Thursday, March 27, 2008


Banff Springs, Canada is eternally beautiful

My wife and I spent our 30th wedding anniversary at the famous Banff Springs Hotel and then again our 39th celebration at a Bed and Breakfast in the same area. We have been impressed with the beauty of the area every time we have visited there.

At our 30th at the Banff Springs Hotel the maid from housekeeping learned it was our anniversary and reported it to management. That night when we returned to our room we immediately spotted an outstandingly beautiful arrangement of 30 long stem roses near our bed. The aroma perfumed the whole room. (For you guys that buy roses you know the hotel made very little on us that night.)

Four national parks surround this region so our stay here proved to be exciting with lakes full of mountain water rushing rapidly from many directions and with water falls at many levels. What a unique part of the world.

Besides the turquoise colored lakes, wild animals were found in every direction one would drive. Elk, moose, fox, wolf, mountain sheep, ram and bear were to be seen everywhere.

The beautiful Bow River neatly meanders within the mountain ranges darting from one direction to another and a wide falls could be seen from our hotel room and then directs itself into a 90% turn from the hotel and spreads itself between mountains disappearing in less than three miles. It was here that “The River of No Return” was filmed. From our window one could make a day of just watching animals wading or crossing the river. Views like these were everywhere you turned.

Just a few minutes away one could take a cable car hundreds of feet onto a high vantage point above most of the area. While a bit scary, it was worth the trip to view the terrain on all sides. Only God could have made it so glorious.

The only thing that exceeded the area was my wife of 30 years, from whose beauty could be found internally as well as outwardly. Our marriage has been better due to the person she is. We loved it so much that we returned again 9 years later. This year we will celebrate 50 years together and she has not changed.

Deut. 8:7
“For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; “

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Where in the world is Oberammergau?

Last Sunday was Easter, the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a special day for believers, but I want to tell you about a whole city that commemorate this time more than any other I know about.

While traveling through Germany in 1989, we arrived into one of the most attractive and interesting little towns I had ever been. The buildings and homes were all painted with beautiful frescoes depicting the history and religion of the quaint mountain village nestled in the Bavarian Alps. The shops were so unique with items not viewed in many of the other shops where we had previously been. My wife had a field day, and if you won’t tell her, so did I, because shopping is not my thing.

As we strode about town, I glanced down one of the streets and saw what appeared to be a large building that seemed totally out of place with the rest of the city. As I inquired of a shop keeper he advised this was the place where the city citizens present a Passion play every 10 years and that the next presentation would be in 1990. After our conversation was over, I sat down and began to read some of the booklets about it he had given me. At that moment I determined to return to see it. That we did!

On the set day in 1990 we arrived early since the pageant began at 9 a.m. and would last all day until 5:30 p.m. My first thought was, I will never stay through this entire presentation. Was I ever surprised as my attention was never away from the stage.

While the actors spoke only German we had been given a large program written in English. Other programs had been provided to people of other countries of their respected language as well.

At first, I didn’t think they would be able to pull it off by making a presentation that would be understood by only one language. Was I ever wrong!

I was immediately overwhelmed by the huge cast of actors and animals. (More than 2155 participants moved across the beautiful set.) The presentation was outstanding and its casts had been made up by the town folks, etc. The oldest participant was Karl Eitzenberger (born 1907), who will celebrated his 90th birthday in July before we saw the enactment. The youngest performer was only 6 years old. Both participated in one of the large crowd scenes.

How did such a play began I pondered? Why did the pageant present just the last week in the life of Christ and His final suffering? With a little research I discovered this little village was in danger of loosing all its inhabitants due to the Black plaque during the terrible thirty years war, so the elders of the town met and prayed and vowed if the village be spared they would present a pageant depicting the last days of the life of Jesus Christ. The town was spared and thus the beginning of such an event. The first play was in 1634 and since then 40 performances have occurred every 10 years as an expression to the testimony of the religious faith of the people of Oberammergau. The event, with a history of more than 370 years, records nearly a half million attendees each year to the play which runs from May to October on the first year of each new decade.

The 41st Passion Play will takes place in 2010 beginning in May and ending in September.

The city begins to plan for this new event on Ash Wednesday of 2009. It is when men respond to the "Hair Decree" because from this date on all the men in Oberammergau taking part in the play are requested to let the hair on their heads and faces grow.

