Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birds of a Feather on the Solid Rock

You've probably heard people over the years say, "I don't need to go to church to be a Christian. I can worship just as well in the privacy of my own home.  I don't need to get together with other people to follow Jesus."

I know I've heard it too many times, and although it may ring true on the surface, the sentiment is what spurs the saying, "People who study the Bible alone get strange ideas," but that's another blog for another day. 

I know I used to wonder, why is it so important to "meet together" as the author of Hebrews says? What is it about "meeting together" that is important to my faith and my Christian walk?  Would it be because we need the encouragement and support of our brothers and sisters in the faith?

Obviously, that is the case.  Hebrews 10 says; 

"Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near."

I bought a CD yesterday, Natalie Grant's Relentless.  The CD is a year old, so I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of new-music releases.  Nonetheless, the first track is a song called "I Will Not Be Moved", a heady rock anthem full of wailing guitars and driving rhythms, and a full-throttle vocal performance by Natalie. 

My kind of song. 

Rock anthem aside, what I found when I listened to this song was... it was very encouraging.  I mean, its one of those songs that inspire you, and make you feel like.... yeah, I can do this! I can stand strong, just like the song says:  

I will stumble, I will fall down
But I will not be moved!
I will make mistakes, I will face heartache,
But I will not be moved!

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,

I will not be moved! 

Yeah, I will not be moved.  

Listening to this song, I feel inspired to stand by my faith, my convictions, and my decision, come Hell or High Water, ya know?  Songs like this are encouraging!  I can see why so many Christian concerts result in people deciding to follow Jesus, because they are inspiring!

Which brings me back to the point about meeting together.  God knows us, the fleshlings that we are, very well. He made the design, after all. 

God put us together the way we are, to behave the way we do, based on certain inputs and stimulus.  Psychology, although a somewhat inexact science as yet, depends on the fact that human responses, when taken across a spectrum, are remarkably similar when given similar stimulus and input.  We act certain ways because we're made to.  

So, that being the case, I can see why hangin' with people of similar thoughts and ideas is important.  It reinforces our convictions, gives us courage and strength to draw from, support to depend on, and safety in numbers.  

After all, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, didn't he? 

Batman had Robin. 

Spiderman had Mary Jane. 

Ok, Superman was kind of a loner, but even he needed Lois Lane. 

So, anyway, back to the song.  Each time I listen to this song, I'm lifted.  I'm encouraged.  I find myself a little bit more "God focused" (see my blog from yesterday).  I find my spirit being a little bit more joyous.  

I find the same phenomenon when I attend church on Sunday morning and sing our worship songs, and listen to pastor preach from the Bible: I'm encouraged, and inspired, and lifted. 

It's no different from athletes on a sports team: they encourage and inspire each other. 

The personal trainer spurs his clients on, encouraging them not to give up. 

The support group gives help and encouragement to those who suffer. 

The church supports and loves each other, encouraging each other to stay the course and be strong in our faith.  

In each of these examples, and I'm certain you can think of others, we "think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds."

If you're a Christian and you don't like going to church, I can understand that.  Maybe you've been to a church that just isn't your style and, lets be honest here, it was boring and dull to you.  Maybe there was no group that fit your age or status in life.  Maybe the preacher wasn't making sense to you, or whatever the reasons, you just didn't like it.

That's cool.  No one church fits all.  

I've been fortunate to find a church family that I enjoy.  I encourage you, if you are "church homeless",  find one that fits you.  

Christianity is not a walk to be walked alone.  Jesus sent the disciples on their first missionary trip in two's, so that they could encourage each other and hold each other accountable.  You can't walk the walk alone and expect to be helped out when you fall into a hole.  You need companions on your journey who will look out for you, and whom you can look out for.  

As the New Year comes around, and 2010 lands on it's feet in front of us, I encourage each of you/me/us to engage/re-engage/re-connect with the Christian family around you.  Look for ways to encourage each other, be it actively suggesting things to do, or simply a kind word now and then.  Listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him inspire you. 

Be filled with joy!

And above all, resolve to Not Be Moved.  

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,

I will not be moved! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In God We Live and Move.... Just Be Careful Around the Diapers

Back when I was facilitating Sunday school class, I subscribed to an e-mail list authored by a James Jackson. The e-mails topics are in conjunction with our Sunday morning curriculum, and are intended to help facilitators and teachers think about and keep a focus on the upcoming lesson. 

