Posted in Life, photography, reflections

Over the rainbow, a wonderful world

Storms in life…they come and sometimes often and close together.

Storms have never really frightened me. As a child, I often perched myself on our covered front porch to watch thunderstorms and lightning strikes until my mother, in a distressed voice, called me to quickly get back in the house.

I’ve been known to take walks in the rain. But I also have resorted to safety when thunder clouds rolled in, skies darkened menacingly, and threatening tornado warnings rang out.

Storms from weather patterns fascinate me, but the one thing that causes my heart to sing and puts a huge smile on my face is when suddenly after a storm, an amazing sight appears in the sky overhead – a rainbow.

What is it about a rainbow that just makes us feel good about the world? What is it about spying those colorful spectrums of light that makes my mind automatically begin singing words, written by E.Y. Harburg, who wrote all of the songs for the movie, The Wizard of Oz?

 “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

When that melody and those lyrics come to my mind, the Judy Garland version from that movie is not what plays in my head. Instead a version, including lyrics from “What a Wonderful World”, first made famous by Louis Armstrong, sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is my favorite. You can listen to it here.

Rainbows. They make us believe there is light and joy and happiness after a dismal  storm. God mentions rainbows in the Bible, His Holy Word, and the very first one appeared in the first book of Scripture (Genesis) when God sets a rainbow in the sky after the great flood as His promise not to destroy the wicked world again by water.

In other scriptures, the rainbow symbolizes God’s glory and power and the fact that He is a covenant-keeper. In other words, the rainbow demonstrates that His works and His ways are beautiful and good and that God is always with us, He will never forsake us.

That’s the kind of reassurance we need after storms of life batter and beat us down. And they will do so.  Just recalling this past year and the storms of the you know what remind us how detrimental and destructive it has been for so many of our brothers and sisters around the world.

“If you want to enjoy the rainbow, be prepared to endure the storm.” ~ Warren Wendel Wiersbe

But God gives us hope and reassurance that we can persevere.

These thoughts permeated my mind recently as Papa and I were driving back home after a visit to our oldest daughter and son-in-love who live in a different state.

For quite some time, they have been searching for a house to purchase and of course, what transpired in the last year put a halt to that. Daughter’s background is in medical research and amidst lock-downs, restrictions, and upheavals, what’s been happening has occupied the forefront of her mind.

But at last, the timing seemed right and a house to fit their preferences came on the market. When they were able to buy their very first home, Papa and were so happy and excited for them. We couldn’t wait to see their new place in person, so we traveled the seven hours or so to help them clean and prepare it for their move.  

And that’s when it happened. Rain fell as they showed us through their house, but then it stopped, and the sun appeared. We stepped outside onto their front porch so that Mama could snap a photo of them at their new place and we all could not help but see it — a rainbow. Not just a portion of one, but a complete, end-to-end rainbow, as if to say “dreams really do come true.”

But that rainbow meant so much more. It signified a promise that God is with our beloved daughter and son-in-love, that He provides for them, He blesses then, He gives them hope and beauty after a storm.

And He does that for us all – no matter who we are or where we live or what our circumstances may be. He’s there to help us weather life’s storms, its disappointments, and its difficulties when He ask Him for His help and we offer up a gift of gratitude and thanksgiving for His provision and for that wonderful world He gave us.

“Gratitude is the real treasure God wants us to find, because it isn’t the pot of gold but the rainbow that colors our world.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: The Bridges of Somerset County

Each time I view photos of the covered bridges I highlight today in this Tuesday Tour, a certain title of a book and movie come to my mind.

You see, these structures are three out of 10 remaining covered bridges in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. And each time I think “the bridges of Somerset County,” my mind leaps to a book written in the 90’s, one that became a popular movie in the same decade, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller.

“First you must have the images, then come the words.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

The story involves star-crossed lovers: a professional photographer, who travels to Madison County, Iowa to take photos of famous covered bridges there for National Geographic, and a lonely farmer’s wife. I can honestly say I didn’t care much for either the book or the movie (which starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep), but for some reason, that title sticks in my mind.

