Roof Tops of the World

As a short woman living in flat state, I can’t even see the dust on top of my refrigerator, so don’t ask me what’s on my neighbor’s roof . . . or even what it’s made of!

Grackles and leaves on my roof!

In fact, half the time I don’t even know what’s on top of my own roof! 🙂

Flying through the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal

However, a couple of years ago in the fall, Alan and I traveled through Nepal, a country which calls itself “The Roof Top of the World” because it’s home to 8 out of 10 of our world’s highest peaks. (Although technically it is second to Bhutan in average elevation [at 10,715 feet, versus 10,760 in Bhutan].)

Bundles of sticks and tin roofing secured b y stones in Nepal

While riding high up in a big bus traveling through the mountains of Nepal, I was often able to look down on homes and was fascinated by all the materials and methods these inventive people use to protect their homes from the elements.

Clay Tiles on Roof of Home in Nepal

To be sure, some of the homes were beautiful, new, and in excellent repair,

Shingles on farms in the mountains

but those homes were more exceptional than standard.

Thatched Roof in Mountains of Nepal

By comparison, this home seemed like a pretty prosperous farm.

Home sheltered by bamboo poles, grasses, and sheets of material

But, the roofs on some of the homes
seemed really inadequate to shelter those who lived within. 😦

Tin roofing on shops along the Privthivi Highway in Nepal

The average “prosperous” shops along the highway we traveled had tin roofing.

Tin and shingle roofing on new construction

Some of the more upscale building projects included tin and shingles, which I bet was a pretty effective combination.

Concrete rooftop on apartment building

Many of the multi-storied apartment buildings had concrete roofs and balconies, which seemed like a very secure method for protecting the occupants!

Grass growing atop the apartment building on the left

Before our trip was over, I’d seen just about every type of roofing material imaginable!

Beautiful thatched roof and tin on farm
Canvas Roof over Restaurant
Plastic Sheeting over small business
Roof made from sticks reinforced with plastic
Grass, and garden vegetable vines growing over boards on rooftop!

Beyond the problem of what materials to use was the issue of how to keep the roof on!

Rows of bricks keeping tin roof in place

I suppose there are many high winds living in the mountains, so most of the roofs were reinforced with heavy materials such as these rows of bricks.

Heavy rocks reinforce tin roofs

The other issue is that destructive earthquakes are very common.

Rock-lined tin roof on commercial buildings in Nepal

I’m not sure what happens when an earthquake shakes the ground of places like this, edged with heavy boulders . . .

A tray of hot peppers drying in the sun on top of this roof! 🙂

Over the course of our trip, I saw all sorts of unusual things on rooftops!

A bird resting on the head of a serpent hanging over a man on a tower . . .

My personal favorite were the monkeys, although we were warned that they are cunning thieves with bites worse than their barks, so we were told to beware!

Surveying all the rooftops on my journey made me think about my own “house” and what I use as “roofing material” (if you will) to protect it.

Homes from sticks and boards with thatched roofs in country village
Cascades of bougainvillea and vines hanging from rooftop
of Nepal’s Temple Tree Resort

The Bible says that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God wants me to make my body “home” a place of beauty that will glorify God, and I suspect He wants me to have a secure “roof” protecting my life as well.

Tin roof secured with old tires

Physically, I believe that means to be healthy, clean, well-groomed,
and modestly (but attractively) dressed . . . in good repair! Spiritually, that probably includes having my head—my mind—pure and protected too!

Not all of us can be rich and have well-protected roofs materially, but we can all be rich and well protected spiritually if we want to be!

What does that look like, and how can I protect the roof top of my spirit?
We don’t have to be left wondering what to do,
because God has made us an offer too good to pass up!
Roof top of Samode Palace in Jaipur, India

God invites us to let Him be our rock, our fortress, our high tower, our refuge, and our “roof top” if you will! He can provide for us in ways that we could never provide for ourselves—physically and spiritually!

All you have to do is ask!

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.” (Psalm 61:1-4).

Pass It On
(—Kurt Kaiser, 1969)

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

“What a wonderous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you’ve experienced it.
You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

“I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound
I’ll shout it from the mountain tops
I want the world to know
The Lord of Love has come to me
I want to pass it on.”

Loving Even The Least of These

On the topic of loving our enemies, the new 2019 movie, The Least of These,

is a horrific account of one cataclysmic clash between radical Hindus and Christians in India just twenty years ago, in January of 1999.