I still get the e-mails, and although I don't give them quite the thought I used to, an e-mail today really caught my attention. The author put into words something I've felt for a long time, so I thought I'd share a little of his thoughts, and see if they resonate with you, too.

The focus verses were Ecclesiastes 1:8-11, talking about how there really isn't anything new under the sun.

"Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

"History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 

"What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn't already exist long ago? We don't remember what happened in those former times. And in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now."

The author then went on to compare the endless cycle of history repeating itself to the cycle of dirty diapers.

Yup. Dirty diapers.

And I thought... cool.

"You know how it goes," says Jackson.  "It's and endless cycle of messes - both 'wets' and 'stinkies' - and they have to be changed.  And as soon as you change one, there's the inevitable prospect of changing another one. So the cycle goes. But here's an amazing truth - you can find God in the dirty diapers."

As I read this, I started to get excited.  I was thinking "this guy gets it". One of the biggest concepts my dad has tried to teach me is that God is "in" life all the time, everywhere.  Each moment, each day, every place and every time, God is there.  The BIG truth is God CAN'T NOT be there.  He is in all of creation, He IS all of creation, therefore He is everywhere, regardless of what we think or feel.

Jackson goes on, "Brother Lawrence, a 15th century monk, spent his days in the monastery washing pots and pans. And in the midst of doing those dishes, he began to realize that there was no such thing as a common moment."

How often do we go about our days without so much as a thought of God, of His presence, and His work.  And I'm talking to my Christian brothers and sisters on this one.  I can understand those that don't know or care about God not giving Him any thought, but those who call Him Father? Those who claim to know Him and love Him?


"If we truly believe what the Bible says," says Jackson, "that God is always with us, that the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, then it means that wherever we go God is there.  Whatever we do God is there.  No matter how routine, how ordinary, or how monotonous a task or or situation might be, it has the potential of becoming a holy moment.

"Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that certain moments are reserved for God and certain ones are not.  Every moment has the potential of being a holy moment because God is there in the ordinary.  The question is not whether He's there; the question is how cognizant we want to be of His presence."

How cool is that? God is with us every moment.  Every moment is a moment we can be aware of God's presence. 

In Acts 17, Paul talks to a group of philosophers in Athens, and after noting their idol to "the unknown god", Paul tells them of this unknown God, saying  "His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist."

What an amazing concept, to live and move and exist in God's presence, His mercy, and His grace.

I encourage you, dear reader, even when in the midst of deep despair, of draining toil and burdensome trials, as well as great joy and gladness, remember that God is there.  Each moment that we can acknowledge God's presence is a moment we can unburden ourselves just a bit and let God carry the load. 

Acknowledge God while driving down the highway.....

while watching TV......

while doing the dishes......

while working.....

while talking to our children.....

while at the coffee shop.....

while showering or bathing......

while getting a haircut.....

I think you get the point.

And I'm not talking, and I don't think Paul or the e-mail author Jackson, is talking about being constantly on our knees in prayer, praising God with every literal breath and thought, with hands raised all day in reverence.  We all have to work, eat, and do the daily things it takes to survive, so common sense rules that nonsense out.

I'm talking, and I think Paul is too, about a radical life reorientation, where we move from "making time in my life for God", to "making my life's time, the very way I live, about God". 

The more we "live and move and exist" with God, acknowledging Him in all things, the less we are focused on ourselves. We tend to look to others more, and consider their needs instead of being self-focused.  This, my friends, is the "love one another" thing Jesus was talking about.

In Matthew 22, Jesus (says), " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment. 

"A second is equally important:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."

"Live and move" in Him! There is great freedom there.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kneading and Blending Families

Families now-a-days have so many descriptions and shapes and sizes that it hard to define "family" for any one group of people.

I used to be very rigid and hard-core fundamentalist about "family".  The only "good" family was a married mom and dad, with kids.  Every other family must have screwed up somehow and their families were just wrong. They were failures.

Seeing as most learning moments spring from failure, I learned my lesson when my marriage fell apart and I became one of those failures that I used to rant about.  I was a failure. A screw up. Me.


