Thursday, October 19, 2017

What Happens in Your Driveway?

We live in a broken world.

Every day it seems more obvious that the majority of those around me are simply hurting people.

The daily news verifies that this is so.  The faces of the people I see while doing daily grocery shopping and errands tell me this is so.  The repentance and enthusiastic response to the evangelistic crusades that Franklin Graham has been leading in Texas this month tell me this is so.  Even the hunger I detect when walking through the halls and rooms in my own church tells me this is so.

There are so many hurting people.  People who need answers.  People who need the Truth.

Today the responsibility I bear as a Christian is in the forefront of my thoughts.  There is no time to waste.  My life is not my own.  There is limited chance to reach these people.  Someday soon that limited window of opportunity will be gone.

Followers of Christ do not have the right to live a life of limited influence.

Someone is watching you today.  Someone needs you to be Jesus right in front of them.

Great responsibility.
Powerful opportunity.
May I own it.

Jon Acuff, speaker and author, made this statement two days ago to a group of church leaders, and I think it applies to every single one of us that calls himself a Christian:

"The first church a neighbor visits is your driveway.  You don't get to be a good church and a bad neighbor."

I think that hits right at the heart of the issue.

We need to live so that we show the Truth.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Lost and Found

Recently I read the story of the Prodigal Son again.  See Luke 15:11-32 if you want to refresh your memory.  It's a classic - one of the best stories ever.

I've always loved this parable, yet this time I seemed to see so much more in it than every other time I read it.  One son gets "lost" and is "found" in the end.  The other son is "lost," and as of the end of the account is still quite sadly "lost."

I allowed myself a few minutes to think back over my life and recall various items I've lost.  I'm sure I lost many more things than those that came to mind.  However, the fact that I remembered these items is proof that in some sense they were valuable to me or to others.

Here is the list of the things I recall losing:

1.  A small change purse on the train to Hershey Amusement Park.  I was probably seven or eight at the time and traveling there with my best friend and her family.

2.  My baby daughter's security bunny in a McDonald's.  I speculate it fell on the floor and was put into the trash by someone.  If you've ever had a child who needs that favorite blankie, or pacifier, or whatever it is, you know how devastating a loss like this can be.

3.  My young son in a clothing store one day. Yes, he thought he was being so clever when he hid under a circular clothing rack in a department store.  He didn't even make a peep until I became nearly hysterical.

4.  My daughter's Cabbage Patch Big Wheels tricycle.  Actually it was stolen, but she was heart-broken, unable to ride with her posse up and down the block after that.

5.  My son's trumpet.  He left it sit there at the bus stop when he got on the school bus.  Thankfully it was recovered and returned to us.

6.  My child's orthodontic retainer.  (It went into the school cafeteria trash can when the lunch tray was dumped.)

7.  My grandmother's diamond ring, which was to eventually be mine.  An alzheimer's sufferer, she could've put it anywhere.  Or flushed it.  Or ate it.

8.  An earring.  The partner to it still sits in my jewelry box, many years later.  Why do I still have it? I really liked those earrings.

9.  Lots of hair after the birth of each of my four children.  Seemed like I was increasingly losing more of myself.

10.  Weight.  I've always "found" it again later.

Some of these things are lost forever; some have been recovered and returned.

Thinking about the story of the Prodigal Son on a deeper level, I've come to realize that we tend to come and go.  We, too, go lost, missing for periods of time.  Sometimes we come back home.

There's an old saying, "I got to rock bottom, and then I realized there was a basement under that."  I suppose there's several ways one can interpret the meaning of that statement.  For one, things can always get worse.  Or two, there's always a shelter, no matter how bad things get.  There's always another way out.  The Father is always waiting and searching for us.  He wants us home with Him.

The prodigal (lost) son packed all he had, not just an overnight bag, and left for a distant country.  His intention was to get far away and have a rip snorting' good time there.  He hadn't really thought beyond that.

How many of us regularly travel to "a distant country?"

Just as that lost son did, we, too, squander our "wealth" there with wild living.  That is, we dabble outside our relationship with Jesus in the wild living of worldly pleasures and pursuits that don't satisfy.

Are you "found?"

Are you home?

Let me assure you with all certainty, your Daddy wants you back.

Humbly repent, turn around, go back.  Please.

