The World’s Largest (and Most Luscious?) Museum: Musée du Louvre

standing-in-front-of-the-louvre-museum-parisWhether you experience April in Paris—or Paris in any other season—courtyard-of-loure save a day for the world’s largest (and some say grandest) museum, the Louvre. passageway-to-louvre-museum-courtyardOne could easily get lost in thought within for a week, courtyard-of-the-louvrebut the Louvre deserves at least its own day. ancient-man-at-british-museum-in-londonDon’t do what we did in London years ago! We took a London Bus tour of the city, stopping at various attractions throughout the day, and we were left with only 50 minutes at the end of the day to see the entirety of the British Museum, rosetta-stone-british-museumwhich meant a race to the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles, Oxus Treasure, and Mummy of Katebet, leaving most of their other 8 million works unseen. elgin-marbles-the-british-museumNOT GOOD! (We did rectify such unconscionable inattention on later visits.) la-venus-de-milo-louvreInstead, take time to appreciate the beauty of the Louvre’s timeless treasures. foyer-of-the-louvre-museum-paris If you go, it will be an unforgettable experience! crowds-in-the-louvreAlthough there’s no avoiding the approximate 15,000 tourists who visit daily,
go first thing in the morning,groupe-imperial-en-mars-et-venus-louvre and when your mind starts to fog and your legs ache, lunch-at-the-louvre-cafestop for a leisurely lunchstatuary-on-balcony-cafe-at-the-louvre at their cafe overlooking the museum’s courtyard. view-from-the-cafeteria-of-the-louvre-courtyardThe Louvre contains 380,000+ objects and 35,000+ works of art,spiral-staircase-in-atrium-of-louvre which are showcased in eight major areas within
the 652,000 square-foot former palace of the French kings.aphrodite-louvreBecause one day isn’t sufficient to see everything, you have to pick and choose. lorenzo-lotto-venice-1480-the-woman-caught-in-adultery-louvreI love oil paintings, especially those depicting biblical stories,saint-jean-baptiste-leonardo-de-vinci and there are hundreds of those! le-tibre-louvreJoel loves sculpture, so we all stood mesmerized before many a statue! napoleon-iii-apartments-at-louvreAnother favorite for all of us were the Napoleon III Apartments…ceiling-painting-in-napoleon-iii-apartments-at-the-louvregilded glory retained from the days of Napoleon.staircase-leading-to-nike-of-samothrace-louvreThere are some “must sees,” like the Hellenistic Era masterpiece,  nike-of-samothrace-winged-victory-louvreNike of Samothrace.crowds-photographing-mona-lisa-at-the-louvreOf course, you’ll want to be sure to see the Mona Lisa by Leonardo de Vinci…
not because it’s the world’s most beautiful painting (at least in my mind),
but because it’s the world’s most valuable (insured for about 780 million). mona-lisa-leonardo-da-vinci-louvreConjecturing about enigmatic smiles aside, I’m not sure why this painted lady is the most famous and sought after, but that’s where I want to leave us for today…
pondering what makes something most famous and sought after. carved-casket-louvreHave you ever thought about what makes something precious to you? crowd-in-front-of-mona-lisa-louvreAlthough I’m not one of those who particularly treasures
the world’s most famous lady, “Mona Lisa,” I am totally at one
with the billions who treasure the world’s most famous man.diademe-de-limperatrice-eugenie-louvre-212-pearls-1998-diamonds-paris-1853-louvreThis pearl of greatest price is Jesus, and I revere him above everything else on earth, but not simply because he’s the most famous man in the world. titien-les-pelerins-demmaus-louvre(However, is actually is! Over 2.2 billion people claim his name,
and even the 1.6 billion Muslims at least believe in him as a great prophet!)la-crucifixion-andrea-di-bartolo-solario-lourvreJesus Christ is precious because He loves us. He loved us enough to die for us. bonicacio-depitati-bonifacio-veroneses-the-sacred-family-with-the-saints-louvreJesus is more than man. He is “Emmanuel”… “God with us,”…”God in flesh.” les-mysteres-de-la-passion-du-christ-antonio-campi-louvreJesus  lived a sinless life and died on the cross to save all who come to him in faith, asking him for forgiveness.lorenzo-costa-saint-veronica-with-jesus-graveclothesThis God-man, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead, diadem-j-c-canosa-louvrelives today, and is coming again to reign over all the earth! saint-michel-terranssant-le-demon-raphaelIt’s all there at the Louvre! Isn’t that wonderful?  the-wedding-at-cana-veronese-les-noces-de-cana-louvreThe kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).  crowds-viewing-the-mona-lisa-at-the-louvreAre you ready to “sell all” to obtain Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price?