However, as time went on, I learned at God's knee that family is whatever family becomes for you.  Families come in many shapes and sizes, and are not defined by DNA, but by relationships and caring for each other.

So, having learned that, I think my kids, their mom, and I have had a fairly good "family", as families go, since she and I broke up.  (Sounds weird, right?)

Yes, we failed at the marriage thing, and I freely admit the kids went through a hard time with that.  But I think, after a time, we succeeded pretty good at the "family" thing.  This came about because we all finally agreed, my x-wife and I, and even the newcomers to the "family", that we all cared for each other and were important to each other, so therefore we should stick together and create good things instead of bad. Family peace and happiness was much preferable to family strife, and after all, there's not that much in life that's so important to go to war over all the time.

(To be clear, we never had any one conversation about such things, but after some trial and error and time spent together, an understanding just evolved amongst us all.  Uncertainty and anger became peace and acceptance.)

Now, having met Alene, she and I are beginning the process of building a life together, and integrating families.  My x-wife and her fiance have already done the family integration thing with the girls. Now it's my turn to do it with Alene and her family.

Big deep breath.

Thanksgiving was a big test, which I think was passed.  At least I think we did; others may have their opinions, but since this is my journal, you get my opinion.

I had to work Thanksgiving night, so here was the first challenge.  Normally, I would get together with the girls and their mom and step-dad at their mom's house for dinner.  This year I had to work Thanksgiving night, so I was unable to go to dinner with the girls.  Also, this being the first Thanksgiving with Alene, I wanted to spend time with her her and her family as well.

What to do, what to do.

Hey, how about two Thanksgivings?

So, we made a compromise, which worked out pretty well.  The girls went to their mom's on Thanksgiving day, and had a big meal up in the mountains.  Alene and I, along with Liz and Alene's dad, went to "grandma's" down in Lodi, to have a meal at her assisted-living home.  We visited for a bit, then I headed off to work.

Friday, Alene and Liz got up at 3:30am or so to do the Black Friday shopping thing.  I slept till they got  home, after which we started the process of cooking for Thanksgiving Friday.  The girls all came over to our place in the afternoon, and we had Thanksgiving Day Part II.  Alene's daughter Liz, Trevor, Alene's dad, and a few assorted good friends joined in the celebration.  We had about 12 or 13 people all total.  Cooking went on from morning till afternoon, and friends hung around until late, laughing and talking.

As a first effort, I think it went well.  There were, of course, the inevitable rough patches, and we'll tweak those as we go, but I think those will also smooth over as time goes on and families get to know and accept each other.  Alene and I couldn't have been happier, and I was overjoyed to have all the kids together for the meal.

I've never been fond of the saying "blood is thicker than water".  Shared DNA means little to me, if that DNA is shared with crappy people.  I don't have time or energy anymore for crappy people, be they blood related or not.

There truly is no "right" family shape. Family, good family, is the shape of love, whatever shape that is.  I think its different for everyone.  But I do know this: family is about caring for each other, and being kind and uplifting to each other.  Family supports each other, is polite and selfless and looks out for each other.  Family is defined by the relationships between each other, and the bonds we make with each other, as we go through life.

That was a hard lesson learned for me. I'm glad God took the time to teach me.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Relighting New/Old Traditions

This blogging thing is kinda hard to "regrove", if you know what I mean.  I started the blog back in 2004, I think, when I separated from my x-wife.  I think it was mainly because I had so much time on my hands, and was kinda lonely, and it seemed like a way to communicate with people and share my thoughts.  I was surprised that anyone would take the time to read my thoughts, but blogging became a real outlet to share my life with friends I found on the internet.

Its also become an invaluable journal.  A lot has happened in the 5 or so years since I began blogging.  I went back a couple of weeks ago and read some of the older entries, and to be perfectly honest, I didn't remember doing the things I wrote about until I reread the blogs. Talk about weird.  It was like reading about someone else's life, which was cool in a way because it was all new to me again, but also weird because it was about ME and I didn't recall it that clearly..... it was just.... weird.

Long about May 2007 I just lost interest in blogging.  My writing flow had dried up, and I really don't know why.  I think it was because I was just too lonely and bored with life to come up with anything I thought was interesting to write about.  I mean, I'm not that interesting, ya know?  I tried to restart the blog thing in September 2008 with a short lived new journal, when I began an ill fated experiment and moved to Pollock Pines, CA to be closer to my kids and their mom.  Good intentions all around from the start, just really poor execution and planning (the move, not the blog, although the blog suffered too... anyway...).  The blog was supposed to be about my adventures as a city kid living in the mountains.  I can summarize that experience in one word: don't.

