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Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

By Night

I have the occasional ideas in the back of my head of things I’d like to try. I don’t frequently voice them and then only to certain people. So try this one out. Get up at 2:15 AM. Meet before 3 AM and travel to begin a hike before 4 AM. Make it a cold, windy morning on an exceptionally rough trail. Add patches of ice that you didn’t know would be there. Include parts of the ridge that are windswept and the trail runs along the cliff edge. Make it your goal to reach the summit at 4.5 miles at sunrise. That describes the first half of our hike from Boones Fork Parking Area on the Parkway to Grandfather Mountain on Saturday. The two guys that I persuaded to go along agreed that the trail was significantly easier by light of day than by light of headlamp. I had to throw out a full half of the pictures because steadying yourself in 30+ mph wind makes pictures a blur. I got back home before noon and spent the remainder of the day with my wife conversing and pruning the apple trees. It was a wild idea but I’m glad I tried it once.

Windy Time exposure

Windy Time exposure

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Clouds Obscured Horizon Sunrise

Clouds Obscured Horizon Sunrise

Attic Window Peak

Attic Window Peak

Coming off McCrae Peak

Coming off McCrae Peak

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In the Boulder Patch

In the Boulder Patch

McCrae Peak from Attic Window Peak

McCrae Peak from Attic Window Peak

Morning Glow

Morning Glow

The Attic Window

The Attic Window

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Indian Cave on Ice

Indian Cave on Ice

Hump Mtn "just beyond" the Grandfather Golf Course

Hump Mtn “just beyond” the Grandfather Golf Course

Alpine Meadow Rest

Alpine Meadow Rest

Attic Window Peak from Calloway Peak

Attic Window Peak from Calloway Peak

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If it sounds like whining, so be it. 2014 may well be my year of stress. It just is, so to keep from dwelling on that I won’t itemize. The stating of this fact does explain why I found myself on the yard swing on this balmy, early March day (3/8/14). I needed a few minutes to soak in nature. The amazing part is just how much God showed me in 30 minutes in my suburban backyard. Many of the observations I made will reveal themselves in just a moment but here are some others: wild onions are up; shadows are sharper at their edge now (clear sky, sun angle (near Equinox), low humidity? I don’t know); I still need to clear the remaining leaves that were protectors to snow holding on (insulating it from the ground? insulating it from the UV radiation sublimating it? I don’t know); moist ground; pitch pine trees still have cones up high; at least 3 different kinds of songbirds sounding off and many more numbers chirping; Spring grasses turning green while Summer grasses not close; a squirrel placing a twig in the log pile just under the shed roof (nest initiation? funny place) and another taking twigs off of the roof (got to get ready for those babies); English Ivy tattered after a long winter; Sun quite warm on the back of my neck. Are you still long enough to observe your surroundings? You can learn from nature’s patterns. In “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pa Ingalls stood mouth wide open when he saw the muskrat building his nest thicker than Pa had ever seen. He knew it was a harbinger of a long, hard winter and that all wise critters best take heed. God has put the obvious signs of the Sun, Moon, and stars in the sky, but are the other patterns that mark the passing of the seasons also set there to inform us if we are quiet to hear them and wise to see the patterns? We well observe some of the easier hints of changes of seasons, subtle skirmishes of the uneven heating being re-balanced by fronts and currents, winds aloft and pressure systems, North battling South in a far older and grander way. Past seasons tell me that all we enjoy now on this pleasant day will be soon forgotten by Winter’s last hurrahs before Resurrection Day. Spring and new life sprouting will win out. The curious nature of the skirmish revealed and the pleasant moment quieted my soul enough to be thankful and express my thoughts as follows:

Maple buds bursting in dark blue sky

Framing a first quarter Moon up high

Early evening sun casting warm glow

Spring is come speaks the varied breeze flow

 

Red-tail hawk screams from overhead glide

Snow’s quiet threat at woodpile’s north side

Branches still leafless, grass is still brown

Ending a winter of much renown

 

Robins pace and listen for the worm

Passing to reside for Summer term

Screech owl rasps, the song birds do their best

Spring has won the daffodils attest

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We had said that when they settled into a house we would give them my father’s piano. We wanted to visit children and grandchildren anyway, but delivering a piano via the back of an open pick-up truck in winter north of the Mason-Dixon Line is a challenge, especially when it is fine mahogany and the forecast calls for intense rain. We made the first leg of trip and got the instrument under cover for two days of intense rain without any hitch, visiting with my daughter, grand-daughter, and son-in-law. We started off on the second leg of the journey from Virginia to Pennsylvania thinking the rain was over and met with some light showers but the covering repelled and the padding softened. It was good to hear it sing again at the hands of my daughter-in-law and their church pianist, albeit out of tune from the long temperature, humidity, and vibrational changing delivery. We had all of the family present but the youngest who was at the a Georgia beach with his girlfriend and her family. The possibility of getting them all together in one place at the same time diminishes as the years pass. On Tuesday my second-born son and I went to Chickies Rock on the Susquehanna River. Afterwards we went down to Muddy Run Preserve and walked around the lake. On Christmas day I ran 9 miles, the most distance for a continuous run I have ever done. I may be able to run a 1/2 marathon in the Spring.  The next day we had a totally unexpected snow of 2-3 inches that was only forecast to be a snow shower. That prevented a trip to Gettysburg but we went to Reading Rocks indoor climbing wall in the afternoon. The next day we visited Valley Forge and many of the historic sites downtown in Philadelphia. Before the day was over we collected two pieces of furniture from my son-in-law’s grandmother to take to Virginia on the way back home. On Saturday we had all of the family, save the youngest son as I have said, over for lunch and a visit. On Sunday after church we visited with some friends, a family of 11 children. They are so pleasant and well behaved. In the evening the pastor, who is also my eldest son’s father-in-law, and several of his children came to visit. It was a full but enjoyable day. I was able to run several times over these days and my second son gave me a Garmin satellite watch that I can register distance, pace, course, and time. The watch is fun and allows for further goal setting but all of this technology reminds me how easily we may be watched. I am thankful that my Father up above is watching, directing, correcting, and providing. Submission to such a kind and benevolent Authority is restful and I wander why I ever resist it. I desire to submit and succeed by His grace in the coming year. A blessed New Year to you all.

