Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

The Eagle’s Nest of Santorini and the Holy Chapel of Nektarios

Oia on the Greek Isle of Santorini, is both an area and a village.  The village is known as “the eagle’s nest” because it sits 490 feet atop  the volcanic caldera formed by the Santorini Volcano “Thera”
(which erupted 3,600 years ago) and caused such a tsunami  that some believe it is the source of the mythology surrounding the legends of Atlantis.  Oia is also the oldest settlement in Santorini and one of two harbors.   Today, there are over 70 churches in the Oia area,  and I want to tell you about our visit to one of them:The Holy Chapel of St. Nektarios.  This lovely chapel is part of the Roman Catholic “Prophet Elias Monastery,”  which was built in 1712 and dedicated to the Prophet Elijah.  The monastery was built at the top of Mount Prophet Elias
(the highest point on the island of Santorini, nearly 1900 feet), and it originally served as a fortress to protect the villages below. For the first 200 years, the monastery also served as an important source
of commerce and education,  although it eventually lost most of its commercial and political influence.  Today, the monks engage in meditation and in making
prints, candles, shoes, and wine.  The Holy Chapel of Nektarios also hosts collections
of rare, hand-written books and Byzantine icons.  Our guide took us there in time for a picnic lunch of roasted corn  in their lovely courtyard, which overlooks the entire island.  It was peaceful and calm, and the monks were gracious hosts.  It reminded me of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Michigan’s U.P., where we’ve often stopped at their Jam Pot Bakery for refreshments
(like muffins and thimble berry jam…
although in Santorini we snacked on sesame-covered peanuts and fruit drinks). Also, “our” monastery in Michigan is built on the shores of Lake Superior,  not on a mountain top in Greece surrounded by the Aegean Sea!  I did not hear the gospel while we were visiting, but standing on the top of the mountain in this inspiring setting, I remembered these words from the scripture:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7).

May all who know the good news proclaim it  from the mountaintops and valleys of our lives, whether we’re at home or abroad!

(All the photos were taken during our visit to Santorini while cruising a couple of weeks ago. What a gorgeous island! It has been used as the setting for numerous movies and listed among the world’s top islands by various sources, including BBC, U.S. News, and Travel + Leisure Magazine. In 2015,  Condé Nast Traveler listed it as #12 out of the top 20 islands in the world. Definitely worth a visit!)

 

An Unexpected Blessing at a Mackinac Island Church

No matter where in the world we go,
Alan and I like to fellowship in some church on Sunday morning if possible.  (If not, like we’re sitting in an airport or have no clue where there’s a church where they speak English, we watch our own church’s service online.)  In most American communities, there are usually at least two churches:
the local catholic church  and the local protestant church.

We are evangelical Christians (believing that people are saved by faith in Christ rather than by having enough “good works” to outbalance our “bad works” when we come to the judgment seat of God),  and so we always look for a churchwhere we hope this “gospel” (good news) will be preached.  (However, we did go to Notre Dame the last time we were in Paris, despite not knowing French or having much of a grip on the liturgy…at least we knew where it was!)   At any rate, I always think it’s good for my soul to learn about how other congregations worship the Lord,  and I also hope to be a blessing and encouragement to others as we share our faith together in corporate worship.              On Mackinac Island, there are several beautiful, old churches.  We were at a wedding held at St. Ann’s some years ago, which still makes me glow to remember.  The last few times we’ve been on Mackinac Island, we’ve gone to the Mackinac Bible Church, which meets in the theater of Mission Point Resort. We arrived a bit early and just happened to sit next to a sweet-looking couple. Moments into our chatting with them, we discovered that Nancy (the wife) and I both graduated from Bob Jones University and that her husband (a Harvard graduate) is now working in finance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where our son Jonathan and his family will soon be moving. This couple was so kind! Before (the very lively) service began, we exchanged emails, and they offered their home to Jon as a base for looking for housing, etc. etc. etc. Their gracious hospitality was totally overwhelming, and just knowing that there is a mature Christian couple in Chicago as a reference for them is so comforting (because—as a huge city with a bad reputation for crime—trying to find housing in Chicago will be a bit intimidating)!  Thank you, Lord, for this very special blessing! Only You could orchestrate such an unlikely meeting, but that’s the sort of amazing God You are!(The majority of photos were taken on Mackinac Island, but I did intersperse some of cathedrals and basilicas from Europe, where we were visiting last week. I hope to start writing about that trip next week! This last amazing photo is more of Bob Hardee’s creative genius at work. God bless you!)

