Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This is the time of year for…DSC_0794

…cookies and other treats to share with friends and family.DSC_0785

DSC_0801…Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree, full of memories of years past.DSC_0808

DSC_0816…watching someone else decorate the Christmas tree, because you have too many papers to write to be able to help. : )DSC_0834

DSC_0947…cozy dinners of toasted open-face grilled cheese sandwiches on Christmas Eve.DSC_0865

…presents under the tree, and tired, not-morning-people that are still happy to be awake, even without little kids to squeal over boxes and wrapping paper. DSC_0872

DSC_0880…debates over cinnamon rolls and pancakes that are solved by having both for Christmas morning breakfast.DSC_0900

DSC_0907…Christmas presents that might just be bigger than you are.DSC_0917

…gifts of books to catch you up on all the books that you haven’t bought this year.DSC_0929

…delicious Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings!DSC_0987

…remembering Who came on that long ago night, was laid in a manger, and how the wise men found Him by the light of the star of Bethlehem.DSC_0845

look at the evidence…

When I first read the most recent flier for my Seabrook Conference, I remember thinking that the topic for the meetings looked very interesting, and also, that I’d never heard Rob S. speak before. By the time the conference started, though, I had forgotten what the topic was, but just had a feeling that the weekend of meetings would be awesome. Of course, they always are.

While I was thrilled by the first session, on absolute truth, and how the modern world tends to think it doesn’t exist (it does!), I just about fell out of my chair with excitement, when he explained what the rest of the meetings would be about. Why?

Because we were going to be studying how SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE firmly upholds the reliability of the Bible. Think you heard me wrong? You didn’t. We were going to go through six sessions on all the “ologies” of science (well, as many as we had time for), and how they support the Scripture.

As I enjoy reading books like Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution; The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus; and The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, this was right up my alley. I might not have been good at science class when I was in school, but I like to learn about science from the books that I read.

I especially like books that challenge consensus, because “consensus”, as it’s known today, seems to be an excuse for accepting what others tell you, without looking into it further. Whether it’s challenging the “consensus” of global warming or evolution, or just something that’s politically correct, I want to learn more about it. For another example, on history, modern consensus, or political correctness, is starting to tell us that Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator and a saint, while Thomas Jefferson was the lowest of the low, because he was a slave owner. But do you believe everything you read? Have you read the books that are referenced in the bibliographies, or even checked to see if they HAVE references?

Back to scientific evidence and the Bible… many agnostics and atheists believe that the Bible and science are antithetical to each other, and that a true scientist can’t believe in the “fairytales” that exist in the Bible. But what if, the more you study the world around you, the more it confirms that the Bible is true? What if the Scriptures KNEW many things about the sciences, long before any scientists had hypothesized on these subjects, much less proved the truth of the matter?

I am not a note-taker, in general, and I rarely go back and look at them again, but for once in my life, I took a million notes. And for once, I was at a conference without my notebook (even though I rarely use it) and had to use the notebook paper provided in my camp folder. I used all the pages provided, and more, because I couldn’t take notes fast enough to keep up with our speaker. And when I got home from the weekend, I started to tell my dad about what we’d learned.

You should’ve seen me. After a few minutes, I went and grabbed my notes, then seated myself on the back of the couch. From my perch there, I kept saying, “Did you know this? You did? What about this? You didn’t? Oh, let me tell you about this…”, and so on. I went through all my notes, excited as could be. Some of the things I heard that weekend, I had already known. But MANY things I hadn’t. And because we’re talking about evidence, these things can be looked up, and weighed in the balance. By you, and by me.

John 3:12 (KJV) says, “If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”. Basically, if you don’t believe the things that the Bible says about our physical universe, how will you ever believe those things that are of a spiritual nature? To sum up, for all you scientists, if you disbelieve what the Bible says about science itself, why should you even think of trusting what it says about spiritual explanations?

So, as I meander through some notes, let’s talk about a few different “ologies”. I’ll start with astronomy.

Isaiah 40:22 (KJV) says, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in”.

Did you see that? Isaiah was written in 720 B.C., approximately. The translation of “circle of the earth” refers to the earth being round, like a ball that a child plays with. And in 1992, it was mathematically demonstrated that we live in an expanding universe, which is constantly stretching out. So, in 720 B.C., the writer of the Bible wrote that the Lord “stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain”… a long time before it was scientifically proven!

I have several other notes on astronomy, but they’re much more cryptic, so I’m going to head on into biology. If you are interested in seeing Rob’s website, it is http://www.christianevidences.org. You will find references for all the subjects he covers, and he covers archaeological, manuscript, scientific, and prophetic evidence. The sciences listings are still being updated, so if you’re looking for an “ology” that isn’t there, it should be up in the next month or two.

When we reached the subject of biology, we talked about the verses in Genesis 1, about the Lord creating all the creatures and plants “according to their kind”. Rob went on to talk about a study that was done on the Siberian gray wolf, which carries all the genetic information to create ALL the types and breeds of dogs. From Great Danes to chihuahuas, they’re all there, and you can breed that wolf down, eventually. But you can’t take a chihuahua and breed it UP, so to speak. It doesn’t carry the genetic information for any dogs but chihuahuas. So, if you think about it, the Siberian gray wolf was probably on the Ark, but the Great Dane was not.  : )

Did you know there are bugs mentioned in the Bible? I actually did, but I’d never thought of them as being serious references to the subject of entomology. But Proverbs 6 refers to the ant, and tells us to consider the ant for “her” wisdom. In the 1740’s, it was discovered that most ants are girls, and they’re extremely hard working. The male ants are lazy and basically there for reproductive purposes.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” –Proverbs 6:6-8 (NKJV)

It was also discovered that the ants have no leader giving the orders. They use pheromones to direct other ants to come and help them, when they find some food that they can’t lift on their own.

When it came to chemistry, I thought of some of my friends in the Chemistry department, at Clemson. In Genesis 2:7 (NKJV), it says that “…God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”. So, research was done on this, and the human body has 59 elements in its makeup. All of these elements are found in the earth’s crust (everyday dirt).

Also, in 2 Peter 3:5 (KJV) says, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.”, which refers to how the earth was formed. If it was formed from water, the earth’s crust will also share the same elements that are found in sea water, right? Yes, it does. Exactly the same elements.

Then, we headed into meteorology. Job 38:22 speaks of “the treasures of the snow”. Have you ever seen an image of snow flakes, from under a microscope? They’re beautiful, right? And we’re told that no two are alike. Now, have you ever seen an image of man-made snow, under a microscope? They just look like lumps, nothing of beauty about them. Man cannot recreate the beauteous treasure which are snow flakes.

