Category Archives: Nature Studies

Starting at the Top: Flight-seeing Mt. Everest

                                                Do you have a Bucket List?  Seeing Mt. Everest was at the top of mine until a couple of weeks ago, when I was able to cross it off! However, the mountain you can see in the background of this photo is not of Mt. Everest. I assumed we could drive to the base of Mt. Everest the way you can drive to a good viewing spot for Denali, which at 20,310 feet is the highest mountain on the North American continent. Did you know there are well over 100 mountains in Nepal, China, Pakistan, and India that are higher than Denali or any of the highest mountains in North America? They make our beloved Rocky Mountains look like child’s play!There is no resort community where you can gaze at Mt. Everest’s grandeur out your snug hotel room’s picture window such as you can for Denali or Mt. Rainier!  (Can you see the mountain in the clouds? This is Himalchuli Mountain in the Annapurna Range of Nepal…which is only 25,896 feet high!) Although Mt. Everest is a whopping 29,029 feet tall, it’s buried behind so many huge mountains in the heart of such a remote part of the Himalaya Mountain Range that the only way you can really see it is either by mountain climbing or by taking an early morning flight-seeing tour on a small aircraft.  We opted for a flight-seeing tour with Buddha Air. We had an amazing adventure, but I will say this advertisement is deceptive. I imagined crashing on the mountain due to unpredictable wind currents and had heard rumors that Nepal has the world’s most dangerous airport.  The rumors may be true, but the pilots aren’t crazy, so they really don’t get you any closer than ten miles from Mt. Everest. Still, on a clear day, you can get some breath-taking views from 10,000 aloft! In order to catch an early morning flight, we had to get up at 4:45 am and head out to the airport.  One of the striking things to Alan and me was that the flight was listed as simply “Mountain.” Cities were named, but everybody knew: There’s just one Mountain! They charged us an arm and a leg for our tickets, but at least every passenger had a window seat, and they let each of us go up to take photos from the cockpit when we were at ideal viewing range.  The flight lasted just an hour, but I took over a hundred photos and felt totally mesmerized by the mountains’ majesty!  The Himalayas are beyond anything I’ve ever seen before, and I had absolutely no appreciation for how vast and wonderful they are!  Eventually, the clouds started to rise higher in the warm sunshine and obscured some of the mountains. Still, I will never forget the beauty of that morning!Do you know what Mt. Everest is made from? It’s not volcanic rock! The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone! Can you believe it? When the flood covered the earth, it even reached to the top of the highest mountains, just as the scriptures teach us: The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits” (Genesis 7:18-20, NIV). Now, the Bible also teaches that the ” springs of the great deep” were broken up, and that there was tremendous upheaval, so perhaps this accounts for the shifting tectonic plates. I’m no geologist, but to me, learning that the world’s highest mountain is topped with marine limestone is one more exciting evidence of the validity of the Bible. And, if you’re willing to believe the Bible is right about the flood, will you also believe that the Bible is right about who created the mountains? “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). God created the mountains, God created us, and God loves us. Can you believe that?Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.
Isaiah 2:3

(I took all the photos on our recent trip, although the second photo is of a poster that was on our bus, and the photo of the model of the Himalayan Mountains was taken at the International Mountain Museum in Nepal.)

 

Wildfires: Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

While hurricanes are flooding America’s southeastern seaboard, over 100 wildfires are devastating America’s northwest, and it’s now one of the worst years in U.S. history for acreage burned! I was praying yesterday with three women from California and Washington state, where smoke and heat are making it hard to be outside in some areas. My brother, who lives just east of California’s Bay area, said his thermometer read 114° a few days ago and was over 100° for several days, although it’s now “cooled” down to the 90°s. Yikes! Don’t you wish we could somehow take some of the drenching rains from the east coast and deposit them as showers of blessing on the west coast to stop the fires? There are so many horrible situations around the world where we cannot change what’s going on, but I know the God who can. What? Is God that powerful? Yes! “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). But…could it be possible that the fires and hurricanes are actually fulfilling God’s word? Yes again. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word…” (Psalm 148:7-8).

I know from the book of Job that righteous people can (and do) suffer, but I also know the Bible is full of admonitions for people to return to him after they have forsaken his word and his way, which is what we, as Americans, have been guilty of doing. Unprecedented epidemics of pornography, drugs, alcohol, and other addictions are running as rampant as forest fires, destroying our homes and families. We’re being flooded with hurricane-force winds of ungodly cultural changes, where our morality has turned black into white, exalting as good what God’s word condemns as evil.