(I took all the photos of and at the Louvre last May except the 3 from the British Museum, which I took about 12 years ago.)

Bangkok’s Most Spectacular Landmark: The Grand Palace

Chao Phraya River, ThailandNestled in the heart of Bangkok along the banks of the Chao Phraya River Grand Palace. Bangkok Walls is a gorgeous complex of buildings known as the Grand Palace, Religious Service Grand Palace. Bangkok which is the pulsing heart of Thailand’s political and religious life. Elephants guarding entrance to Grand Palace in Bangkok The walls for this 2.3+million sq.ft. park were built in 1782, Grand Palace. Bangkok 1 and since its inception, the Grand Palace has not only been Royal Residence Grand Palace. Bangkok the official residence of all the Kings of Siam (now “Thailand”) Grand Palace. Bangkok but also home to the nation’s most sacred Buddhist temple, Grand Palace. Bangkok Wat Phra Kaeo known as the Wat Pra Kaeo, the “Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha.” Emerald_Buddha_Photo_Wiki Commons by WPPilot The Emerald Buddha was actually carved from a single piece of dark green jade, is 26″ high, and can only be touched by the current king, who changes his robes at the beginning of each of their three seasons: summer, winter, and rainy. Buddhist Monk Grand Palace. Bangkok The Thai people believe the Emerald Buddha will bring them good fortune and prosperity. Steps of Chapel of the Emerald Buddha Grand Palace. Bangkok The Emerald Buddha has a history somewhat similar to that of the Golden Buddha (which I told 2 days ago). Grand Palace. Bangkok 2 Although much of it’s long history is legendary, the factual part that can be substantiated is that its true value was lost for centuries…until 1434, Ornate Buildings Grand Palace. Bangkok when a lightning storm struck the temple where it was housed, Mosaic Inlays Grand Palace. Bangkok toppling and chipping the statue’s nose as well as washing away some of its stucco exterior to reveal gemstone underneath. (Photo of wall of Wat Phra Kaeo)Gardens and Wall Grand Palace. Bangkok Now, I welcome anyone to correct me, but my understanding has always been that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion which teaches there is no creator-god and tries to encourage people to overcome suffering through enlightened perspectives. Grand Palace. Thailand Buddha didn’t believe in God, but it looks to me like he’s been turned into a god. Intricate Mosaiacs Grand Palace. Bangkok Please refine my thinking if you are a Buddhist and would like to explain what’s really happening at Buddhist temples. Grand Palace Vistas. Bangkok Are people worshiping Buddha? Thank you!

Haiku: “Puzzlement” Stone Buddha in Garden Grand Palace. Bangkok Great teacher Buddha Worshiping in Buddhist Temple Did you teach there is no God? Altar for Buddha Why are you now gold? Golden Buddha“Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold” (The Bible, Exodus 20:23).

(I took all the above photographs a few weeks ago, except for the picture of the Emerald Buddha, which is by WPPilot, used by permission from Wiki Commons.)

