2016 Academy Awards: When is it Time to Say “No”?

Marilyn_Monroe_Public Domain from WikiWhen I was a little girl, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were my ideal for what women “should” be. That lasted until I gave my life to Christ at age 12, and then I traded Hollywood’s Hall of Fame for the Bible’s Hall of Faith and began looking to women like Sarah, Mary, and my Sunday school teacher for modeling. However, Hollywood continues to have a huge influence on the current generation, so I’ve tried to keep abreast of what’s available to find the best that can be culled from their mammoth industry for my own growth as well as to recommend for others. To this end, I read up on films that are highly acclaimed, but this year’s list of Academy Award winners left me feeling quite discouraged. I’ve already written about Bridge of Spies, which I think is a fabulous movie, but the only other “winner” that I’ve personally seen was The Martian, which was nominated for several awards but didn’t win any. In fact, I’ve seen a number of excellent movies that came out in 2015, and I want to share some more of them with you ASAP, but this morning, I just want to grieve a little aloud and encourage you to resist the temptation to watch a movie simply because it’s “highly rated” or all the buzz. If a movie is R-rated (as almost all of this years winners are), then it contains contaminants for the mind and heart. God calls us to purity and teaches us: “ I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19, NIV). According to the reviews I read, one of the winners sounds like only thinly veiled pornography. Another film, which won the academy award for best picture and is based on a true story, addresses the crucial issue of child molestation, but I would still caution potential viewers to consider that the scriptures teach us: “It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them [evil doers] in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). So, even if those who prosecute child abusers need to bring the facts to light (and I’m thankful they do), I believe God warns us against immersing ourselves in graphic descriptions of evil. God has given us the gold standard for filling our mind, and it’s basically what is both true and good. Let’s not lose sight of that vision, even during our times of relaxation, because anything we allow our minds to consider should definitely edify us—build up our souls and spirits—, and no amount of education and/or entertainment alone should be enough. After all, would you rather end up like Marilyn Monroe or Mary, the mother of Jesus?Virgin and Child with St. John by a follower of Andrea Del Verrocchio 1435-1488. National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Rise Up, My Love (175): Do You Believe in a Love ’em and Leave ’em Creator?

Praying HandsSong of Solomon 5:14 “His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl…” Moffat translates this passage: “His fingers are golden tapers tipped with topaz pink.” The Hebrew word for “rings” comes from a root meaning “folding” or “pivoting.” His fingers were constantly in motion, holding and enfolding, caressing and cherishing her. Gold speaks of heaven…of strength and firmness of purpose…of perfection in His ability to bring to pass the consummation and fulfillment of God’s heavenly plans in her life. “Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand”(Psalm 89:13).Chicago“He’s got the whole world in his hands,” as the old spiritual goes. The mighty hands of God…so great, so good, so wonderful. Truly, he does hold us in his hand: “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Psalm 95:7). Not only does he hold us in his hand, but he does indeed hold the whole world in his hand: “In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.” (Psalm 95:4)  Alaskan MountainsGod not only holds us,  He created us: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands” (Psalm 102:25). “The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:5). “Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together” (Isaiah 48:13). “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments” (Psalm 119:73). The infinite, beautiful hands of God!  Denali in DistanceDo you believe in a higher being? Have you ever been tempted to believe the deistic interpretation of creation… that God is an indifferent Creator who set the world in motion and has since left it to operate strictly by the laws of nature as he instituted them from the inception of creation? Have you ever felt that God has left you and does not see you?Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)Let’s address those nagging fears! Think about yourself, and that may give you a little hint about God’s love. God made us by hand, and that makes us very special to him! Have you ever noticed how sentimental you are about handmade things? It’s hard to throw away a tattered Christmas ornament created by a beloved child, isn’t it? But, we wouldn’t think twice about tossing out a store-bought bulb that’s become discolored or broken. What’s the difference? The handmade object is unique and cannot be replaced. That’s just a small glimpse into the way God feels about us! Each of us is entirely unique…a special creation hand made by God’s own design. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). What a comforting promise! No deistic god is he; God never was nor ever will be a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” Creator.God's Beautiful Creation


Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Baby’s Twelfth Month, Week 50)

Baby bundled up for Outing344. Protection Through the Storm, Not From the Storm

“And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat…” Isaiah 4:6

PRAYER: Oh Father, thank you for Jesus, who is the true light of the world and the Sun of Righteousness! Thank you for the warmth of the sun in the summer…and in the winter! The world would become a frozen ball and all of us stiff as icicles if the sun stopped shining. Thank you for protecting us from many storms, but also for being our protection through the storms you allow. May Baby and I always find our refuge in you!

THOUGHT: My children all seemed to be the “outdoor variety.” Maybe that’s because their parents always loved to be outside. Whatever! Whether or not you love being outside in God’s great out of doors, be sure to give Baby many chances to experience the weather in positive ways, so she can figure out for herself whether she likes the weather.  Mom and Baby ready to play in SnowACTIVITY: If the weather conditions aren’t too threatening with lightening or miserably cold, consider taking Baby out when there’s some precipitation to see what it’s all about. If it’s warm and just a little drizzly, you might not even need an umbrella. Let Baby feel the mist and raindrops. Catch them in your hands and let them fall on your face. Tell Baby “all about it!” Take her back inside and let her feel water from the tap, maybe misting her hands or sprinkling drops on her arms the way she would have experienced rain outside. In winter, when there are big fluffy snowflakes falling gently, try bundling up Baby and taking her out to try to catch some flakes as they drift down from the sky, and let Baby lick them. Touch the snowy bushes and marvel at the beauty of God’s creative genius. Maybe after you’re back inside, you could celebrate with a cup of warm cocoa and a brief time of praise and thanksgiving!

