Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Baby’s Eleventh Month, Week 47)

Train play323. Zipping Along the Right Road

“I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.”
Proverbs 4:11

PRAYER: Dear Father, how patient and kind you are with us! Thank you that we can be “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). You love us, and you will keep working in us. Please bless Baby! Pour out your spirit on her tiny life. Fill her with your love, and teach her from her earliest days to love and trust you in everything. Thank you for teaching us the way of wisdom and leading us in right paths. Help me to teach Baby how to walk by faith as I respond to Micah 6:8, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Help me to “fly along” in the ways of goodness and grace!

THOUGHT: We have found a multitude of uses for an eraser board. Not only are they good for racing cars down the backside, they are good for practicing artwork with toddlers, and they’re great for holding all the pieces of a puzzle that you’re trying to put together or keeping legos or other small toys “on the building site.”

ACTIVITY: Toys with wheels are exhilarating for boys and girls. In fact, my girlfriend Brenda used to have a pit pass to record the Nascar Races in Daytona, so racing can definitely be fun for everyone! One easy way to make a very exciting track for a toy car is by leaning a piece of cardboard or the back side of an eraser board against a footstool at an angle so that Baby can set the car at the top and let it zip down the board and off onto the floor. If you have two cars, you could hold races, but at this age, it will probably be exciting enough just to watch the car zip down to the floor over and over and over!

Beach Play copy324. Celebrating Diverse Opportunities

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.”
Psalm 139:17-18

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for having so many, many different roles in my life! Thank you for being a consuming fire to try me and refine me. You are the holy purifier, but you are also the water of life to quench my thirsty soul. You are my shepherd, my king, my intercessor and priest. You are my father who nurtures, trains, and loves me, and you are a brother who walks with me and carries me when I become exhausted. You are my heavenly bridegroom and husband. You are my holy spirit to guide and comfort. You are my rock, my shelter, and my refuge! Your thoughts toward me are too wonderful and too many to be able to understand them all! Thank you for being all things wise and wonderful! Help me to be a wise and wonderful mother to Baby too; may I reflect your love by day and by night!

THOUGHT: Call your local chamber of commerce for information on what’s available for water play. In fact, make friends with the folks at your local chamber of commerce. They are usually brimming over with information about all that is fun, interesting, educational, and often free in your area!  Water Play pongos19 (10)ACTIVITY: Water play is one of those perennial favorites that never grows old. Of course the dearest and best is probably a daily play in a clean, warm tub, but if the weather’s hot, be sure to find some cool water outdoors and make use of it! If you have a lawn sprinkler and swim suits, you can create your own water park for Baby. Or, perhaps there’s a public park with a swimming pool or a lake where you can swim. Enjoy!

Happy Baby playing with Mom325. Peace and Joy

“Yes, you shall see your children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”
Psalm 128:6

PRAYER: Dear father, you are the Ancient of Days, from everlasting to everlasting. You are the self-existent one who was here before the universe came into existence, and you will remain after all the stars have burned out. You tell us in Deuteronomy 5 that show mercy to thousands of those who love you and keep your commandments. Oh, Lord, I pray that you will bless Baby and me. May we see our children’s children! May we see your hand of mercy protect and keep Israel. May you bless Israel—and all the world—with your heavenly peace.

THOUGHT: One of my favorite children’s books of poetry is Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. It’s probably not too early to get a copy and start reading to your little one! The book is filled with cheerful thoughts such as, “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” That is true. It is also true that the world is full of insecurities and difficult circumstances for Baby, so he will need lots of comfort along the way. Ultimately, our happiness comes from knowing that God is with us and will carry us through this life and up to heaven.

ACTIVITY: Singing songs to Baby is such an uplifting, comforting thing to do. Here’s a traditional Scottish folk song from our Armstrong homeland that is sure to delight Baby and distract him…even from sore gums when he’s teething:

“My bonnie lies over the ocean” (Rock Baby to right);
“My bonnie lies over the sea” (Rock to left);
“My bonnie lies over the ocean” (Rock Baby backwards);
“Oh bring back my bonnie to me!” (Hug Baby)
“Bring back, bring back, Oh bring back my Baby to me, to me!”
(Rock back & forth)
“Bring back, bring back, Oh bring back my Baby to me, to me!”
(Give a hug and a kiss)

Pulling cloth from tube326. Creative Play with Plumber’s Pipe to Tubes

“A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you.” John 13:34

PRAYER: Oh, Father, how you love us! Thank you for loving us even when we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” Thank you Christ’s sacrificial death! Thank you for your clear promise in Romans 10 that if we repent of our sins and take Christ as our savior, we will be saved. Please bless Baby with faith! May we both trust you as our savior, love you above all else, and learn to love each other the way you love us!

