A simple hike leads to this stunning panorama

I’ve changed the picture at the top of my page.  There is a little story behind the photo.  Recently, my husband and i went camping for a week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We love hiking but at the outset of our vacation our hiking legs usually need an upgrade.  On the first day, we went on a lovely and not too demanding hike to the top of Mount Willard.  The view from the top is outstanding and I recommend it highly.  The second day we went to Arethusa Falls.  It was about as demanding as the first day’s hike and the beauty of the falls was incredible.  On the third day, we just began hiking without really knowing our destination, but God knew where we were going.  After about an hour and a half of hiking we had to choose: continue upwards to the summit of Mount Jackson or head downwards to see another falls?  Well, we prefer to do our hard work of upward climbing first, so we headed up.

The description of the “moderately difficult” climb did not prepare us for the rest of the hike up the mountain.  It was NOT moderate, at least not in my definition of the word.  Very near the end, we met a man with a young boy coming down and the man encouraged us to go on because, as he said, “It’s only a few minutes to the top.”  I thought, “If a kid can do it, I can too.”  Hehe.  Those few minutes necessitated scrambling over enormous boulders with only a few small branches on the sides to hang onto.  But then … we reached the top.  John went first and told me to try to make it.  He said it would be worth it.  At the top was a panorama perhaps a hundred times more beautiful than the picture you see at the top of my page.  There were no trees, so you could see 360 degrees around.  Mount Washington rose in the distance and the valley that we had come from meandered much further below us than I had imagined.  We took a lot of pictures and gaped in awe of God’s creation that remains so beautiful in spite of what man has done to it.  The wind began to whistle and the clouds foretold a possible change in the weather and so we had to tear ourselves away from that gorgeous spot.  I think that it will always remain in my mind as the most amazing and beautiful view I have ever seen, the view of a lifetime.

A simple hike on a normal day.  We started out, not knowing where we were going.  Life is like that.  We start out not knowing our path or where it will lead us, but we keep on climbing.  I would like to encourage everyone out there to keep on climbing.  Choose the way up.  It may be difficult, even more difficult than you had anticipated, but when you get to the top, the view will be more beautiful than anything you could have imagined.  God can show you things in this life that will stay with you forever.  Those views will encourage you through the hard times and lead you onward.  Take the risk.  God is so worth it.  He is the summit of all summits, the panorama of all panoramas.


Shopping trumps Thanksgiving? Or can Thanksgiving trump shopping?

A quiet morning after Thanksgiving perusing the headlines that shout out to us that shopping has trumped the traditional Thanksgiving meal (cnn.com) has produced a contemplative spirit.  A little outrage too.  Why?  Why would anyone want to give up a delicious meal and relaxing moments with great conversation with friends and family to go out in the cold in order to face off with thousands of people looking for the same bargain?

The outrage comes first.  The whole media/shopping blitz is eroding our country’s family values and traditional ways of living and taking away from time spent relaxing and renewing one’s spirit.  It’s frustrating to see people falling for the media campaigns and enticing ads to constantly shop and spend more money.  To keep a person focused on shopping and attaining more in the way of personal goods is to keep that person focused on the apparent trappings of this natural world and to keep him at the same time far away from reflection on his spiritual and emotional state.  His/her mind is constantly engaged in this natural world and what he/she “needs” to continue to improve his natural surroundings.

After the outrage, more reflection creeps in.  You see, I did not spend my Thanksgiving waiting outside the doors of the local big box store, nor did I head out this morning to get the best deals at the mall.  The question returned: why would someone give up a nice, relaxing afternoon and great conversation with friends and family for …..?  The answer instantly appeared.  They did not give up a nice, relaxing afternoon with friends and family.  Many families barely tolerate each other.  Put them all in one room and the tension can be cut with the same knife used to carve the turkey.  So and so is not talking to so and so and those who are talking to so and so are just feeling sullen today because … who know the because?  Just because.

