Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Three

When I first moved to California, I lived in a part of the Los Angeles (L.A.) area. Litter tumbled like weeds along streets and sidewalks, freeways were grossly congested, and there was always this brown haze that lingered about in the atmosphere. Some days I could barely make out the downtown L.A. skyline. After moving to Northern California, the L.A. funk became more noticeable to me each time I made the trip back and drove through. It hovered like a gray cloud forbidding the sun to break through…a toxic mist that covered the city like a blanket.

The air quality in Singapore was monitored daily due to fires in Indonesia. On good days, locals went about their business unaffected. On bad days, each sported a surgical mask. Being I am originally from “the sunshine state” of Florida, I was not used to checking the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) or API (Air Pollution Index) each day. The highest PSI reading of record in Singapore was, around the time I was there, in September of 1997. It was listed as “very unhealthy”. Fortunately for me, the managers of the company for which I worked made sure I was well informed and looked out for my health and well being. Otherwise I would have been clueless.

There are very few smells sweeter to me than after it rains…the fresh, wet, clean, vibrant fragrance of the earth as it rises into the heavens. Gazing out the window as the drops fell to the ground, saturating everything within its reach, stirred up a desire within me to race outside and take in a deep breath. This was the case the day I visited with a colleague and it began to pour. (Her unit was located just across the cobblestone courtyard from mine.) The moment the downpour stopped I promptly made my way down the stairs to the damp grounds below. I let the after-rain-smell fill my nostrils but to my ghastly surprise, the scent was not as I imagined it to be at all! Rather it reeked of wet dog! My face contorted and I quickly covered my nose as I raced home. In my opinion, the climate in Singapore was tropical and similar to that of Florida…hot, humid, without truly formed diverse seasons, and with adequate rainfall. After my “wet dog” experience, though, I hesitated to bask in the aromas following precipitation. Admittedly, it was not always that of a damp mutt. Other days the odor was quite pleasant, alluring, and relaxing like springtime in a lush field full of wild flowers and white butterflies.

Ten hours a day, six days a week were spent at work. My time off was used exploring the sights and Singapore lifestyle…whether it was shopping on Orchard Road, at Takashimaya, ordering (or watching others request) stingray, satay, or various different Singaporean cuisine at a hawker stall, indulging in Mongolian Barbeque, hiking, grabbing a bite to eat at Boat Quay or Clarke Quay along the Singapore River, or sitting down with a “Singapore Sling” at the Raffles Hotel.

One afternoon at work, and I honestly cannot remember how this came about, my colleagues approached me, said they were making a coffee run during our one hour break, and did I want to come? We could make it there and back in sixty minutes?! I was not quite convinced but always up for an adventure, I went. The second our break began we bolted from the venue, ran across the street, through an open piece of land, and went down the stairs to a train platform I did not even know existed. My heart pounded as each minute mattered. Tick tock, tick tock, we passed station after station. I had no idea where we were…downtown maybe? I made sure to stay close as the cars stopped and the doors opened. On the heels of the person in front of me we winded our way to the store front. There was a line! Would be have time? I was not even a coffee fan! Why was I here, again? I asked what was good. “Try the frozen drink,” I was told. “One blended beverage with whip cream, please.”

The group waited for everyone to make it back out of the shop then we were off and running again! This time the path reversed. I must not lose the way and get lost! Tick tock, tick tock. It was going to be close! And no one could afford to be late! There was no margin for error. How many times had they made this venture? We inhaled our drinks as we blew through one terminal after the next. On what colored line were we? Was there a map at which I could look? Screeching halt, doors, onward ho! Two minutes left! Hustle! We crossed the finish line without a moment to spare. Phew, back to work.

Whenever in a foreign place, I find comfort in familiar things---whether it is food, activities, or people. Because I am American (and grew up across the street from a lovely Japanese woman who used to cook wonderful things for me to eat), I am drawn, like a moth to a flame, to stuff that reminds me of the United States (and Japanese cooking). One evening when I was in Switzerland, my peers and I ran into another posse of Yanks. While these individuals were complete strangers, it felt as though they were long lost pals. We were ecstatic to see them and they were likewise overjoyed.

