Category Archives: Weather

Tips for Climbing Diamond Head…and One Strange Sign

I’ve read that Oahu’s Diamond Head is the world’s most climbed and photographed extinct volcano.  This iconic landmark of Hawaiian splendor lures over a million tourists to climb up its verdant crown each year, and although we’ve been to Hawaii many times (mostly for conferences, babies and graduations), we never had the leisure to climb Diamond Head until this last trip.  The forecast was for rain, but our mantra is “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” when it comes to weather. Frankly, I can’t remember any time we’ve been disappointed for forging ahead (particularly since most of the time it’s a do-now-or-forever-miss-your-chance sort of situation), so we went anyway. We were rewarded with a cool morning trek and only misty rain from time to time. Although I wouldn’t recommend trying to climb in a thunderstorm, I was pleased to note that there are sturdy guard rails along most of the difficult parts, and the paved path is as artfully rugged as any mountain trail, forcing you to watch your step or sprain your ankle at all times while still providing quite a manageable, fairly skid-proof walking surface.  I saw a few strollers hiding in the bushes awaiting the return of their owners, and very few small children. Two of our sons carried their kids up on their backs about six years ago, but that’s not a particularly easy way to do it either, since my cell phone recorded our ascent as 36 flights of stairs, 82 of which are steep and narrow.  Furthermore, there weren’t too many grey-haired folks among the crowds, and those who were, were pretty trim.  Finally: When you climb up through the last tunnel and see a sign that looks like this, go left!  Both routes take you to the top, but the trail to the right is extremely steep and narrow, so you slow down anybody coming up behind you who thinks they need to be running. Those steep stairs are much easier to handle on your descent! The trail to the left is open and ever upward but lovely, with areas where you can rest and enjoy the panoramic views (or Facetime with you son, as we did with ours!)  The entire trail is crowded, particularly at the top, but the views make up for the traffic jams!   To the south and west you overlook the lush crater and dazzle of Honolulu,  and to the east and north you’re met with soothing vistas of the Pacific Ocean’s turquoise waters and the Diamond Head Lighthouse far below.  There are several methods for tourists to get to the base of the mountain besides walking: Taxi, rental car, trolley, or bus. For $5.50, you can get a day pass for the entire island’s public bus system, which is an amazing deal!  There is a bus stop right at the base of Diamond Head Monument, and it’s a bit of a climb up to the toll booth (just $1 per person), but just past this entrance there are restrooms, drinking fountains, and options for refreshments. The wind was so strong that my wide-brimmed hat kept taking flight, so Alan bought me a baseball cap (which I will always cherish!)  There are no restroom facilities at the top, so take advantage of what they provide at this way station, and think about saving your water for drinking on your descent!  We also stopped for some passion fruit juice and a rainbow shaved ice upon our return, which revived us until we could make our way to the South Side Grill                                                 for an amazing (and cheap!)  lunch of Ono fish’n’chips. (We also took advantage of our day bus pass by ending at the Leonard Street Bakery’s for some of their famous malasadas for dessert.) All in all, it was a perfect day with only unexpected sight: A blue stop sign. Truly! I have never seen a blue stop sign in my entire life…not even in Disney World. Have you? However, after the surprise of seeing a bright blue stop sign, it occurred to me that it really doesn’t matter what color a sign is. It was the normal size and shape, and bore the same message: STOP. I had to think twice about whether or not it was real, but it was at a juncture where it would be totally appropriate to stop.  Moral of my meditation? We can be taken off guard by a warning that doesn’t fit our normal expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Red or blue, “Stop” means “Stop!” If I (or you) have come face to face with a surprising warning, let’s not disregard it just because there’s something different about it (maybe an unusual source or given by someone whom we don’t automatically believe). If we should stop, let’s stop. On Diamond Head or our own back yard!The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12, ESV).

The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:42-43).

 

Has Spring Failed to Install in Michigan?