There's a party waiting for you there.  A grand celebration beyond the limits of your imagination is waiting for you.

And He's there.  He's been anxiously waiting for you ever since you left.

He'll run to you on the path.  Go to Him.  Hurry.

There's no place like Home.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kindness Is Free

Note:  The following post is an excerpt from my latest book, Risking it All: One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income.  The manuscript is ready for editing.

I no longer have an income.  For now, that’s just the way it is.  We will get along on my husband’s income, and I have every confidence that our needs will be met.

Kindness is absolutely free, though.  It costs nothing other taking the effort to observe where and when it is needed, and making a small expenditure of physical energy to go and distribute that kindness to the one who needs it.

I experienced this firsthand today in our local Subway sandwich shop. 

While waiting in line, I witnessed a sad interchange between the customer before me and the sandwich artist preparing lunch for him and his two other family members.

That clerk asked him if the three sandwiches were together, and he rudely responded, “Yes, but you would have known that if you had paid attention the first time.”

I keenly felt the fallout of those death-disbursing words.  I quietly observed the girl thinking for a quick second before she carefully responded, “Thank you.  It’s been very busy and I just wanted to make sure.”

A very classy comeback to a very mean-spirited remark, to be sure.

However, I could see the defeat on her face as she continued making my sandwich and those for the rest of the customers in the line.  Not only had he been unnecessarily rude in his words and the tone thereof, he had also humiliated her in front of a shop full of customers. 

Every day we have the power of life and death through our words, and today that customer spewed death.  The verse reminding me of this truth came to my mind as I sat there eating my hoagie and watching the activity in the restaurant. 

“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  (Proverbs 18:21)

I formulated my plan.  I waited till the man and his family finished their meals and left.  Then I headed over to the corner of the store where that clerk was busily refilling the drinks refrigerator.

I gave her a few kind words.  I said I noticed how poorly the customer in line responded to her, and I praised her for taking the higher road with her classy response to him.  I said I’ve worked in public jobs and I know people are not always friendly or easy to serve. 
I told her I understand that his one sentence to her held the power to ruin her day and make her feel like a miserable failure.  I told her to pick up her chin and feel good about herself, despite how his words had fallen on her.

With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for noticing and for going out of my way to shower a bit of kindness onto her.  She smiled.

I think I noticed her working and standing just a tad taller after that as she worked around the store.

Kindness is free. 

May we look for ways to “spend” it lavishly on everyone around us.

Monday, October 9, 2017

At A Crossroads

I love Mondays.  Yes, I’m one of those few weird ones who enjoy the start of a new workweek.  To me, they are a clean slate, another chance to improve, and a new possibility of getting it “right.”

So this morning when I was having my coffee and reading time, a verse in Jeremiah 6 jumped out at me.  It showed me that yes, indeed, each Monday is like a new crossroads.

Jeremiah has been telling the Israelites that God is going to bring destruction to them because of their unrepentant hearts and ongoing sin.  God has continually called to them, yet they have ignored Him and continued on in their evil ways. 

But even so, God loves them and yearns for His people to be right with Him.  In the midst of a picture of coming devastation, here is what God says to them (and us) through Jeremiah (verse 16):

Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.”

(I added the bold font to emphasize the action words.)

I’m picturing myself standing at a crossroads.  Most typical crossroads have four options of ways to go, but some have even more than four.  “Five points” is a well-known spot in my little town.  You guessed it – five roads converge at that intersection. 

I traveled to San Antonio, Texas back in the spring.  Somehow the engineers there have figured out how to join eight and more roads together at one crossroads.  It was baffling and sometimes overwhelming.

As it is at many crossroads of life.

So there are usually several ways one can go at a crossroads.  Some of those ways may be wide “highways” or they may be tiny “side roads.”

Often times most people are going together on the same one, the “wide way.”

We are directed to stand and look when we get to these crossroads.  Don’t just charge down the road.   This reminds me of the Fire Safety Motto, “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”  In life we “Stop, Stand, and Look” before proceeding.

Examining the verse again, I think it is significant that we are told twice to ask.  Maybe that is so we keep asking until we are totally sure of the way to go.
Only then, when we are sure of the ancient way, the good way to go, we walk in it.  We do not only know the way to go, we actually walk in it.

Do not follow the crowd where it goes.
Be intentional about your physical, moral, and spiritual choices.
Know that rest for your souls will not come outside of being in the will of God for your life.

