Category Archives: Visual Illustrations for Bible Verses

Rise Up, My Love (222): How Can We Reciprocate God’s Love for Us?

bread-and-wine-and-candlesSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.” So many of the sacred lessons I’ve learned from this book came during quiet times of meditation during our chapel’s weekly communion service. These next thoughts came as I pondered our text during one of those communion services. There were two questions on my mind. #1. The Lord gave his body as bread and wine to be broken and poured out for us…not only for our salvation, but for daily spiritual food and drink that we might have a spiritually abundant life of “feasting” on and with him. In return, what exactly (if anything) can we bring to him for the love feast? #2. What is the significance of “liquor” rather than wine, and “heap of wheat” rather than bread? The answer to the first question, is, I think, a resounding and thrilling, “Yes!” challah-bread-and-candle-10-15-16We can offer to our Lord what he has given us—our body, open and available for his delight. As a woman cannot produce offspring by herself, but rather by joyfully receiving her husband’s seed and allowing it to penetrate her being, spark new life, take root in her womb, and grow to fruition…even so can we delight our Lord by receiving with joy his living seed…the Word of God, and allowing it to penetrate our being until it sparks new life, which we allow to incubate within us…receiving our life blood of time, love, and spiritual resources until it comes to birth as a spiritual babe…to be suckled and brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is much harder than simply coming to the communion table each week and taking in all the Lord has provided for us, but if it is the longing of our heart to delight him as he delights us…this is the way, for he has told us the secret in this verse! To him, our navel is drink indeed, and our belly wheat. That in us which allows for spiritual reproduction is a spiritual feast for Christ. fresh-rolls-11-25-16Do you remember the account from the fourth chapter of John where the disciples leave a very weary Christ by the well and go into town to buy provisions? When they return and urge him to eat, what is his response? “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (John 4:32). The disciples…always thinking in physical terms…wondered if someone had brought him lunch. But, notice his reply; it had nothing to do with physical food. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:34-35). What had Jesus feasted on in the disciples’ absence? The joy of one sinner coming to faith in Christ…the refreshment of imparting living water to one fainting heart. What was his aspiration for his disciples? That they see the multitudes of people in need of salvation. Would you like to provide a love feast for your master? Open up your navel to be filled with the wine of the Spirit. Feast on the Bread of Life until your belly is as round and lustrous as a “heap of wheat set about with lilies”…filled with the Word, fragrant, and protected by purity. Allow yourself to become fruitful in producing spiritual offspring for your Lord. In this way, you will become a “love feast” to refresh your bridegroom!

Table Mountain: One of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders

view-of-table-mountain-from-distanceIconic Table Mountain is the most beloved and photographed landmarkyellow-fynbos-edges-the-view-of-cape-town-from-table-mountain in all of South Africa. lions-head-and-long-lines-at-table-mountainEvery year more than 800,000 visitors ascend to the top (so come early)!hiking-path-up-table-mountainSome hike up the steep mountainsides, aerial-cable-car-going-up-table-mountainbut most ascend the way we did: via a revolving aerial cable way view-going-up-table-mountainwhile enjoying 360° panoramic views of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean. view-of-table-mountainTable Mountain is 3,563 feet at its highest point,
although the Back Table is a two-mile long, level plateau of “table top.”

aerial-cable-car-ascending-table-mountainSome geologists estimate that Table Mountain’s mesa was formed by volcanic and glacial action during the Ordovician Period some 5oo-600 million years ago, making it at least six times older than the Himalayas and one of the oldest mountains in the world. panoramic-view-of-cape-town-from-lions-head-to-devils-peakRegardless of it’s exact age, Table Mountain is ancient, and it’s the only terrestial feature on earth that has a constellation named for it: Mensa, meaning “the table,” so named by the French astronomer, Nicolas de Lacaille back in 1763 after a two-year study of 10,000 stars in the Southern Hemisphere.

