“…an everlasting dominion…”

permanent marker

Permanence. Like black markers. “That ink is permanent,” laments every mother who has tried to remove it from her walls or upholstery fabrics! Our weight; it fluctuates. We’d like to be permanently young and at the perfect weight. It just doesn’t happen. It takes lots of work and dedication. Looks are not permanent. It is the heart and soul of a person that remains, even until their dying breath. We are who we are, deep inside. And who are we?

 

blue suburban

We are contemplating a new car. I dread the car payments and car insurance, so I am dragging my feet. And I dread driving a different car. I have had my car since 2004. I love this car. It fits me perfectly. People say, “Get a newer model.” Well, I would, except they stopped making it at my model year. Which I never did understand, because I see them everywhere. And my knee-jerk reaction, and preference, is to go for my favorite car ever, my Suburban. I loved – well, thoroughly enjoyed – that car. But it seems silly for an almost-empty-nester, and grandma, to drive such a large vehicle. I can haul my grandkids in it, yes, but not regularly enough to warrant driving that large of a vehicle. But when faced with obtaining something new, I reach for the familiar, the more permanent fixture in my life, because it is well within my comfort zone, and I have deliciously wonderful memories driving that blue Suburban everywhere. I was sad the day I traded it in for the car I have now. I would love to keep my current car, but if I need to replace it, I automatically want to return to my happy car!

Twin Towers Burning

So many things come and go, and in reality, very little is permanent. This weekend we watched a movie about 9/11 and off and on during the entire show, I wept. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I recall how one of the Fire Chiefs they interviewed said that this was a day that was “out of our playbook.” And that “we have no plan to deal with a disaster of this magnitude.” And I remember feeling so helpless as people jumped from the buildings; I cannot imagine the grief of their family members or of those watching it in person. It was a frightening day. I cried all over again, as they said that over 200 people died jumping from those buildings. The Twin Towers were meant to be a permanent landmark to the free market and an icon in New York City. They were a permanent part of who we were, as a people. That day brought our country together. We did not care what color we were, or what sort of career we had, even which building we were fleeing from. We just helped the people next to us. Because, as a country, we had been cocky enough to not plan for an attack of this magnitude on our own soil, we had to rely on one another. And it did this country some good, being taken down to our knees, quite literally.

Ash covered people

As this show went on, my husband and I lamented that the nationalism that we felt during that time is gone. It was not permanent. The social tension is so high right now, and it explodes to the surface at the least stimulation. People are lashing out at one another. People attack and kill one another; we steal from one another and we have no respect for our neighbor, or his property. It is ridiculous how many break-ins we have had over the past year in the little area in which we live. We were chalking it up to teens being bored during the summertime, with its 20-hours of sunlight daily. But now we have learned it is just flat-out crime. People stealing cars out of driveways, 4-wheelers, shovels (I am not kidding), tires, dogs, breaking into cars and stealing ID and money and goods in the cars; destroying things just because they want them. Things that do not belong to them! Race and other factors have not entered into it. They are crimes of convenience. Nothing is sacred to anyone. Anything they want, they just think it is okay to take it. There is no thought of “we’re all in this together.” There is no nationalism, not even pride of neighborhood, home, and hearth. The country is far more divided and violent than it was on September 11th, when those planes struck the Twin Towers.

“And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”  Daniel 7:14

I believe that the Lord is ever in our midst. I do believe He weeps at the horrific ways we talk to one another and treat one another. I do believe He is allowing the evil one a presence in among our people, in order for us to learn. We need experience to teach us some pretty tough lessons. A priest friend once told me, “Do not pray for patience. Because when you do, that is when God will give you situations to learn patience. It cannot be gifted; it has to be learned.”