Why again, are we considering this? Before the world began, Satan challenged the Lord, and lost. He wanted to be “like God”, but couldn’t. So, he turned his thoughts to disrupting the beauty of creation. And he continues, to this day. For, if he can get people to challenge the Bible on its SCIENCE, again, why would certain people be willing to consider the evidence of faith and spiritual things? I am not saying that you can’t come to the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ without knowledge of science, but many scientists throughout the ages were only MORE convinced of the truth of Scripture, BECAUSE of the science that they study. Their studies confirmed their faith!

Continuing on in meteorology, the Bible confirms the weather cycle, long before anyone could explain how it worked. Ecclesiastes 1:7 (NKJV) speaks of how “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again”. You may think that this is so obvious, why even mention it. But remember, this book was written back before any scientist knew how the weather worked. Those that didn’t believe in the God of Israel, they believed that thunderstorms were sent by angry weather gods, not that ocean water evaporated, to go up into the sky, where it would eventually pour out on the earth again.

With the subject of paleontology, things got REALLY interesting. Okay, I find all of this to be fascinating, but this was really a subject that I didn’t know anything about. Have you ever wondered why children seem to be reaching puberty, earlier and earlier? Now, did you know that the human skull keeps growing, for the rest of your life, which is why you get sunken eyes and the hats of your youth don’t fit, when you get old? What do those two have to do with each other?

Back in the 1700’s, there was an orphanage in one of the Northern colonies that burned to the ground. Sadly, a number of children died. In recent years, there have been studies done of their remains. My notes are a little cryptic, but I think the key thing was that these children didn’t even have all their baby teeth yet, though in our day and age, they would have had most of their adult teeth by then.

Have you ever heard of cephalometric imaging? Jack Cuozzo pioneered the method of telling how old someone was when they died, just by using this method to examine their teeth. He began to use this method to examine Neanderthal remains in Europe, which many scientist think aren’t human. But what if they ARE human, they’re just from a time when men lived to be hundreds of years old? You know, like when Genesis talks about the “generations of Shem”, and how Noah’s sons lived to WAY old?

Le Moustier was a Neanderthal skeleton found in 1909, and contrary to what carbon dating suggests, cephalometric imaging suggests that this man was 18 years old when he died. And had a full set of baby teeth. Whereas, La Ferrassie was 267 when he died, and La Chapelle au Saints was 283. Consider this, the next time you think about the Neanderthal man… they’re just us, living to be REALLY old, only getting their adult teeth WAY late, and their skulls are strange and huge, because the human skull keeps growing, as long as you’re alive!

So, basically, we ARE hitting puberty, earlier and earlier… but back in the time of Noah, they were a lot older than we were, when they reached that state of life. And after they got out of teenager-hood (were they in their 30’s, by then?), they got older and older, while their skulls got bigger and bigger…

The fossil record also supports the idea of catastrophism. In the Bible, this would be the Great Flood. How about the fossils that have pterodactyls that seem to have died in agony? Or the fossilized remains of a protoceratops fighting a velociraptor… and they must have been buried instantly! For those of us that were raised on The Land Before Time, and dinosaurs being hatched from eggs, I find the fossil of an icthyosaur giving birth to be fascinating. Yep, the baby’s half in and half out, with several more still in the mother. And this isn’t even getting into the remains of T-rexes in Hell’s Creek, MT.

I’ll just mention anthropology, briefly, and how every culture on earth has a distant memory of a shared history. That shared history would include Creation, the Fall and the Garden of Eden, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Up until the mixing of the languages at the Tower of Babel, the people of the world spoke the same language. Obviously, I’m not providing verses for this, as I’ve been writing long enough on this whole post. But if you ever hear the creation stories from ANY culture, look for the shared history. There’s a reason they have their similarities.

The rest of our sessions went into evidence of Christ’s resurrection and the CSI test given to the reliability of the history of the Bible. Rather than write another mile-long post about them, I will suggest you look up Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, which covers these in detail. I can’t do this subject justice, and if I don’t put this post up soon, I never will.

Please remember, I am not a serious scholar of all these subjects, I am only trying to share what I learned and enjoyed. Everyone, including myself, would do well to keep looking up these subjects for themselves. If I have shared something incorrectly, or there is still more to learn on that subject (and I KNOW there definitely is!), I am open to doing so.

I think I have only given you the slightest taste of what our wonderful weekend of meetings covered, but if you have any interest in the above topics, please check out Rob’s website (www.christianevidences.org). He also recommended several other books that cover some of the sciences in depth, so if you’re interested, I can look those up. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I was able to share with you, and I hope you’ll look into it more, yourself!

a seabrook saturday…

I’m trying to condense the weekend, really I am, but I definitely got into picture taking mode. It’s been a conference or two since I took so many. Sometimes, I don’t get going until Sunday, and then you’ve missed your opportunity. But I took a page from Susie’s way of doing things, and included as many food pictures as possible. I did get into the habit of that, while in Australia, but I don’t always remember to take them, when I’m here in the U.S.DSC_0340

Thankfully, we didn’t stay up too late (meaning we were in bed by midnight, I think), so most of us were able to get some sleep that night. We arrived at the dining hall for our first breakfast of the weekend, and were thrilled to find that we had “graduated” to the “grown-up dining room”. Do you remember the tables you sat at, in elementary school? With the colorful mushroom seats that are very close to the floor, because of your short legs? Well, when the conference center is full, we often get to sit on that side of the dining rooms, for at least the first part of the weekend. Usually, on Sunday evening, we’ll graduate to the side with the real chairs. But this weekend, we started off there! It was great.DSC_0343

DSC_0344Since I started going to Seabrook, when I was eighteen years old, I have continued to have an argument with some of my Southern friends, about the subject of grits. For 10-12 years, I wouldn’t touch them, while at the conference, because I’ve always preferred oatmeal. Grits were on par with a bowl of wet sand, flavored with cheese.DSC_0347

DSC_0349Of course, my dear Dana, southern girl that she is, hates oatmeal and loves grits. So, it’s made for some interesting arguments. But a few years back, I gave in, and discovered that some people (like my aunt) are capable of making grits that taste okay. So, I’ve started to eat them at Seabrook, too. And here they are, for your perusal. Funny thing is, on Sunday, I didn’t eat oatmeal, even when it was served at the buffet.DSC_0354

DSC_0355As you can see, we had to test out some of the emergency exits, just to make sure they were working. Actually, that cabin has the only one facing the boardwalk, so it’s great for talking to people before heading outside. My cabin faces the bushes and the alligator pond (don’t worry, we’re up off the ground), so no reason to look out that little door.DSC_0356

DSC_0359Arriving at our little Chapel of the Palms, you can get a tantalizing glimpse of the ocean, over the sea oats (don’t pull them, you’ll get charged a couple hundred bucks). Inside, Skip waited in anticipation for all of us to arrive for the morning meeting. And we were off! DSC_0360

While I’ll talk more about the meetings, later, in another post, this weekend of meetings was amazing. They’re always awesome, of course, because our speakers are never dull, and always bringing forth the Word of God. But hearing about absolute truth (truth is NOT relative, people!) and scientific evidence for the reliability of the Bible? Right up my alley. Couldn’t get enough, and I plan to read Rob’s website, back to front (or top to bottom, as the case may be).DSC_0362