While my brothers are sending me photos of glorious spring weather
in California and New York City, I’m singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Because, here in Michigan there are still snowflakes sifting down from heaven! There were power outages over the weekend, and over 200 churches closed
(ours included) due to  dangerous, “almost impossible” driving conditions. In Williamston, MI, east of Grand Rapids, my friend, John Bjorlie, posted these three photos from the ice storm that hit their area, with the following caption: “Excellent crop yield this year from our Ice harvest.
The Ice plants were full and fruitful.”  🙂 Yes, if ice were a cash crop, he’d be in the money! Last week our lake was reflecting dreamy blue sky eyes, and our cherry tree was beginning to bud. This morning all our hopes for spring have been put on hold. Our lives are like this sometimes, too, aren’t they? Stormy, fragile, and uncertain. And yet, I believe God cares for us and will continue to provide for us. If you feel like your life is on hold because of unexpected storms—
Be patient and hang tough! Spring will come again!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

P.S.—A big thank you to John to sharing his photos with me. By the way, if you’re looking for an idyllic, rural setting for an event in the Lansing area, John and his wife have a new venue that is open for business. They’ve christened it Rosrmål Barn, after the Norwegian painting style of Rosemåling, so if you’re looking for a place to celebrate, let me know, and I can put you in contact with them!

 

 

Beginning Your Days in the Dark

This devotional was written by a longtime friend who’s also in my writers’ group.  On Valentine’s Day (when our Blue Water Writers’ Group last met), some of us were also able to share lunch together! If you enjoy writing, I hope you get together with other writers for encouragement. I also hope you enjoy this little meditation as much as I did! Yes, it’s still below freezing here in Michigan!

The tricky part about waking early in the morning in the winter is that it’s so dark outside!  I’m struck by how differently things look: the streetlights highlight the trees in unfamiliar ways, making lacy patterns against the inky darkness.                   There’s a mysterious beauty to only seeing what’s illuminated      as I wait for light of dawn, when trees look dark against the light of the sky.  The same is true where I work out; I start in the dark, even though I flip on a light switch. There is a sensor a few feet into the room that activates the lights, so after I flip the switch, I must walk forward in the dark trusting the lights will turn fully on.  This simply act of walking forward in the dark and trusting there will be light reminds me of my faith in God, who illumines our darkness.  Though I may feel I’m walking in darkness of circumstances, understanding or emotion, I pray to walk faithfully, trusting that He will give the light of His love and truth.  His word says that darkness is not dark to Him; He makes darkness flee. I trust He will illumine each step of the way as I continue walking by faith.  This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). For You are my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29, NASB).  Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:12, NASB). The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, NIV).  Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2, NIV).  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His Servant? Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).

(Written by Lisa Walkendorf; we shared the joy of working on illustrations. Thank you, Lisa!)

Failing to Expect the Obvious…and Getting Prepared for Next Time!

                  In Puntarenas, Costa Rica, you can walk right off the ship,  and there are excellent beaches close by, so it was a little hard to resist just spending the day swimming.  However, we wanted some adventure we couldn’t experience in America,  so we opted for a skywalk through the jungle  canopy of the Villa Lapas Rainforest in Carara National Park.  Up until that day, the weather had been gorgeous: Glassy seas, balmy blue skies, and about 82° every day.  The weather forecast was for partly cloudy skies, but there was no rain predicted, so Alan and I left our umbrellas and rain gear in our room and bounced off the ship expecting another gloriously warm, wonderful, dry day.  Even the tour guide agreed with our assessment of the situation, as did everybody on the tour.  After a lovely drive into the countryside, we stopped at Hotel Villa Lapas for a bathroom break (since free public restrooms are pretty much nonexistent).  While there, I noticed a sign listing the nearly 400 species of birds that have been sited in the greater Carara area.  It was a bird-lovers paradise, and the air was filled with singing, although I really couldn’t recognize more than a few species and only got one reasonably good photo of a toucan sitting high up in a tree, where he was checking out the tourists from a safe distance.