THOUGHT: There are a multitude of uses for a tube. If you can afford the time, next time you’re shopping, stop by a plumbing store and pick up a piece of plastic pipe with two end caps. (If you’re busy, the heavy cardboard tube inside a roll of saran wrap or even a toilet paper roll tube works almost as well, although they aren’t as versatile, can’t be washed, and won’t last long.)

ACTIVITY: A long plastic tube makes a great toy to play with at home or on the road. You can stuff a scarf in one end and pull it all the way through, or teach Baby how to stuff something thinner into the tube to force the scarf out the other end. You can roll up a piece of paper very tightly and insert it into the tube, then teach Baby how to use his fingers to pull the paper out (maybe!). You can treat the tube like a tunnel and race cars through it. You can put some plastic spoons inside, screw on the end caps (or tape the ends securely closed), and have a rhythm instrument. You can practice rolling it across the floor, both you and Baby pushing it ahead of yourselves with your hands while crawling on the floor together. You can close up one end, and then insert small toys or treats into the tube and have Baby experiment with how to turn it over so that the treats come tumbling out!

Putting Toy in Pot327. Teach Your Baby!

“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land where you go to possess it.”
Deuteronomy 4:5

PRAYER: Dear Father, please protect Baby! Help me to train him to understand the world around him in such a way that he can navigate through life safely. May we both shun evil and danger, focusing our attention instead on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, edifying, virtuous, and praiseworthy, as we’re instructed in Philippians 4:8.

THOUGHT: About this stage, babies go on many “search and destroy” missions. Captain Michael (who is now a major in the army) used to be our “trash inspector,” and Daniel loved opening the toilet lid to swish a handy toothbrush in the bowl. This is a stage where children are becoming increasingly capable…climbing up and down stairs and on and off of beds, couches, and chairs…trying to open doors and cupboards. Every time you turn around, they’re into something new! They have the (in) “satiable curiosity” of Rudyard Kipling’s little elephant, and about as much sense! This stage requires constant vigilance, an ample dose of good humor, and the ability to correct with kindness. Keep a record of the crazy stuff they do; it’ll help you from going crazy!

ACTIVITY: “The best defense is a good offence.” Take time to teach your baby everything he can learn. It will actually protect him from harm. There are many types of “open” and “close” objects to learn about. Put something inside and see if you can teach Baby how to open some of these: plastic jar with a screw top lid; plastic container with a lid that pops on and off; matchbox that opens and closes by sliding the lid sideways; shoe box with a top that lifts off; hinged plastic box (lunch box) with a snap shut lid and release.

Baby watching birds328. Sharing Good Seed

“Cast your bread upon the waters: for you shall find it after many days.”
Ecclesiastes 11:1

PRAYER: Oh Father, your son is the both the Lion of tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God. Please bless Baby; may he grow to be as brave as a lion and as gentle as a lamb! Jesus has also been called the seed of a woman, the seed of Abraham, and the seed of David. He is also that incorruptible seed of God’s living word through whom we are born again. May the living word that is planted in our hearts spring up into everlasting life, making us like great oak trees of faith. May we sow spiritual seeds too, knowing someday we will reap the reward of seeing many others enjoying eternal life perhaps in part because we shared the seed of his Word with them.

THOUGHT: Many places will not allow you to feed animals, but I think it’s good for children to learn to be gentle and share with others, being compassionate towards all of God’s created beings even from infancy. I had a dear spiritual mentor who was a millionaire and yet carefully collected the breadcrumbs from the bottom of each bread sack she used and added it to the seed in her bird feeder. It is good for all of us to learn to share and be good stewards of everything the Lord gives us!  Child checking out goat 8.23.15ACTIVITY: A bird feeder in front of a picture window at your home would be one way of showing care, and such a feeder would doubtless be a great source of interest and delight to Baby! Also, many communities have petting zoos with baby goats or other animals that can be fed, or you may live near a lake or a city square where birds or fish are eager recipients of hand outs. Check with local authorities and find some opportunities for Baby to share a few tasty treats with some of God’s little creatures.