plaque-on-table-mountainTable Mountain is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. world-floral-kingdoms-at-table-mountainThe Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s plant kingdoms, orographic-clouds-forming-behind-lions-head-gorgeous-wildflowers-near-table-mountainbut the richest for its size, boasting 8,500 distinct species, silvery-leaved-native-species-of-plants-in-cape-peninsula1,470 of which occur on Table Mountain and the Back Table. diverse-plants-in-cape-town-and-around-table-mountainThat is more than all the plant species in the United Kingdom!yellow-fynbos-and-trails-up-table-mountainSadly, 70% of the plants are endemic (found no where else in the world), lilies-on-table-mountainand despite incessant attempts at conservation, this area also has the highest number of threatened species of any equivalently-sized continental area. visiting-the-top-of-table-mountainWe only had an hour to explore the top, but there are many hiking trails of varying lengths to experience Table Mountain’s beauty. cape-town-as-seen-from-table-mountainThere are jeep trails up the steep slopes that make first class mountain bike paths, the most famous being Plum Pudding Hill.steep-sides-of-table-mountainRock climbing and caving are also popular sports.
The largest cave is Wynberg, but over 100 caves
have been discovered in the peninsula and on Table Mountain. yellow-fynbos-and-shop-at-the-top-of-table-mountainGood maps are available, and if you decide to go exploring, be sure to buy a map, because dense mists can descend without warning any time of the year. table-cloth-spreading-over-table-mountain-saIn fact, the flat top of the mountain is notorious for being enveloped
in orographic clouds,  orographic-tablecloth-covering-table-mountainwhich are formed when the moist sea air rises to the top of the mountain
and hits colder air. alan-on-top-of-table-mountainWhile we were visiting, we were able to enjoy one of these dramatic changes orographic-clouds-forming-on-table-mountainfrom sunny to cloudy in a matter of minutes.

table-cloth-of-clouds-over-table-mountainThe locals call this effect “spreading the table cloth,” and legend has it that the foggy table cloth is caused by a smoking match between the Devil and the Dutch pirate, Van Hunks. table-cloth-clouds-on-table-mountainWhat do you think? Do you believe that legend? I’m always charmed by legends, which are known to be fictitious. I’m not so charmed by scientists who promote their theories as fact. view-of-cable-way-station-and-cape-town-from-table-mountainFor instance,  I don’t think anybody can “prove” how the world came to be. Personally, I believe God created the earth with the appearance of age. I believe each “day” was a period of time, like the word “day” is used in other passages, such as “the day of the Lord.”clouds-move-in-to-cover-table-mountain I don’t know if a “day” had 24 hours or one nanosecond or 600 million years, but I believe God spoke and it happened. Our world did not need 600+million years to evolve.clifton-beach-from-table-mountain“Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could…” (as Maria Von Trapp sings). But, I don’t think our world’s beauty comes from our doing something good in our childhood or from eons of evolution, atlantic-ocean-of-cape-peninsula-saI believe the biblical account, which says that our gorgeous planet was created by God, who is the definition of goodness and omnipotence. How about you?
orographic-clouds-obscuring-view-of-cape-town-from-table-mountainIn the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)

Rise Up, My Love (209): Where are You Twining your Vine?