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Chickies Rock

Chickies Rock

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Muddy Run Preserve

Muddy Run Preserve

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Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge

Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge

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Great Blue Herron

Great Blue Herron

Washington Memorial Chapel

Washington Memorial Chapel

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City Hall

City Hall

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Christ Church

Christ Church

Ben Franklin's Print Shop

Ben Franklin’s Print Shop

Carpenter's Hall

Carpenter’s Hall

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Philadelphia Train Station

Philadelphia Train Station

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I should never be too busy to observe beauty and reduce stress. I fully realize that the very nature of stress is that it causes you to not be able to see the end of the tunnel for all that you have to do. Therefore, you must decide that some things are more important than constantly being stressed. I can’t do that you may be thinking. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the time. Who will go with me? Where do I begin? I’m not interested. It’s not important. It’s too hard. That’s not my cup of tea. I don’t know why you think it’s such a big deal. I’ll get around to it.

Actually, no you won’t. Perhaps you don’t have mountains or beach or whatever around you. But most of us have something of beauty and solitude somewhere close at hand. Is there a single tree? Go sit under it. Mark out time to lower stress by considering all the good God has done and looking at the beauty in nature that He has provided. Do you have transportation? How much does it cost and how long will it take to walk in a park, or drive a short distance to a scenic area to enjoy. Life is short, so yes, hug your wife and kids, work hard, be honest, but also find a few moments in each week to get away from the blue light and the flat screen and the earbuds and just absorb natural beauty. 

While I’m on my mild little rant, pass this mode of de-stressing onto the next generation. They are being sucked in by brain-numbing music and images that are literally robbing them of the ability to think (check the research, particularly for children under 6). Teach them to sweat on a walk a little; lie and gaze at the clouds; identify a mushroom or the difference in bark on various trees or concentrate and focus on a distant object from a high vantage point. It will greatly widen their perspective and lower their whine factor.

Go with friends. Talk about things of substance. Take your time.

OK, I’m done, but yesterday was an example. I enjoyed the time with friends with both substantive adult and child talk, saw a great view, and participated in some mild exercise. Check it out.

Friends taking a break at the top

Friends taking a break at the top

Linville Gorge from Hawksbill

Linville Gorge from Hawksbill

De-stressed me

De-stressed me

My little friend

My little friend

Hazy late summer day

Hazy late summer day

The Galax strongly disseminated its astringent odor

The Galax strongly disseminated its astringent odor

M

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God definitely brings special people into your life, but He also takes them out of your life at times. As we discussed today we Christians are just sojourners in this world passing on to the next. When we cross paths in a significant way with other sojourners, however briefly or long-term, it is a privilege, and we will meet again in the country of which we are permanent citizens. Knowing that we may well one day have to part ways with a new or old friend is no reason to hold back from becoming as fully invested in the relationship as time and personality permits. Giving yourself away is the best way to also be given to. So I wanted to spend one more day with this friend and colleague of six years doing what we both like to do, be outdoors to see the beauty of God’s creation and challenge our bodies. We were able to do the latter by the added challenge of time constraint, hiking 9 miles on Grandfather Mountain in 4 1/2 hours. If you have not been on this trail the pictures cannot do justice to the view or the roughness of the trail.  Enjoy the pictures.

Sitting in the middle of the trail

Sitting in the middle of the trail

View East

View East

Calloway Peak southwest toward Attic Window

Calloway Peak southwest toward Attic Window

From Calloway Peak

From Calloway Peak

Attic Window

Attic Window

Attic Window from MacRae Peak

Attic Window from MacRae Peak

Swinging Bridge and building

Swinging Bridge and building

Beacon Heights

Beacon Heights

East end of MacRae Peak Outcropping

East end of MacRae Peak Outcropping

Northeast view toward Calloway Peak and Profile Rock

Northeast view toward Calloway Peak and Profile Rock

A moment's respite from a blistering pace

A moment’s respite from a blistering pace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gotcha! Thought I was going to talk about eating disorders didn’t you? No, I don’t think it is a laughing matter but at times our language is. I could have said, “What a gorgeous day,” which would at any rate be correct. My two youngest sons and I hiked about 10 miles in Linville Gorge today, and it was challenging, and it was beautiful.