I resolve not to simply live my life like the majority of other Americans.  I will stop, stand, look, and ask repeatedly until I know the way to proceed. 

Then, when I recognize God’s path, I will walk in it and enjoy glorious rest for my soul.

Wanna join me?  It's sure to be a great adventure!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Brunch and Books Club

It's time for another Brunch and Books Club this weekend in my home. I always look forward to seeing my book nerd friends again.

Fall colors
A couple of years ago I kept rolling the idea of hosting a book club around in my mind.  I'd always wanted to be member of a book club, but whenever I'd see a flyer advertising a local book club, the featured book of the month held no appeal for me.  So I never joined, but I never lost the desire to somehow participate in one, either.

Fast forward to the start of this year, and I decided to make it happen.  Honestly I had an ulterior motive: to meet new people and expand my current circle of friends and acquaintances.  I created a Brunch and Books Club to facilitate my dream.  I sent official snail mailed invitations to about a dozen of my friends, detailing the plan and announcing the first club meeting.

Fun giveaways
Over time, hopefully we would all meet new friends.
We'd enjoy leisurely visiting and conversation, all over a delicious meal.
Each participant would feel welcomed and special, whether she had read anything in the last month or not.
Each attendee could select, read, and report of the book of her choice.
Old fashioned library book rental cards would be available for writing down titles of interest.
Attendees would be encouraged to bring along new guests, thus growing the group over time.
The meetings would keep to an hour and a half, allowing attendees to get on with their day.
Fun prizes would be awarded at the end of each club meeting to those whose names were drawn out of a hat. Who doesn't like giveaways?  The magnetic book markers have especially been a hit.

The club has been meeting once a month since the beginning of this year.  We gather on the first Saturday morning of each month, from 10:00 to about 11:30.  Attendance varies, depending who's away on vacation.

Our time starts with some chitchat around the kitchen table while coffee, tea, and any other beverages are served.  When it seems as if everyone has arrived, the meal is served, buffet style.  While eating we visit, getting to know new guests and catching up with the others.  The menu varies from month to month, along with the colors and themes of the paper plates, napkins and other table decor.

After most are finished with the meal, we clear the table and then report on the books we've read.  Going around the table, one by one, we each tell about our book.  Some folks talk for a minute or less, some longer.  Usually conversation develops after we hear each report.  Sometimes books are loaned to another eager reader, or titles are written down to remember and purchase later.

Finally, we share other reading-related news - dates of local book fairs, addresses of newly-discovered, second-hand book stores. Attendees often want an update on what stage I am at in writing my latest book.

After drawing names for the giveaways and announcing the date of the next brunch and books club meeting, we say our goodbyes until next time.

This week the menu will be:
     Apple French Toast Bake (toppings are confectioners sugar and maple syrup)
     Breakfast Sausages
     Banana halves and grapes
     "Dessert" - Assorted Ghirardelli chocolate squares
     Coffee, tea, juice and water

I'll be reporting on two books (I couldn't narrow it down to just one this time!)
The Long Road Home by Earle L. Wilson and Lawrence W. Wilson
Thank You Notes 2 by Jimmy Fallon

Does this sound like something you'd enjoy?  Have you ever participated in a book club?  If so, I'd love to learn of your experience.

Also, if you're in my local area and you'd like to join us, please contact me.  We'd be glad to have you.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Bullying Hits Close to Home

This morning I sadly learned again from my daughter that my grandchildren have once again become victims of bullying.

This fall they moved up in grade level to the next school building in their district.  After their last school year, a painful year full of bullying, ostracizing by the popular cliches, and multiple unproductive meetings between their parents and teachers and school counselors, over the summer the hope had grown that moving into a new school would alleviate the problem.

Unfortunately, after only one month into this new school year and new building, all those summer hopes have been swiftly dashed.

As I write this my heart has been shattered into a million shards, and each piece is piercing me with sharp pain.  I cannot resist questioning our whole society and how did we possibly get to where we are today.

How did it get to the point where sixth graders can post Instagram videos to the entire social media world campaigning for their "friends" to ostracize other classmates?

