“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.)

 

 

4,000 Days

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

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

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

 

The Making of Maracas…and Joyful Noises!

Have you ever wondered where maracas come from, our how they’re made?  Or, why they seem to be such an integral part of Latin music? I brought my first set home from Mexico nearly 50 years ago, and they’ve been an integral part of our family making “joyful noises” ever since, charming the children and grand kids from youngest years because they are like giant rattles!Without even thinking about it, I’ve taken them for granted and subconsciously assumed they were carved from wood or made from plastic. It wasn’t until we were in the tropical rain forests of Costa Rica last January
that I learned the story of maracas. Maracas are really made out of the fruit of the Crescentia tree (calabash tree), and they are common throughout southern Mexico, Central, and South America.Crescentia trees can grow in the tropical wild up to 35 feet tall
(although this one, at the Hotel Villa Lapas, is a young garden cultivar).The fruits, known as calabashes, are full of soft, pulpy material which is used for treating respiratory problems, but the hard, thin shells have several uses: as scoops, containers, and happiest of all—as musical instruments!Typically, a wooden handle is inserted into the base of the mature, dried calabash, and the seeds are left inside to rattle!I’m always inspired both by the creativity of God and the ingenuity of man.It makes me stop to ponder:
*What am I really made out of?
*Are there even more ways that I can creatively serve God and man?Thank you, Lord, for ripening us, plucking us, plugging up the holes in our lives, painting us, and allowing us to become instruments of service and joyful praise!I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord,
the King
” (Psalm 98:6 . . . and don’t forget the maracas!)

 

Crossing the Arctic Circle on the Koningsdam

Although I’ve never been deep-sea fishing, Alan and I have definitely been sailing on the deep blue sea, and not always when it was sunny and bright!  Our scariest adventures have been during big cruises . . . once trying to outrun a hurricane in the Caribbean, and once hiding behind the Hawaiian Islands in an effort to avoid too much damage to the ship.  In both instances, the ships and passengers all survived, although Alan was sicker than a dog both times and couldn’t eat for a few days until the soup stopped sliding off the tables. Another memorable trip was rounding Cape Horn off the southern tip of South America. That was breathtaking, because the wind was so strong it took our breath away and we could hardly stand on the deck (only 3% exaggeration). However, that day was also breathtaking because we saw a rainbow arching over the Beagle Channel as we made our way from Ushuaia around the horn.At the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, Alan and I were standing on terra firma celebrating a beautiful spring afternoon, so it wasn’t the least bit frightening, although still awe-inspiring and unforgettable for us. With these memories bolstering our courage, we looked forward to crossing the Arctic Circle on our cruise with Holland America’s Koningsdam, although I will admit to having some visions of the Titanic going down as we stood dreamily on deck in Iceland’s Isafjordur Harbor the night before our crossing.  Our captain was Werner Timmers, a Dutchman who had served over 30 years with Holland America, and we had heard him talk about his career. He said that over the course of his years as captain, he’d experienced almost everything! Low points included a man overboard, losing an anchor, and facing a storm with 80-foot waves. The fact that Captain Timmers had weathered such a terrible storm and survived gave me a sense of confidence that he could probably pilot us safely through the icy, possibly treacherous waters ahead, so after our usual bedtime prayers,  Alan and I went to sleep, knowing there wasn’t anything else we could do to help! As it turned out, the crossing was smooth and uneventful, and we woke up the next morning in a cloud of foggy sunshine.    As the fog cleared, I could tell that we’d arrived safely at our new harbor . . .                            a beautiful, new land full of promise and adventure.             Alan and I are also on an adventure in our personal lives. Are you? We’re heading to a faraway land called “heaven,” and we’re going to have to cross some very deep water to get there. I don’t know if the crossing will be choppy and frightening . . . if we’ll see a rainbow of hope or have to weather huge storms.As we embark on this journey, it’s reassuring to know that we have a pilot, Jesus, who has experienced both life—and death—and can lead us safely to heaven. Captain Timmers piloted us to our port in the North Sea, but only Jesus Christ can bring us safely into heaven’s harbor, and I know it will also be a fantastically beautiful land, full of unbelievably wonderful love, joy, peace . . . and adventure! Are you trying to pilot your own ship? Have you lost your anchor? Are you facing storms that could shipwreck you emotionally and spiritually? I hope you are trusting Jesus to guide you safely to  heaven’s haven of rest!

The Haven of Rest
(—Henry L. Gilmore, 1890, public domain)

  1. My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea,
    So burdened with sin and distressed,
    Till I heard a sweet voice, saying, “Make Me your choice,”
    And I entered the Haven of Rest!

    • Refrain:
      I’ve anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest,
      I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
      The tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep,
      In Jesus I’m safe evermore.
  2. I yielded myself to His tender embrace,
    In faith taking hold of the Word,
    My fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul;
    The Haven of Rest is my Lord.
  3. The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole,
    Has been the old story so blest,
    Of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have
    A home in the Haven of Rest.
  4. How precious the thought that we all may recline,
    Like John, the beloved so blest,
    On Jesus’ strong arm, where no tempest can harm,
    Secure in the Haven of Rest.
  5. Oh, come to the Savior, He patiently waits
    To save by His power divine;
    Come, anchor your soul in the Haven of Rest,
    And say, “My Beloved is mine.”

    Jesus taught us in John 14:1-6 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    (All photos taken during our cruise of the North Seas on the Koningsdam except for the three taken in South America and South Africa.)