Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Beauty of Heidelberg

After a good night of rest, we made our way to the tour meeting spot for a half day trip with some other fellow travelers to view the town of Heidelberg. It was a sunny day and a nice cool temperature which made the journey very comfortable...all, except that is, for the bus. Ours was a small sized bus with narrow seats. We felt somewhat like sardines when we were all packed aboard, but we had a lovely German tour guide.
The journey takes about an hour and twenty minutes from Frankfurt, and along the way, we passed the exit for Darmstadt Germany where many of my ancestors were born and lived. It is a smaller town of 150,000 souls. We did not go through it, but just being in the vicinity made me think about the hours I have spent on tracing family trees. It is a good thing to know!
When we arrived in this very old city, we went immediately to a stop below the Castle of Heidelberg. Interesting to know, the Germans charge to use their toilets. That was not the case in England, but it is in Germany. I had been forewarned so we took change on our trip in preparation. Once this necessary stop was made, our bus climbed the high hill on which the castle stood. The structure has worn away with time and was not damaged during WWII surprisingly. However, there are still turrets standing and various buildings in the castle that remain. They are working to restore this ancient castle site. You could see a little of the gothic influence,19th century romanticism and the building in its original state goes back to the 1200 hundreds. Amazing statues adorn the front of the main portion of the building. All the streets in the courtyard are brick as well.
In one room, the people built a huge wine vat that could hold 220,000 liters of wine. How they built this out of solid oak inside the building is beyond my understanding. Of course, the most outstanding feature is the location overlooking the entire town of Heidelberg. We could see the large open area below the castle which used to be the moat. This provided extra defense against enemies.
Upon leaving our castle tour, we drove down into the old part of the city. Here narrow streets were closed to traffic so that tourists could move freely. The buildings were
very old, and the streets narrow. However, between the tourists and the college students who attend classes here, there was a large crowd of people enjoying the day and the biergarten.
After strolling along, we sat in some chairs and watched the world go by until it was time to leave.
Our trip home was pleasant and uneventful. So when we got back, we both enjoyed a nap.
We concluded our perfect day in Frankfurt by dining at a cafe which allowed seating on the street.
Tomorrow, we will board a train and travel of Munich to spend a few days. I will catch up with you all then. If I had better internet service, I could upload to Flickr but I have found that I am far too use to the convenience of the wireless internet in the USA. It works but only off and on. At least you get some updates. I pray you are all well and these little windows into our sightseeing adventure are a blessing. More tomorrow.....

Please feel free to leave comments.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two Day Whirlwind of London and on to Frankfurt