Food Fit for a Princess (and other Sapphire Princess Guests)

Princess CharlotteHave you followed news of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Mountbatten-Windsor’s birth two days ago?  Isn’t it fun to have a new princess at Kensington Palace?! Sacher Torte Sapphire PrincessWell, I suppose Kate won’t “let them eat cake” but will be feeding Baby Charlotte with the finest of milk for quite a while. Lobster and crab cake Sapphire Princess However, it did occur to me that the food on the Sapphire Princess Carrot cake Sapphire Princess seemed fitting for a princess, or a prince, or all of us for that matter! Menu Sapphire Princess While we were on our cruise, we especially looked forward to dinner every night, Lamb shankand we were never disappointed. Irresistible Breads Sapphire Princess From irresistible breads  Calamari Sapphire Princess to unusual appetizers, Apricot Cream Soup soup (ya, this was a stuff-of-dreams cold apricot cream soup!) Caesar Salad with real anchovies! Sapphire Princess salad (notice all the anchovies on this Caesar salad!), Alan with Chef.  Sapphire PrincessJPG antipasto (and Alan definitely has an Italian stomach), Surf and Turf Sapphire Princess main course (“Surf and Turf” anyone?)Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Sapphire Princess and dessert (chocolate and peanut butter…does it get any better?)Shrimp Dish Sapphire Princess …Alan and I never had a disappointing dish the entire time! Scallops Besides being delicious, the servings were wisely apportioned Asparagus Sapphire Princess so that you could try many different dishes without overeating Chocolate Bomb Sapphire Princess (with care; most nights I only ate a bite of Alan’s bread & dessert). Galley Tour 3 Sapphire Princess  One day we took a galley tour and got a little insight into how one of the world’s Galley Tour 1 Sapphire Princesslargest cruise ships serves over 10,000 fabulous meals every day! Chefs preparing salads Sapphire PrincessAs one who’s loved to cook since childhood and delights in trying new recipes, Chef  Raggie Saldanha with us Sapphire Princess I was totally dazzled by the difficulties and organizational genius of our executive chef, Raggie Saldanha,  and more than a little thrilled when Alan let me Cookbook. Sapphire Princess Courses. A Cullinary JourneyJPG buy a copy of Princess Cruise Line’s 50th Anniversary Cookbook Chantilly Swans Sapphire Princess Courses. A Culinary Journey featuring favored recipes from around the world. Sapphire Princess Courses. A Cullinary Journey Next time you visit, just ask, and I’ll try one for you! Kensington Palace Next to none of us will ever have the privilege of living at Kensington Palace, Galley Tour 4 Sapphire Princess and not many will even have the pleasure of taking a Princess cruise, Fabulous food Sapphire Princess but all of us are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Preparing Cherries Jubilee Do you know what that is? Galley Tour 2 Sapphire Princess It’s a special celebration that God’s planning for all his children, where we’ll be united forever with Jesus and live in his Father’s “palace,” heaven! Cherries Jubilee Sapphire Princess Would you like to come? Preparing Bananas Foster“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings
of God” (Revelation 19:9). Lamb Sapphire Princess“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
(the name of Jesus Christ, God’s son, John 1:12)

Hiakus on the Allure of Japanese Beauty: Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺)

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  2While Alan and I were visiting Japan with Mike and Grace’s family, we enjoyed seeing many gorgeous palaces and temples with them. Several of my favorites, which inspired hiakus,  are pictured here. The first is on Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) 10#1. Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺)

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  4 Golden pavilion Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  5 Reflected in quiet pools, Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  1  Can you speak English?

DSC_1073#2. Beautiful palace DSC_1060  Nestled in the mountainside, DSC_1113 My steps pursue you.

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  3 #3. Flower-laced pathway Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 8 How you draw me to you, but Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 9 Is yours the right way?

“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (The Bible, Jeremiah 6:16)

Hiakus Inspired by Visiting Japan

Aerial View of Japan#1. On the Prosperity of Japan Kyoto at Night Bustling cityscapes. Factory in Kyoto Japan Ambitious, industrious,  Kyoto Wealth Prosperous Japan.

 #2. Hidden Temples Kyoto Overhung with Cherry Blossoms Along quiet streets, DSC_0641 We chance upon a temple. DSC_0647Which way shall we go?

DSC_0677#3. Decisions DSC_0642 Shall we keep trudging Japanese TempleAlong life’s busy pathway, DSC_0656 Or pause to worship? Japanese Temple“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psalm 95:6).

