Saturday, January 30, 2010

This is at a small town in the mountains of Costa Rica yesterday. It was an awesome tour of the country-side and small towns with lots of information given about the country. Here we are eating empanadas made by locals after a dance performance by some children in the town. They got to do the show because they had good grades. It's their Summer break now. It was lots of fun. My favorite so far.
This is the beach were we docked at Puntarenas. All through those trees are dozens of little shops selling everything you can imagine. Pretty beach, but really a very hot day. Upper 90's again. I heard there was a snow storm in SL!

This is the children doing one of their dances. I'll try to do another blog after Acapulco tomorrow. God bless.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

South and Central America

Theses are three quick picks from over 250 pictures of the last three days. Wish I could put more up but the cost is high and the downloading is sooo slow. This is Donna with the port of Cartagena around us. Neat tour. Temps where 98 & we both got sunburned. I know, you really feel sorry for us.
The Panama Canal transit was incredible - to say the least. There is no way the pics do it justice. We started at 5 am and finished about 3 pm. We watched it all! It was really amazing to see it work especially when you remember it was build over 100 years ago. We have tons of pics and even this one is hard to appreciate because you can't imagine how huge it is.

Yesterday we did a tour of Panama City. We saw both the old and the new. The high rise buildings in new Panama City is unbelievable. It was a neat tour, in the 90's again but not nearly as tiring a hike as Cartagena was. We are at sea today and will be in Costa Risa tomorrow. It's been a wonderful trip so far, but, as usual, we've been eating way too much. I feel a long diet coming on when we get back.
Next pics in a couple days. God bless.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Aruba & More

Okay, just few words. That last blog cost eleven dollars! Out our balcony we are watching the coast of Columbia go by. Wow! Yesterday we were in Aruba and it was pretty neat. The above and below pics are of our short communion devo we had in our room yesterday afternoon - after the Aruba stop. 13 in a small room, but it was a lot of fun.

This is Donna, my sister Becky (left) and Vickie Lipham on the beach in Aruba. Most of the time was spent shopping, but we felt like we just couldn't go to Aruba and not walk on the beach. We did A LOT of walking.

This is Donna, Becky, and me posing during our shopping/walk on the beach trip. It was a beautiful place. We are in Caragena today so I'll try to do a blog in 2 or 3 days. Maybe after the Canal trip. God bless.

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Full Day at Sea

Any time to eat! It's what we do best. We are having a blast with lots of great friends and the constant challenge to enjoy every moment to eat good food. Here we are eating lunch today in the Horizon Court Buffet. Ummm breakfast was not too long ago. Anyway, this Buffet is at the front of the ship but you can't see that out these front window. Take my word for it - it's beautiful! And did I mention it's in the 80's outside!
Don Rose and I were waiting for the computer geek to show up at the Computer Cafe so I could get hooked up to the ships wifi service. This string trio were playing down in the atrium and it was so beautiful. Have a great day! We will. These posts will be short on writing and long on pics - it's .75 cents a minute to be online. God bless.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just Wait!

FYI for those who check this blog out regularly and wonder when the next one will appear. We leave on vacation in the morning, but since I'm now the proud owner of a lap top computer and know, I think, how to download pictures from my camera onto the computer, the plan is to do a blog every day or so about our vacation. So - stay tuned and see what happens. The first one will probably be on Friday sometime.

May God bless you with a wonderful day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"I need to be baptized by you...!"