Close up playing329. Transformation by the Word

“The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” Romans 10:8

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your word. May it be very close to my heart and in my mind at all times, so that it is truly a lamp to light my feet and guide into the paths of righteousness. Please grant me wisdom and grace not only to know and believe your word, but also please truly transform me by it, so that I will exhibit all the heavenly fruit of the spirit in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control. May I “put off the old man” and his wicked deeds: not only the obvious ones like lust, envy, and wrath, but also the more “respectable sins” like irritability, whininess, selfishness, pride, gossip, bitterness, and resentment. Lord, please open my eyes, so that I can see you and be transformed by your glorious beauty into your likeness!

THOUGHT: One of the most profound ways in which you can bless your baby is by growing spiritually. As you become more like Christ, Baby will benefit from your increasing maturity, and hopefully she’ll be drawn to you, desiring to become like your savior too. What a blessing it is to have a godly mother!  Ball and Baby by GTACTIVITY: While Baby is still crawling but getting very good at it, try putting out things that roll on the floor in front of her that will encourage her to keep moving forward. If you find that balls get away too fast, try rolling balls outside on the grass, or in the house you can use unopened cans of soup, vegetables, coffee tins, or round oatmeal boxes, all of which make great toys to push and chase across the floor.

Awesome Food on Hawaii’s Big Island (or in Your Kitchen): A Bird in the Hand…

Bird in HandAccording to Huffington Post‘s pronouncement last week, the best sandwich in the U.S. today is made right here where I live, Grand Rapids, MI at Kitchen 67.

Menu at Kitchen 67, GR The “Bird in Hand” is made from beer-braised chicken, hand breaded using house-made Founder’s beer batter, real mayo, crisp lettuce ribbons, & served on a buttery, caramelized bun that’s been branded with a “67” on the top.Bird in Hand at Kitchen 67Alan and I tried their Bird in Hand just two nights ago, and it definitely has class, so I want you to know as I launch into a post on great places to eat in Hawaii’s Big Island that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush…i.e., as I describe the great food we ate, please consider that if you’re not in Hawaii, you can use these creative ideas to make very similar dishes in your own kitchen just by experimenting (and possibly consulting with

