Category Archives: Southeast Asia Splendor

The Janus of January

fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanThe Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and time…
of beginnings, transitions, and endings.

janus-vatican-museum-by-loudon-dodd-wikiJanus was depicted as having two faces, one that looked back and one that looked forward, and it’s commonly thought that Janus was the god for whom the month of January was named by the Romans…a god who looked back over the past year and looked forward to the coming year. 2002_austria_100_euro_sculpture_wikiIt’s been a long time since I’ve really thought about the development of our present calendar, but I learned that the Roman calendar (which may be 2,700 years old) was updated in 46 BC. by Julius Caesar. However, that calendar—though an improvement over the 304-day Roman calendar—only had 355 days, and it wasn’t until 1582 that Pope Gregory X111 introduced the Gregorian calendar (our present calendar) which has 365.25 days (365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds to be precise). This calendar is the world’s most commonly used international civil calendar today. Sorry if this was too much detail, but the thing that really caught my attention was the description of Janus, because it made me think of the God of the Bible, who also declares himself to be the God of beginnings and endings. Revelation 22:13 proclaims: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-2      However, the God of the Bible says He is “God of gods and Lord of Lords
(Deuteronomy 10:17). fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-4He is the God of Janus and the God of all gods…not just the god of beginnings, and gates, and transitions and endings, but the Creator God, who made the sun and moon and stars and everything we see and every concept people try to worship. He is also the most worshiped God in the world today, did you know that? high-speed-train-on-way-to-fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanThis God is my God, and I am thankful that through all the stages and transitions of life, I can rest in this ineffable God, who is not limited to sovereignty over certain aspects of life, but who is sovereign over all of life. kathi-at-fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanEven more wonderful, the God of the Bible is a God of compassion and mercy. He was merciful in the past before we lived, He is merciful today while we live, and He will be merciful in the future. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). He’ll never change, and that gives me great hope and peace.  fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-mother-and-small-son“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-3Are you worried about what might lie ahead of you this year? Let’s not fret. Rather, let’s trust in the God of gates and passageways…the God who not only knows but is Himself the beginning and ending.

Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:5-8)

fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-5(These photos of the beautiful orange gates are of Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) near Kyoto, Japan, and were taken while Alan and I were visiting with our kids and grand kids.)

 

Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival 2017…I Wanna Go!

Kathi and Liz in ChicagoI was the baby in my family, but for the past nearly 50 years, Lizzie has been like the little sister I always begged my mom for. She’s somewhere between flesh and blood and a BBF buddy, and over the years, we’ve spent countless hours sharing happy times and propping each other during hard times. I’m a fan! Liz and Chuck with Washington Monument in BackgroundRecently, Lizzie and her husband moved to Washington D. C., so when Alan had to attend a conference there, you can bet I was overjoyed  to keep him company and hang out with Lizzie for a few days.

Mt. Vernon, VAAlthough I was there before the cherry blossom festival, we had a great time
and saw some wonderful museums (which I hope to share in the next few days),Lady and cherry blossoms Washington D.C. but the pictures Lizzie posted from the National Cherry Blossom Festival
just a few weeks later made me drool! Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.Next year, the festival is March 20-April 16, 2017,
and I’m already dreaming about going! Washington Monument. Cherry Blossom FestivalI’ve read that there are three National Park Service locations:
on the Washington Monument grounds,Monticello VA seen through cherry blossoms around the tidal basin in West Potomac Park, Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festivaland in East Potomac Park, which is also known as Hains Point. Cherry Blossom Festival with Family 1988It occurs to me that it’s been nearly 30 years Capitol with Cherry Blossoms 1988since Alan and I took our family to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival 1988…back in 1988 just a couple of months before Stephen was born. girls-with-cherry-blossoms Kyoto JapanThe last two years Alan and I were in Asia enjoying our grandchildrenTemple near Kiyomizu-dera Kyotojpg and taking in the cherry blossom festivals there, Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festival 2and I somehow forgot about the fact
that we have gorgeous cherry blossom festivals right here in America. Cherry Blossoms. National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington D.C.I wonder, did any of you grow up with Christian roots and a blossoming faith…Kiyomizu Temple- Kiyomizu-dera buddhist-temple in Japan with Cherry Blossomsbut have now spent so many years searching for
wisdom, meaning, peace and beauty kyoto-city-scape-cherry-blossomsin the writings of other religions and cultural experiences that you’ve forgottenMourning Dove in our cherry tree April 2016 about the wisdom, meaning, peace, and beauty that can be found right at home? Mourning Doves in our cherry Tree 4.28.16“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.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