So here are some of the bridges – not of Madison County, but of southern Somerset County – which we visited by happenstance last summer. In the midst of the you know what, Papa and I needed a get-away, so one Saturday we embarked on a day trip out into nature, one where we wouldn’t encounter a lot of people.

After arriving at the 20,500-acre Ohiopyle State Park, which serves as a gateway into the Laurel Highlands, we hoped to enjoy a view of Ohiopyle Falls, a 20-foot waterfall on the Youghiogheny (pronounced YOK-i-gay-nee) River.

But the place was crazy busy with people who had the same idea, so we nixed that,  shelving it for a week-day another time when it might be less crowded. After finding a quiet spot for a picnic lunch, we meandered down country roads and wound up in Somerset County in search of three covered bridges that all cross the same ribbon of water, Laurel Hill Creek.

The first one we encountered was the Lower Humbert Covered Bridge, near Confluence, PA, about a 25-minute drive from Ohiopyle. Also called the Faidley Covered Bridge, it’s located at an intersection of Humbert and Covered Bridge Roads in Lower Turkeyfoot Township.

At 126. 5 feet in length, 12.3 feet in width, and 8 feet high, the double span bridge was constructed in 1891, using Burr arch truss and King-post design. Maintained by the county, Lower Humbert was rehabilitated 100 years later in 1991 when two steel beams were added in order to support vehicular traffic and a concrete pier, encased in stone, near the bridge’s mid-way point was also included.

Today, this covered bridge, is in good condition and we enjoyed driving through it. Research revealed that it was not the only covered bridge that existed in that area in the past. One called the Upper Humbert Bridge, which also had a King-post design, once stood about one mile upstream from the Lower Humbert. Unfortunately, an arsonist destroyed that bridge in 1969 and it was not rebuilt. 

We next found King’s Covered Bridge, also located in Middlecreek Township just off Route 653 about 12 miles southwest of Somerset.  We appreciated the fact that there were ample parking spaces in a park-like setting so sightseers can walk through the bridge, which is not open to vehicular traffic, and that a picnic pavilion is adjacent to it. The site is owned and maintained by the township.

The date this 127-foot long and 12-foot-wide bridge was constructed is not certain. At one time, King’s Bridge was believed to have been built in 1802, but that conflicts with the fact that covered bridges were not erected in that area until the late 1800’s. Research on covered bridges indicates that the first confirmed American covered bridge was bult in 1805 in Philadelphia, PA across the Schuylkill River.

So more than likely, a bridge (not covered) may have been erected there in 1802 but was replaced by King’s Covered Bridge using multiple King-post trusses. Then in 1906, the bridge was rebuilt using Burr arch trusses.

After being bypassed in the 1930’s by a modern, steel bridge, King’s Covered Bridge fell into disrepair and actually was used as a livestock barn for several decades, Thankfully, it was rehabilitated in 2008.

It is beautiful from the outside. However, what disturbed me most about this link to the past was, after waiting for a couple of bicyclers to pass through the bridge (photo at beginning of this post), we walked inside to find its interior walls covered in spray-painted graffiti. What a shame.

King’s Covered Bridge is not far from the ski resort areas of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. It’s also a short distance from Cole Run Falls, which is a popular set of waterfalls.

Just a few minutes away from King’s Bridge, we located another covered bridge, which I think is my favorite of the three.  (Maybe because there were old-fashioned roses and daisies in bloom beside it.) Barronvale Covered Bridge, the longest of the 10 remaining covered bridges of Somerset County at 162 feet in length, is also known as Barron’s Mill Bridge.

This nearly 14-foot wide, two-span Burr truss structure is not open to vehicular traffic and can be found in Middlecreek Township in a beautiful setting. It is in very good condition, but it is privately owned so visitors need to be respectful of that. Sightseers can park and walk through the bridge though.

A placard at the bridge details its history, stating that a miller named Peter Kooser petitioned county commissioners in 1828 to build a bridge near his gristmill for his patrons. By 1830, Barronvale’s construction was completed by builder Cassimer Cramer at a cost of $300.