We saw a lot of unusual things, like the nests that termites build in the trees,  and some rather attractive iguanas sunning themselves on logs far, far away.  There were butterflies flitting here and there, but they moved so fast among the tree tops that I never did get a single good photo.There were also reputed to be monkeys, but try as we may, we never saw one. On our “skytour” hike, we wound our way through the mountainous rainforest  and across a series of hanging bridges built to span the gaps between the hills.  It was a beautiful day, and we all took delight in enjoying our bird’s eye views  of the vast Pacific Ocean in the distance,  the mountains,  and the jungle surrounding us,  as well as below us!  In the afternoon, the weather became very hot and humid,  and clouds began gathering off in the distance, but in a rather ominous way! In just a few minutes, we could tell that things were going to get ugly! We were about exactly halfway through our hike, so there was no turning back but no easy way to get down the mountainside, either. There was nothing we could do but push on to the finish line! We tried to hurry,
but all of a sudden we were in the midst of a torrential downpour!

This is the last photo I dared to take before wrapping my camera in the folds of blouse. I leaned over so my hat became a bit of an umbrella. The path was treacherously wet and slippery, but thankfully there were some handrails at critical junctures and nobody had a bad fall. By the time we returned to the bus, we were all soaked to the skin. The guys stripped off their shirts and there was literally a stream of water running down the aisle of the bus from all the men trying to wring out their clothes. (We were parked on the mountainside).   In less than an hour, the storm came and went, but we were all soaked, chilled and a little shaken by the sudden cloudburst. And…we had a river cruise to take yet! It was after dark when we finally finished our day—so late that the ship had to wait an hour past departure time for us to get aboard. (Thankfully, if you’re on an official tour from the ship, they won’t leave you stranded.) Although our camera and cell phones survived, our passports got totally drenched and are a bit rumpled to this day, even though they eventually dried out! On the way home, it occurred to me that I should have been better prepared. There’s doubtless a good reason why they’re called rain forests! Next time I’ll carry a small umbrella, just in case! You know, my whole life is kind of like a skywalk through a rainforest! Is yours?   Breathtaking, but it leaves me breathless sometimes…and it’s unpredictable. We have an “umbrella” on our insurance policy. Do you? Did you know there’s an “umbrella” for our spiritual insurance (assurance) too? It’s found in the person of Jesus Christ, who died in our place so that we can have forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to God. We don’t have to worry about the judgment of God, because Jesus is the guarantor for all who trust in him.  So, we can say with Amos: “Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24), because, How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator” (Hebrews 9:14-16).

 


Wildfires: Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

While hurricanes are flooding America’s southeastern seaboard, over 100 wildfires are devastating America’s northwest, and it’s now one of the worst years in U.S. history for acreage burned! I was praying yesterday with three women from California and Washington state, where smoke and heat are making it hard to be outside in some areas. My brother, who lives just east of California’s Bay area, said his thermometer read 114° a few days ago and was over 100° for several days, although it’s now “cooled” down to the 90°s. Yikes! Don’t you wish we could somehow take some of the drenching rains from the east coast and deposit them as showers of blessing on the west coast to stop the fires? There are so many horrible situations around the world where we cannot change what’s going on, but I know the God who can. What? Is God that powerful? Yes! “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). But…could it be possible that the fires and hurricanes are actually fulfilling God’s word? Yes again. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word…” (Psalm 148:7-8).

I know from the book of Job that righteous people can (and do) suffer, but I also know the Bible is full of admonitions for people to return to him after they have forsaken his word and his way, which is what we, as Americans, have been guilty of doing. Unprecedented epidemics of pornography, drugs, alcohol, and other addictions are running as rampant as forest fires, destroying our homes and families. We’re being flooded with hurricane-force winds of ungodly cultural changes, where our morality has turned black into white, exalting as good what God’s word condemns as evil.

God’s word is clear to us: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). America is on fire and is being flooded morally and spiritually. Could it be that God is using the fires and floods we see physically as a merciful reminder to us to turn from our sins and repent?

