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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Ecuador: A Land of Contrasts: A Photoessay

Once again, the trip to Quito Ecuador was a thrilling and eye opening journey. Unlike the mission’s trip I took ten years ago, my husband and I saw both the high-end side of Ecuador and the deep poverty. We learned from our host that the many street people who approach your car to sell all sorts of items from lanterns to candy and fruit to nuts, are mainly immigrants from Venezuela. They have traversed the land by foot for over 1,700 kilometers which translates to about a thousand miles!! Political upheaval and increasing loss of jobs and food has forced many to migrate to Ecuador just to be able to make some centavos or if they’re lucky, a few dollars a day. Being my husband’s first trip to the land of the equator, he was deeply impacted by the poverty.

As we traversed the land from the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World (pictured below)and the Monument to the Equator then to Old Quito (pictured here to the left) 

we also took in the breath-taking Andes Mountains or more specifically the

Cordillera Real, ( Royal Range) as they are called in Ecuador. The trip from Quito to Tonsupa involved a nine-hour journey traversing dangerous, switch backed roads, parts of the rain forest and many small villages. It is here where we saw devastating poverty. People lived in shacks that we would not even allow our dogs or chickens to inhabit. Seeing this year’s ago, I was prompted to help more children and now sponsor a child from Guayaquil. Yet Ecuador is not the poorest of the South American countries. According to our host, it is second in its wealth, which we also got to enjoy.

In Tonsupa we stayed in a resort right on the beach with a spectacular view
of the Pacific Ocean from our fourth-floor balcony. Fan palms and coconut trees graced our view, as well as many beautiful hibiscus, roses and orange stars. My daughter in law told me that it was a place where the rich Ecuadorians vacation. Even though our condominium did not have the services which we are accustomed to in America, like air conditioning in the bedroom and towels, I saw that this area was indeed for the rich, with its guards and gated entrances. In addition, the resort boasted six swimming pools, waterfalls, sprays and a hot tub.  I met a young boy who attended the International School in Quito and he spoke excellent English as well as Spanish and French. Indeed, the Ecuadorian rich frequented here.

The beach (la playa) was magnificent with its palm trees, warm, gentle waves, turquoise hue and pavilions for guests to lounge in and around. The plethora of places to eat and drink right on the beach is in stark contrast to most American beaches in addition to its lack of life guards blowing their whistles. Yet the Spanish music is loud in some areas and makes up for the lack of loud whistles, yet somehow it is more fitting and festive. Here, many also come to sell their wares—jewelry, carved wooden items, ceviche (a cold fish soup that is delicious) coconut milk (which I got sick on last time) and of course ice-cream, which is on every street corner in almost every town and village!
Whether at the beach or in Quito, the various foods are abundant and delicious from different rice
dishes, corn tamales, pork frittatas, plantains, cheese omelets to fresh baked chocolate bread, croissants, pastries and yuca bread. The beach boasts very fresh and varied fish(pescado), from squid and calamari, to shrimp, fish stew and fried pescado. The juices are incredible—papaya, mango, peach, guanabana (my favorite) and of course coconut milk. And of course, there is now where in the world that makes a better Pina Colada or Strawberry Daiquiri, at least nowhere I have been.
One of my favorite events in Ecuador is attending a New Year’s Eve Celebration on the beach. It is truly like no other!! All day long they set off fireworks to get ready for the REALLY BIG SHOW, which takes place up and down the beach as far as you can see for over an hour. This year, the hundreds of lanterns launched from the beach added to an  already spectacular celebration—the burning of the various Fugueos de Anos, figures made of paper mâché fashioned into cartoon characters, political figures and the like, families dressed in white to bring in the New Year and get their photos taken on the beach or in the water, and of course the Latin beat music of salsa, merengue, and Pasacalle. 
While many were out drinking, we didn’t want to participate in that commotion so we brought in the New Year with Margaritas, which turned out not to actually have tequila in it, but only the mix. It
didn’t even matter. The whole evening had been so amazing—launching the lanterns from the beach and watching them ascend into the night sky, viewing the fireworks from the balcony, taking pictures of family, eating a scrumptious Ecuadorian style turkey dinner replete with a corn and bean mix with rice, toasting the New Year 2019 and sharing our hopes and dreams.
While this is the rich and festive side of Ecuador, we will not easily forget the less fortunate. My