In 1845, the two-span bridge needed repairs to strengthen it so heavy Burr arches were installed, which allegedly cost the county $750. Repaired again in 1907, stone supports, which came from a nearby quarry, were installed.

All three of these historic covered bridges were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. They serve as reminders to the past and are worthwhile remembering and visiting.

“The heart never forgets, never gives up, the territory marked off for those who came before.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

© 2021

Posted in Life

Empty spaces

It’s been one long year of feeling empty, hasn’t it? At the beginning of this you know what, Papa and I flew back from our jaunt to Arizona to find empty highways on the way home from the airport. Eerily empty roads because lockdowns had begun in our state.

Following that, our empty nest became a little less empty though as our young granddaughter basically moved in with us for just about two months because her mama (our daughter) is a hospital nurse and was in danger of being exposed to the plague (she was).

Even though our lives were full of caring for our Little One, our hearts felt void and empty because we couldn’t see our family near or far, couldn’t visit friends, couldn’t attend worship services at church, couldn’t enjoy social gatherings, couldn’t lead Bible study in person, couldn’t shop for groceries or anything else except online, couldn’t travel except for nearby drives in the car….the list of could nots just seemed to empty happy thoughts out of our beings like a pitcher pouring water out until the very last drop.

The emptiness left us bone dry. Finally, a little break from that void occurred during the last days of summer. Our family braved an opportunity to venture to an ocean beach for a week-long sequester in a rented house with all of us congregating – Papa and Mama, three adult offspring, two of their spouses, and our precious three little grandchildren.

That emptiness felt in our family from not seeing one another in person for so long vacated and in its place joy and love and gratitude filled the void as we relished just being together as a family. That was in August 2020 – five months into lockdowns, restrictions, and social distancing.

Yet more empty months continued to drone on in our world. No holiday get-togethers, no Christmas shopping except online, no family outings, no mingling with other fellow humans. Instead, we hid behind masks if we did venture outside our homes and tried to express friendliness, compassion, and respect for our fellow emptiness sufferers with our eyes in place of our smiles.

The toll taken on our fellow human beings has been heavy. So many have suffered through job losses, closing of family-owned businesses, mental stresses resulting in depression, despondency, and substance abuse, isolation from loved ones, not to mention losing those who became ill and succumbed.

And as insufferable as all that is, the toll on our spirits is also most grave.

We humans have surrendered to sheer fear. We’ve further divided ourselves – the masked vs. the unmasked. We cower anxiously from other humans we encounter, suspicious of one another, and even angry because of their actions or inaction. And although the onset of a touted vaccine to ease the burden has arrived, we still consider one another with disdain – the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.

When will it stop? This feeling of emptiness that eats away at every one of us? That looms large over us even yet? That occupies space in our minds and in our lives?

“Why does the feeling of emptiness occupy so much space?” ~  James de la Vega

We hope for light at the end of the tunnel. Slowly, we see it within our grasp. Restaurants opening up for dine-in customers, in-person worship services, entertainment venues re-opening somewhat, more folks shopping outside of their online routines.

Just recently, Papa and I walked through a nearby shopping mall – a place we haven’t stepped inside for over a year. And to say I was shocked doesn’t do justice to how I reacted. We were two of only a handful of people there. But what stunned me even more was the fact that the place was empty.

Empty. Not just of people, but of stores. A once thriving place of commerce now resembled a ghost town. Storefront after storefront closed for good. Permanently. Completely dark and empty of merchandise. Absent. Gone. Depleted. How many people lost their jobs there, their livelihood?

This emptiness, this void we’ve all encountered for so long is enough to shake your beliefs, chip away your confidence in returning to ‘normal,’ unhinge your trust. But this vacuum of hollowness and those vacant places in that shopping area remind me that our lives don’t have to be devoid. It’s only so if we choose it.

“In all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.” ~ Carl Sagan

We can and still must reach out to others with care, with kindness, with love. As a believer in Christ, I am called to do so.

We are not empty shells just existing in a daze of futility. We have souls to reach out to God for help to cope and persevere. We have minds to think of ways to help one another. We have hands and feet to serve each other. We have hearts to feel compassion and care for those suffering more than we are. We have mouths to speak to one another with words of respect and to utter prayers for recovery for our brothers and sisters in our nation and across the world.