When a second set of workers from the States came to Singapore to do advertising for our organization, there was a feeling of familiarity at first sight. We visited them at their location, went out to dinner, took a walk, and just chatted it up. However, once I realized one of them was flirting with me I cut the rest of my time with them short. Flattered, yet not interested.

Faith Hope Love: Chapter Three

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray

I absolutely LOVE this song!!! And just downloaded it. :)

"Remind Me Who I Am" by Jason Gray

When I lose my way,
And I forget my name
Remind me who I am
In the mirror all I see
Is who don't wanna be
Remind me who I am

In the loneliest places
When I can't remember what grace is

Tell me, once again
Who I am to You, who I am to You
Tell me, lest I forget
Who I am to You, that I belong to You
To You

When my heart is like a stone,
And I'm running far from home
Remind me who I am
When I can't receive Your love
Afraid I'll never be enough
Remind me who I am

If I'm Your beloved can you help me believe it

Tell me, once again
Who I am to you, who I am to You
Tell me, lest I forget
Who I am to you, that I belong to You
To You

I'm the one You love, I'm the one You love
That will be enough, I'm the one You love

Tell me, once again
Who I am to You, who I am to You
Tell me, lest I forget
Who I am to You, that I belong to You

Tell me, once again
Who I am to You, who I am to You
Tell me, lest I forget
Who I am to You, that I belong to You

To You

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walking with Lisa

(This is a work of fiction.  Any references to historical events; to real people, living or dead; or to real locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity.  Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used factiously, and their resemblance, if any, to real life counterparts is entirely coincidental.

The character "Lisa" is inspired by the character by the same name in Susanna Kaysen's 1993 publication GIRL, INTERRUPTED.)

Chapter One

When one first meets Lisa, it is not long before or unusual to think, "Something doesn't seem right."  After spending more time with her (whether it is weeks or months), this sentiment becomes more along the lines of self blame... "Lisa and I just can't get along.  What is my problem?"  This appears to be the average progression of relationships with Lisa unless one has done much study in behavior.  It is not difficult to figure out there is an issue.  The challenge comes in pin pointing it.  Lisa wraps herself so tightly in lies and deception, a person has to make their way through a large, complex web to make sense of things...before becoming prey to the spider.  Some don't make it that far though.  I'm sure you will recall Daisy and the other Lisa.  Both fell victim to this Lisa's taunting and harsh words.  Daisy ended up committing suicide and the other Lisa became a drug addict.

Fortunately for me, I have strength in Christ.  Even still, the gauntlet is thrown and I must be wise.  In order to "walk" with Lisa, there are certain rules I must follow.  #1. Never let Lisa get into my head.  Though it is questionable as to whether or not Lisa honestly is a sociopath, that was her diagnosis and she truly does fit the profile (though her actions might just be an elaborate act).  #2. Never let my guard down.  She cannot be trusted.  #3. Do not be foolish.  #4. (And of the utmost importance) Never take my eyes off the cross of Jesus.  #5. Self assess on a regular basis without going overboard.  Imperfections and weaknesses are okay no matter what Lisa says.  #6. Never take Lisa's word for it.  ALWAYS get a second opinion.  #7. Be in the word of God (bible) daily.  #8. Know with certainty who I am and never doubt it.  #9. Do not limit socializing to only Lisa or spend too much time with her.  She has no boundaries (/nothing is off limits to her) and is very convincing the alternate universe she has created in her mind is the truth.  #10. I am not responsible for her, I am only accountable for myself.  And, I cannot change her.

Though these guidelines are all well and good on paper, applying them regularly (especially when Lisa is on a tirade) can prove to be easier said than done.  Never the less, one will drown, while relating to her, without them.  He or she will slowly become so immersed in her "aggressive narcissism", with traits such as
Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callousness; lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
, most will not even know what happened until it is too late.  The only consistent indication that something is amiss is a nagging feeling of "Ick" after engaging with her.  Patterns are also a key item to watch with her.