Punalu'u Bakery. Jim H.For breakfast, the Punalu’u Bakery on the Hilo (eastern) side is famous not only for being America’s “southernmost bakery,” but also for their pastries.Punalu'u Bakery. Jim H Great malasadas  In Hawaii, “malasadas” (Portugese-heritage doughnuts…I think the best are custard-filled) are to-die-for (not really) delicious!Punalu'u Bakery. Jim H InsideThe closest thing I can think of in Michigan are the Polish “paczkis.”
(Fat Tuesday is coming up next week…you can get some of the best at Sandy’s Donuts or Marge’s Donut Den…or make your own!) MalasadaIn Waimea (west coast), we discovered that for $1.29 you can get one of the world’s best malasadas (warm at 7 am) at the Island Gourmet Market! Breakfast in HawaiiIf you want a big (huge) breakfast, everybody agrees that the Hawaiian Style Cafe is best, but they close at noon on Sunday, so don’t try to go after church!  :( Fish TacosMerriman’s is rated as #2. in Waimea, and their fish tacos are awesome.
(I am still trying to work out a recipe…cold slaw, parsley, and Tahitian lime…) Argula Salad with Lobster and GuacamoleMy argula and onion salad adorned by tomatoes topped with guacamole and lobster with a light, sweet vinaigrette dressing was also something I’ll work on! Kahlua Pig and Curly FriesIf you’re looking for fast and fun, the Queen’s Market food court has some pretty classic fun stuff, like Hawaii’s famous “Kahlua Pig” (pulled pork) Ippy's Maui Burgers and Ippy’s Maui burgers (dripping with cheese).  Volcanoes National ParkOur helicopter pilot (20+ year resident) said his favorite place to eat is the Tommy Bahama restaurant in Waimea,Dinner at the 4-Seasons Restaurantand my cousin Jim, who’s wintered in Hawaii for years with his wife,
listed the Four Seasons (Hualalai), Sam Choy’s near Kailua-Kona,
and the Bamboo at Hawi as personal favorites. Local DishOne of the most unique (but also wonderful) meals Alan and I had
was at the Local Dish in Hawi. Mahi Mahi with Papaya salad and goat cheeseI will definitely try to reproduce their grilled mahi mahi atop a salad garnished liberally with papaya and macadamia-nut encrusted goat cheese. Chocloate Expresso PieWell, I could go on and on, but I’d better wrap this up! Tossed Salad onionsWe have a Macaroni Grill in GR (which we like),
but we didn’t particularly want to visit in Hawaii so we could try more new items.Lobster Ravioli However, their lobster ravioli is great both places, Spaghetti and Meatballstheir spaghetti good, and their prices excellent (relative to Hawaiian prices, which are unfortunately very high). Sometimes tried and true is a good thing. The Volcano House, Big Island HawaiiOne place that I didn’t find in the guides for “best restaurants” is the Volcano House, but I want to especially highlight this classic 170-year-old restaurant.Alan waiting for dinner. Volcano House Those who know go, although you have to make reservations ahead. View of setting sun from the Volcano HouseThe dining room has a view of Kilauea Volcano’s smoldering caldera,Kilauea Volcano's smoldering caldera which becomes a glowing inferno when night falls. Steak and Lobster TailWe considered that dinner our 43rd anniversary celebration.  Volcano House RestaurantThe atmosphere was casual classic, but the fire-light setting
was absolutely unforgettable…if not a bit eerie. Ribeye SteakI was very glad that I had reservations at the hotel
and was not out wandering along “Desolation Trail” in the dark,
or worse yet, trying to escape the heat of a volcanic surface. Kilauea Volcano's smoldering caldera 4Frankly, it made me think of hell, and the fact that the world’s guidebooks don’t really tell us about how to get to heaven. Those in the know go, but only by reservation. Have you made your reservation yet?

Kilauea Volcano's smoldering caldera 2“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:9-10)

(The 3 pictures of Punalu’u Bakery and the photo from the Four Seasons’ Restaurant belong to my cousin, Jim H., and are used by his permission. Thanks!)

Best Experiences on Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii from the AirDo you use travel guides? Before traveling, I always do a google search of guides like Lonely Planet and Trip Adviser to see what others consider the top sites, and that definitely influences my plans. After returning home, Alan and I think back over our experiences and make our own assessment. Today, I want to share some photos and a few thoughts about our best experiences on Hawaii’s Big Island, and hopefully over the next couple of weeks, I’ll go into more detail on some of the best of the best!

Kathi at Volcanoes National Park#1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was rated as the top site
by all the guides I checked, and I whole-heartedly agree. Magma coming to surface. Mt. KilaueaThis national park is on Mauna Loa, the earth’s largest active volcano, and it’s a unique experience to see lava bubbling up from a lava lake with your own eyes. (See the speck of red in the middle and the areas of glowing red further out?)
If you get to the Big Island, don’t miss it! Mauna Kea Observatory 2#2. Stargazing on Mauna Kea is another unforgettable experience!
The world’s best stargazing if from the summit of this mighty mountain,
and I was totally bedazzled! Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Lifing Off#3. Helicopter Tour of the Big Island. This is hugely expensive, so if you go, make sure your tour covers both Volcanoes National Park and the waterfalls. Waihilau Falls Hawaii#4. Waterfalls. Akaka Falls is the most accessible, although some say Rainbow Falls is the most beautiful.  However, Waihilau Falls (estimated 2,600 feet) in the Waimanu Valley is one of the highest waterfalls in the world. It’s magical! Hapuna Beach, Hawaii#5. Hapuna Beach…swimming, walking, surfing…whatever. Hapuna is super family friendly and considered by some the best beach, but there are so many!
Hawaii’s beaches are fantastic.  Dolphins playing Hawaii#6. Dolphin and whale watching. You can pay big money and take a tour,
but you can also see them from the shore or from the sky. Dolphin Quest Big IslandDolphin Quest offers very fun, very pricey adventures, but I think you could also just walk over to Hilton’s Waikola Village Resort and view them. Dolphins playing at Hilton Waikaola Village ResortAt least, we were staying there for the conference,
so we enjoyed watching their antics every day.Whales swimming in Pacific OceanAlso, we saw lots of whales playing at a distance from our hotel and at various places along the western coast (although I never got a really great shot). 

