Friday, May 27, 2016

Juneau Town {Lone Star to Last Frontier, 2015}

For the backstory, please see the post, "Courage, Dear Heart!" This post is mostly photos, so e-mail readers may prefer to view the Web version of Juneau Town {Lone Star to Last Frontier, 2015}.


Of the Alaskan ports we visited last year, Juneau was our clear favorite, both for the town itself and for our whales-and-glacier excursion. Upon first introduction, the state capital with a small-town feel was shrouded in mystery.


Once ashore, the public art, flowers, and buildings old and old-fashioned charmed us immediately.

We didn't go inside, but Wyatt Earp's gun reportedly hangs over the bar here.

Sculpture adorning the public library


The streets of Juneau were full of flowers.
Then we met and fell a little in love with Patsy Ann. "Who is that?" you ask. Technically, we didn't meet her, but we did visit her memorial and read her story.


The English bull terrier Patsy Ann lived in the days before ship-to-shore radios and clockwork schedules provided details of ships' arrivals and docking plans. Although born deaf, she somehow knew not only when a ship drew within half a mile of the shore but also where it would dock. The sailors learned to let her guide their preparations. The sign next to her statue said that when she died, a small crowd watched as her coffin was lowered into the channel near where the statue now stands.


Juneau displayed a sense of humor we appreciated, too.

"Established: A Long Time Ago"


What's more, three of life's essentials were available in the main downtown area: coffee, books, and fudge.

This local roaster sells the best dark roast we've ever had: Black Gold.




Mom and I visited the lobby of the state capitol building, but renovations had closed it to visitors.



Meanwhile, Dad and Amore hiked up the hill a ways to visit the oldest Russian Orthodox church in North America, named for St. Nicholas.




If I should forget all the rest of the town of Juneau's appeal, however, this last experience is the one I would wish to keep. Before gathering at the meeting point for the whale-watching excursion, we ascended the Mount Roberts Tramway.





You recall, of course, how mist-veiled and overcast the city was throughout the morning. As the tram climbed, we broke through those clouds, and glory greeted us.




The brilliant blue sky and sunshine had been present all along, but we couldn't see them looking from below the clouds. We had to move through them and gain a higher perspective to see the light.





At the time and often since, even this week, this has vividly illustrated to me an aspect of the Christian's earthly life. In some seasons, our souls are overcast and all we see are mist and clouds and grey from horizon to horizon. Life may feel bereft of color and light. At least, that's all we see and feel if we're looking around at our circumstances and up to the limits of our human vision.

If we enter the "tram" of God's Word, however, it shifts our perspective up, breaking through the clouds to behold heavenly spiritual realities. The Holy Spirit shows us the sun is still shining, the mountain peaks still stand, and the color and beauty are still real and present, even when we can't see them from below.

The apostle Paul wrote of this phenomenon in his letters:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV).
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).
Feelings and sight can yell so loudly that this seems impossible. It does require effort and intentionality, but the effort to yield our earthbound perspective to the Lord's eternal one in Scripture will not go unrewarded. Even brief, regular glimpses of the truth and glory hidden in the living and written Word can sustain us through the mists and clouds.

If you too are in a grey season, dear Crumble, may the Lord encourage you and fortify your spirit to set your mind on things above, on the glorious, unseen, eternal realities of life "hidden with Christ in God."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"With Blazing Hope"

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12, ESV).


Sometimes a fairly routine definition check yields buried treasure. Such was the case this morning when I checked the Greek word behind "remains steadfast" (transliterated to our alphabet, hupomeno). Its most basic meaning is "to endure. to stay under [an affliction or load]." One of my favorite Greek tools fleshed out the sense this way:
It is not the patience which can sit down and bow its head and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm is passed. It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply w. resignation, but w. blazing hope (Reinecker/Rogers, James 1:12).
May God grant us in grace to remain steadfast in this triumphant way, "with blazing hope."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dear Mom, Thanks

Then


Dear Mom,

Do you remember all the Easter/birthday/back-to-school dresses you made me? And how I inevitably picked the most complicated pattern but you made it anyway? Homecoming and graduation dresses, I'm looking at you.

Do you remember all the music lessons, medical appointments, and school events you drove me to? And all the plans you changed to stay home with me when I was sick?

Do you remember all the summer days we spent together with your mother, driving her on errands and visiting your dad after she could no longer care for him at home? I loved those days.

Do you remember taking me to the Merle Norman store and Clinique counter for makeup pointers when I was trying to figure out this growing-up thing?

Do you remember "rafting" the Delaware River?

Do you remember all the sister squabbles you settled?

Do you remember all the school paper ideas I bounced off you in the kitchen while you prepared supper?

Do you remember the many places we've shared afternoon tea? In fact, do you remember initiating me to the pleasures of tea and morning oatmeal to begin with?

Do you remember the many, many, many notes you placed in my lunch bag or suitcase, just in case I thought you forgot me while I was at school or traveling? My husband benefits from that training, by the way.

Do you remember all the Revelation! choir tours you chaperoned?

Do you remember all the Bible studies, retreats, conferences, and simulcasts we've attended together?

Mama, you are amazing, and I don't tell you often enough. For all this and more, thank you. I couldn't ask for a more loving and generous mother. I love you! Happy Mother's Day!

Love always,
your Sonshine

Now... Same smile

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ketchikan {Lone Star to Last Frontier, 2015}

For the backstory, please see the post, "Courage, Dear Heart!" This post is mostly photos, so e-mail readers may prefer to view the Web version of Ketchikan {Lone Star to Last Frontier, 2015}.

Our first port of call on our Alaskan cruise was the island town of Ketchikan. This was a short day in port, so we only had enough time to capture the look of the city and buy warmer clothes and family gifts before our excursion. The contrast of brightly colored buildings against the mizzle and mountain background made my eyes happy.








Our first eagle sighting was atop a light pole.
My parents, Amore, and I spent most of our Ketchikan time on a small boat viewing eagles, totems, and a lighthouse. At least, those were the billed attractions. A few other critters joined the party to add to the fun. The drizzle continued the whole time, but it didn't dampen our spirits.


Humpback whale fluke


The juvenile bald eagles lack the white head and golden beak






Two juvenile bald eagles with their breakfast
The locals call the structure in the next photo "The Bridge to Nowhere." The state government canceled funding mid-project but didn't authorize a demo budget either.


Grey heron

Eagles' nest, center frame
 Next we sailed past the Totem Village, where tribal meetings still take place:




Our guides told us that "low man on the totem pole," taken literally, is actually a compliment. The importance of the person represented decreases as you go up, not down.






Eagle's nest hidden amid the foliage
 Scattered houses dotted the shoreline.


Next we came upon the lighthouse and more humpback whales:

Coffee and hot chocolate was a must in the cool, wet weather












A colony of harbor seals surprised us. Their coloration blended in with their rocky hangout, so that they almost looked like additional rocks themselves.




A few sea lions poked their noses up nearby, too:


On the way back to the dock where we started, we passed more eagles' nests.









As we sailed away in early afternoon, the sun came out and dappled the hills while we watched Orcas play.





All in all, it was a beautiful day.