I'm pretty pumped! In two days we leave for our first ever vacation to a warm place in the middle of winter. The only time every year that I even remotely think about being on a sunny beach is during a long cold winter when it sounds so good. It's gonna happen, Lord willing, and for fifteen days! It's been a long time since I was so excited about traveling and taking a long vacation. I have been looking forward to this for a good while now.
The last couple of Sunday's we have been in Mark 1 looking at John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. Talk about longing to see something - have you ever wondered how John must have felt as he looked up and saw Jesus walking toward him to be baptized? He'd spent his life preparing to be a preparer! He had a clear sense of purpose as he proclaimed that the Messiah was coming and he was preparing the way for him. He knew Jesus - they were related, and probably spent time together on many occasions during their thirty years of growing and waiting for the right time to start their ministry. To carry out his task, John lived a life of self denial and hardship. Once he began his ministry there was total commitment and focus, even to the point of disregarding food, clothing, and political pressure. He longed to see the Lamb of God step forward and begin his ministry of saving the world.
Can you imagine John standing waist deep in the river Jordan, urging people to change their lives and get ready for the coming of God's Kingdom, and then finally seeing Jesus standing on the shore, waiting his turn to be baptized by John? John knew who he was and he felt unworthy to be baptizing Jesus. He'd already said he was unworthy to tie his sandals, and now he was supposed to baptize him - the Lamb of God?
Talk about a mixture of emotions? John was filled with excitement to see all his dreams taking place. Then there is the thrill of seeing God's plan coming together, and the satisfaction of knowing he had done his job. But there is also the humility of knowing he must decrease.
The joy of seeing Jesus changes how you look at everything. One of these days Jesus will be meeting us at the river Jordan - the one we have to cross to be with him. I hope we will all be as excited to see him as John was.
Now that's a trip truly worth looking forward to!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Okay, my church family won't even see this until tomorrow, so don't tell anyone that I gave my blog readers a sneak peak. This is the logo for this year's Bible Action Musical. The story of Esther is really much more complicated and multifaceted than most of us think it is. That makes writing a play/musical about it very difficult. Lot's of scene changes, which is a killer for stages without curtains or a real backstage. Still, I finished the script just before Christmas and the music has been picked out since the Fall, and I really feel good about it. I think it will be the best musical yet. It's number five for Florissant, and it will be a fun experience for all of us who put it on and everyone who sees it. There are a lot of new things in terms of format and casting, and it has the highest number of songs of any play we've done (24). We have my usual mixture of Oldies R&R, Broadway tunes, and Praise songs. I had a lot of fun writing all new lyrics for all the Broadway tunes and most of the Oldies songs. It has some of the funniest use of songs that we've ever had. It will be fast moving and extremely entertaining, but still tell a very moving story about a simple Hebrew girl becoming queen of Persia. We've got a HUGE critter that will appear, but no official narrators! Told you it was different.
I'm introducing it tomorrow morning after our assembly time, we will accept applications to be in the cast until Feb.7th, casting will be done by Feb.14th, and our first read through will be on the 21st. Our rehearsals start March 3rd and we have three months to pull it all together.
Love to have you here! As always, it's the first full weekend in June. Four shows: Thursday the 3rd through Sunday the 6th.
Isn't that logo cool? I can't wait to order our T-shirts!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Personal Paul

I like Paul. That may sound weird to some, because aren't we all suppose to like the great missionary apostle who wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament? Yes, of course, but it took me a long time to personally like Paul. Respect, admire, and diligently study? Absolutely, but I had a hard time really identifying with him as a real person - a struggling saint like the rest of us, because after all, he was the ultimate teacher, the super apostle, the mega-Christian whose feet didn't really touch earth - he just floated a couple of feet off the ground. He was INSPIRED! He was the source of most theological exegesis, discussion, and debate! He was the Man-With-The-Plan and what he said was Gospel! It didn't help that for a long time I didn't fully understand many of the things he wrote about. Hey - some of my favorite professors and mentors couldn't agree on what Paul was saying, who am I to think I have him figured out?
Like I said at the beginning, I like Paul. It took a lot of digging and meditating on his personal letters to churches and co-workers to truly, and finally, see the man, but now I do. I had to quit shredding his flow of thought while looking for proof-texts and patterns. I had to stop thinking of his writings as his input into the Bible. I also had to force myself to cease my relentless pursuit of his work looking for all the "do's & don't's" of self-righteousness and legalism, which I had been trained to look for. Once I started seeing a real man of God, with weaknesses, struggles, and faults of his own, who wasn't holding himself up as the "ultimate," the most dynamic, or even the top anything. He was driven by only one thing, telling people that Jesus was the Son of God and He rose up from the dead to prove it! When you stop reading his letters like they were theological treatises and start seeing his passion for the Gospel and his love for his brethren, they become beautiful shared gifts, full of the spirit of Christ. I don't skim through those closing verses with names, requests, and challenges any more. They show us how personal his letters were as he shares his victories, struggles, and plans. In turn, that helps me see his pleading, pointing, and pushing in the rest of his letter as shared love not laying down the law. It's impossible to understand 1 & 2 Timothy if you don't sense his concern for Timothy and the predicament his young son in the faith was in. Corinth would have been written up and written off by every church in the brotherhood today, but Paul lovingly guided and challenged them to stay focused on Jesus. No other author of scripture shared a list of physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles like Paul did in 2 Corinthians 11, and then in the next breath confessed to a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him humble and trusting in God.
Yes, I like him, and I feel like I'm finally starting to "get" what he was writing about in his letters. I can't wait to talk to him face to face or spirit to spirit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

