It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

All it takes are some lights…

or maybe Jesus, Mary and Joseph bathed in spotlights….

Of course, some sticky snow plastered on trees…

For folks to say something like, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.


Then again…

Way back, in the fullness of time, when everything was just right…

When the Creator of all that there is came to live among us…

To be our Savior…

He kind of snuck in…

No hoopla… except…

There were the angels announcing…

To the shepherds watching their flocks…

And, of course the magi ambling in on their unique mode of transportation…

To a dusty little town in Palestine…

No lights. No snow.

No one saying that it sure looks like Christmas.

Looks are deceiving. For back then…

Christ the Savior was born, Emmanuel, God with us! Glory to God!

Today’s gift!

Heart Songs

Friday, I decided to try out next Monday’s faculty devotions (See my last post.) by showing it to my science classes.  It gave me an opportunity to talk about God the creator in a different way. I think they liked the pictures. They heard the message and surprisingly, in each class, after the presentation, while they were doing their work, I heard kids humming “This is My Father’s World,” the last song in the slide show … a ‘heart song.’

I’m quite bad at remembering musical things and if you asked me what my top five ‘heart songs’ are, I’d be hard pressed right now to name two. However, I know one when I hear one. Right now, “This is My Father’s World,” would be at the top of my list. For someone else, it would be something different, I’m sure.  

I wonder what songs my students will have stored in their minds and hearts as they get older? What songs will make them smile, give them goosebumps, cause them to burst out in singing or whistling or coax tears to come bubbling to the surface? What will be their ‘heart songs?’ 

No doubt, a ‘heart song’ will depend on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. My hope for you today is that the Spirit plants a ‘heart song’ in you so that you will be comforted, strengthened and find peace… that, for you, it will be one of today’s gifts.

Here are some ‘Heart Songs’ from Israel 2013…

Review Day

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of our last day in Israel.  Where does the time go?   On that rainy Michigan summer day I decided to spend some time reviewing my Israel pictures, blogs and notes.  Here are some thoughts…

  • To begin with, reviewing pictures, blogs and notes requires sharing with at least one other person.  Doing this alone just doesn’t cut it.  There needs to be some… “Remember that…  That was the time we…  110 degrees!…  Ohhhhh…   My favorite part…  I have a picture of … ”  That kind of stuff.
  • Would I go again?  Probably.  It wouldn’t be the same.   There would be new lessons, perhaps.  Different people, for sure.  I believe I would take better notes, pay better attention, probably take fewer pictures?  Maybe.
  • What were my favorite parts?  There are too many to list – the lessons… the bus rides… the adventure of being in a new place….  the people…  ‘Photo Themes of the Day’…  singing in different places…  swimming in the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee… and on and on…
  • How has the experience affected me?  Spiritual growth – definitely!  Better understanding of  – the context of the Old and New Testaments, middle east issues.  Friendships were enriched, to be sure.

Later today there will be an Israel reunion hike. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the Israel people.  It will be a good time to look back on that significant event in our lives.

However, for this blog, I can’t help but think that it’s time to move on.  Some people do that better than I do.  This blog had it’s roots in Israel and I’m sure Israel themes and thoughts will reoccur,  but it’s time to move on with this as well.  The next issue will have a new name –  “Walk as Children of Light – Israel and Beyond” and perhaps a new look (if I can figure out how to make that happen).  Before ‘moving on’ I thought I’d share some of my favorite Israel pictures…

What’s in a Name?

The topics of these blogs have been wandering a bit lately from the “Israel 2013” trip themes. I’m thinking I should maybe change the name/look to more accurately reflect my … uh … reflections. Maybe I need to find a more generic title that would encompass anything I have the mind to write about. Like, “Thoughts about Anything and Everything.”

However, I really don’t want put the whole Israel experience in the background either. There are a lot of ways that I’ve been profoundly influenced and affected by the whole experience. Even one year later I know there’s more to say. So, maybe… “Thoughts About Anything and Everything Including Israel 2013.” It’s a bit clunky, not too clever but pretty much covers it all.

I don’t know why I’m agonizing over this. There are few people out there who actually read this thing, I’m sure it’s no big deal. But I’d hate to lead people on either. Someone might see the title and expect some enlightened Israel reminiscing and instead get some silly thing about riding on the train, losing things or navy blue pants. I wonder, do people judge a blog by its title?

