Flight Plan—His is Better than Mine!

Above the WorldSomething strange has happened to the world of flight. Instead of gazing transfixed out the window at the earth below, most people—even those with prized window seats—tend to pull down their window shutters so they can’t even see out, preferring to watch videos or sleep. How is this even possible?? Alaskan Fjords On our trip from Michigan to South Korea and back, I had great plans for watching the world go by, especially since on our trip last spring we enjoyed an unparalleled  commute and saw thrilling vistas of Canada, Alaska                                                                           Alaska, Bering Straits                                                           the Bering Straits, Arctic Sea                                                            the Arctic Sea, Siberia                                                                       Siberia, China and China. This time, our return flight was through Tokyo, so I was also hoping to see Mt. Fuji, although when I called Japan Airlines to ask for a window seat on the right side of the plane, the attendant informed me that there were only window seats available on the left side of the plane, and that it would be impossible to see Mt. Fuji from the plane regardless. Sigh. Well, as it turned out, Sunrise over Canada copythe entire trip from Michigan to Seoul was cloud-covered, and I hardly saw any land (although the sunrise was spectacular). I was very disappointed, but every once in a while I’d cast a wandering eye from my book to the banks of clouds below just in case I could catch a glimpse of something…and guess what? Mt. McKinley copy Rising out of the clouds over Alaska, I saw the most breathtaking views of Mt. McKinley! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was the best view I’ve ever had, even though Alan and I drove to Denali National Park once in pursuit of seeing this highest of all peaks on the North American Continent! What a thrill! Seoul Sunrise On the flight back to the U.S. two weeks later, it was clear from Seoul to Tokyo, and I really did enjoy the views of our flight across South Korea and Japan, Mt. Crater. Japan copyalthough I was still feeling sorry to miss Mt Fuji…when all of a sudden the airline hostess mentioned over the intercom that Mt. Fuji was visible above the clouds on the right side of the plane. I asked a passing stewardess if there was any chance I could take a picture, & she smiled brightly and asked me to follow her. Mt. Fuji copyShe actually offered me an empty seat in the first class cabin so I could take pictures! Thank you, Japan Airlines, for your hospitality! The rest of the trip was straight clouds again, and I rather reluctantly resigned myself to a blank night of flying over the polar regions of the Arctic Circle with nothing but the flash of the wing tip against the inky black of the midnight sky. Temperature After reading until I was sleepy, I decided to check out the window one last time before going to sleep. It was -81°F. and we were traveling 622 mph at 37,000 ft., so I had no expectations. However, what to my wondering eyes should appear? Northern Lights 1Not Santa, but  in the distance, across the entire northern expanse of earth out my left window, were the most amazing, pulsing Northern lights! I am sorry that my camera was not able to capture the glory of that display (traveling as fast as we were in complete blackness). Northern Lights I’m not even sure if people on earth could see them, since we were so high above the clouds (I’ve googled in vain for images to share with you), but it took my breath away and I sat transfixed for a long time, just worshiping our awesome Creator who displays his power and beauty for all creation—whether or not anyone on earth even notices—in a light show more magnificent than mankind could ever imagine how to duplicate.Northern Lights Bering Straits Truly, his flight plans were even better than mine. Our God is an Awesome God!

“When the sky was starless in the void of the night
(our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness and created the light
(our God is an awesome God)
Judgement and wrath He poured out the Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an Awesome God.

Our God is an Awesome God
He Reigns from heaven above
With Wisdom pow’r and love
Our God is an Awesome God.”  ~Rich Mullens Canadian Sunrise copy“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV Bible). Northern Lights. Arctic Circle

A Few of My Favorite Birds (16): Chattering Magpies

 “He prayeth best, who loveth best; All things great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Magpie in tree  Most of the birds I’ve written about are native to Michigan and daily companions, feeding just 3 feet from my desk at our bird feeder, Magpie hunting for food but in honor of my recent trip to South Korea, I want to write about magpies, which were daily visitors to my son’s backyard…and everywhere else we went! Magpie on roof top Magpies are common throughout western America as well as Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are large members of the cordivae (crow) family, often more than 18 inches long (although half is tail) and with a wingspan of nearly 2 feet. Magpie looking for food Magpies have bold, black and white coloring, and they’re just as bold in personality. Two hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark recorded in their expedition notes that magpies entered their tents to steal food! Magpie 1 They are bold and clever.  Magpies are the only birds able to identify themselves in mirror tests and are believed to be not only the smartest of the bird family but among the smartest of animals generally, having a brain to body ratio rivaling that of great apes. In captivity, they’ve been known to imitate sounds, count, use tools to clean their own cages, and perform other very clever tricks. Magpie 2 Magpies are always notable because they are extremely social and fill the air with raucous, cackling calls as they glide from tree to tree overhead, but they move so fast and are wary enough that I found it extremely hard to photograph them.  Magpies in treeBesides being gregarious generally, they have one special custom. They mate for life and display grief over loss, holding funerals for one another! Magpies flying away If a magpie finds a dead fellow magpie, it will call until a group of up to 40 birds gather, where they all cackle together for 10-15 minutes and then disperse in silence. Isn’t that amazing?   So, when I talk about birds “in the hood,” I’m not just alluding to human social behaviors. God created our feathered friends to have true community too. May we take joy in them and learn from them! Magpie 3“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~Rose F. Kennedy DSCN0064“Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
(Psalm 150:6)