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For those of you who know the Gorge, the following description will make some sense. We parked at Spence Ridge Trailhead and walked the old forest service road to meet the Mountain-to-Sea Trail which heads alongside Table Rock and joins its trail so that we traversed the parking lot. Then we continued along the ridge toward the Chimneys. The picture of the bird is evidently a Junco, though I have never seen one with quite this coloring. The most interesting part to me was its black bill. Now guide or internet picture has one with a black bill. All of the feather coloring shows up in pictures but not in this combination. I thought I’d found a Linville Gorge variety, and perhaps I have. Boy, were the climbers out in force at TR and the Chimneys. We passed quite a few weekend backpackers, too. Out of the more crowded climes,  we continued to Chimney Gap and then veered right onto a little known and unmaintained trail on the spur that runs between the Gap and Shortoff called Cambric Branch Trail. I had attempted it with two of my sons on a winter day with little daylight and missed. I was back to find it from the other end. We succeeded, flying down the narrow,brush grown trail. At the bottom we forded Linville River and headed upstream on the Gorge Trail. I had quite a fright when a water snake moved on a rock next to me. It was harmless. At various points upstream I saw driftwood at least 25 feet above the water level. The flood water must have been awesome to behold and loud. At this point I began to get weary given the frantic pace my youngin’s were laying down and the slight case of dehydration that was developing. It is nigh on to impossible to stay hydrated when you a sweating bullets. I began to think that the bridge had been washed out and I had missed it. Well, it had been washed out but the site was merely further upstream than my legs wanted to admit. The boys were there before me, and so was a crowd of swimmers and backpackers crossing, perhaps 20 people in the 30 minutes we hung out. I went for a swim in the river. Cold water always relieves tire muscles and cooled me below the temperature to need sweating out more moisture. My two sons were pretty chill but didn’t want to swim for some reason. The Spence Ridge Trail is steep but not excessively so we came out reasonably well. Wildflowers, wildlife, blue sky, time with the boys, wilderness, rock cliffs, trees, river, challenge to the body, and finding the trail I’d failed at before made for a good day for which I give thanks to the Creator of it all.

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I had a good day of bouldering on Tuesday with my son returned from college. I was just not strong enough to make the crux move on an otherwise easy problem. A stranger came along and told me to turn my hip in, dropping my knee. What seemed beyond my strength with my left hand so low suddenly seemed not very difficult. Technique won the day on this problem and two others.

It is so beautiful at this site in general but with the wildflowers and low humidity it was a sight to behold:

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

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Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

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Mount Mitchell through the Spruce

 

Practical Physics

Practical Physics

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Fiddleheads

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Topiaries?

If you haven’t heard of Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden in Bishopville, SC, then you may need to check this out. And the best thing about Pearl is he gives glory to God and encouragement to people:

http://www.pearlfryar.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=9&Itemid=6

Self-taught, hard-working, friendly, very creative, giving, and down to earth are all adjectives that describe this man.

God has made every human in His image and creativity is part of that image. God has made us stewards here and the artwork this man does beautifies his neighborhood and cheers people.  He even does all of this without pesticides and grows Frazier Fir in the heat of South Carolina. I hope to visit his garden one day.

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Yeh, it’s my birthday, and many kind people have wished me a happy one for which I am grateful. The best birthday present in a long time? My wife agreed to go on a hike with me to somewhere I’d never been. I assured her it was short and easy, but you’ve got to realize some history here. “How do you know if you haven’t been there?” “Well I don’t really, but it’s on top of the ridge and we’ll be on top of the ridge, and people have said it is easy, and it can’t be too far.” She went without complaining and we enjoyed the time. So I had a party in the wilderness, a wild party, just looking around and enjoying the presence of my wife and a cell phone call from my brother in Ukraine.

“When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur…..Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!” Consider that the most beautiful scene you have ever seen is part of the tarnished creation- degraded by sin. And the God who made the originally un-degraded creation is far more beautiful than any part of His artwork here. He is unimaginably beautiful in purity, power, and presence. I desire to see His face one day and will because of what Jesus has done for me. I warm up for that day in the dim light of His awe inspiring beauty exhibited in His Creation. If you haven’t been to the Pinnacle off the side of Old NC 105 on the far side of Linville Gorge you should check it out. Enjoy the pictures of one more day He has given me.

Linville Gorge from the Pinnacle

Linville Gorge from the Pinnacle

My good wife of 31 years

My good wife of 31 years

Shortoff Mountain

Shortoff Mountain

Atop the rocks at Black Fork climbing area

Atop the rocks at Black Fork climbing area

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Alexander Farm, End of Shortoff, and Lake James

Alexander Farm, End of Shortoff, and Lake James

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South end of Lunch Ledge on Table Rock looking toward the Chimneys

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  I like climbing because

  -I’m out in God’s beautiful creation

  -It challenges my body

  -It takes tremendous concentration that clears the mind of stress

  -I share this beauty and challenge with others that can bring about conversation on significant things

It has been awhile since I’ve been 200 feet up. The view is tremendous. Check out the the next picture of a climber on the a cliff behind me. See the vegetation on the rock just left of my right hand in the picture? This will give you an indication of scale:

On a Sea of Rock

The climbs we did were    
      -the first pitch of Cave Route   
     -first two pitches of Jim Dandy   
     -Slipping in the Darkness (5.9)   
     -What’s Up Doc (5.10d) 
 
I only fell once on the 10d first time I’ve ever climbed it. It had small crimpers and balanceyface climbing, perhaps what I’m best at. There were two teenagers along with me- one experienced and one who was out the second time:

 

 

 

 

Senior Project Student belayed by an Experienced Young Climber

           I give praise to God for the beauty of the day, the safety oftrip, the health of our bodies and minds to be able to climb,and the abundance that allows me to participate.