I compiled several dictionary definitions of the word "bullying," are here is just a partial list what it means to bully:

to persecute          to intimidate           habitual aggressive humiliating behavior
to oppress             to strong-arm         domination by ostracizing or ridicule
to tyrannize          to dominate
to browbeat          to compel
to harass               to badger
to torment            to coerce

Wikipedia defines "bullying" as the use of force, threat, or coercion, to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.

Any way we look at this issue, it is ugly, and it causes damage.  Furthermore, all accounts report instances of bullying are on the rise, and in some locales, darn nearly out of control.

There are several things that most psychologists agree on relative to bullying:

1.  There is hostile intent.  (ex.  A bully doesn't accidentally exclude a person from his own posse.)

2.  There is an imbalance of power.  (ex.  The bully believes he has good reason to exert power over his victim.  He believes his victim is annoying, and therefore should be ridiculed and excluded.)

3.  Bullying reoccurs over time.  (Short of some strong external intervention including serious consequence, bullies continue bullying.)

4.  The victim of bullying clearly exhibits distress in some way.  (We will easily see personality changes, social behaviors change, or physical trauma.)

5.  The bully is convinced his aggressive or other behaviors are warranted and beneficial to himself.

I want to pick up a hammer and knock sense into somebody.

I want to say SHAME ON YOU!

Shame on you, to every leader, dictator, administrator, teacher, teacher who is also a parent, PARENTS, or student who in any way models this behavior, accepts it, or fails to punish it.

Have we learned nothing from decades of war, domination, racism, slavery, and history in general?  What has happened to basic love and kindness, and to the priority of teaching our children the same?

Maybe I've got an overly simple opinion of this hellacious crisis, but I believe centuries of ignoring the words of God through his son Jesus Christ need to be reversed.  Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39)

Love your neighbor as yourself.  Now there's a thought.

We need to heed these two wise commandments.  Immediately.

Precious lives are at stake.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Strange Beast Indeed!

If you have read any of my posts over the last few months, you may recall that I've been studying the book of Job in the Old Testament.

I finally got to the end the other day, yet I'm still thinking about a crazy section in it that I came across toward the end of the book, in chapter 39.

Photo Credit: Anup Shah / Getty Images
In six silly verses in the center of this chapter, God speaks to Job about the ostrich.  Huh????  What does the ostrich, of all things, have to do with Job's horrific suffering and his demand for vindication as a righteous man?

Honestly, it's hilarious.  You should take a look.  Job 39:13-18.  Go read it now.  It's as if God's saying "Look at this crazy thing I came up with.  Yes, I made this wondrous bird.  You can't possibly make any sense out of it, so stop thinking you could ever fully understand my mind, either.  Look how silly it is!"

Even though I've seen these odd creatures various times in zoo captivity, I did a bit of research to learn more.  Here are some of the crazy tidbits I found:

1.  The ostrich is the largest and fastest moving bird.  It is a bird, but it cannot fly.  It can travel at speeds up to 45 mph, grow up to 9 feet tall, and weigh up to 320 pounds.  An egg can weigh up to 3 pounds, and a baby can be the size of a chicken.

2.  The Libyan ostrich and the hornbill are the only birds having eyelashes.

3.  The ancient Romans particularly liked roasted ostrich wings.

4.  Ostrich eggs were greatly admired by the ancient Persians, who sent them as tributes to the Emperors of China.

5.  An ostrich omelet made from one egg will feed about 8 hungry diners.

6.  My Bible discusses ostriches twice, both in Lamentations 4:3 and Job 39:13-18.

7.  The ostrich only has 2 toes per foot.  All other birds have 3 or 4.

8.  It often eats sand and pebbles to help grind up the food in its gizzard, a small pouch where food is crushed and ripped up before it travels on to the stomach.

Photo Credit: Robert Airhart / Shutterstock
9.  During a predator attack, the male ostrich attempts to lure the predator away.  The mother ostrich just runs for her life, oblivious to whether her babies are following her or not.

10. Contrary to popular legend, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand.  They do lie down when threatened, though, and the head and neck blend in with the sand color.

11. A solid ostrich kick can kill a lion.

What a strange piece of creation, indeed!

And here's what the Lord himself said about his creation in the book of Job (in my loose translation):

Job 39:13  It flaps its wings ridiculously, but yet it cannot fly.

Photo Credit: Karl Ammann / Getty Images
Job 39:14  Mothers lay their eggs and leave them totally unprotected on the ground.

Job 39:15  The mother doesn't care if predators stomp on them or steal them.  Oh well.

