Sunday, December 23, 2007

I WISH CHRISTMAS COULD LAST ALL YEAR


Merry CHRISTmas and a blessed 2008th


"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful," remarked the famed Dutch Reform preacher Norman Vincent Peale.

But for only for a few weeks the spirit of Christmas lasts--that special feeling of love and brotherhood that affects the world at Christmastime. For one glorious month, feuds are forgotten, grudges go on the back burner, and everyone adopts a spirit of friendship and cooperation.

Then it's gone. When the whistle sounds on the last New Year's Day bowl game, life gets "back to normal." Workplace worries bring stress, tension, and the disunity that so often infects everything. However, Alexander Smith reminds us that, ”Christmas is the day that holds all time together."

Mary Ellen Chase said, "Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind."
This year, let's resolve that Christmas is not just a season, but a state of mind. Let's permit the love that was in Christ Jesus, be in each one of us. Let's sacrifice for others, be tolerant of their mistakes, and keep their best interests at heart. Christmas doesn't have to be a once-a-year event. It can be a lifelong passion, a lifestyle of love that says to others "You matter to me."

Many have a single object--to make it to the top! Money, resources, and even people, become tools to be used in the pursuit of success. Climbing the ladder, punching tickets--whatever it's called, the goal of the game is always the same: to be king of the hill.

Jesus took a different route.

He didn't climb up; he stepped down. He wasn't after the chair at the head of the table; he took the lowest place. By being born as a helpless baby and placed in a manger, Jesus Christ demonstrated the most potent lesson of all time: the way up is the way down. If we are to help others best when we should first be willing to serve.

1. Nowhere is Strength found better that in what many call a Weakness.
Herod's soldiers were sent to kill the helpless Christ-child, but they failed. God's plan may have seemed foolish, sending the Savior of the world in the form of a helpless child. But here as always, his strength was made perfect in weakness. The child rose to be king. I am constantly reminded by Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, who said, "The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart."

2. Good servants will Know Their People.
Jesus left the splendor of heaven to live within the confines of a human body. By doing so, he did something that had never been done--not even thought of--before. He brought God and man together.

Human beings can't be helped by remote control. Servants must be among them, talk to them, and learn from them. Building friends is necessary to gain their confidence in you. If Jesus saw the need to step down from heaven, certainly we must be willing to step out from that which governs us, and spend some time among those whom we have the privilege of sharing His grace.

3. The only thing at the top is nothing.
Seeking to help others know the real action is never at the top, but at the bottom. Politicians know that public opinion counts more than any summit. Business leaders know that buying habits, not boardroom decisions, are what make their bottom line. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin, "How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments."

"Give to others, and you'll receive something really special this Christmas—love," says, my friend, Stan Toler. He further states, "We celebrate Christmas best when we give to those who need the most."

People should be the goal of your servanthood. If you want to be a great servant, you must love people more than you love power, prestige, or perks. If you finally do "get to the top," you'll probably find that it's a lonely place without the love and respect of others. "Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man." --Anonymous

4. People who do something in life learn to move out and forward.
Jesus didn't stay in the manger. Because he was willing to humble himself, he was given the position of highest authority. There's a U-turn at the bottom of self-sacrifice. When we truly humble ourselves, we are exalted in the eyes of God and others.

If you are a true servant, your sacrifice will not be in vain. You will accomplish your goals for your church, your organization, your people, and--most important--for the Lord. Don't be afraid to give yourself away. There's a bend in that lowly road that leads to heaven. "God is with us. That's the best news I've heard all year!" writes Stan Toler.

I'm praying for you--for your family and your church and your job--praying that Dec. 25 was the first day of a brand new year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

IT IS THE SEASON TO GIVE THANKS

“IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS”

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thes. 5:18

This is the season to give thanks. It is a time to remember with love those who touch our lives in so many special ways.

Many of my readers are unaware that I have had eight operations, spent 132 days in the hospital, with the remaining time mostly homebound since July of 2006.

It has given me so much time to think and to appreciate friends. I have learned to take my thoughts about myself and turn it toward those who have cared for me.

Therefore:
I give thanks to my wife who has given all her time to me during these 17 months.
I give thanks to my sons and their families through this time.
I give thanks to the hospitals whose staff aided in my recoveries.
I give thanks to my many doctors whose expertise has given me continued life.
I give thanks to therapists who were patient with me while they taught me to walk again.
I give thanks to my BJC homecare nurses whose care and friendliness made me confident in my recuperation.
I give thanks to my pastors and our church members who have not forgotten us.
I give thanks to other pastors whose visits and prayers were blessings.
I give thanks for churches around the country who have kept me furnished with DVD’s of their services.
I give thanks for those from business, organizations, and the editor of this paper whose visits were rewarding.
I give thanks to a young couple’s class that decorated our home for Christmas while the men powerwashed the mold from our house and fence. The dinner and worship time afterwards brought real joy.
I give thanks for the hundreds of cards, emails, and phone calls from around the country and abroad.
I give thanks to my McDonald’s Sunday night friends (5 couples) who brought snacks, coffee, and offered a worship time.
I give thanks for friends who have driven us to the doctors or hospitals in St. Louis without complaint.
I give thanks for a friend who shoveled snow last Sunday morning my entire drive and sidewalk.
I give thanks for my classmates who have called and prayed
I give thanks that, besides our local paper, other state and national publications have published my writings.
I give thanks for a room for rest with a computer nearby to write, research, or to just enjoy surfing the internet.