I don’t have a video of any of our song sessions, but I hope to get my hands on one. I wish every church and chapel out there could hear us sing. So many assemblies and churches don’t seem to know the meaning of “make a joyful noise”. And I don’t mean we sound anything like noise. But singing is meant to be joyful, and you should sing out, if you’re capable! I’ve been in churches where I was afraid to sing louder, because no one else was, and it would sound like I was singing a solo. Not here. Someday, we’re going to blow the roof off. Probably on a Sunday evening, when Harold has us sing “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”, “And Can It Be”, and “My Anchor Holds”, all in a row. My voice is usually about gone, by the end of the weekend.DSC_0378

DSC_0387On the way to lunch, I stopped to take a look at the alligator pond. I never actually saw him, but I knew he was there. The camp manager told us that he was, and explained how he was “safe” (not to pet, but look at), if we kept our distance. Apparently, they have weekly tests to see whether he continues to be safe around people. Someone just had to ask how they tested that. Jack told us that they have a “crazy Brit” employed there, who has degrees to prove how much he knows about animals and stuff (don’t ask me which ones, I’ve forgotten). Every week, when the alligator is hanging out on the grass, he’ll run at it… and if the gator runs into the water, he’s safe to be there.DSC_0388

DSC_0389The explosion of laughter that greeted this explanation was deafening. We were told that a year or so ago, their British employee ran at their last gator… and the alligator didn’t run. So, they had that one removed, as he had lost his fear of humans. We joked that actually, the previous employee had run at it, and that was the last seen of him, until the Brit came along.  : )DSC_0398

As I continued meandering to the dining hall, I enjoyed looking at the young live oaks, twisting and turning, all over the place. And then there’s the “monster tree”. It’s funny, it took me over ten years to notice that tree’s existence, but I wasn’t photographing nature so much, then, so I wasn’t looking closely at individual trees.DSC_0336

DSC_0400You may have noticed the occasional hibiscus pics, by now. Several trees, in pots, were put by the dining hall, and since it was the first year they had them, I couldn’t stop myself from taking pictures. They were so colorful, and reminded me of Hawaii.DSC_0404

DSC_0410After our yummy lunch of burgers, we visited the gift shop, in order to peruse the gifts AND most especially, enjoy the funny cards they sell there. The truth is, they’re not really meant to be funny, some of them being rather serious and poetic… until Susie or Harold reads them aloud. The Dump Truck of Love is still a winner, but the pics that have Harold listening “angelically” are of a far different card.DSC_0422

The cactus flowers were in bloom, so I hopped off the boardwalk for a few minutes to look at them closely. Also, you can see a lovely picture of one of the caterpillars hanging out around our cabin. They were on the ceiling, on the railing, and who knows where else. I was quite alarmed, when I arrived, but since none of them ever fell on my head, I got over it. If a caterpillar had landed on my head, though, I probably would’ve freaked. I can deal with most bugs and critters, at a distance, but not in my hair. I still haven’t forgotten the year a LARGE spider built a web in our doorway, while we were at meeting. It was at head level, and I got it all in my hair. Yuck.DSC_0423

DSC_0424During our free time, after lunch, I walked on the beach, threw a frisbee, watched my friend pick up a dead crab, and then joined the volleyball game. Of course, I can’t play volleyball AND take pictures, so I don’t have any to show you. The sand was hot and our skills were rusty, but we eventually got it together. Strangely enough, the winning team was always on the same side of the court, even when we traded sides. The other side couldn’t seem to get it together. And there were no spur injuries, which was nice.DSC_0433

DSC_0441Yes, I’m showing off my shoes. I’ve actually had them for more than ten years, though I’m not sure of the exact year I bought them. They used to be a more brilliant coral pink, and my friends expect me to wear them at Seabrook, like they expect the sun to come up in the morning. Running on that hot sand is NOT fun, and the sand spurs are painful, if you step on one. I also need foot support, for play frisbee on the hard-packed sand, when the tide is out. But since I only ever wear them at Seabrook, they’ve only seen about 20 wearings. And I run them through the washing machine, every time, when I get home.DSC_0445

DSC_0452Dinner is when our chef really pulls out the stops for us. Back in the day, we probably had 5 star meals for every meal, but the troubles with the economy affected them, too. Now, they give us delicious meals for breakfast and lunch, but save the crab, mahi-mahi, and the rest of the ultimate deliciousness for dinnertime. This time, it was braised chicken (I think), which a mushroom sauce and veggies galore. And where would we be without Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert?DSC_0446

DSC_0449Saturday is campfire night, so I had to practice. Mike and I broke out our guitars in the chapel, where the wondrous acoustics reign. There’s so much more to it, but I could love that chapel for the acoustics, alone. Unfortunately, our resident “pyro” wasn’t there, so we didn’t have all the equipment for fire-building, and the meeting ran late. A few years ago, the town of Seabrook Island instituted a curfew for campfires, so it has to be put out by 10pm. Unable to find the right materials, and having very little time left, we had to skip the campfire. But I was glad I had practiced ahead of time, even if my fingers didn’t agree. And playing guitar with Mike is always good fun.DSC_0455

DSC_0460After another snack or two in the Snack Shack (to keep from starving, after dinner, you know), most of us hit the beach, but the clouds had come out. This gives the beach a very claustrophobic feel, even though you’re outside with the breeze blowing in your face. Besides, I think you’re supposed to go to the beach at night to look at stars, and what fun is it if you can’t see them?DSC_0463

DSC_0468With a tight schedule for Sunday morning, most of us tried to go to bed at a decent time, which means not much later than 1 am. And with that, I’ll wrap this up for now. Many more pictures to get through, and I don’t know what I’ll do when I get to Monday’s expeditions. I may have taken as many that day, as I took for the rest of the weekend.DSC_0471

in grateful praise…

“Thou gavest Him, well knowing all that lay before Him here –

The suffering sore, the thorny crown, the cross, the cruel spear–

And in that hour of woe supreme, when Jesus bore our sin,

God’s patient, holy, suffering Lamb, Thou didst forsake Him then.”

–Edward Whyte, “Father and God, in Grateful Love”, verse 2DSC_0226-001

“Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,

Slain in His victory;

Who lived, Who died, Who lives again–

For thee, His church, for thee!”

–Whitlock Gandy, “His Be The Victor’s Name”, verse 4DSC_0522-001

“Lifted up was He to die,

“It is finished,” was His cry;

Now in heaven exalted high;

Hallelujah! What a a Savior!”

–Phillip P. Bliss, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”, verse 4DSC_0188-001

“The Lord is risen; and death’s dark judgment flood

Is passed, in Him who bought us with His blood.

The Lord is risen: we stand beyond the doom

Of all our sin, through Jesus’ empty tomb.”