Our week in Scotland and England seemed to fly by much too quickly. On Saturday, we drove our car to Heathrow airport. The trip was uneventful and we had a lot of help from our "Tom Tom". Aside from the first day he drove, my husband did a wonderful job of navigating the narrow streets and following the English system of driving. He admitted that the first day nearly ruined his nerves, but we mastered the round abouts by the time we returned the car.
We took the express train to Paddington Station and from there caught a cab to our hotel. I was very impressed with the express train which only took 15 minutes to take us to central London from Heathrow. Good rapid transit for us!
Our hotel was lovely but the wireless internet service cost roughly $32.00 a day and only worked well in the lobby area. I would have done better bringing my laptop which I could connect in the room....but I would still have had to pay. It is very evident when traveling abroad that the value of the dollar has greatly diminished and all things European are expensive.
On Sunday, we set out to see what we could. We travelled by a hop on hop off sightseeing bus which made it much easier to reach points of interest. It was a long holiday weekend for the British citizens since Monday was a bank holiday. This added to the crowds attending various sightseeing spots. We had a chance to see London Bridge, Tower Bridge (the most famous of the two)Trafalgar square which is quite impressive, the outside of Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul's plus the Tower of London and the crown jewels. To their credit, both churches are closed to visitors on Sunday.
Perhaps the most famous of our stops was the Tower of London best known for its bloody executions and holding the beautiful crown jewels of the realm. We took pictures of the tower tour which I will try to upload to my Flickr account so you can see them. Unfortunately and understandably, we were not able to take any pictures of the crown jewels which were the most magnificent jewels I have ever seen. The crowns, scepters and swords of the kingdom were laden with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and sapphires. They were not small either. The number of crowns staggered the imagination and the size of the diamonds was unbelievable.
In another section of the tower complex, we saw an amazing display of armor worn by kings and nobles. Even the horses wore armor and it was astounding to see the fine detail. Of course, both nobleman and horse had to suffer under the weight of all that metal; yet it provided the only protection they had during battle. Guess you had to be in shape in those days for sure!
On Monday, Glenn and I set out on foot to walk from our hotel to Buckingham Palace which is currently open for tours while the Queen is on her vacation. It appeared to be a moderate walk; however, never trust a map! What looks like a couple of blocks can turn into a mile or two. Once we arrived, we had to wait in line for tickets to see the Royal Mews, art gallery and palace. After the purchase, we proceeded to the Royal Mews which house the royal coaches and horses. It was breathtaking to see the coaches in all their finery. Gilded with gold,polished to perfection, and emblazoned with the royal coat of arms, these carriages reflected the pomp and ceremony that has come to identify the British crown.
While all the coaches were outstanding, only one stood above the rest. It was the golden royal coach that carried Queen Elizabeth II to her coronation. This is used only on special occasions and may likely be seen when the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee (sixty years on the throne). In addition to this special coach, we also had a chance to look at the harnesses for the horses. The work involved in keeping all the brass shined must be enormous. Certainly, keeping tack in good condition is a major chore in itself. My hats off to those who keep up with this job along with caring for the 32 horses stabled there.
After this tour, we were ushered into the Queen's art gallery. There was room after room of beautiful artwork by famous Dutch painters. Many had been obtained by King George IV. Various special tables, clocks and chairs were also part of the display. The most striking portraits for us were of King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. They were almost life size in dimension and the detail was exquisite.
Despite all that we had seen, nothing could have prepared us for the Royal State Rooms in the palace itself. Gold gilded designs on each ceiling and around the woodwork dazzled the
eyes. It reminded me of the Baroque era of architecture. The size of the rooms, the decor, the furniture were extravagant but tasteful. There really is no way to explain the grandeur that we saw. Unfortunately, for security reasons, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the art gallery or the palace. If I could share it with you, I would. I felt privileged to be able to see where the Queen hosts state events and special occasions. We were also able to see the wedding gown worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William.
Upon leaving the palace, we traveled to Westminster Abbey for a visit inside. A remarkable old church once used as an abbey for monks, it has now become the burial place of the famous. We saw the tombs of T.S. Elliott, Sir Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer,
W.H. Auden, Sir Laurence Olivier, and ironically Charles Darwin. I say ironic, because he was a doubter in the existence of God. Queen Elizabeth I, her arch rival Mary Queen of Scotts and various other Kings and Queens are laid to rest there as well. It was an interesting tour of historical significance.
Fortunately, we caught a bus right after this visit to head to St. Paul's Cathedral. We didn't have much time before the tours were to end but we came in as the choir was rehearsing for Evening Song. What a beautiful sound as we walked through the building and looked at its simple beauty. It is possible to go up several tiers and look down below...but....1) I am afraid of heights and 2) my knees could take no more English steps. So we settled for the beauty we could see from the ground floor.
Our day ended with a celebration at the Savoy Grill run by famous Chef Gordon Ramsey (Hell's Kitchen show). Our children got us a reservation and provided us with funds to enjoy this evening. We were treated like celebrities and the food was perfectly prepared. The staff gave us a special piece of pure chocolate mousse with happy anniversary written in chocolate on the plate. Then, we were given a tour of the kitchen and had the opportunity to meet and thank the chefs working that evening. What a glorious evening and one we will never forget!
Today, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany where we have had a day off from our sightseeing. It is a relief too as our feet have done a lot these last few days. Tomorrow, however, we will begin our German tour with a trip to Heidelberg to see the sights. I will keep you all
updated of what we have the opportunity to see as we continue our adventure.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Touring Warwick Castle

What another interesting and wonderful day! We started it with a lovely English breakfast served by our hostess at our bed and breakfast. After we checked out, we drove into town and parked not far from the castle walk access. There was a fair in town offering all sorts of wonderful treats and things to buy. I love England...they know how to socialize and enjoy time together. In addition to the fair, the castle was offering demonstrations,jousting, falconry and live actors portraying Henry the VIII. He was very good too!
Once again, we were so impressed with what author and traveler Rick Steve's had to say about this castle. He called it the "finest example of a baroque period castle in all of Europe". I have to agree. The wood carving, paintings, gold trim in the rooms and rich tapestries covering the state rooms and the great hall were stunning. Unfortunately, a camera can never fully capture the enormity of a structure as large as this castle.
As we entered, the castle was alive with soldiers and maidens in period dress to make everything realistic. A small encampment outside the castle itself portrayed common people roasting a pig on a spit and going about the daily business of making a living.
We toured the rooms of state where kings and queens entertained and spent their time. The art work on the walls was beautiful and the banqueting hall was enormous. There was also a chapel in the castle where the king could worship. Obviously, no expense was spared when it came to decorating.
Following our tour of these rooms, we climbed a hill (seems like there is a hill or steps still my aching knees) to watch the jousting match. How wonderful it was to watch! Once again, history coming to life before our eyes. I thought of how wonderful it was for all the little children whose parents had brought them to the exhibition. History should never be forgotten.
In another field, we watched a demonstration of a falconer working with an American bald eagle. You cannot imagine the size of these majestic creatures until you see them flying and coming to rest on the falconers arm. I did the best I could to zoom in on the bird when it landed. America has a beautiful bird indeed!
When we had seen all the shows and demonstrations, we packed up our Peugot and travelled to London Heathrow to drop off our car. This week has gone by so quickly and while we have had our moments while driving through England...we both agree it was the best way to see the countryside. In fact, I love the quaint small villages and the lovely every day people we met. They were kind, helpful and friendly. Our stop for lunch in the small town of Barton will be a memory to treasure. The lady behind the counter at this grocery was so sweet. These are the moments that stick with you.
We rode the express train to Paddington station from Heathrow and then, took a taxi to our hotel where we will stay for several nights. Tomorrow begins a bus tour of famous sites in London. It is cool here (64 degrees daytime with 51 at night). In Florida, this is our winter. I am glad I brought some long slacks and sweaters for this trip. It has been drizzling rain off and on too...but we have been prepared with my trusty umbrella.
I will continue to keep you posted as we venture forth to see Westminster, St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, Tower of London and Buckingham Palace...places that until now seemed so very far away. Stay tuned...the adventure continues.