But most important of all, I give thanks to God who loved the world so much that He gave His son who offered eternal life beyond the troubles of this life.

“O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people” Psalm 105:1

Sunday, December 9, 2007

JESUS IS COME

THE SAVIOUR HAS COME

When we lived in Ohio every December in front of the State Auto Insurance Company in the heart of downtown Columbus was built a large nativity scene covering nearly two hundred feet recogning Christmas.

While nativity scenes are not uncommon at this time of the year, this one had some unique features. The scenes make changes every day in December as the night of the birth draws near. On the eve, the donkey, with Mary aboard, and Joseph nearby, arrives finally to the inn in Bethlehem. The manger is empty until the next morning...Then the babe appears, the donkey is barren, the parents are inside, the star brightens. All has changed.

The night we know as Christmas Eve, had closed down Columbus just like it did Bethlehem. And like other unassuming Columbusites, I did not know this scene had been changing daily.

"All is changed; all is bright, round yon virgin, mother and child,
Holy infant, so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace."

In fact, this Child of God has changed a whole world for the good, and a simple faith in the Christ child will produce a greater faith in the Child-the-Savior of all men.

This reminded me that changes are ever occurring as the Lord prepares His new coming. He advises us in His Word to be ready, and I don't want to simply be a passerby unaware of the daily changes going on before my eyes. I desire to be in total awareness of what is changing so the unexpected to the world will not be a surprise to me.

Luke 2:4-11
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) [5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. [6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. [7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. [10] And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”

Sunday, December 2, 2007

YOUR MUG IS SEEN AROUND THE WORLD


My wife and I had visited many of the woolen shops in Windsor, England and decided we would cross the street to enter St. Patrick's Cathedral to view its interesting architecture and listen to a lecture from its guide about the kings and noblemen who had made this famed old church their place of worship.

As we turned the corner a guard in full red and black dress took a fast step into a prone position lifting his gun and snapping his heels as he momentarily changed into complete attention. His eyes without moving looked forward, but obviously surveying every move made by those of us entering through the gate.

After everyone was in, he relaxed and returned the heel of his gun to the ground. Again, his piercing eyes continued forward. I had been told they never speak nor make any signs of response except to their superiors. To this point my informers had been correct.

As I removed my camera I waited for a change in his pose which never came. Then I asked if he minded me taking his picture. No response. I went to his side. No movement. I returned to look straight into his eyes and face and said, "I bet you get tired of people taking your picture," and added, "but you know your mug is probably seen around the world."

At which time he broke into a great big smile.

As I departed to view this huge church, I was reminded of another gate I will pass though in the future. We have teased about it being the gate of St. Peter, but it actually is the gate in which the children of God will walk.

Psalm 118:19-20 recorded it so well, “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

BUT HE FINISHED

He graduated last in the class – But he finished

I don’t believe I have ever seen a person celebrate more than a young man who graduated at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

I had been invited to marry a couple as soon as the groom received his commission afterwhich 38 weddings were scheduled in the chapel.

The senior cadet had learned there was a few passes available and asked if my wife and I would like to attend the commencement. After accepting them, he said the service would be at 10 a.m. but suggested we come early since the president of the nation would be the main speaker. Even though the gates would open at 8 a.m., we were there before 7 hoping to beat the crowd. We were soon in the stadium and found a good seat. However, it was not long until I was in slumberland. It didn’t last long as the stadium began to fill to its capacity with thousands of people. I began to watch as the dignitaries found their place on the stage observing the dress uniforms of many high ranking navy and marine officers and the colorful robes of the academia. I was in awe with the pageantry of the affair.

Then I watched as 1014 young men and women marched to their seats in the middle of the field which awaited them. In a short time each would be awarded a commission in either the Navy or Marines --an event they had waited for four years.

After they were seated, and the designated speakers had all finished, the president of the academy acknowledged the person who graduated first in the class. The crowd replied with a thundering applause. As each student was recognized and came across the platform, I noticed that President Bush greeted each one after the award.

By now it is about 11:30 a.m. and my body was back in slumberville. I would not stay there long as I was awaken by an applause that was even greater than that given the very first fellow. I turned to the young lady who I would marry to a newly commissioned marine within hours, and asked what was the sudden stir all about. Her answer caused a query when she said, “Oh, he is the one who is graduating last in the class.” Last in the class? I muttered. Then she said, “There is an old navel academy custom that the one who graduates last receive a standing ovation because he saves the other grads from the humiliation of being last.” She continued by telling me that all the others will give him one dollar for the same reason. Well, my math teacher would have been proud when I immediately shouted $1013 dollars?

By now he was on the platform receiving his award. He jumped with excitement and stopping just long enough as he shook the hand of the nation’s president. At which time President Bush, a former naval graduate himself, who probably knew this custom, slipped off his watch and gives it to him. I thought to myself, I bet it wasn’t a Timex!

As he departed this happy guy was holding high his certificate with both hands jumping all over the platform oblivious of all the important men and women all around him.

As I observed this excited lad back to his seat, I was reminded that the academic Dean in his address revealed that 167 students that started with this class had failed to finish with them. No wonder he was rejoicing. He may have finished last-but he finished.

I am grateful that the good Lord provides for the many of us who didn’t finish first, but who have an opportunity to finish.

“Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Burial Place for many Kings and their families of Spain


El Escorial a must see when in Spain

While preaching at a some churches in central Spain, a couple missionary friends asked if my wife and I would like to visit some very historical places. Of course, our answer was yes.

We first visited the large and unique buildings called the El Escorial which is also known as the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo El Real. It was located about 28 miles northwest of the Spanish capital, Madrid. El Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance. The El Escorial was, at once, a monastery and a Spanish royal palace.

The facade of the Monastery of El Escorial Philip engaged the Spanish architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, to be his collaborator in the design of El Escorial. Juan Bautista had spent the greater part of his career in Rome, where he had worked on the basilica of St. Peter's, and in Naples, where he had served the king's viceroy, whose recommendation brought him to the king's attention. Philip appointed him architect-royal in 1559, and together they designed El Escorial as a "perpetual home for the Crown of Spain.

El Escorial is situated at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is a bleak, semi-forested, wind-swept place. This austere location, hardly an obvious choice for the site of a royal palace, was chosen by King Philip II of Spain, and it was he who ordained the building of a grand edifice here to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy against Henry II, king of France. The building's cornerstone was laid on April 23, 1563.

El Escorial has been the burial site for most of the Spanish kings of the last five centuries, Bourbons as well as Habsburgs. The Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (who ruled Spain as King Charles I), Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, Charles II, Louis I, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Isabel II, Alfonso XII, and Alfonso XIII.

The complex is also an enormous storehouse of art. It displays masterworks by Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Velázquez, Roger van der Weyden, Paolo Veronese, Alonso Cano, José de Ribera, Claudio Coello and others.

The library contains thousands of priceless manuscripts; for example, the collection of the sultan, Zidan Abu Maali, who ruled Morocco from 1603 to 1627, is housed at El Escorial. Philip II donated his personal collection of documents to the building, and also undertook the acquisition of the finest libraries and works of Spain and foreign countries. The library’s collection consists of more than 40,000 volumes, located in a great hall fifty-four meters in length, nine meters wide and ten meters tall with marble floors and beautifully carved wood shelves. The library's ceiling is decorated with frescoes depicting the seven liberal arts: Rhetoric, Dialectic, Music, Grammar, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy.

The dome at El Escorial, soars nearly one hundred meters into the air, is supported by four heavy granite piers connected by simple Romanesque arches and decorated by simple Doric pilasters, plain, solid, and largely unprepossessing.

As we walked through the church we noticed an open area above and situated next to the main altar of the Basilica, the residence of King Philip II is made up of a series of austerely decorated rooms. It was of interest to me that the king could observe Mass from his bed when incapacitated by the gout that afflicted him.

In every part of this huge building you could see historical items not available anywhere else.

After we left the El Esorial we walked across to a street café and had coffee and discussed what we had seen. We still talk about that trip with our friends.
(Photo: With permission from Travelinginspain.com)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

BEAUTIFUL BUT COSTLY


The Palace of Versailles

At least twice we have visited the huge and beautiful palace at Versailles. The building and gardens will take more than a day if you want to take in everything.

When it was built, Versailles was a country village, but it is now a suburb of Paris. From 1682, when King Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in 1789, the Court of Versailles was the center of power in the Ancient Régime of France. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy which Louis XIV espoused.

The earliest mention of the village of Versailles is found in a document dated 1038. Of the signatories of the charter was one Hugo de Versailles, hence the name of the village. During this period, the village of Versailles centered on a small castle and church and the area was controlled by a local lord.

There was good expansion under the rule of Louis XIV who took a great interest in Versailles. He had grown up in the disorders of the civil war between rival factions of aristocrats and wanted a site where he could organize and completely control the government of France by absolute personal rule. He settled on the royal hunting lodge at Versailles, and over the following decades had it expanded into the largest palace in the world. Following the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678, the court and French government began to be moved to Versailles. The court was officially established there on 6 May 1682.

With the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the court moved to Vincennes and later to Paris. In 1722, Louis XV reinstalled the court at Versailles and began modifications to the château’s interior.

To commemorate the birth of his only son and heir, Louis-Ferdinand, in 1729, Louis XV ordered a complete redecoration of the room of the chamber de la reine as it had been used by Marie-Thérèse and Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie. At this time, the queen’s apartment achieved the arrangement that we see today.

The palace contains the rarest and most valuable of the artworks in Louis XIV’s collection. Access to these rooms was by personal invitation of Louis XIV, and descriptions of the collections have survived.

The principal feature of this famous gallery is the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows that overlook the gardens. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors with a total complement of 357 used in the decoration of the gallery des glaces.

In the 19th century, at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian king, William I, was declared German emperor — thus establishing the (second) German Empire — on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors. On 28 June 1919, Clemenceau chose the Hall of Mirrors to sign the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Versaille's chapel is one of the palace's grandest interiors. .As the focal point of Louis XIV's fourth (and last) building campaign, the final chapel of the château of Versailles is an unreserved masterpiece. Nevertheless, the magnificent interior has been widely admired to the present day.

Dedicated to Saint Louis, patron saint of the Bourbons, the chapel was consecrated in 1710. During the 18th century, the chapel witnessed many court events. Te Deums were sung to celebrate military victories and the births of children born to the king and queen; marriages were also celebrated in this chapel, such as the wedding of Louis XVI — to Marie-Antoinette in 1770.