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Following is a slightly expanded version of what I said at B and K’s wedding, mostly because I read only Matthew 22 since Ephesians 5 had been read before I got up to speak:

A Wedding is a day of celebration that has greater and deeper meaning than the happy couple, as significant as they are. God has designed and ordained the various types of human interaction to reflect His character and government within the Godhead and His interaction with His people: government, family, church, and marriage.  In the Old Testament God refers to Himself as the One who rescued and loved a wife, Israel. But she was unfaithful and preferred harlotry (a picture of idolatry rather than worship of God). Many passages present this scenario. Among them, Psalm 45 is a positive one that seems to speak of a king and his queen and the King of kings and His wife. We learn that the wife is the people of God who are frequently unfaithful, as in Hosea and Ezekiel 16. Hosea 3:1 clearly communicates God’s persistence at loving His wife despite her waywardness.

In the New Testament God shows us another ordained allegory which is not a plan B or afterthought in the light of Israel’s unfaithfulness but a long pre-determined picture of what He is about in this time, that of Christ and His Church. The clearest pronouncement of this picture is given in Ephesians 5:22-33. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  because we are members of His body.  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”

 To summarize the allegory, marriage between one man and one woman producing offspring and interacting through roles of leadership and submission by mutual commitment and sacrifice concretely demonstrates the relationship of Christ and His Church. This picture brings much glory to God.

Therefore, we should expect that the enemy, Satan, would like nothing better than to destroy this picture. By so doing he destroys people and a reflection of God’s glory. I think his tactic can be seen by an analogy: Even as the glare of the city lights obscure the beauty of Moon and stars, so the glitzy show of sexual perversion and marital unfaithfulness attempts to block the God glorifying purity of a man and wife faithfully and lovingly representing Christ and His Church through their marriage. How does this apply to you and me? Young men and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you made the covenant that Job did? “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job31:1) You must avert your eyes and work hard a being pure of eyes and heart. Young women and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you heeded the directions in I Timothy 2:9-11, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”? Do you cover yourself? The passage does not just speak of modest dress, though. It also speaks of modesty in conduct. Do you flirt with your eyes? Do you manipulate with your speech? Men and women, give glory to God in how you act and speak.

So how does this picture of Christ and His Church work? The wife’s role is a responsive role. Why should she do this? “As the Church” (v.24), so the the wife is representative. I Peter 3:1-6 shows that her witness is foremost for her husband to win him over to doing what is right even when he is disobeying the word. And the epitome of this submission is seen in Sarah “calling him lord” (v.6). Because this relationship points to the relationship of God and His people, this degree of submission makes sense. Certainly the Church calls Christ Lord. Just now the world is speaking frequently of the leftovers of a “patriachal society”, referring to any degree of gender role, but the Bible clearly teaches it for the purpose of marital unity and glory to God. Consider the English word husband. It literally means manager. We accept managers in business because they bring order and profitability, so why do we reject them in God’s economy? The wife is responding to the husband’s headship role, representing how “Christ also is the head of the church” (v.23).  How did Christ carry out His role as Head? First of all as Savior (v.23).  “He gave Himself up for her” (v.25). I believe this refers to much more than committing His body to die on the cross. He took on the wrath of God which was our due, a much greater torture than physical pain and death. Why would He put Himself through this torture? That He set the Church apart for Himself, both cleansing and presenting her to Himself (v.26). He valued His people so much as to take God’s wrath. Having cleansed her from sin, He now continues setting her apart by His Word. Practically this is accomplished through Bible preaching, God-centered fellowship, Spirit-led praying, and Christ-centered evangelism. Then in the future at His wedding feast it shall be declared, “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready’. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-9) The bride arrives dressed beautifully in white representing purity, the light of her husband’s eyes. She is glorious, spotless, without wrinkle, or blemish. Jesus has far more than just reversed death. The Church that the bride is representing is not rescued from hell and death to an ugly, scarred existence. The Church is called upon and must work with this pruifying work of Her Lord Jesus. He will present us to Himself cleansed, beautiful as this bride appears before you today.

The man is further to be a servant of his wife pursuant of the end of cleansing her. He accomplishes this role by loving her as himself (v.28-30). This is a difficult and daily role, who is sufficient for these things? And the relationship is intimate and permanent (v.31). To be sure that no one misunderstands that Paul is talking about the marriage relationship as representative of the Christ/Church relationship he interjects verse 32. Then he summarizes with verse 33. Why is there a different command for man and woman? Humanly speaking it is because each has different needs. The man’s greatest need is to be respected; the woman’s greatest need is to be loved. But again the picture of Christ and His Church is in full view. Christ did and is loving His Church. How can our response be anything other than respecting and reverencing and obeying our Lord?

One other passage that I would like to consider related to this picture is the Parable of the Wedding Feast found in Matthew 22:1-14:  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.    But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,  and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.” In this passage, Jesus assumes the picture we have been speaking of even before Paul had written about it. He goes further to deepen the meaning and change it slightly from what we have spoken of. The feast is initiated by the king who has a son getting married. But where is the bride? She is here, represented by the individuals. This idea is consistent with what we read in Revelation 19:9, “the fine linen [of the bride’s dress] is the righteous acts of the saints.”  And verse 14 says these individuals are both chosen and called.  