It’s easy to see in that light why so many would prefer to be out shopping.  I have not ever had to spend a holiday in such an angry environment, thank God.  I have, however, heard of such things.  It’s really a sad commentary on our society that shopping would trump a nice, relaxing afternoon spent in thoughtful conversation and childlike laughter with one’s beloved family and friends.  A lovely and loving afternoon can refresh our spirit and prepare us for the days ahead.  It can give us insight into our world that will help us for weeks and months to come.

The media and advertising campaigns are therefore not the issue.  The underlying issue is the problems in our homes and in our personal lives.  Those problems keep us from making and maintaining strong social and familial relationships.  So, instead of blasting the shoppers and the mega media moguls, we should put our strength into helping families to renew their relationships.  We cannot influence all of those with broken families, but we can influence those around us who may be struggling.  It would be so refreshing to see the shops HAVE to close up on holidays for lack of shoppers.  They will only need to do that when there is something much better going on in American homes.  We can make it happen.

Self Respect

I grew up outside of Detroit during the 50’s and 60’s.  When my sisters and I were young, my mother used to take us downtown Detroit once a year at Christmas time to see the window displays at the Hudson’s store, go shopping in the beautiful department store that Hudson’s was in those days and then to see a children’s concert.  My grandmother lived in Detroit then too.  She lived right next to the State Fairgrounds.  She had a beautiful rose garden and we loved to run around the slate paths in it and peer through the tall chain link fence into the fairgrounds.

Then came 1967 and the terrible riots in Detroit.  I remember being afraid when my dad went to get my grandmother and bring her home to stay with us during those terrible days.  There was so much destruction in Detroit then … and they never cleaned it up.  A few years later, my grandmother was able to buy a house in our small town and move out of Detroit.  Many other people had the same idea.  They called it white flight and my small town grew ever larger and wealthier as the white and the rich moved away from the city that had lost its self respect. Eventually, some sad young people started the horrifying tradition of burning houses on the night before Halloween, adding to the number of abandoned and uninhabitable homes in the city.

How can a city’s citizens have self respect in a city that has none?  People demonstrate that they have personal self respect by keeping themselves clean, dressing in a presentable manner, and behaving properly.  Why can’t a city do the same?  Detroit didn’t always have 78,000 abandoned buildings in it.  It started with a few hundred.  Why didn’t they clean them up before it got out of hand?  It’s demoralizing to live in a city that is so full of burnt out buildings.  How can people pull themselves up if everything around them is falling apart?

New York City at one time was not a pleasant city to visit.  It was dirty, sloppy and full of crime.  People had stopped caring.  Rudi Giuliani started aggressively cleaning up the city and focusing on crime reduction.  Some didn’t like it but eventually his policies paid off.  Detroit didn’t have a Giuliani to care enough about its people to clean it up.

Will a multi-billion dollar bailout help Detroit?  I propose that it will do nothing at all if no one in the city has enough self respect to clean it up.

I’m sure this is just one small aspect of a huge problem.  What do you think about self respect and how can Detroit get some?

An end of the year letter for 2012

This is the letter I will be sending to family and friends this year:

I started to write an end of the year letter a few weeks ago.  I even got several paragraphs written.  It has all become rather meaningless over the last few days in the light of the heart-wrenching tragedy being experienced by other families in Connecticut right now.  So, I hope you won’t mind if I send you a few paragraphs concerning some of the thoughts that come to mind over this tragedy instead of a letter about my life and about what my kids are doing these days.  We’ve been busy this year, we’re all fine, and that’s about it.

And God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  Genesis 2:7

It is the breath of God that came into Adam on that day and the same breath that continued to breathe through Adam’s children and grandchildren on down through all the following generations.  Without that breath of life, he was just a lump of dust.  It’s the same with us, his many times great grandchildren and that makes us all the children of the living God.  So, what gives?  The events of this year, and especially the events of the past few days, make us pause and reflect on what on earth is going on.