Today the chapel, which has been re-consecrated, serves a venue for chamber concerts.
In spite of the excellent acoustics and the opulent setting, the Opéra was not often used during the reign of Louis XVI, largely on grounds of costs. For a single performance to be held in the Opéra, no less than 3,000 candles were required. During Louis XVI’s reign one beeswax candle represented approximately what one peasant earned in one week.

The grounds of Versailles contain one of the largest formal gardens ever created, with extensive parterres, fountains and canals.

Versailles was grand, luxurious, and expensive to maintain. It has been estimated that upkeep and maintenance, including the care and feeding of staff and the royal family, consumed as much as 25 percent of the total income of France. Although at first glance this may seem extraordinarily large, the Palace of Versailles was the center of government as well as the royal residence.

The book, World History: Patterns of Interactions (McDougal Littell/Houghton Mifflin, 2001) places the value at approximately US$2 billion (1994). This valuation is regarded by many as a gross underestimate. If accurate, using today's values for gold (US$600 per ounce, 2006) and silver (US$12 per ounce, 2006), the value of the Versailles estate soars to a staggering US$13-US$300 billion.

Thousands of people regularly pay to visit the palace and view its gardens. It houses souvenir stands and even charged us $1.75 to use the bathrooms. If you have seen the many monuments of Paris, be sure to visit the palace of Versailles. You will remember it always.

Ezra 4:14
“Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonor….”

Saturday, November 3, 2007

THIS WEEK HAD NO SUNDAY


WHERE DID SUNDAY GO?

The most remote area of the world I've ever visited was an island known as the Republic of Kiribati. Two years ago my wife and I arrived on this island that had no electricity, no running water, and no sanitation. The people were unaware of most advances in the world.

Kiribati lies 228 miles north of the equator. That's 153 miles northwest of Christmas Island, 260 miles a little east and north from Jarvis Island, 75 miles southeast of Washington Island, and 200 miles southeast of Palmyra Island. That didn't help you with its location, did it?

Try this. The first dawn over land to begin our new Millennium just sevens years ago, was to break near remote Dibble Glacier in icy Antarctica at 12:08 a.m. local time, but Kiribati was to be the first country to witness the sunrise of the third Millennium at 5:43 a.m. on January 1, 2000.
Sometime on Saturday, a group of people on the ship learned that I was a minister and asked me to conduct Sunday services. I made the necessary preparations. When we arrived for service, I was surprised to see the island was filled with activity by the local population, but the church was empty. The problem? We had crossed the International dateline the night before. That was the first time in my 70 years that I lost a Sunday because we had docked on Monday.
After a day on the island, we started our trip back northward and re-crossed the date line. We left on Monday and the next day we had another Monday. It appeared unusual as I recorded in my notebook the notes of my journey: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, Monday, etc. But, no Sunday! A day I will never regain. However, they did get a Sunday service. But it was on Monday.
Since I have traveled much of the world, I have a hobby of always mailing myself a card. So on Sept. 26, 2004 I mailed it with a Kiribati stamp, but did not receive it until Feb. 26, 2005. That means it took 153 days or just over five months to arrive to me in Farmington, Missouri where I now live.
This caused me to remember that every day passes and what we have done cannot be redone or relived. This should remind us that we should live everyday like there is not going to be a next day.
Psalm 113:3 “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord's name is to be praised.”
The Lord’s Prayer below is in the language of these little islands add to the remoteness of this area of the world:
Tamara are i karawa, a na tabuaki aram. E na roko ueam: E na tauaki am taeka i aon te aba n ai aron tauana i karawa. Ko na añanira karara ae ti a tau iai n te boñ aei. Ao ko na kabara ara buakaka mairoura n ai arora ñkai ti kabara te buakaka mairouia akana ioawa nako ira. Ao tai kairira nakon to kaririaki, ma ko na kamaiuira man to buakaka; ba ambai te uea, ao te maka, ae to neboaki, n aki toki. Amene.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One of the most beautiful places I have been


Rio de Janeiro a city of delight
I should have known better than to take a cheap airline flight from Columbus to Miami, but like many I tried to save on a self funded mission trip. As fate would have it the plane was detoured at Orlando via Fort Lauderdale instead of direct to Miami causing me to miss my plane for Brazil.

When I finally arrived at Miami the connecting plane had been gone for over four hours, but my chief worry was my friends in Brazil were to pick me up, and they had been on the road for more that seven hours to meet me. Since there was no way to contact them, I was hoping they would check on other planes coming from the states.

To farther complicate things my Varig airline tickets would not be accepted by Pan Am airlines so I had to pay dearly to get a roundtrip on the next flight which was about five hours later. Thank goodness for trip interruption insurance which later repaid me.

Finally, I was in the air and trusting nothing else would mess up this trip since I was scheduled to speak for a week at a missionary’s conclave about six hours north of Rio. My prayers were answered because my friends had checked with Pan Am and knew I was on their coming flight. Being a seasoned traveler I knew customs awaited me immediately on deplaning and hoped it would not be a problem. I was glad when I got a green light and was able to proceed without stopping to open all my luggage, etc.

