Unglaublich! Incroyable! Ongelooflik!

November 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Instead of several Facebook posts sharing these videos as I lately came across them, here they are in one go…

The city of Paris as seen from the back of a white-tailed eagle when he jumps off the Eiffel Tower: 
http://www.liftable.com/andreadcombs/ridge/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=tb

Aerial sunrise views of Cape Town, South Africa, and the sharks below:
http://www.liftable.com/andreadcombs/watch-stunning-aerial-footage-cape-town-sa-will-absolutely-take-breath-away/

And lastly, the coup de grâce, the bide-ride to end (or inspire) all bike-rides! The scenery alone is astounding. 
http://www.liftable.com/andreadcombs/ridge/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=tb

I think I got an adrenalin rush just from watching that one!

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Holy Land Photo & Info Resource

October 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

While showing this website to a co-worker today, I thought I’d post it up here for anybody who doesn’t know about it — http://www.BiblePlaces.com  is the most amazing repository of photos and information about the land, locations, structures, and even animals mentioned in Scripture. Everything from Genesis to Revelation, the Negev to Patmos.

I’ll start you off with a link to the page about En Gedi! It’s the hidden oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, where David hid himself from the murderous King Saul. Scroll down to see beautiful waterfalls, pools, and caves . . . you can just picture the shepherd and future king resting from arduous desert journeys and close escapes!

http://www.bibleplaces.com/engedi.htm

And this is Mount Gilboa — on these slopes King Saul fell on his sword as he saw his army defeated. Read 1 Samuel 31 as you look at the picture . . .

Mount Gilboa from the west

Lakes and Loons and Loony Larks

August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

I miss lakes. Lakes were a big part of my childhood, when I think about it. I learned how to swim in a lake (Silver Lake, right?…Gina, Emily, Abby, Stephanie, remember the crazy-painful hot metal slide we played on? Is it still there?), had T-ball practice next to lakes, learned how to make loon-calls on lakes (North Star Lake), how to fish in lakes, how to ice-skate on frozen lakes, went to church baptisms at lakes, steered boats on lakes (White Bear Lake), fell fully clothed into lakes (several lakes)…

…and then I moved to southern California. No lakes for seventeen years. In terms of me and lakes, these were the years of the Babylonian Captivity. (What about the ocean, you say? Me and the ocean is a whole different story.)

Then I moved to Arkansas. Hey, there’s quite a few lakes here! But seven years later, I’ve been to more lakes in other countries (in desert regions!) than I have in Arkansas. 

Time to have a lake day. With fishing. And loons.  

Loons really add a special something. A lake without loons is almost no lake at all. I miss getting out on a boat just before the sun rises, weaving through the mist still crawling over the water, and talking to the loons…

Running (and breathing) in Circles

August 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

I love to run. It’s relaxing. A time to be outside and think and pray, and I love the feeling of spent energy, enlivened muscle and increased blood-flow that comes afterward. But there’s a weird little almost-vicious cycle I experience while running, that is super uncomfortable and threatens to stop me from training for another marathon. =(

Usually my asthma — very minor by the way, I’ve never had an attack — is strictly exercise-induced. I run for a while, I feel myself pass the out-of-breath stage and settle into the breathe-steady-and-just-keep-going stage and everything’s great! Here we go! This feels good! Ugh, but then it’s like switch is flipped and suddenly breathing seems to have no affect. Must stop and walk a bit! Let the lungs open up again. 
When I stop running, another minor condition kicks in; a POTS-like malfunction of the autonomic nervous system that means low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, randomly “forgetting” to breathe. etc. These involuntary systems don’t self-regulate the way they should. So, while actually running/exercising, it’s the exercise itself that keeps my blood pressure and heart rate pushing along steadily at a good rate to maintain the exercise. But as soon as I stop, when it’s supposed to all put itself back to normal rates, instead it goes kind of haywire and BP drops and HR just rushes along as though I’m still running and it just takes an extra few minutes for things to get back into place. 

Once all THAT is over with, I can quit the walk-break pick up the pace. Every run I go on is broken down into those sections.

Run, get asthmatic, slow to a walk, BP & HR go kind of nuts, wait ’til I’m not woozy, run again, repeat. 

Some days, like this afternoon, it happens when I’m not exercising at all and in the opposite order. I’ll “forget” to breathe, suddenly feel like I’m going to suffocate and realize, “Hey, it’s been a little bit since I took a breath. I should do that.”  Deep breath, then feel asthmatic (like no air actually got in). But deep breaths make me woozy so it goes around and around like so:

Hey numbskull, breathe!
Oh! Yes, yes of course.
Whoa, woozy.
But it doesn’t feel like I gut much air. Deep breath again.
Whoa, woozy.

