Coronavirus: Are You Prepared?

Are you ready for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that’s sweeping the world? Instead of enjoying a trip to San Antonio this morning for a medical meeting (which got canceled), my husband—as the chief medical officer of a local hospital— is acutely involved in preparing to meet the crisis which has come to Michigan. Two days ago (March 10, 2020) there were no confirmed cases in Michigan, although there were 760 cases confirmed in U.S. However, by 6:33 am on March 11, there were 1,039 confirmed cases throughout America and 119,476 world wide with 4,291 deaths. As of today, March 12th, there are 1,323 confirmed cases throughout America and 127,863 worldwide with 4,718 deaths. If you do the math, it’s shocking how fast this is traveling.

We also now have confirmed cases in Michigan. The schools have shut down in Grand Rapids, as they are where my kids live in California, Chicago, and New York. Belgium (where one of my sons lives) was leading the pack for new cases in Europe yesterday. I am amazed to read of people not taking this seriously. Come on, guys! Where’s your Boy Scout spirit? Semper paratus. Better safe than sorry! Don’t panic, but don’t ignore taking wise precautions, either, please!

Coronavirus is everywhere in the news, so this post may be too late to be particularly helpful, but just in case you haven’t done a lot of research yet, here’s the best up-to-the-moment coverage I have gleaned:

What are the symptoms of a COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection? Most commonly, it presents like flu and can include fever, tiredness and a dry cough, although other symptoms, such as achiness, pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea are all possible. According to Dr. Martha Blum, MD PhD: “The most common presentation was one week prodrome of myaglias, malaise, cough, low grade fevers gradually leading to more severe trouble breathing in the second week of illness. It is an average of 8 days to development of dyspnea and average 9 days to onset of pneumonia/pneumonitis. It is not like Influenza, which has a classically sudden onset. Fever was not very prominent in several cases.”

How long does it take to determine if someone has COVID-19? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “symptoms may appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure, with the average patient seeing onset at around five days.”

What should you do if you suspect you may be developing a COVID-19 infection ? Call (don’t visit) your doctor or your local health department. They can ask appropriate questions to determine whether on not you need to be tested. Obviously, you should not GO to the doctor’s office or health department directly, lest you expose others, but these health care locations can tell you where you would need to go for testing.

What can we do to prepare? Make sure all your immunizations are up to date. It’s still not too late to get your flu shot or a pneumonia vaccine if you are in the right age and risk group. Check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for specific guidelines (and other pertinent information concerning COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/

Beyond being properly immunized, all the sites I’ve studied say the #1. best advice is easy: limit your exposure as best you can and wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds often and specifically after you’ve had contact with people in public places. Do NOT touch your face with your hands until after you’ve washed your hands carefully. If you have hand sanitizer as a second step (AFTER washing), that’s a plus, but most stores are out of hand sanitizer. You can also use rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant. I was able to find some this morning. Have a 14-30-day supply of food and medications on hand. I liked this list from USA Today (March 10, 2020 issue, and I quote):

Food. Fresh fruits and vegetables will likely spoil over 14 days, so canned foods that have a long storage life and need little or no cooking are recommended. Meat products, fish or beans, soups, broths and stews, fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, canned (or powdered) milk, are among good supply choices recommended by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Disaster Education Network.

Frozen foods are an option, too. Other recommended foods are peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, granola bars, bouillon cubes, and staples like sugar, salt, pepper. (Keep in mind you may need to include some special foods for babies and family members on special diets, as well as pet foods.)

Water and liquids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you have plenty of fluids on hand, such as bottled water and supply of fluids with electrolytes, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade. cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/drinking/creating-storing-emergency-water-supply.html(opens in a new tab)

Medicine. You will want to have a 14-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. You may also want over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Supplies. Many homes already have a 14-day supply of most daily items on hand. But make sure you have toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine supplies, diapers, laundry detergent and disinfectant.

Other items. Perhaps have some board games, cards, toys books, magazines and other fun items to keep the family occupied.