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Hebrews 12:6-7

If you cant fly MLK

Sometimes I wish things would remain static, but I know change comes through movement. I pray that people would gain wisdom and see the error of their ways. In this country, we have so much freedom and we spit in the face of it almost daily. The new controversy over this football player who refuses to stand for our National Anthem annoys me more than I can properly express. Yes, he has the right to express himself. Yes, it is a First Amendment right – something we take seriously in this Land of the Free. But it is also the Home of the Brave. And to not stand, to me, is an insult to those who fought to bring us these freedoms. Beginning with the farmers who would not bow to an imperial presence in our Colonies, to even my son, who served in two arenas of battle in recent years. So many have given all, so that this athlete can make a statement at a football game, even while insulting those who afforded him that right. A comment I read on Facebook today pointed out that he is nothing more than an entertainer. Athletes are entertainers. The corporation that hired him to put on his show at games, they are responsible to the people who watch those shows of athletic prowess. And there are lots and lots of financial supporters who put their dimes in, too; sponsors by the truckload. I would love to see people boycott the corporations that say it is okay to not stand, because they think that “we are a company that believes it is more important to express your personal rights than it is to show allegiance to the very country giving you this right, while you earn all the money we pay you.” Money, by the way, that comes from endorsements, and fans who wear their gear and go to their games to eat $25 hot dogs. If companies can come out in support of gay rights – the whole debacle about Target’s bathroom privileges comes to mind – then companies should be able to say things like, “If you are our employee, please be respectful and show respect in public for our country by standing for the National Anthem.” Period. But I doubt the NFL will require its players to stand for the National Anthem. Perhaps we fans of the game and the entertainment it provides us, should make our opinions known more forcefully, as in boycotting? You can choose to not attend games, not support this particular team, perhaps not purchase that jersey – or not.

I am expecting that in the media, there will be backlash and controversy over this player’s comments and statements, and his refusal to stand. And there will be arguments. And ugliness. And if someone asks everyone to stop…just stop…and pray for one another? Ha-Ha. They would be laughed at. Because this is not about God. And that is where I beg to differ. In a sense, it is about God because this is a Christian country. Yes, some of our founders were not exactly your typical church-goers. But they whole-heartedly believed in keeping God in our country. They prayed. They prayed a lot. God was mentioned by them and through the process of putting together our founding documents. None of it was done without seeking the blessing of God. There are those (who number less than 8% combined, between atheists and agnostics) who profess no religion. There is a hefty 22% who profess no formal religious affiliation at all (although that does not necessarily mean they have no faith). That leaves 70% of the population who believes, and who try to attend Church, and identify as a Christian. 70 %.  Where are they all???? The streets are empty of them; the media certainly is empty of them, for the most part.

house-rostrum

The above is in both the Senate and the House. In God We Trust. We entrusted our country to His providence because it is permanent. It does not change. It is something we can rely on and count on. Always. We do not espouse one practice of religion over another. We do, however, espouse a belief in God. That is not just a pithy statement. We had people who fled the religious persecution of England to establish a country free from that. We have welcomed those who are being persecuted for their faith to come and establish lives in America. We’re an open country like that (ask those who have fled countries that do not allow the practice of their faith. And those countries who persecute women. And those countries who put to death their citizens who disagree with the organizations in power). We do not, however, believe in removing God from all aspects of our public lives. We are not sneaking around, holding meetings in back rooms, but rather, we are bold in our faith. That is a laudable thing. An enviable thing. An attractive thing.

pray for persecuted

There are so many ways to handle persecution. Our country has opened its doors to pretty much anyone who wants to come here. (Something I am not all that happy about. But that is a different subject). There are so many avenues available for those who want to defend the defenseless. We can become pro-life in all its aspects. We can honor those who choose life. We can assist the poor and the shut-in. We can honor our neighbors and our neighborhoods by helping make them a safe refuge. Grab a broom and sweep your streets. Wash graffiti off the walls. Clean up trash. Help the elderly who can no longer care for themselves. Support causes and organizations that go around doing good for others. Sitting down when all others are standing in honor, and creating a furor, sends so many mixed, and wrong messages. “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” That quote from Gandhi is what was morphed into, “Be the change you want to see in others” for bumper stickers. But the message is intact. We need to change ourselves, our tiny neighborhood, in order for the ripples to be felt nationwide and worldwide.