If You Really Want It...

I know everyone is not intrigued by what happens behind our house, but I knew the family would get a kick out of seeing this picture from yesterday afternoon. I had a picture of the kids playing hockey last week, but I thought this says a lot about their dedication and determination to play. Before they could play, they had to shovel off about four inches of snow on the ice. Their shovels are hard to see, but they're laying in the snow just behind their goal. That was a lot of shoveling. I couldn't get all of their homemade rink in the picture. I thought it was neat that they even brought along chairs, snacks, and spectators. It was about 25 degrees yesterday afternoon. Hey - that's a heat wave compared to the last week. There's a lesson there somewhere about if you want to do something badly enough - you'll find a way to make it happen.
That reminds me - this is the last week of bow season...

Friday, January 08, 2010

I had to laugh at a short report on one of the national TV news programs talking about "Are there hidden meanings behind Avatar?" Duh. Maybe double Duh! What made me laugh was the discussion about the "hidden meaning" of capitalism vs. ecology. I guess maybe it's easier to talk about philosophies than history, but anyone with even a trace understanding of American History could see the parallel between Avatar's plot and the sad fate of the American Indians. I think any college or even graduate class in the world could show Avatar and use it to explain "Western Expansion," "Manifest Destiny," or Turner's "Frontier". In a nutshell, "You've got it. We want it. Make a deal or die!" That pretty much sums up our dealing with the original Americans and the victims of "capitalism" in Avatar. From details, like bows & arrows and loin cloths, to non-traditional spiritualism, and a different skin color, just to name a few, it was the story of our story from Plymouth to Wounded Knee. The big difference is that we had little problem cheering for the defeat of corporate mercenary Marines, but we wouldn't dare think of Custer or Sherman in the same light.

Setting the history lesson aside, Avatar is an amazing movie. It has the same visual grabbing power, maybe more, as when I saw Star Wars the first time, then a Jurassic Park, and more recently, Lord of the Rings. You are lifted into another world that is so spectacularly interesting, with new vegetation, new bugs, new animals, new people, new language, and new culture, that it become the fastest two and a half hours you've ever spent. Yes, its got violence, but it's not really very gory, just lots of explosions and noises, and yes, I wish they'd left off the vulgar words - though I know some Marines use it. It's an experience, a real escape, and it involves you in a story that feels real - and after all, isn't that what you go to the movies for? Oh yeah, ladies, it really does include a love story. I guess it's true - love is blue.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2010 Wish List