I’ve been listening to a wonderful series by Jim Berg, called Quieting a Noisy Soul, and one of the things Jim teaches is that God is merciful!  However, true mercy is “rescuing us from our miserable condition,” not giving us whatever we want! Anyone who is living apart from God’s love and laws is in the most miserable condition of all, because they are separated from God and without his eternal life.

God’s word calls us to repent and come to him: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). There is a way to recover from addictions…and it starts by turning to God for help: “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20 NIV).  “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you in need of a Savior? “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11). God can do what no one else can do for us! He can send showers of blessings on the West Coast and turn away the hurricane from the East Coast. Even better, He is also able to cure us of our addictions and teach us the truth so that we won’t be “carried about with divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 13:9). There is no one else who can, which is why I say with King David, “In him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

If you’re in need of spiritual counseling, you can contact me at my email address as a last resort (my name written out as one word—kathryn w armstrong—via gmail), although I would also like to encourage you to find a trustworthy, godly pastor or Christian counselor who lives in your area and with whom you could have better contact.

If you’re interested in joining with me in prayer for ourselves and our nation, please feel free to join our weekly on-line prayer group, which meets every Thursday at noon (EST). You can access it here:  https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-center/

(then, after you’ve opened the above link, click on the link within it that says:  To enter the Prayer Center and to join a live video conference call, please click here.) Here is more information on the next one:

Thursday, September 14, 2017, at 9:00–9:30am, (UTC-08:00), Pacific Standard Time
To determine the time of this service in your local time zone, click here.
Prayer Leader: Mary DePuy

If you’re interested in learning more about how to pray, please join us in a weekly seminar on prayer, which is occurring at noon (EST) every Monday for the next 9 weeks. Information and how to access it can be found here:

https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

Here is more information on the next prayer seminar:

Monday, September 11, 2017:
Prayer in the New Testament
Lecturers: Matthew Dereck and Jonathan Armstrong

In this first official class period, we will introduce the spiritual discipline of prayer as the proper beginning point for theological study. “Theology” means “God-speech,” and we must learn to talk with God before we can learn to speak properly about God. This session looks into Jesus’ prayer life and his seven prayers recorded in the Gospels.

(Let me know if you have any trouble accessing these resources, and I can try to help you figure it out. It’s pretty easy, but I had trouble the first time, too, so I know it helps to have someone “walk you through it.”)

Timely Thoughts from Charles Spurgeon’s on Hurricane Irma

For today— September 7—I read this encouragement in Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening: “The Cruel Sea: We have no idea what sorrow may be on the sea this evening. Far away, a hurricane may be seeking the lives of sailors…” Spurgeon died over 120 years ago, but his words still ring true today!  Hurricane Irma is a deadly Category 5 tropical storm that’s furiously pounding it’s way toward Florida with an eye larger than Detroit and a mass that would more than engulf  the entire state of Michigan (where I live). Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary General spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, reported that “Across the western Caribbean, up to 37 million people could be affected by Irma,” and Meteorologist Phil Klotzback observed: “Forecasters say Irma is the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, outside the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean. It has also set a new all-time high for the amount of wind energy ever recorded over a 24-hour period.” (Speeds of over 188 mph were recorded.) At least ten people have died so far. In St Martin and St Barts there’s no drinking water or electricity, homes are destroyed and public buildings are unusable. Hurricane Irma passed directly over Barbuda, destroying their communication and making it impossible to determine the condition of the 1700 people living there.  With Guyana and Texas still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey just days ago (causing over 140 deaths in the Western Hemisphere and an estimated $188 billion in damages to the greater Houston metro area alone), the U.S. is hardly prepared to face another huge disaster.  However, unless Irma makes an unexpected turn, it’s possible that she could sweep right up the heart of Florida, affecting multiple millions from Miami through Orlando and even up to Charleston and Charlotte in the Carolinas. My sister, who lives in Orlando, is closing her hurricane shutters and buying up drinking water and food…along with everyone else who’s not heading north. We wondered if she should join the exodus along with the hundreds of thousands who’ve been told to evacuate Miami and Dade counties, but gas stations are out of gas and roads are clogged, so she’s decided to stay put and pray for “the best,” whatever that may be. Storms sometimes seem to develop out of nowhere. Irma started brewing up just this past week. In considering the probable disaster that this storm may bring, I think it’s a good time for all of us to be thinking about our own lives. What can we can to be prepared for the storms of life? There are a few safety measures we can take to prepare for physical dangers, but there are also some really important spiritual preparations we can make. Do you know the God who rules the storms? Have you made peace with Him? Are you trusting Him with your life, not only now but for eternity? If so, you will find comfort in this:Spurgeon concluded his devotional for today with these words, “There is a land where there is no more sea (Revelations 21:1), and our faces are steadfastly set toward it. We are going to the place the Lord told us about. Until then, we cast our sorrows on the Lord who walked the sea of old. Our Lord makes a way for His people through the depths of the sea.”