I guess I’m going to have to think about this for awhile. In the mean time I’ll keep tossing things out there – maybe things about Israel, maybe about school, maybe more pictures. It could be anything or everything. We’ll see.

Easter 2014

IMG_8331Get this.  Today I washed the car, enjoyed the flowers in the yard, took a walk and listened to the Tigers on the radio…. ALL outside!  Spring has arrived.  I think I can safely move the snow blower from it’s privileged place in the front of the garage to the ‘wait ’til next year’ spot in the back. Make way for the lawnmower!!  I wasn’t that long ago that we had snow piles slowly shrinking as their stores of water slowly leaked into the soil.  I knew spring would get here.  It always does.
It wasn’t that long ago that a group of us were together in Israel.  Ten months ago, as a matter of fact… We walked through the wilderness, were refreshed at En Gedi, remembered the words of Jesus as we wandered the land God chose to work out his redemption plan.  Ten months ago the pictures in my head were reworked so that now as I read stories in the Bible, listen to sermons or sing songs, the new images emerge.  The emotions still lurk just below the surface as a couple of us found out recently when asked about our Israel experience.

Tomorrow is Easter!  I’d like to say that exactly ten months ago tomorrow we were at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Gethsemane, Mount of Olives or the Garden Tomb.  We weren’t.  We were on the way though, working our way from the region of Galilee to Jerusalem.  I specifically remember thinking/wondering/worrying how I’d handle the emotional climax of the trip – you know the old chin-quiver, lump-in-the-throat, lip biting…  You see, just like I knew that spring would come (even with two feet of snow in my backyard), I knew the Easter part of the trip was coming. …and now Easter is here again… and again… and again… Every Sunday is a celebration on the risen Lord, right?  So celebrate!  Tomorrow is Easter!  Christ has risen.  He has risen indeed!

“This Joyful Eastertide”
Had Christ, who once was slain,
not burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain.
But now has Christ arisen,
arisen, arisen, arisen.

 – George Woodward (1984)

Garden Tomb_20130624_008 Garden Tomb_20130624_011 Garden Tomb_20130624_012

Israel 2013 – Leave Them Wanting More…

It ended just past 10.  I didn’t look at the clock when it began.  I’m sure the viewing of the Israel pictures the other night went on longer than my captive audience cared to watch, but oh well, they were captive…  and I was only up to Masada.  Couldn’t stop then!  I’m sure I violated my long-standing philosophy on presentations:  “Leave them wanting more…”

I first tested this philosophy on my mother.  As she and I were viewing people floating in the Dead Sea, ready to move on to the ruins of Qumran and the sycamore tree of Jericho, we were presented with a dilemma – keep looking a my Israel pictures or eat Sunday dinner? You guessed it… she was wanting food more than photos.

The 1st photo of the Israel trip.

So there we were the other night… and… I’ll admit it.  I started right at the beginning, from the logo of the school that was the trip starting point and ended with the rainy, foggy, blurry image of Chicago through the bus window on the ride home… and every stinkin’ picture in between.  We sat through them all.

The last photo of the Israel trip. The last photo of the Israel trip.

That’s not all…  I showed the pictures off the camera’s memory card and not from the chosen ones – refined, artfully cropped and now stored on my computer.  I knew from the beginning that I had bitten off more than most of us could chew.   So there I was sitting with my camera attached to the TV, thumbing the button, advancing the pictures.  “… and here’s the Dead Sea… and the Dead Sea… now we have the … Dead Sea.  Look here’s a picture of the Dead Sea taken three seconds after the previous one.  Notice the subtle changes in lighting that reflect a changing…. blah, blah, blah.”  You get the uh, picture.

It’s so easy to take pictures these days. Point. Shoot. Point. Shoot.  Again and again. No film to fuss with, no processing expense. It’s nearly impossible to fill up a memory card, a digital warehouse of memories.  For an event such as this Israel trip the potential is great to take home hundreds, if not thousands of images!  What do you do with them all?  Show them to people, of course!  Remembering to show restraint and  ‘leave them wanting more.’