Since this was a night flight my friends asked if I had ever been to the Rio (River of January) and I said no. My friends had known me for nearly 25 years and knew I was a scenery lover and suggested a few places before we headed north.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, justly bearing the nickname Cidade Maravilhosa - "the wonderful city". It was not long until we were high above the beautiful bay viewing the most familiar statue of Christ the Redeemer which stands on top of Corcovado Mountain. The statue stands 30 meters tall and is one of the worlds largest and most photographed. Then we hastened on to take the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain for a most grand view of the bay and city of Rio.
From here we could see the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and Barra da Tijuca and even the Maracana Stadium which is the largest football (soccer) stadium in the world. On our return we noticed an open café across the street from the base of the cable car. Here we had my first Brazilian meal which was a large steak prepared for all of us and cut later into the size we wanted. The favor was outstanding and cooked to perfection.
Before leaving Rio I was advised that Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks sixth in the world with most living in urban cities like Rio that has a population between seven to ten million. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. It was a surprise to me that Brazil has the world's fourth largest television broadcasting system.
With the morning spent and we had to leave this spectacular area. Reaching our destination late in the afternoon, we checked into the hotel where missionary families from Brazil and Uruguay had assembled. The beautiful hotel was set on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Barbacena known as the world’s largest producer of roses. You could see field after field of roses as far as you could see. From the hotel height it was breath taking. Not only did the beauty abound but the hotel is a training hotel from people who come from around the country to be trained the hotel trade in every area. Not only did we get the best treatment but the food was great and beautifully designed for our delight.

Following this week of teaching and training, I was able to stay for three more weeks speaking in many churches and visiting some of the most beautiful areas as we moved from state to state in the interior of the country. The beauty of this country is only exceeded by the wonderful people I met.

Rio is a beautiful city and so is the country, but one is yet to come that will exceed it.

“And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, “-- Revelation. 21:10
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Sunday, September 30, 2007

THE HOME OF A QUEEN


Windsor Castle was our home for a day

Windsor Castle, home to Queen Elizabeth since childhood, is the largest inhabited castle in the world, with 900 rooms and over 300 employees—grooms, flagmen, art restorers, knights, priests, etc. An intimate glimpse of daily life over the course of a year includes a historic state banquet, a tour of the 15,000 acre grounds with Prince Philip, and the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles. As a Royal home and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains a working palace today.

Over a period of nearly 1,000 years it has been inhabited continuously, and altered and refurbished by successive monarchs. Some were great builders, strengthening the Castle against uprising and rebellion; others, living in more peaceful times, created a palatial Royal residence. The outer walls of today's structure are in the same position as those of the original castle built by William the Conqueror in the 1070s.

Visitors can walk around the State Apartments, extensive suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace. They are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection including paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence, fine tapestries and porcelain, sculpture and armor.

I was personally overwhelmed in a large room with neatly placed old guns in various ornate positions that covered most of the walls.

Also, within the Castle complex are many additional attractions, including the Drawings Gallery, Queen Mary's dolls' house, and the fourteenth-century St. George's Chapel, the burial place of ten sovereigns and setting for many Royal weddings.

George IV was a great lover of art and fine decoration. Much of Windsor Castle's present appearance is due to the alterations he instigated in the 1820s.

One of George IV's most remarkable additions was the Waterloo Chamber to show portraits commissioned from Sir Thomas Lawrence to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

I was in awe as my wife and I visited the St George's Chapel where Ten British monarchs lie buried in the chapel: Edward IV, Henry VI, Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, George IV, William IV, Edward VII, George V and George VI.

Today The Queen uses the Castle regularly, spending most of her weekends there.

The twentieth-century history of the Castle is dominated by the major fire that started on 20 November 1992. It began in the Private Chapel, when a spotlight came into contact with a curtain and ignited the material.

It took 15 hours and one-and-a-half million gallons of water to put out the blaze. Nine principal rooms and over 100 other rooms were damaged or destroyed by the fire, approximately one-fifth of the Castle area.

The next five years were spent restoring Windsor Castle to its former glory. The restoration was completed six months ahead of schedule on 20 November 1997 at a cost of $59.2 million. Seventy per cent of the necessary revenue was raised from opening Buckingham Palace's State Rooms to visitors in August and September. The restoration was undertaken at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

To mark the completion, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh held a 'thank you' reception in the restored rooms on 14 November 1997 for 1,500 contractors. On 20 November that year they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary with a ball also held at Windsor Castle.

Psalm 45:15
With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace.

Liechtenstein is worth the stop


Liechtenstein is but a glance

There is a little small country between Austria and Switzerland that is only about 35 miles across called Liechtenstein. The central landmark of Vaduz is the Castle, actually a medieval fortress expanded in the 16th and 17th century. The earliest explicit mention of the fortress was in a document with which Court Rudolf von Werdenberg-Sargans pledged the fortress to Ulrich von Matsch. The owners at the time – and probably also the builders – were the counts of Werdenberg-Sargans.

The basic structure of the Chapel of St. Anna was probably established in the High Middle Ages. The main altar is late Gothic. In the Swabian War of 1499, the Swiss burned down the Castle. The round tower was built from 1529 to 1532. The western side was expanded by Count Kaspar von Hohenems (1613 – 1640).

Since 1712, the Castle has been in the possession of the Princes of Liechtenstein. The Castle served as a temporary seat for the imperial administrator, but the large part of the building became increasingly dilapidated. Under Prince Johann II, the Castle was finally extensively restored from 1905 to 1912 and was later converted into a residence by Prince Franz Josef II. The Castle has been the permanent residence of the Princely Family since 1938. It is not accessible to the public.