Daddy reading to his daughter345. Tailoring Your Teaching

“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.” Psalm 36:6

PRAYER: Oh Father, the Bible declares that you are the Lord of glory, the Lord of Hosts…the Lord of All! Your righteousness is like the great mountains and extends to the sky! Truly, you preserve man and beast, and your mercy extends to thousands of generations of those who love you and keep your commandments! I pray that you would bless Baby with a long, honorable life of bringing glory to God and enjoying him forever, and may all the generations of our family continue in the heritage of faith and grace, loving you and keeping your commandments.

THOUGHT: Have you invested in the Mother Goose rhymes, or The Christian Mother Goose books? I preferred the poems that had been modified to teach spiritual truths and God’s commandments, but both the originals and the updated, Christian versions are worth the investment. Check out your local library or online resources!

ACTIVITY: Most nursery rhymes are cute just the way they are, but don’t be afraid to rephrase them to express your sentiments and worldview! For example, here’s a little poem that I altered to suit my fancy:

Hey Diddle Diddle

“Hey diddle, diddle, while Mom tried to fiddle,” (Pretend to fiddle on a violin.)
“Daddy jumped over the moon!”
(While you look on in amazement, make a wide arc over your head with your hand.)
“The little Babe laughed to see such a sight,”
(Hold stomach and pretend to chuckle very loudly.)
“And the dish ran away with the spoon.”
(Put hands up to cheeks, drop mouth open, and look astonished.)

One Two346.Discernment

“Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with food convenient for me.” Proverbs 30:8

PRAYER: Oh God, please help us to always “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” as you admonish us in Romans 12:9. Grant us lives of faithful goodness!

THOUGHT: Test Baby on the concept of “one and two.” Find a set of objects from your home have at least two identical members, such as: dominoes (back, unspotted side), spoons, butter knifes, plastic containers, canned goods, shoes, socks, diapers, envelopes, blocks, napkins, raisins, cheerios, bite-sized shredded wheats or crackers, pieces of cheese, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, etc. (Matching animals from a Noah’s Ark set work great!)

ACTIVITY: Put all your treasures by twos in a sack, and place Baby in his high chair, sitting so he can see what you’re doing. Fish out one set of objects and put one of them on the tray of his high chair, explaining the name of the object and then the fact that there is “one.” For example: “Spoon! One spoon.” Then, quickly set down the second member of the set, saying: “Spoons. Two spoons!” Pick up the first spoon and say, “One spoon!” Then, pick up the other spoon in your other hand and hold them up while explaining, “Two spoons!” At that point, you could take a minute and let him play with the spoons, or you could each take a spoon and play with it, pretend to eat, or whatever. After a minute of play, set the spoons aside and fish out your next set of two, while creating an atmosphere of excitement or suspense, like, “What else do you suppose we can find?” If you do this in the afternoon around snack time, you could end with the edible objects and share a tiny tea party at the end, including “two cups” of water or milk!

Ringing Bell347. Our Great Potter

“Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?” Isaiah 29:16

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for being our creator. I acknowledge that you are the potter and I am the clay. How I long for you to take Baby and me and mold us into a “vessels fit for use” in my master’s house. Help us to be soft and pliable under your hands, so that we are easily shaped. Give us grace to withstand the trials that you permit to fire us, and make our spirits strong and beautiful.

THOUGHT: The creative genius of God is so evident in his spiritual formation of our spirits as well as in all the arts. Although it will be a long time before Baby has enough eye-hand coordination for creating visual art, he can appreciate and practice musical arts already! Give him a wonderfully varied experience in listening to gorgeous music and many opportunities to experiment with simple musical instruments.

ACTIVITY: How about investing in a couple of musical instruments to occupy Baby’s attention once he’s learned to get something to his mouth (like a spoon) that isn’t strictly food in itself? A plastic kazoo is a great beginning wind instrument, and a plastic harmonica (maybe after the kazoo is mastered) can also be a lot of fun. Demonstrate how the kazoo works, and then practice blowing with Baby until he gets the hang of blowing into the kazoo to make a sound. If he really takes off on the kazoo, you might play the harmonica while he plays the kazoo. Of course, he may want to change instruments often, but as long as neither or you are sick or gooey from eating, who cares?

Grabbing Grandpa's Nose348. Practicing Graciousness

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt,
that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:6

PRAYER: Oh Father, thank you for your wonderful graciousness to us! Help us to know just how to respond to others, always using your grace salted by wisdom.

Grabbing EyesTHOUGHT: Here is a game for practicing eye-hand coordination, verbal skills, and manual dexterity. If he can play the game, great! If not, try again in a few weeks.