Still working on the pictures situation...have a Flickr account but don't know how to get blogger to pick it up. I will keep trying!

UPDate: Here is the URL to my Flickr pictures from today so you can see them if you are not on

facebook :

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Adventure Continues in Lincoln and Stratford

I confess that exhaustion prevented me from sharing yesterday. Our trip is carefully timed so we don't have a lot of extra moments to sit and take a deep breath. Yesterday, however, was a day to be remembered. At the recommendation of a friend I made over the Internet who lives near Lincoln, England, we decided to visit this city to see the enormous cathedral whose history dates back to the 1200's. It sits atop a hill rightly named "Steep" overshadowing the town far below. Certainly everyone in the community knew that God's house was most important, and they could not ignore it.
Approaching it made me feel like a dwarf and it is easily one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. The vaulted ceilings raised high above the floors were an architectural masterpiece. Massive pillars rising up from the floor to hold the weight of the ceiling boggled my mind. In addition, the stained glass windows showed scenes in the life of our Lord as well as scenes from the history of the kingdom. So much history, beauty and majesty rolled into one building.
In one corridor of the cathedral, there was a glass case containing the second copy of the Magna Carta. Lincoln is the only town to have a copy of this important democratic
document signed by King John. I never knew that and no travel book I have read even gives mention to this fact. Our travel book by an expert in the field, totally missed Lincoln and its beautiful cathedral.
From the castle, we crossed the old town square to the fort and prison. This castle square provided protection for the community and punished the evil doers. The prison chapel had an interesting history. Prisoners were brought each Sunday with their heads covered so they could not recognize one another. They were dropped in to slots by jailers. Only their eyes could look up to the preacher once the head covering was removed and their seats were slanted so they could never relax or fall asleep during the two to three hour sermon. I wonder if pastors could use that technique today to keep their congregations from sleeping?
Within the fortress walls, the court building sat which is still in operation today. Amazing how some things never change.
Following our tour of these sites, we found our bed and breakfast and met up with my dear English friend and her husband who took us out to a delightful pub for a great meal. The fellowship was sweet, and I am so happy we had a chance to meet face to face.
Today found us once again on the road to Stratford on Avon to see the birthplace of Wiliam Shakespeare. Having loved English literature and performed in several plays by the Bard, I enjoyed this trip even though it rained all day. Our "Tom Tom" got us to a covered garage and from there we walked with our umbrella into the old town of Stratford. Despite the cold drizzly day, our hearts were warmed to see his humble dwelling place. He married a local girl at the age of 18 and fathered three children - a daughter and twin sons one of which died.
We were unable to make it to Anne Hathaway's home (his wife) due to distance and the weather. However, we paid a visit to Hall's Croft the home of his daughter Susanne Shakespeare who had married a doctor (Dr. John Hall). The home reflected their wealth for the time in which they lived. We learned something we had never heard before while there. One of the guides said that boy babies died more often than girls so parents dressed them in dresses and let their hair grow into curls so that the devil would not know which was a girl or boy and thus the child would not be taken. Green and red were power colors at that time so infants often wore those colors to ward off the devil. What an interesting fact! Now I know why so many paintings of boys showed them in dresses during that era. It was the only thing the parents had to protect their children as medicine had not yet provided answers for sickness that could bring death.
A short walk further took us to Trinity Church where Shakespeare, his wife Anne and his daughter and her husband are buried near the altar. It is very interesting to see people of note buried in the church floor. I know the same is true in many of the cathedrals we visited.
As a side note, we stopped for a treat after lunch and enjoyed a sinfully rich
Belgian hot chocolate drink with real whipped cream and a biscuit (better known as a cookie in the States. I have never had such a pleasurable cup of hot chocolate in my life!
This evening,we made it to Warwick and are at our bed and breakfast as I write. We actually struck out on our own and found a friendly pub close by that had a special on fish and chips. Pubs are so unique here. It is like a friendly gathering place for men and women that serves food as well as drinks. The haddock was fresh and move over Long John Silver and all the wannabes.
In the morning, we plan to visit Warwick Castle before heading on to London. Do continue to pray for us as we are a bit nervous about returning our vehicle at a large airport. However, my husband deserves a star for his stellar performance this week in driving.
Be watching Facebook for pictures as I cannot find a way to transfer them to Blogger from my IPAD at this time. Blessings to you all my friends!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 3 of Our Adventure