God’s word is clear to us: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). America is on fire and is being flooded morally and spiritually. Could it be that God is using the fires and floods we see physically as a merciful reminder to us to turn from our sins and repent?

I’ve been listening to a wonderful series by Jim Berg, called Quieting a Noisy Soul, and one of the things Jim teaches is that God is merciful!  However, true mercy is “rescuing us from our miserable condition,” not giving us whatever we want! Anyone who is living apart from God’s love and laws is in the most miserable condition of all, because they are separated from God and without his eternal life.

God’s word calls us to repent and come to him: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). There is a way to recover from addictions…and it starts by turning to God for help: “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20 NIV).  “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you in need of a Savior? “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11). God can do what no one else can do for us! He can send showers of blessings on the West Coast and turn away the hurricane from the East Coast. Even better, He is also able to cure us of our addictions and teach us the truth so that we won’t be “carried about with divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 13:9). There is no one else who can, which is why I say with King David, “In him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

If you’re in need of spiritual counseling, you can contact me at my email address as a last resort (my name written out as one word—kathryn w armstrong—via gmail), although I would also like to encourage you to find a trustworthy, godly pastor or Christian counselor who lives in your area and with whom you could have better contact.

If you’re interested in joining with me in prayer for ourselves and our nation, please feel free to join our weekly on-line prayer group, which meets every Thursday at noon (EST). You can access it here:  https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-center/

(then, after you’ve opened the above link, click on the link within it that says:  To enter the Prayer Center and to join a live video conference call, please click here.) Here is more information on the next one:

Thursday, September 14, 2017, at 9:00–9:30am, (UTC-08:00), Pacific Standard Time
To determine the time of this service in your local time zone, click here.
Prayer Leader: Mary DePuy

If you’re interested in learning more about how to pray, please join us in a weekly seminar on prayer, which is occurring at noon (EST) every Monday for the next 9 weeks. Information and how to access it can be found here:

https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

Here is more information on the next prayer seminar:

Monday, September 11, 2017:
Prayer in the New Testament
Lecturers: Matthew Dereck and Jonathan Armstrong

In this first official class period, we will introduce the spiritual discipline of prayer as the proper beginning point for theological study. “Theology” means “God-speech,” and we must learn to talk with God before we can learn to speak properly about God. This session looks into Jesus’ prayer life and his seven prayers recorded in the Gospels.

(Let me know if you have any trouble accessing these resources, and I can try to help you figure it out. It’s pretty easy, but I had trouble the first time, too, so I know it helps to have someone “walk you through it.”)

Timely Thoughts from Charles Spurgeon’s on Hurricane Irma

For today— September 7—I read this encouragement in Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening: “The Cruel Sea: We have no idea what sorrow may be on the sea this evening. Far away, a hurricane may be seeking the lives of sailors…” Spurgeon died over 120 years ago, but his words still ring true today!  Hurricane Irma is a deadly Category 5 tropical storm that’s furiously pounding it’s way toward Florida with an eye larger than Detroit and a mass that would more than engulf  the entire state of Michigan (where I live). Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary General spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, reported that “Across the western Caribbean, up to 37 million people could be affected by Irma,” and Meteorologist Phil Klotzback observed: “Forecasters say Irma is the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, outside the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean. It has also set a new all-time high for the amount of wind energy ever recorded over a 24-hour period.” (Speeds of over 188 mph were recorded.) At least ten people have died so far. In St Martin and St Barts there’s no drinking water or electricity, homes are destroyed and public buildings are unusable. Hurricane Irma passed directly over Barbuda, destroying their communication and making it impossible to determine the condition of the 1700 people living there.  With Guyana and Texas still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey just days ago (causing over 140 deaths in the Western Hemisphere and an estimated $188 billion in damages to the greater Houston metro area alone), the U.S. is hardly prepared to face another huge disaster.  However, unless Irma makes an unexpected turn, it’s possible that she could sweep right up the heart of Florida, affecting multiple millions from Miami through Orlando and even up to Charleston and Charlotte in the Carolinas. My sister, who lives in Orlando, is closing her hurricane shutters and buying up drinking water and food…along with everyone else who’s not heading north. We wondered if she should join the exodus along with the hundreds of thousands who’ve been told to evacuate Miami and Dade counties, but gas stations are out of gas and roads are clogged, so she’s decided to stay put and pray for “the best,” whatever that may be. Storms sometimes seem to develop out of nowhere. Irma started brewing up just this past week. In considering the probable disaster that this storm may bring, I think it’s a good time for all of us to be thinking about our own lives. What can we can to be prepared for the storms of life? There are a few safety measures we can take to prepare for physical dangers, but there are also some really important spiritual preparations we can make. Do you know the God who rules the storms? Have you made peace with Him? Are you trusting Him with your life, not only now but for eternity? If so, you will find comfort in this:Spurgeon concluded his devotional for today with these words, “There is a land where there is no more sea (Revelations 21:1), and our faces are steadfastly set toward it. We are going to the place the Lord told us about. Until then, we cast our sorrows on the Lord who walked the sea of old. Our Lord makes a way for His people through the depths of the sea.”