Not all of those called heed however. Some of those invited actively reject the invitation, refusing to come, scoffing, and beating and killing the king’s servants. Others more passively refuse, having other things to attend to which they evidently consider more important.  The King, obviously God, is angry at all of this God-hating and destroys them.  But there is another kind of person at the feast who is self-deceived. This person, representing many in the church today, has a more subtle problem. Unlike those who refused to come, he desires to be at the wedding feast. As revealed by the king’s question, he has a problem. He is not dressed in wedding clothes which those who attend must receive. Instead he is dressed in self-righteousness. If this represents you, you might be one who says, “I’m a church-goer. I’m a good family man. I’m a submissive wife. I’m a decent, upstanding citizen. I acknowledge God.” But God says of your good works, “All our righteous deeds are a filthy garment…” (Isaiah 64:6). The problem may be subtle but that does not make any less serious considering the results to the man. Hell is a real place.

The problem needs a bold solution. “For by grace have you been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift from God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The wedding clothes are a gift. You must repent of your dead works. This means that you must turn away from your own righteousness and declare with God that it is sin and turn to what Jesus has done on the cross to rescue you from sin. This is God’s grace: ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ He gives those who trust in Him eternal life. Repent and receive the gift; you cannot buy it. I know that B and K would like nothing better than to know that someone came to receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus because of their wedding ceremony. May God bless B and K’s marriage and may He bless the Church’s purity and may He open your eyes to your need for the Savior so that you may be clothed and ready to come to the wedding feast that will be held one day. 

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Costa Rica

Five students, two parents, and I went on a tour of the natural beauty of Costa Rica from June 17-25. It was a very active tour walking, ziplining, horseback riding, walking, swimming in the ocean and in a lake, walking, swam in hot springs, and kayaking. The walks were never long but the destinations were great.  We walked along a forest trail about 1 mile to get to a pristine beach where monkeys and raccoons stole food and backpacks.  We walked perhaps 2 miles in the Cloud Forest above 5000′ where full sunlight rarely shines.  We walked to town to eat or shop. We walked on the beach at the hotel. We walked and ran through airports. We walked down into a gorge to see a 150′ waterfall.  We walked to the rim of an active volcano and looked at the cadera steaming. And we spent a good number of hours each day on a tour bus between events.

One of the many beauties of InBio Parque

Our Tour Director, Victor Carmona

 We traveled with two other student groups, one from Nebraska and one from Lancaster, PA.  The Pennsylvania group particularly was advanced in Spanish and could communicate or translate with little trouble.

Great Egret

  One afternoon we took a boat ride on a river near its mouth at the ocean.  We went upstream and saw massive crocodiles and went downstream and saw to a mangrove forest.  During the 1 1/2 hour ride I saw 22 different species of birds.

Yellow-headed Caracara

Another day we hiked down hundreds of steps to a waterfall.  The rain threatened and sprinkled but as was the case with all but one event, it didn’t rain on us while we were outside.  The one event was the planting of trees on a preserve at a high school.  For obvious reasons I don’t have pictures of that because it rained hard.

Teacher and students of Escuela Cabella

Kayaking in sight of the Arenal Volcano

The continuously steaming caldera of Poas Volcano

There is a continuous burning place where those who reject God’s provision for sin will go, but there is also a place of paradise where His beloved, those who humbly accept His provision will be in His presence forever. Beauty and peace and joy here are only vague shadows of an eternity in the presence of God.  We were made for fellowship with Him.

600 meter zipline

Beach at Manuel Atonio National Park

The variety of what we saw and did made this a very enjoyable trip. Rather than sleep on the bus or just stare out the window, I took in the views but also journaled the events soon after they happened, some 30 pages.  Victor was constantly conveying details of a cultural or biological or physical nature about Costa Rica. It is a landscape of tremendous natural resources: water, volcanic soil, tropical climate, a stable government, and people who seem happy and productive.
“Pura vida”, as they say in Costa Rica, or literally, “pure life”. It is there way of saying peace and contentment in all of life’s joys and struggles.  May the light of God’s life be given unto you as I hope it might be for the people of Costa Rica.

La Fortuna Waterfall

Everywhere beautiful flowers, butterflies, birds, mountains, beaches

San Jose at night from a rustic resturant

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I can’t always get out to the woods for a hike so on the weekends I enjoy the more rugged parts of the greenway by the river in our town.  I can’t say it is undisturbed because the environmental perturbation was and is causing far more briars, poison ivy, hedge, and honey suckle than ought to be.  However, there are corners where the native species are returning, if only they can be ignored and let grow. And there were more flowers than my poor camera can focus on.  I need a macrolense for the small ones…..

Trillium cuneatum, Sweet Betsy

 
 
 

Podophyllum peltatum, May Apple

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 …. you can barely see them.  So small, so common,  
so beautiful. The only difference in weeds and flowers is what you see in them.  If you see something choking out your big, showy, bought, cared for flowers, it’s a weed. If it’s Spring and you are in the woods, it’s a wildflower.
I have some showy flowers in my yard and I enjoy them, but I like the wildflowers, too. God’s garden is beautiful in both places.
 