What’s the Difference?

DSC01974John Piper has written a more comprehensive book, called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but I found this short work (just 82 pages) very useful in providing a simple framework for understanding the essence of the differences between the mature, healthy mindsets of men and women. At the deepest level, these differences have nothing to do with “who does what” in the home, sex or gender per se; rather, they have everything to do with attitudes and trust, allowing men to take on the challenge and women to relax into the way God designed us as complimentary partners. I found myself really resonating with his ideas, and as Elisabeth Elliot says in her foreword, “I think his thesis rings true to the manliness or the womanliness in each of us.”

I will give you Piper’s thesis statements, although they may not seem very profound to you. It was definitely through reading his discussions that the definitions  came to life for me. However, here they are: DSC01971“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” DSC01973“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

Do you find these ideas soothing or distasteful? I suspect Piper’s thesis might not be popular at a gender studies conference, but I found my heart saying, “Amen!” Many people have grown up without good role models and therefore find themselves all the more confused about who they are, who they want to be, or what healthy adulthood even looks like. If you or someone you love struggles to understand what mature manhood and womanhood are, you might appreciate this short book. I certainly did!

Laughs on Computer Life

-2Alan and I are back from South Korea, totally time-whacked -2 and sick with rather miserable colds, although I’m not complaining! -9 In fact, I’m thankful not to have picked up any Ebola virus along the way, -7 since we did fly through Dallas. (I tried not to touch or eat anything there!)-3 However, I’m really struggling to catch up with life,  -6am way behind in everything,-1 making lots of mistakes, having trouble concentrating, -8 and can’t seem to make myself do any research or writing! -1 I was feeling quite low over my lack of productivity when I got a forward -10 filled with computer jokes from my dear sister (in Christ) Sarah J., -1 who’s just returned from a two-month trip ’round the world visiting relatives. -4 So, thanks for the cheer, Sarah! I’m passing it forward! :) -5

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17).

Rise Up, My Love (107): View from the Lions’ Dens

Lion on Rock+ 01.29.144:8 “Look…from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.” What is the invitation Solomon extends to his wife here? Unless one has studied lions, the natural assumption would be that Solomon is referring to lions’ dens that were far up on the tops of the mountains, perhaps in caves overlooking a rocky ledge, as in Disney’s animated classic The Lion King. Lions in SunsetHowever romantic this view may be—to imagine Solomon and his spouse overlooking their world beside the gigantic “king of the beasts”—it can’t be what the Scriptures intended, because true lions may sit on rocks and mountain ledges, but their dens are not on mountain tops.Male and Female Lion in grassThe majestic “king of the beast” dwells in the grasslands. His tawny coat is the color of dead grass—ideal for hiding and stalking prey. And, lions do not live in permanent, cave-like dens! Lion with Cubs The mothers bear their young in the long grass and hide them for only the first few months, often moving them from one hiding place to another, just the way domestic cats move their kittens. Male lion with sons Lions are social creatures, living in prides with one to four males and numerous females and cubs, often consisting of as many as thirty-five members. Young female lioness The “lions’ dens” refer not to specific places, but to the entire regions or territories occupied by the lions, who travel an average of five miles a day through territories ranging from 15 to 150 square miles. Male and female lion resting“Look…from the lions’ dens” then, is not an invitation to further view Solomon’s kingdom from the mountaintops. It is an invitation to traverse the land that God has given them—not only to understand it from God’s eternal perspective, but also to experience it first hand…to face and conquer the dangers…to “subdue it, and have dominion over” it (Genesis 1:28). African SavannaThere is a moving theme song in the movie The Exodus: “This land is mine, God gave this land to me—this brave and ancient land to me…So take my hand, and walk this golden land with me.” This is the invitation that Solomon is extending here, and this is the invitation that Christ offers us. The kingdom of this world, lost to Adam and Eve, is to be re-found as a spiritual kingdom, subdued and ruled by Christ and his bride. Lioness standing on rockAlthough this sounds simple, and our eyes can scan this phrase—”from the lions’ dens”—so quickly, there is a world of challenge! To look from the lions’ dens requires meeting and overcoming the lions. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Satan, like the evil king of the pride, is our most formidable foe, but he is attended by a pack of “roaring lions,” evil men (Psalm 22:13), and false prophets (Ezekiel 22:25). Small pack of lionsLions generally hunt in groups. They are known not so much for their swiftness (their top speed is about 35 m.p.h., and many of the animals they prey on can run faster), but for their tremendous strength and brilliant hunting tactics. Lionesses hunting             Although most of the hunting is done by the females in groups, King of the Beasts the male lion is an incredible foe by himself. The male weighs up to 400 pounds, is almost nine feet long (nose to tail), and stands as high as three and a half feet at the shoulder. His shaggy mane, unique to the lion, makes him appear even bigger and more ominous. Lions do most of their hunting in the night, stalking their prey by slowly creeping forward, their bodies close to the ground. When they get within about fifty feet, they suddenly leap on the unsuspecting animal, grabbing it from behind, dragging it to the ground, and then strangling it by seizing its throat. According to the World Book encyclopedia, one lion overcame and dragged off a 600-pound zebra—something that six men would find difficult to do. When they hunt together, one lion typically distracts the animal while the others silently encircle it. When all is ready, the lead lion lunges at the nervous prey, sending it flying into the waiting jaws of the hidden lions (World Book, 298-301). Male Lion