husband and I plan on doing something to help the poor both there and where we live. I’m very pleased to sponsor a boy from Ecuador, and I would like to do more for him and his family. I started a Helping Hands Club in my school to help make the students aware of the less fortunate than themselves, even though I work in an impoverished school district. My husband plans on doing some volunteering locally and returning to Ecuador. We are waiting on the Lord and seeking His direction. In the meantime, we are thankful for this wonderful trip into the land of Ecuador, the middle of the Earth!

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Treasured Snow Globe

For many years as my children were going up, it was an annual tradition to sit around the dining room table telling stories inspired by our special Christmas globe. The scenery of a small village snuggled at the base of a mountain and pine trees lent itself well to the world of imagination, especially when I allowed them to shake the globe and hundreds of glittering snowflakes would blanket the scene. They were always very careful to hold the globe tightly and shake it gingerly, often with my help.

As the children aged, so did the globe. One year, it began to detach from its inner base, but I still showcased it. My husband, with the best intentions, though he could fix it by gently tapping it back into place. However, his effort turned out disastrous and he broke it! I was heartbroken, though I salvaged the scene and displayed that for a few years. Then one year, after my mother had died, I decided to go through her Christmas ornaments and found the exact globe. I was thrilled, and set it in its place of prominence of the dining room shelves. The children were now older teenagers and not that impressed, but I think we used it to tell a story or two.

This year, when I went to take it out of its Styrofoam packaging, I discovered that this one had completely detached from its base! Somewhat dejected, I tried to shake it into place, but it remained upside down and unglued. I thought it might very well represent my present situation—scurrying to decorate with the family and grandchildren, still working full time as an art teacher, babysitting my three precious little ones, buying presents and trying to keep my spiritual life from falling apart. I decided to display it anyway, in a less prominent place, but as a reminder not to become completely unglued!

Everyday I would look at it and contemplate all my running around, praying that I wasn’t over involved. One day, when I was sitting having my breakfast and gazing at the snow globe, I heard a distinctive voice say, “Try fixing the globe again.”

“Is that you Lord,” I asked.

“Yes.” The gentle voice replied.

I answered back, “Well then, you know I’ve tried a thousand times and it just can’t be fixed!”

The voice spoke again. “I’ll show you a new way to twist, turn and shake it.”

“Really? You care about that?”

“Yes, now go do it!”

I gently lifted the globe and did what the Lord told me to do. I shook it, twisted it and flipped it. Slowly the whole scene righted itself and began to fall gently on its base. I couldn’t believe it! “Wow God! You really care about such details?”

            “Yes, I do.”

I just couldn’t belief his level of caring. Yet, it reminded me of the scripture.  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30). It really amazed me that God is so into the details of our lives, and the Bible confirms it! He can give us wisdom in the greatest difficulties we face and the smallest, yet important, details of our life. What an amazing God! The creator of all things, who knows the number of my frizzy, thick hairs of my head, communicated with me about a small yet seemingly insignificant snow globe.

Actually, it’s just like Him! It’s the same God of the Universe who stepped out of ruling in heaven to this problem riddled world, into what appeared to be an insignificant, small family to save us. Isn’t he marvelous!!

Monday, November 12, 2018

America, Will You Think of a Veteran Today?

I rewrote this from another poem I wrote on Memorial Day. 
       America, Will You Think of Us Today?

Will you think of us today my children, the reason we gave our life?
Will  we be in your thoughts my sons and daughter, anytime from day to night?
Will you hear us today my children, as I answered the call to love not my own life?
Will you see us in the beauty of this land, the trees and mountains, stars, or sky?
Will you know how  much we loved you, sons and daughters of this land?
Will gratitude for what we've done be in your mind today?