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Matthew 7:24-25).  Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.” (Psalm 69:1-2; 15-17).

(Information gathered from the Detroit Free Press, Miami HeraldAssociated Press, Charlotte Observer, ABC News, CNN, Wikipedia, and other online sources.)

 

Hurricane Harvey: A Truly Epic Storm

A blog follower from India asked what’s happening with the rain in America, so I thought maybe this would be a good day to share what’s going on with Hurricane Harvey. So far, it’s the biggest rainstorm in continental U.S. history, and it’s still raining, so we have no clue what’s yet to come. Hurricane Harvey started as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on August 13, 2017, made landfall on August 26 at Rockport, Texas as a Class 4 hurricane, went back out to sea and has returned again this morning. Hurricane Harvey has unleashed over 50 inches of rain east of Houston, and it’s still raining this morning.  The record so far is 51.9 inches near Mont Belvieu, TX  (40 miles east of Houston). The downpour also caused one key reservoir to spill over, which has led to the largest flood in Houston’s history. Although isolated areas of Hawaii have had more rain, the overall effect of Harvey has had no rivals in American history, dropping about 3 feet of rain over most of the Houston region—some estimated 9 trillion gallons of water!— which affects more than five million people. According to the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin, the probability for such a storm is about one per thousand years! Last Sunday morning, the National Weather Service tweeted: “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

One problem that’s gaining attention concerns the wildlife, which are swirling in the floods. There are hundreds of thousands of American alligators in Texas (some seen have been up to 8 feet long), 23 species of snakes (all of which can swim, but only 5 of which are poisonous), and billions of invasive fire ants (who are the ultimate survivors, because they band together by the thousands to produce massive flotillas up to several feet across). In addition, there are all the usual wildlife common throughout America, such as deer and coons, that haven’t been able to flag down a Noah’s ark for rescue and are trying to find safety. For example, under the Waugh Bridge near downtown Houston, a colony of 300,000 free-tailed bats have lost their home in the surging waters.

Of course, the most pressing issue is saving human lives. Fire fighters from around the country are arriving to help, and even civilians who own pleasure boats are coming to aid in the rescue efforts. I saw an interview of one man who said “I got tired of watching it from the comfort of my own home” and decided to help. He had rescued over 2 dozen victims last night and this morning. The death toll has confirmed 30 dead, but untold numbers are missing. One center was trying to prepare dry clothing and food for 5,000, but so far over 8,600 have come for help.

In the midst of all the horror and grief, there have been some bright spots. Several news reporters pointed out that people were responding with compassion towards everyone…regardless of race…no questions asked about creed! One man pointed out that the heart of America doesn’t come out “when there are pitched political shows, we see the heart and the true nature of our country when you have a tragedy strike like this. Everybody wants to help.” Praise God for that mercy!

However, the tragedy is still very much in the making. Harvey’s path inland is producing some bleak predictions for Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and even into the Ohio River Valley. Please stay tuned, and thank you to all who are helping and praying. The estimates of economic damages are up to 50+ billion dollars, and I’ve noticed that charities such as Samaritan’s Purse are accepting gifts as they try to respond to the crisis.

Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

 

Reflections on the Eclipse: To Celebrate, To Share, and To Remember

Did you get to see the eclipse yesterday?  Three of my friends joined me for lunch  and a wonderful afternoon of attempting to take photos of the eclipse.  We tried a bunch of different options,  and I used three different cameras,  but I was very disappointed with what I got!  😦   Between the clouds and the power of the sun,  which overpowered my camera’s ability to shut out the light properly (and I hadn’t thought ahead enough to buy a good filter),  I had no really clear closeup of the event.