Etcetera. All the while my heart kind of pounds, though not any faster than usual. 

Asthma treatments contain albuterol, which shoots the heart rate up. Since mine doesn’t regulate like it should, my cardiologist says no albuterol for me, because hey, why wear out my heart early by making it run hot all the time?

Not much they can do for the other condition either, because it’s not bad enough to require (or qualify for?) the usual treatment for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). They said if I was actually fainting when I got lightheaded, I’d officially have POTS. Well, I’m certainly grateful that I don’t faint, though I’ve come close a few times if I stand up too fast.

I love to be active, to work out and to climb things and run races. And to sprint! Going as fast as I can is a major rush and absolutely love it! However since this stuff began, the reaction is a lot worse after a good hard sprint. Upon stopping I feel terrible, nearly black out, am asthmatic for an extended period of time, and my heart rate doesn’t go below 130 for hours.

So, I need prayer for patience. I need to proactively figure out an exercise routine, and hopefully running schedule, that will work for me instead of against me. And I need to make an appointment with my doctor to see about alternative asthma treatments that don’t affect heart rate (that I’d be comfortable taking).

Oh, and why did this suddenly start happening a few years ago? I’ve had the sports-induced asthma from childhood, that’s nothing new. But I asked my cardiologist why on earth an autonomic nervous system suddenly goes haywire! He said, “Well, it can happen after a patient has suffered a severe, prolonged fever. Have you had one of those?” 

Swine Flu, fall of 2009, a few months before I started getting major woozy spells while simply sitting at my desk. 

Yay. =/

Who’s In Your Cloud?

August 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
— Hebrews 12:1-2

The writer of Hebrews had just been delineating the incredible sacrifices and suffering of past heroes of the faith. They are the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

Perhaps those we knew personally who have passed into glory were not martyred, and did not suffer for their faith. But we knew them, and loved them, and they have gone before. Their faith instructed us. Their love challenged us. Their joy encouraged us. And so much more. They are part of our cloud of witnesses.

Thinking about the fact that people I actually know, people I hugged and loved and laughed with and sang with and cried with, are actually experiencing Heaven at this moment, makes Heaven so real to me. It’s there! They’re there! Heaven is a place.

In fact my friend Jody wrote a song called “Heaven is a Place”. I listen to the CD and hear her sweet, somewhat husky alto voice singing, and tears always come. As the musicians begin, she calls out to the audience (I and my family were their for the live concert recording), “Are you ready to go to Heaven? I’m excited to go there because that’s where we’ll finally meet the King! Face to face. There will be fullness of joy, and pleasures forever! Maybe tonight. I’m ready.”  Then she sings. How her heart longed to be there. And on September 30, 2006, her desire was fulfilled.

There are others in my cloud. Those that I knew on at least some personal level. The first was my dear grandpa, Jess Vanderpool. I loved him so much! And there is Lynda, Bethany, Jody, Claire, Jasmine, Greg, Chris, Rob, and Tori.

Mrs. Claire Clint was my 2nd grade Sunday school teacher at Grace Community Church. She could have been my grandfather’s teacher, too, if he’d grown up near her. Because she was born six months before the declaration of the Spanish American War in 1898, and was 14 years old when the Titanic sank I sang in choirs with her great-great-grandson. She once told me she still remembered how she felt upon seeing the newspaper headlines. Between Grace Community and her former churches, Mrs. Clint taught Sunday morning classes for 80 years.

Talk about faithfulness.

Jody’s talent was music, and her gifts were never underused. Nether were her gifts of encouragement, speaking the truth in love, and helping others set their minds on things above. Bethany’s exhortation to all of us was always “walk worthy!”. She so desired herself and her fellow believers to walk worthy of our calling.
Tori was all about others. How she could serve, how she could pray, how she could help. She offered to talk any time I needed to . . . wanting to be of any consolation to my sore heart that she could.

I think God has been teaching our little church here in Little Rock how to love suffering people well. How to love, how to be grieving people. We have experienced a great deal of loss in the last several years. Our cloud grows, while we mourn. However, instead of a dark, heavy cloud, this cloud is full of light, joy, and anticipation. They now know that fullness of joy unspeakable, and they eagerly await the day that we will join them.

And we want to! It’s the Christian’s sanctified death-wish. We want to be with our loved ones, those who spurred us on to love and good works, and whom we loved so dearly. Even more we want to be with our Lord. They, with Him, are waiting for us. Let it be soon! Or come quickly, Lord Jesus.