Where to begin? We spent a full day in Edinburgh yesterday, and as a result of getting back to our castle last night, I was too tired to post. Both of us have fallen in love with Scotland...the spirit of the people, the beauty of the heather on every roadside and the friendly atmosphere we found. Most amazing to us, though, is the beauty of the ancient buildings steeped in history. Personally, I only thought Washington D.C. had more steps on their buildings,but we found that even in the alley ways called "close" there were zillions of steps and oh, how out of shape we both are! My dear husband is far more hearty at taking the steps than I was but we braved it.
Yesterday found the temperatures dropping into the fifties so we had to bundle up as best we could. Climbing the steep hill to see the Castle of Edinburgh took a lot of effort but we were rewarded with ancient historical views. The position of the castle is atop a craggy hill overlooking the city and the bay. It was perfect for the defense of the people and the king.
Entering a special vault, we were able to see the crown and scepter of Mary Queen of Scots and other pieces of her royal gems.
Prior to our castle trip, we stopped into the Cathedral of St. Giles to see its beauty. Hard to believe the amazing construction of these ancient churches. One tomb in particular stood out. It was of a man who was beheaded for his Reformation faith. He had been a faithful servant of the queen but refused to recant his beliefs and paid with his life. We also discovered a precious document signed by the Covenanters in 1638 proclaiming their faith in the truth of God's Word. I tried to photograph it but due to lighting it did not come out as well.
In the evening, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at "The Elephant House" restaurant. Interestingly enough, this was the place where J.K. Rowlings began writing her now famous Harry Potter series. Following our meal, we made another trip to the Edinburgh Castle to watch the military Tattoo. It was a gathering of wonderful military bands from across the globe. We had the top row seats and again had to climb to the highest heights. I don't like heights so it was a challenge but one well worth the effort. The huge bagpipe band wearing their dress regalia and tartans thrilled us both. How beautiful to our ears! During their presentation, they made a formation of a celtic cross that was outstanding. All thew other royal bands were sensational but the bagpipes stoll the show! The entire program was performed before the castle which was lit by flaming torches. At the end of the program,
a lone bagpiper stood at the top of the castle ramparts to play. Then a quotation was read from one of Scotland's writers and the speaker concluded by loudly proclaiming "Scotland the Brave!" It was moving and reminded me of the movie "Brave Heart".
We had parked our car in the town of Bonnyrigg and taken a bus into Edinburgh. We managed to catch the last bus back and so we returned to Dalhousie Castle for the last night cold, worn out but blessed.
Today, we drove four hours to the city of York to see York Minster which dates back to the Romans, early Normans and Medieval times. While the cathedral was beautiful in its construction, I felt sad to think how empty many churches are today. When we arrived, we could hear evening song. The choir echoed through the high ceilings, the pipe organ rang out in praise and the smell of incense filled the cathedral, but I wondered to myself how many believers still came here to genuinely commit themselves to Christ?
Tomorrow, we will visit a couple more spots in York before travelling on to Lincolnshire. There is a huge cathedral there as well. I am told it towers over all the town. It will be interesting to see how it compares to this one.
I did forget to mention that my husband is doing very well with the backwards driving in England. Our trip today through the back highways of Scotland and England was breathtaking. Sheep on the hillsides, cattle feeding in the verdant pastures, and the sides of steep hills purple with heather was a sight to feast upon. Many of the small towns we went through looked like they came straight out of a Dickens novel, and when we stopped in a snail town to grab a sandwich, we were welcomed by a lovely English lady who had actually visited Kissimmee, FL. It really is a small world we live in!
With all this said, I still do not know how to post my pictures from my IPAD 2 to my blog. I have an app that allows me to post to Facebook so I may have to be happy with that until I can find something else. If you have suggestions, let me know.
I pray you are all blessed and stay tuned for more of our adventures abroad.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Thayer European Vacation

We began our journey on time yesterday as we arrived at the airport early. However, the plane boarded late. Then, the weather was bad all along the eastern flight corridor so we sat on the tarmac for nearly two hours. Normally this would not matter but our connecting flight was to depart as we were to land. There is nothing you can do at those times but pray.
I have to admit that the ride was rocky as we navigated around those storms. We did land at the time the other plane was to depart so we ran to the other gate in another wing the airport. Fortunately, they waited for us and we made it on board. The second leg of our trip took seven hours in which we attempted to sleep. We made our arrival at 8:35 a.m. (five hours) later than Eastern time zone.
We rented our car (good sized considering the tight little streets in Scotland. My husband did a good job of learning how to stay on the left side. Our Tom Tom did not cooperate though which caused us to get lost several times. We think this has been corrected now but we are planning our routes more carefully to avoid confusion.
Our journeys took us to Stirling where we got to see the castle and the William Wallace statue. We visited the historic Holy Church of the Rood. Massive, beautiful and rugged best
describe it. John Knox preached at this church and one of the most historic Presbyterian leader Ebenezer Erskine was buried in the graveyard of the church.
Tomorrow, we plan to see Edinburgh castle, walk the royal mile and see the Military Tattoo which is comprised of the best bag pipe bands in the world. A feast for the ears!
Our room in Dalhousie Castle is themed after William Wallace and the castle is set in a
rural quiet setting surrounded by deep woods. I have visions of Robin Hood!
I will share more tomorrow. For this evening, I am exhausted! When I figure out how to share photos on blogger with you from my IPAD I will!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An "Ah Ha" Moment

     A couple of weeks ago, my dear husband and I traveled to see our son and daughter-in-law for the weekend.  We attended church with them on Sunday morning and our daughter-in-law read a passage of Scripture that was eye opening to me.  I had heard it many times before and read it myself but on this particular day, it really spoke to me.  That is one reason why I love Scripture reading so much.  The Bible is truly alive and active in our lives if we will take time to sit in the presence of God through the pages of His Word.

