Sunday, November 30, 2008

celebrate the Sabbath...

There is a realm of time where the goal is
not to have but to be,
not to own but to give,
not to control but to share,
not to subdue but to be in accord.
Life goes wrong when the control of space,
the acquisition of things of space,
becomes our sole concern.”

~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Today is a short post.... just a wee bit.  I went to Sea World with my friends and their kids today and was treated to the wonders of sea life.  Unfortunately, I did not recharge my batteries before going, and as a result, have no photographic evidence of the amazing creatures I saw!  It refreshed my awe and wonder of God's creation as we watched dolphins leap into the sky, killer whales interact with humans in amazing ways, giant-yet-graceful manatees swimming under the water, and happy wonder-filled faces of children and adults alike.  It was a good time!!

My favorites were the gentle manatees (sea cows) swimming back and forth, rolling and turning and seeming to generally enjoy themselves.  I also really enjoyed the beluga whales (see blurry photos below)... white and ghostlike in the dark cold water, twirling, and "dancing."  They were quite beautiful.

It was a day of enjoying God's creation once again, both those with fins and those with feet!  Thanks, God, for the amazing creatures you have made!

Friday, November 28, 2008

no black friday here...just gratitude...

Today in my home, there is no "black" on this Friday... just a day of relaxing and celebrating God's goodness! (these sun/cloud shots were taken yesterday while driving to our Thanksgiving destination... wonderful!!)

  • a country founded and built upon the desire for freedom to worship God! (148)
  • friends with whom to spend the holiday (147)
  • a table full of food (146)
  • five kernels of corn beside my plate (lest I forget) (145)
  • family, though they live far away (144)
  • a night of glorious rain (143)
  • the delighted smile on the face of my neighbor's son (142)
  • a beautiful swarm of tiny "butterflies" in the morning light (141)(though they were actually termites on the move!!)
  • a great night's sleep (140)
  • a comfortable bed in which to sleep (139)
  • good books to read (138)
  • the ability to read!! (137)
  • laughter (136)
  • playing with little kids (135)
  • a long drive with good friends (134)
  • Thanksgiving leftovers (133)
  • NOT going shopping on "Black Friday" (132)
  • enjoying a day of relaxing (131)
  • Christmas music! (130)
  • more beautiful and amazing clouds! (129)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

happy thanksgiving day...

“Seeing our Father in everything makes
life one long thanksgiving
and gives a rest of heart,
and, more than that,
a gayety of spirit,
that is unspeakable.”

~ Hannah Whitall Smith
* * * * *
Wishing you a day full of joy and laughter, family and friends,
feasting and gratitude...
oh, so very much gratitude...
to the One Who has given all these blessings!
With your heart full of thanksgiving,
and your lips sharing it with others,
may you experience unspeakable
gaiety of spirit!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

five kernels of corn...

Yesterday I posted a bit about the first Thanksgiving in October 1621. There is, however, more to the story... there is the winter and the year that followed that first Thanksgiving.

It was a terrible winter, full of great hardship and deprivation. In November a shipload of additional colonists had arrived, but they had brought with them not a bit of equipment--no food, no clothing, no tools, no bedding. Suddenly there were far too many colonists and far too little food.

"...a sobering appraisal by Bradford, Brewster, and Winslow was taken, and a grim decision was reached: they would all have to go on half-rations through the winter, to ensure enough food to see them into the summer season..."*
“…What mattered to God was how the Pilgrims responded to [adversity]. And He was pleased with their response: they kept their eyes, for the most part, on Him. Thus, they did enter their own starving time that winter of 1621-22, and were ultimately reduced to a daily ration of five kernels of corn apiece. But as always, they had a choice: either to give in to bitterness and despair or to go deeper into Christ. They chose Christ. And in contrast to what happened at Jamestown, not one of them died of starvation. Then God had mercy on them, as He had so often in the past.”
* * * * *

It was not until almost two years later, in 1623, that the second Thanksgiving celebration took place. And at that feast, the first course that was served --on an empty plate in front of each person--were five kernels of corn...lest anyone should forget.

...At my friend's home at Thanksgiving dinner, in honor and remembrance of God's amazing provision, there are always five kernels of corn next to each plate...lest we should forget.

May we, like the Pilgrims in that starvation winter, CHOOSE CHRIST that we may please God with our response to both the difficulties and blessings of life. And, may we, like those Pilgrims, see God's mercy on us, in the past, in the present, and in the times to come.
quotes from "The Light and the Glory" by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the first Thanksgiving...

"The First Thanksgiving",
painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930).

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in October of 1621 following the Plymouth Colony's first successful harvest. Though many of their number had died that winter, they had much for which to be thankful. And they knew to Whom they owed their gratitude.