Bath ToysACTIVITY: Gather three of Baby’s most favorite small toys, such as a doll, a car, a ball, or a rubber duck. Sit so you are facing Baby on the floor and the toys are all behind your back or in a paper bag beside you. First start with your “Where is?” game. Ask, “Where is Mama’s ear?” and see if you can get Baby to touch your ear. “Where is Baby’s ear?” etc. “Eye?” “Nose?” “Mouth?” etc. Then, pull out the first toy and say, “Duckie!” Hold it up and ask, “Where is Duckie?” If he points to or touches Duckie, great, but if he tries to grab the duck, move your hand before he can take it and say, “Would Baby like Duckie?” If the answer appears to be “Yes,” then say, “Baby may have Duckie!” and hand him the duck. Then ask, ”Where is Duckie?” If he holds up the rubber duck, say politely, “May I have the Duckie?” and put your hand out. If he gives you the rubber duck, say “Thank you!” and give him a big hug before setting Duckie aside and pulling out the second toy. Practice with all three toys until he understands how to respond to “Where is?” “May I have?” “Would you like?” and “You may have…” If he learns really fast, try it with all three items on the floor in front of him and ask, “Where is—(doll)” and see if he can pick up the right toy.

Cloth on Head!349. Discovering Each Other

“Who can discover the face of his garment?
or…Who can open the doors of his face?” Job 41:13-14

PRAYER: Dear Father, Job was talking about a great dinosaur-like beast in this verse, but I love the idea of being able to understand one another by opening the doors of our faces. Please help me to understand Baby very well; may we share closeness and love.

THOUGHT: Once Baby can understand the fun of “Peek-a-boo” she can enjoy Contingency Games. These are games that teach Baby to anticipate what will come next and begin to understand the idea of action and consequence.

ACTIVITY: A couple of contingency games to try are:

  1. Put a towel or light cloth over your head and sit close enough for Baby to reach up and grab it off. Say “Peek-a…” and wait for Baby to grab off the towel. As he does, call out “BOO!” When he’s done, say, “I love YOU!” and give him a big kiss. Try it several times, and once Baby understands the routine, add a second contingency: say, “I love…” and wait for him to reach out to you or try to say “YOU” with you!
  2. Set Baby down somewhere where he can easily get up and chase after you. Say “Hide and Seek!” and take off, disappearing behind a door or around the corner of a room. When Baby gets close enough to see you, say, “You found me!” and give him a big hug. Then repeat the “Hide and Seek” and disappear again. Only play this three or four times, or you may frustrate Baby and wear him out! If Dad’s available, you could take turns with who hides and who finds, making Baby a team mate with either you or your husband.

Choosing Toys!350. Freedom of Choice?!

“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 1:28

PRAYER: Dear Father, I am awed by the realization that you are the absolute authority in the universe, and yet you give your people the freedom to choose such dangerous things as good and evil. Please help me as a mother to resist the temptation to be a “control freak,” trying to always force Baby to be good. Please guide me in how to preach, warn, and teach Baby about all wisdom. May I allow him the freedom to grow and learn, and may your Holy Spirit work in him so that at last he stands “perfect in Christ Jesus.”

THOUGHT: It is not too early to start allowing Baby to have some freedom of choice. In fact, encouraging Baby to make choices will help him become confident and self-reliant.  Baby in a box!ACTIVITY: Think of some simple aspects of his life where he could make choices that you won’t mind and ask him for his preference. “Would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?” “Would you like rice cereal or oatmeal?” “Would you like apple or some banana?” “Would you like to play with your teddy bear or with your tiger?” Hold up both options when you ask and see if you can get Baby to point or reach for what he prefers. This can be an especially good way to introduce him quiet playtime alone. If you keep a special basket of quiet time toys tucked away and let him choose what special toy(s) to enjoy during his brief sessions of “independent study,” this will help give him a sense of “ownership” in the time. Rather than feeling punished for having to play alone for 5-10 minutes, Baby may look forward to some little times of planned exploration. (Oh, wouldn’t that be nice?)

Among the World’s Best Beaches: Hapuna Has it All!

Magens BayI’ve had the pleasure of swimming at some of the beaches in the Caribbean, Australian BeachAustralia, TahitiSouth PacificChasing birds along Lake Michigan—and even here in Michigan— African beach!that make it onto the “Best Beaches of the World” list (*and some that don’t), Hapuna Beach. Big Islandand I want to say that Hapuna Beach on Hawaii’s Big Island earns its reputation Waves Crashing at Hapuna Beach. Big Islandfor being among that list of greats. Grand Floridian. Disney WorldWhat takes a beach from being beautiful to being great? Hapuna Beach. Big Island 2I’m pretty sure it starts with fabulous weather, Hawaii from the airand in Hawaii that’s usually a given 365 days a year! Hapuna Beach. Big Island 3The second most important ingredient is sand…squeaky clean sugar sand Hapuna Beach. Big Island 6that creates a smooth, safe floor for swimming, Hapuna Beach. Big Island 4walking, running, Hapuna Beach. Big Island 5playing, and building. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 9And then, there’s water. Great beaches need lots of crystal clear water! Hapuna Beach. Big Island 11Hapuna Beach State Park is almost always sunny
(only 10 inches of rain annually)Hapuna Beach. Big Island 7 and has a half-mile stretch of golden sand beach with a continuous shore break Hapuna Beach. Big Island 8that makes it generally safe and fun for all ages. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 18I think that’s enough to make it great, but Hapuna Beach is also lined by trees Hapuna Beach. Big Island 22and has a shaded picnic pavilion, so there are great facilities and lots of shelter.Hapuna Beach. Big Island 14 Also, if the waves kick up (like they did the day we visited), Hapuna Beach. Big Island 13there are professional life guards on duty every day, Hapuna Beach. Big Island 16helping to keep the beach safe for everyone. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 12Don’t you just love going to the beach? I sure do! Hapuna Beach. Big Island 15Enjoying the beauty of Hapuna Beach made me think about other world greats! Hapuna Beach. Big Island 21What’s your favorite book? Have you ever thought about what takes a book
from being great to being the greatest?Hapuna Beach. Big Island 20The greatest book in the world—at least for me—is the Bible, God’s holy Word. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 19The Bible provides shelter, beauty, stability and texture for my life. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 26It teaches me how to be rescued from sin Hapuna Beach. Big Island 23and provides cleansing for my soul. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 10It instructs me in how to live a joyful, abundant life…but safely. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 25Just like great beaches, the “Great Book” surrounds me in a world of light Hapuna Beach. Big Island 27and keeps me oriented to Truth as I try to navigate life’s challenges. Hapuna Beach. Big Island 24Have you figured out how to ride the waves of life
with the Word of God buoying you up? Hapuna Beach. Big Island 17“Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise,
thou stillest them”
(Psalm 89:9).