I do not know why she says and does the things she does.  Perhaps there is no reason at all...and do I really want to spend years trying to figure it out?  Besides, Lisa does not seem to want anyone to understand her.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Two

As I mentioned before, I have had a love affair with traveling for quite a while...since 1994 when I made my first trip out of the states and visited the breathtaking countries of France, Switzerland, and Italy. As a junior in high school the experience was indescribable...The way the food danced, leapt, and (even at times) practically melted in my mouth (thus beginning my appreciation of prosciutto and olive oil), bread warm and soft inside yet so crispy it crackles on the outside, the architecture, the art (especially at the Louvre Museum and Sistine Chapel), the locations (like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Versailles, and the Roman Colosseum), the romantic vibe (like along the River Seine in Paris), the hustle and bustle in Paris, the people, the freedom!!! Yes, the independence! Apparently it was noticeable...the change in my attitude after I returned from Europe. I had been bitten by the bug. I was in love! And there was no cure (or anything else for that matter) for it. My only choice was to feed it, cultivate it, tenderly nurture it, and give in to its every whim. Ah love!

I spent the next three years trying to find a means to travel. My sights were set on a job in Japan (for which I applied many times to no avail) but little did I know God (I personally do not believe in fate, coincidence, luck, karma, or magic for that matter) had an alternate plan for me...and it included Singapore, Taiwan, and Australia! Okay, God, you win! I will gladly give up my grand ideas of Japan...for now.

Visiting a country is like opening a book on the subject and hopping into its pages. (I remember studying world geography in second grade (I believe it was) and imagining I could do just that. I walked my fingers across the text we were going over (as though my digits were a tiny version of me) and I "swam" through the pictures...participating in whatever was taking place in each. The two destinations in which we dabbled that stick out in my mind are Vancouver, Canada and Ethiopia.) In real life, I wanted to drink up every ounce of information possible and experience the culture and way of life. I would wander, either alone or with others, to various areas of the city-state to listen to the sounds, breath in the scents, touch what was before me, gaze upon the sights, and (if I was brave enough) taste the delicacies synonymous with that district.

One such quarter was the ethnically authentic Little India. A disorienting whirl wind (in the form of a cab ride) whisked me away and dropped me, dazed and confused, smack dab in another “land”. As I stood reeling with culture shock my eyes and nose were assaulted! This was NOTHING like the other territories of Singapore! Now, I am not going to go into detail about the geography or demographics of Little India. A person can check out that information (along with photos) on the internet or at the local library. As my feelings toward Little India create a chaotic circus in my mind I scarcely know where to begin regarding my experiences that evening!

During this excursion for Diwali (or Deepavali the "festival of lights"), I was not alone, and thankfully so! Had I been I would have stepped right back into the taxi (completely overwhelmed) and said, “Never mind. Take me home.” There were five of us and the guys walked behind the gals so they could “keep an eye on things”. I felt out of place, like a fish out of water if you will.

The first time I ever went scuba diving was with a professional diver who led me and some friends around the ocean bottom for a set period of time (30-60 minutes). As we submerged with oxygen tanks on our backs and regulator mouth piece firmly in place a nearly overpowering sense of claustrophobia crept over my body as though I was in a sinking car in a river and trying to hold on to every breath as if it could be my last. The water lay heavy on top of me…deceivingly inviting. Any wrong move or miscalculated measurement (of remaining air supply) could be life threatening. It was a lot to process…the new environment, the potential dangers, the complete change in everything! These were my feelings in Little India as well. My world had been turned upside down and I was not quite sure what to make of it or how to maneuver through it.

I walked with hesitated step. The sun had gone down before we arrived casting looming, menacing shadows across what might otherwise be cheerful in the day time. Residents stared as if I was a three headed hydra. My dark hair and deep brown eyes blended in with those of everyone else however my olive skin paled in comparison to the rich, chocolate shade of theirs. (Now, my friend who has beautiful blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes with creamy white skin probably stuck out a bit more than I did and our buddy with his radiant African American features mostly likely fit in better than myself.)

Debris littered the sidewalks and streets and men sat gathered, blotting the landscape. They stopped their conversations to watch as we passed. Store windows were filled with merchandise familiar to the culture. We window shopped and stepped in and out of store after boutique touching fabric and admiring the vibrant colors, tassels, and dangling, glittering accents on various outfits. Each concession was nearly whimsical as incense poor out, filled our nostrils, and beckoned us to come in and stay a while. Maybe we would like to purchase something?