–William P. Mackay, “The Lord is Ris’n”, verse 1DSC_0866-001

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,

Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won;

Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,

Kept the folded grave-clothes, where Thy body lay.

–Edmond L. Budry, “Risen, Conquering Son”, verse 1

~

~

~

[I removed apostrophes from several lines, making the lyrics easier to read.

I hope no one minds.]

look out, it’s a valentine!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking about a book store. I know, I know, such a romantic thing to think about, but at least I’m an honest bookworm. Unlike some people, who plan to get their party on by watching The Princess Bride, while drinking sparkling grape juice, I have no such exciting plans. In fact, as of this moment, I have no plans, so what can I talk about, Princess5_Lwhile the rest of the world is out receiving roses, going to fancy dinners, or perhaps bursting into tears because they didn’t get the aforementioned roses/dinners?

I was thinking about Christmastime in Australia, when I was spending my vacation with a friend in Brisbane. Of course, I was sick during that time, but still striving to achieve some aspects of normalcy, while mentally cursing all side effects of antibiotics. My friend and I went to visit a Christian book store, and I was thrilled. I’d been to our local book store in Emerald, many many times, but I hadn’t been into anything bigger for some time. And a Christian book store? My goodness, what fiction might they have come out with in the last year?

Oh, I knew, deep down, that I shouldn’t be buying much, because any book I bought, I would have to ship home. My Kindle was my mainstay for any book that I just HAD to have, and couldn’t get at the library. But in the meantime, real books were at my fingertips, and I was going to drool for all I was worth. And to make things even better, the book store had a coffee shop. Don’t ask me which one, it surely wasn’t Starbucks or Gloria Jean’s, but I could get a latte and carry it around with me. My body was probably going to object to it, later, because it was objecting to everything I put in it… but I didn’t care.

Oh, did I wander through that store and check out all the sections! But at first, I was very good, and only picked up one Christian fantasy book by Donita K. Paul, because I couldn’t find it on Kindle. It wasn’t as good as the originals in that series, but I still enjoyed reading it. And I found a biography of sorts, about G. K. Chesterton. Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton is a biography, but it goes through the life of Chesterton by way of all of his writings. The whys and wherefores behind everything he wrote, how he was changed and how he changed others by what he wrote.

If you’ve never heard of him, it was his book, The Everlasting Man, that C. S. Lewis credits with bringing him to Christianity. And yes, if you’re only aware of Lewis because of The Chronicles of Narnia, please remember that he was a very well-known Christian apologist, as well. But Chesterton was a colossus in the field of writing and knew something about everything. He was the king of quotes, and I became of a fan of his, several years ago, when my summer staff kids and I were reading up on him.

So, I bought my two books, and thought I was finished. But opportunity mustn’t be wasted… I was in a book store, and found myself unable to sit still. I kept wandering around, and found a stand with all sorts of Christian magnets. Among them, I found some that were shaped like Australia, with Bible verses on them. Just The Five Love Languagesperfect for a few small gifts to bring home to my church friends! I went back up to the register, and bought those, too. I felt a bit silly, coming back again.

Finally, I was starting to get tired, so I went look for a place to sit down. And found a chair in a section I hadn’t noticed. Yes, I was in the relationship section. Oh, dear. And I say that, not because that section is upsetting (remember, I am single), but because I find it so fascinating. As a result, my wallet can be in danger. I told myself that I was done shopping, I didn’t need to go look at any of the books… but no, I couldn’t resist. I hopped back to my feet, and picked up The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman.

The reason I picked up The Five Love Languages is because I’d already read quite a few that were on the shelves there, and I’d never gotten around to that one yet. Think I’m joking? I’ve read two books by Emerson Eggerichs (Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs  and Cracking the Communication Code), two by Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl), and two by Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn (For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men and For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women). There are probably several others, but I can’t remember them, at the moment.

These are all great books, by the way, and if the title interests you, check it out, whether you’re a Christian or not. These were written for everyone, because everyone is confused by the opposite sex, all the time, right? A girl pal and I have hilarious memories of booking our way through the Feldhahn books, while we were in Hawaii, and discussing them. Yes, both the For Women Only AND For Men Only. Because we all want to know what they’re telling the opposite sex about us, right?

I have many good examples of dating relationships and marriages that I’ve observed over the years, but I’ve always figured that as long as I’m single (and even after I get married, someday), why not learn everything you can, so you can try and avoid a few mistakes. Nothing wrong with being prepared. I think that a lot of marital and dating problems, nowadays, come from not preparing yourself for the work involved in a relationship.for-women-only Because honestly, do guys really understand girls, and do girls understand guys? Of course we don’t. So, read up, learn a few things, and prepared yourself for the fight to finish the most wonderful, exciting race you’ll ever run.

Oh, have you been raised to believe that marriage is the ball-and-chain situation, where all the romance drains away, and you eventually grow bored with each other? Well, if you put no effort into your marriage, then perhaps that is true. Love is an action and marriage is not all daisies and Valentines. You have days when you adore each other and days when you can’t stand each other. That’s because you’re human. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work your way through the good and the bad together and come out the stronger in the end.

There I go again, giving advice on something I haven’t yet experienced.  : )   No firsthand experience of marriage yet, sorry. But I have seen lots of long-lasting marriages during my whole life, from a family that I’ve been blessed to be a part of and a large group of friends, some my age and some older. I think if you can’t learn by observation… what are they there for, if not to observe? I know some of my friends and family members well enough to KNOW that their marriages are not easy, all the time, but that just makes the joys all the greater. I hope to follow in their footsteps, someday.

When I picked up The Five Love Languages, I was curious to know what my friends were always babbling about, talking about “their love language” and how their hubby tried so hard to speak it, even when his was another. Usually, they’re talking about what specific one that is their favorite to use, but they’ll have a secondary one. After opening the book, I was hooked on the first few pages… and went up to the cash register for the third time, figuring I had to take this one home with me. By then, I was exhausted by our expedition, so I didn’t move from my chair again, until it was time to go.

If you’ve never read this book, then let me explain a bit. The idea is that all of us uses a particular “language” to expressimage.axd their love or affection for those around them. You might not know what your own is, but you probably know what one belongs to some of your family. Because when you use it on them, they are SO appreciative. Or maybe they use theirs on  your all the time.

The choices are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Affection, Quality Time, and Gifts. Now, if you’re like me, you probably think that ALL of those sound great. But which one or two sounds better than the rest? There’s even a quiz in the book, to help you figure it out. Immediately, I know that one of my cousins uses the Gifts language, because the dear girl sends thoughtful and funny presents to people in the mail, all the time. She LOVES to do this, and all of her friends love that about her. So, imagine if someone gave her something delightfully thoughtful, wouldn’t she feel loved?

My suspicion is that a certain member of my family has the love language of Acts of Service… not just because she is always doing things for others, but because of how she reacts when one of us empties the dishwasher, does the laundry, clears the counters, and vacuums the living room. If you can make someone light up, just by giving them a hand around the house, do you think this might be one on their “language list”?