(*This photo is of an African beach, taken my my kids, Jon and Gerlinde. The rest are mine, all taken at Hapuna State Park a few weeks ago, except for those listed by location and the one of Disney’s Grand Floridian Wedding Pavilion.)

Trying to Capture the Grandeur: Hawaiian Waterfalls

Waihilau Falls in the Waimanu Valley. HawaiiI really believe much of the reason Hawaii is called “The Pearl of the Pacific” Waimea Valley 2 is because of their incredibly lush valleys Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaiiand seemingly countless named and unnamed gorgeous waterfalls! 4 Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii (Seriously! There are still many unnamed waterfalls, 2 Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaiiand if anybody knows the tally of total falls, please let me know, will you?) Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii 6 Half a dozen of Hawaii’s waterfalls rank among the world’s tallest, Upside Downy Helicopter Ride Molokai’s Olo’upena Falls being the fourth highest in the world, Waihilau Falls in the Waimanu Valley. Hawaii 3and (as I would discover), the Big Island’s Waihilau Falls is the 13th. Akaka Falls copyI innocently asked our pilot if we’d be flying over *Akaka or Rainbow Falls, Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii 8 but he just rolled his eyes knowingly and smiled.Helicopter Pilot above Waterfalls in Hawaii “Kathi, the falls I’m going to show you will make Akaka look like a tinker toy.”Blue Hawaiian Waterfall Tour on the Big Island 2 He was so right!Waterfalls in Hawaii 3Waihilau Falls in the Waimanu Valley is 2,598 ft. high and is composed Waihilau Falls in the Waimanu Valley. Hawaii 2 of three silvery threads of white water cascading down the western headwall Big Island Waterfallsof one of the amphitheaters formed by the Kohala Volcano. Waimanu Valley. HawaiiIn the same valley, there are three other waterfalls that are each over 1,000 ft high: Wai’ilikahi Falls, Kakaauki Falls, and Lahomene Falls.Waihilau Falls. HawaiiIf Waimanu Valley weren’t almost impossibly difficult to reach Blue Hawaiian Waterfall Tour on the Big Islandby anything but helicopter, I’m sure it would be a world-famous site.Waimea Valley Looking toward Pacific (It’s an arduous 9-mile one-way hike from Waipio Valley to Waimanu Valley, Waimea Valleyand right now no one is even allowed in Waipio Valley because of Dengue Fever.)Waihilau Falls. Hawaii. 2That’s why I wanted so much to be able to share my experience with you. Valley below waterfall on Big IslandHowever, it was really hard to take good photographs! There was window glare, Waterfalls in Hawaiia distressing amount of vog and general haze that faded the vibrant colors, Hawaiian Waterfalls tipping overdive bombs at weird angles, helicopter chop and camera shakeBlue Hawaiian Waterfall Tour on the Big Island 3as the world turned Alan flying over ocean in helicopterand Alan’s stomach churned!
(This picture was taken earlier, while Alan was still holding his own.) Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii 13Despite taking hundreds of pictures and spending days
trying to clear and clean them up for you, Waimea FallsI am very disappointed that my best efforts can give you only a dim, dull, flawed and blurry  representation of the grandeur I experienced and know exists. Fields of Macadamia Nut TreesBut then, I realized what the Lord really wanted me to share with you. Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii 2Even the most phenomenal experiences in this life Waterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii 11are as but nothing compared to what God has prepared for us in heaven. Eastern Coastal Plain Hawaii Big IslandWe read about what it’s like to know God in the Bible, Waterfalls on Hawaiibut our experience of his presence and glory is clouded by the world’s hazeWaterfalls off Coast of Big Island Hawaii 14 Brown and muddied by our own impurities.Waterfall behind highway. Big IslandOur life is so challenging that we often fail to experience his grandeur as we pass. Hilo. Big IslandIn fact, we will never see God’s beauty with perfect clarity Regrowth after volcano on Hawaii's Big Islanduntil that future day when God redeems all things and makes the world anew!