The women were stunning in their dresses, sandals, and golden jewelry…the gentle curve of their faces; sun kissed glow to their soft looking skin; contour of nose; perfect size, shape, and spacing of their eyes made them gorgeous---yet the way they kept their bodies covered from neck to ankles struck me as humble, classy, and enchanting.

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Two

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter One

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13. ESV.)
I did not travel to escape. I was not looking for a way to lose myself or adapt. I was not in search of peace, enlightenment, entertainment, or understanding. I simply went for gain. On a “business trip”, if you will. Get paid to travel? Could I ask for anything more?

I had gone off on my own once before this. When I was in high school I ventured to Europe with a group of peers and some chaperones. This time I was an adult…a very young adult…but one just the same. I left my apartment and roommate, new furniture, old job (which I loved), car, possessions, family and friends to experience more of the world…twenty four hours by plane and seemingly a lifetime away. I only took what could fit in my luggage and left the rest behind.

My parents saw me to the airport gate. There were tearful goodbyes (on my mother’s part) and numerous hugs. I surveyed the group with which I was traveling. They were my family for the next five to nine months. I was never one to stay put, really…a pilgrim since the day I could spread my wings and fly. And exploring by myself came easy…I just closed my eyes and jumped…right into the deep end of it all. I knew I could swim.

The engines of the plane hummed steadily as strangers became acquainted, sharing names and hometowns. A handshake and a smile sealed the deal as if to say, “I know you now.” A few had worked together before but no one looked familiar to me. We were a crew of vagabonds, nomads that had jumped a means of transportation and were off to disappear into the sunset. The clouds were an ocean below us. And, our former lives an alternate universe. Money was no object.

It was piping hot in Singapore. The sun warmed my face like the soft stroke of a hand against my cheek. Stand in an enclosed place long enough and it turned into a sauna. I grew up in Florida so the tropical climate was comforting. I cannot say the same for everyone else. There were some complaints about the portable “potties” on our work site. We did not have running water facilities. A person entered the restroom sticky from humidity and exited it, after a quick tinkle, looking as though he or she had just climbed out of a swimming pool. It was hot, dang hot! But I did not mind so much. It reminded me of home.

The city was modern, spotless, and buzzing with action. The streets teamed with people going here, there, and everywhere. Not a single wrapper or wad of gum defaced the grounds. There was not the slightest hint of graffiti of any sort threatening buildings, public benches, or other structures. Orchard Road was done up like a huge Christmas present. Was I in New York gazing at the Macy’s store windows decorated to the hilt? No, this place was too clean. I was in Singapore and the department stores were sparkling, festive, and ready to welcome the holidays. Giant displays looked as though they had come straight out of a storybook. The shoemaker had gone to bed and elves went to work decking the halls overnight.

Without parental supervision we were left to our own devices…a small hoard of young adults released into a foreign environment where the consequence for an infraction was caning. I did not dare test the boundaries or push the envelope. With a crime rate of four percent I was free to walk about the city-state alone without a single individual bothering me. No one approached me or harassed me. It was peaceful and stress free. Taxis swarmed the roads like bees around a hive. There were so many of them…blue though, as opposed to the yellow ones that overrun the avenues of New York City. English being the “business language” made it simple for me to maneuver around. Women had a voice so I could be heard by each and every man whether taxi driver, merchant, or doorman. I was empowered to get what I wanted or go where I chose, when I desired it. There was a hint of a European undertone. (Not surprising since it was under British rule in 1824 (before it became independent in 1963) and its legal system has its roots in English common law.)

My condominium was brand new, completely furnished, and even offered a maid service. With a work schedule of six days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and two roommates, it was nice to have the help. The square footage was lovely but had plenty of surfaces where dust and dirt could collect. The front door was of heavy wood and opened into a hallway which swept visitors into the dining and living areas. The floors were a cool tile against the tired, sore soles of my feet. And white grout! Who likes to keep light grout from turning gray? The outside kitchen branched off of the entry way…to which the door remained closed at all times. Bars were the only thing on the windows, no glass or screens to hinder insects from investigating our housing and food…plenty of room for a cat to fit through but too tight for a human. The pint-sized, front load, stacked washer and dryer set sat waiting for action in a compact walk-in laundry room (which resembled a pantry) where dirty clothes could easily collect and take a person hostage…never to be seen or heard from again.