(Thank you to Elizabeth for all the beautiful pictures of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. this spring! The rest are mine, and I took the photos of the mourning doves out my window.)

Universal Gifts of Beauty

Lan Tau IslandAre you wild about flowers? I am!!  Shanghai flowersEverywhere we go, I’m pausing to admire and photograph brilliant flowers, Orchids. Singapore 2 and I never cease to wonder at their delicate textures, exquisite forms, Busan, South Koreatantalizing aromas, and luscious coloring. Hong Kong Alan, on the other hand, has a bit of motor mania.
(Can you tell who exclaimed over what in this picture?) Nagasaki Peace Memorial Over time, I’ve learned to recognize many garden flowers Azaleas. Hong Kong and have found to my delight that the vast majority of these beauties Daisies in Nagasaki seem able to flourish almost universally around the world. Vietnamese Flowers at Palace All these pictures were taken on our Southeastern Asia cruise Flowering Crab. Temple of Heaven. Beijing (from the equator to near the 45th parallel), and yet—if you’re a flower lover—Orange Tulips. Japanyou’ve probably noticed most of them growing in some garden not far from you. Viet Nam Lotus Of course, many of these flowers— such as the gorgeous lotus
(national flower of Vietnam) Orchids in Singaporeand orchid (national flower of Singapore)— Flowers in Vietnam have been transplanted from various countries where they are indigenous, Orchids. Lan Tau Island and they have to be maintained with great care in their new environments. Poinsettas Hong Kong Have you ever considered that foreign people are like foreign flowers? Flowers in Hong Kong Mountains They have been transplanted, and if they are to thrive in our culture, Spring Blossoms Shanghai they will need special care. Singapore. Bouganvillea Do you know people who’ve moved from another country to your neighborhood?Wedding party on steps of Reconcilliation Palace. Vietnam May we reach out to them in love, Tianamin Square Flowers in Spring appreciating that they’re also universal gifts of beauty
to be treasured and nurtured! Camellia. Shanghai“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Like Thailand’s Chao Phraya River