You could say that there are many causes.  You could blame assault rifles and violent video games and the absenteeism of working parents who are too busy to take care of their children or to teach them the values that they themselves were taught, or were supposed to have been taught.  However, the fact of the matter is that many of God’s children either don’t know or have forgotten who they are.  They are not living like children of an awesome and loving king, God.  They’re living like derelict bums.  That is the tragedy.

It is as if the world has taken on two natures.  Part of humanity seems to be speeding towards God, hoping to find Him more each day, but increasingly more numbers are enticed by the glitz of a worldly life and are as a result speeding in the opposite direction, becoming more unlike Him every day.  To become more like God, one becomes more beautiful and more brilliant and if that’s true, then the opposite must also be true that those who are heading in the wrong direction are becoming more and more insane and hateful.  We can see that in the news on a daily basis.  Perhaps that is the meaning of “the valley of decision.”  We must all go through it and decide for ourselves which way we will go.

We have been greatly blessed in our family to have our parents and children and grandchildren finding God and seeking after Him.  We have discovered the immense power of prayer and how things absolutely change because of it.

Over the last few days, I can see how God grieves for the innocent lives snuffed out meaninglessly by one so selfish and callous.  Some call such people disturbed and say that there could be a personality disorder.  We have experienced a relative with what may have been called a “personality disorder,” but he didn’t pick up a rifle and shoot people.  In fact, through the power of prayer, he spent his last years on earth a happy and well liked person.  Prayer can do that.

This nation and this earth are in their valley of decision.  We need to turn our prayers to our greater family, the brothers and sisters with whom we share the same breath of life.  We are all brothers and sisters and it’s so sad that our brothers would hate us enough to want to kill us and more importantly that they would hate their own eternal Father.  They have no clue how much He longs for them to turn back to Him.  Above all, we need to maintain faith: faith that God will lead us if that’s what we’re praying for, faith that we will continue on this path, and faith that our children will find a way to reject this world’s evil when their day comes in that valley of decision.

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision …  Joel 3:14

So, may we all spend this season joyously in that we know who we are, gratefully because we know who it was that saved us, and yet a little bit more soberly since we know that there is yet so much lacking both in us and in our country.  Let’s pray that we all in our nation and our brothers and sisters in other nations will humble ourselves as it says so beautifully in the Scriptures:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

No Pain, No Gain

That phrase – no pain, no gain – has alternately either annoyed me or haunted me in my life.  Today I learned a lesson about it that is well worth repeating.  An elderly friend of mine recently opted for a hip replacement operation in spite of her advanced years and other health problems.  She survived the surgery, but instead of having hip pain, she now has excruciating pain in her lower leg (same one that was operated on) from tendinitis.  Today I stopped by to visit her after work and discovered her working with her therapists.  She was in such pain that she could not move the leg at all.  They put some ice on the leg and left for awhile so that it could take effect.  They didn’t want to give her more pain medication at that time.   After they had gone, I sympathized with my friend and we prayed a little and she told me about her troubles with the pain.  I wanted to take her pain away and relieve her agony.  She said that she had wanted to give up that morning but that the therapists wouldn’t let her.  We talked in such a vein for about ten minutes, with me offering her much sympathy and feelings of pity.

Then the door to her room suddenly opened and her daughter entered, having come 200 miles because of her mother’s post operative difficulties.  She was instantly all business.  She said, “Mom, you have to move that leg.”  She began gently moving the leg even though her mother was crying out in pain.  She said, “You have to move it yourself.”  Her mom answered, “I can’t move it by myself.”  To which her daughter replied, “You ARE doing it.”  I looked down and in fact she WAS moving the leg on her own.  Her daughter didn’t stop there.  She said, “Mom, you’re the one who wanted this operation.  You HAVE to cooperate with the therapists.  You have to go down to the gym to the therapy session tomorrow.”  She continued on and also spoke to me about her mother’s apparent stubbornness to do what the therapists wanted.