Job 39:16  The mother ostrich has no maternal instincts; her labor and delivery didn't enamor her to her babies.

Job 39:17  The ostrich is dumb.  It has no common sense.  

Job 39:18  At least it can run fast.

Photo Credit: Charlesjsharp / Wikipedia
Perhaps God means to show Job through the ostrich that every creature, whether familiar, mysterious, difficult, or odd, is similar to suffering.  Sometimes we can recognize its purpose, but other times it's simply painful and puzzling.  Whether we understand our suffering or not, it seems to be part of God's order for us at times.

Who'd of thought there was such a message for us from the ostrich?  A strange beast, indeed!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hatred Turned to Love

I used to hate writing.  Numbers and equations were more my forte, please.

Both in high school and college, I dreaded any assignment that included writing a paper, even one as short as one page or a 200-word theme.  My high school senior English term paper was 24 pages long, and I wanted to shoot myself by the time it was completed.  I wrote on the symbolism of the rainbow in D. H. Lawrence's books.  Oh yeah, I got an A grade.  It's just that I didn't love that kind of writing at all.

I was a mathematician; I loved everything in every high school math class I took.  Then I trained in college to be a math teacher.

After raising my kids, I returned to the working world and taught college mathematics for ten years.  I loved the odd mix of students at the technical college where I taught, and I thrived in my work.  Some say when you love your job, you never work a day in your life.  It was just that way for me until I retired from teaching.

But now I write.  An odd and unexpected mix of circumstances led me to start writing, and I write about what interests me.  I create books that help others.  My former hatred of writing has turned to love, and that's a beautiful thing.  I can only attribute this new phase in my life to the lovely creativity of my wonderful God.  I'm so grateful that He has opened up this new world to me - an exciting and challenging career that can continue into my old age, no matter how physically infirm I may ever become.  As long as my mind is clear, I will write.  I will write and point to Him in all my writing.

Many of you, my readers, have been cheering me on in my latest writing project, and I appreciate your interest and support.  My fifth book is nearly finished, Risking It All: One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income.  You've been asking me how soon this book will be "out" and available to purchase.  Here's the update:  Just a few days ago, I finally submitted the book proposal for this book to my agent.  Woohoo!

There was a lot of writing.

Three-inch clips - necessary for file organization
Files were organized and combined into one final document.

Then there was a lot of editing on the proposal, both by myself and by a professional editor.

Next there were some sequestered days when I carefully made all the suggested corrections and changes.

I made sure all files were named as the agency required.

One last page through, and then the cover letter and proposal were sent via a carefully labeled email.  Most agencies do all by electronic methods these days.

27,000 words and 87 pages.  And that's just the proposal!  Now I wait until I hear back from the agent as to what happens next.  He will pitch it to publishers and hopefully rustle up a contract.  I have done my best, I have prayed, and now it is all in God's hands.

Required tools of the edit process
Many of my faithful encouragers have asked me why this proposal has taken me three full months to write.  I thought I'd answer by explaining here what is involved in writing a non-fiction book proposal.

Every literary agency requires different elements to a proposal, and I'm only going to list the elements that my agency requires.  It falls onto the shoulders of each author to research what an agency requires and then to follow those directions explicitly.

My proposal to the Hartline Agency (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) includes these elements:

1.  A proposal cover letter.  This letter is the body of the email to the agent.  The proposal is attached as a link to this cover letter.

2.  A proposal cover sheet

3.  A proposal table of contents

4.  A one-page sell sheet (the agent will use this with various publishers)

5.  A biographical sketch

6.  A description of the book

7.  A chapter outline, including a table of contents of my book and a 4-5 sentence description of each chapter.

8.  A market analysis

9.  A competitive analysis (of other books similar to mine)

10.  A  marketing plan

11. History of the manuscript

12. Three sample chapters

Last Friday, I pushed "SEND," and then I cleaned up my desk.

How did I celebrate after clicking "SEND?"

With a decadent lunch assortment of some of my favorites - pickles, several slices of cheese, potato chips, and a thumbprint peanut butter cookie.  Of course.

Phew!  Now to return to writing the remainder of the other chapters.

The end is in sight.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Brace Yourself!

Some of my readers may recall that I've been plodding through a study of the Biblical book of Job.  It's taking me a while to get through this book, longer than I thought it would.