The main room windows opened into a large, cobble stone courtyard two floors below. The sounds of fellow employees danced through the air, filtered passed the drapes, and bounced off the vaulted ceiling. A fan purred as it slowly rotated and pushed sultry air about the rooms. The sunken bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchen caused me to stumble each time I missed the miniscule step while coming and departing. My modest sleeping quarters were nothing short of a single bed and wardrobe which matched the shiny wood floors…perfect for one person.

The night life flourished at a chain of picturesque European bistros across the street from the complex where I lived. This is where I spent most evenings as I did not have a family waiting for me at “home” to prepare and serve them dinner. Each restaurant front lead into a dimly lit, nook of a bar or café area then opened through the back into a vast dinning patio of themed spaces packed with tables and chairs. This setup applied to each establishment along the stretch of the boulevard except the one on the end referred to as “The Wine Cellar”. The atmosphere fitted its name and was reminiscent of the tasting room of a winery. There it was not unusual to see lovely ladies sporting a glass of wine and escorted by gentlemen with cigar in hand or mouth.

Faith Hope Love01

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Introduction

As I was walking through the wilderness of this world, I came to a place where there was a cave. I laid down in that place to sleep, and as I slept I had a dream in which I saw a man dressed in rags standing in a certain place and facing away from his own house. He had a Book in his hand and a great burden on his back. As I looked, I saw him open the Book and read out of it, and as he read he wept and trembled. Unable to contain himself any longer, he broke out with a sorrowful cry, saying, “What shall I do?” (Bunyan, John. THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN MODERN ENGLISH. Bridge-Logos Publishers, Florida. 1998. pg. 3.)

The hot, desert sun cascaded over my shoulders and down my arms as I stood in awe, gazing at the indescribable wonder before me. A river did this? This beautiful carving, like the sculpture of an artist, was in fact the work of God. And I was thankful for the opportunity to see it in person. I had driven across the United States and back again. But this is not where I began. This was a result of grace. First I had to walk through "the wilderness of this world".

Like John Bunyan's character, Christian, I was conflicted but not consciously searching for the "Celestial City". I did not realize I needed a Savior...until my burden became so insanely heavy and then I pleaded for One. But who would come? A fireman? A policeman? Some bigger-than-life comic book character? Who had already come? Was it possible to ever have peace?

A fire burned within me yet I was seemingly of two minds. That is where I started...not in quietness, trust, or strength (Isaiah 30:15). But in loud, deafening foolishness which made me scream out (in an attempt to shout over it) in repetitive petition. But this was the norm for me in this season... high stress. Was there any other state of being?

I know the Book mentioned in Bunyan's writing. I had even tried, uselessly, to apply its written laws and way of living to my mundane days. But it was all for not...legalism would not bring me harmony, serenity, tranquility, justice. I would toil in vain. The motions without heart or purpose were worthless...pointless. I could not save myself from that which weighed me down. It was not until grace the Book became my life.

So what did I do? I went along my course as it was designed. Each stepping stone lovingly placed before me. But I was blind to this initially. Everything was all about me. I was self-centered, self-absorbed, self-serving, and seemingly self-sufficient. Thankfully and fortunately for me though, God knows my heart despite my words and actions. For thirty years my hours were filled with worldliness and God was limited to Sunday mornings. Then, slowly most moments became about Him and I “squeezed in” everything else (if I had time). This did not happen over night. It was a progression.

How did I get to this point? How did I get beyond myself?

The Grand Canyon, though massive, was deceiving in appearance. The Colorado River appeared so small and innocent on the canyon floor. My feet felt as though they were in an oven as the sun beat down on my dark shoes. The air was crisp and fresh, like a spring morning while the dew is still on the ground and the birds are chirping cheerfully as if to welcome the new day.

Sin, like the Colorado River may not look like much (from a distance) but over time it can create a gorge between us and God (which makes me think of the “great chasm” mentioned in Luke 16:26).

Faith. Hope. Love: Introduction Chapter

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Couple More New Features

In addition to regular posts, I am also going to start two new series:

1. "Faith. Hope. Love" - a nonfiction about...well... faith, hope, love, (1 Corinthians 13:13) and travel (to Singapore, Australia, and Taiwan. This will also be available in PDF e-book format.)