And we must use them to fill the empty void in others’ lives as well as our own.

“Always show kindness and love to others. Your words might be filling the empty places in someone’s heart.” ~ Mandy Hale

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: a link to the past

I embarked on a quest quite a long time ago: to visit as many of our 50 states in the United States of America as I could.  I‘m pleased to account that, so far, I’ve visited 40 with 10 more to check off the list.

I suspect I acquired this desire from my father, who loved to travel and enjoyed poring over a Rand McNally road atlas of America just imagining all the trips he could encounter. He managed a number of those with my mother, but after she passed away, his zeal to journey too far from home waned. But he still studied those road maps.

For the last year, the you know what slapped the kibosh on our own travels, which is why I’m looking back over places we’ve visited in the past including the covered bridges featured on my Tuesday Tour.

A few years ago, Papa and I traveled to the New England states on two separate trips to check them off my to-do list. Our first trip took us to parts of New York state we had never visited before and then on into Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

On our second excursion to New England in the summer of 2018, we ventured into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. And it was in Vermont that I discovered I liked photographing covered bridges, although with our packed itinerary, we only visited two that we happened upon while on our way to other sightseeing stops.

The first covered bridge that caught my eye was West Dummerston Covered Bridge which we passed on our way from Brattleboro to Weston.  Papa graciously turned the car around and drove back to the site so I could jump out of the car to snap photos.

This historic covered bridge, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, is named the longest entirely covered bridge, at 280 feet long, in the state of Vermont. And we just happened upon it by chance.

Spanning the West River in a small town named Dummerston, Windham County, the bridge, which stands on stone abutments and a central stone pier, features two spans, flush vertical boards on its sides, wooden clapboard ends, and a corrugated metal roof.  The interesting feature, I think, of this one-lane bridge is its side walls which have diamond-shaped openings in them admitting light inside.

I found this one so picturesque, we drove through it twice and I took multiple photos of it. In my research later, I learned that it is the only known surviving architectural example of a renowned master bridge builder named Caleb Lamson, who constructed it in 1872.

Back on the road again, we stumbled upon another covered bridge on our way to Woodstock, Vermont that same day in Taftsville. This wooden bridge is one of the oldest remaining covered bridges in not only the state of Vermont but also in the United States as it was constructed in 1836.

Located along US Route 4 in Windsor County and spanning the Ottauquechee (pronounced (AWT-ah-KWEE-chee) River, the Taftsville Covered Bridge is 189 feet long and 20 feet wide (with a roadway of 16 feet) and was designed with kingpost trusses with arches on a central pier.

Prior to 1836, three bridges once stood in that spot but were destroyed by floods. A local resident, Solomon Emmons III, was then contracted to build the timber-framed bridge that still stands today and is used for vehicular traffic. The bridge was so busy, we only drove through it and I only managed photos from inside our vehicle. The photo at the beginning of this post is from inside the Taftsville Covered Bridge.

Having stood the test of time, the Taftsville Covered Bridge is one of over 100 covered bridges still existing in the state of Vermont, where at one time there were more than 600 such structures.

At the time we visited Vermont, I hadn’t yet developed an interest in seeing more covered bridges, but now, I’d love to travel back to New England – preferably in the fall to be awestruck by the colorful foliage – and visit more of these charming reminders of days gone by.

A link to the past – that’s what these quaint and picturesque bridges symbolize to me. They take me back in time to an era when life was simpler. And I think we need to remember our past in order to secure a better future. Not make the same mistakes, learn from history not erase it, and use that knowledge today.

“Today is the bridge between the past, regarding which we unconditionally accept that
everything has occurred according to God’s plan, and a future where we place our unconditional trust in God’s omnipotence and His benevolent design for our lives.”
~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

© 2021

Posted in Life, Spring

Old becomes new

Out with old, in with new.

Sounds like I’m celebrating New Year’s, doesn’t it? Out with the old year, in with the new one. 

