29:3-9

When was a time when God spoke to you in kindness and gentleness?
When was a time when God spoke to you in power and authority?
With what voice is God speaking to you now?
What causes you to exclaim “Glory!” when you think about God and what God is doing in your life?

Looking beyond Age 70

April 8, 2017 - Leave a Response

Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952) was an American missionary who came to be known as the Apostle to Islam. He did missions work in Arabia and Egypt and later was professor Princeton Theological Seminary. He retired from the professorship at age 70 but continued traveling, speaking and advocating for world missions after that. He died ten days short of his eighty-fifth birthday.

Zwemer expressed his attitude toward retirement by a message he gave to Princeton’s Warfield Club in his seventieth year. It was titled “Life Begins at Seventy.” He gave seven reasons why:
1. We should have a diploma from the school of experience by that time.
2. We are near to the river that has no bridge.
3. We have passed our apprenticeship in the school of life.
4. At 70, we can look further backward and further forward.
5. By this time, we should know that life consists not in the abundance of the things we possess.
6. The responsibility to witness for God to the next generation.
7. At 70, the Christian must redeem the time and live in more deadly earnestness.

What important life lessons have you learned in your life so far?
Who or what shapes your thinking as you consider aging, retirement and serving God wholeheartedly?