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.”

The Armstrong Clan’s 500th Anniversary Gathering

Have you ever noticed there is more to do in life than will ever be done? No amount of prayerful planning and meticulous organization can align all the opportunities in such a way that we can be hither and yon at the proper moment to squeeze every last drop out of our lives’ orangey goodness!

I cannot watch over my grandson’s surgery across the state and still provide for my grand children here in GR while my daughter-in-law cares for her father’s medical needs.

Armstrongs in the Poppy Fields of Belgium

I couldn’t host my son’s family, coming home from Belgium to America, and still fly to Scotland to attend the 500th reunion of the Armstrong Clan, now, could I?

Marius’s First Birthday Party

Indeed, I could not. However, we had a splendid reunion of our “Armstrong Clan” right here in GR while the world-wide Armstrong Clan’s 500th Celebration was occurring!

Brother Terry at Milnholm Cross, Scotland

And, although Alan and I had to miss it, Alan’s brother and his wife were able to attend. So—I wanted to share just a little bit about the event.

Perhaps the world’s most famous Armstrong is Neil, First Man on the moon, so the events of the clan centered around the Armstrongs’ 500th anniversary generally, but also the 50th anniversary of the lunar takeoff, which was July 16, 2019.

The Common Riding in Langholm, Scotland

For over 900 years, there has been a tradition of “common riding” (groups of riders [raiders, really]) on horses riding along the border between Scotland and England during the summer months. Happily, this has turned into a non-raiding riding event for fun and has become one of Europe’s biggest equestrian spectacles!

Gilnockie Tower in Hollows, near Canonbie, Scotland,
built by John Armstrong 500 years ago

What I didn’t really understand when I married Alan was that I’d married into a wild band of “reivers” (“from the old Scottish word “to steal”)! Back in their hay day, it was said that to survive to thirty was an accomplishment and that no one walked along the border . . . they ran for their lives!

Sign explaining the Milnholm Cross

(However, lest I think poorly of our esteemed Armstrong heritage, my grandmother was a Kerr, who is also on the list of wild border clans, along with Nixon, Elliot, Scott, and a host of others!)

John Armstrong Memorial

Terry and Eileen explored the area and shared much of what they learned with us. The last famous reiver of the Armstrong Clan was John Armstrong, who owned Gilnockie Tower and was a fearsome raider, although in July of 1530 he was executed by the forces of King James V in an attempt to bring peace to the borderlands between Scotland and England.

Fifty years ago, Ted and Judy Armstrong revived the Armstrong Clan Association, and since that time, Gilnockie Tower has been restored and become the focal point for Armstrongs from around the world who are interested in DNA and genealogical research into their past.

Gilnockie Tower Common Room

I don’t know if you’re an Armstrong or have any Armstrong blood, but it has been fascinating and fun to learn a little bit more about our family heritage, and I’m guessing you might enjoy exploring yours too, if you ever get any spare time!

Terry at John Armstrong’s Grave Site

Terry and Eileen (and their faithful dog, Maggie) are retired and are able to enjoy some leisure time traveling through Europe and exploring their history. Talk about keeping fit and being a lifelong learner!

They’ve spent several years adventuring, and I have to say, I lick my chops when I read of their travels and see the gorgeous places they’ve visited!

The Neil Armstrong Tea

Still, I am content, even if we didn’t make it to the moon and back for tea in July! God is good. Life is good. As my father used to say (quoting Aldous Huxley from Brave New World): “You pays your money and you takes your choice.” Are you happy with the choices you’re making? I hope so! If not, you are the only one who can change your choices!!

Only One Life
(—Avis B. Christiansen and Merrill Dunlop)

“Only one life to offer
Jesus my Lord and King.
Only one tongue to praise Thee
And of Thy mercy sing (forever).
Only one heart’s devotion
Savior, O may it be
consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.

“Only one life to offer
Take it dear Lord I pray.
Nothing from Thee withholding
Thy will I now obey.
Thou who hast freely given
Thine all in all for me
Claim this life for Thine own to be used My Savior
Ev’ry moment for Thee.”

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Without Much Fanfare

North America’s most renowned venue for Shakespearean plays is in Stratford, Ontario, and during their “Stratford Festival” from May through October, the town is brimming over with art and theater lovers (except early in the morning when I took this picture; I think most of the town was sleeping in).