     Her Scripture reading came from Romans 5:1-11:  “Therefore since we have been  justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at just the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved to him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice to God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

     What a passage of Scripture this is!  Throughout this section, there are words of encouragement to be found in a day and age when encouragement is in scarce supply.  Consider some of these points that the Apostle Paul makes.   First, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  While there may be war in this world or conflict between our neighbors, we can live in and experience complete peace with God.  Our broken relationship with Him has been mended and made new again.  Secondly, we not only experience peace, but our relationship with Christ has given us access to God.  We can go to Him day and night with all our requests, needs, hurts and praise.  No longer is there is barrier or chasm that separates us.
     Another blessing of our relationship with Christ is found in the ability to face suffering.  We now have hope.  While our trials are not necessarily pleasant, we know that God will use what the enemy means for evil and He will use it to build endurance in our lives.  This endurance will, in turn, produce character which leads to hope.  It is a winning situation.  Without Christ, our trials did not produce hope.  In fact, they often led to despair. Now, however, the reverse is true.  How great and mighty our God is!

     A fourth aspect of this passage of God’s Word deals with the Holy Spirit which is given to every believer at the time they accept Jesus Christ as Savior.  Having the Spirit live within us brings about change.  We are filled with God’s love and able to see things from His perspective where we could not before.  The Holy Spirit guides, teaches, comforts and leads us to know our heavenly Father and understand His Word.  There is no one like Him and God has placed Him in our hearts!

     For me, verse 6 really jumped out.  It reads:  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  I take comfort in these words which point to the perfection of God’s timing.  Christ came at just the right time!  God is Sovereign and has a plan both in terms of salvation and specifically a plan to use our lives to His glory.  Isn’t that exciting?  It is to me!  We do not need to give up if something doesn’t come to pass according to our timetable.  It will be done if the Lord wants it to be completed.  So, we can rest in that and trust in Him.

     A final blessing comes in the knowledge that we are reconciled with God.  We were separated from our Creator by sin in our life but through the death of His Son Jesus Christ, we are now reconciled to God.  This healing of relationship also leads to more stable relationships with those around us.  When we can love like God does, we can build healthy friendships, marriages and parenting skills.  This is where it all begins…with that reconciliation. 

     When I listened to this passage read, it really was an “Ah Ha” moment for me.  It really summarizes all that God has done for us and should give us encouragement each day.  Ponder this passage and meditate on it.  I guarantee that it will bring you an “A Ha” moment as well.   Selah!

PS  To all my readers, my husband and I will be shortly heading off for our 40th wedding anniversary on a wonderful trip abroad.  I am planning to take my trusty IPAD so I can post on my blog and send photos from the places we travel.  This is a very special celebration for us.  Hard to believe it has been 40 years!  So...bear with me....for the next few weeks, my format will be a little different than usual.  However, I hope you enjoy looking through my eyes at the things we will discover.

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Living Out Loud

     We live in an age of communication.  Cell phones, text messaging, "tweets", "My Space", "Facebook", "Kindle" readers and other devices make reaching out an easy thing to do.  Public networking sites  make it simple to keep in touch with family and friends by exchanging pictures and sharing stories or videos.  Sometimes we enjoy reading what is happening in the life of a friend and sometimes it is "too much information".  While all of this seems like fun and a great way to keep up to date, there are several things that we need to keep in mind as believers.

     In his letter to the believers at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul penned solid instructions for the church in terms of keeping the unity of the body and in dealing one with another.  He instructs them to put away falsehood (Ephesians 4:25) and then in verses 29-32 he expands on the area of communication:  "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."  This is how we will show the world that we belong to Christ!  When we put off the old self, we are to wear these new garments of change that should affect every area of our lives...especially how we communicate with one another.  

     I have seen on blogs, news groups and other Internet places some pretty nasty things being written by people at times.  Of course, the hard part about the written word
is that you do not have the person there in front of you to see the expression on their face or hear the tone in their voice.  Many times, people take the written word the
wrong way as well.  That is one area my mother frequently warned me about when I was growing up.  She always encouraged me to talk face to face with another person rather than write a note which could be taken the wrong way.  It has proven to be good advice.  Therefore, as believers, I think we have to look at all the public avenues of communication and make a decision to reflect God's grace in the things we say.  We need to ask ourselves if what we are about to share on "Facebook" or in a tweet will build others up or tear them down.  Is our language appropriate so that if Jesus were to read it, He would approve?    Remember the Scripture above.  We are to put away falsehood, slander, wrath and malice.  We are to give grace through our words whether spoken or written.  So, whether we like it or not, all the public ways we communicate are part of our total witness for Christ.  