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Matthew 7:24-25).  Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.” (Psalm 69:1-2; 15-17).

(Information gathered from the Detroit Free Press, Miami HeraldAssociated Press, Charlotte Observer, ABC News, CNN, Wikipedia, and other online sources.)

 

Hurricane Harvey: A Truly Epic Storm

A blog follower from India asked what’s happening with the rain in America, so I thought maybe this would be a good day to share what’s going on with Hurricane Harvey. So far, it’s the biggest rainstorm in continental U.S. history, and it’s still raining, so we have no clue what’s yet to come. Hurricane Harvey started as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on August 13, 2017, made landfall on August 26 at Rockport, Texas as a Class 4 hurricane, went back out to sea and has returned again this morning. Hurricane Harvey has unleashed over 50 inches of rain east of Houston, and it’s still raining this morning.  The record so far is 51.9 inches near Mont Belvieu, TX  (40 miles east of Houston). The downpour also caused one key reservoir to spill over, which has led to the largest flood in Houston’s history. Although isolated areas of Hawaii have had more rain, the overall effect of Harvey has had no rivals in American history, dropping about 3 feet of rain over most of the Houston region—some estimated 9 trillion gallons of water!— which affects more than five million people. According to the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin, the probability for such a storm is about one per thousand years! Last Sunday morning, the National Weather Service tweeted: “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

One problem that’s gaining attention concerns the wildlife, which are swirling in the floods. There are hundreds of thousands of American alligators in Texas (some seen have been up to 8 feet long), 23 species of snakes (all of which can swim, but only 5 of which are poisonous), and billions of invasive fire ants (who are the ultimate survivors, because they band together by the thousands to produce massive flotillas up to several feet across). In addition, there are all the usual wildlife common throughout America, such as deer and coons, that haven’t been able to flag down a Noah’s ark for rescue and are trying to find safety. For example, under the Waugh Bridge near downtown Houston, a colony of 300,000 free-tailed bats have lost their home in the surging waters.

Of course, the most pressing issue is saving human lives. Fire fighters from around the country are arriving to help, and even civilians who own pleasure boats are coming to aid in the rescue efforts. I saw an interview of one man who said “I got tired of watching it from the comfort of my own home” and decided to help. He had rescued over 2 dozen victims last night and this morning. The death toll has confirmed 30 dead, but untold numbers are missing. One center was trying to prepare dry clothing and food for 5,000, but so far over 8,600 have come for help.

In the midst of all the horror and grief, there have been some bright spots. Several news reporters pointed out that people were responding with compassion towards everyone…regardless of race…no questions asked about creed! One man pointed out that the heart of America doesn’t come out “when there are pitched political shows, we see the heart and the true nature of our country when you have a tragedy strike like this. Everybody wants to help.” Praise God for that mercy!

However, the tragedy is still very much in the making. Harvey’s path inland is producing some bleak predictions for Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and even into the Ohio River Valley. Please stay tuned, and thank you to all who are helping and praying. The estimates of economic damages are up to 50+ billion dollars, and I’ve noticed that charities such as Samaritan’s Purse are accepting gifts as they try to respond to the crisis.

Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).