Landscape on Hawaii's Big Island Aerial View“But until then, my heart will go on singing,
Until then, with joy I’ll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.”
(—Stuart Hamblen)Western coastal plain. Big Island“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(*Photo of Akaka Falls used by permission of my daughter-in-law, Brianna. I took the rest during our Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour of the Big Island in January, 2016.)

Rise Up, My Love (174): Redeeming Pain

FuchsiasSong of Solomon 5:13, “…His lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.” Love and pain. Life and death. Sweet-smelling myrrh. Our Lord redeems our every pain and transforms it into something beautiful.Streams in the Desert In one of my all-time favorite devotional books, a classic originally written by Charles Cowman called Streams in the Desert, there is a parable told about how canyons (the canyons of our pain) were formed:

One day, when the Master was out traversing the prairie, He noticed that there were no flowers.

“Where are your flowers?” He asked the prairie.

The prairie responded, “Master, I have no flower seeds.”

And so, the Master spoke to the birds, who brought flower seeds in their beaks and scattered them all over the prairie. Soon, beautiful sunflowers, wild roses, Indian paintbrush, and painted daisies sprang up everywhere.

“But, where are my favorites— the delicate violets, the clematis, the columbines and ferns?” asked the Master.

“Alas, I cannot keep them, for the sun beats down on my breast, mercilessly withering them, and the fierce winds blow them away,” sighed the prairie.

“Then the Master spoke to the lightning, and with one swift bolt, the lightning split the prairie through its heart. The prairie reeled and groaned in agony and for many days bitterly complained about its dark, jagged, and gaping wound. But the river poured its water through the chasm, bringing rich, dark soil with it.

“Once again the birds brought seeds and scattered them in the canyon. After a long time the rough rocks were adorned with soft mosses and trailing vines, and all the secluded cliffs were draped with clematis and columbine. Giant elms raised their huge limbs high into the sunlight, while at their feet small cedars and balsam firs clustered together. Everywhere violets, anemones, and maidenhair ferns grew and bloomed, until the canyon became the Master’s favorite place for rest, peace, and joy.” (Cowman, 116-117)

Forget-me-notsDear Lord, may we understand that every pain you allow is caused to produce the wondrously sweet-smelling fruit of the Spirit in our lives. May we patiently wait for the miracle of your transformation as you conform us to the image of Christ. May our lips, too, drip with sweet smelling myrrh. Amen.Garden in New Zealand


Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Baby’s Twelfth Month, Week 49)

Twelfth Month

Waving Bye-bye337. Paying Respect to our Provider

“Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
Deuteronomy 33:25

PRAYER: Oh, LORD God, you are the faithful and true witness to our lives, the one who provides for us and gives us strength day by day. Thank you! Help us to always acknowledge you, trust you, honor and respect you! You deserve our undivided loyalty.

THOUGHT: One of the beloved traditions in our home has been waving goodbye to Dad until he’s out of sight in the morning. Even now I love to kiss Dad (Grandpa) goodbye and walk out the door with him, waving until I can’t see him anymore. We’ve also instituted the “Fifteen Second Kiss” when no one is looking…a long, intimate kiss both in coming and going that gives a very special feel to remind us that “You are my one and only!” If you and Baby are up when Daddy leaves, consider honoring him by waving him off to work and by making a special commotion over his arrival home again. These little two-minute rituals pay tribute to your admiration and appreciation for him “slaying dragons all day” so that you and Baby can enjoy the security and comfort of a home, and it also gives Baby a clear, daily witness of your love and respect for your husband.

ACTIVITY: Has Baby learned our cultural expressions for greeting and parting? How about a game of “Hi/Bye!” Call to Baby and say, “Hi!” like you’re so glad to see him. Put both your arms out and give him a big hug and a kiss. Then, set him down and say, “Bye, Bye!” Wave and blow him a kiss, and then pretend to walk away…but just for a few steps. Wait a second, turn around, and then say, “Hi!” and start the game over again.

Maracas338.Joyful Noises

“You shall eat the labor of your hands: happy shall you be,
and it shall be well with you.” Psalm 128:2

PRAYER: Oh LORD God, you are the horn of our salvation and the lifter of our heads! You are El Chay, “the living God,” in whom we live and move and have our being! May we praise you with our whole being, singing and rejoicing and making a “loud noise” in our joyful celebration of the happy life you’ve given us.

THOUGHT: Once Baby gets quite coordinated and has mastered shaking a musical egg or maraca, try letting him play with a tambourine. They are great for learning rhythm and participating in songs before he can sing with you. You might want to start with the toy type which can be bought for very little around Christmas time, because they are lighter and smaller, but if Baby especially enjoys music and you don’t think he’s likely to hurt himself (or heave it and damage something around him), you can also invest in one from a music store that may last many years. (If you opt for a real one, be sure to let him use it only with supervision.)

Baby on Dad's ShouldersACTIVITY: Here’s one of our family’s all-time favorite children’s choruses. Try forming a train if you have several children, or just hold Baby’s hands and be a train with him.

The Gospel Express

“Join the gospel express, come along and answer ‘Yes!’
It’s leaving for glory soon.
And the guard is so glad he is waving his flag. Hallelujah, it won’t be very long.
Beep, beep goes the whistle; toot toot toot goes the train,
Chug, chug, chug goes the engine,
And we’re off on the glory train.”

