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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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?

Learning Together

April 2, 2017 - Leave a Response

On March 16 and 17, I hung out days with 300 Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Baptist and Mennonite people at the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. The occasion was a conference on “Bringing the Church Home: Reimagining the Family on Mission.”

Jonathan Lloyd (Director of Brethren in Christ World Missions), Bruxy Cavey (Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto) and I were the only Brethren in Christ participants.

Bruxy Cavey was a plenary and workshop speaker.
He talked about the fact that our human relationships are patterned after God and his essence as Trinity, and that therefore “the goal of the gospel is union with God’s love life.”
He explained that the real nature of The Meeting House is the home churches, not the Sunday morning service. All functions of the true church take place in the home churches.
He and his wife have maintained an open door policy for their family. Anyone who needs a place to stay can live with them for a few days or weeks.

Other speakers included:
• Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, my alma mater,
• Frederica Mathewes-Green, author and speaker, Greek Orthodox, married to a priest,
• Christopher West, Catholic writer and teacher who lives in Lancaster County, PA
• Bishop Ronald Gainer, Bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese of the Catholic Church,
• Monsignor Renzo Bonetti, of Verona, Italy, who is passionate about the discipleship of the family and how the home serves as a primary place for evangelism.

A few highlights of the event:
• The Amore Project here in US is a ministry that helps the whole church rediscover the family as the domestic church and the NT “oikos” as the center for community and mission. Amore trains married couples to embrace their marriage as a sign of the gospel and a calling to minister among those who are far from God. Amore was the main sponsor of this conference.
• We need a movement of married couples who live as agents of Christ’s self-giving love. Mission often arises when the people of God seek reconciliation in their broken places.
• In the Gospels, you find that, to a great extent, Jesus did his teaching over a meal in someone’s home.
• Jesus said clearly that his disciples, not the physical family, are his primary family. The family of faith takes precedence over the biological family.
• “Ecclesia domestica,” domestic church, was the early church’s name for the home. The early church was a domestic movement. On Sunday the domestic churches come together.
• The purpose of the family is to be a beacon of God’s love in the world.
• We are always sitting at the feet of Jesus and always being sent out into the world as missionary disciples.
• Christopher West has devoted himself to spreading the “theology of the body” that Pope John Paul II wrote about extensively. It takes both the male and female human to express the image of God. Our physical bodies are giving constant witness to the nature of God and the nature of grace. Marriage and wedding are central images, signs pointing to the intimacy of the Trinity and the intimacy between Christ and the church. Lust is what you have left when you let agape out of your life. Some of what Christopher said was what I already knew about the biblical view of marriage, but “the theology of the body” was new to me.
• Because the body and marriage are images of God, it is no surprise that the enemy is launching major attacks on sexuality and marriage.
• As the culture in America becomes less and less committed to Judeo-Christian values and worldview, we Christians from all traditions need each other in a deeper way.

This was an enriching and stretching experience for me. I met wonderful people from other traditions. I reflected on ways that JoLene and I have lived out, and failed to live out, the reality of the domestic church as the primary means of discipleship and evangelism. I began to look at Scripture and human sexuality in a deeper way. I thought often of the fact that, in various ways, many of our Brethren in Christ missionaries are establishing home churches as the primary expression of the gospel. In the days following the conference, I have sensed a new depth and richness in my devotion to God.

I thank God for the truth about life, sexuality, marriage and spirituality that comes to us from the Scriptures, other Christians and the Holy Spirit.

I pray that Christians all over the world get a vision of their homes as a domestic church, a beacon of God’s love in our world.

If any of my readers have some experience in, or thoughts about, domestic church, I welcome your comments.

After Christmas

January 11, 2017 - Leave a Response

Here is a poem for reflection after Christmas and Three Kings Day or Epiphany.

The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

This was written by Howard Thurman, and African American, a Quaker and a preacher, who was active in the civil rights movement in USA.