Alan, Joel, and I went recently for a long weekend to take in a couple of Shakespeare’s finest—one comedy and one tragedy—and a musical.

Sunset along the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario

Each play was so provocative that I’ve reflected for a long time on the themes, morals, and values, but today I want to admit that what I loved the most—and what I’ve remembered with the greatest sense of pleasure—was our evening walk through the Shakespeare Gardens and along the Avon River.

Oh, the plays were amazing, no doubt about it! The acting was superb. The props were fresh and fun.

Sydney Opera House in Sdyney, Australia (2004)

Alan and I saw The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Sydney Opera House fifteen years ago, but it seemed (if anything) even more ludicrous than ever.

The tragedies of Othello were still as dark and senseless as ever, and the musical (which I’d never seen before) was both enlightening and hopeful (although the profanity was so bad that I wouldn’t personally choose to attend it again 😦 ).

Fanfare at the Festival Theater

Five minutes before the end of each intermission, a troupe of musicians came outside to alert us that it was time to go back inside, playing a short fanfare. It made me smile, as I always think of “fanfare” as some sort of ostentatious commotion used to draw attention to something . . . which—of course—it was, but not as we think of it today. This fanfare was straight out of Shakespearean England and the 400-year-old tradition of announcing something important: In this case, the conclusion of an impressive play!

That being said, our visit to a local church Sunday morning and our walk along the Avon River Sunday evening (following the Sunday matinee and a great dinner) were the true highlights for me!

Bumblebee on Dill Weed in Shakespeare Gardens

They weren’t our reason for going, and they weren’t what we paid to see, but those events most refreshed and restored my soul, and they gave me the most pleasure!

Truly memorable breakfast at Features Restaurant in Stratford, ON
(YES! I recommend it!! 🙂 )

In your busy life, what most feeds your soul? If you’re like me, it’s not the fanfare of life’s theatrics but the solace of God.

Not in excited pomp and circumstance, but in stillness and reflection . . . Truly, in practicing the presence of God and communing with Him through prayer.

The silent testimony of God’s great goodness speaks to me

Full House at Stratford’s Festival Theater

even more eloquently than the thunder of music and applause.

How about you?

Raindrops on roses . . . one of my favorite things!

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee . . .To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name” (Psalm 60:1-3).

“His D Card Got Spidered”

Memorial Day Weekend wasn’t as much fun for one of our sons as he’d expected! His older brother bought him tickets to visit their family in Europe, but when my son got to the ticket counter, they turned him away. Why? Well, as my grandson Paly reported when asked, “‘Cause his D card got spidered.”

Chicago, here we come . . . or not! 😦

Sad, but true (sort of). Belgium has a law that you cannot enter their country unless your passport is good for 3 months after your return date. So, his uncle’s I.D. card (passport) was going to get spidered (expire) in June . . . after the trip, but not long enough after the trip that he could get through Belgian security. Thankfully, a merciful United Airlines supervisor took my son’s plight to heart and allowed him to exchange his ticket for passage at the end of summer, after he’ll have a chance to renew his passport. That was very gracious of them, because the airline was in no way at fault, and his ticket was non-refundable. Thank you, United Airlines!

Just a question, but do you have a valid passport? If you’re going to travel anytime, please make sure your passport will be valid long enough after the trip so that you won’t get stopped at the ticket counter. (For instance, for my upcoming trip, my passport has to be valid for six months after my return date.)

(Okay, so maybe we’re not really dead in this photo,
but i-phones have lots of tricks!)

Just another question, but do you think you have a valid passport for heaven? Most people imagine they’ll go to heaven after they die if their good works outweigh their bad works, and (of course) most of us think since we’ve always tried to be good (at least, most of the time), our good works will (hopefully) outweigh our bad works. However, like my son’s present passport, good works (valid passport that makes passage in this life seem fine) won’t work for heaven. God has a requirement that we need to heed, lest we get turned away at the ticket counter (death)!