That blog stops on December 22, 2008, and there's a pretty good reason for that.  Along about that time my lady love Alene and I began to get serious about each other.  She and I had been friends at church for over 3 years, often going out to dinner or some events together, but not dating! It was just friends going out and doing things together.  The week prior to my last blog entry on the Pollock Pines journal, Alene and I had held hands for the first time (well, for the first time with meaning behind it) after going to see the Christmas lights on Dove Court, in Orangevale.  After walking the street in the freezing cold, we got back in the car, and she said her hands were cold, so I put my hand around hers, and uh, just didn't let go.  And she didn't mind.  In fact, I got the distinct and direct feeling she welcomed it.  And the Christmas season just got better from there..... 

So, that journal stopped right after that.  My free time (with which I would have blogged) suddenly seemed to be occupied, which was good! And, let's face it, blogging about dating and getting to know a woman, especially in the early stages of really dating and courting, is probably not smart.  Later, as the relationship develops, and it becomes clear what subjects are OK to write about, and what is verboten, it gets a little easier to write about life.  The editing process is a little simpler.

And that's sort of where I am now.  Alene and I have settled into a nice life routine, and we've gotten to know each other very well.  I think I know where my editorial limits are, and I will of course be careful not to cross them.  But on the other hand, there's a lot of things going on in my life, and I am again feeling the urge to write about them.

Having gone back and read those early blogs, about taking my dad out to lunch, or going someplace with my girls, or camping trips and whatnot, brought back wonderful memories.  I want to be able to look back 5 years from now, and have those same feelings about this wonderful, warm, and charming time in my life.  Alene has brought a joy into my life that had been missing for some time, and I like to think I've done the same for her.  I'd like these journals to be something both of us, and you (if you want to come along for the ride) can enjoy for a long time.

To that end, we're going to the Old Fair Oaks Christmas tree lighting later tonight.  It's a 1st Anniversary of sorts.  Last year Alene and I went to the lighting together because her daughter, Elizabeth, was off at college and Alene had no one else to go with.  This year, we're going together because, well, we want to be together. We want to share it and reflect on this year that has past, and in which SO much has happened.

It's a 1st Anniversary of a new tradition, shall we say.

Here's to a lot more of those.  And a lot more of this blogging....writing stuff... thing.... whatever you want to call it.

Oooooooo and she's making chili for dinner!!!! Yum!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Delish, or, Jellin' in the Jeep

So I got of work last night about 1:30am and crawled into bed about 2am.  Slept till about 9:45 when Alene woke me up with a wonderful cup of coffee.  I still say there is no better morning drink in the world.  Tea drinkers, don't even try.  3 billion Starbucks stores worldwide and about 16 tea-huts, and all of them on mainland China.

Nuff said.

Its Thanksgiving Day, ya'll!

Alene, her daughter Liz, and I drove down to Lodi to see Alene's grandmother, Marie.  Now, Marie lives in an assisted living place, also known as a 4-star hotel.  I mean, I'd like to live there.  The place is absolutely gorgeous, with big staircases, separate apartments, and a staff to assist with any need.  It's not a bad life to roll out of your front door to sit down at a 4-star restaurant.  But I envy digress.

We drove down for Thanksgiving dinner, and a short visit.  Marie is somewhere around 96-98 years old, depending on which documents or who's memory you want to believe.  Suffice to say, she's earned her stay at the hotel.  She's still sharp as a tack, though, so don't try to pull any fast one's on her.  She'll put you on your heels in no time.

Anyway, we arrived a little bit before dinner was served.  Alene's father, Roy, was in talking to Marie, so we all sat down and exchanged pleasantries for a while until it was time for dinner, which prompted me to look for the public restroom, a search during which I got lost and wound up exploring the entire 1st floor before I discovered the restrooms that I'd walked  past when my search began.

We all sat down to a nice turkey or ham dinner, complete with salad, stuffing, carrots, bread, coffee, cranberry sauce, and apple or pumpkin pie for dessert.  The food was very good, my compliments to the chef and the bottle washer, because eating a good Thanksgiving dinner and not doing dishes is, like, I dunno, awesome!