The whole thing seemed a bit harsh to me, but it started to work.  The situation brought to my mind that old saying about no pain, no gain and I realized that my attitude was actually hindering her from becoming well.  Her daughter, who is a nurse, insisted that if she didn’t start working on the therapy in spite of the pain, she would never get out of that wheelchair and in fact, if she didn’t start exercising both legs, the pain might worsen and the other leg might also start causing her trouble.  So, my friend is finding herself in the odd predicament in her elder years where the only way to get past her pain is to work through it in spite of it.

Although this seems like a tragic way to spend one’s older years, I realized that I shouldn’t look at it in that way.  It isn’t such an odd predicament at all because it happens to us throughout our lives.  It is an experience common to us all.  When I look back through the scenarios of my life, I can see that the times that were the most painful also brought about the most growth.  I learned a lot through those horrendous experiences and I am able to draw on them at times when others need some kind of encouragement in working through their own troubles.  The only way to get past the difficulties in our lives is to work through them, to maintain the struggle in spite of the pain it causes us.  We look at ourselves and see things that need to be changed.  Bit by bit, by exercising that bit of God’s nature that He placed inside of us, we begin to work through the pain and in the end it’s the only way that we become victorious.

We will stand up, but only if we fully cooperate with our divine therapist, day by day exercising our spiritual muscles.  We will walk again with God if we maintain the good fight until the end.  All things do work together for our good because they are brought into our lives by our infinitely loving Father who sees what we need so much better than we ever could.

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

People love what they talk about.  We all know this to be true.  When a person talks about themselves all the time, it makes us feel uncomfortable because they seem to be full of themselves.  When someone talks incessantly about sports, we understand that that person really loves sports.  They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t love it.  Someone who loves cooking will undoubtedly talk about it all the time.  If we take that further, we can examine ourselves and know what it is that we love.

I have to begin with myself.  If I talk about myself all the time, I love myself and am not considerate of others.  Do I speak all the time about my work?  Do I only talk about my children?  What is it that occupies my mind all day?  What I take the time to talk about is inevitably what is on my mind during the day.  Is my mind on God?  Does God and godly things come out of my mouth easily?  Or am I talking constantly about my trips to the mall and about the latest things that I would like to purchase?

I have known quite a few different kinds of religious people.  Some spoke of God religiously, showing that they really loved religion and appearing to be religious more than God.  However, I also knew a person who spoke genuinely of God and godly issues with a very soft and humble spirit of love.  I was and am sure that person truly loved God.  It made me think about what is on my mind.  What does my mind stray to when I’m driving to work or taking a walk?  When I have problems, do I consider how God feels about them and frame my conversations with that in mind?

Life in God is always interesting.  There’s always a new revelation around the corner.  There’s always something more to be learned about life here on earth and how God leads us through our daily trials.  When my mind is on God, it comes out of my mouth.

You’ve got a friend

It is one of my life’s goals to trust God with all of my heart in spite of the troubles that beset us in these sometimes difficult days.  With Hurricane Irene bearing down on us and the weatherman doling out constant warnings of trouble, my mind has been preoccupied with worries and making preparations for the upcoming storm.  It’s important to be ready for any eventualities but recently I bought a little plaque that says, “No worries” just to remind myself that God is indeed the one to trust.

Yesterday, I watched the weather report several times and it was starting to affect me a lot.  I came out of work and got into my car.  I turned on the radio for a bit of relaxing music for the drive home.  It was James Taylor.   “If the sky above you grows dark and full of clouds, and that ol’ north wind begins to blow, keep your head together and call my name out loud; soon you’ll hear me knockin’ at your door.  You just call out my name and you know wherever I am I’ll come runnin’ to see you again.  Winter, spring, summer or fall all you have to do is call and I’ll be there.  You’ve got a friend.”

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  (Ps 46:1)  Thank you, God.  Thank you for your constant presence and your Comforter.