Snorkling with green sea turtle in Hawaii#7. Snorkeling. Many say the best snorkeling in America is off the beaches on the Kona (leeward) side. We enjoyed great swims with green sea turtles and many colorful fish right at the Hilton.  Kealakekua (also known as “Captain Cook”) has an underwater marine sanctuary with dolphins and green sea turtles.  Waipi'o Valley by Jim #8. Waipi’o Valley. There’s an outbreak of Dengue fever there right now, so no one is allowed in the valley, but there’s a great overlook not far from Akaka Falls. It has the steepest road descent in the U.S. and possibly in the world (4-wheel drive only). Waipi'o ValleyIf you know what you’re looking for, you can see the valley from the window of your airplane (“A”/left side going to the Big Island and “F/right side if you’re flying back to the U.S.). Waipi'o ValleyIf you take the helicopter tour that includes waterfalls, you’ll get some great views of the valley. Mosquitoes don’t fly that high! :) Hilton Waikaloa Village Resort 2#9. Enjoy your hotel! Remember that you’re going to spend a third of your time or more at your room, so go to a lot of bother to find a property where you’ll enjoy that time. Waikola HiltonWe stayed at the Hilton Waikaloa Beach Resort because that was the Mayo Clinic conference site, and it was amazing. You don’t need “amazing,” but even on a budget you ought to be able to find “pleasant.” Mahi Mahi and papaya Salad#10. This never gets in the guidebooks for “top sites,” but Alan says he always travels for the culinary experiences. You’ve got to eat anyway, so make every meal count. There are always delicious new dishes to try, so go for it! I’ve got some great ideas from our time there, which I’ll try to write up for you tomorrow.

So, that’s my “best of the best” experiences on the Big Island. If you read this and have some ideas to add, please do! I’m a firm believer in research and learning from the experiences of others, aren’t you? What about heaven? Is it on your bucket list? Are you hoping to go? Planning to go? Have you read the guidebook (the Bible)? Jesus says he’ll take you there if you ask!Hawaii. Big Island“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

(First picture of Waipi’o Valley taken by my cousin, Jim H. Thank you! The rest are mine, taken last week during our trip to Hawaii’s Big Island.)

Life is an Uphill Battle!

I have a friend who is still (in his 70’s) working his heart out as a missionary in Columbia. On his 60th birthday, he teased, “If it’s all downhill from here, why do I still have to pedal so hard?” I have come to believe that life is always an uphill battle unless we stop trying…in which case it’s a costly downhill slide. Uphill-Battle-Christian-Movie-DVD-FilmLast night Alan and I watched Uphill Battle, a 2014 Christian film dealing with the issues of trying to recover from infidelity, divorce, and addiction…rearing kids alone, and trying to learn to trust again…or when it even makes sense to try to trust again. As with most of the Christian films that are coming out, the acting isn’t as “professional” or convincing as that of the world’s great actors, but the themes and messages are refreshingly genuine and inspire hope for life after heartbreak and the possibility of overcoming addictions. Uphill BattleLife is messy. Two weeks ago, the Barna Research Group published these devastating statistics at a NYC press conference (full report will come out in April) (

  • “…half of women 25 and under ever seek out porn (56% versus 27% among women 25-plus) and one-third seek it out at least monthly (33% versus just 12% among older [wo?]men).
  • In contrast, among teen and young adult men, 81% ever seek it out and 67% at least monthly. Among men ages 25-plus, the comps are 65% and 47[%.]

Are we facing the uphill battle against sin and addiction in our own lives and families? Got an Achilles’ heel? I do. I’m a social eater. Overeating can also become an addiction. According to recent reports (, every state in the U.S. now has more than 20% of their population who are obese. This is also deadly news.

Whatever our weaknesses, there is a solution, and there is hope in the transformative work of Christ in our lives, if we’ll only surrender our hearts and wills to Him. Are you willing? If not, are you willing to become willing? I’m praying every day for myself and my family that we will learn to “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9). Will you join me in praying for ourselves, each other, our nation, and our world?


