Monthly Archives: June 2015

El Djem’s Amphitheather of Thysdrus: On Trial for Faith قصر الجمّ

Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّRecalling my visit to El Djem’s Amphitheather of Thysdrus (Tunisia) in the light of the recent murder of the “Mother Emmanuel Nine” in America’s oldest southern African-American congregation (Charleston, SC) last week, Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 12 I realize that those nine dear saints were martyred for their faith, just like those who were martyred at the Amphitheater of Thysdrus almost 2,000 years ago. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 5 We visited El Djem on a quiet Monday morning under peaceful blue skies Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ Bougainvillea hemmed by brilliant bougainvillea. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 7 That morning I felt a sense of sacred awe, like I was standing on holy ground, Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 4and indeed…I was. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 3 To me, the Amphitheater of Thysdrus is a monument to faith, Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 9 although it is also a morgue. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 15 El Djem’s Thysdrus Amphitheater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 2 and the third largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 13It’s colossal structure that was capable of seating 35,000 Depiction of Ancient Warriors in Tunisia and was home to chariot races and gladiator shows. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ10 But, the most remarkable thing to me as a believer is knowing that hundreds— Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 16perhaps thousands—of Christians met their death in this arena for refusing Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 8 to deny their faith in Christ as the Savior that God the Father sent into this world to die in our place so that we can be forgiven for our sins and reconciled to God. Ancient Mosaic. TunisiaTwo of the most famous martyrs were young women in their early twenties
—Perpetua and Felicity— who died in 203 A.D. Ancient Mosaics from El Djem, Tunisia Strangely enough, even though the executions were intended as entertainment, Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ6some of the spectators were so inspired by the martyrs’ steadfast faith that they became converts, and a century later,Statue in Museum of El Djem  Constantine decriminalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 18 I’ve done a lot of soul-searching in the last few weeks, Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 14 and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 11 What do you believe? Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 10 Would you be willing to die for your faith so that others might live?
I think the Mother Emmanuel Nine would say, “Yes.”
Would we?Amphitheater of Thysdrus at El Djem قصر الجمّ 17“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Desert Roses

Rose. Pink  copyIf you had to choose, would you rather be a garden rose or a desert rose?
Have you ever seen a desert rose?
I didn’t know they even existed until we went to Tunisia. Rose of Sharon. 7.24.13. A desert rose isn’t like the Rose of Sharon, such as we have growing in August gardens here. In fact, the desert rose I’m talking about isn’t a flower at all! Tunisia. Desert Roses 2 It’s a rosette-shaped formation made from gypsum or baryte that has crystallized in arid, sandy conditions, often in salt basins. Evaporating Salt Flat Because they’re a product of deserts, they are often embedded with sand, and if the sand is infused with iron particles (or algae, as in this picture), Pinkish salt flat formations some roses take on a pinkish tinge. Tunisia. Desert Roses We do have “rose rocks” in the southwestern U.S., but true desert roses only exist in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Algeria. Tunisia. Desert Roses at Garden 2 Most commonly, desert roses are about the size of a small rose, although on our trip to Tunisia, we noticed some absolutely huge desert roses! Desert Roses These uniquely designed creations are used to adorn museums and courtyards, Desert Rose Conglomerate on Tunisian highway and the biggest one I saw was of monumental proportions,
displayed in the middle of a highway intersection! Tunisia. Desert Roses 3 So, now that you know what I’m talking about, which would you choose? Old-fashioned rose copy For fragrance, texture, and sheer visual appeal, I’d rather be a garden rose, Wild Rose copy but they are so fragile and never last more than a week or two. Tunisia. Desert Roses at Garden There’s something to admire in the permanence of being a rock, too, isn’t there? Desert Roses. Algae in waterInasmuch as we are called to be like our creator, perhaps we can be both. Rose. Orange copy In our flesh, may we be vibrant, fragrant, and lovely despite our frailty, Star Wars Tunisia. Desert Roses but in our spirits, may we be even more enduring in our faith
than ancient bones and desert roses!Roses witheringFor all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away: But the word of the Lord endures for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
(1 Peter 1:24-25)Desert Rose by Laura Pena from Wiki
“And [they] did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

(This last picture was taken by Laura Pena in Tunisia and used by permission from Wiki Commons, but I took all the rest on my recent trip to Tunisia…except for the flowers, which are from my garden.)