Short explanation (these may sound obvious, but give it some thought): “Words of Affirmation” is to express in words how much you appreciate someone and the things they do/are to you. “Acts of Service” is to show someone you love them by mowing the lawn, washing the car, and cleaning the bathroom. “Affection” is to show your love with hugs and kisses, the people that hug you as soon as they see you, or pat your back while conversing with you. “Quality Time” is spending time with that person, whether talking or just being with them, just so that you’re there and listening, not pretending to listen. And, of course, “Gifts” are what you receive from that person who thinks flowers, cards, and little gifts are just the way to show their love… all year long, not just on Valentine’s Day.

When I took the quiz, I came up with a three-way tie, which might be unusual. But then, I’m a little uncertain about the third one, because I only show affection to those that I’m absolutely closest to, other than that, don’t get into my personal space. If I am not 8749748_origclose to you, as a friend, you will not be on my “hugging list”. If I ever get to date someone, then I’ll figure out how this one goes.

I was a bit shocked to realize that though I knew Quality Time would be on my list, Words of Affirmation was probably even higher on my list. Have I ever asked you if I’m bothering you, when calling you on the phone, or talking to you on chat? Yes, I have a tendency to think I’m in the way, so if I ever find someone who speaks that love language, naturally, I’ll be flying high.

Ok, I wasn’t really intending to do a complete soul-searching session there, but I thought you might be curious what I found for myself in that book, not just my family members. I definitely found that everyone should be loved and respected in a way that makes them feel loved. You might be showing them that you love them, but they might not realize it, because they don’t “speak” it that way, themselves. So, for Valentine’s Day, don’t just think about what color of roses your wife/girlfriend will like, but maybe think about whether you’re showing them love in the way that they can see it.

Don’t forget, love is an action. Love is a verb. If love was all mush and goopy feelings, we’d run the first time our loved ones got a virus that had them puking their guts out. You don’t feel the fluffy, butterflies-in-your-stomach when someone’s throwing up. Remember to act on your love, and show them how much you care. Forget about being selfish, for once, and put them first. They’ll love you all the more for it.

P.S. If you want something fun to WATCH, then check out Mark Gungor on YouTube, in his talk called A Tale of Two Brains. My Brisbane friend sent it to me, and I’ve been shrieking with laughter over it, the last few nights. Good advice and good fun, especially if the above subject interests you.

failure is difficult to look at objectively…

Is there such a thing as a “small failure”? The recently coined phrase that I’ve heard entire arguments over is that of the “epic fail”. But as far as I can tell, when you have failed at something, you have been completely unsuccessful. You do not speak the of the small successes, because if there was even one success, you would claim it gleefully. So, as cool as it may sound to refer to an epic fail, I would suggest that it’s a redundant phrase. If your lack of success is complete, you could use any word to describe what a huge failure it was. But do you really want to rub it in that badly?

Yes, I know, I’m avoiding the point. Who has ever liked to discuss their unsuccessful endeavors? Not me, that’s for certain. But for those of you who have been so kind as to tell me that I “don’t owe anyone an explanation”, I thank you for that, but I would like to share about this, nevertheless.

As you may know, about three weeks ago, I left for a new nanny position, located in Minnesota. It was a bit sudden, but I’d been lazing around for plenty of time, so I was ready to start a new job. I was excited about it, going to a new place, meeting a new family, and learning what it was like to live in the deep snow, eventually.

At first, I thought I was just tired from my trip, letting myself worry about little things, as I settled in. But after the first week, my worries began to get to me, and halfway through the second week, I figured out that I was having anxiety attacks. I tend to think of panic attacks as the ones where you actually black out, think you’re having a heart attack, or something of that sort. If I have the wrong definition, then I apologize, but since I never experienced a black out, I’ll just refer to mine as anxiety attacks.

At times when I shouldn’t have been upset or frustrated by anything, I was frightening myself with a high heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, and having panicky thoughts on a level that I have never experienced before. Something was wrong, and it was scaring me. On the recommendation of a nurse friend, I got off the diet drops I was on, just in case there was a side effect that I didn’t know about, but at that point, I only had one thought in mind. Something was causing me to freak out, and I needed to leave.

During this time, I was seeking advice from those close to me, but more importantly, I discovered that the ONLY harbor in this storm was in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I didn’t understand what was going on, and I turned to my Bible like it was a teddy bear to hug for comfort. The Psalms were cries for help and praises from King David and others, and I empathized with every one, begging the Lord to save me from what was frightening me.

You may say that if the Lord had truly answered my prayers, the attacks would have left. The attacks didn’t stop, but got worse. But instead of running from God, because He wasn’t answering me properly, I clung even more to Him, because He was still my only comfort. His Word and praying to Him almost constantly was the only way I survived the rest of that week. And on Friday, I was worried about having to tell my employers that I was leaving. That evening, I spent two straight hours, reading my Bible and praying, because nothing else helped… while I waited for the family to come home, so I could tell them I needed to give notice, effective immediately.

And the Lord answered that prayer in abundance. They took it like troopers, and I packed up my car and left the next morning. The moment I hit the road, my anxieties fled.

Since then, I have wondered whether I did the wrong thing, not following the Lord’s leading, and choosing to go to MN. Or did I do the right thing to go, and caved too soon, not giving the Lord a chance to work? In the end, it doesn’t matter, because the good that came of this (no, I don’t speak of small successes, because I didn’t have any) was all of Him, and not of me. I’ve been a Christian for many years, got saved when I was a child, but in recent years, I’ve been a lackadaisical sort of Christian. I haven’t been praying, talking to the Lord of my life, or reading my Bible very much, and yet I hadn’t wanted to go out and do terribly bad things, either. A lukewarm type of Christian, the type that’s only good for spitting out (Revelation 3:16).

The result of my mentally terrifying time was realizing that I just can’t get by without Him, though I’ve been trying. And though I won’t become a perfect Christian overnight, I’ve had a shock that I won’t recover from immediately. And I’m thankful for it, as hard as the test was.

So, I returned home, and felt like a complete failure. But I was holding out, slightly, that my doctor would tell me that it was the drops, and not entirely my own fault. But I saw my doctor, and was told that the drops didn’t cause this, and happily, I’m going back on them, because the diet was working so well for me (20 lbs loss is good, don’t you think?). The doctor’s response also put the blame squarely on myself, though. Sure, there may have been some stresses from my new job and moving, but I was the one that caved under the pressure.

Oh, before anyone tries to say “But Rachel, you’re too hard on yourself. You had just moved to a new area, driven such a long way, and had to adjust to new people…”, please think about what you’re saying. Over a year ago, I flew 36 hours in a plane, to a completely new country (that wonderful Australia), to live with a new family that I’d only met on Skype, and create a new life for myself, for a year. And nothing like this EVER happened while I was there. So, you can’t blame the same factors in my trip to MN.