Ground Hog Day: Have We Been Tricked?

It’s a drab study in shades of brown and white outside my window today. Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this morning, and the forecast is for an early spring. I sure hope so, although PP isn’t always right. What in the world?I also saw the above amazing bit of ingenuity on FB yesterday (February 1). My first response was belief: “That’s cool!” But, then I said to myself, “Wait a minute…this is a leap year, so there must be 5 Mondays this year”…In fact, except for leap years there are always exactly 4 of each of the days of the week in February, because it’s the only month with exactly 28 days. And, what’s with the 823 years? The perfect rhythm of 4 opportunities to live for each of the 7 weekdays in February occurs 4 out of every 5 years, or about 659 out of the next 823 years. It made me laugh at myself to realize how gullible I am…that my first response is to believe what I read or hear. It also made me feel a bit tricked and offended. What motivates people to promulgate lies? I’m sure some do it unintentionally, because they’ve been taken it too. (Sadly, I’ve been guilty of that.) Perhaps some do it as a joke, just to see if they can fool others. Worst of all, some people intentionally twist ideas to promote a perverse agenda…such as coining the term “homophobia” (by a psychotherapist named George Weinberg back in the 70’s) to shift the sense of psychological malady from the homosexual to the heterosexual population. As believers, let’s be more careful in discerning truth from lies: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NIV).

Also, despite the erroneous line of argument in the cartoon above, the first statement is true: “February 2016 cannot come in your lifetime again.” In fact, “February 2016” will never come again, not in our life time or in anybody’s life time as long as we use our world’s present system for accounting time. Each second—each month and year—only comes and passes once, so let’s make it a great month, whether or not spring comes early!

“Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing:
and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment” (Ecclesiastes 8:5).

Traveling to Paradise Despite the Blizzard

In the belly of the whale... Jonas“In the belly of Jonas!” Cars buried under snow on Jan. 24, 2016 NYC blizzardLast week, from January 22-24, 2016, a category 4 “crippling” Blizzard Jonas was predicted to strike northeastern U.S. with a force that could impact 33 million people and paralyze traffic from Boston to Washington D.C. NYC Snow storm 01.24.16 This time, the weather prognosticators were spot on
(except the storm passed south of Boston, where my son Joel lives). Jonas sure was a whale of a stormJonas was a blizzard of epic proportions,
and as some of our friends demonstrated, “Jonas was a whale of a storm!” Flooding on east coast during Jan. 2016 stormAt least 55 people were killed due to storm-related incidents and flooding,
and economic losses have been estimated at up to $3 billion. Roof vents covered by stormThe storm broke many historic records and has been unofficially considered a “top 10” snowstorm, earning such nicknames as “Snowzilla” Trying to dig out after Storm Jonas & “Snowmageddon” for its mountainous snowfalls (high of 42″ in West Virginia) and horrendous winds (85mph on Assateague Island, MD). Biggest Snowstorm in NYC historyOn January 23 the storm was truly a show stopper in Manhattan
where my brother lives: Cars were buried, traffic banned,
and even all the Broadway shows were cancelled.Newsanchor Tom Costello reporting from LaGuardia. 01.23.16 There were record-breaking snows at both JFK and LaGuardia Airports in NYC, Flights cancelled in NYC due to Blizzard Jonasand more than 13,000 flights were cancelled. Washington D.C. SnowIn Washington D.C., where my little sister lives, Washington D.C. during Jan 2016 stormsnow at the BWI airport broke their historic record, which dated back to 1892! Streets of Philly from USA TodayJonas dumped 22.4″ on Philadelphia (my daughter-in-law Grace’s hometown), which equaled Philly’s average snowfall for an entire year! 25.5 inches of snow in MD 14 states reported more than a foot of snow, and 6 states had more than two feet. Aerial View of Grand Rapids MI in WinterJanuary 23 was also the day Alan and I flew from Grand Rapids to Hawaii.Jet dealing with snowy runwayHaving heard the predictions, we were concerned, particularly when we learned that a plane slid off the runway at O’Hare the night before we were to fly there.US Airways Jet leaving O'Hare Airport However, our flights were bought and paid for, Conference Center at Hilton's Waikola Village Resortas was Alan’s tuition for Mayo Clinic’s Annual Internal Medicine Update,Forecast for Hawaii Jan. 26.16 and the forecast was pretty fabulous if we could just get there, Hawaiin Palmsso we thought we’d take our chances and try to make it safely to Hawaii. Chicago Skyline from the airDespite our anxieties about the weather in Chicago, O'Hare Airportwe made it in and out of O’Hare Airport without a hitch, Phoenix, AZ Aerial Viewand by the time we got to Phoenix…our spirits were risin’…   :)Pacific Islandby the time we flew over the Pacific, the sky was clearing…Arriving on Big Island. Hawaii from the airand by the time we reached Hawaii, we knew it’d been okay to leave home to go.  Saltwater Lagoon at Hilton's Waikola Village ResortI believe that leaving this earth to go to heaven will be very similar. Hawaiian Sunset on Big Island near HawiThere will be many things to make us feel afraid that we might not make it
safely through the storms of life to reach that “happy, golden shore.” Hawaiian Sunset from the airBut, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior,
then your tickets are already paid for, Sunrise in Hawaii Jan. 24. 2016and a safe arrival to your destination is assured. Hilton's Waikola Village ResortYou have a room reserved for you and people expecting your arrival!  Picture through mirror at Hilton's Waikola Village ResortIt will be worth it all. I sure hope you’ll come with us! Cloudy Flight to LAX“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).Hawaiian sunset from Waikaloa