Rise Up, My Love (142): Mindlessly Drifting Away

Tunnel under Amphitheater of ThysdrusSong of Solomon 5:2 “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh…” Chapter five records a frightening separation between the bride and her husband. I spent two months puzzling over these verses…dreading the thought of having to undergo such a separation from my Lord as is recorded in this chapter…wondering if somehow I have been experiencing just such a separation without even understanding it. Have I fallen asleep without knowing it? Is such separation even possible during New Testament times now that we are indwelt by the Spirit and given the precious promise of Jesus: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:29).Ancient Home in TunisiaHowever or whenever a sense of separation may come, may our first assurance be that regardless of our circumstances, once we belong to Christ, he can be found again. Notice the precious promise given first in the Old Testament: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6). God promises that he will not forsake us, and that we will ultimately never perish, but he does not promise that we will never forsake him. Indeed, the chronic record of man is that of faith, failure, and restoration. “One man among a thousand have I found…” (Ecclesiastes 7:8) is a dreary record indeed of faithfulness. All forsook our Lord in the garden…even Peter, despite his adamant denial: “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples” (Mathew 26:35).Sbeitla, TunisiaAmazingly, our Lord does not chastise us for this. He predicts it, even as he predicted Peter’s denial. He prepares us with blessed insights: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). Once his, he will never shut us out, and we can always come to him, but he never forces us; our worship and service are always to be the outflow of love, not slave labor. With the gift of free choice also comes his acknowledgment that we may go “in and out” of fellowship. Sbeitla, Tunisia 2He predicts our course, prepares us ahead of time for how to deal with our failures, and then promises restoration for all who repent. “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall yea be saved” (Isaiah 30:15). And, to Peter: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). Jesus gave not a word of rebuke. Not a hint of self-pity. Nothing but the bright flame of pure, burning love and the promise of restoration with the commission to compassionately encourage other believers afterwards.Amphitheater in El Djem 2Why he should deal with us so tenderly…with such undying love…is beyond comprehension. Why didn’t Jesus call down fire from heaven, like Elijah, and destroy his enemies? Why didn’t he call ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set himself free? When we fail, why doesn’t this mighty God, who accounts the nations as nothing, grind us to powder and blow us away like the dust of the balances (Isaiah 40:15)? He who casts angels into the pit for disobedience (Revelation 20:3), why does His hand reach out still to us who are but wayward human beings? Why doesn’t he quench the smoking flax or despise the tiny flickers of love that smolder within our hearts (Isaiah 42:3)?Endless SandThe answer is in his eternal mercy and love. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities…the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him…” (Psalm 103:10,17). Although five times between Isaiah 5—10 we are told that God chastised his people in anger, and “for this his hand is stretched out still” (i.e. God was still angry), still, in Psalm 136 we are told twenty-six times that God’s mercy endures forever: God “brought forth Israel…with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Yes, God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11), but his love never ends: “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) What an example of mercy, grace, and forgiveness for us as humans! Oh, that we might comprehend this love and let it transform us, so that we in turn might love those around us with his compassion and mercy!Easter lilies in Cathedral


Bless Your Baby (Ideas for Baby’s Sixteenth Week)

  1. Walking and TalkingBaby with Mom“Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.”  Psalm 57:8

PRAYER: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth.” Thank you for weather! Thank you for water. Thank you for sunshine and fresh air! Thank you for strollers and baby backpacks…all the modern conveniences we enjoy that make child care so much easier! Thank you for the seasons…for grass and flowers in the summer, brilliant leaves in the fall, swirling snow in winter, and raindrops in the springtime! Thank you that your mercy is so big it fills up the earth…it “is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.” My heart is fixed on you, O God! Please center Baby’s heart on you too, so that we’ll sing and give you praise all the days of our lives.