"The Pilgrims were brimming over with gratitude--not only to Squanto and the Wampanoags who had been so friendly, but to their God. In Him they had trusted, and He had honored their obedience beyond their dreams. So, Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving."*

There were feasting and games and contests with their Indian friends. Everything went so well that the celebration was extended to three days!

"They had so much for which to thank God: for providing all their needs, even when their faith had not been up to believing that He would do so; for the lives of the departed and for taking them home to be with Him; for their friendship with the Indians...; for all His remarkable providences in bringing them to this place and sustaining them."*

This was the story of the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims had come to the new world to pursue religious freedom--the freedom to worship God as He had called them to. They were brave men and women who endured great hardships but counted it all as suffering for the cause of Christ. These were the men and women who first settled our great nation. These were the ones who 'counted the cost' and left behind all they knew to create a nation for the glory of God!

As we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, may we truly be thankful--not only for our tangible blessings but also for the freedoms we enjoy as a result of those who came before us. And, like the Pilgrims, may we recognize from Whom these blessings come...

Let us join with the voices across the ages as we give gratitude to God for His amazing providence and His incredible blessings! Thank You, Lord; we are grateful!!
*quotes taken from "The Light and the Glory" by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

Monday, November 24, 2008

the season of thanksgiving...

I have a pet peeve. Yes, it's true; I do.

You see, I love Thanksgiving. It's one of my very favorite holidays. It is a time for being with family and friends, for eating delicious food, for a four-day weekend... but most of all, it is a time for being thankful. For expressing that thankfulness. For celebrating God's goodness and our so-very-many blessings!

My pet peeve, however, is the way Thanksgiving is hastily skipped over. Since it's not a money-making commercialized holiday, it doesn't get the focus it really deserves. The minute Halloween is over, the stores immediately move to decorate for Christmas (if not before!), and the gimme-gimme-buy-me commercialism is everywhere we look and listen. (I used to boycott any store playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but now that's almost impossible!)

Suddenly, everything is all about what we want and must have instead of focusing on what we already DO have! Thanksgiving is treated as a springboard for the biggest shopping day of the year --Black Friday. And now, that shopping day has been joined by Cyber Monday, which is supposedly one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. Eat up that Thanksgiving dinner so you'll have energy to arise at 4am and head out to the sales!

I would love it if we could have the Thanksgiving weekend with no other purpose but to celebrate thankfulness, to revel in gratitude. Thankfulness to God for the gift of Himself in our lives. Thankfulness to Him for the many ways He blesses us. Thankfulness for our family and our friends. Thankfulness for the less tangible blessings, like peace and joy and laughter and comfort. Thankfulness that the sun has risen on yet another day and the stars have appeared in yet another night sky.

For these, and so many more, I am thankful. And, oh yes, I do love the feasting --all the delicious taste treats-- but I know the day is so much more than the food. I want to think about and soak in all these thankful thoughts, and I delight in sharing them with loved ones.

A couple of years ago, as part of the table decorations on Thanksgiving Day, my friend put a special quote on each person's plate. My quote was about Peace :

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

I pray that this Thanksgiving, you would be able to take the day to celebrate your thankfulness. And I pray for you that, even in the midst of noise, trouble, or hard work, you would find PEACE in your heart as a result of your gratitude.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

celebrate the Sabbath... with rest

Life and blessing will attend

the man who observes the Sabbath.

The Sabbath of rest

is a continual lesson to him

to turn his eye from all created objects,

and look to that heavenly rest

into which God is entered,

and which is promised to man.

~James Milner

Saturday, November 22, 2008

ok...a few more of my favorite...

...things? How about "people" instead?! Since I've been on a roll the past couple of days about some of my are a few more... they are my friends' grandkids, and they are so very much fun to hang out with.......going to the beach, to the movies, playing cards together (tonight was Go Fish and Uno), talking about life, laughing together...

good times!!

Though I don't have kids of my own, I do so enjoy being a part of my friends' kids lives. They bring so much joy and laughter to our lives! I am truly blessed by their smiles and hugs and wide-eyed wonder and am grateful for them in my life!
Kids faces say so much...especially the mouth part!
~unknown author

Friday, November 21, 2008

another of my favorite things...

Awesome clouds. I love clouds. I find them beautiful and amazing...and, living in Southern California, we don't get so many as in other places. Many, many days of the year we experience what my mom calls a "California sky"-- that is, a vast expanse of pretty blue sky with absolutely no clouds to be seen.

But, every now and then, I am treated to some wonderful cloud sights! I usually respond by grabbing my camera and trying, oh so hard!, to get some cool photos. A few weeks ago, when we actually had a bit of rain (yes, occasionally it does rain here!), there were some very interesting and photo-worthy clouds outside my door. I call this type "cloud ledges," and I find them most intriguing, indeed!
They look so heavy and full and menacing... but look at that blue sky at the top! It's all a big tease!
Now, that's more LIKE it!