(Special thanks to my brother John, sister Liz, friends [especially Laura and her kids in their “whale”], NBC News and USA Today [for picture of Philly]. The rest are photographs I took last week on our trip to Hawaii.)

Rise Up, My Love (171): Like a Bed of Spices

Fullness of a beard like spicesSong of Solomon 5:13 “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers:” The cheeks of the bridegroom—doubtless enhanced by a full beard—reminded his wife of a well manicured garden bed, rich with spices and perfumed with flowers. Have you ever enjoyed a spice garden? When our children very young, we lived near a lovely botanical garden. One of my favorite walks meandered along a woodland path, and near the end of the trail…in a tiny, sheltered meadow…was a circular herb garden with a plethora of fragrant spices arranged in neat beds shaped like the spokes of a wheel. The symmetric design was most appealing, and the soft fullness of the greenery made you just want to reach out and touch the plants. But best of all, when you got very near, you could smell the delicate aromas of the spices.

Perhaps it was this type of visual and olfactory imagery that the bride had in mind. The lines of his abundant beard and rich black hair framing his face like a circular garden…the softness of his beard begging to be touched…the delicate aroma of his skin and hair, drawing her ever nearer.

SON OF GOD, Diogo Morgado as Jesus Christ, 2014. ph: Joe Alblas/TM copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved/courtesy Everett Collection

King Solomon’s cheeks were not only dignified by a manly beard, they were fragranced with perfume. Modern men sometimes splash on cologne or after-shave, but ancient men anointed themselves with spiced oils. In Psalm 133, dwelling together in unity is likened to the fragrance of precious ointment anointing the head and flowing down upon a beard…”even the beard of Aaron,” the high priest. Surely this is the picture we see! Our greater than Solomon is also our high priest forever (Hebrews 6:20)…graced with the beard of manhood and fragranced with the oil of the Holy Spirit…making the way for us as his bride to “dwell together in unity” with him! gods-own-hill-station-1aPrecious Messiah, of whom it was prophesied: “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50:6). Dear Jesus, who lived out that awful abuse (Matthew 27). We are told in Isaiah 52:14, “As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” Our precious Lord and Christ was mercilessly abused and tortured for us. In this world, his beard was not well groomed and fragrant. It was pulled out and matted with blood. “Marred more than any man.” My soul groans and wants to turn away from even imagining the one I love more than any other so hideously mistreated. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Those of us who know him—look at him. All that he suffered was out of love for us. If you do not know him—look at him. This is what he did…for you. For me, but also for you and all the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Have you turned to him for forgiveness of sins and salvation? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). It is my prayer that not even one person who reads this book will turn away from Christ, but that all will experience the wonder of his love and forgiveness and grow to see and love him as he is: our glorious bridegroom.

(Picture of the hill of spices from “God’s Own Hill” website):
Picture of Diogo Morgado as Jesus from the net.