Star Chickweed – Stellaria pubera

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I wanted to take a walk and others I usually walk with were occupied.  So, I decided to be random and go off of the paved trail, take my camera, and see if there was anything worth seeing.

What might be seen or smelled after a snow melt?

A few others had a similar idea.  Snow on the ground for a full week is rare here so we have a desire to get outdoors, even if it is muddy. Not really knowing where I was

Wonder who went along this field's edge?

going, I followed some tire tracks past a “Do not enter” sign, meant for vehicles I’m sure since it exited a parking lot.  I was still wandering what I might find that really interested me.  The sky was bright which hadn’t happened in several days, but my eye was caught by what was to the right of the path. 

OK, in the title I exaggerated for effect. It was really a channeled creek because ditch is defined as “a long, narrow excavation made in the ground by digging, as for

Channeled Creek

 draining or irrigating land; trench.” (dictionary.com)  Webster’s also defines natural watercourses of the same general shape as ditches but that confuses things signficantly. It does make a difference and can cost money and headaches as many a contractor can tell you. Frequently creeks are channeled with bulldozers to drain wet areas or reduce the space the creek uses.  In the link that follows a contractor has to follow costly rules because of history and definition, which are mentioned in the article.  (http://http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2008/mar/11/stream-or-ditch-county-says-phinney-creek-is-the/)  How dominion of nature is to be practiced should be a subject for another time but it should matter to us all since it effects what we are responsible to steward and effects us directly as well.  So here I am. Is there anything of beauty or interest?

Cat-tail

The cat-tail suggests abundant moisture in the summer, but looks a bit strange to my sight framed in snow. 

Grass or water plants?

But if what was growing under the water was grass this is just a ditch that is flowing now because of snow melt rather than an all weather creek.  Which is it? The evidence of continuous moisture suggests that it is no ordinary terrestrial grass. I tried taking pictures of several tadpoles and fish (ranging from small minnows to perhaps 4 inches), but alas they were fast.

Rabbit tracks?

Some things that are fast may be recorded by other means.  The one at left was on snow above ice frozen on the water course. The one at right was more obvious as to its owner.

Raccoon track

At several places the small trees arched over the creek. Under one I thought as I approached that I saw blood.  But alas my imagination got the best of me. They were berries from a vine in a tree overhead.  Some will sprout where they lay and others will wash out during a storm event.

Place seeds in the freezer for better sprouting

There was far more evidence of human disturbance on the site than I am showing.  Some were careless and even abusive of the land resource and others were management that allows nature and urban small town to co-exist.

Growth rings

How many rings do you count? The little star pattern at center of the wood is curious.  The cutting must have been recent because there is no bleeding out of resin or darkening due to weathering.  At about halfway down the water course I started seeing these anchors.

Anchorage= net force of zero

Just above the bones and brown bottle deposit was a five foot diameter sewer line that ran above ground for perhaps 200 feet. That’s the reason my pictures focus close at hand. I was looking for life and beauty and sometimes that takes focus.  Speaking of focus, sometimes I almost want my analog camera (read “film camera”) back because this high end point and shoot digital focuses where it will and I missed a Tufted Titmouse taking a bath in the creek. He, yes feathers were bright blue, was quite frisky and twirpy (Hey, Shakespeare made up words and so do

Chicken and brew

Deposits of various colors

 tweeters on Twitter.) 

White Clay

 There was evidence of exposed soils and leeching as in this iron deposit seep with a blue feather (Titmouse or Bluejay?) fallen in its middle. Further downstream I spied a deposit of Potter’s clay in the bank and under the ripples.

Polypodium- Resurrection Fern

 

This is an appropriate name for a fern

????

that is growing out of a bank and out of the snow.  Oh, I wish I knew more plants. The red berries are on a plant that grows as hedge in many people’s yards.  Red berries seem to be more abundant and bright on vine and holly and so forth this year.  What causes that?    Then the creek went under the paved path and there was life here, too, in the form of  Mud Daubers’ nests. They paralyze prey to be eaten by immerging larvae. 

Mud Dauber Nests

The other side of the pipe had a more natural watercourse winding with small sand bars and deeply  cut banks down to the river.My commentary has gone too long but my short walk down the creek revealed much to see of beauty and life even in winter on a disturbed site.
After a look around at the river I crawled back up the bank to the paved path for a short walk back to the car. I was thankful that a small detour would bring such variety of things to feast the eyes and soul upon, because I know the Maker of all the little details Who delights to show us His creativity if we will but search for it.

Less disturbed mouth of the stream

May God teach us how to enjoy and utilize His Creation to His glory.

Ah!

Observation Deck over the River
We may enjoy, utilize, and care for what the Wise Creator has given us to take dominion over. Dominion does not have to mean abuse and conservation does not have to mean locking away all that there is from use. There is a middle ground that I believe is both biblical and prudent.

Ouch!

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Hawk’s Bill Panorama

I never get tired of mountain vistas, even if they are ones I’ve seen many times before. Today the snow and the atmosphere were exceptional.

Hawk's Bill Mountain

We had to stand off abit since the gravel road comes downhill, was snow covered, and I only have 2 wheel drive. That’s OK. We hiked in about a mile to the trailhead and then another 1+ to the top- quite pleasant.  The hiking was pleasant and temperature just below freezing

Catch the Drift?

 which is perfect when it’s sunny and the actvity level is high. The boys were acting crazy, running and wrestling and being random. I realized that they were literally running circles around me and I still couldn’t keep up. Did I used to do that? Have I slowed so much? Of course, yes, but I’m thankful to be able to get out at all. This is vacation for me, seeing the beauty of God’s Creation and putting forth effort to do it. Now for the views. The view of both guys is looking about 15 degrees west of north. The mountain just right of center is Roan and the very white one to the right is Hump Mtn.