Based on the life story of Graham and Gladys Staines, who were missionaries from Australia caring for a leper colony in Odisha, The Least of These traces the life and legacy of the Gaines family, who spent forty years caring for the needs of the least-of-the-least untouchables cast out from society because of their leprosy.

I don’t want to tell the end from the beginning, but it is a heart-rending movie.

Gladys retired in 2004, and the following year, she was awarded the Padma Shree in India in recognition of her work among the lepers.

In 2016, Gladys also received the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.

The movie was shot on location in 2012, although it took many years to produce and was just released in America this year.

If you’re looking for an inspiring example of the love of Christ, you will appreciate this movie. (Because of the content, I do not recommend it for children. I think the PG-13 rating is exactly right.)

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (24): Be Thou Clean!

One of Jesus’ most prominent ministries while he was on earth was his ability and willingness to heal people of all sorts of sicknesses, not only physical ailments, but spiritual problems. Furthermore, he wasn’t just able to heal some of them. He healed all of them: “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (Luke 4:40). There was no sickness that Jesus could not heal, and there’s no record of him ever refusing to make anyone well who came to him for help.

In our passage for today, a leper came to Jesus seeking help. Do you know what leprosy is? I’d never heard of leprosy as a child, and it’s very uncommon in America, but it’s a terribly disfiguring, painful, progressive bacterial infection that can result in blindness, loss of limbs, and eventually death.

Arran Reeve, age 24 in 1886, suffering from Leprosy

It’s not just one of those diseases like small pox that has been largely eradicated, either. Hundreds of thousands of people (more than half from India) are still contracting new cases every year. Although it can be cured if treated early (and in the past 20 years, more than  sixteen million people have been cured), two thousand years ago when Christ lived on earth, there was no known cure. During biblical times, because it was contagious, people who had leprosy were ostracized from their families and communities. They were required by law to call out, “Unclean!” if anyone approached them. So, it’s not hard to imagine the distress the disciples might have felt to see a leper coming toward them. I think it’s noteworthy that this particular miracle is recorded by three of the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The blind and lame were healed, but probably most people didn’t think they had contagious diseases. To have a leper approach meant possible contamination for all of them.  However, Jesus didn’t shrink away. Instead, he reached out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus wasn’t afraid of catching infection; he came to deliver us from evil: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). In 1 Peter 2:24, we are reminded that Jesus “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Jesus came to heal, and he did: “And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42; See also Matthew 8:1-3 and Luke 5:12-13).

Isn’t this beautiful? From the second Jesus touched him, the leper was a leper no more! He would never have to shout “Unclean!” when someone approached him! He could be clean if he would be clean, and he desperately wanted to be clean! He was cleansed in a moment, and now he could shout, “Clean” whenever he wanted! 🙂

Do you ever suffer from feeling “unclean?” Would you like to be clean? Jesus can heal you if you’ll come to him and ask! I do not know of a single prophet, priest, or king on earth besides Jesus who has been recorded as being able and willing to heal “all” our diseases. Do you? Only God can heal ultimately and completely, and that’s one of the ways in which Jesus revealed that he was and is God. Come to him!

 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4).

He Touched Me
(—William J. and Gloria Gaither, copyright Capitol Christian Music Group)

“Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole
Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.”

4,000 Days

Last week I had lunch with a girlfriend who converted from Hinduism a few weeks ago. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that if Alan were to die suddenly, it would take me a long time to recover.  She looked at me wide-eyed, and said,”You speak of death so calmly. Hindus are so afraid to die that they don’t even like to use the word. They avoid thinking about it so much that they often won’t even go to the doctor for a diagnosis or treatment if they think they might have a terminal illness like cancer.”   I was surprised! Somehow, I imagined it might be reassuring to think that after you die, you’ll be reincarnated into another being that will live again on this earth, but apparently that’s false, because no matter how hard you try, you don’t know if you’ll come back as a person of similar rank.  You might return instead as someone from a lower caste, or as an animal.  For those of  us who recognize our propensity for failure, the thought of unending cycles of life attempting to attain perfection sounds impossibly difficult, and after visiting the homeland of Hinduism,  I can only imagine the horror one might feel at the thought of becoming an untouchable or an animal in a difficult environment.  In contrast, I believe (as the Bible teaches) that God has given each of us a certain (undisclosed) number of days to live on earth, and then we will depart. For all whose spirits have been “born again” through faith in Christ, their spirits will never die: “Jesus said unto her [Martha], I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). In contrast to Hindus, Christians believe that no matter how old or young we are when we die, our spirits will go immediately into the presence of God: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). This is the great hope of believers and takes away the terror of physical death!  Nevertheless, we all face the prospect of death, and even if we’re not afraid of dying, I’m sure none of us relish the prospect of the pain normally associated with the dying process. At least, I do not! Still, we have to face up to the hard realities of life, the hardest of which is probably that life on earth will end. In that vein, Alan recently remembered that years ago an actuary spun our numbers and came up with the statistically probability of Alan’s dying at age 79. The other day, “for fun,” Alan calculated how many days that would be from the date of his considerations, and it came out to about 4,015 days. That makes today approximately 4,000 days from his  . . . what shall I call it? Expiration date? Due date? Graduation Day!”  Ya, let’s think of it as a day to celebrate our passing from this life into the presence of Jesus! If you’re still quite young, you might not have any known statistical probability for how long you’ll live, but let’s say you’ll live to the same age as your oldest favorite relative. How many days do you have left? For me, that might give me 9,490± days. If you’re 20 today, you might have over 25,000 left! Regardless of how many days each of us actually has left (since I could easily die before Alan despite statistical probabilities), Alan and I have been intentionally trying to make every day very special, and it’s really made us more determined than ever to use each day wisely and well!