THOUGHT: Are you taking a daily walk? Walking is truly good for both you and Baby. If you’ve got the time, the two of you could go for a leisurely “exploring” walk during the days as well as a faster exercise walk with your husband later on in the evenings.

ACTIVITY: When you and Baby go walking, talk to him and tell him what you’re seeing. If the weather’s pleasant, let him touch some of the things you’re passing…the rough bark of a tree, or the smooth, metallic feel of a stop sign. Pick him up in your arms and let him investigate a picket fence. Pat the grass, slide his hand along the side of a car, or explore the texture of a flower or leaf. Listen with him to noises. Ask if he can hear the birds singing and tell him what kind they are if you know. Tell him about the weather, the temperature, the precipitation, the clouds, and how you like the weather. Let him get used to talking with you about what you’re experiencing together.

  1. Rolly-PollyPlaying roll over game“And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the tomb?” Mark 16:3

PRAYER: Dear Father, we remember the words of the little children’s song: “Rolled Away”: “…every burden of my heart rolled away. Every sin had to go ‘neath the crimson flow, hallelujah!” How glorious is your plan of salvation! Thank you for loving the world so much that you sent your one and only son to die for our sins so that whoever will believe in him will be saved! Thank you for raising Christ from the dead on the third day and rolling away the great stone that had sealed the tomb! Dear Lord, please roll away all the sins and burdens in our hearts and fill us with resurrection power!

THOUGHT: Theories change on whether infants should sleep on their backs or stomachs. Be aware of what doctors recommend currently and keep Baby safe.

ACTIVITY: Here’s a rolling practice game. Place Baby on your bed or a blanket on the floor on her stomach with her arms down at her sides, then gently roll her over onto her back, making sure you don’t hurt her arm as you turn her. When she’s on her back, say, “Well, Hi!” and look totally astonished to see her. After you’ve smiled and talked for a minute, say, “Well, time to roll over,” and gently reverse the process, rolling her onto her stomach. Repeat this game several times or as long as she seems happy and enjoys the process. Give her lots of kisses and hugs, hold her hands, stroke her hair, and see if you can get her to smile and laugh with you! When you’re finished, leave her on her stomach so she can practice. Maybe she’ll roll herself over sometime!

  1. Church Shoppers, Hoppers, and Finally— MembersWide-eyed!“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”  Colossians 1:12

PRAYER: Dear Father of light, thank you that we can be “saints in light.” Thank you for the promise that if we walk in the light as Jesus is in the light, we’ll have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus Christ, your Son, will cleanse us from all sin. Please bless Baby with a wonderful church experience. Help us to be faithful, loving, giving members of our community of faith. Thank you for making us a part of the family of God and letting us share with other believers in all your wonderful inheritance!

THOUGHT: Have you found a church “home” and “family” where Baby can begin to integrate into a larger spiritual community? In this day and age of scattered families, it is all the more critical for your family to be part of a wider fellowship where you can mutually share love, support, and encouragement. Fathers need the modeling of patient and faithful older men just as much as Baby needs the opportunity to observe and interact with other children and adults, and you need access to the hope and compassionate help of other women…older women who’ve weathered the trials of motherhood and have some wisdom to pass down as well as younger women who are facing the challenges of motherhood and in the learning stages just like you.

ACTIVITY: If you haven’t found a church home, why not make your activity for today trying to find one (or several to try out)! Many churches now have websites that give quite a bit of information, and you can still use the yellow pages or call around or ask your friends about their churches. Look for doctrinal soundness and warmth.

  1. A Shower of KissesMom kissing baby“And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.”  Psalm 35:9

PRAYER: Dear Father, how we marvel that the great God of the universe would say, “Kiss the Son…Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” We bow at Jesus’ feet and kiss him with our hearts, not because we fear perishing in his anger, but because we are among those blessed ones who have put their trust in him. Thank you for the privilege of being your children and being able to “kiss” you as well as one another. Bless Baby, dear Lord. May she somehow sense how deeply she is loved and grow up secure in the fact that she is cherished by her family as well as everlastingly loved by her creator!