Okay, back to my editorializing: To keep abreast of what’s happening minute by minute around the world and in the U.S., you can access the Johns Hopkin Dashboard here:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

To track what’s happening in Michigan, here’s a link:

https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/

In case you think everybody’s overreacting, here’s a link that explains the importance of insulating ourselves and our communities as well as we possibly can. It can make a huge difference in the number of cases and the outcomes:

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Below is a potpourri of various recommendations for immunizations, graphs and charts, a brief history of coronavirus, and other pertinent information that I’ve copy-and-pasted from websites, mostly the CDC.

When you are 65 years old, please get the PCV-13 first. Then you should get the Pneumovax 6-12 months afterwards. But if you’ve already had your Pneumovax, then get your PCV-13 one year later. If you are younger than 65, you might need a pneumonia vaccine if you have special conditions. Read more at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/public/index.html for more information

Shingles: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/vaccination.html “Two shingles vaccines are licensed and recommended in the United States. Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been used since 2006, and recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been used since 2017, and is recommended as the preferred shingles vaccine.” My vaccine made both my sister and me quite ill briefly, and it does have transiet flu-like side effects for more than half the population, so choose a day when you don’t have much scheduled. We chose a Friday afternoon with a clear weekend.

Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this virus and the outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action.

For historical perspective from the CDC: “An outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, and has spread throughout China and to 31 other countries and territories, including the United States (1). As of February 23, 2020, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China (1). There have been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide; no deaths have been reported in the United States. Fourteen cases have been diagnosed in the United States, and an additional 39 cases have occurred among repatriated persons from high-risk settings, for a current total of 53 cases within the United States. This report summarizes the aggressive measures (2,3) that CDC, state and local health departments, multiple other federal agencies, and other partners are implementing to slow and try to contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. These measures require the identification of cases and contacts of persons with COVID-19 in the United States and the recommended assessment, monitoring, and care of travelers arriving from areas with substantial COVID-19 transmission. Although these measures might not prevent widespread transmission of the virus in the United States, they are being implemented to 1) slow the spread of illness; 2) provide time to better prepare state and local health departments, health care systems, businesses, educational organizations, and the general public in the event that widespread transmission occurs; and 3) better characterize COVID-19 to guide public health recommendations and the development and deployment of medical countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. U.S. public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely, and CDC is coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global partners. Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this novel virus and this outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action by CDC, state and local health departments, health care providers, and communities.

“Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly by respiratory transmission. How easily the virus is transmitted between persons is currently unclear. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath (4). Based on the incubation period of illness for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses, as well as observational data from reports of travel-related COVID-19, CDC estimates that symptoms of COVID-19 occur within 2–14 days after exposure. Preliminary data suggest that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus (5).

Information for travelers: CDC.gov/Travel

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

“There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

“There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.”

Why is it so much more dangerous for elderly people? According to Bruce Aylward (who leads the World Health Organization’s infectious disease response team), “These people are dying of an inflammatory process in their lungs. It’s not an infectious process, like a bacterial or viral infection. It’s inflammatory, like we see with SARS. We’re not sure of the mechanism. We do know the proportion of people who die who had cancer was half compared to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is a little bit lower than those two, and cancer lower again.

Italy is currently locked down. In China, the cases are diminishing. In America, the confirmed cases are growing rapidly!

After all is said and done, I would like to remind people to prepare, but not panic! Prepare, watch, and pray: “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord ” (Proverbs 21:31). Our world, our times, and our lives are ultimately in the hands of the One who has created us. As Solomon taught, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). I am totally convinced that this current plague is intended by God for our good, to bring us all to the foot of the cross, where we can find rest and peace for our souls—and eternal life through faith in Christ—despite the present crisis. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).

Please feel free to write a response, ask any questions, or request me to pray for you specifically.

Hearty New England Clam Chowder

New England clam chowder has been a favorite for Alan and me . . . probably from 47 years ago, when we first tasted the creamy, buttery sensational creation of Paul Bernette, who was the chef at Weber’s Inn.