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

(All photos taken on our Gate 1 Discovery Tour of “Incredible India and Nepal.”)

 

Over the Rainbow Pan-Fried Trout

We used to live in Marquette, Michigan, on forty acres in the woods, where you could pull a rainbow or brown trout out of our pond for dinner (if you knew what you were doing, which we didn’t, but our friend, George Sokoly, did).  Michigan has 12,000 miles of trout stream along approximately 1,400 trout streams, and 190 of them are open year around, so trout season never ends here! The Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Muskegon Rivers—all fabled for great trout fishing— are within a few hours of our home even here in Grand Rapids, although we also live on a little spring-fed lake that theoretically has trout. (For the record, we’ve never caught one here either! 😦 ) However, even though we’re terrible fishermen (“God made fishies to live!” was Alan’s wail as a small boy observing fishing near his Upper Peninsula home),  we do love to eat fish, and trout is one of the sweetest-tasting, most delicate and delicious fish you’ll ever eat, so when it’s offered on a menu, we often order it.  Alan said his rainbow trout from the mountain streams of Nepal last fall was his favorite dinner from that entire trip. On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had some excellent trout dishes, including rainbow trout in Reykjavik, Iceland that was so fresh it must have been in school earlier that morning! So, I decided to write about trout today, even though for those of you who are old hands at fishing, I know you’ll say, “I already knew that!”

Simply the Best Rainbow Trout

Are you ready for this? The fact of the matter is that the best fish are the freshest fish, flash-fried in hot butter on a griddle or in cast-iron skillet (or over a fire!).Wash the fillets, brush a light coating of flour on both sides, and fry them skin-side up for 3 minutes in hot butter (browned but not burned). Flip them over (carefully, so they don’t break apart), and cook them for three more minutes, sprinkling them with salt, butter, and seasoning salt to taste. (I use Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, but whatever you like works). If you’ve not overcooked your trout, it will be tender, flaky, and moist. Serve it up immediately with some fruits and veggies. If you like tartar sauce and lemon, that’s fine, but if your fish is really fresh, it can stand alone on its own fins!

P.S.—Have you noticed that in life (like cooking), many things are complicated, but sometimes the best way is to apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? In most of the scriptures, “simple” is equated with “ignorant” and given a negative connotation, but there is one verse that tells us to be “simple,” and in this case, it’s a good thing: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). When it comes to exploring evil, God actually wants us to avoid learning about it. Do friends tease you because you’re so “naive” or inexperienced? I used to get teased a lot. One girl friend alleged that on my honeymoon I’d probably make chocolate fudge because I wouldn’t know what else to do. Keep life pure..and “simple.”

What Do You Think of the Viceroy’s House?

Some movies I hear about and await with eager anticipation until they hit the video stores, but sometimes there’s a gem out there that nobody seems to have ever heard of, and I thought Viceroy’s House was going to be one of the latter!  I discovered it at Family Video and rented it because it was listed as a biography, which I especially love! The movie was a highly moving account of Lord Mountbatten, the English viceroy sent to help India with the transition from British rule to independence.