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
– Ecclesiastes 7:2

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever! 
— Revelation 22:3-4

Listening to the Sound of our Mourning

April 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

This week I am grateful for melancholy music. Not for wallowing, but for the cushion it seems to place between my emotions and the cold hard ground.

Music’s ability to aid the feeling and expression of sorrow is amazing. Although ultimately for the worship of God, with the advent of sin, misery and tragedy He allows us to use its great power help us make it through the depths.

In the darkness of my own trials, or when anguished for others like the Tittle family, why would I listen to doleful music when I’m already sad? It’s not for everyone and each of you knows whether or not it helps or hurts. Nor is it for every stage of those emotions. There’s a time and a place. Certainly there are times when any music at all may feel like a mockery to the sufferer of intense grief.

For me, as an avid lover of choral and orchestral music, those are my musical refuge when sadness overwhelms.

Author J.K. Rowling put it this way in one of her books, when after the death of an important character the grieving friends hear a Phoenix singing in the distance, with terrible beauty and an unearthly quality that they felt must be
“their own grief turned magically into song, and it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning.”

To somehow hear my heartache, bound up in a lovely sound, and thereby let go of it teeny tiny bits at a time. The poignancy of certain musical sounds seems to draw the grief out of me like a gentle syringe.

The following pieces are my go-to for such times. Pieces with lyrics that don’t match the specific circumstance of a particular struggle are chosen for the arrangement of the music itself.

  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” — simple string quartet. Full string section versions are gorgeous as well, but the exposed, raw quality of just the four parts better suits its nature, to me.
  • “Agnus Dei” — choral version of the above. Barber chose to set the Agnus Dei text to his haunting melody.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep” — choral.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” — choral. A stunning piece representing King David’s grief upon hearing of Absolom’s death. It’s about 15 minutes long and worth every moment.
  • Joseph MacKenzie’s “Mansions of the Lord” and end credits of the film We Were Soldiers — choir and orchestra.
  • Puccini’s “Crisantemi” — for string orchestra. Written for the funeral procession of a noble.

 

Courageous Discernment

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

In the Heaven is for Real film preview, Mr. Burpo tells his young son that some people might be afraid to believe him.

However I fear that multitudes of people will be afraid NOT to believe him, because of genuine belief that “you can’t and shouldn’t just write off someone else’s experience”. Very many kind, sweet, strong and otherwise godly people do and will hold this view.

But on the contrary, we should and must have the courage to discount anything that doesn’t agree with the divinely inspired Words our Creator has already given us. They alone are trustworthy and they are final. Neither myself nor the preachers I quote are out to make our fellow Christians look or feel stupid. Instead we beg them to step back, search the Scriptures, and seek after priceless wisdom.

You may be thinking, “Look, even if we ourselves can’t confirm whether or not the kid’s story is true, why is it so bad to at least consider the possibility? What’s wrong with just acknowledging that maybe God allowed this experience, and let it give people hope?”

Because it feeds the notion that God’s revelation isn’t complete; that we can depend on something outside His Word to give us hope. David Platt says it thus: “Why, why do we buy this stuff when we HAVE the Word of God? Let’s minimize the thoughts of man, magnify, trust, bank our lives and our understanding of the future on the truth of God. On the other hand let’s lay aside our traditions and submit to God’s Word. None of us want to believe something is true about Heaven or Hell just because it’s what we’ve always been taught. There’s too much at stake for that.”

With superhuman intelligence and thousands of years of practice, Satan is extremely good at his primary goal: deceiving people. He is the Father of Lies.  Originally created the chief of all God’s angels, he is cunning. A master of subtlety. He delights most in using lies that sound like truth (hence Catholicism, etcetera). They’re the most effective kind, after all.

In a video clip from a sermon of David Platt’s that is going around Facebook (the same from which the above quote comes), Mr. Platt quotes a man I know from our 17 years of residence in California, preacher and editor Phil Johnson. I wholeheartedly recommend his words for your consideration. (Copied farther below.)

Input from men like this, whose scriptural acumen and faithful perspicacity in their efforts to always be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is exceedingly valuable. God has provided us with gifted expositors of His Word, but they won’t do us any good if we are failing to obey Hebrews 5:12-14 and feed ourselves with the solid food of truth — not just milk! — and exercise ourselves to be discerning.

(All of the following is excerpted from Phil Johnson’s blog post “The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine” which can be found on the Grace To You website http://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Blog/B121018)

“Only four authors in all the Bible were blessed with visions of heaven and wrote about what they saw: the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, and the apostles Paul and John. Two other biblical figures—Micaiah and Stephen—got glimpses of heaven, but what they saw is merely mentioned, not described (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55). As Pastor MacArthur points out, all of these were prophetic visions, not near-death experiences. Not one person raised from the dead in the Old or New Testaments ever recorded for us what he or she experienced in heaven. That includes Lazarus, who spent four days in the grave.