MLK nonviolence

One of our most vocal and loved social thinkers and leaders was Martin Luther King. Jr. (He was an Independent. He did not adhere to either party in politics). He was a deep-thinking man who believed in God and equality for all men. He would be appalled at the violence in this country. He preached kindness and meekness, and love for your fellow man. He believed that love trumped all else. He once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” I truly believe that if we cling to the permanent love of God, and embrace our neighbors as ourselves, we can conquer this ugliness that is pervading our country, and pervading the world. We are in a dark and difficult time and I am scared for my grandchildren. My grandmother apologized to me once, saying, “I am sorry for the mess my generation is leaving you. We had so little, and with the wars we went through, we wanted our children to not “want” for anything. They in turn sought that for you. But we made a tragic error in that we did not teach our children to work for what we gave them. They did not understand sacrifice. And now your generation, even more spoiled, does not either.” And I think she was right. We’re so entitled, we think someone else should take care of it. There is no sense of personal responsibility.

cursive

It’s silly, really, to bring this up, but they are not teaching cursive much anymore. There is no time in the day to do it. Teachers have to prepare kids for all these tests they require using Common Core-styled curriculum. So they allow kids to just print. It’s just an example of the shifting of our culture to being ever more technology-driven, and service-oriented. No one creates, makes, builds much in the USA any  longer. We just service what we buy. And we use the internet for everything else. Subsequently, our next generation will no longer be able to read documents that give you original information, as they are written in cursive. The Declaration of Independence, for example. They’ll have to read it printed online somewhere. Pretty soon, cursive will be the same for future historians as Egyptian hieroglyphics were for the early historians in the 1800s. A mystery to be solved.

And this brings me to my lament about permanence. There is so little. So much is transient these days. How we feel right now rules how we act right now. We do not adopt permanent beliefs about much of anything. Nothing sticks! We do not stand up for anything in a strident, permanent way. How the wind blows is how we vote. We chose this past president, twice, because he was different. We did not stop to think about qualifications for the office of President, we voted with the entertainers who were endorsing him. We went with public sentiment. And boy, have I met so many with regrets for that error! As I stated above, roughly 70% of our population, according to a 2014 census, identified with a particular Church. We are allowing the other 30% who have no belief in God, or who couldn’t care less about faith or God, run this country. I think it is time to reassert our permanent adherence to our collective faith in God. We need to stand for our National Anthem, we need to love our brothers and even our creepy neighbors, and we need to be people of character. We need to say “no” to the Hillarys of this world and deny the naysayers a place at this table. It is time we resolved to learn about this country of ours, learn about the issues and the candidates, and to take America back. I do not want to see another 9/11 happen in order for us to wake up.

MLK INject love

If you are part of this glorious 70%, please take a moment to think and to pray. What is the heritage you are leaving for who is coming after you? Are you leaving a safe and Godly place for others to flourish? What are you doing for your neighbor? I am angry. I am frightened. I am frustrated. And I feel so very helpless and inadequate to the task of taking this country back. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20. As a collective body of voters and citizens, united in faith, we can remedy this situation! Whoever deigns to read this, take a moment to think about this and to pray about this. Determine your activity level, your involvement in making this country better. How can you help? Boycott something! Write a letter. Blog about it. Reach out to friends, family, neighbors. Be kind. Change your little corner of the world. Do something pro-active to ensure God remains permanently at the reigns in this country. Hit your knees and pray for our country and for each and every one of us in it. Be proactive at making sure God is the sovereign of this nation always and forever.

House serve lord

 

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“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass…”

Symbolism is so much a part of what we do and how we live. We I am scrambling to be sure we have our “spirit wear” all ready for the homecoming game tomorrow. It’s important to show team spirit by wearing our school colors! We clang cow bells painted the right colors and are sure to sit in the booster section, where we can yell without embarrassing our other children! Ha-ha! But we cannot wear colors that are from our opposing team, because that doesn’t show support to our players and cheerleaders. We have to have all the right symbols.