THOUGHT: It’s impossible to love a child “too much.” Spoiling only occurs when you don’t train her and discipline her, but never by loving her! When Aaron was born, I began a little game of kissing him at least once for each day he was old. I’m not sure if I kept that up past 100 days, but it’s a good practice to lavish children with affection.

ACTIVITY: Showering babies with affection is so good for them. Try kissing Baby’s head, arms, legs, back, and tummy. Perhaps tonight after she’s all cleaned up and ready for bed, try giving her a shower of kisses. Kiss every finger and every toe, both her cheeks, her knees and elbows, her hands and feet, the top of her head and the bottom of her feet, her ears and nose. Give her lots of happy smiles and joyful reminders of what a precious gift she is from the Lord—God’s good and perfect gift—and be sure to tell her just how much you love her.

  1. Picture PerfectBack sleeper“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” Psalm 3:3

PRAYER: Dear God, our shield and defender, our glory and king…the one who lifts up our heads, thank you for every wonderful thing you do…even the events that seem strange to us or frustrate us. Thank you that you provide more than all we need, and that you know better than we do how to handle every single detail of life, even such little things as what kind of wallpaper will best suit our baby’s needs!

THOUGHT: When Aaron was born, we lived in an upper flat in a very old neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. Our landlady had meticulously cleaned and decorated our apartment before we moved in and instructed us not to change anything! Therefore, our baby nursery had wallpaper with large black flowers on a white background. I lamented Baby’s fate at first, but then I read that babies are stimulated by pictures with large patterns! So, although I had always dreamed of a pink-and-blue-splashed room like Sleeping Beauty’s dress, I was reminded that God’s ways are “above” ours; even if we can’t understand God, we can trust that his plans are for our good.

ACTIVITY: Does Baby have a crib with a view? How about putting a cork board on the wall where he is most likely to be looking when he wakes, and from time to time change the picture, so he always has something to study. The board needs to be close enough for him to notice but far enough away that he can’t reach it. If you have an artistic streak, you could draw your own designs, or you could download pictures from the Internet or cut them from old magazines. Find simple pictures with bold lines and sharp color contrasts.

  1. Contagious Cheerfulness Happy Boy!“He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope.” Acts 2:25-26

PRAYER: Lord, you uphold us with the right hand of your righteousness! As King David said so long ago, “My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long.” Thank you for being on our right hand to keep us from being moved. Our hearts do rejoice and our tongues are glad. Truly we rest in hope because we are your children.

THOUGHT: What a blessing to have a baby who is healthy and responsive! By now, hopefully, Baby is making eye contact and smiling when she sees you. Although a huge amount of Baby’s personality is the unique endowment by our creator and fully present at birth, your influence will also have a tremendous impact on Baby.

ACTIVITY: If Baby is naturally happy and cheerful—how about making this a day of special praise to the Lord for all the wonderful things you’ve seen developing in your child? Perhaps you can write out your praises and keep them tucked away to be read to Baby in the future. If Baby is not naturally cheerful and positive, how about starting a prayerful campaign to try to pass along a little infectious good cheer? Even if your circumstances are very difficult, ask the Lord for courage, and then start a smiling campaign. Smile and laugh with Baby, and see if you can help her become a more cheerful soul. Before long, she may start cheering you up, since good humor is good medicine for the soul. “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

  1. Helping Baby Grow StrongerBlocks“Blessed be the LORD my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1 (ESV)

PRAYER: “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” Your glory is above the heavens. Your fingers made the sun, the moon and stars…they are like a child’s playthings to you! How is it that you are so great, and yet you are mindful of us? Why do you love us and give us strength? Why do you take the time to teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight? I will never cease marveling that the great God who made everything cares about every minute detail in the universe! Not only do you call the stars by name, you notice the tiny sparrow when it falls. Wow! Thank you for loving this world, and thank you for loving each one of us!

THOUGHT: Just as God cares about every detail of our lives, we can reflect God’s love by actively trying to achieve our highest potential and encouraging Baby to do the same!