Even though a lot of my church family reads this blog, I wanted to share with everyone else the main points from my lesson last Sunday. I decided to do an end-of-the-year-look-at-the-coming-year-lesson before beginning a new series on the Gospel of Mark. I'd love to have the time and space to elaborate on each one, but if you read my blog regularly, you've seen most of this in writing already.
My Wish List for 2010:
1. I wish every member would seriously reflect on our Purpose as a church. It is what drives us and what every member needs to own. "We exist to help people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus."
2. I wish every member would honestly evaluate where they are spiritually and where they need to go. Our steps to carry out our purpose are simply the steps in building a relationship with others and with God. Connecting - Caring - Committing! Where are you?
3. I wish every one of us would start thinking relationships not church! The cultural church of today is not the church of the Bible. Body & Family = relationships = the purpose of church!
4. I wish all of us would start thinking tools not rituals! Tools are to use not to worship, and God gave us tools to help us help one another grow spiritually, not so we'd have rituals to perform.
5. I wish all of us would stretch our understanding of what God really wants! He wants loving seekers not arrogant truth holders. (read Acts 17:27-28 for clarity)
6. I wish all of us would help someone else grow! It's still the best way to grow. One another stuff is not just about self!
7. I wish all of us would really become witnesses for Him! See the opportunities to be Christ-like and to share your story.
8. I wish we all could let go of this world a little more. It's a process we must start - it's inevitable!
9. I wish we all would lose our fear of family responsibilities! Reason for detachment and lack of involvement. "Love casts out fear."
10. I wish that when we form a huge circle in heaven and sing praises to God - you're there!

Monday, January 04, 2010

More Random Christmas Pictures

Our computer is unplugged and soon to be picked up for repairs, so I've hooked everything up to my laptop computer - and WOW what a difference a new computer makes. I'd forgotten what FAST really was like. I downloaded these pics in seconds and every thing pops up immediately. Is that really how computers are supposed to work? I got a cordless mouse for it too, and it's soooo nice. Wow - I could get spoiled to this! I might even do more blogs if it's this easy to do it! Anyway - here are a few of my pictures from Christmas that aren't on the girls blogs.
Daniel getting a little help from Dad to open one of his presents. Curtis is anxiously waiting!

And here is one of Caden's first presents. I think the hand is more appealing right now!

This is the "Dad gift" for Chad and Elizabeth. It's a painting customized with their names carved on the tree. I knew they'd enjoy the deer too.

This was Pat and Deborah's "Dad gift" and theirs was a couple of bears snoozing on a limb with their names carved on the tree. Jonathan and Holly's picture was a beach with a hammock and beach stuff around and their names written in the sand. Sorry no pictures of that one.

Finally, a picture a took a few minutes ago out our back door. It's been single digit temps here for several days now. The thermometer on the beam says thirty, but it's in the sun. It's only 13 outside. It didn't take'em long to get a hockey game going. I heard the "thwack" of the puck being hit before I knew they were out there. There is no temperature break forecast for the next ten days. I guess is really is winter. Hmmm - a nice vacation to a warm climate sounds really good right now. I know! How about a cruise to the Panama Canal? Like in two weeks! I knew it was a good idea!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Look Who's Talking!

One of the ironies of living with all the technology that we've become addicted to in the last ten years is, with all the communication that is happening on a 24/7 basis, the quality of relationships doesn't seem to be getting any better. Everyone is walking around or driving their cars with a cell phone held or attached to their ear. Many people, young and old, are so busy texting that they never look up. And then there is all the different kinds of online communicating from emails to Twittering, Skype, etc., etc. There has never been a generation that has ever lived that had the means to stay in touch as much as we do today. We SHOULD be having the closest marriages, families, friendships, and work place communication the world has ever seen. There should be less misunderstanding, miscommunicating, and speculating then at any time since there were more than two people on earth. But, to coin a phrase, "It ain't happening!" Why? Two things I've been saying for may years are 1) there is no relationship without communication, and 2) if you don't communicate you speculate. They are absolutely true, but they simply point out that communication is a tool for relationships not a guarantee of relationship building. There is another "c" that must be part of the equation or the communication is just something we use to "feel" in touch, or appear to be "needed," or to boost our ego. There is no relationship building without commitment and that commitment must be to building a relationship rather than just maintaining it.
Just think about it. If access to communication was the secret to a deeper relationship, everyone would have a deep relationship with God. He's always present and accessible, but not always sought. Communication without some level of commitment is just self-serving and noisy. When driven by commitment it's sharing, giving, and building at it's best.
"Speak Lord, your servant is listening."