 

What about Bob? Creativity and Kindness

Bob isn’t a psychiatric patient, he’s a psychiatrist, and a great one…or, at least he was. Bob and Beth are about our age, although they’ve recently retired while Alan and I are still in the “shall I? shan’t I?” stage. I’m quite sure Alan will retire in the next few years, but one of the things that holds us back is the question all retired people inevitably ask and have to answer: What will we do after we retire?I got a forward a few days ago about an elderly man who took a position at a retail store but arrived late for work more than once. After a couple of offenses, he was hauled into the boss’s office for a lecture. At the end of his severe reprimand, the boss asked, “What did they do at your previous job when you were late?”

“Well, I guess they just said, ‘Good morning, Admiral! Can I bring you a cup of coffee?'”

I think it’s easy to forget that “old folks” had active lives. Most retirees held down respectable jobs, reared families, and have children and grandchildren. One of the hardest things about retiring is the loss of feeling respected and valued. Both of my brothers continued working/consulting until they were 70. My oldest tried to retire at 65 but missed feeling needed and respected.

If you know retirees, would you please take a little time to find out more about them? They often have mental storehouses filled of memories and wisdom that they’re more than happy to share. If you’re thinking about retiring yourself, please consider reading the inspiring book Billy Graham wrote a few years ago called Nearing Home…about “life, faith, and finishing well.”

And, what about Bob? Well, Bob is an avid photographer and a deeply spiritual Christian, so he’s been adding scripture verses to some of his favorite photos, which he’s been sharing lately with me!  Here are a few for your enjoyment, and you’ll most likely see more of them on later blogs! Thank you, Bob! You’re an inspiration to me!                    Cute, huh? Beth posed for this rather humorous one…(All photos are used by permission of Robert Hardee, who owns the copy rights.)

(I wrote a post with more information about Nearing Home last year:  https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/reflections-on-nearing-home-by-billy-graham/  )

Nat the Knitter

Have you ever seen someone in a casket who was buried with knitting needles in her hands? Me neither, until the other day! This morning I want to share a short story about this wonderful person. Nathalie was Rex’s mom. She was a night nursing supervisor professionally, but somehow she found time to do about a zillion other things too, like volunteering to help with blood drives. She was a Service Unit Director for Girl Scouts, ran day camps, summer adventure camps, volunteered as camp nurse, and oversaw many cookie sales. (Apparently there were sometimes large stacks of Girl Scout cookies neatly lined up in their barn!) She was also active in their church: She helped make quilts for missionaries, played the piano, and sang in the choir for many years. (The two photos below are of Nat’s granddaughters at the service; all of Rex’s kids are very musical!) Nathalie’s daughter-in-law (who’s been my prayer partner for nearing 20 years), told me that she was always busy doing something productive…and just never stopped! Nat knitted well over a thousand hats for preemies at their hospital over the years. In fact, Cindi said the last time they sat together at the hospital before her father-in-law died (just five months to the day before Nathalie joined him in heaven), Nat was still knitting while she sat at her beloved husband’s bedside. During that visit, Nat fell asleep in the chair, but while she was asleep, her hands kept knitting! Cindi said she could hardly believe it, but Nat was really asleep. It was sweet and amazing to watch!  So, Rex’s mom spent her entire adult life working hard and helping others. What a legacy!!  Now she’s in heaven with her beloved Savior and dear husband of 65 years. Rex says he knows it might not be theologically correct, but he likes to picture them together at a little cottage in the woods, where his dad can go out duck hunting and fishing. And, I wonder if his mom might still be knitting…   🙂

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-3)