Well, no, I’m not behind the times. My calendar points out that it is April, not January. And whew, aren’t we all glad it is? Finally, spring is arriving.

With its arrival, our thoughts turn to new life, new growth, a reemergence of hope. We smile at the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips pushing their way up through the earth to burst forth into our drab world in an array of spring green and brilliantly vibrant colors.

Out with the old, in with the new. Out with Ol’ Man Winter, in with the new season of Spring.

But my thoughts take another turn as I consider that phrase – out with the old, in with the new.

And again, pictures truly are worth a thousand words as they inspire me with thoughts worth putting down in this blog.

One day last year, as Papa and I did so often during this you know what, we took a little driving jaunt with our oldest grandchild along. We ended up parked in an area watching an old building, once used for multiple purposes but now decrepit and unusable, being demolished. (pictured above)

Little One had never seen that kind of destruction ever before, so she was fascinated and asked several questions about the scene we watched. My memory bank took me back to an occasion that reminded me of her mama, our daughter, when she was a preschooler.

At that time, we lived in a suburb of a midwestern city where new housing developments were springing up hither and yon. For some reason, we drove through one of those areas where a new house was under construction.

Imagine our astonishment when our little daughter asked this question from her back seat booster: “Why is that house broken?”

Huh? It took a minute or so for us to realize that our little one had never seen a house in various stages of construction, so to her, the house looked like it was being dismantled rather than being assembled.

In her eyes, that edifice was broken not newly constructed; she categorized it as old and wrecked, not new and erect. Perspective matters, doesn’t it?

Just recently, a flurry of activity occurred on a parcel of land zoned commercial near us. For years, a vacant building existed there. The place wasn’t dilapidated, just empty, not used.

Wrecking crews and large machinery spent several weeks destroying the existing building and leveling the ground there. Out with the old.

But then, a different kind of activity began. Brand new construction commenced for a new business to be located there. In with the new.

A drastic change began taking place. Pondering this, I can compare it to our spiritual lives. We find ourselves set in old patterns of sinful behavior leaving us feeling broken. Sometimes our lives seem wrecked, even destroyed by the consequences of our own actions.

But something amazing happens when we invite a Savior named Jesus to enter our lives, our hearts, our very being. He heals the broken-hearted, He restores the wrecked, He erases destruction and, in its place, new construction arises.

A new identity. A new creation. A new life. That’s the promise and blessing of a Christ-centered choice to become a follower of Him.

Through Christ we have a new identity. We should not be speaking to our old man, the sinner, and giving him his identity back.” ~ Eric Samuel Timm

A verse in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, tells us what happens when we make that choice:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The onset of spring reminds me to leave old inclinations, old thoughts,  old ways, and old sins behind me and start fresh with new inspiration, new perceptions, new life.

Out with the old. In with the new. Sounds like the promise of spring, doesn’t it?

“You cannot move on to a new phase in life if you bring your old baggage with you, let the bad go, and move onto the new.” ~ Patrick Read Johnson

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to safely cross

It may seem like a silly question, but why does one cross a bridge? Drum roll please….to get to the other side. Much like the chicken who crossed the road.

But there’s more to it. One crosses a bridge also to arrive on the other side in a safe manner, especially when the river, stream, or other waterway that’s being traversed is dangerous.

Years ago, back in my career days, I worked as a newspaper reporter/editor for a twice daily newspaper in a southwestern state. When my co-workers learned I was from the keystone state of Pennsylvania, I found myself answering some silly questions like “What exactly is a Nittany Lion?” and “Is there really a place called Slippery Rock?”

The city editor, a college sports fan, teased me mercilessly about two Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning:  Penn State University and its mascot, the Nittany Lion, and Slippery Rock College (now Slippery Rock University). Those schools amused him to no end and he was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t attended either college but instead graduated from another university.

He just couldn’t imagine why a college was named Slippery Rock or as he called it, Slimy Pebbles. Well, for one reason only – the college is located in the town of Slippery Rock and there actually is a Slippery Rock Creek, named thusly because the rocks in the creek were exactly that – slippery.