That’s where we spent the first two nights of our honeymoon, and ever since then, we’ve tasted and admired clam chowders from sea to shining sea! The classic look is white, but I think clam chowder tastes even better if you saute the bacon and veggies until they’re golden brown and crispy, although the trade off is a slightly browner chowder. If you prefer to keep it white, don’t saute the potatoes; rather, add water and let the potatoes boil as soon as the onions are tender.

Rich and Creamy New England Clam Chowder
(Serves 6)

In a frying pan, saute:
4 strips of bite-sized, chopped bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped (optional, but I like celery)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning


Saute in until browned and tender, and then add:
2 tablespoons of flour until mixed
1 bay leaf
3 cups of water and simmer until all vegetables are completely tender, about 10-15 minutes

Five minutes before serving, add:
2 more tablespoons butter
1 cup half n’ half (light cream)
Heat until almost simmering, then add:
1 15-oz. minced clams (add both meat and juice)
Bring to a simmer but DO NOT BOIL! (Boiling makes the clams tough.)

Serve immediately with fresh bread and butter, or crackers, and possibly a tossed salad. This makes a very hearty meal, perfect for a cold night!

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall
never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).


What’s Better Than Life?

So the quandary I’ve been pondering this past week is how to accept Jesus’ challenge to find something even more absorbing than the essentials of physical life on which to focus my thoughts.

Fish Market in Manaus, Brazil

In a way, I knew the answer as soon as I understood how to phrase the question! In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus says, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” But, my first thought was, “Wait, how can anybody not worry about food and shelter? We can’t survive without these basic essentials! Isn’t that true?

Returning to the Iberostar after exploring in a smaller river boat

Yes, that is true, but recently Alan and I were on a vacation where we were reminded again that there’s something even better than life, and we found it on the Amazon.

Aerial View of the Amazon

Well . . . we weren’t checking out the “Amazon” in Seattle that’s taking over the world of commerce in America, we were exploring a few miles of the world’s largest river system and tropical rain forest on the Iberostar Grand Amazon, a lovely 148-passenger cruise liner. But, let me tell you my tale of how I learned that even on the Amazon people have discovered there’s something better than the pursuit of food and shelter in this life.

Amazonia’s water basin meanders through 2,720,000 square miles in nine South American countries and is the greatest watershed on earth, discharging an average of 55 million gallons per second!!

Massive waterways through the Amazonian River System

This massive runoff accounts for 20% of the entire world’s river discharge into our oceans, and that’s more water than is expelled by the next seven rivers combined!

Blue Macaw giving himself a pedicure 🙂

Beyond being the largest water system in the world, Amazonia is home to the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world.

Monkey feasting on the berries from a tree in Brazil

One in ten of the known species throughout the world exist in Amazonia!

Grasshopper stealing a sip from my water glass 😦

For a starter, there are 2.5 million insect species, and before we were allowed to enter the country, we had to have Yellow Fever vaccinations. Because malaria and dengue fever are endemic, we also took oral malaria medication.

Coatie munching a stolen apple

Amazonia also boasts predators like jaguars, pumas, black caiman, anacondas, vampire bats, and poison dart frogs, not to mention a host of other critters that are willing to tangle for their supper, so the possibility for contracting rabies or some other unwanted disease is far from nil.

Houseboat on the Rio Negro

It was in this environment of rich natural resources but extremely humble surroundings that I pondered the question of how any of us can possibly not worry about our food and clothing.

Young fisherman displaying some of his fresh catch of the day

First, I think that no matter where we live, we might have to live like the indigenous people along the Amazon, who get up in the middle of the night to start fishing. Most people (including my husband) work extremely hard to earn their (our) daily bread (or fish)!!

Mother and child loading their fishing boat

Still, God doesn’t want us to allow our need for physical sustenance to be the consuming focus of our thoughts. He wants us to recognize that there is something even more important than the physical world, and something even better than life. Do you know what that is?

Floating supermarket near one of the bigger cities along the Amazon

I found the answer among the tools and sacks of food supplies at this little floating market.