Paul was caught up into heaven in an experience so vivid he said he didn’t know whether he went there bodily or not, but he saw things that are unlawful to utter, so he gave no details. He covered the whole incident in just three verses (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

All three biblical writers who saw heaven and described their visions give comparatively sparse details, but they agree perfectly (Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1 and 10; Revelation 4-6). They don’t agree with the Burpo-Malarkey version of heaven. Both their intonation and the details they highlight are markedly different. The biblical authors are all fixated on God’s glory, which defines heaven and illuminates everything there. They are overwhelmed, chagrined, petrified, and put to silence by the sheer majesty of God’s holiness. Notably missing from all the biblical accounts are the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominate every account of heaven currently on the bestseller lists.

Evangelical readers’ discernment skills are at an all-time low, and that is why books like these proliferate. Despite the high profile, high sales figures, and high dollar amounts Christian publishers can milk from a trend such as this, it doesn’t bode well for the future of Christian publishing—or for the future of the evangelical movement.”

A Shepherd’s Conference “Throwback Thursday” (and my baptism story — well, the funny bits).

March 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Don’t have a photo for this TBT, but here goes.

As the Shepherd’s Conference is in full swing today, I am reminded of how set-up went in the old days! For years, my mom would begin our homeschool year two weeks early in Autumn, JUST so that we could spend one week helping with setup and the second week serving during the conference. I LOVED being a “go-fer” running hither, thither, and yon for all manner of errands.

We learned about sacrificing our time to make a big event happen. We learned about doing whatever was asked of us as well and quickly as we could. We learned how to interact with guests from foreign lands, some of whom barely spoke English. And so much more!

–In the room across from the kitchen (the kitchen by the Fireside Room), we spent a whole day walking around and around a huge square of tables, collating  all the attendees’ conference materials for the week into massive blue 3-ring binders.

–Used a paper-cutter to turn stacks of paper into all of the individual name-tags!

–Put hours and hours into sliding each name-tag into a plastic holder with a pin on the back, while trying not to seriously puncture a finger.

–Served sit-down dinners in the gymnasium; way back when ALL the visiting pastors FIT in the gym, even sitting around tables! (And I tripped on the blue floor-covering and dumped an entire plate of spaghetti *splat!* into the lap of a German church leader. Zum Glück war er sehr nett!)

–The Master’s Chorale would sing and I would sit enraptured, hoping beyond hope that I could sing in that group someday. (A wish that came true!) This hasn’t really changed. =}

–One year on a day during setup week, I was sent from the kitchen up to Dr. MacArthur’s office with his lunch, not realizing I’d forgotten to include any cutlery. He said, rather tentatively as I turned to go, “Thanks! Hey Elizabeth could uh, could I please have a fork?”  Oops.

Lastly, in March of 1999 when the attendance had doubled since the years of my childhoood, I was baptized at the Shepherd’s Conference. They always have an extra-long baptism service, and it’s a wonderful, solemn, yet joyful time. Typically the women go first, and then all the men. But I’d been tagged onto the schedule at the last minute, and was set to go at the very end after the men (because Dr. MacArthur was going to step out of the water and my dad, who was on pastoral staff at the time, was to come baptize me).

Unfortunately, John . . . forgot.

He baptized the last guy, and began winding down toward a final prayer. There dad and I are, literally waiting in the wings in our fluffy white robes, and dad quietly says “Psssst, John. John!” He stopped mid-sentence and turned around, not-so-mild surprise on his face. Then turns back to the mic, jovially saying:

“I’m so sorry, we have one more!”

So at the tender age of 14 and not much keen on public speaking, I walked out there to the sound of ~4,000 men belly-laughing . . .

The Weeping Piano

February 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have always loved piano music. Played well, many instruments can echo a wide range of emotion, but there’s just something about the sound of a piano. Particularly when it comes to sad music. For centuries composers have poured their heartaches into a piano, and in turn, pianists pour them all back out in the beautiful sounds that cascade from their fingers, often infused with their own regrets or hardships.

Victor Hugo said “Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Others have said that music is emotion made into sound. With instrumental music, it is wonderful that although we can know a specific intent for the emotional expression of a piece, its power is not limited to that intent. Even though Puccini wrote the “Crisantemi” overnight in 1890 as a response to the death of the Duke of Savoy, I can sit here in 2014 and hear the sound of my own troubles.