Today on our Tuesday Tour, come along with me to an historic, wooden, covered bridge that crosses over Slippery Rock Creek in Slippery Rock Township, near Portersville in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Papa and I visited this landmark on a day trip back in August 2013.

You’ll find McConnells Mill Covered Bridge located in a state park by the same name, McConnells Mill, named for Thomas McConnell who purchased a gristmill for grinding grains – corn, oats, wheat, and buckwheat – back in 1875.  The first mill on this site beside Slippery Rock Creek was constructed by Daniel Kennedy in 1852. After fire destroyed the mill, he rebuilt it in 1868.

In 1874, McConnells Mill Covered Bridge was erected on stone foundations over the slippery rocks of the creek to transport shipments to and from the nearby mill. However, while the gristmill once was an important part of the surrounding community, it closed in 1928.

The old mill and property surrounding it, including the bridge, was transferred to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to be preserved in the 1940’s. Eventually, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired ownership and the area became a state park dedicated in 1957.

Both the mill and the covered bridge are well-known historic landmarks in the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, also in McConnell’s Mills State Park. If you visit this scenic park, you can explore both sides of the gorge, view Slippery Rock Creek as it gushes through the ravine or whitewater kayak on it, go climbing and rappelling, or hike on trails, one being a pretty steep, challenging six-mile hike that’s part of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

For those who prefer safer outings, you can visit the two man-made sites: tour the old gristmill and drive through the quaint covered bridge.

McConnell’s Mills Covered Bridge is one of only four Howe truss designed bridges still in existence in Pennsylvania. To understand a Howe truss form of bridge construction, you can read this.

This bridge is also the longest, at 101 feet, of the four which had not been rebuilt, but it was repaired and revitalized in 1957, when steel girders were added to give better support.  Several years ago, the historic bridge sustained damage from a fierce storm, but  refurbishment, costing over $100,000 with many replacement pieces made by hand, restored it. Reportedly, some original bridge lumber is over 140 years old.

An interesting fact is that covered bridges were not prominent in Lawrence County, unlike the rest of the state’s counties. It is speculated that only five covered bridges were ever built in that particular county and McConnells Mill is one of two that remain today. The other one, Banks Covered Bridge, stands near Volant, Pennsylvania (a small, picturesque town that is an antique and specialty shop haven).

Today, you can tour the historic 19th century mill and drive through the bridge, which is open for vehicular traffic. McConnells Mill Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

No doubt this bridge was built to provide safe crossing from one side of a rushing, slippery creek to another. Perhaps we need to take a bit of inspiration from this old bridge. To avoid being swept away down slippery slopes into a rapid torrent of turbulent waters, we need to begin building bridges of respect and understanding instead of tearing others down.

“Bridges are built not to cross over it but it is built to lift you to the other side safely.” ~ Edwin Lawrence

© 2021

Posted in Easter, Life

When emptiness brings joy

It was empty.

Empty. An empty tomb. Yet that emptiness brings joy to the heart of every person who believes that Jesus Christ, crucified on a cross, His dead body laid in a borrowed, stone-cold tomb sealed by a huge rock, actually arose from the dead on what we call Easter Sunday.

A group of women, followers of Christ who went to the tomb early that Sunday dawn to attend to Jesus’ body with spices, found the boulder rolled away and the tomb empty. But that’s not all they found.

Angels appeared to them and asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ “ (Luke 24:5-8)

He lives! He lives! That was the astonishing cry that His followers believed and one that filled their hearts with great joy.

And that’s the same refrain that fills our hearts today with unbounded jubilation. He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!

The emptiness of death is defeated forever because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and because of that empty tomb.

“The resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for all His people. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence. Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!” ~ Clarence W. Hall

Jesus’ purpose on earth was fulfilled. Before His death He proclaimed to those who loved Him: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Because of the resurrection of Christ, death has no grasp on His believers. Those of us who call Him our Savior need not fear about the darkness of life, nor the finality of death as some do. Jesus is victorious over all because of His resurrection.

“The devil, darkness, and death may swagger and boast, the pangs of life will sting for a while longer, but don’t worry; the forces of evil are breathing their last. Not to worry…He’s risen!” ~ Charles R Swindoll

We rejoice in His victory over eternal death.