ACTIVITY: Roll up a big beach towel so it looks roughly the shape of a jellyroll. Lay Baby face down on the towel so that it supports his chest, tummy, and thighs, and place his face to one side or the other. Let him work on developing a sense of balance and strengthen his neck and leg muscles as you gently rock him back and forth from side to side and sing him a lullaby like “Rock of Ages.” When you’re finished singing and playing, leave Baby for a few minutes with the towel turned perpendicular to his body, supporting his chest but tucked under his arms. This position will help lift his head and chest off the floor and naturally encourage his to use his forearm and back muscles.


If God Existed, What Would You Expect Him to be Like?

Man holding scorpion in TunisiaHave you ever considered how often our expectations differ from our realities? Date palm in desert. TunisiaFor instance, I had a lot of fears about our trip to Tunisia and France. Tunisian Museum Earlier this year there were terrorist attacks both in Paris and in Tunisia, where 22 were left dead at a museum. Eiffel Tower. Paris from the air So, as a group of Americans flying back and forth through Paris and visiting “infidel” (i.e. tourist) sites in Tunisia, Tunisian hospitality drinks I really had to work through the wisdom of such a venture in my own heart. Road signs n Tunisia Was this really what God was calling me to do? If so, was I prepared to lay down Tunisian ladiesmy life if need be for the sake of trying to understand and love Muslims? Rustic Accomodations Knowing next to nothing about Tunisia, I imagined very basic accommodations, Fish dinner. Tunisiastrange food, undrinkable water (for American G.I. tracts),Barren Wilderness in Tunisia  sweltering heat, barrenness, and discomfort. Camel Crossing I expected to be on the go for long hours each day, Building Wall by highway. Tunisia working really hard on various projects, Western travelers in Tunisiaand having to drag my own luggage Lady carrying bag. Tunisia every step of the way!Our English GuideAll I really knew was that we’d be seeing many sites of Christian antiquity Learning about history and culture as well as learning about the culture and religion of Islam. Camel beside road in Tunisia There was a camel ride promised, Rubble from civil war Tunisia but I hoped it wouldn’t end in being kidnapped by terrorists!
…So, why did I go? Royal Salem Hotel. SousseBecause I believed God was calling me to this wilderness experience, Lady with wheel barrow. Tunisia and I want to have some small part in trying to bring reconciliation and healing Lady carrying bundles in Tunisiabetween followers of Mohammed and followers of Christ. Typical Street Scene Tunisia So, I definitely went in fear and trepidation, Oasis in Desert of Tunisia but I was overwhelmed every day by the abundance of beauty and blessings, Tunisian coast and Mediterranean Sea and at the end of every day we all sat around together looking back and feeling amazed at God’s hand of protection and mercy. Tunisia Royal Salem Hotel In Tunisia the hotels (where we stayed) were gorgeous. Sharing Food The food was indeed exotic but most often delicious and surprisingly abundant. Water bottle. TunisiaMost of us did develop diarrhea at some point, but we all recovered well. Star Wars Village The weather was actually gorgeous: Clear, blue skies and hot, Taking Pictures but we didn’t have to backpack our supplies with us and walk; Our Desert Rose 3 we toured in a beautiful, air-conditioned tour bus, 4-Star Accommodations and at night we had access to gorgeous pools…Sulpher Spring even a thermal spring one night under a full moon! Site where R2D2 gets lost in Star Wars I learned that barren can be beautiful, Flowers blooming in Saraha and that flowers bloom in deserts.Oasis in Tunisia There truly are streams in the desert…that’s not just the name of a book. Friendly people And, people seemed kind and friendly everywhere we went. Children along road in Tunisia Far from giving us the feeling that they hated Americans, I saw children with American logos on their shirts Guide  kissing camel and talked to young men who wished they could come to America. Beautiful Tunisian hotel foyer The clerk at one hotel would call out cheerily “Michigan!” every time he saw me, Check point on highwayand the Tunisian police kept close tabs on us so that we wouldn’t be carried off by ISIS. In all, the trip was an A+++ for me, and as I look back, I say to myself, Dry river bed. Tunisia“Now, why was I so afraid? Did I think God was leading me into a trap?” Shepherd leading flock in Tunisian wilderness God is a loving Father. He asks us to trust him to guide us, but if we’re willing, Tunisian Dessert Buffetwe discover that what He gives us is for our good, and more often than not, Tunisian food it’s so much better than our expectations!Water from the Rocks“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Lessons from the Desert: Does It Get any Better than That?