View North from Hawk's Bill

The cliff they stand on has two levels, about 50 feet of drop to a ledge below which is a 200+ feet drop.  The effect from a certain perspective suggests the open beak of a hawk, and thus the name.

Hump Mtn., Carter County, TN

Hump Mtn. is one of my favorite places. I’ve been on top of it in every conceivable condition over 25 times. I really don’t get bored of being in the mountains and would be in many others if time and money allowed. 

Linville Gorge

The picture of Linville Gorge is due south from Hawk’s Bill. From left to right the mtns. are Table Rock, the Chimneys, and Shortoff (the flat-topped, blunt ended one).

  I put this one in for    perspective. This is a good sized gorge with cliffs along its entire length of 100-400 feet. When you get to the bottom of the cliffs through various steep draws you are not halfway to the bottom.  

Grandfather Mtn.

I used to think that I could see the contour of a bearded old man lying in bed that was the grandfather. That’s OK if you can’t see it because that’s not how it got its name anyway. There is a rock, called profile rock where a “face” appears.

Upper Linville Gorge

 

Babel Tower is just to the right of this section. The tower has cliffs on all sides and the river so surrounds it that you can see upstream and down while looking in the same direction. There are some good swimming holes down there (see earlier blog) but it looks abit frozen over today. We saw some bear hunters coming out in their trucks. There is no road into the gorge but they get close and hike down one of the many steep trails in.

Downtown Charlotte, NC

I hope it shows up on the blog. It is faint, but hey, Chalotte is also 80 miles away line of sight. Look on the horizon just above center. I wish I had taken several other pictures because

Snow Art and Black Mtn.

our compass readings for several sites were right on when I checked at home. Besides downtown Charlotte we also saw Pilot Mtn. which is about 85 miles away. The picture at right shows Black Mtn., the ridge that Mt. Mitchell is on.

The Guys on an Outing

We didn’t get tired of looking and the boys jumping around and acting crazy, but we did have to walk back. It was time to go. You store up the memories for the more mundane days and for fodder to be creative, but most of all to be thankful.

The Mad Icycle Murderer

 

Serious Drift

Ice Chicken?

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I’m happy that snow is white. In fact I don’t believe there is anything whiter. Paint store white, white white, ultrawhite don’t compare and everything else looks dingy.

Ibex sp.? (anyone know?)

“‘Come now, and let us reason together’, says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow…'” (Isaiah 1:18)

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.” Psalm 51:7

The wet Christmas snow comes down in the wind

The roadway with its sand and salt and slush is nasty but the snow reminds me that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

The White-headed elders guard town hall

Forgiven and reminded by snow and happy for its stilling and brightening effects I agree with the purpose of this messenger as with the one in the proverb: “Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his master.” (Proverbs 25:13)

White Christmas

White Christmas is rare in these parts but not so rare and fine as the time when the Glorious One comes Whose “head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and HIs eyes were like a flame of fire…” (Revelation 1:14). This whiteness will have been dimmed; this joy trivialized, but as it reminds me of my freedom from sin and the sight the pure in heart will one day see, I enjoy it all the more.

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Gorging on Beauty

Hawk's Bill in front of Table Rock

It is referred to as simply the Gorge around here.  I’ve seen it from all angles in every imaginable weather with any number of people, though mostly my children.  It is a miniture of some of the greater canyons of the world but it is a compact bit of beauty and extremity.  Some of the best rockclimbing in this part of the country or anywhere is on the sides of this “draw”.  Well, the day was unparalleled for temperature and better than average for clearness of sky, with no evidence of insects after a frosty night up high.  I had the afternoon off and went with my fourth  born to take a short hike, search out some climbing routes, take in the view and hang out with my youngin’.  Here is but a little of what we saw.

Linville Gorge

The sun angle was not conducive to landscape shots from our vantage point, but it did remind me of how awesome are the cameras we carry in our heads.  We had no problem discerning buildings and towers and people on adjacent ridges.  The camera was also quite good on zoom.

See the 5 people on Hawk's Bill Mtn?

We also saw a large black bird in a tree near where we sat on the rock, but the brush was too thick for me to get any decent picture.  Upon arriving home I determined that it was an American Coot which can occur at this latitude.  But what in the world was this predominantly water bird doing sitting in a bush on top of a ridge at about 4000′ elevation? I have no explanation.

The last bit of Fall colors at elevation

Autumn colors were not so extremely gorgeous this year as the past two years, but they were just as beautiful in individual trees and clumps of trees.  I certainly enjoyed these trees that I presume from this distance to be hickory trees.

The Sitting Bear

And I did find some new climbing along with seeing the starts on the Sitting Bear, a rock on top of the ridge that does indeed appear to be its name sake when far off at certain angles.  I guess I have numerous excuses to come back.  The stress of living is enough reason for me to keep coming, but there are challenges to rise to and beauty to see, and quiet to absorb, exercise to have, and long talks to be involved in.  There is much here to gorge the mind and spirit and body upon.  And I am privileged to know the Creator and Owner of it all Whom I can worship and thank for such blessings.