You need it? They’ve got it!
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!”

So I brought home this coarse little towel to remind me of what’s even more important and better than life: The Lord! “Thy lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). With the Lord as our shepherd, we can stop worrying about our physical lives. We don’t have to “want” for anything! As we trust God, He will make a way for us, and when life is over, we will pass through the valley of the shadow of death and dwell with Him forever!

Horses drinking from the Amazon River

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (Psalm 23)

(All photos taken during our trip to Amazonia, Brazil, last week.)

Chand Baori and the Stepwells of India

Ever hear of Chand Baori? It’s in Abhaneri, which is near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Does that help? I didn’t think so! Ever hear of stepwells? If you have, you’re a step well ahead of me! 🙂 (Was that a groan I heard?)

Plaque Explaining Some Details of the Chand Baori Stepwell

Before we visited Chand Baori in India, I didn’t have a clue what stepwells are, and I was unfamiliar with any of the names above!

Chand Baori Stepwell Surrounding and Protecting a Pond

However, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s insignificant! In fact, the word “stepwell” isn’t even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (considered the “gold standard” for many American publishers), but thankfully, it’s in Wikipedia, which explains that stepwells are ponds or wells dug deep into the earth and surrounded by series of steps that descend to the bottom. Stepwells are the brainchild of India and developed as early as the 8th-9th century AD.

Dozens of recessed rooms provide shade from the intense summer heat
at Chand Baori Stepwell

The utilitarian purpose was to provide a water supply even during the hot months of summer drought, although many of the remaining stepwells had shaded rooms that were also a bit cooler, where women (particularly royalty) could rest and socialize.

Harshat Mata Temple Adjacent to Chand Baori Stepwell

Because water is so essential to life, many of the stepwells also provided adjacent temples, where people could worship various gods and thank them for providing water. Over the centuries, some of the more prominent stepwells were elaborately ornamented, and now they are considered national monuments.

Alan and I visited Chand Baori, which is one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning stepwells in India. It has a beautifully symmetrical system of staircases running down 13 stories to about 100 ft. below ground. In all, there are 3,500 stone steps. Chand Baori is truly a work of art and beauty!

Tour guide explaining the significance of various pieces of artwork at Chand Baori

Today Chand Baori also houses various archeological treasures, so it’s a living historical museum as well!

Closeup of the pond at the bottom of the Chand Baori Stepwell

It all looked so beautiful, except the gorgeous green pond was covered with a thick layer of algae and had all sorts of debris floating in it.

I said to myself, “Well, of course they don’t use the water from stepwells any more!”

But, I was mistaken!

Just a few days later, I observed a man collecting water from a stepwell in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

He patiently cleared a space in the algae before gathering his water, but I wasn’t convinced that the water would be very clean, even so!

Since returning home, I’ve thought often about stepwells . . . the fact that I’d never heard of them, but they do exist.

The fact that they are still being used today, even though they probably aren’t very sanitary. How do people survive?

I know everybody thinks their way of doing things is best, and that their gods are the best, but I want to offer Jesus as an alternative to the millions of fearsome gods that are worshiped in India. If you live in India, you may never have heard about Jesus before, but just like I didn’t know about stepwells—and even if Jesus isn’t in your list of gods—that does not mean that Jesus doesn’t exist! Jesus is the “God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47)—everything wonderful wrapped up in one God— and he offers spiritual water that is pure and holy. He is the Lord, “the fountain of living waters” (see Jeremiah 17:13 and Revelation 7:17) who can quench our spiritual thirst: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Tourists and Worshipers Visiting Harshat Mata Temple,
dedicated to the goddess of Joy and Happiness

He is also the author of true joy and happiness: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Chand Baori Stepwell in Abanderi, India

Can you imagine the joy of worshiping the one true God, who is a Spirit and calls for all of us to worship him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:24). This God can provide spiritual water for your soul that will spring up into eternal life. He can protect you from evil. He loves you with an everlasting love and gave Himself so that you can become One with him. His name is Jesus, and He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:6).

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God,
and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

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).