Prince Hans-Adam I, who reigned from 1699 to 1712, was the founder of the Principality Liechtenstein, thanks to his purchases of the Lordship of Schellenberg (1699) and the County of Vaduz (1712).

Prince Hans-Adam II and his four brothers and sisters grew up with their parents at Vaduz Castle. He attended primary school in Vaduz then entered the Schotten gymnasium high school in Vienna in 1956.

In 1960 he graduated with both the Swiss and German high school diplomas in 1965. Afterwards, Prince Hans Adam II worked as a trainee at a bank in London. In addition to his native tongue, German, the Prince speaks English and French.

On 30 July 1967, Prince Hans Adam II married Countess Marie Kinsky of Wichnitz and Tettau (born 14 April 1940 in Prague). They have four children.

After stopping on the main street we stopped at a street café where we could view the castle which was directly over us. Our thoughts make us wonder what it would be like being a King, Prince or Queen as those who lived just above.

Like many before me, I walked just down the street to the post office and bought the commemorate stamps and any souvenir sheets the country had produced for my stamp collection. When I sold my collection it was full of stamps for this country.

Genesis 25:16
“These are the sons….. And these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.”

THIS IS WHY THE TUNNEL IS BETTER


LAKE LUGANO IS NOT JUST FOR THE RICH

Lake Lugano is not just for the rich and famous

One of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland and northern Italy is Lake Lugano which is both a lake and city where many of the rich and famous of Europe spent their holidays.

We had been to various cities in Italy and had headed to Switzerland for a few days. We stopped at Lugano to eat, shop and sightsee. After walking a long piece beside the water we observed wind-surfing, motor boating, and skiing until my wife said let go do some shopping. Well, the shops on the main road were the expensive Paris shops filled with wares and clothes not worn by my wife. So we directed ourselves into the back and side streets where we found things more to our liking. After deciding on a few souvenirs we entered a quaint little café where the food was very tasty and good.

Then we resumed our trip northward into the new St. Gotthard’s pass tunnel on the border of the two countries. It is one of the longest in the area at 10 miles long. This new route shorten the time by a couple hours from the old road that went over the mountains and down through beautiful valleys.

We have been through a number of long tunnels but this one was pretty freaky since a head-on crash in the tunnel killed 11 people and closed the tunnel for months.

We miss the beauty of the mountain road but the time difference is worth taking the tunnel.

Deut. 2:3
“Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Downtown Vienna with the Opera House where we saw the Mozart presentation.



Vienna is a city of many facets. Vienna tra classico e moderno

VIENNA: AUSTRIA'S BEAUTIFUL CITY

Vienna the Home of Greats

My wife and I have always enjoyed Austria and Vienna the capital is one of our favorite cities.

Vienna is Austria's primate city; with a population of about 1.7 million (2.2 million within the metropolitan area), and is by far the largest city in Austria and is its cultural, economic and political center. Vienna lies in the very east of Austria and is close to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. An Economist Intelligence Unit study of 127 world cities ranked it third for quality of life.

Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, and Schubert are just a few of the musical luminaries who lived in Vienna and many of the theaters are always playing their material. One of our highlights was to attend a Mozart symphony in the famed music hall.

Beside musical halls the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1860s has been one of the major attractions. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. In earlier times it served as summer residence to various Habsburg rulers.

Inside the palace you'll learn all sorts of interesting facts about the imperial family, while you can continue to enjoy further aspects of Baroque culture with a relaxing stroll around the gardens.

The castle was build to rival French Versailles in Baroque beauty and importance but the House of Habsburg lacked funds to outdo its rivaling nation France.

Emperor Franz Joseph (ruled 1848-1916), who was born there in 1830, spent the last years of his life entirely in Schönbrunn. In 1918, the palace became the property of the new republic.

We admired the magnificent apartments of Maria Theresia, her sitting rooms, bedroom and the parlor, in which 6 year old Mozart used to play for the Empress, as well as the parlors and apartments of Imperial couple Franz Joseph and Sissi.

The interior is an orgy of frescoed ceilings, crystal chandeliers, huge mirrors and gilded ornaments. We visited almost 40 rooms but learned we had seen less than 3% of the residence's 1441 rooms.
The city is full of Museums which we enjoyed.The Hofburg is the location of the Schatzkammer (treasury), holding the imperial jewels of the Hapsburg dynasty. The Sissi Museum (a museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie of Austria) allows visitors to view the Imperial apartments as well as the silver cabinet. Directly opposite the Hofburg are the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum, which houses many paintings by old masters and ancient and classical artifacts.
A number of museums are located in the Museumsquartier, the former Imperial Stalls which were converted into a museum complex in the 1990s. It houses the Museum of Modern Art (Ludwig Foundation), the Leopold Museum focussing on works of the Viennese Secession. The Liechtenstein Palace contains one of the world's largest private art collections. There are a multitude of other museums in Vienna, including the Military History Museum, the Technical Museum, the Vienna Clock Museum and the Burial Museum.
We did not have near enough time to really see this unique city.