Chao Phraya RiverscapeThe “River of Kings” snakes 231 miles through the entire heart of Thailand, Chao Phraya Riverfrontincluding Bangkok, Chao Phraya River. China House so after our morning of site-seeing (this is the famous “China House” restaurant)Chao Phraya River. Captain we were treated to a cruise down the Chao Phraya River Thai lunch in Bangkok on our way to an authentic (and gourmet) Thai lunch buffet. Sampan on Chao Phraya RiverWe traveled in a flat-bottomed sampan. Chao Phraya River sampans The sampans are everywhere  Chao Phraya River 2 and used by everybody Chao Phraya River Sampan both for transporting goods and passengers…Chao Phraya River. Boarding so we had to wait in a very long, hot line to board, Chao Phraya River insect collections although the line wound through stalls with all sorts of exotic items for sale that you really couldn’t get in America, so that was very…educational! 🙂 Chao Phraya River Wat ArunOur river cruise took us by the Buddhist Temple known as Wat Arun, Chao Phraya River which is often featured in photos (but was being restored this spring). Chao Phraya River BoatsRiver life is fascinating…a world unto itself, Bangkok Downtown from Chao Phraya River 2but it’s a great way to get insight into the heart of a city and take its pulse. Chao Phraya River 8 We saw lots of unusual but lovely architecture Chao Phraya River Sampans and marveled at the busy-ness and population density.Chao Phraya River. Government BuildingWe saw beautiful government buildings and could tell they honor their royalty. Church along Chao Phraya RiverWe noted that there are not only many Buddhist temples…
but also a few churches. Chao Phraya River SkyscrapersLike every city, there were not only amazing skyscrapers, Old Building on Chao Phraya Riverbut  some old, run down buildings that needed to be restored or replaced. Chao Phraya River 5However, cruising the Chao Phraya River was a remarkably different experience Chao Phraya River Bridgein this one way: There is no bridge separating wealth and poverty.Chao Phraya River ContrastAlong the Chao Phraya River beauty and ugliness dwell side by side. Tourists on the Chao Phraya RiverSomeone asked our tour guide why the poor people didn’t sell their homes; with the profit they could doubtless have much better housing somewhere else! Chao Phraya River HovelsHowever, the tour guide said the people have lived there for generations and don’t want to give up their land and lifestyle. Chao Phraya River HovelI think my own heart is like the Chao Phraya River! Bangkok from Chao Phraya River 2I’ve surrendered my heart to Jesus, and there are areas where he’s made something beautiful of my life. Chao Phraya River PovertyBut, there are also many places where I’m still hanging on to the way things have been done for generations…and I seem unwilling or unable to allow change. Chao Phraya River  Home in CityThe Lord loves us so much that he gives us perfect freedom to choose,
and we may prefer running our own lives to risking change,
feeling like we’re already happy and content with our status quo life… Bangkok construction of highway 2 and never able to visualize or believe that something even better could exist!Bangkok City Center from Chao Phraya RiverBut, as for me, I’m ready to leave my comfort zone Bangkok construction of highway 4 and let the Lord build whatever he wants in my life—
for his glory and the blessing of others. Lotus Blossom Grand Palace. Bangkok“He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s, and he hath set the world upon them” (1 Samuel 2:8).

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.)

Bangkok, Thailand’s Golden City and Golden Buddha

Bangkok templeUntil we visited just recently, I had no idea that Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, Bangkok Lots of people! has a population as high as New York City (8.5 million) Bangkok City and is geographically twice as large (605 sq. miles).Bangkok Temple 2 I was also surprised to learn it’s become 1 of the world’s top tourist destinations Bangkok Golden image…which may not be all good, Bangkok Old and New since I’ve also read it ranks among the worst countries for human trafficking, Bangkok seedy side of town and I’d had a number of friends who’ve worked in Thailand trying to rescue young girls from this terrible evil. Bangkok Port Our ship arrived at the Port of Laem Chabang, Bangkok construction of highway and we had to take a very congested, 90-minute bus drive along a highway Bangkok construction of highway 3 in the throes of construction in order to reach Wat Trimitr, our first destination. Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon The day was so packed with sites that I will just tell you about this temple Bangkok Temple 4 and save the rest for another post. The Temple of the Golden Buddha Wat Trimitr’s offical title is Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon The Temple of the Golden Buddha 1 and is also known as “The Temple of the Golden Buddha.” The Golden Buddha 2 It houses the world’s largest solid gold statue, a carving of the Buddha in the Sukothai style, dating it as perhaps 700+ years old. The Golden Buddha The Golden Buddha is almost 10 feet tall and is made out of 5.5 tons of gold, valued at about 250 million USD today. The Golden Buddha 5 The tour guide told us about its particularly fascinating history: In order to protect it from being stolen by the Burmese, the statue was covered in a layer of heavy stucco, but eventually that secret was lost. No one remained who even knew its value! The Temple of the Golden Buddha 7 Then, in 1955, while an attempt was being made to move it to another location from an old temple ruin, they underestimated the weight (plaster’s a lot lighter than gold!), the ropes broke, and the statue fell over, chipping off some of the stucco and revealing the gold underneath. The Temple of the Golden Buddha 9 Can you imagine their surprise when they discovered their old statue was actually almost priceless…the world’s most valuable gold statue?! The Temple of the Golden Buddha 5 So it is with Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a man…encased in a body of clay. The Temple of the Golden Buddha 10  It was only after the resurrection, when (as Shakespeare would say) he shuffled off his mortal coil and the gleam of eternal life radiated out from the tomb that his value became obvious: Jesus was God  but had been clothed in humanity. The Temple of the Golden Buddha 8 He came to earth to teach us about God and to die in our place, so that we could be reconciled to God and coheirs with him of eternal life. The Temple of the Golden Buddha 6 Have you come to know the real, living Jesus, or do you still visualize him as a dusty, dead statue on an old, wooden cross?Lotus“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Sea Days Can be Perfectly Splendid