My wife’s keepsake is a beautiful fancy umbrella she bought to keep dry. However, when the play started the son (Christ) began to shine for the whole day.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who believe it is the power of God.” -1 Cor. 1:18

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Gornergrat is a my recommendation to see the Matterhorn

Many people have asked me where was the most beautiful place we have ever visited. To be honest I have many spots like that, but sometimes the climate or brightness of the day, helps to determine that. One of my first choices is Gornergrat because the sun was perfect and it showed the area so well. This made it a perfect excursion because it gave a complete different view of the Matterhorn a well known mountain peak in Switzerland..

The Gornergrat Bahn takes you from Zermatt up the 3089 meter high Gornergrat. Through aromatic stone pine and larch forests and across alpine meadows in summer time full of flowers and in winter time deeply snow-capped you arrive in the midst of 29 snow and ice-covered four-thousand-meter-high mountains including such famous greats us Matterhorn (4478 m), Liskamm (4527 m) and Dufour-Spitze (4634 m). On a culinary level too, the Gornergrat offers everything you could wish for. The Kulmhotel Gornergrat, the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps (3100 m), and other restaurants located along the route treat you to the very best food.

Zermatt, at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn, is a world without cars. Electric-cars and horse-drawn sleighs and carriages are the only transport allowed.

Gornergrat, above Zermatt, is Switzerland's highest open-air train station where you catch the Gornergrat Bahn electric railway which opened for business in 1898 hauling tourists from Zermatt.

In the course of this winding ascent that lasts about an hour we see the Matterhorn as a whole, take possession of it and study every detail of its structure. The proud peak seems conscious of its glory; it stands apart, as if in all the Alps there were none beside itself.

The panorama at the Gornergrat is of dazzling beauty. At the foot of the ridge stretches the immense frozen river of the Gorner Glacier where the moraines have marked out thin grey tracks. And into this central valley great glaciers from the mountains have poured the floods of their snow-drifts into the chaos of their ice-blocks. Above, high in the heavens, there is an indescribable alignment of white domes, an architecture springing all divine from earth at the call of the Spirit.

Gornergrat is generally regarded as a "must-see" excursion for Zermatt visitors for those who can afford the steep fare.

At the Gornergrat station, you'll find a hotel, an astronomical observatory, and an aerial cable car to the Hohtälli, where you can connect to cable cars for the Stockhorn and Rote Nase. This area ties itself to each other like we do with roads.

Another exciting tour started from Zermatt to the Matterhorn glacier paradise which took about 40 minutes. We were told you will always find snow here 365 days a year. So anyone venturing up to the Matterhorn glacier paradise will also find him or herself in Europe's largest summer skiing area. A lift, built into the rock, transports visitors to the highest sightseeing platform in Europe, offering a breathtaking 360° panoramic view of the Swiss, Italian and French Alps with a total 38 four-thousand-metre peaks. You can't get any higher!

These views described offer some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. But I am looking for another land made by the same master craftsman we know as God.

Psalm 102:19
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth;

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Recently, my wife gave me a bright red sweat shirt with Newburyport, Massachusetts, imprinted on it to wear. I remember buying in there because the weather was raining and rather cold. Newburyport is a small coastal city in Essex County, Massachusetts, 38 miles northeast of Boston and is accustomed for that kind of weather.

The shirt brought back some interesting history about the evangelist who was preaching in New England when the founder of the northern region of my denomination was converted.

Following the ministry of the Methodist evangelist and preacher George Whitefield in the region, the First Presbyterian Church "Old South" of Newburyport began meeting in the 1750s, He died in Newburyport in 1770 and his remains were buried under the pulpit of this church at his request where his tomb remains to this day.

I stood in the pulpit and gazed over the auditorium, with a large seating area on the floor, and about as much in the balconey, that surrounded the large assembly area.

My memory recalled the hundreds Whitefield had preached to there in times past.

After departing the evalvated platform, the church organist asked if we would like to see Whitefield’s grave underneath where I had been standing.

We entered a doorway behind the pulpit area and went down a number of stairs to a lighted area where Whitefield and two other former pastors had been buried. It was a solemn occasion for me.

In the New World Whitefield preached from Georgia to New England, always raising money for the orphanage he had established in Savannah.

New York, Boston, Philadelphia, the Carolinas, and Harvard University: all were beneficiaries of his ministry as he was anything but "the generality of preachers who talk of an unknown and unfelt Christ."

On another occasion, I visited Harvard and tried to find the famous picture of Whitefield who was reported of his being cross-eyed. Sure enough he was and a picture on my Blog page contains a photo of it.