     Perhaps the greatest concern we should have as followers of Christ is the amount of time we spend in these public forms of communicating as versus the time we spend
talking to God.  We do not need a wireless connection, cell phone contract or other assistance to reach out and touch God.  He is there all the time waiting to hear our cries
and concerns.  He desires to have sweet communion with us, but I often think we neglect talking to Him and spend more time asking the opinions of our peers.  He should be the first One we talk to in the morning and the last One we say good-night to in the evening.  I personally believe that the time we spend on the "net" or on the cell phone far outweigh the time we spend in prayer before Him.  The sad part is that our friends, family or co-workers cannot solve our problems.  They can listen for certain, but they do not have the wisdom that God has.  He has planned our lives and knows the best course of action for us.  Therefore, it would seem to make sense to pray and tell Him our hurts, worries, concerns and pain.  David certainly did this in the Psalms.  He poured out his heart to God...both good and bad.  David revealed his heart to the only One who could change it.  Likewise, our Lord Jesus Christ took time out of his daily schedule to get away and pray.  His example is plain for us to see.

     I know I certainly enjoy keeping in touch with family and friends on Facebook myself.  It is great to be able to see pictures of those I do not get to see very often.  Yet, I must remember two crucial things as we all need to do:  Watch what we say that it may reflect Christ and His love and secondly, remember that God needs to be the person we talk to first.  He should not get our left over time.  If we keep our lives in balance, we will be a blessing to others and a glory to God.  Let us begin living out loud in a way that will lead others to Jesus Christ!  Selah!

Your thoughts are important to me.  Please feel free to post your insights here.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Boy Who Cried Wolf Revisited

     Most of us have heard the old story about the boy who cried wolf.  He was a bored shepherd boy who decided to pull a prank.  He cried out that a wolf was attacking the sheep under his care.  The people in the village came running to help him, but soon found out that there was no wolf.  After a brief scolding, the people went back to the village.  A little while later, the boy decided to cry out again that a wolf was attacking his sheep.  Once again, the people came to help him.  Of course, there was no wolf so they went home even more annoyed at this needless prank.  When a real wolf came and the boy cried out, no one came to his aid.  The sheep were scattered, and the boy was heartsick.  One of the elders of the village reminded him that no one believes a liar even when he tells the truth.
     Lying to others is certainly one of the morals of this story from Aesop's Fables, but I believe there is another pattern we can see in it as well.  One of the serious pitfalls in our culture today comes when people do not stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for their lives.  In the fable, the boy told a lie to get attention, but in real life, there are people who claim they have a great need so that others will pity them and provide for their comfort.  If it stopped there, it would not be an abuse of the kindness of others.  Often,  however,  these same folks ask over and over again for assistance.  Eventually, people weary of always providing for them just as the villagers in the fable tired of the boy crying wolf.  At some point, everyone needs to take responsibility for his own life.  Lets look at a couple of key scripture verses that deal with this.
     2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 reads:  "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."  Some folks are down on their luck and need a helping hand, but in this passage, Paul is addressing those who could find gainful employment and did not.  Instead, they stood around getting into other people's affairs rather than serving the needs of the community or their family.  They cry wolf so that others will feel sorry for them, but sooner or later, people will turn a deaf ear to their cries because they have worn out their welcome.  In addition to working to earn a living, the Bible also speaks to the issue of laziness or slothfulness.
     Proverbs has a good deal to say about the subject of being lazy and hating work.  Prov. 21:25 reads:  "The sluggard's craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work."  In addition, the lazy person gives all kinds of excuses:  "There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets" (Prov. 26:13).  A lazy person also wastes time and energy:  "He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great waster" (Prov. 18:9).  The end result of someone who is slothful can be a sad one just as the boy who cried wolf too many times found out.  Here is what the Bible says about that lazy person:  "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor" (12:24); "A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing" (20:4);  "The soul of the lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich" (13:4).  To sum it all up, a lazy person will go into debt, eventually end in poverty and have nothing to show for his life.  This is the very antithesis of what God calls us to be in Christ.  Yet, there are people who call themselves Christians but do not attempt to serve the Lord by working to serve others and repay their debts.  So if we meet someone who seems to be "crying wolf" by asking for help repeatedly without trying to change their circumstances, how do we help them?
     This is where it can be tough.  We need to be able to draw a line like the people of the village did with the shepherd boy.  They answered his call twice but the third time they did not come.  To put it another way, they did not enable him to continue with his pranks.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to help someone and when to draw back and let them face the consequences of their decisions and behavior.  There is a balance to be found.  We do not help others when we continually give in to their calls for assistance due to either their laziness or poor stewardship.  Instead, we have to show tough love that encourages those around us to accept responsibility for their actions and lives.  My father-in-law was fond of quoting a saying: " If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime."  Let us teach those in our sphere of influence how to fish rather than feeding them for a day, and let us show our love for them by allowing them to face the consequences of their decisions.  This will break the cycle of the "boy who cried wolf".  Selah!