I don’t like to fail. It frustrates, annoys, and angers me, that I could try to do something, and that my efforts completely crashed and burned.

But you know what? God didn’t call me to be perfect, on my own. He’s called me to trust Him, because His wisdom is greater than anything I have in myself. I may be a failure, but He wants me to admit that I am, so that He can finally use me for His glory.

~

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Because the foolishness of God is WISER THAN MEN; and the weakness of God is STRONGER THAN MEN. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

–1 Corinthians 1:18-30 (KJV, copied from BibleGateway.com, emphasis mine)

psalms that echo into the depths of my heart…

“Preserve me, O God; for in Thee do I put my trust.” –Psalms 16:1

“Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.” –Psalms 17:1

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in Whom I will trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” –Psalms 18:1

I wish I could share with you, at the moment, what is going on in my life… well, in my head. In case you’re wondering, this is all about me, and concerns no one else. Blame no one, because this would be happening, wherever I happened to be. And I try and make sense of something that… well, frankly, that scares me… I find that there is no other comfort but in God. Yes, I have family and friends to give advice and pray for me. But I’m finally starting to learn that He is truly my refuge in time of trouble, and I would be nowhere, without Him.

A favorite song occurs to me, and then continues to loop through my head…

“You are my strength when I am weak,

You are the treasure that I seek,

You are my all in all…”

May I continue to rely on Him for strength, seek Him for the treasure that He is and has for me, and may He truly become ALL to me.

of faith & the fourth…

On this day when we’re celebrating the birthday of the United States of America, I’ve been thinking more about some of the freedoms we enjoy. One of those is the freedom of religion, where we can worship as we please without being persecuted for it, like in China. Yes, I know we could talk about how some of that freedom is being curtailed by those that believe in the “separation of church and state”. Just a reminder, but that isn’t in the Constitution, it was in a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend.

But amidst all the red, white, and blue decor in our house, I’m just grateful that I have my Bible to run to, when I’m in need of comfort. Of course, no one can ever stop us from praying, because you can do that silently and at any time. I am free to pick up the Word of God and delve into any part that I want, and just soak it in. No need to look over my shoulder, expecting someone to arrest me for my beliefs or for even owning a Bible. Don’t take this freedom for granted, there are people that would thank God to have a page or two from a Bible, but can’t even get that.

I’ve only been up here for about two weeks, but until you make some friends at church, or find a Bible study or sports team to get involved with, you can be quite lonely. Even among a crowd, if you don’t know anyone, there can be an overwhelming sense of loneliness. It can slap you down, lower than a physical blow, and no amount of “it’s all in your head” will improve it.

Instead, I’ve been reading in the Psalms, and commiserating with David, though I’ve obviously never gone through anything like he did. He was running for his life from Saul, and then going through battles and tribulation, after he was king. How can my life possibly compare to that? And yet, I can still read where he says, “Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest Thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1), and feel like that’s applicable to me. Sure, He’s actually there by my side, at all times, but don’t I just act like He isn’t, feeling like He’s left me alone and unprotected?

However, this is the same God that David prayed to, saying “And they who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.” (Psalms 8:10)

I have yet to figure out whether my diet is affecting my brain, or if I’m just having a pileup of homesickness (for home in SC and in AUS), loneliness (at times), or if this is my time of testing. I need to make sure what’s going on in my head doesn’t affect my work, do my best on the job, and continue to look for the Lord’s assistance in all that I do. It can be quite overwhelming, but not too much for the Lord Jesus to handle, when I remember to hand it over to Him.

While I continue to wrestle some of these issues, I will continue to give thanks for this great country that the Lord allowed me to be born into. I give thanks that my Bible and study books are available at every turn, and that I can freely attend whatever church I please. And I am extremely thankful for all the Christian friends and family that the Lord has provided me with, who pray for me, and look out for me. Friendship and family are great blessings. And so is a great country.

Thank you, Lord, that I live in the United States of America. But most of all, thank you for being with me, always.

the prayer of my heart…

I know what you’re thinking. You heard that I was going to the beach for the weekend, and so, you say, “Everyone goes on weekend trips to the beach. Blah, blah, blah, it’s all the same. Nothing different about this one.” But you would be wrong.

Fourteen years ago, I was eighteen years old, and thrilled to be invited to a Bible conference with my friends. Even better, I knew it was at the beach, and I’d have lots of friends to spend time with. What could be better than that? I thought I was as old as anything, though I was actually a tad young for the conference. However, when my younger brother turned eighteen, a few years later, I didn’t think he was old enough to attend.  : )

I was still too young to really see the stigma that gets attached to the phrase “singles conference”, but as soon as I discovered it, then I could throw down the gauntlet with anyone who thought our conference was one of “those”. You’ve heard it before, I don’t need to explain. But let me tell you, would I be attending this same conference, this many years later, if I thought that our only purpose was to “spouse-shop”?

Our conference on Seabrook Island has always been, first and foremost, a time to listen to a wonderful speaker share with us from the Word of God and to fellowship with other single believers who also want to grow in their walk with the Lord. Those first-time attendees who show up with any other intent will quickly find out who vehemently we feel on the subject, and if their only purpose is to find someone to marry, they usually stop coming. [Clarification: We aren’t against meeting a special someone at this conference, but that isn’t the PURPOSE of the conference. Most of our regular attendees will also tell you that you know you’ve met the right one if you’re willing to GIVE UP Seabrook in order to marry them. I hope this puts the subject in the proper perspective for you.]

Aside from this awesome time spent in God’s Word, the beach is our playground, but even if it’s a public beach, it’s in a secluded area, and not directly on the Atlantic Ocean. Located where a cove meets a river that eventually reaches the ocean, the dolphins love to frolic in the quietude off our beach, and we love to watch them, by day or by night.

Fourteen years after my first conference, with two per year, I’ve missed a total of three. For one, I was in Indonesia (’00), and for both conferences in 2011, I was in Australia. As far as I’m concerned, being out of the country is the only good excuse for missing one. And despite talking to my friends on Skype, last year, when they were at Seabrook and I was in Australia, I’m still a little miffed at one of my friends for not inventing a Star Trek transporter, so that I could come home for it.

But after a year’s absence, I was seeing this well-known and very much loved location with new eyes. The beach tends to always look the same, so why take pictures, year after year? I was so happy to be back on my home turf that taking pictures of the boardwalks and cabins were fair game, when I hadn’t taken many pictures of them in years.

In my first six or eight years of attendance, I liked nothing better than arriving at the campground and running up and down the boardwalks, either barefoot or in flip-flops. There’s a method to it, so I didn’t fall very often. Now, with mono still dragging me down a bit, I only ran when there was a particularly dark spot on the boardwalk, late at night. Doctor’s orders: don’t get exhausted, and don’t get stressed out.

