Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our Mother Tongue

Today my parents invited us to accompany them to a fund raiser evening of music and food. The performers were a group of Mennonite musicians from Paraguay. Do you know them, Betty ?

It was an evening that reached down into recesses of my childhood memories. This group spoke and sang in the languages that filled my growing up years ... German and the dialect of Low German. I no longer have any occasion to hear or use either of these languages and I was tugged back to feel the emotions of yester-years.

As I sat listening I realized how much I valued my mother tongue. The familiarity of the sounds, the nuances of meaning - that can only be understood when they were felt before the words themselves could be defined, are never forgotten.

And I thought how powerful the first childhood languages are in leaving a lasting impression on who we are ... and always we are drawn back to the warm comfort of their sounds even though a subsequent stronger language becomes our language of choice -- in word and thought.

Toward the end of the program, one of the musicians told of an experience he had had just a couple of weeks ago.

The fund raiser concert was for children in Paraguay, and one of the supported projects was a school in Filadelfia, for deaf children.

This musician had had occasion to visit this school and spend a half day in the classroom with the children and their teacher. The classroom was quiet since the children spoke with sign language.

At some point, the teacher pointed out to the musician six year old twin girls who had been at the school for six months. She told him that they came from a family of deaf/mutes and their older siblings had all gone through the school. Their parents also were deaf/mute and communicated with sign language to each other and to their children. Their home was a very quiet one.... devoid of human voice. Not a word was spoken.

Shortly after the little girls arrived at the school... the surprising discovery was made that the little girls were not deaf at all.. in fact there was nothing wrong with them at all. They were perfectly normal in every way. But because they had grown up in a family where no one ever spoke they did not know that they could hear. They did not know that the sound of human voices was a form of communication and so had never learned to separate the sounds into meaningful words. They were now very quickly learning to understand and to speak.... but unless they were engaged in their lessons or were verbally spoken to, they unconsciously slipped back into sign language to speak to each other.

I saw such a clear spiritual picture here.

We are all born into a world that communicates with human voice and human languages. We hear with our physical ears and it does not occur to us that there is another way to hear.
We do not know that we are NOT spiritually deaf.

But then one day someone tells us about a God who desires to communicate with us... a God whose Voice we can hear and understand.

We hear the gospel and recognizing our need for Him accept His invitation to be born again into His kingdom. We become the "sheep of His pasture" we "hear His Voice".

How wonderful!

But have you noticed that even as believers who know that we can 'hear' the God of all creation who is our Father .... we slip so easily back into our carnal 'mother tongue' ?

We may listen when we read His Word or talk to Him in prayer ... but then how often we go out into our day and forget that we have spiritual ears.

1Co 3:1 "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ."

How often we listen first for the 'language' of the world - it is familiar , it is comfortable. Then only when we are in trouble or in need we remember that we have another higher way of 'hearing'.

Is our goal not to mature to the point where our spiritual ears are the first ones that we tune our minds to? That the Voice and Words of our Shepherd become so clear that the voices of this world "grow strangely dim" ?

Mat 11:15 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear! "


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Roman Emperor

I found history in school boring when it concerned politics but fascinating when it centered on people. I love 'people watching'. No two people are ever the same, isn't it amazing? And yet we ARE all the same in how we think and feel and relate to the world around us. Have you ever thought about it, that if we weren't the same we could never learn from each other because one person's experiences would not be applicable to another ?

People's lives and experiences always interest me ....but there is an added fascination when those lives and experiences can be viewed through the lens of time.
For me, some of the preserved written accounts of events that happened thousands of years ago hold extreme value.

I came across one such account yesterday and while it wasn't new to me, it thrilled me again and I thought perhaps it might be a first read for some of you -- my friends online. I want to share it with you.

The following account was recorded by Justin Martyr , an early Church father, who lived 110-165 AD.
Think about it... the edict - that you are about to read - by a Roman Emperor was written about a hundred years after Jesus was crucified.

OK... here is it ....

The Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelus Antoninus Germanicus, Parthicus Armaticus, to the People of Rome and to the sacred Senate… Greeting…

I explained to you my grand design and what advantages I gained on the confines of Germany, with much labour and suffering , in consequence of the circumstance that I was surrounded by the enemy - I myself being shut up in Carnuntum by seventy-four cohorts, nine miles off.

And the enemy being at hand, the scouts pointed out to us and our general Pompeianus showed us that there was close on us a mass of a mixed multitude of 977,000 men, which indeed we saw, and I was shut up by this vast host, having with me only a battalion comprised of the first, tenth, double and marine legions.

Having then examined my own position and my host, with respect to the vast mass of barbarians and of the enemy, I quickly betook myself to prayer to the gods of my country .
But being disregarded by them I summoned those who among us go by the name of Christians.

And having made inquiry I discovered a great number and vast host of them and raged against them which was by no means becoming; for afterwards I learned their power.

Wherefore they began the battle, not by preparing weapons, nor arms nor bugles, for such preparation is hateful to them, on account of the God they bear about in their conscience.
Therefore it is probable that those whom we suppose to be atheists, have God as their ruling power entrenched in their conscience.
For having cast themselves on the ground, they prayed .. not only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they might be delivered from the present thirst and famine, For during five days we had got no water, because there was none; for we were in the heart of Germany, and in the enemy’s territory.
And simultaneously with their casting themselves on the ground and praying to God (a God of whom I am ignorant), water poured from heaven, upon us most refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a withering hail.
And immediately we recognized the presence of God following on the prayer – a God unconquerable and indestructible.

Founding upon this, then , let us pardon such as are Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon against ourselves. And I counsel that no such person be accused on the ground of his being a Christian.
But if any one be found laying to the charge of Christian that he is a Christian, I desire that it be made manifest that he who is accused as a Christian and acknowledges that he is one, is accused of nothing else than only this , that he is a Christian, that he who arraigns him be burned alive.

And I further desire that he who is entrusted with the government of the province shall not compel the Christian , who confesses and certifies such a matter, to retract, neither shall he commit him.

And I desire that these things be confirmed by a decree of the Senate. And I command this my edict to be published in the Forum of Trajan, in order that it may be read. The perfect Vitrsius Pollio will see that it be transmitted to all the provinces round about, and that no one who wishes to make use of or to posses it be hindered from obtaining a copy from the document I now publish.
(anteNicen Fathers Vol. I pg 187)

Do you realize to what extent this Emperor's desires were met ? To the degree that you and I thousands of years later are still not "hindered from obtaining a copy" of the document this Emperor published !!
I love how God preserved this record of His intervention on behalf of the prayers of His people. In the words of a Roman Emperor, our God is indeed "unconquerable and indestructible."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"What Time is It , Chicory ?"