The Sea of GalileeSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” First, the bride looked to see if she could see any fruit in the valley. Next, she looked to see “whether the vine flourished.” Notice that it is not “vines” as in many vines in a vineyard, but just one vine.   secret-garden-mackinac-island-9-18-05From John 15 we know that Christ is the true vine and we are the branches. How quickly reading about the vine flourishing brings to mind thoughts of believers abiding in Christ! The bride concerns herself not only with seeking new fruits for her Lord, but with the growth of the vine already established in the garden…the growth of the Church, the body of Christ. Indeed, the bride is the body of Christ here on earth. To go into the garden to examine the vine makes me think of going into a quiet place alone before God and prayerfully examining my own life. Am I flourishing? Am I abiding in Christ? Am I receiving an unobstructed flow of his Spirit, or is there any crushing weight of sin that has partially broken off my attachment to the vine? As I put forth delicate new tendrils, are they attaching firmly to the sturdy supports provided by the husbandman, or are the young shoots of my new growth waving free in the breeze…aimlessly waiting for any handy support?  garden-in-bunratty-folk-park-irelandDo you know much about vines? I still don’t know much, but I learned a little from planting a grape arbor along the fence around our swimming pool. The branches of the grape vines aren’t very smart! They don’t naturally seem to attach themselves to the sturdy fence provided. After returning from a vacation and inspecting my vines that June, I noticed that many of the young shoots were growing straight up into the air toward the sun, and one had wound its way tightly around a young nectarine tree that was planted nearby.  twining-vines-and-a-frogHow like humans, I thought! How often—particularly in our youthful ignorance— we tend to wave about in the breeze of life like the tendrils of young plants, just looking for someone or some group to shower us with sunny approval. Too often we go to the “highest bidder”…whoever pays the most attention or makes us feel most important, rather than bending down in humility and attaching ourselves to the sturdy fence “beneath” us (usually parents and other God-given guides). And yet, to be truly productive, we must learn to lean on our supports and abide in the Vine.  climbing-roses-on-a-brownstone-cottage-cotswold-englandEven after we’ve matured somewhat, we’re in still greater need of support, or we’ll never be able to “bear the weight of glory” so to speak…including the horrific pressures of bringing up children. Beyond that, think of all the people who’ve become prominent in society and then failed miserably. Even many extremely gifted Christians come apart at the seams when given lime light. Like fruit trees heavy with promise, their branches literally break under the load, and they lose much of the precious crop that was ripening within them. Trees that have lost branches are more open to infections. Sometimes the damage is so great that the entire tree becomes diseased and dies, or has to be pruned out of the orchard lest the infection spreads.

Isn’t that the way life is? Tenderly, I took the new shoots, carefully weaving them in and out of the fence. The ones that had grown straight up for too long were inflexible and commonly, despite my best efforts, would break off or require tying to retrain them. The shoot that had wound its way tightly around the nectarine had to be broken off completely, lest it choke the young nectarine. Ah, how our like our human tendency to reach up for glory or attach ourselves to someone or something else beside the one true God. Brokenness, retraining, wasted time, and sometimes a severe loss of life or limb. Such is our lot when we are wayward, for the Lord does promise to prune and chasten all whom he loves  (Revelation 3:19). He works with us so that we’ll become fruitful!peaches-in-the-sun

Rise Up, My Love (205): Clear as the Sun

i-want-to-walk-in-the-light-as-he-is-in-the-light-please-pray-for-me-and-if-youll-tell-me-i-will-pray-for-you-tooSong of Solomon 6:10 “Clear as the sun.” What a challenge! As I study this magnificent book, I am acutely aware of two things: first, Solomon is writing about a real person; and second, in a deeper sense, the Lord is picturing his bride. For my part, I am striving to become like this treasure of a wife to my earthly husband and like the beloved bride to my heavenly Lord. When I come to a description like this one, I stand in awe. How could anyone truly have a countenance “clear as the sun?” …even granted that the sun isn’t perfectly pure in God’s sight? sun-behind-kids-at-ludington-state-park Think of the sun. To the naked eye, it looks like a perfectly round, perfectly pure, golden globe. The sun is the monarch of the sky; it has been commonly worshiped around the world by heathen as “queen of the heavens” because its energy is the source of heat and light for our whole earth, and without that amazing radiance, we are told that life could not exist. hot-sun-setting-on-mediterranean-seaThe sun shines with an intensity that will blind anyone who dares to meet her gaze or attempts to stare her down. The sun appears to be perfectly clear and perfectly constant. Since time began, the sun has been rising and setting with perfect regularity, marking the times and seasons. Let’s take all these characteristics of the sun and imagine what Solomon might have meant when he described his wife as “clear as the sun.”sunshine-in-alaska-fjord To have a countenance like the sun would be to have a countenance that is transparent, pure, constant, brilliant, and life giving. “Clear”…transparent—a woman who has nothing to hide…who is without guile, deceit, or hypocrisy…who has no hidden agenda and no secret plans to manipulate her husband or those around her. What a worthy goal for women (and all of us who are believers)! winter-sun-on-rose-hipsPure—no taint of sin…no tarnish of covetousness…of wishing for what is someone else’s…be it husband, personal qualities, or possessions. No heart of envy or propensity for idolatry, rebellion, or dishonesty. What wouldn’t a husband give to have such a virtuous, trustworthy wife? Constant—steady as the sun…always warm (hot!), always bright, always clear, always there. sun-burst-behind-cloudsThe sun doesn’t run away and hide; it never refuses to shine; it is not fickle….here today and gone tomorrow. No, it is the weather changing on the earth that makes us unable to receive the sunlight when clouds arise and the world turns; it is not the sun that changes her mood! chestnut-trees-in-bloom-at-kensington-park-londonOh, that as women we (and all of people) might be as constant as the sun, always there, always steady, always burning with incredible heat. Brilliant—not just existent…not just there…not only constant but brilliant…beautiful, full of wisdom, understanding, compassion, and the incredible heat of unfailing love—the reflection of the Lord’s glory. Does such a woman exist? But, wouldn’t you like to be such a woman? I would!