The good news is that anybody can get a valid passport simply by asking! Jesus died in our place so that we can have forgiveness for our sins. All we have to do is humble ourselves, admit that we sin, and ask God to forgive us based on Jesus’ s sacrificial death for us. This “transaction” (also known as “salvation” or “rebirth”) with the government of heaven (so to speak), will give us a valid stamp on our passport. We become permanent “citizens of heaven” with no need for a foreign passport. In effect, we are saved by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit for safe transmission to heaven. If we had a passport, it would read something like this: “All sins are covered by the blood of Christ. This passport is good forever. No expiration date!”

Please don’t think you’re okay because you’re as innocent as a babe. I mean, really? Anybody who has a baby knows they are only angelic while they’re sleeping. Lovable? Absolutely! Sinless? Not by any stretch of the imagination, and I’ve never been accused of being perfect, either. Have you?

So, unless you’re okay with missing out on all the action (be it over Memorial Day, or all the joys of heaven that could be yours), please believe Jesus when he taught that He alone can promise us eternal life. Sign up with God today for your free Passport for Life!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). ” I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

What is It? Whodunit?

I look up in awe!
This looks more like Star Wars than
A hotel lobby.

While in Atlanta, where Alan attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, we were treated to this stunning view that seemed more like a set for a sci-fi movie than the atrium of a hotel. I marveled at its beauty and thought to myself, “Whoever did this deserves some type of architectural award!” Indeed, the designer is none other than John C. Portman Jr. who died at 93 in 2017.

Atlanta was his hometown, and the street right outside this hotel—Atlanta Marriott Marquis—bears Portman’s name! Furthermore, I’ve seen his buildings (and photographed them) all over the world, from San Diego’s Bayfront to Beijing’s Yintai Center and Shanghai’s Tomorrow Square. Even Detroit’s Ren Cen (whose central tower held the title of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013), where Alan and I used to watch the Grand Prix races out the window from our friend George’s law office, was built by this man!

I marveled both at Portman’s prestigious career and at my own ignorance. He has built some of the most creative architectural masterpieces of my time, and I have been astounded by their beauty, but I never stopped to figure out who designed them, nor did I put two and two together to formulate a simple question: Phenomenal designs . . . do you suppose the same person designed this one too?!

How about you? Have you marveled at the beauty of our world—from the majestic mountains to the tiny, fragrant flowers—and felt overwhelmed by the creative genius without ever asking who the creative Genius is?

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrew 11:3,6).

By Faith
(Stuart Townend)

By faith, we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design;
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness,
Who walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand –
A place where peace and justice reign.

We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death,
And rise triumphant from the grave.

By faith, the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news,
In every corner of the earth.

By faith, this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail,
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name.

What’s the Scuttlebutt? How about a Scuttled Bucket?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the term “scuttlebutt” used as a synonym for “gossip,” but I never knew the derivation until we visited Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. Before people knew how to purify water, sailors would store fresh water gathered from local streams for their voyage in caskets. A “butt” was a casket used for storing water, and a “scuttled butt” was a casket that had been scuttled (by cutting a hole in it so people could get the water out). During the voyage, the “scuttlebutt” was the current casket, usually sitting on the main deck, where the sailors could come to drink, and—like employees around a water cooler today—people would often catch up on news and swap stories while drinking the water.

There are so many things I’ve never really reasoned through, but at this fascinating museum of naval history, they made a point out of the fact that water from local streams would not be very clean, and after being stored for weeks on end, it became foul. However, that was all they had, so drink it they did. Better than dying of thirst, although there were times when drinking it resulted in their dying of bacterial infections or other disease-related illnesses.

Do you believe in heaven? There were many people in previous centuries who did not believe in a “new world” across an apparently endless sea. However, there were also a few brave sailors who believed—at least enough to attempt crossing the ocean. For those who believed and were willing to travel, and survived the trip, they really did find a new world. On their journey, the sailors had to drink water to keep them going, but if the water was putrid, it may have killed them at any rate.

This is true for us in the spiritual realm as well. Some people don’t even believe in a “new world” called heaven and have no interest in searching for it, but for those of us who do, we’re off on an adventure in a “fellow ship” with other believers. On the way, we need to drink water to survive the trip. The only pure water that remains clean and healthful throughout life is the water of the Word of God. Every other type of spiritual water is just from the “scuttlebutt;” it’s gossip and rumors gathered from local sources that are never pure and always leave a stench in the end . . . perhaps even causing death to those who drink.