We are obsessed with time ..... our days are planned around the clock. What question is asked more often in a day than, "What time is it ?"
My friend, Tammie, who lives in Mississippi , did a recent post on the health benefits of chicory. She was intrigued that the chicory flowers grow wild beside the road where I live. Because of her interest, I got interested in the plant and a little 'rabbit trail' research revealed to me a fascinating characteristic of certain flowers including the chicory bloom.
What do chicory flowers have to do with time ? Did you know that man as early as the Greek and Roman civilizations used flower beds as working clocks ?
Carolus Linnaeus, a famous 18th-Century Swedish botanist, became fascinated by the regularity with which certain flowers opened and closed each day and described his observations in his book. He recorded the individual times of each flower and arranged them into a 'floral clock' by which he could tell the time within half an hour !
Linnaeus described three groups of flowers that open and close each day.
1. Meteorici - flowers which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions.
2. Tropici - flowers which change their times for opening and closing according to the hours of daylight in the day.
3. Aequinoctales - flowers which have a fixed internal clock that determine their times for opening and closing unaffected by the weather or light conditions.
Only the Aequinoctales can be used for floral clocks, the others are too undependable.
I love how God has built a 'lesson' into everything He created. I read about the Meteorici and Tropici group of flowers and I was immediately reminded of the verse in
Eph 4:14 that says .. "That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting"
A strong verse to attach to a pretty flower, but isn't deception often 'pretty' at first glance? Children are so easily distracted by anything that is bright and colorful and they reach out to touch. As I look around me today I am amazed at how many 'doctrines' there are - enticing beliefs that tickle people's fancy and draw them away from that which is unerringly solid. People are by default like the Meteorici and Tropici flower group... they open and close their minds according to the 'weather' .... according to the 'winds' of current teaching or fads that are around them.
I love the Aequinoctales flower group. They are unaffected by what is going on around them. Their 'clock' is fixed on what is unchangeable. They are like followers of Jesus who have fixed their 'hearts' on the unchanging truth of His Words and they know His voice and listen to no other.
(Joh 10:27) "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "
Only the "Aequinoctales" can be trusted to be true to God's Word . They are the only ones who will be faithful - the ones that give clear direction to those who ask "what 'time' is it?"
I smiled when I learned that the Chicory flower is the 'early riser'. It opens its face to God when the other flowers are still asleep ! I love David's words which were perhaps inspired by him looking into the open face of a Chicory flower, which is native to Israel.
" My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up." (Psa.5:3)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


This car parked against the fence of our friend's yard caught my eye and I reached for my camera, a post birthing itself in my mind even as I focused my camera lens.

What tells you this car has not been moved in a while?

Blackberry vines were perhaps the inspiration for the addage...."Give an inch and it will take a mile". Anyone ever struggling with blackberry vines on their property know they will take advantage of any space not actively filled by something else!

Anything standing still within its reach is quickly overgrown and entangled.

This car, once shiny and new, was someone's pride and joy. Now it stits abandoned. If left in its present state it will be subject to the law of Entropy. This law demands that all things left to themselves evolve to a state of decay..... iron to rust !

I thought of 2Pe 2:20 that says... "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. "

As I stood looking at the car it struck me how easily it was engangled simply because it was sitting still.

It is our default is to 'sit' isn't it ?
Have you ever noticed that it takes will power to get up from sitting, to motivate ourselves to get back to work ? But it takes no will power at all to sit down to take a break ?

How easy it is to become complacant, to let things slide, to shrug and look the other way, to avoid the unpleasant and the difficult, to take the easy road.

How many words in scripture exhort us to put effort into our faith walk. Words like: strive, endure, persevere, walk, run!

Read the following verse found in Heb. 12:1

" Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

Now read it again with the picture in your mind of the blackberry vines so eager to entangle as a picture of sin.

Makes you WANT to run, doesn't it?

We don't need to DESIRE to sin - to do those things that are less than pleasing to the Lord - we just need to let go of our striving for righteousness, we just need to 'sit down' for a bit of a rest, and immediately the 'vines' of sin will advance upon us. How harmless they may appear at first! Just like every marriage started with a first every addiction started with one harmless partaking of a substance .... so also we begin to slip in our faith walk with the first backward glance.

If we keep our eyes on Jesus, our hearts centered on pleasing Him, our feet running after Him, our hands eager to do His work.... the blackberry vines of sin will never find us an easy prey to entangle.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Two Clark's Nutcrackers

(Part 3 -last post- of my Camping Experience)

When we go camping the animals are always an important part to me. I love them.
This year we did not see as many as we usually do as we were camping later in the season.

The odd squirrel was still about and my husband saw a couple of deer one early morning.

He also saw this blue heron flying in the morning mist and then landing on the lake shore.

He also snapped this adorable hare by the lake , and who later came up to our campsite.

But most I enjoyed the Clark's Nutcrackers. The first day, (before they called all their friends) there were two of them in our campsite where I was waiting with a ready supply of peanuts. One of them - with no hesitation at all - flew in to land on my outstretched hand and help himself to the treats I offered !