Thankfully, two of my friends made the long trek to Central City, Kentucky and came back with some incredible photos (which they’ve kindly allowed me to post).                      Their story makes me grin, so I want to share it quickly!  Justin calculated the “perfect” location, which had a slightly shorter totality for viewing but also made it possible for them to leave the area sooner and beat the tsunami of traffic heading back north, so they were home by 6:30 pm! Brilliant plan, all the way around, don’t you think? And, aren’t their photos fabulous!

This makes me so happy, because I have etched into my brain a memory of Justin as a seven-year-old, looking rather forlorn as he sat shivering on the steps of our home by the frozen pond where a motley group of hockey enthusiasts (ages 37 to 7, from our church family) were playing hockey. Justin’s lips were a bit blue, so I asked him if he’d like to come in and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.

“No!” he answered resolutely! “I just want the puck!!” Tall order for the youngest kid on the ice!  Yesterday (and doubtless oodles of times in the past 30+ years), Justin got the puck! Way to go, Leah and Justin!!

Well, back to my reflections on the eclipse. I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates us to create images. I think for most of us it’s about “makin’ memories” to celebrate the special times in our lives…to memorialize the events, share them with others, and keep the memories alive. Although some religious groups (both among Muslims and Christians) believe that people should not make any replication of anything lest it be idol worship (which is why ISIL is busy destroying statues), I personally believe God was forbidding only the creation of images for the purpose of worshiping them. Delighting in what is pure and good, and commemorating special occasions with photos, seems like an ideal way to make, share, and remember happy events!

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:1-6).

(Photo credits: A very special thank you to Leah and Justin Hamilton for letting me use their 4 outstanding photos of the eclipse, which they took in Central City, KY yesterday. You guys are awesome! The rest are from my home here in Michigan, where I shared a very happy afternoon with Brenda, Jane, and Bonnie. You guys are awesome too!)

Some Tips for Watching the Eclipse Today

Are you prepared to enjoy the total solar eclipse today?  There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse visible all across the contiguous states of America for ninety-nine years, so this is a rare and historic opportunity! My son Aaron posted on his timeline a great resource put out by Time for people in the U.S. If you’re interested in knowing exactly when the eclipse will occur and what it will look like in your area, just type in your zip code and it will give you a mock up of the orbit and exact times:  http://amp.timeinc.net/time/4882923/total-solar-eclipse-map-places-view/?source=dam    I’m sure you know this already, but the first safety rule of the day is: “Don’t look straight at the sun!” PBS has put out clear instructions for how to enjoy the eclipse without eye injury by making a simple pinhole projector. (See above.) If you have an i-phone, I’ve heard it’s safe to watch looking over your shoulder through your i-phone in the selfie mode. If you live on or near a lake where the water is still, I’ve also read you can safely watch the eclipse on the surface of the water. (However, I just tested this on our lake, and it almost seems like the water magnifies the glare, so I’m not going to look “straight” at the eclipse even on our lake.) Theoretically, you can watch images fluttering through the shadows that tree leaves make on the ground (which might make for interesting photo ops, but I’m not sure how satisfying this would be for serious viewing). Three of my girlfriends are coming over so we can watch together, and one of them is bringing a tripod and binoculars. It is totally unsafe to watch through binoculars, but I’ve heard you can set up the binoculars so they cast the image onto a piece of white paper on the ground, allowing several people to watch at once.  As I’m no expert, please double check whatever method you choose with some more scientifically reliable source than I am. I’d feel terrible if anybody damaged their eyes from listening to my second-hand information!  Speaking of second-hand information, I was reading in Proverbs 14 today and noticed a lot of admonitions for “witnesses” to be truthful. It occurred to me that even seeing televised reports of what’s happening around the world (such as at Charlottesville) is not the same as being there. What I saw was second-hand testimony, and each television editor had to take responsibility for what they included and what they did not, as was true for each news reporter.  When it comes to knowing and understanding the truth about anything, we are limited. Even if we’re at an event, we don’t see, hear, or understand everything. If we are not present at an event, then we have to rely on the testimony of other witnesses. On whom can we rely? Well, of course we turn to the people we trust the most, but ultimately, no one is omniscient and omnipresent except One, and that is God! He alone knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As we seek the truth, whether it’s about how to watch the eclipse or what to believe about our world, I personally believe the best “fact checker” in the world is the Scripture. If something contradicts the Scripture, then please doubt the witness, not the Word!

“Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160).

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9).