2. "Walking with Lisa" - a fiction piece about being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in the world (not of the world). (The character "Lisa" being inspired by the one of the same name in Susanna Kaysen's 1993 publication GIRL, INTERRUPTED.)

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:13-16. ESV.)

(Photo Information.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

They Are Robbed of Sleep Unless They Have Made Someone Stumble

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― C.G. Jung

I believe I started reading the 1993 publication GIRL, INTERRUPTED by Susanna Kaysen when I was a child advocate.  It is the memoir of a teenage girl who spent some time in a mental hospital and introduces readers to various personality disorders.  One of the main characters is Lisa who is diagnosed as a sociopath.  If memory serves, she is quite the challenge (behaviorally) for fellow patients and staff members alike.

In order to try and comprehend the disposition of Lisa, I looked up the Hare Psychopathy Checklist which includes:

Factor 1: 
Personality "Aggressive narcissism"

Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callousness; lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Factor 2: 
Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle".

Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Parasitic lifestyle
Poor behavioral control
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Juvenile delinquency
Early behavior problems
Revocation of conditional release

Traits not correlated with either factor

Promiscuous sexual behavior
Many short-term marital relationships
Criminal versatility
Acquired behavioural sociopathy/sociological conditioning (Item 21: a newly identified trait i.e. a person relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive).

Lisa's conduct would be very frustrating for me.  And I would have to have serious strength through Christ to endure any sort of relationship with her.  But what does that tell me about me?  Would I be wise not to engage with Lisa or judgmental?  further, if Lisa had a spouse, what would his responsibilities be under God's law?  Would it be to help Lisa or protect their children? --- (In the book it is mentioned (at some point) that Lisa is seen with her son.)

Turn Away From It And Pass On

There is nothing listed in God's word (in the 10 commandments or anywhere else) that gives clear instruction for dealing with Lisa.  What does one do with someone who habitually lies, deceives, keeps secrets, steals, and uses others as tools for selfish gain instead of maintaining relationships?  Would Proverbs 4:14-17 be the best course of action?

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
   and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
   turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
   they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
   and drink the wine of violence.
 (Proverbs 4:14-17. ESV.)

Home School Days at Monterey Bay Aquarium

This year we got to attend "Home School Days" at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and were blessed with free admission tickets! We visited the jellies, sea horses, penguins, open sea, and kelp forest exhibits (among others). Up until recently, a great white shark was in captivity but had to be released (before we got to see it) because of "behavioral changes". I assume that means it was causing a ruckus and had to leave the facility. :)

The Kelp Forest is my favorite exhibit.


Sea Dragon

Sea Horses

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let Them Experienced the Love of Jesus

Today I heard a story that touched my heart in such a way I almost began weeping where I sat as I listened.  It was written by Michael Card, is quoted by John 
Piper in his book SUFFERING AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, and goes like this:

One day a Masai Warrior named Joseph was walking along an African road when he met someone who shared the gospel of Jesus with him....The power of the Spirit began transforming his life; he was filled with such excitement and joy that the first thing he wanted to do was return to his own village and share that same Good News with the members of his local tribe.

Joseph began going from door-to-door, telling everyone he met about the Cross of Jesus and the salvation it offered, expecting to see their faces light up the way his had. To his amazement the villagers not only didn't care, they became violent. The men of the village seized him and held him to the ground while the women beat him with strands of barbed wire. He was dragged from the village and left to die alone in the bush.

Joseph somehow managed to crawl to a water hole, and there, after days of passing in and out of consciousness, found the strength to get up. He wondered about the hostile reception he had received from people he had known all his life. He decided he must have left something out or told the story of Jesus incorrectly. After rehearsing the message he had first heard, he decided to go back and share his faith once more.

Joseph limped into the circle of huts and began to proclaim Jesus. "He died for you, so that you might find forgiveness and come to know the living God" he pleaded. Again he was grabbed by the men of the village and held while the women beat him reopening wounds that had just begun to heal. Once more they dragged him unconscious from the village and left him to die....

Again, days later, Joseph awoke in the wilderness, bruised, scarred--and determined to go back.