The other - you can see him at the bottom of the photo - could not be coaxed to eat out of my hand! He would fly in , land at my feet and wait for the Nutcracker eating out of my hand to accidently knock a peanut to the ground, which he would then quickly snap up with his beak !
He would land on the table and eat the peanuts an inch from my hand but would not touch my hand.
He would sit at my feet for the longest time looking up at me .... waiting... for me to let a peanut drop from my fingers. As soon as I let one drop, he would eagerly gobble it up and then sit , waiting for more. I knew he knew the nuts came from my hand and I was determined to coax him to fly up those last couple of feet.
We played a patience game... I stood holding out the peanuts in my hand... he stood on the ground waiting. He won out... and I finally threw him the peanuts.

I saw an object lesson in how these Clark Nutcrackers picture man's attitude toward God.
The confident Nutcracker portrays a heart attitude we clearly understand.

He is the one who hears God's call..."Come unto Me.." and responds positively to God's yearning for His people to just fly in - boldly- and come to freely take of the blessings He offers.

Heb 4:16 "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

It was the one who refused to eat from my hand that intrigued me as I thought about how often people are so much like him!
I was reminded of the Israelites when they stood before God on Mt. Zion and drew back in fear. They prefered to hear God's Word through Moses rather than hear God for themselves.
Then they said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Exo 20:19)
I had a dear friend I lost to cancer in 1994. She had a strong belief in God but was afraid to 'eat out of God's hand' herself. Whenever a need arose in her life she would come to me, asking me to go to God for her. I tried to persuade her that she could herself go to God, but she would insist that I had a direct line - she didn't. She had more faith in God answering my prayer than she had faith that God would hear her. I was so pleased that toward the end of her life she grew in confidence that she herself was welcomed at God's throne.
While for some, like my friend, it is simply a lack of faith that keeps them from 'eating out of God's hand' , for many I think there is another reason.
God lives in a brilliant light and even though He is invisible to our physical eyes, coming close to God has a way of making us aware of our sin. When Peter first recognized that Jesus was more than an ordinary man , he exclaimed "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8)
We are more comfortable to live our lives a safe distance from God. Close enough to sooth our consciences but far enough away so that we can enjoy the pleasures of our own desires.
We love God's blessings and come looking for them , but we prefer to receive them on our own terms.
God will not wink at our sin but how foolish we are to hold God at arm's length, to prefer our own ways and desires to the perfect ones He has in mind for us.
If we seek Him, how quickly He will be found.
If we desire to forsake every little sin that displeases Him, how quickly He forgives.
There is no safer place we could be than in the hand of God. To prove how safe we are, He says, "See? I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands." (Is.49:16)
And how does He discribe the one who dares to live in His outstretched hand ?
"You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. " (Isa. 62:3)
How can we do other than respond with joyful gratitude at the God who so loves us?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Before you ask, I will Answer!"

(Part 2 of Camping Experience 2008)

Each season has its beauty in color, does it not ? The leaves were already turning where we were camping... the winter season takes the largest piece of the year in the higher altitudes and the other seasons take what is left.

I thought this leaf was exceptionally beautiful ! God's beauty around me is always a joy to me when we are in His wilderness but to enjoy His beauty we do need to have at least a minimum of creature comforts !!

We have tried over the years to find ways to improve the 'quality' of our camping experience and a few years ago when I saw this two room tent (10 x 20) with 7' ceilings I had to have it !

I found when I was looking through my photos that I did not have a good one of our tent, but this one will do ! The two men in the photo - my husband Vic, and Brandon (our friends' grown son) - figure in my story today !