Celebrating 100 Years of Inspiration: America’s National Parks

Rafting in the Grand TetonsGuess what? Today marks the 100th birthday of America’s National Park Services! To celebrate, the park services are offering free admission to their 59 national parks from right this minute through Sunday. If you live close enough, I hope you can take advantage of this offer and celebrate by enjoying some of Americans gorgeous 51.9 million acres of national parklands! Mt_Saint_Elias Wiki Public DomainDid you know that our largest national park is in Alaska? Wrangell-St. Elias has over 8 million acres and is larger than each of our nine smallest states! As I looked at all the fascinating parks available, I realized that I’ve only seen 28 of them in my 65 years. I think after Alan and I retire, I want to see a bunch more! Yellowstone ParkBack in 1872, Yellowstone became America’s first national park, and it is still among my favorites. Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir in YosemiteFor those of you who are Disney aficionados like our family, you probably remember John Muir urging Teddy Roosevelt to start a national park to protect Yosemite from redwood lumbering, lamenting, “…or what will our children inherit, seedlings?” Actually, that was back in 1903, and I found an excerpt on the Sierra Club’s website from Teddy Roosevelt’s journals about that trip: Yosemite National Park“John Muir met me with a couple of packers and two mules to carry our tent, bedding, and food for a three days’ trip. The first night was clear, and we lay down in the darkening aisles of the great Sequoia grove. The majestic trunks, beautiful in color and in symmetry, rose round us like the pillars of a mightier cathedral than ever was conceived even by the fervor of the Middle Ages. Hermit thrushes sang beautifully in the evening, and again, with a burst of wonderful music, at dawn.” Isn’t that poetic?Yellowstone FallsIt wasn’t until August 25, 1916 that Woodrow Wilson officially created a National Park Service, and since that time, they have established 450 areas that are protected because of their historical, cultural, recreational, and/or natural beauty. Quite a heritage for Americans, and for the world at large! Grand TetonsAs someone entering her senior years, this makes me stop to ponder what I’m leaving as a heritage for my children and those around me. I pray that what I leave is worth possessing..and much more of wisdom than wealth.

Family ReunionA good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.
(Proverbs 13:22)  Children playing on shore of lake in Grand TetonsThe just man walks in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” (Proverbs 20:7)Father tying son's shoe