I love it when they're dark and menacing...
and yet, they look amazingly fluffy as well.

...what beautiful flowing lines...

...and incredible texture!
Then, when I stopped at the post office near my office,
there were more cloud ledges!

I find the contrast of colors so very striking! Aren't they simply wonderful??

Ah, I do so love clouds...and these were sure interesting ones! Let's hear it for the diversity of God's creation, and let's hear it for the beauty of cloud ledges!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

one of my favorite things...

Have you ever eaten cheese that talks back to you? No, really! It's a legitimate question! Because I have! Really! We call it 'squeaky cheese.' Because it squeaks! (profound, I know!) When you eat it, that is. It's like the Rice Krispies of cheese. It talks to you!

And, I fly over 2000 miles to get this special squeaky cheese! OK. Well, I don't fly there JUST for the cheese, but I do make sure we make a trip to the Farm Country Cheese House whenever I'm visiting my family in Michigan. And that's where I find this wonderful audially-stimulating taste-treat! (yes, I realize "audially" is not really a word, but like the cheese, I like it!)

This is what squeaky cheese looks like, and it actually goes by the name of Cheese Curds. Yes, the same curds as in Miss Muffett's curds-and-whey. Cheese curds are actually cheese in its initial form before it is pressed into the familiar shapes we're all used to seeing--rectangles, squares, circles.

This cheese is made at the Farm Country Cheese House in Lakeview, Michigan. The cheese 'factory' is run by some of the Amish folks in the area.

"Farm Country Cheese House broke ground in April of 1983 and started production in July of 1984. Since the beginning, the Amish communities in and around Lakeview, Michigan have supplied the milk and most of the labor required to process the cheese that we sell. We currently receive milk from approximately 97 Amish farmers who have an average of 6 to 15 cows per herd, which are milked twice daily by hand. " (from their website)

I don't know why the cheese squeaks. I don't think being made by the Amish has anything to do with it. Nor do I think it is because it is made from milk from Amish cows. Nor the hand-milking. But, I do like all of the above factors that go into the making of my squeaky cheese.
And, they not only have squeaky cheese, they also have over 20 other kinds of specialty cheeses from fennel to hot pepper jack to a delightfully unusual breakfast cheese with cinnamon. Mmmmm. (I'm getting hungry thinking about it!)
I will admit I had a little bit of an overweight-luggage issue at the airport as I was checking my bags to fly home... hmmm. Could it have been the six pounds of cheese I was carrying home to California??? Perhaps.....
(Maybe I should have asked for a ride by horse and buggy instead?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

leave us amazed...

At church tonight, we were singing a song entitled "Show Us Who You Are." There was a line in it that especially struck me. It was a request asked of God:

leave us amazed at
Who You are...

Not 'leave us amazed by what You have done.' Nor 'leave us amazed by what You have created.' Those are both amazing enough on their own and, if we were to start naming each of those multitudinous wonders, it could keep us in a permanent state of amazement!

But that's not what it said. It was...

leave us amazed at
Who You are...

Who He IS. Not what He does nor what He has made. But Who He IS. That is my prayer tonight... that we would see Him and know Him and that He would leave us AMAZED at Who He is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"be careful what you pray for..."

How many times have you heard that said? "Be careful what you pray for!" A warning that God may just give you what you ask for...but that it might not look like the package your mind had it wrapped in. I think I've heard this little comment made most frequently when people mention praying for patience or other God-character traits.

And, really, how do we get actually acquire those types of things for which we pray? Usually the best way for God to give us 'good character' traits is by giving us on-the-job-training!--by putting us in a situation (or many, if we don't learn well the first or second or third time!) requiring the practice or exercise of that very character trait. And, though God COULD just hand us a bucket-full of patience, He usually helps us to DEVELOP it instead. Romans 5:3-4 shows us the progression of developing good character: "...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." As a result, I've many times heard people say, "Oh, don't pray for patience!! You might just get what you're praying for!"

Well, today I heard that phrase go through my head-- "be careful what you pray for!" because I have recently been praying for something. And today, I think God gave me a bit of what I was praying for. It was then the phrase went through my head. I was saying it to myself somewhat tongue-in-cheek because I really DO want that thing for which I have been praying, but... I didn't really think about what it could mean. I didn't REALLY think about what it would FEEL like to have God answer that prayer...

Because what I've been praying is... that God would break my heart with the things that break His.

I pause as I write it...because of the gravity of what I am asking...and because, though I am not sure what that will look like, I really do mean it. I want God to show me what it is that He would have me be broken-hearted over...what He would have me be passionate about. For out of that heart-brokenness we are moved to passionate caring and action.