Baby standing. M+G's kids copy339. R’nR’

“Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
Psalm 116:7

PRAYER: Dear LORD God Almighty, you are indeed the Most High, and Jesus is the son of the Most High. May Baby and I always rest content in you, our bountiful God.

THOUGHT: The best remedy for discouragement is resting in God, “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 7:7). He loves you, and you can trust him!

ACTIVITY: Here are a couple of “just for fun” ideas for playing with Baby when you need some good, old-fashioned rest and relaxation. The first is a nursery rhyme:

“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig!
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog!
Home again, home again, jiggity jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun!
Home again, home again, market is done.”

The second is a game/song that you probably played as a very small child. You stand in a circle, starting with one person who is “it” and becomes the “farmer,” standing in the middle. As the song is sung, the “farmer” gets to choose a “wife,” the wife get to choose a child, etc. At the end, everyone leaves but the “cheese,” who will become the next “farmer” if the game is played again. If you are playing alone with Baby, you can just hold her hands and walk slowing round and round in a circle, singing the song as you go.

The Farmer in the Dell

“The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell,
High, ho, the dairio, the farmer in the dell.”

The farmer takes a wife…
The wife takes a child…
The child takes a nurse…
The nurse takes a dog…
The dog takes a cat…
The cat takes a rat…
The rat takes a cheese…
The cheese stands alone…

Babies Meeting340. Share and Share Alike

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,
especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

PRAYER: Oh Father, you are the giver of all good things. Help us to share your bounty with those who are in need of help or encouragement, especially other believers.

THOUGHT: Consider making or buying a “Surprise Box. If the games played with the Surprise Box are fun, its appearance will bring on an excited curiosity in Baby as she beings to associate the box with pleasurable times of learning. It can be a happy precursor to the concept of “school’s in session,” although played for only a few minutes.

ACTIVITY: Encourage sharing by giving lavish praise any time you see Baby spontaneously being unselfish as well as by playing sharing games. Try gathering a few interesting objects into your Surprise Box, using a combination of toys that Baby recognizes and some that aren’t usually considered “hers,” such as a spoon, a greeting card, a balloon, etc. Take one of the objects out, examine it, and play with it so Baby notices. Say, “Would you like it?” If Baby seems interested, say, “You may have it,” and give it to Baby. After she’s enjoyed it for a little bit, say, “May I have it?” and put your hand out. If she gives it to you, thank her excitedly and praise her, play with the object for a few seconds and possibly find a way to engage her in playing with the object too.

If Baby doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to share, then pull out the next item from the Surprise Box and repeat the process. The goal is to get Baby to share objects with you and eventually learn three things: 1.) How to share outright
2.) How to share by exchange 3.) How to share by mutual play.

Happy Boy!341. The Beginnings of Artistic Expression

“Stand therefore, having…your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:14-15

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being Ish, our “heavenly husband.” Jesus, who is our bridegroom…our passover Lamb, our king, our prophet, and the “apostle and high priest of our profession” (Hebrews 3:1). Thank you that he died for us so that we can live for him. May we always stand up for Jesus and share his gospel of peace in a hurting world.

THOUGHT: This may be premature, but my theory is that it’s rarely too soon to try something as long as you really supervise closely. Babies will most likely try to eat crayons or chalk, but see if you can get them to imitate you and draw instead!

ACTIVITY:. How about trying an art lesson? If you think of it as a “Scribbling Lesson” that might help you square the results with reality, but it might be worth a try. Buy some crayons and paper to work at the kitchen table, or buy some chunky chalk and head for a sidewalk or your driveway with your budding artist in tow. Let him watch you draw a simple figure (like a circle or line) on the sidewalk, and then offer him the chalk. If he scribbles (as opposed to trying to just eat it, break it, or throw it), give him lots of praise. You might try taking turns scribbling/drawing with several different colors of chalk, and be sure to discuss what you’ve drawn. Even though the scribbling may be “just for fun” at first, before too long, Baby will be trying to draw something that looks like something in imitation of you. This the idea of “symbolic function,” and children learn very early the fun of trying to express themselves and create designs that are pleasing and meaningful. (On the other hand, if Baby just misuses the chalk, tuck it away and try again in another month or two.)

Out for a date!342. Enjoying Abundance

“They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house;
and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” Psalm 36:8

PRAYER: Father, we worship you as Hashem, “The Name.” You have promised that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). We call on you, Lord, and bless your name forever. We call on the name of Yahweh, the great “I am,” and we call on the name of Jesus, who is the head of the church and heir of all things. For the sake of your great name, please bless us and save us, now and always.

THOUGHT: If you have not established a weekly “Date Night,” I highly recommend it! Of all the advice Grandpa Alan and I have received over the years, this has been one of the most useful ideas. My father, Great Grandpa Louis, told us before we got married to make sure we never stopped dating and nurturing our own relationship. He said, “Even if you haven’t got a nickel to split an ice cream cone, get out of the house once a week and at least go for a walk together!” It gives you crucial time for being friends and lovers instead of just coworkers and fellow parents. Look forward to it! Be creative when you can. Make it fresh and exciting so that it infuses your relationship with fun and romance!

ACTIVITY: Well, what does a date night have to do with “blessing your baby?” Everything, really, because happy, close couples make for happy, close homes! What about a barrel of monkeys for a barrel of fun while you’re out on a date and Baby is at home with a sitter? The monkeys arms interconnect with each other and can be made into chains. They fall apart easily and can be taken out of the barrel or put back in. They can be used for counting. If they get spilled, oh well… they’re easy to pick up!