Football

I was recently in a discussion about wearing our wedding rings on the right or left hand. In the west, people wear them on their left hands. People in Eastern European cultures (and Russian Orthodox and other Orthodox Churches) all wear them on the right hand. But in America, it confuses the average person if you wear your wedding set on the right hand with people thinking you are divorced or widowed. The symbol isn’t right; it does not fit into their notion of how things should be. It can unsettle people, seeing the wrong image in the wrong place.

There are logos and symbols all around us. If you give most people quizzes on company logo recognition, they can name many corporations just by seeing their logos. That means their marketing team has been doing their jobs and doing them well!

images.2

There are some images that people enjoy and some that make people uncomfortable. Some images can evoke such strong emotions. If you see something that reminds you of your childhood, it can bring back happy memories, or bring you to tears. Other images are quickly forgotten and we don’t give them another thought.

crucifix-2-flash

When many Christians see a crucifix, the image of Christ hanging the cross, they get very uncomfortable. I have had people say that it is like looking at photos of a murder scene over and over again. I can see that. I can feel that sort of emotion. For most Catholics, the crucifix reminds them of the mercy of God and of His great sacrifice for us. It evokes feelings of safety and comfort. There is a prayer called the Anima Christi that is often prayed while gazing at a crucifix:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Permit me not to be separated from Thee
From the malignant enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That with thy Saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever
Amen

It makes looking at that particular symbol not as gruesome as some would think. There are other symbols and ways of representing the Cross of Christ. And I have been pondering these symbols recently. It is easy to have a symbol mean something to you, but when others look upon it, they see something very differently. There are all kinds of crosses out there, and each means something to the culture they are associated with. For many of us in western society, these crosses confuse us, because they are not what we are used to seeing, when we associate them with our faith. This is a wall hanging I have in my home:

images. wall crosses.

I like it because it shows all different ways of looking at crosses. It’s made of metal and 3D. It has engendered many conversations. And some Christians do not have any crosses in their homes, nor do they display paintings or statues. Very few have icons. We are probably the odd-man-out but we have all of it. We have statues, paintings, crosses from all over the world, and icons. We have lots of icons. We have very little secular art, actually.

I have been pondering symbols in other ways, as well. Permanence is something that is not common in the corporate world, although many older companies are very recognized just by their logos!

apple microsoft  pepsi flag2

Each of these logos is very familiar and we all have an opinion about each of them. One of them is not a logo per se, but a symbol. There is a difference. A symbol is a representation, a pictogram, whereas a logo is a trademarked corporate identity that may contain a symbol. Like Apple’s logo with it’s iconic symbol of an apple with a bite out of it, and symbol of our homeland, the American flag.

The cross, of course, cuts through all the corporate hype and is not owned by one corporation or church. It is a universal symbol. For many it evokes comfort and peace, and for others it is a sign of divisiveness. For me, it symbolizes a part of who I am and what I believe. And my faith does not waiver, it does not fade, it does not change. I am a Christian woman. Where I choose to worship, the style of how I worship, may change. Those are externals. But my belief does not change or waiver. So the symbol of my faith, the cross, does not waiver. Which is why I am considering getting a tattoo of a cross for myself, for my birthday. It’s not really for anyone else. It is something that would remind me, each time I look at it, what I believe. But which representation, for me, do I choose? It’s had me up nights, because inking is permanent. Which is why it has also taken me this long to even consider it. And I have pondered this whole issue of logos and symbols, recognition and the emotions they evoke. And I am thinking and praying, and searching my heart. Who knows? Maybe it will be a new purse. I’ll let you know.

Tattoo

 

“And even when I am old and gray….”

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18

Have you ever just felt “blah”? I feel yucky. And in some ways I’m also excited. Life can be so weird sometimes. I don’t think it’s hormones! Ha-Ha. Most of those are asleep these days!