And some day, when our bodies can not linger any longer in this world, we too will rise when He calls our names. No more sorrow. No more pain. Just joy. Inexplicable joy when we enter the presence of the Lord forever.

Please listen below to one of my favorites songs by Christian musician Chris Tomlin and allow me to ask you a question that I hope you will ponder while you listen: when death darkens your door, will you rise in Christ?

I pray for a blessed Resurrection Day for you. A day filled with joy and hope and knowing a Savior that conquered death.

“After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

© 2021

Posted in Good Friday, Life, photography

What’s so good about this Friday?

Today is Good Friday. A day near the end of Holy Week or Passion Week, the time we believers in Christ contemplate the last week of our Savior’s life here on earth.

Good Friday. What’s good about a day when a most beloved teacher, healer, miracle worker, and lover of every human’s soul was put to death in a most agonizingly, excruciatingly painful way – crucifixion?

What’s good about a Savior who was fully man and fully God being wrongfully accused, arrested, tried and sentenced to die like a common criminal, scourged, beaten, mocked, spit on, denied and forsaken?

What’s good about His followers, who first-hand witnessed His kindness, love, and hope and called Him their Messiah, watching Him suffer for hours while nailed on a Roman cross at a place called Golgotha, meaning “The Place of the Skull”?

Wasn’t Good Friday really the worst day ever? The day someone named Jesus Christ, just hailed joyfully and triumphantly a few days before, ceased to exist in human form?

So why in the world do we Christians call this day Good Friday? It’s a day seemingly full of sorrow, isn’t it? Scripture tells us even Jesus Himself cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

As Jesus suffered on that cross, He absorbed all the sins – the wrongdoings we all commit which separate us from the utmost holiness of God – of this earthly world for all time. Jesus felt the agonizing abyss of being isolated from the most holy God while He was burdened with all of our wicked transgressions, mine, yours, everyone’s, on that simple wooden cross. And He did so willingly because of His immeasurable love for every one of us.

For a reason.

“I am wholly deserving of all the consequences that I will in fact never receive simply because God unashamedly stepped in front of me on the cross, unflinchingly spread His arms so as to completely shield me from the retribution that was mine to bear, and repeatedly took the blows. And I stand entirely unwounded, utterly lost in the fact that the while His body was pummeled and bloodied to death by that which was meant for me and me alone, I have not a scratch.” ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

On that Good Friday for three hours, darkness descended across the land, the sun stopped shining, and the curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place in the Jewish temple suddenly was rent in two. That alone was shocking and unsettling. What was so good about that?

Finally, as He breathed His last, Jesus spoke, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 24:46). And in finality, He also uttered these words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

It is finished. Good Friday was finished. That day like no other, a day full of agony and sorrow, finally concluded.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t the end!

When Jesus declared “It is finished,” He meant His mission here on earth, the reason God the Father sent His son here was completed. Mission accomplished. For one simple reason – to save mankind’s souls. To offer us The Only Way to God. When Jesus died on that old rugged cross, He gave us the greatest gift we can ever receive – salvation.

“The cross was two pieces of dead wood; and a helpless, unresisting Man was nailed to it; yet it was mightier than the world, and triumphed, and will ever triumph over it.~Augustus William Hare

The truth of salvation did not end on that bleak Friday we now call good. What was so good about it? It’s not the end of the story! Jesus Christ’s life, with His broken body and His blood spilling out, did not end on that cross.

In just three days after His earthly death and burial in a tomb sealed with a huge boulder, He arose from the dead. Alive once more, He defeated the power of death. His resurrection is what we celebrate joyfully on Easter Sunday.

One version of the Bible called The Message puts it this way: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” ~ John 3:16-18

When we choose to believe in Christ and follow Him, we receive the free gift of everlasting life. Someday we will pass from this earthly life but we will live again in Heaven forever with our Savior and Lord.

And that is what makes Good Friday good.