Please share your thoughts and insights with me.  I enjoy hearing encouragement from you and appreciate your visit.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

     I used to chuckle at those T.V. commercials for a cell phone carrier.  The fellow would walk along so far and then ask, "Can you hear me now?"  The idea, of course, was to point out that this particular carrier never dropped a cell phone call as versus the others out in the marketplace.  It was clever advertising, but it also made me think of God's efforts through the ages to reach the heart of man.  He sent His commandments.  Then, He sent His prophets and finally, He sent His Son all in an effort to make clear to His creation the way of salvation.  Even after we become a Christian, God continues to speak to our hearts through His Word, in prayer and through fellowship.  But are we listening?

     I am reminded of a story which I have seen in various forms on the internet, but found most recently in a devotion written by Dr. Neil Anderson of Freedom in Christ Ministries.  The story goes like this:  "A devout Christian heard an urgent news report on his radio that a flash flood was within minutes of entering the peaceful valley where he lived.  Immediately he went to his knees and prayed for safety.  The words were still on his lips when he became aware that water was gushing under his door.  He retreated to the second floor and finally onto the roof of his house.  While he sat on the roof, a helicopter flew by and the pilot asked over the loudspeaker if they could lift him off.  It's not necessary since I have the Lord's protection, he replied.  Moments later the house began to break up and he found himself clinging to a tree.  A police boat, braving the waters, approached him for rescue, but he assured them that the Lord would save him.  Finally, the tree gave way and the man went to his death.  Standing before the Lord, he asked, 'Lord, I'm glad to be here, buy why didn't You answer my prayer for safety?'  The Lord responded, 'Son, I told you over the radio to get out of there.  Then I sent you a helicopter and a motor boat!'"

     Nowhere in the Bible are we told that God is only going to do the extraordinary or miraculous in order to speak to our hearts.  Most of the time God works through His created order.  He speaks in that "still, small voice" rather than through a loud speaker.  Unfortunately, many of us are looking for a big billboard in the sky to tell us what we should do when we are in a difficult situation.  Like the man in the story above, we are "trusting the Lord" for our deliverance but we miss all the common things around us that can lift us up.  Let me give a personal illustration.

     I was feeling somewhat disheartened the other day, so I asked the Lord to give me some encouragement.  During the busy day at the office, several people made nice comments to me.  Then, I received an uplifting email from a friend.  The entire day, in fact, was filled with small moments like this, and when I sat down that evening to think about it, I knew it was the Lord sending encouragement my way.  He was in all the small things of the day. 

     Our problem comes if we only look for Him through signs and wonders.  That is not a faith is a sight walk.  We cannot hear God if we are not tuned to His voice.  How do we learn to recognize Him?  The answer is found in knowing Him through His Word and in spending time with Him.
The Bible says in Hebrews 13:5:  "He [God] Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'"  If this is true, then why do we look for the answers everywhere else but in the simple things around us?  Maybe someone has given us a Christian book to read.  Perhaps someone sent us a letter or has given us  a phone call.  God can use these simple things to speak truth to us, but we have to be tuned in to hearing Him behind these simple things. 

     God promises that when we call to Him, He will answer us:  "Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known" (Jeremiah 33:3).  How wonderful it is to know that our Father in heaven wants to commune with us!  All we have to do is look around us at what He sends our way each day.  If we pray, seek answers in His Word, we can trust Him to know that He will send us His response.  Lets remember the lesson in the story we read so we don't miss God's call to us, "Can you hear me now?"  Selah!

Father, tune our ears to hear your voice.  Open our eyes to everything You have provided for us so we can walk in obedience to You.  Help us to see You in the small things instead of always looking for the big things.  Forgive us for seeking signs instead of seeking You.  Thank You for never leaving nor forsaking us.  Help us to trust You more each day.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Palm of His Hand