In the bedroom of our tent, we have a queen size air mattress. It is two 9" air mattress zipped to-gether to make it 18" high ! Nice !! Except have you ever slept on an unheated water bed? An unheated air mattress feels exactly the same !! Cold ! So we learned - after the first year- that you really need to put a quilt in between the mattress and your sheet!
We were trying to pack light this year because we no longer have our van. Everything had to go into our car.
I was packing up the food and Vic was packing most everything else. At one point he asked, "I guess we don't need this extra quilt?" Without turning around I said ... "Yes, we do !! we need it for over the mattress!"
Later ...... after the tent was set up and the air mattresses were blown up, I was making up the bed when.....I suddenly had a sinking feeling.
"Where is the extra quilt ?" I asked . "It's right here," Vic said, holding up a small afghan ! "That is NOT a quilt !" I informed him, but it was tooo late to explain the difference between a quilt and an Afghan.
Well, there was nothing we could do. I was thankful we had a flannel sheet and we put the small Afghan over the mattress but I knew it would not do much good and it didn't !!
We were cozy warm on our topsides, but our undersides felt like they were lying on ice ! So we turned a lot the first night trying to keep from freezing !! It was cold !!
The next morning, laying in bed trying to decide if I was ready to brave the even colder air outside the covers..... I tried to think of something we could do .... We had no extra blankets ... there was no place we could buy one !
I finally gave up trying to come up with a solution ! We would just have to suffer !!
I had already turned my thoughts to other concerns of the day when suddenly the Lord dropped one word into my mind . "Newspapers !"
I knew immediately what He meant !! Of course !! News papers are an excellent insulator! I then realized that I hadn't thought to pray about my problem ! It seemed like one of those things that was our own fault and how could God provide a blanket where there was none ? Don't we often limit the power or resourcefulness of our God ??
I woke Vic and told him.... "The Lord told me how we can be warm! Put newspapers between the mattress and the sheet !"
"Nah, that won't work!" was his off the cuff remark!
I was adamant that I had received instruction from the Lord and He wouldn't tell us to do something that wouldn't work !! So Vic agreed ... we'd drive to the lodge and the little grocery there and buy newspapers and hopefully pick up several free local papers.
Later in the day. on our way back from our hike. we pulled in to the resort center and found there were no papers to be had anywhere!!
"Well, I guess we can't do it !" my husband logically stated.
But I was not so easily deterred ! "But the Lord wouldn't have said to use newspapers if there was no where for us to get some!"
Lori, our friend spoke up ! "You know, I think we might have some newspapers in the back of our tent trailer cupboard that have just accumluted over the years!"

And sure enough.... soon after she walked triumphantly into our campsite carrying a stack of old newspapers !
I spread them out over the mattress, put the Afghan over and our sheet and there we were !! Problem solved and we were toasty warm the remaining nights ! As long as we didn't stick any part of our body out from under our covers !!
We saw God's watchful provision for us on our camping week-end not once but twice !!
Brandon packed his clothes quickly when he came home from work Friday and since it was warm he packed accordingly - shorts and t-shirts -- no jacket at all !!
Since he and his parents arrived in the camp after dark we were already in bed and didn't see them until the next morning when Brandon came walking into our campsite !
I took one look at him and said , "Brandon, aren't you freezing? Where is your jacket?" And that is when he told me ... shorts and t-shirts is all he had thought to bring. The temperature was 3' C /37'F.
Brandon is bigger than either his dad or Vic and his dad had no extra jackets !
Vic immediately came to the rescue ! He said .. "I have an extra jacket ! It's too big on me!"
Why he would have packed that jacket I have no idea ! especially when we were trying to pack light ! The jacket was a warm one.... and Brandon got into it .. except for the sleeves being too short but he didn't mind !! He credits Vic's jacket for saving his life ---- only indirectly because of course it was God who moved Vic to pack a jacket he would not need or wear !! And he was obedient to the prompting even though it would have made no sense had he stopped to question it !!
Our Father is truly a great God !!
He proved to me again this last week-end that often before we think to ask, He answers !!
Mat 6:8 "For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."
Isa 65:24 "And it shall come to pass.. That before they call, I will answer.."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Survived -- Barely!

It rained ! It poured !
It hailed ! It snowed!

But I survived !

Thank you ! one and all for your kind comments and sending your prayers with me !
And yes !!!!! I did look longingly at the RV’s and Motor homes that so WARMLY and COMFORTABLY housed their camping owners !