I started on July 14th of this year, 69 days ago.
The book of Job has 42 chapters.  I've studied 38 to date.
In my tiny Bible, the book of Job only covers 46 pages.

Make it stop, guys!
Yes, I'm progressing through this book like slogging through molasses.

For the first 37 chapters, Job laments about his awful condition, and his "friends" try to convince him to repent, for surely no man would be so awfully afflicted if he hadn't done something very wrong.

Ugh!  For a good half of the chapters, Job's friends pontificate, so pompously sure of themselves.  They know Job must be harboring some secret sin and is just too proud to confess it.  (With friends like that, who needs enemies?)

By the end of chapter 37, I just wanted to scream.  I wanted the good old boys to shut up, and I wanted help to finally come for Job.  Please.

And then in chapter 38, God finally responds to Job.

Job has been horrifically afflicted.

He has cried out to God.

Job has imagined a peaceful setting and a "legal trial" in which God hears his case.

It is not to be as Job has wished.

Instead, God answers Job out of a whirlwind; He speaks out of a storm.

It is terrifying, but is evidence that God has not been ignoring Job all along.

Brace yourself?
God does not belittle Job's intelligence, nor does he scorn Job.  The format of God's response to Job is to bombard him with rhetorical questions.  To each of God's questions, Job must humbly plead ignorance.

However, first God tells Job to "brace yourself like a man..."


I continued reading through the rest of that chapter, but my mind kept returning to those two commanding words.  Brace yourself.

What was God really telling Job to do with that brief command?

After some thought and prayer, I believe by encouraging Job to brace himself, God wanted Job to use all his physical, mental, and spiritual abilities to try to understand God's intentions for Job, which God will express indirectly in the speech that will follow those two words.

Son Caleb "bracing himself"
What is the takeaway for me?  How shall I "brace myself?"

I, too, can use all my physical, mental, and spiritual abilities to try and understand God's intentions for me.

For one, I can be intentional about studying the Bible each day.  Furthermore, I can train myself to listen to Him speak to me throughout each day.  The more I obey, the more I believe I will clearly hear Him.  And finally, I can step out in faith and obediently take those "risky" steps of action as I reach out to others.

Who can fully understand the mind of our God?  Perhaps with some practical "bracing," we all will see more into the depth, nature, and wisdom of God.

That, my friends, seems to be a win-win.

Monday, September 18, 2017

There "jillgoes" Again!

And there "jillgoes" again!

The hubby and I just returned from a ten-day trip to the deserts and mountains of Arizona, and it was an awesome trip, so rich in landscape beauty, culture and history, and opportunities for adventure-seekers.

I love to write, and I have excessive wanderlust.  Combining the two is my passion!  When jillresearches, jillplans, jillwrites, and then jillgoes, let's just say Jill is one happy gal.

For years I've written a plethora of custom tours.  Trip planning has become my most favorite hobby. The problem is that I write more trips than I can get around to taking.  The hubby needs to retire soon, so we can get those trip notebooks out of the file and into reality.

I dream of someday opening my own little travel company:  "Yougo with Jillgoes" or some such outfit.  With just a few specks of encouragement, I may do just that.

Who wants to go travel with me?

Do you need a vacation custom-designed for you, created with your own preferences in mind?

Maybe I can help you.  I love creating a masterpiece of an adventure, including a vast variety of interesting experiences.

Take a look at just some of the fun the hubby and I had on this last adventure:

An early morning balloon ride over the majestic mountains of Sedona:

A short hike to the Montezuma's Castle ruins (U. S. National Park).  Seeing these ancient abodes challenges me to think about how older cultures survived in difficult places and climates:

An exhilarating all-terrain pink jeep tour along the scenic rim of the mountainside around Sedona.  This tour was not for the meek and fragile!

A self-guided auto tour of the greater Sedona area using an audio CD.  We enjoyed the freedom this CD gave us to stop where we wanted and to go around the area at our own pace.  The narration added valuable and interesting tidbits of background to what we were seeing along the drive.  The landscape and wildlife in the desert of Arizona is so different from what we see in Pennsylvania.  The photo below shows a common prickly pear cactus.  During our trip, I enjoyed a prickly pear margarita, some prickly pear hard candy, and some shampoo and shower gel all made from the fruit of this plant.