Foggy Morning Sapphire PrincessI’ve heard people say they think sea days on a ship would be boring and confining, but I’d like to offer a little counterpoint. Sapphire Princess in Nagasaki Cruise ships are like small towns—a world unto themselves—so life is mostly what you make of it. Planning our day Sapphire Princess Alan and I have grown to love sea days. (Don’t tell me it’s just ’cause we’re old!)Pastries International Cafe Sapphire Princess On the Princess Sapphire’s Southeastern Asia cruise, we had trouble sleeping through the night at first (being 13 time zones from home), Sapphire Princess Early Morning Breakfast so our days started with coffee and pastries from the International Café
(open 24-hours) sometime between 2-5 am. First Breakfast of pastries Sapphire Princess After our first breakfast, Checking the menu Alan always had to check the menu to see what was going to be for dinner, Skywalkers Nightclub Sapphire Princess and then we’d zip up to the Skywalkers Nightclub on the 18th floor, which was completely empty that early and gave us ethereal views of the sun waking up.Tea in the Skywalkers Lounge Sapphire Princess We’d sip tea and share “devotions,” reading our Bibles aloud and praying. Breakfast. Horizon Buffet Sapphire Princess By 7 am, it was time for our second breakfast, which was often a meal we enjoyed with other guests in the International Dining Room  or a quick buffet-style breakfast at the Horizon Court. The Full English Breakfast (No matter where you eat, you can still get the “Full English”
+ a zillion other items every day). Foggy Morning Walk Sapphire Princess After breakfast, we usually took an hour walk around the deck
(which had an exact 0.33-mile course) Swimming laps Sapphire Princess followed by swimming laps in one of their several gorgeous swimming pools… Workout Area Sapphire Princess although if the weather was at all inclement, I preferred a good workout in the exercise room, View of Exercise Room Sapphire Princess followed by time in the dry sauna and then a soak in their steam sauna. Towels Sapphire Princess To me, that was the height of luxury! Buffet Lunch By then, we’d worked up an appetite for lunch and a nap! 🙂  Lecture on Cooking. Sapphire Princess Some days we listened to live lectures Cirque du Soleil Sapphire Princess or watched performances Big Screen Movie Theater at their “Movies Under the Stars” poolside theater. Decor on the Sapphire Princess We also spent time reading and writing. In fact, Alan read so much that he finally started borrowing books from their library! Fancy Dinners Sapphire Princess After a leisurely afternoon, we’d dress up and find our way to our very own table, Lobster Dinner Sapphire Princesswhere we always enjoyed an outstanding dinner. Shows well attended Sapphire Princess Every evening there were multiple options for live performances Watching movie at night Sapphire Princess as well as new release movies shown “under the stars.” Chinese Acrobats Sapphire Princess Usually we could find something interesting, but if not, Chess anyone? Sapphire Princess there were always moonlight walks, hot tubbing, games, Captain's Gala Sapphire Princess meeting new people, or just being together. Fruit Creations Sapphire Princess For us, every day was a phenomenal day, Food Fun Sapphire Princess but I also think that of the basic elements for a happy life Fun Food! are available to anyone who lives in any small community. Fascinating Fruits If we have shelter, food, friendship, and opportunities for spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional growth …isn’t that enough? Great wait staff Sapphire Princess I often hear of people thinking that being a Christian would be boring and confining, but I don’t. I think it’s even better than being on a cruise!Sunset Leaving Hong Kong Harbor Sapphire Princess“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).