After dinner we went back to Marie's place and visited for a few more minutes. I had to leave by about 2:30pm to get to work on time, and the plan was for Alene to drop me off.  But long about 2pm, Roy (The Dad) announces that he has to get going, and that he will give me a ride to work.

Now, I'm cool with this.  Roy is an OK guy, even if he is a little gruff sometimes. I get him, and we seem to get along alright.  But a side-long glance at Alene showed her to be a little less certain that Roy taking me to work was a good idea. I think she actually gulped.

So Roy and I take off for the hour drive from Lodi to downtown Sacramento, and you know what? We had a fine time.  He's actually very interesting, and has lived a somewhat colorful life, from time in the military, working several business, and owning his own business for the past 25+years.  He seemed to enjoy me asking about his family, telling me about his daughter (yes, my Alene), and trips he took the kids on.

I think Alene feared the "father-son-in-law-to-be" talk, but naw..... it was just a couple of guys talking.  Nice time.

So here I am at work, eating the food delivered by a caterer, and getting way too full.  My co-workers seem to be in a great mood, people laughing and sharing about their day with families.  My own kids are at their mom's eating way too much food as well, I'm sure.  All is as it should be, and I'm a happy guy.

God Bless you all, and remember to give thanks to God, the creator, and giver of all good things.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Transitions

This Thanksgiving promises to be something new for me.  It's going to be a transition from a single dad, to forming a new family, and working to fold the old in with the new.  Its a challenge I delight it, and look forward to, but at the same time, I know it's going to be a difficult. 

How do you reconcile two different sets of very strong traditions?  Who bends, and who compromises? What things get left behind, and what new traditions begin?

This year, my x-wife is having her traditional Thanksgiving dinner at her home, with her boyfriend and their 2 young boys, up in Pollock Pines.  She sets a very good table, and "tradition" has been for me and our girls to join up with my x- and have a great family meal together.  The "functional dysfunctional family" I've called it, and as a tradition, it's worked for several years. 

This year, I've added some new people to my life, Alene and her daughter, and we have been looking at what we are going to do for Thanksgiving, and how we can fold my traditions in with her and her daughter's traditions, to make something acceptable and new for all of us.

These are things that I've thought about for some time.  I mean, its inevitable that, as new family relationships and family units form, old ways are naturally compromised somewhat, and new ways have to be forged together.  It's not easy, but it's normal.  At least, as normal as can be under the circumstances.

This year, things have worked out well.  Alene has been wonderful and made some significant changes to accommodate both me, and her aging grandmother.

Normally, Alene's grandmother would come to her home before Thanksgiving and stay for a couple of days. But with health issues this year, and of course, advancing age, this is just not an option.  Grandmother is not able to spend too much time away from home. 

So, for this Thanksgiving, we will be traveling to Lodi, and enjoying dinner with her grandmother at her assisted-living center.  The meal promises to be just fine, I'm certain, and this way Alene and her daughter can keep their tradition of getting together with their grandmother and Alene's father, who will be joining us as well.  Afterward, I have to work, so Alene and her daughter will enjoy Thanksgiving evening at home. 

Naturally, this also leaves me without seeing my own girls, who will be at their mom's.  So... what do to?

Why, have 2 Thanksgivings, that's what!

Friday, Alene and her daughter will get up early, hit the Black Friday store sales (yes, them, not me!), then we'll get to cooking for a wonderful Friday Thanksgiving meal.  My daughters will come (hopefully, work not withstanding), along with a few family and church friends who don't work on Friday.  Thanksgiving part 2 will be a splendid meal and another fine day spent with loved ones. 

A new tradition will start   I'm sure it will change in the coming years as life settles into it's groove, and new things become the norm.  But most of all, we'll be including those we love into everything we can as a new family unit forms, hopefully to the blessing of the old family unit. 

Spending time with loved ones and giving thanks to God is what Thanksgiving is about, isn't it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I woke up this morning to a text message from an old friend, telling me that her father had passed away during the night.

Actually, this old friend was my girlfriend all through high school, after which we tragically broke up (meaning I cruelly dumped her, but that's another story) and lost contact with each other for most of 20 years. We've talked since, in the past 3-4 years, and keep in touch sporadically, enough to tell each other about our family and children. For me personally, there's been some good healing there.