Time is a blessing

Time: Time is a blessing that some do not receive and yet others are blessed amply with it.  My own parents are now 90 years old and have been much blessed with time.  When they were little, the world was in a great depression.  If we could transport ourselves back to that time, we would be able to feel how people felt then.  We would see through our own eyes that the grownups then did not know how long that terrible time would last.  The only thing that they could do was to live through it and persevere.  It took faith to make it through those days.  It took faith for that generation to help those who were even less fortunate than they.  It took faith for them to know that even if they gave away some of what little they had, things would work out.  Many of that generation took huge steps of faith to make it through those days.  They sent children off to live with relatives hoping that one day they would be able to bring them home.  They continued living their lives, keeping hope as a candle alive and brightly lit in their hearts.

From that period of time, we pass on to the days when that generation was finishing high school and the world was plunging headlong into a world war.  For young people, the future is everything and yet as young people that generation did not know if they even had a future.  What kind of world would practice murder on such a grand scale?  Would all of their loved ones survive such a massive war?  Again, if we could transport ourselves back into that time, we would know that at that time, there were no answers available.  There was no way of knowing the future.  There was only hope and again, faith.  It took faith for them to carry on with their lives, to marry knowing that their young husband would soon leave to fight a war on another continent.  It took faith to hang on during those long years of separation.  Finally, the war ended, loved ones returned and hope was fulfilled, but not for all.  Somehow the world carried on and the post war years seemed like a happy respite from trouble, although even then, nothing came easily.  Faith continued to sustain the people of that era as they navigated their way through the tumultuous years of the sixties.

Through the years, nothing has ever been certain, nothing one hundred percent guaranteed.  However, faith carried many of that generation through and brought them to a lovely green pasture with a beautiful view of all of the fruits of their labor.  That is the blessing of time.  A person is allowed the pleasure of seeing his or her life dreams fulfilled and the hardships of life resolved.  Children grow up and encounter their own troubles in life.  Parents look on and hold on to their faith.  As time passes, situations work out somehow and you can see the marvelous hand of God and stand back in awe at what He has done.  Grandchildren arrive, even great grandchildren, and so the cycle continues, each generation needing to find their own measure of faith to hold them through troublesome times.  It is an outstanding blessing to live long enough to see new generations find their way, enter into constructive careers, begin happy marriages and take the first steps into their paths of life.  Yes, time is a blessing.  What a blessing at the end of a life to see life’s troubles resolved and multitudes of difficult situations resolve themselves in happy endings.

We all love stories with happy endings and faith will carry you through until you can see it with your own eyes.  However, even in the Scriptures, not everyone is given the blessing of seeing the end of a matter.  Many a servant of God could only maintain his or her faith through until the end of their part of the grand picture, leaving this world in faith, hoping that the eternal purpose would one day be fulfilled.  Sometimes we feel as though we are in the midst of Psalm 23.  “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …”  Yes, surely we have all felt that way a time or two as we walk along this road.  Faith continues on with the second half of that verse: “I will fear no evil.”  It takes faith to continue walking and fearing nothing.  The lives of faithful servants offer hope to new generations of young people, that though their times of trial are just beginning, if they just continue on in faith as the previous generation has done, they too will come to the day when they will see the fruits of their labor and see the resolution of their life’s trials.   Living examples of faith from the past are an inspiration to us and offer us a very real hope.  The cycle continues and we become those living examples, passing on the faith from generation to generation.

As a Man Thinketh

There is a little book called “As a Man Thinketh.”  It was written by James Allen.  It contains a wonderful truth about the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  It says that our circumstances are a reflection of our interior state and that we have power over those circumstances.  If we would wish to improve the situations that are a part of our lives, we should look interiorly and change the things that we find there that are impoverished or base in nature.  When we change those things, our outside situations must follow suit.  The Bible teaches us the same lesson.  Moses caused the sinning Hebrews to drink of the very golden calf that they had made.  Later on during their journey, he made a serpent on a pole and they had to look at their own sin and admit what they had done.  When they did that, they were healed of the plague that was afflicting them.  Jesus taught us the same lesson.  He was crucified when in fact it was our sins that deserved such a death.  By looking at him on the cross, seeing our own sins and acknowledging them, we are healed.