He returned to the small village and this time, they attacked him before he had a chance to open his mouth. As they flogged him for the third and probably the last time, he again spoke to them of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Before he passed out, the last thing he saw was that the women who were beating him began to weep.

That village is now a Christian village.

Has that ever happened to you... having become so overjoyed and absolutely ecstatic you wanted to share the amazing feeling of overwhelming joy and love with all of those around you, especially those you care about the most only to be met with harsh cruelty?  Have you ever wondered, "What went wrong?  I must have misspoke because surely if I had relayed the message correctly they would feel the indescribable ecstasy that comes from hearing this news!"

My heart cries out on behalf of those who hear the gospel of Jesus but cannot feel their heart meditate with sheer delight.  That fills me with such grief the tears sting my eyes.  Oh Lord, please let them experienced the love of Jesus!

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  (Ezekiel 36:26. ESV.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Photo Gallery: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

For those who enjoy travel photos, the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico page is now up and ready to be viewed. The regular link is located in the left sidebar under the "Resource Menu" heading. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Photo Gallery: Melbourne Australia

The Melbourne, Australia photo page is up and ready for viewing. The regular link for it is located on the left sidebar under "Resource Menu". Thanks for visiting. :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Steps Are Established by the Lord

“He that can have patience can have what he will.” ― Benjamin Franklin

“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.” ― Robert Strauss

“Give me but a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.” ― Archimedes, The Works of Archimedes

A New Direction

As I have mentioned before, I used to train in dance (with a emphasis on ballet), gymnastics/acrobatics, and volleyball (for fun).  But that was years ago...and though I still will teach (when opportunities arise) I was considering going into the field of ballroom dancing.

Watching the dancers float around the floor, twisting, twirling, sync with their lines so exact and beautiful made me desire to start competing again.  The preconceived notion ballroom would be easier (than say, ballet) played about in my mind.  But when would I have the time to train?  That all changed, though, the day I met martial arts.

A second interest entered my world on an afternoon of running errands.  Who knew the mundane would lead to this?  But changing fields means starting over!  Back to square one.  Do I have the patience and determination to do so?  I am a parent, and I am busy taking care of kiddos, helping my spouse, maintaining our home, etc. is a full time thing!

Besides, with dance I started at age four and I'm told it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something (according to author Malcolm Gladwell).  Can I put my hours of dance and gymnastic toward those for martial arts?  There are some similarities in areas like balance, flexibility, improv, etc.  There is technique involved.

Not by Might Shall a Man Prevail

7 The path of the righteous is level;
    you make level the way of the righteous.
 (Isaiah 26:7. ESV.)

1 Samuel 2:9: "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
   but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
   for not by might shall a man prevail. (ESV)

Psalm 37:23: The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
   when he delights in his way; (ESV)

The Lord establishes my steps whether they are significant or not.  I feel each and every one, however big or small, takes me toward what the Lord has predestined for me (since before the foundation of the earth was set).

24 A man’s steps are from the LORD;
   how then can man understand his way?
 (Proverbs 20:24. ESV.)

Forbes: Cars with the Highest Theft Rates

A couple days ago Forbes released a story with a list of cars with the highest theft rates.

Not surprisingly (to me), #2 on the list is the Ford Shelby. Oh, and my vehicle did not make the cut. :)

(Photo by the Ford Motor Company, USA)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Marriage: Dominate, Submit, or Contribute Nothing

Are you curious what I am up to with that title?

Wayne Grudem wrote a fantastic book, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, in which he addresses "why God created two sexes and whether or not they can be equal, yet have different roles".  He discusses a lot of information of which I am only going to touch upon.  I highly recommend reading the chapter in its entirety.

Grasping Marriage and the Rolls of Husband and Wife

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:27-28. ESV.)

Romans 13:14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  (ESV.)

Galatians 3:14: so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.  (ESV.)

Galatians 5:6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.  (ESV.)

1 Corinthians 12:13: For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  (ESV)

1 Corinthians 11:11: Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;  (ESV)

To clarify this, Grudem states, 
Paul wants to ensure that men will not adopt some of the attitudes of the surrounding culture, or even some of the attitude of first-century Judaism, and think that they have greater importance than women or are of superior value before God.  Nor should women think themselves inferior or less important in the church....