I don't want to try to drum up feeling for something. I don't want it to be about me. I cannot, of myself, stir up my cold heart of stone into a caring, loving, compassionate heart. I need God to turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. I want Him to show me where it is He wants me to care most deeply, to stir my heart into passion...and out of that deep, heart-wrenching caring to be used by serve use my hands and feet and time to serve. To serve Him in that place of His broken-heartedness. In the area where He has shown me His heart of love.

And last night and again today, I had a taste of it. Of the broken-heartedness of God over a situation. And it filled me with an unexpected and inexplicable sadness and made me cry. For a long time. In fact, I cried off and on throughout most of the rest of today--whenever I let my mind go back to the situation, to think about it. It wasn't something I ever would have cried or gotten emotional about previously, but today, it made me so very sad. I think God has begun to answer my prayer....and I shall continue to pray.

The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
~Soren Kierkegaard

Monday, November 17, 2008

blocking the Son...

On Saturday, I posted the two photos below, which were two of the many I took of the smoke-enhanced sunset. The sunset that evening was so very beautiful--fiery reds, glowing pinks, and bright oranges... ...the exceptionally colorful sunset was all a result of the smoke from the several devastating fires that were burning that day...
Then yesterday I posted the photo below ...
One of my blogger friends left a comment saying, "I didn't realise that this picture is similar to the previous post entry. At first I thought this is a peaceful sunset and not a picture of forest fire or such. I guess I've been undermining the power of colour." (She was very observant, as it, too, was one of the photos I took the night of the fires.)

When I was shooting the photos, I realized I wasn't able to see the details of the sun itself because of the colors and the brilliant glow. I thought, perhaps, if I were to shoot it in black and white, I would be able to see the actual outlines of the sun. And it worked! As soon as I eliminated the parts of the sunset that were the most outstanding, the most visible--the color and the brilliance--I could actually see the sun itself in greater detail.

...Without the distraction of color, the sun was so much more clear to see and even elegant in its simplicity...

After reading JH's comment, it made me think about how this also applies to my spiritual life, to my faith in God. I think sometimes I can get distracted by the external trappings of walking with God--of church, of my expectations of Who He is, of the blessings He gives-- and I lose sight of the important details, such as Who He really is, His character, His love for me.

If, as JH said, I "underestimate the power of color," if I don't realize the effect of the external things--the distractions, no matter how beautiful they seem-- I can find myself blinded by them. I can find myself unable to see the simplicity of my relationship with God, the simplicity of faith in Him, the true details of His character, the awesome reality of His love for me. But, if I take away the "color" and view it all in black and white, I can see the Son Himself in greater detail-- the elegant beauty of Who He is and of His love for me.

...Without the distraction of "color," the Son is so much more clear to see and even elegant in His simplicity...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

celebrate the Sabbath...

The meaning of the Sabbath is

to celebrate time rather than space.

Six days a week we live

under the tyranny of things of space;

on the Sabbath we try to become attuned

to holiness in time.

It is a day on which we are called upon

to share in what is eternal in time,

to turn from the results of creation

to the mystery of creation;

from the world of creation

to the creation of the world.

~Abraham Heschel

Saturday, November 15, 2008

fires in Southern California...

Today has been a difficult day for many southern Californians, as the southland has once again been ablaze with fires... this time in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties. One of the fires started yesterday and the other ones late last night. Fortunately, I am not in the immediate area of any of the fires, but they are all close enough for us to experience some of the side effects. This morning our air was full of smoke and the sky a strange orangish-brown which colored the noon-day light with sunset-golden highlights and shadows. Tiny bits of ash floated in the air like miniature snowflakes.
Please forgive me for this very long post full of photos, but fire and smoke make for some interesting photo opportunities...and beautiful red sunsets. I can't give you a whiff of the smokey air, but I can give you a little peek into the day from my vantage point...
this is a great thick cloud of smoke covering much of our sky today...
(note the floating Christmas trees already being set up in the bay to be lit after Thanksgiving)

the early afternoon sun shining through the smoke...

This was a most incredible sight--my friend pulled the car over so I could take a couple of photos. Look at the beautiful light reflections on the water... the red color absolutely amazed me!! I had never seen anything like that in the middle of the day!

...and then began the sunset in brilliant reds and pinks and orange...

...and then the sun finally sets...

(no, it's not's a bit of ash on my car!)

And though I've been able to share with you some photos of the beautiful side of the fires, for those who have lost homes, the fires are not so lovely. Please pray for all those affected by the fires--for the safety of the firefighters, for those who have lost homes and belongings, for everyone who is helping in any way, and for the fires to be put out completely and quickly.