Our country has sinned and our sin is staring us in the face.  We need to look at it and acknowledge it.  Our nation owes 14 trillion dollars.  How is that even possible?  How could we ever pay back such a debt?  The answer is that we don’t intend to pay it back.  We have become a nation of credit card users.  We buy without any limits.  When you look at such a situation and try to analyze it, you can see that most of the time greed is at the root of much of our debt.  We want something and don’t have the money at the moment to pay for it so we just charge it because it is so easy.  Our parents’ generation and generations previous to them waited until they had the money to buy something.  It took patience and self control to wait.  Our plastic credit card generation has lost those qualities.  There is no patience needed any more, so no one possesses this wonderful quality.  There is no need to have self control.  Everyone feels that they are due whatever they want.

Therefore our country is the same as us.  We are angry at our legislators and our government for their wild spending and yet we do the same.  God cannot continue to bless our nation.  That doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us.  He DOES love us.  He is in supreme control of everything but He cannot allow us to continue on such a path.  That path is leading to our downfall.  Our present situation is the result of our own free will actions.  It is not God’s fault that we are in trouble.  We can only point the finger at ourselves.  We must correct ourselves first.  When we do, our nation will reflect this change in our nature and follow suit.  We have to acknowledge our sins and change.

There are many other areas in which we have sinned.  We have left God out of everything.  We have murdered millions of babies before they had a chance to be born.  We have bought into so many of satan’s lies.  He has seduced us away from our faith and our love for others.  Returning to the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule will get us back on the right path.  It takes just a change of heart.  Our dear Father is so willing to help us along.  He is so willing for us to change and to live right.  He is so desirous to find a nation that will love Him and obey Him.  He would love to bless that nation and make an example of it so that others could follow in its path.  We can do it.

The little book called “As a Man Thinketh” is online in its entirety.  It can be found at the following website:


The Handwriting on the Wall

Our civilization as we know it is no longer sustainable.  You don’t need to look far to discover this sad fact.  Our system of education is imploding.  Our government can no longer govern properly.  Our system of agriculture is killing us and is causing massive pollution and erosion of precious topsoil.  If you examine every section of our modern society, it is corrupt and rotten.  Isaiah put it best in chapter one when he said, “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises and putrifying sores…”

We have to ask ourselves why and even so the answer is staring us blankly and yet accusingly in the face.  We are at fault.  God created this earth a beautiful paradise, but in a few short years (compared to the length of our planet’s existence) we have destroyed it and are coming close to destroying mankind from it.  Again, we can look to Isaiah for the reason: “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.”  It’s true that we, the human race, have devolved.  Most recently we have produced monsters that prey on innocents, that kill hundreds of people and call it God.  How can these things be?  It is disheartening and disturbing.

However, rather than go on about the deficiencies of our modern life, we need to look for solutions and find a way out of what has become a society ready to plunge into great darkness.  Perhaps we can’t save the whole, but we can save ourselves.  We can individually turn back to God.  We can live by His laws.  He did not give us thousands of laws.  He gave us ten and then gave us one that encompasses all: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I would not like people to gossip about me or hurt me in any way.  Let the change begin with me.  Each individual can only do it for himself and pray that it catches on and others will see that such a life is bountifully blessed.

I can begin to respect God’s creation and live in harmony with it.  Yes, it is mine to use but to use wisely.  God said, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.”  He did not say to steal its riches and deplete its resources until there is nothing left for future generations.  God put the man in the garden to dress it and KEEP it.  We have not been good stewards of this gift of the earth.  The only solution is to acknowledge our fault.  We cannot put the blame on anyone else.  We have done this thing.  Then we have to turn to God for the solutions.  He has an answer.  He is really willing for us to make it.  And, if God be for us, who can be against us?  No one.  No thing.  We can do it.  There is a little time for us to change.  Let’s change now!