In John 4:14, Jesus taught: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” In Revelation 21:6, Jesus tells John in a vision: “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

When we are spiritually thirsty, let’s forget the scuttlebutt and go straight to Jesus and the Bible for our refreshment!

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

 

Grand Plans and Grand Anse

Now that we’re approaching 70 in the next couple of years, Alan has started daydreaming about retirement possibilities. In particular, he developed a cherished fantasy about living in a little shack on a beach somewhere on a Southern Caribbean island during our first winter of “freedom.” That would suit me just fine, because I love to write and can keep myself occupied endlessly, but I had trouble picturing Alan content just puttering around a straw hut, hiking the shoreline, and chasing sea gulls for three months (without getting bored), so I thought it would be worth checking out prospects. About that time, I found an incredible deal for an inside cabin on the 5-star ship, Celebrity Summit, heading to the Southern Caribbean for 12 days, stopping at 11 ports, for only $579, which is $48 a day. (Okay, so add $15 per day for tips, but that’s still only $63 per day for room, transportation, and all you care to eat, which seems like a phenomenal deal for a vacation no matter how you cut it!) It was just what the doctor needed, so it’s just what the doctor’s wife ordered, and away we went!Our plan was to hop off the ship at each port and wander about, checking out the ambience, finding a close beach, and swimming all afternoon. In the process, I thought we’d get a good rest and give Alan a chance to find “the perfect island” for a three-month venture.Our dreams were fulfilled! Every day was gloriously warm, as was the water, and  every island had beaches every bit as beautiful as the ads! We were 100% happy! However, I also hadn’t been wrong about Alan’s capacity for rest. After a couple of days, he decided maybe two months would be enough on a Caribbean Island. After a couple more days, he thought probably one month would be long enough. And, about halfway through our trip, he thought a couple of weeks would do. By then, we had arrived at Grenada and discovered Grand Anse Beach, a two-mile stretch of silky sand and turquoise waters. (Since returning home, I learned that this beach was voted the Caribbean’s #1 beach by USA Today, 2018.)  We were so enthralled that I stopped at one of the hotels to find out how much it would cost for a room for a couple of weeks. $1,000 per day. No kidding! 😦  We started considering. The only real grass huts were in folk parks, not on beaches, and the mosquitoes would be an issue even if we could find one to rent. The food on the ship had been first class! We enjoyed open-air, gourmet breakfasts with beautiful ocean views each day.Each evening for dinner, attentive waiters doted on us, making sure we had everything we wanted from the menu, and that each dish was “just right!” The food alone would have cost us more than what we paid for our entire cruise, and it was always such a treat! As Alan’s mother used to say, “If I don’t have to cook it, and I don’t have to clean it up, I’m going to enjoy it!” In fact, life on a cruise ship is extremely cushy! After considering our options, Alan and I decided that maybe two weeks on a cruise each winter would be just about perfect! Our cruise ship could deliver us to fantastic ports, provide for our meals (so I would never have to cook), ensure us clean, freshly made up rooms each day (our cabin steward was a joy),and if we ever got tired of relaxing, reading, and enjoying the ship’s amenities, we could always hop off the ship and go exploring. Considering that we aren’t big on night life, and most Caribbean Islands aren’t big on day life (Culture? Yes, but not like Europe or Asia), island hopping affords ample opportunities to enjoy unique experiences and enjoy each country’s natural beauty without ever getting “island fever” (aka bored). Sound like a plan? We think so! By the way, are you dreaming about your sunset years yet? Do you have big plans or dreams? What do you think would be “just perfect”? May I encourage you to test out your theories a little before making any big decisions? It’s possible that what we think is going to be the greatest and best won’t turn out to be as good as something else . . . possibly something we already have! In my life, the very greatest and best is knowing and loving God, and I can do that at home or abroad. I don’t have to travel anywhere to know that being his child and experiencing an intimate relationship with Jesus as my Lord and Savior is better than anything else the world has to offer. Hands down!Jesus is the true gateway to every joy in life, not only while we’re young, but when we retire, and even—and especially—after we die! Have you got plans for your post-retirement years? If not, please explore life with Jesus. I think you’ll discover that it beats all the other options!!!

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).

(All photos taken in the Southern Caribbean on our trip a couple of weeks ago, February, 2019.)