There are some awesome spiritual parallels that can be drawn from the physical world of lions. Satan, like the impressive male lion, is a formidable foe. He is much stronger than the strongest man and should never be taken on alone, for even the archangel Michael would not attempt such a thing (Jude 1:9). However, Satan would like to frighten men into believing that he is even more powerful than he is…just like the lion’s shaggy mane makes him appear even more threatening to his enemies than he truly is. Satan does most of his destructive hunting at night…very often in the blackness of physical night, but certainly in the shadowy midnights of our soul…at the times when we are exhausted, weary, and most vulnerable. LionsSatan uses treachery because he cannot outsmart and outrun truth. He sneaks up on his unwary prey with half-truths, and by incremental changes, like a lion stalking his prey, hidden by the long grasses of “grey areas” in life. The old serpent, Satan, like a lion crawling on his belly, stalks closer and closer until he is within striking range, then springs at his unsuspecting prey, biting it in the back, dragging it down, and strangling it. Lion growlingWhat unsuspecting saint has not had the experience of being “bitten in the back” by malicious gossip or unjust criticism and been dragged off to the “Dungeon of Despair” at some point in his Christian experience? Satan and his evil accomplices are like a pack of snarling lions: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Kaui from helicopterBut, despite the terror of the night and the greatness of our foes, we have nothing to make us fear, because we are not sent to walk through the lions’ dens alone. Just as God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths when Daniel was in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:22), and just as the form of the forth was “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25) when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into the midst of the burning, fiery furnace, so Christ himself, the great Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9), leads us and walks with us all the way. “Come with me,” is his call. What have we to fear since greater is he who is in us (the Lion of Judah) than he who is in the world (the snarling but conquered lion, Satan). Male Lions “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).  If ever we find ourselves fearing as we walk through the land that God has given us to walk, let’s remember these words, and fear nothing but displeasing the heart of him who loved us and gave himself for us!

(I took about half these pictures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but the other half are from Disney’s wonderful documentary on the subject,  African Cats. Oh, and I took the next-to-the-last picture from a helicopter flying over coastal Kauai.)

The Armstrong Archives (107): The Flu Bug Tries to Spoil Christmas

Wednesday, December 9, 1981  We were very excited to hear that you might be coming for Christmas; we all hope everything works just perfectly so you can!Family Portrait with Parents + GPEnclosed is a picture—one of the proofs from our sitting.  I think it’s beautiful and I want to keep it. Do you like it too? Would you like to have some prints made to send to friends and family, or a print to keep yourselves? Tell me what you want and I can get them. Or, you can wait until Christmas and see everything and decide then. Aaron's Kindergarten ClassLast night was Aaron’s Christmas program at Faithway. It was just grand, and everybody sang so lustily. We took Aaron out for a hamburger afterwards. He also got his second report card—all A’s and O’s (for “Outstanding”) except on B+ in hand writing and an S (satisfactory) in music. They not only grade academic subjects, but such things as” “Is courteous, Obeys quickly, Works well independently,” etc. On the back the teacher commented on how much she enjoys having Aaron! We were all very happy about that!!