In a time when crossing the Atlantic Ocean was a long and hazardous adventure, he visited America seven times, making 13 trans-Atlantic crossings in total. It is estimated that throughout his life, he preached more than 18,000 formal sermons. In addition to his work in America and England, he made 15 journeys to Scotland, two to Ireland, and one each to Bermuda, Gibraltar, and The Netherlands.

When he returned to America in November 1739 he preached nearly every day for months to large crowds of sometimes several thousand people as he travelled throughout the colonies, especially New England.

He is considered to be one of the fathers of Evangelicalism. He was the best-known preacher in England and America in the 18th century, and because he travelled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds and media coverage, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in America before George Washington.

Another interesting fact about the Old South church is that the bell in the clock tower was cast by Paul Revere.

Among the notable people to attend church were "Lord" Timothy Dexter, Capt. Abraham Wheelwright, Isaac Wheelwright, Caleb Cushing, Adolphus Greely, and Samuel Tufts.

Whitefield parted company with John Wesley over the doctrine of predestination. Three churches were established in England in his name. Whitefield acted as chaplain to Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and some of his followers joined the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, whose chapels were paid for at her sole expense and where a form of Calvinistic Methodism similar to Whitefield's could be spread. Many of these chapels were built in the English counties and Wales, and one was erected in London.

Like his contemporary and acquaintance, Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield preached with a staunch conviction: "Come poor, lost, undone sinner, come just as you are to Christ.”

Saturday, March 1, 2008


In His Steps -

In my travels I have had many opportunities to meet great men. One such person was Garrett Shelton, a professor at the University of Virginia-Wise and pastor of the First Baptist church in Big Stone Gap.

He wrote What Would Jesus Do which paralleled the WWJD excitement a few years ago.

However, Garrett’s additional claim to fame is he is the great-grandson of the infamous Charles Sheldon who wrote In His Steps.

In 1889 he moved west to become pastor of the fledgling Central Congregational Church in Topeka, Kan. He announced he would preach "a Christ for the common people. A Christ who belongs to the rich and poor, the ignorant and learned, the old and young, the good and the bad . . . a Christ who bids us all recognize the Brotherhood of the race, who bids throw open this room to all."

The most successful series, In His Steps, concerned the inhabitants of a town who pledged themselves to live for a year as Jesus would live. It was first published serially in 1896 and in book form in 1897. The unifying theme of these sermons was based on posing the question, "what would Jesus do?" when facing moral decisions.

In 1900 Dr. Sheldon proposed that the local newspaper should be operated as Christ would operate them. The owner allowed Dr. Sheldon to serve as "editor" for a week in March. The "Sheldon Edition" sent circulation from 12,000 daily to 387,000. The Capital's pressroom was swamped, and other printing facilities, one in New York and one in Chicago, each printed 120,000. The Daily Capital printed the other 120,000 papers by using an extra work force.

The Advance, a Congregational weekly magazine in Chicago, purchased the story for $75.00 and published it serially in thirty-one installments beginning November 5, 1896. Sheldon offered the manuscript to three book publishers who turned it down. Finally J. C. Kilner, manager of the Advance Publishing Company, which had never before published any fiction, decided to bring out In His Steps in book form. The first printing of a few thousand copies consisted of cloth and paper bound volumes, the former priced at one dollar; the paperback, twenty-five cents. Two years later a ten cent paperback edition was published. By 1900 Advance had published nearly 600,000 copies in five editions.

Because "In His Steps" was in the public domain virtually from the get-go, companies could print copies of it without the author's permission, not owing Sheldon a cent. More than a century later, some 50 million copies had been published, making it second in sales among religious books behind only the Bible.

Dr. Eric Goldman of the Saturday Literary Review singled out In His Steps as one of eight books which have changed America

Charles Monroe Sheldon was born in 1857 and grew up in the Dakota Territory, where his parents homesteaded in a log cabin he helped build. His father, Rev. Steward Shelton, was the Territory's first home missionary superintendent, founding 100 churches in 10 years. Young Sheldon "hunted with the Dakotas, fished with them, slept with them on the open prairie, and learned some of their language."

Sheldon graduated from Andover in the class of 1879.

One of the remarks I recall from my friend Garrett Sheldon was, "By the time he left home to go to school, he had heard the entire Bible read aloud five times. Now think of that!"
Besides the Bible this is one book everybody should read.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” -- Proverbs 22:1