Hidden Figures Made Public

               If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, I hope you’ll see it soon.  It’s an uplifting and appropriate tribute to the African-American female mathematicians who were an integral (but not fairly integrated) part of NASA’s   (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) “Space Race” back in 1961.  Hidden Figures is a family-friendly, PG-rated biographical docudrama with an IMDb rating of 7.8. It received over 75 nominations and 31 wins, and I thought it was superb!  The movie follows three of the women in particular: Katherine Johnson, a physicist who works as a “computer” (analyzing data before modern computers were available) in the Langley Research Center,  Mary Jackson, a very gifted mathematician who aspires to be an engineer in a day when both women and African-Americans were considered “unfit” to be engineers,  and Dorothy Vaughan, who works hard to be given her fair title as “supervisor,” which is the role she’s successfully fulfilling. Although the movie has received some criticism for time-line issues and credibility in details (the ladies used the restrooms that were available on site even though it was an issue), the movie did an excellent job of highlighting these three remarkable women, who deserve to have their lives brought out of the shadows.  In the movie, the charming romance of Katherine and her future husband, Jim Johnson, is depicted.                  As it turns out, they married and enjoyed 56 years together! In fact, Katherine Johnson won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. In 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot facility at the Langley Research Center was renamed the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor, and she was included in BBC series 100 Women. This lady was not only a brilliant physicist, she sang in her church choir for 50 years!  It was also true that Dorothy Vaughan became the acting supervisor of the West Area Computers in 1949. She was the first African-American woman to supervise a group of staff at the center. Over the course of her career, she taught herself and her staff FORTRAN (computer programming language) so they would be prepared to use the new machine computers that became available in the 1960’s.  Reflecting on her work, she said she felt as if she was on “the cutting edge of something very exciting.” Concerning the prejudice she encountered both for being African-American and for being a woman, she said, “I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”  Thankfully, she was eventually rewarded for being steadfast in good deeds and did receive the title she so richly deserved. An active Christian, Dorothy participated in music and missionary ministries at her church for many years. Mary Jackson did, in fact, became NASA’s first African-American female engineer! Beyond her work and family life, Mary spent many years tirelessly working to help gifted women and other minority peoples advance in their fields. Today, these three fantastic “hidden figures” have passed out of the shadows and into the lime light…here on earth. I suspect they were already stars in heaven before the movie was made. 🙂Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1  Corinthians 15:58).

Memorial Day: Remembering Hacksaw Ridge

Memorial Day began back in 1868 at the end of the Civil War as a special day to remember everyone in the U.S. military who had lost their life in the service of our country. At that time, it was called “Decoration Day,” and grave sites were decorated with flags and flowers. Memorial Day is celebrated as a national holiday on the last Monday in May now, and it also serves as the unofficial beginning of our summer. What I didn’t know before yesterday is that there are only 4 cemeteries in America and one on foreign soil where the flag can always be flown at half mast, and one of them is here in Michigan. Last May Alan and I had the privilege of exploring the Normandy Coast with our two youngest sons, and during that time, we saw many deeply moving (and distressing) museums and memorials to the devastation of World War 2.

The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach is the one foreign cemetery
where the flag may be flown continuously at half mast. Can you guess where the others might be?
*Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.  *The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii *The Gettysburg National Cemetery near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania And last, but not least (because I believe it was the first),
U.S. Post Cemetery on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  On this special day to commemorate those who’ve lost their lives
in the service of our country, I would also like to express my deep gratitude
to those who have served or are serving presently. And, for any of you who have the stomach for a terrifying story of heroism
in war, I’d like to recommend Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge is based on the incredible true story of a young Christian kid named Desmond T.  Doss who joined the army during World War 2. Doss joined as a conscientious objector and became a medic. In one night of amazing heroism during the Battle of Okinawa, Desmond Doss single-handedly saved 75 people  from being butchered by the enemies at the top of Hacksaw Ridge. Later he was honored as the first man in American history
to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot!

Oh, for a world full of men like Desmond T. Doss, who have a heart to protect the freedoms of their country while preserving life rather than destroying it. I know of no one other than Jesus who can inspire such courage and nobility! Jesus gave his life so that everyone in the entire world can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This Memorial Day, would you like to be like Jesus and like Doss?

Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

(*These 3 photos are from Wiki. The seven illustrating Hacksaw Ridge are from the 2016 movie by that name [directed by Mel Gibson], and the rest are mine, one from Fort Mackinac yesterday but the others from the Normandy Coast in France last May.)

Writer’s Block, Jokes, and Such

Do you love to write? If so, you’ve probably experienced “Writer’s Block” at some point…a time when you just can’t concentrate on what you’re doing. Usually I have so many ideas bubbling in my brain that I can’t write fast enough, but this morning I felt rather zombiesque so concluded that it might be time for a pick me up…which usually sends me to my friend Dave’s Face Book page, because Dave always posts jokes that make me laugh! Okay, so not all these are from Dave’s page, and some of them are more inspirational than laughable, but I’m shamelessly sharing some favorites from FB, because I figured if I am feeling a bit sad today, then you might need a little good cheer as well. I hope they brighten your day as they have mine. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). I’m not personally experiencing the shadow of death, but I’m attending a funeral today, and a friend is having surgery for cancer next week, so I’m definitely feeling the weight of loved ones passing through the shadowlands.