This equality is an amazing and wonderful element of the Christian faith and sets Christianity apart from almost all religions and societies and cultures.  The true dignity of godly manhood and womanhood can be fully realized only in obedience to God's redeeming wisdom as found in Scripture."
 (1994.  Zondervan.  Pgs. 458 & 459.)

Dominate, Submit, or Contribute Nothing

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.  (1 Corinthians 11:3. ESV.)

Grudem explains this saying,
Just as God the Father has authority over the Son, though the two are equal in deity, so in a marriage, the husband has authority over the wife, though they are equal in personhood....

If tyranny by the husband and usurpation of authority by the wife are errors of aggressiveness, there are two other errors, errors of passivity or laziness.  For a husband, the other extreme from being a domineering "tyrant" is to be entirely passive and to fail to take initiative in the family - ...

The corresponding error on the part of the wife, opposite of attempting to domineer or usurp authority over her husband, is becoming entirely passive, contributing nothing to the decision-making process of the family, and being unwilling to speak words of correction to her husband, even though he is doing wrong.  Submission to authority does not mean being entirely passive and agreeing with everything that the person in authority says or suggests - it is certainly not that way when we are submissive to the authority of an employer or of government officials (we can certainly differ with our government and still be subject to it),... A wife can certainly be subject to the authority of her husband and still participate fully in the decision-making process of the family.
(Pgs. 459 & 467)

Wrapping It All Up

In conclusion, Grudem writes,
Husbands, therefore, should aim for loving, considerate, thoughtful leadership in their families.  Wives should aim for active, intelligent, joyful submission to their husbands' authority. (Pg. 467)

So, the husband and wife in their marriage are similar to the offense and defense of a college football team (Go Gators!).  Though they have different rolls and responsibilities (plays), they are equally important to the success of the team (marriage).

(Oh, and when I think of "submission" to my husband, I do not see it as losing myself but rather giving (in love and wisdom) to him.)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

With My Whole Heart I Seek You

Have you ever had one of those moments when you thought to yourself, "Wait a minute, what am I doing?"

I had one of those yesterday morning.  I grabbed a dollar, some change, and my purse as I headed for the front door.  Thankfully it was not blustery like the day before (with Gale force winds) but the cool air was sharp and biting as I made my way to my vehicle with my sweater clutched close.  The key turned smoothly and the engine came to life immediately despite it waking from a cold rest overnight.  I was on my way to the local McDonalds.  (We do not have a Target or Walmart within a 30 mile radius but the popular fast food joint is perched on the corner of the main road beckoning travelers to come inside.)

As I paused at a stop sign I suddenly thought to myself, "What am I doing?"  Though completely coherent the entire time all the way up to this point, I had not rationally thought through my coffee run.  Was I really going to spend my last dollar days before pay day on a $1.00 coffee at the drive through window?  Yep.  And I proceeded.  (It is NOT like I feel I NEED coffee in the a.m. but rather, I just like it...a warm beverage that smells so lovely.  Mmmm.  And I was not a coffee fan until 1996, in Singapore, when I was invited to go on a mad dash coffee run with fellow cast members across the city state with only moments before our next show...but that is a story for another time.) ;)

Take Every Thought Captive

So, I could not help but wonder, how much of my life am I spending on automatic pilot?  Auto-pilot can be useful, like when multi-tasking (put one on auto and focus on the other) but it also has some significant cons.

When I was studying dance we did the same barré warm ups every class in Ballet.  Pliés, tondus, degages, ronde de jambes, frappés, grand battments, etc.  I knew it by heart and it was not long before I started executing each exercise with little thought.    My teacher, being a wonderful instructor, noticed and kindly encouraged me to put more effort back into it.

...take every thought captive to obey Christ,  (2 Corinthians 10:5. ESV.)

Every thought.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New Feature: Art Gallery

As a new feature to this blog I am going to add a "photo gallery" to the left sidebar (up near the top, under where it says "Resource Menu").  In it there will be pictures of all the major cities/city-states in which I have lived or visited.  They will include:

San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Orlando, FL
New York City, New York
Washington, D.C.
Taipei, Taiwan
Paris, France
Rome, Italy
Sydney, Australia
Cairns, Australia
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

So far I have the San Francisco page up and will add the others as I find and scan my pictures. :)


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