The Joint Commission and White Glove Inspections

Judge looking down on Mr. ToadLast week the Joint Commission came to town, which is sort of the polar opposite of Santa Claus coming to town and was the reason Alan absolutely had to be at work every day, blizzard or no blizzard. judgeI’d never even heard of the Joint Commission until the last decade, but it’s the accrediting agency for more than 20,000 health care organizations in the U.S., including the hospital where Alan serves as CMO. Santa's Christmas ListUnlike Santa, the Joint Commission’s visit comes as a surprise on an unpredictable date so that all has to be in ready as of last August until???
Rather than leaving Santa a gift list or Santa’s leaving gifts in the stockings of good employees, Grinch looking for a crumb the Joint Commission surveys every aspect of hospital care, searching in the crooks and crannies of the hospital for any crumb of disarray and leaving behind an exacting list of what needs to be perfected. Inspecting for dirtIt reminds me of the “White Glove Inspections” we used to have at my Alma mater. Before the Thanksgiving festivities, our dorm rooms were inspected and had to be spit spot, spit polished and so clean the supervisor could run her white-gloved hand along any crevice and not find dust. (That’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture.) We won’t know the final outcome from the week-long Joint Commission survey for 10 days, but Alan felt hopeful that things went very well. If so, the prize will be accreditation for 3 more years…a worthy reward, and essential for the continuance of the hospital as we know it!! The Bible as our lightI was caught by this comment from Wikipedia: “Preparing for a Joint Commission survey can be a challenging process for any healthcare provider. At a minimum, a hospital must be completely familiar with the current standards, examine current processes, policies and procedures relative to the standards and prepare to improve any areas that are not currently in compliance with.” The parallels with Santa coming to town, Mr. Toad in court, and the Grinch are all in fun, but there are sincerely compelling parallels for us as humans. On an unexpected and unknown day, we will each stand before God to give an account for our lives. In order to be prepared, I believe we  should “be completely familiar with the current standards, examine current processes, policies and procedures relative to the standards and prepare to improve any areas that are not currently in compliance with.” God has given us the Bible as our standard. Are we daily familiarizing ourselves with the guidelines, examining our processes, and improving in any areas where we aren’t in compliance with scriptural standards? I pray that we either are or will!!

Bible. John 6.29“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The Value of Salt: Pink vs White or What? شط الجريد‎ Šoṭṭ el-Jarīd

Pink River in TunisiaHave you ever seen a pink river? Chott el Djerid. Tunisia Pink River I saw one flowing into “Chott el Djerid” in Southern Tunisia. Salt Flats in Southern TunisiaIn Star Wars, Chott el Djerid is the setting for the Lars Homestead. Chott el Djerid. Tunisia in SummerWe visited in June, when temperatures sometimes soar to 122°F (50°C),
causing intense evaporation so that the lake becomes a great salt flat. Chott el Djerid. Tunisia 1In fact, Chott el Djerid is the largest salt pan in the Sahara Desert:
5,000 square kilometers (2,700 sq. miles)! Beautiful Pink Salt Chott el Djerid. TunisiaOne of the most fascinating aspects of Chott el Djerid is that the water
is tinged with iron oxide, giving the salt a beautiful pink tint! Pink Himalayan SaltIt reminds me of the pink Himalayan salts that have become popular in America, famous for some 80± trace minerals
and touted by health food enthusiasts as particularly beneficial.  Iron Oxide in water Chott el Djerid. TunisiaHowever, I can’t find any peer-reviewed scientific research to verify this. Salt crystals Chott el Djerid. Tunisia In fact, analysis reveals that some of the Himalayan salts also contain trace elements of radioactive substances like uranium, radium, and polonium,
not to mention substances that can be poisonous, like thallium. Colored SaltsIt seems the scientific stance is that these trace elements—good and bad—
are too insignificant to be helpful or harmful,
so it appears you can choose pink or white—or whatever—as your palate pleases. Salt Chott el Djerid. TunisiaHowever, keep in mind that white table salt is often enhanced with iodine, which is a particularly good thing for those of us who live in areas like the Great Lakes, where iodine deficiency has historically been a problem. Desert Roses Chott el Djerid. TunisiaIf you go pink, consider adding more dairy, soy, and ocean-harvested foods
to your diet, or find another good source for iodine. Mining Pink Salt. TunisiaWhatever you choose, you gotta love salt, right? Lake Chott el Djerid. TunisiaWhere would we be without salt to bring out the flavor in our foods?! Largest salt pan in Sahara Chott el Djerid. TunisiaHow about in our spiritual lives? Got any salty friends? How about you and me? Pink Salt Chott el Djerid. TunisiaAre we salty?  I wonder what trace elements we’re carrying…
I hope nothing radioactive or poisonous! Salt Crystals 2 Chott el Djerid. TunisiaFather, please refine us and enhance our spirits
so that we promote health in those around us.  Grains of salt Chott el Djerid. Tunisia“Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9:50).

(All the photos were taken in Southern Tunisia last summer, except for the 2 photos of various salts, which were taken at my local grocery store here in Michigan.)