Psalm 150:2 “Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.“
Contact me at: alton.loveless@prodigy.net

Sunday, September 16, 2007

FAMOUS RHINE FALLS IN EUROPE

The Roar of Rhine falls got our attention

After arriving to the area of the famous Rhine falls, my wife and I found a café with the best view and sat down with a hot cup of espresso and just sit and talked as we observed the falls. One of young German girls who was waiting our table took a special interest is us so she could practice her English. She made sure our cups were filled and explained what was happening as we observed many who took a boat ride right up to the falls and went up a protected stairway to a pinnacle in the middle of the roaring area. We were filled with wonderment at the beauty provided by God.

To us Schaffhausen’s best excursion was the short trip westwards to the Rhine falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. They are truly magnificent, not so much for their height as for their impressive breadth and the sheer drama of the place, with the spray rising in a cloud of rainbows above the forested banks. The turreted castle Schloss Laufen on a cliff directly above the falls to the south completes the spectacle is particularly impressive

Getting to the falls can be via a riverside walk from Schaffhausen to the suburban town of Neuhausen, where the falls are located. It takes about 45 minutes; or you could take city bus to Neuhausen Zentrum, from where the well-signposted falls are five minutes’ walk away.

Once you’re within sight of the falls, though, you’re inevitably brought down to earth with a bump by the hordes of tourists crowding both banks in search of the best camera angle, and by the circus of souvenir stalls and dismal restaurants all around.

While it doesn’t compare with other falls we have seen we are happy for the half day spent there.

Acts 16:13
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

Rhine Falls Video



Rhine Falls (Switzerland Aug04)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

Petra: The hard place to get to.

One of the most unusual places I have visited was Petra which lies about 3-5 hours south of modern Amman, Jordan, and about 2 hours north of Aqaba, on the edges of the mountainous desert of the Wadi Araba.

Petra was first established sometime around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria.

The site is semi-arid, the friable sandstone which allowed the Nabataeans to carve their temples and tombs into the rock crumbling easily to sand. The color of the rock ranges from pale yellow or white through rich reds to the darker brown of more resistant rocks. The city is surrounded by towering hills of rust-colored sandstone which gave the city some natural protection against invaders.

From the entrance to the site, a dusty trail leads gently downwards along the Wadi Musa (The Valley of Moses). Once inside, the route narrows to little more than five feet in width, while the walls tower up hundreds of feet on either side. The floor of this passage is filled with all sizes of small rocks making it impossible to walk on unless you rent a horse as I did to make the long journey.

The passage way twists and turns, the high walls all but shutting out the early morning sunlight, until abruptly, through a cleft in the rock, the first glimpse of the city of Petra can be seen. Carved out of pale reddish sandstone, ornate pillars supporting a portico surmounted by a central urn and two flanking blocks jut out from the cliff face ahead. This is The Khazneh which is the best-known of the monuments at Petra. The facade, carved out from the sandstone cliff wall, is 40 feet high, and is remarkably well-preserved. The name Khazneh, which means 'treasury’, comes from the legend that it was used as a hiding place for treasure. Inside was a large square room that had been carved out of the rock of the cliff.

Surrounding the open space dominated by the Khazneh are other tombs and halls mostly little more than man-made caves carved out from the rock. A broad track from the Khazneh leads to the main street of Roman Petra, which is paved with cut stone and lined with columns. Towards the amphitheatre is an open marketplace and a nymphaeum or public fountain.

Ahead lays the centre of the city, while following the cliff face further to the right takes you north from the Khazneh to three large structures, known as the Royal Tombs that have been carved into the rock face, and is known as the King's Wall. To the north, there is one more tomb, which was built in AD 130 for the Roman governor of the city under Hadrian, Sextius Florentinus

The Temple, popularly known as the Qasr al-Bint Firaun ("The Castle of Pharaoh's Daughter"), was a large free-standing structure, built of massive blocks of yellow sandstone.

As rode out on my horse I had marveled at how the Nabataeans must have been excellent engineers. I even noticed on the return the walls of the Siq are lined with channels to carry drinking water to the city, while a dam to the right of the entrance diverted an adjoining stream through a tunnel to prevent it flooding the Siq.
Ezekiel 35:8-9
And I will fill his mountains with his slain men: in thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword. [9] I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

He Gave it all

William Simon in Israel

After a number of days in Israel I had returned to the airport for a trip back to Europe and then to the United States. Arriving early I was advised that the flight had been delayed due to an important plane from the United States was in the protected air space and that no planes could land or take office until it had safely arrived.

As I walked around the airport I noticed a roped off area and a number of microphones in the center. This interested me so I stayed in the area and went to the large window overlooking the runway and tarmac where the plane would station itself. Within a few minutes a large white and blue 747 aircraft landed and taxi to the exact area I had assumed it would.

In a short time I noticed Air force One opening it’s doors as the local military and police surrounded the plane. Then a large contingent of people began to get off. Many were journalist and photographers. Finally, the important person came to the door and down the steps to the greeting from local officials.

Within a few moments they entered into the airport headed toward the protect area. I was still unaware of who the man was until the Israeli official gave some opening remarks to the press and the many that by now covered the area. Then he introduced William Simon the Secretary of the United States Treasury. After a few words he left the center stage and headed straight me and shook my hand asking if I was an American. After I answered he said a few words lost with time and then started to greet others standing near me and then disappeared with the entourage.

I have met many notable people but my impression of him increased after I learned of his accomplishments but more because of what he had done for others.