     Walking in the heat this time of year can be a challenge.  While my husband and I try to get out early before the sun is bearing down on us, there are days when we just don't make it.  On those days, we love the shady spots along our route where we have a momentary escape from the Florida sun.  As we were walking on a nicely shaded street, a thought occurred to me.  God provides shade, protection, and strength all with the palm of His hand.  He gives us relief from the sorrows, pain and sickness that come with life just as the trees give us a break from the heat of the day.
     In Isaiah 49:14-16, the prophet writes these words of hope to a people who had felt abandoned by God during their exile:  "But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.'  'Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget you.   Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me."  These are great words of comfort when, at times, we do feel all alone or forgotten.
     As I read this, I thought about God's hand.  There are times in our life where we need protection.  In my mind's eye, I could see God's large hand shielding us from the heat of temptation, the snares of the enemy,and the slings and arrows of accusation.  So many times we are completely unaware of His intervention on our behalf, but I am confident that one day in heaven we will become aware of just how many times God's hand protected us.
     God's hand is also there to lift us up.  He has the power and strength to carry us when we are too weary to go on.  I will never forget how my own father carried me around after I had polio.  I was too weak to walk or move so he would gently lift me and take me to bed.  This is how I see God.  Even in the poem "Footprints", we see this picture of our Lord who not only walks beside us in life but carries us when we are too exhausted to go on.
     Since we are engraved upon the hands of God, we know He will not forget us, forsake us or in any way lose us.  Jesus said this so clearly in John 10:27-29:  "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."  What comfort to know that we are safely led and kept by the hand of God.  Christ is our Good Shepherd who binds up our wounds with His tender hands - hands that were nailed to a cruel cross for our sake.  His hands were engraved with our sin and His blood was shed to set us free.  If only we could see each day how much the Father holds us in the hollow of His Hand...we would never stop thanking Him or rejoicing in His great salvation.
     No matter what burdens we have, we have a Savior who beckons us to bring them to Him and place them in His hands.  He will protect us, shield us, lift us and keep us for He has our names written on the palms of His hands.  No one can snatch us out of them!  If this day, you need encouragement, take the hand of the Lord entrusting to Him every aspect of your life.  You will never be disappointed because He will carry you when you are too weak to go on.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights.  Please feel free to share them here with me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Type of House Do You Live In?

     My husband and I start our days several times a week with a stroll through our neighborhood.  We may walk for a mile or two along the streets and enjoy the cool, quiet moments of the morning praying, talking, and simply observing nature.  On more than one occasion, I noticed something as we went along that made me sad.  We would see one very neat, well cared for home and next to it would be a house that almost looked abandoned.  The grass was high, the shrubs were out of control and the house looked like it needed serious attention.  In this economy, I can only conclude that the bank may have foreclosed on the home owners or that someone had passed away and the house had been left for relatives to decide how to dispose of it.  However, it was such a glaring difference between the appearance of homes on the same street.  This wasn't an isolated case either.  There are a number of such contrasts throughout the area that we walk.  I thought to myself that certainly a prospective home buyer would never be attracted to a run down, unkempt property compared to the nicely kept home next door.  Then, it struck me.  Isn't this the same kind of distinction that the world should see between believers and unbelievers?
     Jesus spoke these words to the disciples in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew5:13-16):  "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."  These descriptions portray what believers are to be in this dark world in which we live.  We are to be light and salt adding flavor and illuminating the way to live according to the Word of God.  Like the neatly kept homes I walk by, we are to be attractive by reflecting Christ to a hurting, sin-sick world.  There should be a contrast between the way we live and the way unbelievers live just as there is a contrast between well kept homes and abandoned decaying ones.  So what does it mean to be salt and light?
     When our lives are committed to Christ, we have several important tasks.  First, we are His ambassadors to this world.  We are called to tell others the Good News of Jesus Christ, His salvation and His kingdom. (John 17:18; Matt. 24:14).  Our light shines when we reflect this call and serve others in their needs as Christ has served us.  What a difference this makes!  The world does not do this.  However, we must be on guard that we do not fall prey to materialism, the indifference towards God and the pursuit of pleasure or status that drives this society.  We are in this world, but we are not to be of this world.  Our life is a pilgrim's journey as we pass through this world to our home with God.  During our lifespan, then, we are to make a difference by shining for a life to His glory in obedience.
Jesus calls us to listen to others, empathize with them, care for them, bind up their wounds, but not to fall into their practices.  Instead, we are to use our opportunities of service to demonstrate His love and be able to share our faith that those lost in sin may hear about the Savior.
     Jesus also told us to be salt in this world.  One of the properties of salt is as a preservative.  As believers, we are to hinder the corruption of this world.  Our lives need to demonstrate morality, good stewardship of our resources and the earth's resources, as well as love for our neighbor.  Deeds of mercy and kindness do not go unnoticed when done with a heart full of God's love.  In addition, we have the opportunity to demonstrate a good "work ethic" which further demonstrates our desire to fulfill God's call on our lives.  It is definitely a good witness to others when we perform on the job not to please men but to please God.  This definitely stands out and brings glory to the Lord.  We can transform our culture around us by living for Christ in all that we do.
     Our job is to illuminate our world and to be the salt that helps to preserve godly conduct.  The Lord has graciously chosen us unworthy vessels to pour out His blessing of love upon.  Yet, it does not stop there.  We are then, in turn, to carry it to those around us and share His news of salvation.  This is why we are here that we may bloom where He has planted us.
     Somehow, God always seems to speak to my heart through analogies and I could not help but see the tremendous contrast between the houses that were well kept and those that were left to decay.  Our world is like that.  We must be living in a house fully dedicated to Christ so that our light may shine brightly.  People will notice, and they will ask what makes us so different.  This is when we have the privilege of telling them about a Savior who offers us a new life of forgiveness from our sins.  Lets get busy and look at our lives and remove anything that keeps us from shining brightly or being salt in this hurting world of ours.  Selah!

What areas has God called you to work on?  I welcome your insights and words of encouragement.  Please feel free to leave them here.