Jans 60th Cake

Yesterday, I turned 60. Now, I don’t think it’s old, or that I am old, in particular. I am feeling sort of cocky about it, actually. Like now perhaps people will somehow treat me as more mature, or wise? Even though I thought it was supposed to happen at 30, then at 40, and then even at 50! I am hopeful it may someday take hold! Ha-Ha!

I think I am depressed because my 90-year-old dad was going to be with me as I celebrated this milestone, but it just did not work out that way. I am relieved and sad, at the same time. I am relieved because he was bringing someone with him I have never met, something I realized after they could not come, had made me very uncomfortable. I am sad because my dad is 90 and this was the first time I would have seen him in 10 years, and he has never met my daughter-in-law or his great-grandchildren. He has only seen our youngest son once or twice. (Our son really has no memory of him, other than he has a beard). So I am sad he is missing out on that. And I am sad I will not have that father-daughter time with him. We have not had time like that in the 32 years I have been married and it would have been nice. And I think I am flat-out bummed because I had not realized how much it meant to me, to have him visit one, last, time, and for my birthday, too.

JerusalemCross

The cross above is called the Jerusalem Cross, or the Crusader’s Cross, or the Templar’s Cross. They might deviate a little, but it is basically this representation. The central cross represents Christ, and the four smaller crosses represent the Four Gospel Writer’s – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are other descriptions, but this one is the one most historians view as accurate. Historically, in Egypt and Northern Africa, people would have a small, Coptic style cross tattooed on their inner wrist, to symbolize to others that they were Christian, living in a highly Muslim world.

Coptic.colored cross.

Some of the more stylized versions of the Coptic Cross highly resemble the Crusader’s Cross. The smaller versions, usually in black, are tattooed on the wrist area, as a quick way to identify oneself to other Christians in modern times as well as in ancient days. In Coptic tradition, youth often wait until they are at the “age of reason” or their late teens to have their tattoos done. It is still popular in Egypt, even now, and among modern Coptics living in the USA.

The reason I shared all of that, is because I wanted to get a tattoo of a Crusader’s cross, on my wrist, about the size of a nickel, for my 60th Birthday! One friend thinks all tattoos are disgusting and had no interest in hearing my reasons or looking at my ideas…none of it. All tattoos are bad. Period. Other people say to go for it because you are who you are, you have control over what you do with your body, and why not? Others say I’m too old, my skin is too old, etc. Some of my kids think it’s pretty cool and are encouraging me to get one, but I think that is something more popular among the younger set. My parents would freak out if I got a tattoo…in their era only people in prisons or sailors had tattoos! But, even worse than that, I also wanted to add some purple to my gray hair! Ha-Ha! Just because. My hubby says to go for all of it, and just have some fun. It doesn’t bother him.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

I know that sometimes people hit a certain age and have that dreaded “mid-life crisis.” I don’t think this is a crisis, but rather an awakening. This is my last year having a homeschooled child. The journey I began in 1992 with homeschooling our children will be completed, with our last child graduating high school. And I will have my days to myself. And as my husband said, “You need to find something to do or you will go nuts.” I think he is also concerned that I will drive him nuts! Ha-Ha! And to get all that going, while turning 60, I thought a visit with my dad, a tattoo, and some purple highlights would get things off to a roaring start. And then, poof, all the air went out of my balloon!

deflated balloon

And so I am working on the positives from this. There is no visit, so the pressures of hosting people in our home is gone. I can take the rest of this weekend to prepare for the first day of school on Monday. I got a nice haircut, taking off 2 1/2 inches and no one noticed, which means it was a great cut and just looks better. No purple, but hey, the 60 days aren’t over, yet. And no tattoo, but I am not giving up. My sister told me a story of a friend who turned 60 and decided she was going to celebrate for 60 days. And that is my plan. Maybe I don’t have the purple, the tattoo, or the visit, but these 60 days are not over, yet! The Lord gives us what we need, when we need it. He had other plans for my birthday and the ways I will celebrate it.