To the furtherance of that aim, my two friends and I drove down from Pennsylvania (about a 12 hr trip) in Rachel’s car (different Rachel), because mine’s a stick shift, and we all needed to be able to drive. Gone are the days when I can drive the whole trip, including after an exhausting weekend. We drove down on Thursday and stayed in a hotel for the night, so that we’d have plenty of energy the next day. And since it’s still a rarity for me to stay in a hotel, especially without my parents, I was childishly excited about having the whole room to ourselves.

On Friday, we visited the Charleston Market in the afternoon, had some ice cream from Marble Slab for “dinner” (yes, I know, that could be considered heresy, for those of us that always eat at Gilligan’s that night), and then drove onto the island while it was still daylight. Driving under the trees that overhand the roads, with their streamers of Spanish moss is beautiful in daylight, but slightly creepy after dark. The tree trunks are encroaching on the roads, so I’m really afraid that if I accidentally veer off the road, one of them will take me out, rather than the other way around. They’re that big, I don’t think a car would have an effect on them.

Our cabin had a beautiful view of the beach, as it was set high on stilts, and was on the “front row”, overhanging the cross, volleyball court, and fire pit that sits between the dunes. Well, they’re not large dunes, as compared to some beaches, but I’m not sure what else to call them. They’re covered with the grasses and reeds that we’ve been told that if we pick any, we’ll be fined $500 each, or some such number. Now, I understand it’s to preserve the dunes and keep them from eroding, but really, I’d rather pick up shells, if we ever got any worth keeping. Besides, those sand hills are infested with sand spurs, which most of us wouldn’t willingly tangle with. They’re painful to dig out, if you get them stuck in you. Just ask Harold.

I arrived at the meetings feeling a bit dried out, spiritually (understatement of the century), but praying that what I heard would really hit home. The Lord answered that prayer, because from the first meeting to the last, I was on the edge of my seat, trying to take in everything that our two speakers had to share with us. Mr. S was talking to us about the pursuit of holiness, starting us off in 2 Corinthians.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. –2 Cor. 7:1

From there, he went on to ask us if we are saints (all believers in Jesus Christ are declared to be saints, with a lower case ‘s’), and if so, are we saintly? Are we truly pursuing holiness, and allowing the Lord to work through the process of sanctification in us? Being sanctified is to be set aside for the Lord’s use… are we allowing Him to teach us, and learning more about what it means to be holy. Do we truly want to learn about what it means to be Christ-like? We will never truly be perfect, until we get to heaven, but Lord Jesus still wants us to endeavor (through His power) to become like Him.

As if the first marvelous subject wasn’t enough, Mr. E started us off in Jeremiah, and before we could even think about groaning inwardly (ohhh, another Old Testament prophet?), his first message hit us upside the head, concerning our need to be constantly in the Word of God. Are we reading our Bibles daily? My answer was no, I’m sad to say, as it was for a lot of the questions our speakers were asking us, and I was becoming more and more convicted over what I’d been screwing up on. This message was painful, yet needful. From the discussion of our need to delve into the Scriptures, we learned more about Jeremiah, and how he would have studied all the Scripture that he had at the time, as well as looking to the Lord in all things.

It was also fascinating to me, because he pointed out that Jeremiah was still living when Daniel (of lion’s den fame) was born, and how their lives slightly intersected. And I’ve been through two Bible studies on Daniel, recently, as well as hearing a message about the lives of Daniel’s parents. Of course, Daniel’s parents aren’t named in the Bible, but they would have lived during the revival under King Josiah, which was in the time of Jeremiah. They would have remembered how Josiah lived for the Lord, for most of his life, and perhaps taught Daniel all about it. His grounding in his faith, as a child, is probably what led to him standing firm, when he was taken to Babylon.

Aside from the great messages, I was back in my favorite place to sing from our hymn books. We Seabrookers like to sing, and I always want to tape record it, to show other churches and assemblies what their singing COULD sound like. The Seabrook chapel has phenomenal acoustics, we like to sing in parts, and we like to sing loud. So, away we went, covering the old favorites, with one slight “incident” when the song leader called out the wrong song, and stopped us within a few words. “Who is on the wrong page…”, as he immediately began to sing, joking about himself.

At some point during the weekend, we always sing “And Can It Be”, and if the song leader’s being nice to us, he schedules it before our closeout numbers of “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” and “My Anchor Holds”, because we might pass out if we did all three in a row. We sing the rafters off on all three, and the latter song is our closing song. How wonderful it is to sing out, with fellow believers, about the wonders of our Savior.

When we aren’t soaking up the messages or singing our hearts out, we’re eating the amazing food provided by the camp’s dining hall. Usually, there’s a chef running things, so let me tell you, we eat very well. The rest of the time, we’re running around on the beach, eying up the alligators in one pond (there were two, this year!), and hanging out in the “snack shack”, as if we hadn’t eaten enough already.b

We didn’t actually start up a game of Ultimate Frisbee, this year, mainly because I’m usually the one that suggests it, and the doctor told me no contact sports. Also, my two travel buddies had threatened my life if I went against the doctor’s orders. So, we just had a large group of people throwing several Frisbees around, and attempting to throw against the stiff breeze. I actually forgot to put my coral-colored water shoes on, for once, so my feet were really sore from running around barefoot, afterwards.

As some of us have gotten older, we’ve stopped staying out on the beach so late, every night, and especially on Saturday night, we try to go to bed at a fairly decent time, so we’ll be alert during the Breaking of Bread, on Sunday morning. But to make up for that, we stay up as late as possible on Sunday night, usually walking down to the point, when the tide’s out, looking for shooting stars and watching for the antics of dolphins. Usually you can hear the dolphins better than see them, but a large fishing boat or two were out, which made it harder to focus on the stars, and easier to see dolphins splashing around. It’s always a fun time to get in some talk with friends, walking from one beach to the other.

I’m afraid some of us didn’t get to bed until 1:30am, and for some reason, we woke up earlier than usual. Someone’s phone went off too early, and with the light coming in our windows, quite a few of us were up and packing earlier than ever before. We scramble to get off the island by 9am, and stop at a local motel to eat breakfast at their buffet. The original prediction had been for rain, in which case, we’d have gone bowling (we do try and drag the weekend out for as long as possible). Instead, with gloriously sunny skies, we decided to go on the Charleston Harbor Tour. A few people went to the Market, if they hadn’t been on Friday, but most of us headed in the direction of the Aquarium, to catch the Harbor Tour boats.

I was surprised that they’ve changed up the boats and the tour, since the last time I went on one, because we had a regular tour guide, instead of just a recording. I had told my friends of the joys of hearing the exploits of Blackbeard, on the recorded tour, as it always talked of how he swiped a woman off the streets of Charleston, made her his wife, and had a reputedly happy marriage. But our tour guide only briefly mentioned Blackbeard, and covered much more history of Charleston than I’ve heard in a long time.