As Secretary of the Treasury, Simon headed a 125,000-person department, which collected the nation's taxes, paid its bills, managed its accounts, printed its currency, and minted its coins. He also had responsibility for various law enforcement agencies that were part of the Treasury, including the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In his capacity as chief financial officer of the United States and principal advisor to the President on economic affairs, Simon chaired or held membership in numerous financial, trade, and economic organizations.

When Simon left office at the end of the Ford administration in January 1977 Simon, returned to business, Simon also lent his support to a myriad of organizations, causes, and philanthropies. William Edward Simon, who was secretary of the treasury under President Nixon and gave much to charity,

In 1998, after having already donated an estimated $30 million to various causes, he announced his intention to give away his entire fortune, estimated at $350 million, to charitable organizations, and low-income educational groups.

Little known to many is that he was a Eucharist minister who also devoted a significant portion of his personal time to "corporal acts of mercy," ministering to the destitute and ill.

Long before his death at age 72 he had learned the truth forwards by the Word of God. That to whom is given much, that much should be given.

Rev. 20:12
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

SHE ATE IT. ANTS AND ALL!

Twenty five years ago my wife and I were in Jamaica conducting Vacation Bible Schools in 6 churches with a combined attendance of 1100 kids and workers. Some of the native workers learned we were to celebrate our 24th Anniversary while there.

Without our knowledge a couple of the ladies was able to find some cake mix in a neighboring community store and probably spent most of what they had for it. On the day of our anniversary we went about our teaching and duties to make the VBS at this large old church built in the 1890’s a good one. We did not see anything happening to make us think we were going to be surprised, in fact had no idea something was going to happen that would cause us to remember this blessed day the rest of our life.

After the morning sessions ended, the classes all reassembled back into the auditorium and each class gave a detail of what they learned that day. At the conclusion the local leader, a dear gracious lady, asked if we would come with her back to a large room beyond the worship area. A few of the ladies in the church were positioned around each door as if to guard what we were about to observe. One of the ladies directed my wife and I to a round table in the center of the room that was absent other tables and chairs except for the two chairs around that table where we were to sit. By the time we were seated and settled, the room was nearly full of all the workers and about 300 young people. Each looking like they wanted a piece of what they could not have.

At this time a cake with very little icing was placed in front of us with a knife with a long handle had been sunk to the base of the cake sticking straight up. We were then prompted to both place ours hands on top of each others and to cut forward and then backward until the cake was cut. Then we were to take the smaller cut pieces and place it into the others mouth completing a Jamaican custom. When I started to feed her I noticed her eyes were closed tight with a slight frown on her face. With my prompting she opened her mouth and she chewed fast with a sudden swallow.

On the way back to our sleeping quarters I queried her about her behavior. At which time she said, “Didn’t you see the ants and bugs all over the cake and icing?” To which I replied I had not noticed. She then said, “I knew the expense and the work those dear people had gone to for us, so I was not going to hurt their feelings for the world. Because of that I was willing to eat it ants and all.”

This year we celebrate our 49th anniversary and are grateful for all the many we have spent serving others these last many anniversaries.

“A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;” - Jeremiah 5:30

Stamps taken at Allenby Bridge


Since I was eight years old I have collected stamps and even as an adult I published Al’s Stamp Exchanger for those who had a desire to swap with people from other countries. At one time I had people from over 100 countries that had sent me 100 different stamps from his country to get their name placed in the publication. Needless to say I built a large collection with a whole wall full of albums, etc.

Because my job in the early 70’s took me to many places overseas one of the first places I would go was to the post office and buy their commemortive stamps for a year or whatever they had. Soon I had souvenier sheets and books of a given year from many countries.

On a trip to Egypt and Isreal I bought large packages of stamps of each country and was happy to have gotten such a large variety from each and was especially happy with those I bought in Israel. Well, my flight back home was from Amman, Jordan (A Hashemite Kingdom) and I would have to cross the Allenby Bridge that was manned by the armies of both countries.

(The Allenby Bridge is a truss type bridge that crosses the Jordan River connecting Jericho, Palestine (the Israeli West Bank) to the country of Jordan. The bridge was destroyed during the Six-Day War but replaced in 1968 with a bridge called both the Allenby Bridge and the Jesr Al-Karameh, King Hussein Bridge. The bridge was named after the British general, Edmund Allenby. The bridge is a major crossing point for Palestinians crossing into Israel.)

After passing customs at the Israeli side I re-boarded the bus and crossed the bridge into Jordon where I had to go through their entrance point and customs. They began to open all my suitcases and bags taking out certain items and looking at each thoroughly. Then they took the package of Israeli stamps and tossed them into a waste basket. It took me by surprise and I burst out with “I am a stamp collector and want to keep them”. The officer’s answer was “we don’t recognize Israel as a country and do not let anything with that name on it enter our country.” Soon a number of other gifts I had bought were thrown in the same basket because it said Made in Israel. All of a sudden I remembered that the Israeli customs had stamped my passport on a loose blank sheet and told to leave it loose in my passport. It too was tossed.

After getting home I discovered there had been a declared war between the two countries for quite some time which helped me understand my lost.

When I remember this event I remember the heavy arms on both side of this bridge directed to each other and feel blessed I was spared my life.

When I sold my huge collection a few years ago the country that I had the least amount of early stamp issues was Israel.

We live in a time when conflicts, and countries that do not recognize each other still exists, but one day when life, nations, and conflicts cease we have a land where a holy God is in full control and all is bliss.

Rev. 21:4
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”