Sometimes I might hear the melancholy of a whole nation in a piece written by one of their citizens, even if they weren’t trying to speak it. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, I just mean that when listening to certain pieces by Rachmaninoff I can hear grief for lost countrymen in war, or the incredible strain of long, hungry, deep Russian winters. Things I know about countries, people, and cultures come to mind and color my perception of their music. The longings of Israel sung by their wistful clarinets, or of slaves in their spiritual songs.
I don’t mean to discount pieces with lyrics. Take “Mansions of the Lord” for example, an utterly heartrending tribute to fallen military heroes. Or “Soon Ah Will Be Done”. Our deepest longings to meet Jesus, and see those we love who’ve gone to Heaven before us, turned into the sound of human voices.

Of course music, like everything else, was created for God’s glory and will ultimately be used for His worship in eternity. However, it is also a gift of God that, in the meantime, while we wait on this groaning Earth in our wretched fallenness, we can use music to tell our anguish as well as our worship.
For believers in Jesus Christ, our mourning is temporary, to be quelled with the glorious certainty of our hope.
For the lost there is nothing to explain their pain, nothing to tame the despair and the great, screaming sound of it pours out everywhere in music.

These are just ponderings brought on by a photograph I saw today. Someone had taken an old piano and turned it into a outdoor planter and fountain. Water pouring from the keys, it looks as though it is weeping.
For me, a perfect visual of an instrument’s power to reflect human sorrow.

Image

Six Things I’d Never Heard of Before Living in the South

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Some of these are not strictly Southern, but here is a smattering of traditions, terms, and foods I’ve been tickled to learn about since coming to Arkansas six and a half years ago.

1) A “Pounding”

When new folks are moving to a home in your area from out of state/country, such as a new pastor or a new position at the office, the community helps out by signing up to buy a grocery staple (in many cases a pound, thus the name) and bring it to a party or to move-in day. All at once the newcomers are blessed with a full pantry in their new home. What a GREAT idea.

2) The “Groom’s Cake”

Oddly enough the first wedding I attended in Arkansas was that of a friend from college (in California). She was from the church we moved to in Little Rock, and had a beautiful wedding on New Year’s Day, 2008. But I was in for a surprise at the reception: two cakes?? I mean, another cake is always a good thing, but having an official bride’s cake and groom’s cake was a totally foreign concept. I love it though! It’s an entertaining way for the groom’s personality to have a platform at what is so often a bride-centered event. In the six years since then I’ve seen Darth Vader cakes, cakes made in the exact shape and detail of a soundboard, and my personal favorites: simply huge chocolate cakes loaded with chocolate icing. Yum!

3) “Dirty Santa”

In California and lots of other places, it’s  called “White Elephant”: the gift-giving game where you bring something to a Christmas party and everyone opens one and steals them from each other and has a general riot. Most of the time it’s up to the host whether you are supposed to bring something nice enough to keep, or total rubbish. Sometimes the distinction is not made, and the gifts comprise a little of both. (This would explain why I received  an old Linksys router at my boss’s house this year.) I suppose it’s the rubbish-version of the game for which calling it Dirty Santa makes sense. Some people I have asked say that it’s Dirty Santa when you’re supposed to bring clutter, and it’s White Elephant when the gifts are to be “nice”. Alrighty then.

4) “Chocolate Gravy” 

Similar to sausage gravy (or what the South calls “Biscuits and Gravy”), this extremely odd dish is just…chocolate gravy. On biscuits. Runny chocolate-ish “gravy” on plain dry biscuits. Great if you grew up with it I suppose, but this one I’m afraid I will never understand. (I did taste it.)

5) “Bridal Portraits” . . . weeks before the wedding.

This one really threw me for a loop. I felt pretty dumb. At that same New Year’s Day wedding there was a large, gorgeous framed photograph of the bride on a stand by the doorway to the reception. She looked exactly as she did in the service she’d just walked out of, but I couldn’t think how that photo could have possibly made it into that frame in the short space of time since her morning toilette. It was a morning wedding, after all. Did somebody take the photo and immediately have it rushed out to be developed, then get it in the frame and back to the church just in time? I was impressed. Mentioning this to the next person in line, I was informed of the tradition that is “Bridal Portraits.” Of course it wasn’t all done in a jiffy that morning. The photo had been taken weeks ago when the bride got all gussied up just like she would for the actual ceremony and went out for an official photo-shoot. Leaves more time for couples shots on the wedding day, and less stress for all. Huh.

6) “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

I couldn’t do a post like this without including at least one colloquialism. This is *so* my favorite, but I have yet to encounter the, uh, appropriate moment to use it…