Team at the CrossAlthough many people had expressed an interest in going with us, in the final analysis, there were only six on the team, but as Alan commented when we left, “A trip with Paul and Silas…Does it get any better than that?”
Yes, there really were a Paul and a Silas!  Mason at El Djem There was also a Mason, who oversees the young adult ministries at Calvary and led the team. I called him “Fearless Leader” because he reminded me so much of my son Michael and is a perfect blend of playfulness and passionate love for God. Paul and Shannon with CrepesPaul and Shannon are married, but because there were 4 guys and 2 girls, Shannon and I roomed together. Paul is a Christian businessman and Shannon is a cardiac intensive care nurse at the Meijer Heart Clinic here in GR.Shannon, Paul, and Kathi I liked to call Shannon “Nurse Nelly” because she tried to keep us all well, but she’s also a marathoner and would get up as early as 4:30 am to run. Yep. Even in Tunisia. (That’s a loaf of French bread, and it was as yummy as it looks.)Zach and Silas Silas and Zach are room mates and both studying for the ministry. Silas is the 6th-born in a family of 9 home-schooled kids, so he and I had an instant bond, and he helped me with luggage, looking after me faithfully, like our Shepherd. Silas and Mason               If you catch him at the right angle,  Silas looks strikingly like Jesus,Jesus which more than a few people noticed.Peeking Behind PIllars Zach’s last name is Schmuck, so you can imagine he doesn’t need any nickname. In fact, at the church they’ve been known to advertize events by saying,
“You won’t be the only schmuck there!” Serving Each Other However, the kids did sometimes call Zach “Shoo Shoo” (French for “Teacher’s Pet”) because he was always super warm, friendly, and interested in listening and learning from our mentors…so of course everybody loved him instantly!Kathi at El Djem And then there was me—old enough to be everyone else’s mom—so I almost felt like the Lord had blessed me with a second family. Although, by the end of the trip, after all the intensive experiences of learning, serving, working, praying and Ready to Ride playing, we had bonded in a way that really transcended physical realities and left me with a distinct sense of brotherhood and unity in the Spirit.
And, I really don’t think it gets any better than that!  🙂Team at Lake Annecy“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:22-23).

(P.S.—You might have noticed 2 extras in the last 2 pictures. They are Roy N. and his daughter Katrina, who joined us in Tunisia. I’ll tell you more about them soon, Lord willing.)


Lessons from the Desert: There is Beauty Everywhere

Camels in SaharaI’m back at last from my trip to Tunisia and France. Every night when our team would meet for prayer (usually very late), we would agree that we’d had yet another amazing day, and I’m so excited to be able to share some of the highlights with you. We actually did go for a camel ride in the Sahara, but that was just one of a multitude of new and challenging adventures, and although

Tunisian Oasis   I will always think of this trip as my desert experience, it was far from barren! Our Desert RoseFor want of a better term, I will say that there were 10 of us involved Our Desert Rose 2 in a study tour aboard “The Desert Rose,” which took us on an 800-mile long Tunisia journey through the heart of Tunisia, which is—by the way— Camels in Tunisian Wilderness not simply a desolate wilderness of rock and sand.Bouganvillea Tunisia is also a land rich in natural beauty and history! Mediterranean Beach in SousseAlong the coast, there are sugar sand Mediterranean beaches, El Djem Amphitheater of Thysdrus and inland there are ancient ruins, like El Djem, which is a UNESCO Heritage site and home to the world’s third largest Roman colosseum. Tunisian DesertAll this to say, I was shocked by how much I don’t know about many places on earth…and by the revelation that there is beauty everywhere, even in the desert!

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).