It really was unseasonally COLD ! The night time temps went to freezing … 0’C / 32’F. We spent the evenings close to the campfire in temperatures just above freezing.
The four days we were there the mercury never climbed above 10’C/50’F.

I will save my ‘story pictures’ for my next posts …. But I would like to share here some of my favourite photos from the more than 300 my husband and I took.

I invite you to scroll down and click for the enlarged view - I added comments where necessary.

Friday morning the weather did not look great -- we could just make out the top of our mountain as we stood on our driveway ready to leave!

Then less than an hour down the road, the sky looked promising ... But .. that was to be the theme of our camping weather! Promises, promises is all we got !! If someone looked up and said .. "Ohh .. look... blue sky !!" and the response was slow in coming ... it was already raining !!
As we drove into the campgrounds there was a sign on the bulletin board warning campers to be on the look-out for a mother bear in the area.
This is the closest I got to a bear - wearing a green moss wig !!

BUT.. you never know what is lurking in the forest with its sinister eyes following you!
My husband took the below untouched photo because he thought the moss formation on the tree was interesting. He turned his camera to shoot the photo so of course that is how it came up on our computer screen !! To our amazement here was the face of the allusive Sasquatch !

Vic likes to get up early and walk down to the lake and watch the sun rise. With the unco-operative weather the sunrise was not spectacular . The sky would clear at night to reveal the amazingly bright stars, but by morning it was ready to play the cat and mouse cloud/clearing/rain game !

What did we do the four days we were there ?
Well for one thing, Lovella, I DID make roll kuchen... I have NEVER made roll kuchen before when my hands were FREEZING - even above the frying pan ! and this was mid afternoon! But they were a hit and orders are already in for next year !
We drove higher up on the mountain to a look-out !
No - our friend's son is not in danger of falling off the cliff -- he is just 'posing' for the camera !! That's me busy taking a photo.

We spent a fair bit of time around the campfire !! It was WARM. Again , that's me in the pink cap ! No blow dryer, no curling iron ?? time for a cap !!!
Where we camped there is a string of four lakes. A trail circles three of them and we did the loop.
Brandon overlooking the valley from a trail we hiked higher on the mountain where we could look down on the ski resort below . It was snowing while we were on this trail . If you look closely at the enlarged view you can see the snow flakes on Brandon's clothing !
While the Lord was merciful to us in allowing us to get our tent up before a rain storm hit it was apparent the next morning that a tarp was going to be a necessity ! So it was the three men's joint effort to get the tarp up. Of course it has to be tied HIGH on a tree !! A bundle of wood adds inches to a man's height !

but not enough !! Well, there is a reason why some men are bigger than others... Sometimes it just helps out !!!
and so the tarp was successfully raised !!

When the sun peaked out ... it was cause to take a photo !! quick !!!! This is on the lake trail.

Sorry these photos are a bit mixed up. I wish blogger would let you rearrange your photos without doing the whole reload !! The photo below is looking down on our campsite which is a very short walk from the lake in the distance.
Back to the lake trail.
A bridge over the lake .. It is higher than it looks.. and is a favorite jumping off place for those who dare !! This week-end it was rather deserted for obvious reasons ! although my kids who joined us on Sunday happened to be at the bridge when a young man was dared to jump off for a bribe of $20.00 .. He MUST have been desperate for money because he stripped to his underwear and jumped off ! Not surprisingly he surfaced gasping at the shock of the 'freezing chill' of the water !

With the larger views obscured by cloud ..... I happily focused on the little things which I love . The flowers were still blooming .... and the mushrooms/fungus were everywhere. Here are a few of my shots.

These were so tiny !! Adorable in miniature land. So to show the relative size, Brandon's finger ring is encircling them !

A meadow of daisies and other wild flowers.

Although it was very cold and rainy.... we did still enjoy God's creation and the fellowship of good friends and we had hours of God-talk ! My favorite subject !!
More to come tomorrow !!