“Good Friday is a day of sorrow mingled with joy. It is a time to grieve over the sin of man and to meditate and rejoice upon God’s love in giving His only Son for the redemption of sin.” ~ David Katski

© 2021

Posted in Easter, photography

We do this in remembrance

For those of us who are believers in Christ, this is a most sacred week – a week from one Sunday until the next – Holy Week.

We remember…

Our Savior, fully God and fully man, rode into the city of Jerusalem on a day we call Palm Sunday to shouts of “Hosanna!” and palm branches waved in His honor. He was hailed as King.

“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ “ ~ Matthew 21:8-10

We remember…

Jesus shook the city up with his teachings and religious leaders did not like the way people followed and listened to Him. As the week continued, there were those who sought to get rid of Him in any way possible. And one of His own would betray Him.

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.” ~ Matthew 26: 3-4

We remember…

On this day called Maundy Thursday, Jesus gathered His disciples together for the Passover meal in an upper room. While they ate, He told them of things to come and gave them instructions to use bread and wine as symbols to remember Him.

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’ “ ~ Luke 22:18-20

As Christians, we follow those instructions by taking communion – breaking the bread which symbolized His broken body on a rugged wooden cross and drinking the cup, which symbolized His blood spilled out as He suffered and died taking all of our transgressions upon Himself to provide salvation for each one of us.

We remember... the worst would come on Friday and yet the very best occurred on Sunday – Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day.

We remember...with gratitude beyond measure and a fierce love for our Savior.

“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” – St. Angela of Foligno

© 2021

Posted in Life, nature, Spring

Spring peeping

It’s a sound every country kid in the eastern United States can probably identify when spring finally is sprung.

The particular sound is as sure as the sights of spring flowers popping up from the soil in brilliant colors. It’s as unmistakable as the return of robins bobbing up and down while dining on earthworms in the yard and serenading us with their spring songs.

It’s a distinct and unique sound that reminds you of sleigh bells ringing through the air, even though Christmas is long past.  It’s the sound of hundreds of chirping frogs in wetlands and swampy areas.

It’s a chorus of spring peepers.

Recently, on an afternoon walk with Papa, both he and I heard that distinctive noise loud and clear. As we walked along a path towards a pond, we passed a marshy area. But we heard that recognizable sound before we noticed the marsh down over a hill.

Spring peepers sang loudly in a chorus of chirps over and over again. And that sound definitely marks the arrival of spring in my neck of the woods.

Just what are spring peepers and why do they peep? They are tiny frogs with big voices. They primarily live in marshes, ponds, streams, and swamps in wooded areas with low vegetation where they can find  feeding frenzies of small insects like beetles, ants, flies, spiders, and even butterfly larvae.

Their peeping is actually a very high-pitched sound resembling sleigh bells and they peep because it is their mating ritual when males call out to females. Apparently, that loud chirping is an attractive quality!

Depending on the temperatures, spring peeper breeding usually begins in late February or March and lasts well into May. The female lays her eggs in still water which is why peepers are found in wetland areas.

Most of the time, they are heard but not seen, but if you do catch a glimpse of one, they are usually gray, tan, or light brown and have a lighter colored belly, but they are tiny little critters not getting any larger than an inch and a half.  One distinguishing feature is a dark X on their backs. When they peep, a bubble, the peeper’s vocal sac, forms under the frog’s mouth.

Interestingly, spring peepers are not the only noisy frogs in North America but belong to a group of frogs called “chorus frogs” for obvious reasons.

Spring peepers are a welcome sign of spring around here, especially when we have spring fever! As soon as we heard the peepers’ serenade that afternoon, we stopped walking just to listen and I took a short video of the peepers peeping, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get it to work here so…instead listen to this video to hear this harbinger of spring and then magnify it by a hundred and you’ll understand what I captured on my own video.

Just one of the marvels of spring and God’s creation. Yet another reason why I love living in the country in a place where we experience four distinct seasons.

“We want to hear spring peepers and see the green haze spreading through the treetops, and we are weary of waiting. And if we seem to be captiously impatient, that is a hopeful sign. Such peevishness is an early but dependable symptom of spring fever.” ~Hal Borland

© 2021