So there we were, photos by the hundreds flashing across the TV screen, on and on and on and on…  Then, just before tendonitis of the thumb set in, I noticed that we were getting to the end… Gethsemane… Garden Tomb… our final lessons… communion… and then rainy, foggy, blurry Chicago. At that point, I knew that I had fulfilled my presentation philosophy, at least for me.  Strangely, as we reached the photo finish line, when we reached that last picture on the memory card, for me it just wasn’t enough.  It left me wanting more.

Photo Theme of the Day – Things That Make My Heart Sing

This whole ‘PTOD’ thing started out as a fun little exercise to stretch my photographic eye while out roving the land in Israel.  At first, I’d share the theme with one or two photo-friends as we got on the bus.  Before you know it people were asking, “So, what’s today’s theme?”  The pressure was on.  I’d have to come up with something, if I hadn’t already.  There were nights when I’m sure I lost sleep trying think of some interesting, fun, clever, creative theme… and…  then capture it as our day progressed.  There were themes of feet, shade, lines, hands, water, shapes, patterns and on the last day as we roamed the streets of Jerusalem… “Things That Make My Heart Sing!”

OK, so what does that mean “… make my heart sing… ?” I’m sure the meaning changes from person to person. What causes heart-singing for me may be different for you.  That’s OK, were not all baritones.  In that last PTOD, I looked for subjects that made me smile, told a story, surprised me…  Actually, it’s hard to describe what makes one’s heart sing, but when you find it you know it. The pictures in the following gallery are some of those things…

Some of the ‘heart singing’ photos were borrowed from previous PTOD’s.  Heart singing cannot be limited to one day…. and… it can’t always be captured in a picture.   Voice singing, for example … We had some special moments singing our worship in some special places (There are video clips of some of these in previous posts.)  Then there are the … friendships, community, stories, communion and returning home to loved ones… It’s hard to squeeze all the ‘heart-singing’  meaning, emotion and love through the lens of a camera… However, the images remain in my mind and in my singing heart.

Photo Theme of the Day – Patterns and Shapes

Okay, so I thought I was down to just one more PTOD, which is to be the last of the Israel trip blogs.  Ahhhhh…. not so!  As I’ve worked through my pictures of the Israel trip, I discovered another one.  The following photos reflect some of the shapes and patterns we experienced.  There’s no great metaphor or  message to these images, just things I found interesting and enjoyed photographing.

Photo Theme of the Day – Lines… of …

For most days of our Israel trip I would have a photo theme of the day, not always related to the lessons of the day.

One day, I focused on ‘lines.’  I thought mainly of our group and our comings and goings.  The book “Oh the Places You Will Go” comes to mind here.   As the week went on, I discovered other ‘lines’ that intersected ours and interested me. These are interspersed in today’s gallery.

Sunday Post Israel Reflections


It’s Sunday today and I’m not in Israel anymore. I’ve been back five days now and am getting adjusted to the home time zone. (See K—-g’s Rules of travel.) Today was the first time back in my home church. It was good to be back. Lot’s of people welcomed me back and wanted to know a bit about the trip. I appreciated their genuine interest and willingness to listen to more than a brief sound bite. I used the word ‘awesome’ an awful lot as I tried to explain the experience. I’m glad I had the opportunity to express gratitude to a former member of Parchment CRC, the church that made this trip possible.

Someone asked me, “What was the the one best part of the trip?” That’s a tough one. How do you answer that? How do you answer that when there were so many ‘one best parts.’ He didn’t have all day to listen to all of my ‘one best parts.’ He had to go have lunch with his gramma after all. Besides there are some ‘best parts’ that I still have a tough time verbalizing without developing a throat lump and the lip/chin quiver and turning into a blubbering idiot. Maybe in a few weeks the words will be able to squeeze through and make it out – like we did in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. That was one of those ‘best parts.’

Even in some of the songs we sang today, I was caught with stuck words and wet eyes. Key words like wilderness and shepherd brought back images and memories from Israel. Concepts like God’s care, Christian community and sharing our stories reminded me of lessons learned on the trip. Little did the worship planner know when she and the Spirit were planning today’s service what effect those selections would make.

Tomorrow is Monday. I’ll still be home and not in Israel. That’s a good thing. There are important things to be done here and I’m better equipped to take on those tasks.

Coming soon…. Two more Photo Themes of the Day. 🙂