Baby looking engaged343. Monkey See, Monkey Do!

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” Proverbs 24:16

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for promising that you will never leave us nor forsake us! That gives me the courage to declare boldly: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Even though I’m a sinful daughter of Adam, thank you for Jesus, the “last Adam” who died so that I can rise up after falling and begin again. Thank you for Jesus, “the Branch of righteousness” who will “execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). May I rise from each failure and begin again to imitate my Master, doing what is just, good, and kind for Baby.

THOUGHT: Here’s an old standby imitation game that children have loved for generations, and Baby may be ready for you to play it with him.

ACTIVITY: It’s called “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” The first time, you might want to get Daddy involved too, just to model for Baby what’s going to happen. Stand facing Daddy and Baby, and then do something very simple. Whatever you do, have your husband imitate, and try to encourage Baby to imitate you too. Once Baby learns how to play, either you or your husband can lead, and eventually, Baby will probably be able to play it just with you. Some ideas to try: shake your head, clap your hands, touch your toes with your hands, make kissing sounds, jump in the air, nod your head, laugh, cover your face with your hands, put your hands on your hips, swing side to side, squat, mew like a kitten, make marching movements without actually going anywhere, lift your arms up high over your head, wave, hop up and down, flap your arms up and down like a bird, smile, etc.

Funeral Secrets

Fort Custer DrivewayYesterday I filmed the memorial services for a dear friend’s father. David was a man deeply devoted to his God, his country, and his family, and I admired him greatly, but even though I’ve known him for many years, there was something I didn’t know about him until just yesterday. In fact, I bet it’s the sort of thing that’s true of almost everybody who dies, but it’s just not something that most people talk about.  FlowersI’ve got friends in all these categories, and I bet you do too: No kids, no kids but dogs, kids but no grand kids,  kids and no grand kids but grand dogs, kids and grand kids. But, the one thing we all have in common is a deep affection for those we love, and one privilege we all have in common is the freedom to choose how we address our loved ones, whether they be human or animal “pets.” Have you given pet names to those you love best? You might think about doing it before you die!Military BurialWell, back to my story about David. He had a special pet name for each of his grand children! “Numero Uno,” “Little Sugar,” “Sunshine,” “Sparkle,” etc. I was totally inspired and immediately began thinking about what is unique about each of my (14 going on 15) grand kids that I could turn into a special name just for them. GardenLast night I got to thinking about the mystery and brevity of life and the stark certainty of death as the passageway to resurrection, and I had a little trouble sleeping. But, instead of counting sheep, I started thinking about all the “pet names” God has given for his beloved children in the Bible. We are his “little children,” “the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand,” his “beloved,” “sons of God,” “joint heirs with Christ,” “offspring,” “sons of Abraham (by faith),” “treasured possession,” “inheritance,” “jewels,” “friends,” “new creature,” “saints,” “the righteousness of God in Christ,” “members of the body of Christ,” “children of God,” “brothers and sisters,” “chosen,” “elect of God, holy and dearly loved,” “sons and daughters”…on and on… and my very favorite so far: “His.” Do you know God? Do you belong to him? If so, but you still ever find yourself fretting about suffering and death, remember that God loves you so much he’s preparing a secret pet name, just for you!  Fresh plot“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Revelation 2:17).

Bridge of Spies: A True Classic

“Our principles are engraved in the history and the law of this land. If the free world is not faithful to its own moral code, there remains no society for which others may hunger.” —James B. Donovan, 1962 (The Milwaukee Journal). Bridge of SpiesWhen I saw this movie on the “New Release” wall the other night, I thought, “Oh, here’s a spy thriller that Alan will enjoy” (assuming I probably wouldn’t, but that would be okay). I was wrong.  Alan and I both loved it! In fact, I believe it will become a classic, because it’s not only a Steven Spielberg thriller, it’s a true story!Bridge of Spies 2 Bridge of Spies is the heart-stopping account of true events that happened during the Cold War when attorney James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) was recruited to serve as advocate for the captured KGB spy, Rudolf Abel.Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 Pictures' dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.Despite terrible public pressure for him to condemn Abel, Donovan did his best to defend Abel in a fair trial based on all of our nation’s constitutional privileges.

Tom Hanks is Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan and Mark Rylance is Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy arrested in the U.S. in the dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg. I don’t want to give away any of the story if you don’t already know it, Bridge of Spies 6because the suspense and intrigue are what make it so compelling,Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an ordinary man place in extraordinary circumstances in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 Pictures' dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.but as you might imagine, the story gets very complicated,

In DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 Pictures' BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg, Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) and his wife Mary (Amy Ryan) become the target of anti-communist fears when Donovan agrees to defend a Soviet agent arrested in the U.S.and Donovan puts his own life (and the life of his family) at risk in order to protect the constitutional freedoms of this quiet artist who has been found guilty of spying and treason.Bridge of Spies 8Despite Bridge of Spies being a 2h 21m biographical drama with no sex, profanity, or egregious violence, it’s been a huge success: 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, 7.7 on IMDb, and it’s still playing in our local theaters. It’s been nominated for nearly 30 awards, including 6 Oscars, and has already won 4 awards for “Top Ten Pictures in 2015” and “Best Supporting Actor.”Glienicke Bridge in Potsdam:Berlin by Biberbaer. WikiThe bridge referred to in the story is the Glienicke Bridge that links Berlin with Potsdam, and I will tell you that much of the story involves trying to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between the U.S., U.S.S.R. and East Germany. The most remarkable parts of the movie for me were James B. Donovan’s integrity, courage and tenacity as he advocated for a man who was guilty, and Donovan’s passion to win the hearts of the world’s people to desire democracy through goodness, not simply justice. As he said,  “Our principles are engraved in the history and the law of this land. If the free world is not faithful to its own moral code, there remains no society for which others may hunger.” —James B. Donovan

Bridge of Spies left a veritable haystack of gold in my brain for spinning threads. How should we treat illegal aliens? Is there enough honor and goodness left in the moral fabric of our country to make other societies hunger for our way of life? Donovan understood that goodness is ultimately what draws people to desire what is good: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NASB) In most ways, Rudolph Abel was a man of excellent character and much to be admired (like so many people); yet, like all of us, he had a fatal flaw that would condemn him to death: Treason! Donovan was a faithful advocate for Rudolph Abel, just as Jesus is the merciful and compassionate advocate before the Judge of the Universe for all of us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). I know I’m guilty and would be condemned to death not only because I have willfully sinned at times but also because I have not been loyal to (which is treason against) the King of Kings…were it not for the love and advocacy of Christ, who has negotiated an exchange for me. How about you?

“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

(In case you watch the movie and wonder about Gary Powers:  Francis Gary Powers by Chernov : Чернов. Wiki Commons” CIA inquiry into the ordeal found that Powers had handled himself appropriately. The organization bestowed upon him its highest honor, the Intelligence Star for bravery.”—History.com)

(All pictures from Bridge of Spies and Wikipedia Commons.)


Star-Gazing from the World’s Tallest Mountain

Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the airSo, yesterday I wrote about adventurers climbing Mt. Everest, but did you know that—if you measure from the place where mountains start to rise from the earth’s floor—you can actually drive to the top of the world’s highest mountain, and it’s usually not too dangerous? Mauna Kea Astronomy Observatories copy That’s right. According the the Guinness Book of World Records,  the tallest mountain in the world is Mauna Kea, which rises a whopping 33,480 ft. from the ocean’s floor, over 4,000′ more than Mt. Everest’s 29,029′ height. Road up Mauna KeaHowever, because only 13,796 ft. of Mauna Kea are above sea level, and Hawaii is near the equator, it’s not usually too cold, and you can reach the top in a four-wheel drive vehicle…no oxygen needed (unless the wind gets up to 150 mph or the temperature drops below 0°F, which has happened)!

Onizuka Ciner for International Astronomy Last month while Alan and I were on Hawaii’s Big Island,
we drove as far as the Visitor Center on Mauna Kea one afternoon, Sunset from Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa in distance where we joined a small crowd watching the sunset Night sky from telescope at Mauna Loa Visitor Centerand then took in the Visitor Center’s one-of-a-kind star-gazing program.
(This photo is what you could see through one of the telescopes they’d set up.)  Sunset from Mauna KeaIf you ever go to the Big Island, please save an evening to do this. Twilight on Mauna KeaIt’s totally free and totally unforgettable! Mouna Kea ObservatoriesMauna Kea is the world’s largest and (considered by most to be the world’s) premiere site for astronomical research.Mauna_Kea_observatory *There are 13 gigantic telescopes in observatories
manned by scientists from 11  countries perched atop the mountain.

Night Sky on Mauna KeaBecause of its low latitude, high altitude, dry climate, and stable airflow, from Mauna Kea you can see 85 of the 88 named constellations visible from earth! (Even the infrared from cameras distracted people, and I didn’t have a tripod, so I was unable to capture any of the grandeur.)   😦Full Moon 01.25.16We were especially fortunate, because we went on a night with a full moon which hadn’t risen yet, so the sky was black and the starlight unlike anything I’ve ever seen…even higher than a Rocky Mountain high (which, as John Denver testified, has nothing to do with drugs; John said the song was about his love for the Rocky Mountains and “the elation, celebration of life, or the joy in living that one feels when he observes something as wondrous as the Perseid meteor shower on a moonless, cloudless night, when there are so many stars that you have a shadow from the starlight…”). In fact, both my parents grew up in the Colorado Rockies, so I’ve visited many times over the years, but star gazing from Mauna Kea was the most thrilling night I’ve ever spent “among the stars.” Milky Way**I heard we could see about 12,000 lights in the sky, although it felt like 12 million. The Milky Way was a starry, gauzy veil. We even saw two shooting stars. Truly, it was one of those clear nights where you can see forever! It left me speechless, humbled, and overwhelmed. Photo of picture from the Mauna Kea Observatory“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).


(*Telescopes of the Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii. Visible is the Subaru Telescope, W. M. Keck Observatory, and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, as posted on Wikipedia by “AlanL” on Feb. 17, 2008. **Photo of the Milky Way taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. You can see more of their photos here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/hubble-space-telescope-best-pictures/ The rest of the photos are mine, taken last month in Hawaii [January, 2015]. The last picture is my photo of a photo that was shown during the video presentation at the Onizuka Visitor Center.)