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It totally makes sense and points to His glory that we should be creative. Since we are made in His image and He is the Creator, then we should be creative.  We are not amazed at much these days because we think we’ve seen it all.  Well, we haven’t.  “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9). I can’t wait for glory!  But since I am, I can enjoy His creativity expressed in the creativity of people.  “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29) Maybe you’ve seen this and its a yawn to you but I was amazed. Check out the website:   http://www.theeggshellsculptor.com/Gallery.html

Cranes

 

//

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I made a new aquaintence in church today. We exchanged interests and learned that one was classical music and another was potentially poetry.  He wrote down a poem from memory and gave it to me at the end of church.  At home I sat down to read the poem.  I was really enjoying it, but then I got to the last three lines and felt disappointed.  Perhaps the author did not know the good news that I know, or perhaps his focus was elsewhere. At any rate I include the poem here and two verses that I quickly added (in a different color) to, as they say in music, resolve the dissident chords, caused in me at any rate. In defense of both Dr. Stidger’s thoughts and mine, I remind you of what it says in John 13:10: “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.'”  I believe Jesus means both that Judas was unclean and that His disciples can pick up dirt from this world, that though they are clean, “needs only to wash”.  Oh, how glorious, I’m clean!

  

 

I saw God wash the world
     by Dr. W. L. Stidger                                   

Junco

 
I saw God wash the world last night
With His sweet showers on high
And then when Morning came
I saw Him hang it out to dry
 
He washed each tiny blade of grass
And every trembling tree
He flung His showers against the hill
And swept the billowing sea
 
The white rose is a cleaner white
The red is more red
Since God washed every fragrant face
And put them all to bed
 
There is not a bird, there is not a bee
That wings along the way
That was a cleaner bird or bee
Than it was yesterday
 
I saw God wash the world last night
Ah, would He had washed me
As clean of all my dust and dirt
As that old white birch tree!
 
But oh, He has and cleaner yet
But not with rain and wind
He washed me in the blood of Christ
And I’m completely cleansed
 
Yet I will have dirt settle on me
As indeed will flower and tree
But my soul is cleansed of all its sin
And could not cleaner be

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Gorge Swim

At least once a summer, the boys and I go to a great swimming hole and play until we are worn out or too cold to move.  The weather has been plenty hot enough to preclude the latter.

Falls at the swimming hole

There are many jumps into foaming deep water from heights of 5, 20, and 25 feet. There are gentle rapids to float in and rocks to sun on. And usually there are no other people there since it is a steep mile and half walk in.

25 foot drop

I forgot my goggles this trip and didn’t get search the bottom for trout and “crawdads”, but the jumps and swimming up near the falls and sliding through the rapids and taking pictures of plants and spiders and sunning and eating snacks was quite enough for one trip. 
The jump takes your breath and the foam ingulfs you and sweeps you away, but I’ve not found a way that it hurts (belly, back, face).

Forward Flip

I get dizzy trying to do a flip any more but some can still do it. I do advise that if you try what we are doing that you thoroughly explore what is under the water as we have. There are certainly places we don’t jump. The turbid water prevents seeing rocks that are less than a foot under. Other places are 8 to 12 feet deep right off the edge. The water was up for summer which makes it more turbid, more fun current and deeper pools. The only drawback of higher water is the turbidity that prevents seeing fish and formations under the water, but we couldn’t anyway.

I wander what caused the wilting of the blackberry leaves, a mildew, a smut, a rust. But the blackberries sure look good.

The grass spider builds a sheet with a funnel where it awaits prey. During windy times more prey falls but also more litter.  The spider knows the “signature” of falling prey and ignores the litter. Unlike orb weavers, some of whom eat, reprocess, and re-weave an orb every day, or least every few days, the grass spider may go most of the season only repairing the web and tolerating “camoflouging” litter.  If the site is good there is no reason to move other than another large spider running you off your web.

Grass Spider in the Entry-way

The lampshade spider is the hardest spider

Lampshade Spider

for me to take a picture of because it so well blends in with the rock it is on. Also, it is extremely difficult to show both the spider and the lampshade shape of the web though this picture is one of the better efforts.

Doghobble

The heat this summer has been accompanied by a substantial amount of rain in our area, so the vegetation has been quite green and much that the drought years had killed back is filled in. I include here but a few nice samples of what we saw.

Souther Shield Fern (Maiden Fern)?

A fern will not usually grow so tall and robust as this one on a rock shelf in full sunlight where this is located unless the rainfall and seepage supplies ample water as is true here. This sample was more than 3 feet tall. You naturalists can tell me if I identified it correctly.

Water spiders and their shadows

There was this pool at the side of the river at an incoming creek of spring that was relatively very cold. The boys and I had to dare each other to get in. While I was waiting for them to take their turns I noticed that water spiders

"Crawdad" exploring his domain

cast a shadow much larger than themselves. I guess I could to if I controlled the fringes (diffraction pattern at the edges of my person in the medium I’m in), but alas I am not supported on the surface tension of my medium or his. Yes, I did go into the pool and I was not the last one. I also jumped off the 25 foot jump several times but the picture of it was blurry.  A few final pictures of my boys. One I couldn’t pass up because it’s classic:

"The Look"

Where are we?

Peaceful, contemplative moment

Cardinal Flower

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