Sunday, November 25, 2007


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

Sunday, November 11, 2007


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



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.