Viceroy’s House stars Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame) and was based on the books Freedom at Midnight and The Shadow of the Great Game—The Untold Story of Partition (neither of which I’d read).  It was directed by Gurinder Chadha, an Indian woman who lost family members during the terrible conflict surrounding the partition (2017, not rated but I would give it a “PG”), so I assumed the depiction was fairly accurate.  Until! Until I got home and started researching the movie for this review. One of the harshest criticisms came from an article published in “The Churchill Project” by Hillsdale College, which happens to be a Michigan school with a reputation for scholarship that I admire.  According to the author, Andrew Roberts, “In one way, it is rather like a Downton Abbey of the East, with plenty of below-stairs intrigue—the palace had more than 500 servants—and Hugh Bonneville (who played the liege of Downton) portraying Viceroy Mountbatten alongside a crisp-accented Gillian Anderson as his Vicereine, Edwina.” “When the film concentrates on the melodrama of a handsome new Hindu manservant falling for a beautiful Muslim girl, it combines Bollywood romance with a good deal of period character.”  “But whenever it gets involved in partition politics, it is historically and politically repugnant, promoting conspiracy theories and peddling vile falsehoods.” Roberts goes on to set the political record straight according to his research, which completely convicts rather than exonerates Mountbatten.  Roberts goes even further than the movie in citing gory details of horrifying viciousness and atrocities between the Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, which makes me understand better how moderate Hindus today in India (at least according to our tour guide last fall) will marry Christians but not Muslims.  After a lot of study and thought, I was not only appalled by what I read, it made me keenly aware how easily I can be misled into believing something that is political fiction when mingled with facts. To me, this is most critical spiritually, where the world has become full of people who tout religious falsehoods as truth…and take in billions of people!

Do you have a source for spiritual truth? I believe the Bible is the only reliable resource for teaching true spiritual realities for many reasons, but perhaps the most important are: 1. When you study the life of Christ, he truly was morally good and wise. (Compare him to the historical biographies of other religious leaders. What did they teach? What did they approve? How did they actually live? Some were really awful! There were a few outstanding religious leaders out there, but no other who was without sin and blameless.) 2. Jesus, unlike every other religious leader, rose from the dead. He alone claims that He can grant us eternal life based on faith in His death to pay for our sins and His resurrection. Therefore, I choose to follow Jesus and believe that He speaks the truth, regardless of what others write or say about him today! How about you?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

“The number who died in the appalling violence following India’s independence and its partition is still disputed, but most historians believe it was a million civilians or more. What is not in doubt is that they died in the most horrifying circumstances. Arson, torture, mass rape, desecration of temples and indiscriminate murder were commonplace after the Indian Empire was divided in 1947 along religious lines into two separate nations, India (mostly Sikh and Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim).

“As many as 12 million people were uprooted in the largest human migration in history, as civilians found themselves on the wrong side of the new border and traveled to their new nation state, often encountering—and butchering—those of different religious persuasions heading in the opposite direction. The bloodbath followed a nationalist struggle that had lasted for decades and will forever remain a dark stain on Britain’s colonial legacy, with accusation and counter-accusation being thrown over the question of responsibility” (Andrew Roberts, https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/fake-history-viceroys-house/(All photos from the movie, Viceroy’s House. In all fairness,  I believe it was the intention of the director to make the public aware of this horrifying historical event, although it appears that her political viewpoint may be quite skewed.)

 

Tacos for Breakfast? You Bet!

When we were in India last fall, we traveled with a very diverse group of people and ate a lot of really exotic food…pretty much morning, noon, and night.And, even in between times too…like this lovely tropical punch, which was part of  a very refreshing welcome when we arrived at the Jaypee Palace in Agra.

However, much as we enjoyed the food, there were definitely times when we’d daydream a little about what we missed from home! Several of the couples were Hispanic, and we learned from Marcy and Hugo that what they missed the most on the trip was what they always ate for breakfast in Texas. They appeared to be very wealthy (at least they’d been in 39 countries in the last 18 months), so I was expecting them to say “steak and eggs” or something like that. But, do you know what they love most?

Beautiful Breakfast Tacos!

Now, you might be familiar with breakfast tacos, but I’d never tried them. I’d never even thought about trying them! When I asked Marcy how she makes them, she said, “It’s easy! Anything you have in the kitchen wrapped in tortilla shells! I believe the most basic form is scrambled eggs with salsa, but you can add anything else you like. These have fresh spinach, but if you’re in the mood for something even more special, try adding any of the following:

*Chorizo sausage
*Any type of cheese you like, grated
*Avocado slices
*Fresh tomato
*Mango salsa
*Shaved slices of steak or ham
*Fresh or grilled onions
*Grilled mushrooms
*Anything else that appeals to you!

It’s super quick and easy…perfect for hot summer mornings when you want something with a lot of flavor that won’t heat up your kitchen much!

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Proverbs 30:7-9).