Friday morning, December 18, 1981 Hi! Just a note to let you know that as of this moment, we are all feeling well and nobody has a cold.

Aaron has already left for school and a nice party there (his last day). Alan is on “Super Call” today, so we won’t see him until tomorrow. JJ is still sleeping, and MM is eating his fourth slice of toast and jam. We’re going shopping as soon as Jolly Jon Jacque wakes up.

It’s a glorious, sunny morning with about two inches of fresh snow everywhere. The Christmas tree is all a-twinkle with lights and presents. Mikey picked it out, Aaron chopped it down, and the three boys totally decorated it. (Well, after they went to sleep, I rearranged things just a little. JJ wanted to put most of his ornaments in one patch at the front of the tree!)

We will be eagerly watching for you on Tuesday, and we’ll have a good, hot dinner waiting (unless there’s a big storm and we hear otherwise)!! 1981 Christmas Kathi with kidsWednesday, December 23, 1981 Wow! Thanks for the gifts! No wonder Rob likes you to send candy!! I just made cookies and peanut butter fudge this year, but when I’ve tried to make the other kinds, it hasn’t turned out as professional looking and yummy as yours.

We had about four inches of thick, soft snow fall last night. It was just beautiful. Alan and I sat up for a long time watching the snow fall and all the twinkley tree lights glow. He spent the whole evening teasing me because he said he missed having Dad to hurl abuse at! What a rascal! Building a SnowmanThe snow was thick on everything this morning. The boys and I built a snowman and shoveled the walks, then we went sledding. About six neighbor children invited themselves along, but it turned out just fine. Everybody was good about taking turns and rolled in the snow and threw snowballs while they waited.

Tuesday, December 29, 1981 Thanks for all the presents! Alan and Aaron built a really nice airplane ride from the erector set. It is pretty hard for little fingers. In FACT, Alan says it’s challenging for him, but they had a lot of fun working together. Aaron built the airplanes and Alan built the platform and crank shaft.

Alan’s getting better. Today we’ve had a constant stream of people in [mostly neighbor children who loved to play at our house], and I started to get very harried, so Aaron just put a sign on our door. “No coming in except members of our family.” Maybe I’ll at least get this letter done before someone comes! Thanks again!! We miss you. Aaron's Rainbow-colored Lorikeet[This letter was written on paper decorated by Aaron of a rainbow-colored lorikeet with AARON printed on the picture. Michael's pictureAlso, Michael included a crayon drawing of “Grandma and Grandpa” with “Michael” spelled backwards, but so neatly that it hardly seems like it could have been his handwriting…]





Take Off Your Shoes!

Comedy 103.1As you may know, I’ve been helping out with my new grand baby for a couple of weeks. Here in South Korea, it’s written right into the housing contracts that you must remove your shoes before entering the house, and at Mike and Grace’s home, there is a foyer just for this purpose! Every time I take off my shoes, I’m reminded of God speaking to Moses in the burning bush: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). DSC00903Although I don’t think of it as often, that command is repeated in Joshua 5:15: “And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”  Do you take off your shoes before entering your home? We do. Rita Savage. Shoes by door My friend, Rita S.— who was helping her son and daughter-in-law with their fourth new baby just exactly one month before I came to help my son and daughter-in-law with their fourth new baby—shared this picture of her grand kids, who not only took off their own shoes at the door, but carefully removed the doll’s shoes too! Isn’t that precious? Talk about showing respect! IMG_3282 What occurs to me as I take off my shoes is that our homes are (hopefully) “holy” also, just like the ground upon which Moses and Joshua stood, at least in the sense of being consecrated to God. I want my home to be a place of peace and refuge, where the dust and dirt from the streets is left behind and all who enter can feel clean and safe…enjoying a sense of sanctuary and God’s presence.Jane AndersonGod also wants our very lives to be consecrated, “holy ground.” We can’t always prescribe what lies ahead or behind us, but we are totally responsible for what lies within us! Are we filling our lives with that which is pure and protecting ourselves from evil? Is our heart God’s home? Are we tending the garden of our souls by pulling out weeds of bitterness and poisonous thinking? Are the fruits of the Spirit flourishing in us? When I catch myself dwelling on negative thoughts, I try to remember to go back to the front door of my mind and take those dirty shoes right off! May the interior of our minds be filled with praise and peace.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
(Ephesians 4:31-32).

Ephesians.4.32(This picture is of the chalkboard in Mike and Grace’s kitchen right now. Also, the quote from Emerson is from a card belonging to my friend Jane A, and the thought on pregnancy is from my niece, Andrea P. [who's also expecting a baby]. Thanks, dear friends, for all the things you share that enrich my life so much!)