Hiakus for NaPoWriMo: The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung PalaceChangdeokgung Palace in Seoul, Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 17  is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace  14 built by the kings of the Josean Dynasty in Korea. Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 3 This palace first built in 1405 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 16 not only for its architecture, Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 14but also for its design being “in harmony with nature,” Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 18 and its 78-acre garden, which is considered to be Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 7 “one of the most enchanting spaces in Korea.” Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 9 I thought so too! Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 15 The following three hiakus reflect my feelings Azaleas and Forsythia at Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace copy as I explored what the Koreans themselves call their Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 10‘Biwon’ (비원, 秘院)…”Secret Garden.” Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 6#.1  Secret garden, come,  Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 1 Let me walk within your walls  Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 12 ‘Til I know you well.  Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 8 #2. Secret garden, please, Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 12Reveal your secrets to me. Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 2 Then we shall be friends.  Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 5 #.3 Secret garden, hear,  Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 4 I will share my secret too:  Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace 11 Jesus is our friend. Azaleas at Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace copy“The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” (The Bible, Proverbs 25:14).

Could Anything be Better than the Magic Kingdom?!

Stephen and Joel at Magic KingdomDisney’s Magic Kingdom has been described as “the happiest place on earth,” and the fact that it’s  the world’s #1 paid tourist attraction (with Disneyland #2) lends some credence to their claim , especially if you believe  money talks! Blue and Pink Flowers at Disney 1.6.15 The Magic Kingdom is a combination of delightful rides and gorgeous grounds, and everyone goes there to enjoy life and bond with loved ones…
so of course it’s a happy place! What’s not to love?  🙂Cindarella's Castle at Night Last Tuesday I mentioned many of the best rides in the park for tots, but this week I want to share some pictures from our last trip to the kingdom at night, Magic Kingdom Train Station because it really does seem magical in the evening when all the lights come on, Disney's Main Street at Nightand at Christmas time—when the park is aglow with special decorations and alive with people celebrating Christmas— it seems the most magical of all! Tomorrowland at NightWith many of the littlest ones off to bed, the pace slows to more: more quiet, more strolling…more time enjoying the interplay of colors, lights, and sound. Magic Kingdom CarouselPeople still continue with the rides and fun, but there’s an almost breathless sense of expectation as everyone awaits the grand finale: “Disney Wishes,”Cindarella's Castle Illuminated JPG which is an incredibly spectacular laser, light, music and fireworks extravaganza where Disney extends the hopes that “all our wishes will come true.”Fireworks in blue at DisneyI have to confess, in our 40-50 times of taking the kids to the Magic Kingdom,  we were always among those parents who hoisted their babes shoulder top
(not wanting them to miss anything!) and then had to lug them home whilst visions of starlight and starbright exploded and danced across their dreams,Grand finale fireworks at Disney Wishes and I was ever grateful for our 3 older sons, who eventually helped carry our 3 younger sons home on such enchanted evenings! Cindarella's castle frosted in lightsOf late, some 200,000 lights make Cinderella’s castle look like it’s been dipped in sugar…sugar-coated dreams! Sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it?

Fireworks over Cinderella's CastleNow, I’m not contesting the beauty and pleasure of the Disney experience,
and  we’ve probably taken our kids to Disney more often than anybody we know, but I just want you to know that there is a kingdom even greater than the Magic Kingdom, and that’s the Kingdom of God. Disney WishesThere’s also something infinitely more effective for finding fulfillment than wishing on a star or believing in ourselves, and that’s believing in God and petitioning Him for the grace and strength to enable us to do what we should …and for his miraculous intervention to accomplish what good we cannot. Magic Kingdom Christmas TreeIn addition, there’s a tree more glorious than Disney’s—the cross on which Jesus died to pay for our sins and make it possible for us to become sons of light and children of God…the one, true God who can make all our wishes come true! Potpourri of lights at Disney's Wishes FireworksI’m sorry that the Kingdom of God is not a place I can show you now, although it will be one day. Until that time, God asks us to believe by faith and walk by faith, with the promise that someday our faith will be rewarded by sight, and in the end we’ll find that it is more glorious and more wonderful than any place we’ve ever seen here on earth!

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).