We took a part day trip over to the town of Jerome, known as one of the best ghost towns in the United States.  A historic/ghost van tour took us all around the area and delighted us with a plethora of fun stories and legends.  This old, vacant church in the valley of Jerome was built entirely of dynamite cases:

After leaving Sedona and Jerome, we headed south a few hours to the Scottsdale/Phoenix/Glendale area of the state.

I arranged for a private, narrated, golf cart tour of Old Town Scottsdale.  Because the hubby was having such trouble with his knees, we didn't do any excessive hiking on this trip.  I had planned tours and experiences that would work with his challenges.

While on the golf cart in Old Town Scottsdale, we paused at this little place.  It was a former stopping point for the Pony Express Riders who would sleep between shifts in the two chambers on the upper floor:

Now who says there's no water in the desert?  If it's there, I will find it.  Traveling east into the Mesa, Arizona area, we thoroughly enjoyed a 1-1/2 hour narrated cruise on Lake Saguaro.  Along its shores we spotted bald eagles and other waterfowl, a vast variety of cacti on the cliffs and mountains, and a group of wild horses grazing near the water's edge.

View from the Desert Belle on Lake Saguaro
I find myself feeling like a sponge whenever I travel.  I soak up all I can learn about so many different things, places, and people.  It's difficult for me to understand why some people never want to leave home to explore other places.

Along with the new things to see and experience, everywhere I go there is a bonanza of neat places to eat, if one takes the time to find them.  (I love researching area favorites.)  

And let's throw into the vacation mix those museums, interesting factory tours, and shops to investigate.  The #1 attraction in Phoenix is the Musical Instrument Museum.  This museum is considered to be one of the top twenty museums of the country.  Here is one odd musical instrument we discovered there:

And finally, I relish the challenge of simply finding unique hotels, resorts, and vacation homes in which to stay.  Some classic driving road trips work best with chain hotels, but this was not one of those.  These very special locations seemed to call for extraordinary accommodations, and that is what we found:

Our private infinity pool, along the canal.  Yes, we had a pontoon boat, too!
Wanna come along next time?  Want me to design a special getaway for you?  Make my day by letting me get to work on it!  

The memories we made from this trip are priceless.  I'd be glad to help create some for you, too.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Job - An Unlikely Social Activist

For several months I've been working my way through the book of Job.  And, as I’m finishing writing the last few pages of my book Risking it All:  One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income, it’s quite timely that I came across a particular chapter this morning during my Bible study time.  

In Job chapter 29 and the two that follow it, Job presents his final speech of the entire book.  He gives his final thoughts about his current state.

Once a wealthy man, he has lost it all, and his body is wracked with horrible pain.  Not only that, but he is also tormented by unanswered questions.  It seems to him as if God has turned his back.

In chapter 29, Job takes some time to reflect on his past prosperity, happiness, honor, respect, helping, kindness, and usefulness.  It is in this portion of Scripture that we clearly see a man who was aware of the needs of those in his society and did what he could to help those less fortunate.

In spite of his own personal troubles, Job sets a stellar example of a man after God’s own heart.

He rescued the poor who needed help.  (29:12)

He took care of the orphans.  (29:12)

He cared for the dying.  (29:13)

He provided for the widows.  (29:13)

He was righteous and fair, in all outward actions and in his mind.  (29:14)

He gave direction to the blind.  (29:15)

He cared for the lame.  (29:15)

He gave fathering and advice to the needy.  (29:16)

He helped strangers integrate and make their way.  (29:16)

He did what he could to stop evil men and rescue their victims.  Could these be thieves, kidnappers, traffickers, slavers, embezzlers, gougers?  (29:17)

He gave good, Godly counsel.  (29:21-22)

His words were compassionate, bringing kindness and hope.  (29:23)

He was a loving, caring person, kind to all.  (29:24)

He shared his wisdom, watched over his people, and comforted them when needed.  (29:25)

Also, later in Chapter 30:

He wept for those in trouble and grieved for the poor.  (30:25)

It would seem that Job knew God’s heart for people and used the resources in his possession to do what he could.  What a great example of a compassionate man whose devotion to God showed through his care for others! 

Although we may never be able to answer all our questions about Job’s story, I still think we can learn a lot from his unique experience.  His story is unique in its extremes, yet we all can relate to it on some level because all of us have known some level of suffering.