Gods plan for our life

I will rest in His plans for my life, listening to His gentle whisper as I make my plans, hoping I make them in coordination with His will for my life. God will sustain me, He will carry me, He will rescue me – from myself! God is so good. And there is just so much on the horizon that sometimes I think these first 60 years were preparing me for what lays in front of me. I am excited to begin a new path, embracing new friends and new ideas, still learning and growing and becoming. Things did not work out the way in which I had imagined them for this particular day, but there were so many blessings nonetheless! I had my grandchildren, who practiced with their mom, sing Happy Birthday to me as I blew out my candles, and then we feasted on some pretty amazing cake! I have a future job and career ahead of me, and for the past two days, I have actually seen the sunshine! In Alaska as fall settles in, that is quite something! And so I will move on to tomorrow, smiling and thinking of where I want that purple streak in my hair and what size and color I want that tattoo!

life plans gods plans

“Be still…”

Mirror Lake

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

This quote, by John Lubbock, spoke to me. We have had friends visiting from the “lower 48” this week and I know experiencing some pristine nature is never a waste of time. I have watched them visibly relax. I have seen the wonder on their faces and their joy burst forth when coming face-to-face with bears at the Wildlife Preserve, with watching the salmon jump as they climb to their spawning grounds at our Hatchery. I love sharing the blessing of where we live with people who do not get to experience it as often as we do. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, and I would not expect others to embrace where I live just because I do. I know it took me more than 40 years, once I first imagined this place, to actually live here. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). It is amazing to me how close to God you can feel, immersed in nature.

PalmerAK

I jokingly asked our visitors if they needed some time with asphalt and smog, with all this “nature overload.” And we chatted about how tired they are because of processing all that they are seeing, hearing, breathing, and tasting. It takes a lot out of you to travel to an environment that is so foreign to your daily routine. As we meandered along our coastline and mountains, we all remarked about how brave the early explorers were. We were imagining the native peoples making their home here, and the early explorers and then miners, making their way through these near-impenetrable mountains. There are places here that have never experienced the footfall of man. How remarkable that we live here, in among all the stupendous magnificence of a God who loves us.

Salmon ladder

Occasionally nature needs our help. In this state, we encourage natural activities and assist in raising the live birth numbers of many of our indigenous species. Most people who come here to sports fish would be sorely disappointed if nature was the only provider! Our Fish and Game Department is doing themselves proud with how they are helping our salmon spawn successfully.  There were approximately 6.5 million fish released into the waters of Alaska in 2016. Pretty impressive. We recently learned that an entire herd of Wood Bison, over 130 of them, were released successfully from our Wildlife Conservation Center. Wow! I love walking through our hatcheries, learning the stories of the many fish we have here in Alaska. At the Sealife Center in Seward, they work so hard to rehab the different animals back into the wild. In amongst all this nature, thriving here, you certainly feel humbled.

Aurora August 2016

One of the things that people always want to see is the Aurora Borealis, or the “Northern Lights” when they visit us. In the summertime, that is pretty hard because it doesn’t really get dark enough. Last night we got notices through our news and weather sites that the Aurora possibility was a +6, which is high. We stayed up until 1:30am, and even got up again at 3:30am, but it was either too light or too cloudy where we are. The photo above was taken north of us last night. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24). When you see the magnificence in the heavens, where the stars seem to dance, you certainly feel small, humbled, and in awe.

The experience of nature, up close and personal, away from the noise, smells, and interference of thousands of people, can ease your suffering and your pain. It makes your spiritual connection strengthen. I know for me, when I go to Church and can watch the snow dancing on the windows, and the candles are burning brightly, I can feel God. Learning to be still and seek His presence can be difficult in the midst of asphalt, smog, freeways, and social insanity, but it can be done. I found God in the middle of Southern California’s rush hour lifestyle. But I was constantly seeking my peace elsewhere. My prayer is that more and more can experience God in the stillness of His creation. It is truly magnificent, humbling, and breaks open those walls we place around ourselves when we live in a crazy, crowded world. Prayer seems to come naturally, in nature’s wonderland.

Be Still