But anyway......

The text message had been very simple: My dad passed away last night. I sat silent for a moment, trying to clear the sleepy cobwebs from my brain, and trying to remember her dad. It'd been 25 years or so since I'd seen or talked to him. I figure I was 19 or so the last time we spoke (which is about the time I dumped his daughter, but again, different story).

I wondered what to say to her. I haven't really experienced a loss like that in my life. I've been very lucky/unlucky (you pick, I haven't quite decided which it is yet) not to have experienced the death of a truly close loved one. My grandmother Florence died in 1995, but I hadn't really been close to her for years (to my great sadness now). My former mother-in-law died in 1996, but she was back in Oklahoma, and I'd never developed a real close relationship with her. So the losses I've experienced, although very sad, have not the loss of a close loved one for me.

So I thought of my friend, her husband and their kids, her sisters and brothers (some of whom I knew well back then) and really took it to heart that a family had lost their father. As with all parent/child relationships, some of the kids are closer with their parents than others, but ALL feel the loss to some degree.

Its the closing of a chapter. The end of an era, and an ending to possibilities.

I wished my friend and her family the best, and will be praying for their family, and especially her mother. I know she loved her husband dearly, and will miss him.

After I woke all the way up and started the coffee, my own dad called and we talked for a while. He's getting older and having physical problems of his own. I know before too many years pass I will experience this loss in my life as well. It's something we all have to deal with, eventually.

Say the things you want to say to your elderly loved ones right now, folks. I've learned this much from watching others deal with death. Not much you can say or do after they pass away. Live today, talk today, and walk today. Don't wait for these types of things until tomorrow, because you just never know if you will have a tomorrow or not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Straying from the Mark

Ephesians 6:10-12 "A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."

I heard someone say one of Satan's greatest achievements is convincing people that he doesn't actually exist. I would say Satan's the second great achievement is infiltrating the Church, and convincing people that the Gospel message passed down through the ages is outdated and in need of change.

On that note, I found this article in Christianity Today very interesting.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fort Bragg Musings

Took a trip to Fort Bragg this weekend, with my girlfriend Alene.  We left Friday night, unsure about the weather since it looked kinda thunder-stormy, but wow.... did we get lucky. 

This is a picture of the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg.  I got tickets to the garden as part of our trip because I know Alene enjoys gardening and plant stuff.  I was happy to go along and enjoy the scenery, mainly because I knew she'd be happy with the place.  Typical guy thinking, right?

The Garden was absolutely lovely.  I was stunned at the amazing spectrum of colors and fragrances we came across as we walked around.  The garden is arrayed along 4-acres of coast land where the climate is apparently very healthy for rhododendrons and other semi-exotic plants.  Several species that normally thrive in the hills of Tibet or China thrive here as well.  We spent a good 2-1/2 hours wandering the paths through the flowers, and along the cliffs at the ocean.  If you really like "botany", you will enjoy this garden. 

As we sat on a bench along the coast, enjoying the view and the breeze, we couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of the area, and remember that God did indeed create it all.  I felt very blessed to be able to enjoy the peace and quiet for a few minutes, and steal away a few precious moments alone with Alene (well, and the dogs too!).  

But that also reminds me that, although God created all this fantastic beauty and wonderful scenery for us to enjoy, he also placed US here to work and be useful in this beautiful world.  

Yes, I truly believe the world is a beautiful place.  After all, when God was done creating it, He looked over his creation and declared it to be good (Genesis 1:25).  That includes all the lions, tigers, spiders, snakes, scorpions, mountains, oceans, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes!! God made this world and called it good!

But, as we, His children, enjoy His creation, and even sometimes tremble at the power of His creation (and yes, mourn when His creation produces calamity and distress on us humans), we have to remember why we're here, and why God created this world for us.  And that's to serve Him, and each other.  

Alene and I were talking about relationships on our drive home, and we came to the conclusion that the best relationships are those where we care more about how we can be of service and help and joy to others, than how others can service and help us. When that attitude of service and love is reciprocal, then relationships blossom and friendships grow! 

Jesus said, the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.  Let's love like we mean it, and show the world the Jesus changes lives.