From the history of Rainbow Row to the Hunley Submarine, he covered quite a range. It was like being back in my elementary or middle school class on local history, because Fort Sumter, the Civil War, the Swamp Fox, and many other characters of South Carolina fame were covered. For my friends from up north, some of it would be new and different, for me, it was a review of my childhood. I’m afraid I did doze off during the part about the U.S.S. Yorktown, but that’s okay, because I’ve been on it several times, including after they got the Medal of Honor museum placed on it, several years ago. Actually, I slept overnight on the Yorktown, when I was a kid, as part of a school trip.

But I woke up to view a closeup of the New Bridge, and then we arrived back on land. Despite the pleading of our friends (or even nagging, one might say), we still persisted in our decision to leave Charleston right then. Departing at 3ish, we were able to drive all night, rather than have to get a hotel partway through the trip. With three drivers, we were all tired when we arrived back in PA at 4am, but not completely exhausted. Ok, that’s not to say we weren’t a bit zombie-ish the next day, but that’s from the entire weekend. Lots of driving, lots of learning about the Word of God, lots of catching up with old friends, and lots of walking on the boardwalks and beach. It took me a little while to recover from the whole weekend, energy-wise.

There are other things, though, that I never want to “recover” from. In fact, I pray (as do the rest of my friends) that we will all remember what we learned, and act on it. As I keep reminding myself, there have been so many times when I’ve used the words, and planned to make changes, but those words never became actions. Words are just words, I keep telling myself, until they become actions. This time, I want to act on what I’ve learned, not just let my words be more hot air.

Only time will tell, but I’m praying that the Lord works in my life, and I never recover from the need to pursue after and perfect holiness in my life. I need to be reading the Word of God, taking it into my heart, and taking it beyond just being a saint who’s been saved by the grace of God. And on the days when I feel like I’ve failed in this pursuit, I can take heart of hope with these wonderful verses. His compassion never fails, and His mercies are renewed every morning. Amen.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” –Lamentations 3:22-23

the music beneath my fingers…

I arrived home from Australia, and there was our piano, waiting for me. I’ve been longing to get the piano keys under my fingers again, but I hadn’t taken any music with me to Australia. I know, an oversight, but I really didn’t think I would miss it so much! And now, it had been so long since I played. My music memorization has never been very good, and I stink at sight-reading, on the spot. But still, when someone else begins to play the piano, outside of church, my fingers start itching to play, as well.

If I actually do sit down without music, it generally results in failure, because my memory doesn’t extend beyond my fingers. Frustration comes of this. Which doesn’t make being near a piano anything pleasurable. You just want to make music… and you can’t.

My favorite pieces of music have been the same, since I was a fifteen year old taking piano lessons. I didn’t do well at learning pieces by Chopin or Mozart, because I didn’t really like the music (or rather, I preferred to listen to them than to play them), or I just thought it was too difficult. And I didn’t like practicing. But if I was presented with a piece that I loved, I would learn it, come hell or high water.

My dad taught himself to play the piano, long before I was born, and as a child, I wanted to be able to do it, too. We also had some old tape recordings of hymns that he played, and I would listen to them over and over, planning to learn them. I learned to sing “One Small Child” and “The Tree Song”, while he played. At Christmastime, I would sing all my favorites, while standing at his shoulder.

When I grew old enough to play, and hammer out the tunes that I knew and liked, I have happy memories of playing “The Drummer Boy”, with my five year old brother bellowing along with the “Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum” parts. And I do mean bellowing, because he was born with a bass voice, making my male classmates jealous, and I’d swear that at puberty, his voice went up, instead of down.

As my piano lessons progressed, and I figured out how to sing “One Small Child”, while playing a piece of music that didn’t incorporate the melody into it (I found it tricky, for quite a while), I was still trying to locate a piece of music that was on the old audio tapes. My dad didn’t sing along with them, so I didn’t know the names of them all. I’m not sure if I asked him, and he didn’t remember, or if I was just persisting in figuring it out for myself. But there was one absolutely glorious song that I just HAD to learn to play.

It was called “The Day He Wore My Crown”, and it was in the same book as “The Tree Song”, “One Small Child”, “Beautiful Savior” (played to a different tune than you’ll know), and “Like a River Glorious”. These were all favorites of mine, and still are, but this new one had chords that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to play. Could my hands even stretch that far? But thanks to my dad’s beautiful playing on that tape, and listening to it hundreds of times, I knew exactly what it should sound like. And eventually, I conquered it, and can now sing along.

Perhaps you’ve never heard it before? It tells about Christ’s coming to Jerusalem, and His “crime” was the love He showed to us. How He gave His life, the day He wore my crown… because of what I did. The chorus says that “I’m the one to blame, I caused all the pain”, but He still chose to come and wear that crown for me.

I love a good song, no matter where it comes from, and I grew up watching the movie, The Land Before Time. During the credits, the song “If We Hold On Together” plays, and I’ve always loved it. When I found a book of movie music with that piece in it, I learned it as quickly as possible, shocking my teacher, as I was often disinclined to practice. “Somewhere Out There”, from An American Tale, is also in that book, but I’ve always found it a little more difficult to play, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Never think that you can’t find some beautiful music, even in an animated film.

We have another book of old-school music from past decades in music and movies. Many of them, I don’t even know the song, so I’ve never had the urge to learn it, I’m afraid. But two songs of love and romance that have always been playing around me are “A Time For Us”, from Romeo & Juliet, and “Where Do I Begin?”, the theme from Love Story. I’m not even sure where I first heard the former, probably off one of my grandpa’s records, before I ever watched the movie in school. But the love theme from Love Story is the tune that played whenever I removed the lid from my grandma’s candy jar. I was entranced by the song, and possibly more interested in the music than in what the jar contained. That jar now belongs to me, and now it holds nothing but memories.

Finally, here in South Carolina, we live down the road from Patch the Pirate, otherwise known as Ron Hamilton. He holds a huge ministry with his Patch the Pirate music and stories, but he also writes other music to go into hymn books. Majesty Hymns is one of those books, and contains many of his songs. Including a favorite of mine, “Wings as Eagles”. I’ll admit that I generally sing it slower than Hamilton does, when I hear him on the radio, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Also, because it’s a hymn with chords on both hands, which I’ve never been very good at playing (one reason that I do NOT play in church), I have to play it quite slowly, or just play the right hand by itself. But when you see the words, you really can’t speed it up. At least, I can’t. Judge for yourself.

When the race still lies before me,
And the wind is blowing strong,
When the witnesses surround me,
And my strength is almost gone;
When the valley plunges deeper,
And life shatters all my dreams,
Then I lift my voice to Jesus,
And He gives my spirit wings.

God gives wings… as eagles;
God gives wings to fly and strength to rise above.
God gives wings… as eagles,
When my feet begin to stumble,
And my dreams begin to crumble,
I mount up on eagles’ wings.

–Ron Hamilton