We gave you everything you wanted—freedom,                                                                                                                                liberty and life.
We founded our glorious nation
            on the wisdom of God's Eye.
His hand guided us, your veteran fathers
            on the Words of His life.
But will it all be forgotten among the rows of poppies,
            and the gravestones of this life?

Will you remember me today, my children
            As I once held you in my arms?
Will you remember me today, my children?
            As I taught you how to walk.

Will you walk beside me, Oh my children?
And remember I gave you my life.
Based upon the sacrifice of God's Holy Son.
We took His words to heart.
And bled for you to save this land
Where freedom once rang to not depart
                 from the Words of life He spoke.
Will you turn your face away 
                  and not remember this day?

Will you run though fields of grain, my children
            Or will you run and hide?
Will you turn to The light, my children?
            Prodigal sons all in a line.

           We all stepped over it, at times,
           But will you trample it to death?
                 The life we spilled for you
           We pray was not in vain.

See the blessings He has  poured out upon you.
It hurts our heart to see you hide.
How you’ve trampled on the freedom we won you.
I offered you my life.

Listen carefully, My Golden Nation
            Once the apple of His Eye
To the pages of My Holy Word
            History does not lie.
See the downfall of the rebellious nations.
Who turned away their eyes.
            And followed strange gods of their own making,
Golden idols, 
            Replacing truth for a lie.

Be now careful in all your freedom,
For it will turn on you.
Learn the lessons from us and the pages of history.
            Are coming soon upon you too.
Rebellion led many nations to destruction.
Hear what they have to say.

Will you think of  Me today, My child
Or tuck Me far away?
Will you walk the way that I have shown you?
            And be ready for that day.
I will return for those who love Me.
All others will be turned away.
Though they cry and scream they knew Me.
Only My Son will be the one to say.
Did you think of Me today My child?
And lead another on The way?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Time of Lothlorien: A Poem of Light

While walking through the woods near my home, the light was just right and the leaves golden which inspired this poem, based on The Lord of the Rings land of Lothlorien by J.R.R. Tolkein 

The Time of Lothlorien

When the autumn turns to gold,

And leaves glimmer in the sun,

            The time of Lothlorien has come.

Days of golden light, honey

                          in the atmosphere

              and everything turns

                         with misty light,

                         to legends of old and ancient days,

                                     stirring in my mind and heart,

                      whispers of heaven that will not depart.

As leaves quake in the aspen trees,

with lithe bodies dancing in the breeze.

Mysteries of old unfold,

Healing in the golden light

of elvish beauty and delight.

Who saturates this atmosphere?

                        Beyond the confines of time and place.

            He treads softly and eyes behold—

                        His glorious countenance.

                                    Radiating splendor,

                        He is the Light of Lothlorien.

Beyond all mysteries and fantasies,

            He resides in the Throne room of light,

While lightning flashes from His eyes.

All lies dispelled in the light.

Lighting up the Eastern skies,

He will return from Lothlorien,

And grace this earth once more,

to take us home to where we of

                        Golden light belong,

“Beyond the confines of time and space,”

Lothlorien whispers.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Master Storyteller/ Living Proof Live with Beth Moore

Behind the Door of a Divine Story… was the theme of the dynamic Beth Moore’s women’s conference held this weekend at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. At first glance, it was an unusual topic, but as Beth revealed the points of Jesus’ powerful storytelling, it came into focus. She started out by declaring that there is a MYSTERY behind the door of all of Jesus parables and walked us through seven parables in the gospel of Luke. We see in a glass darkly and can only know part of the divine meaning of this earthly life and the stories Jesus told. The blank spaces, where we don’t understand, are where Faith grows. It is like the parable of the farmer who goes out and sows seed in the ground. He spreads the seed, but only understands a small part of what goes on underground to produce a plant. We cannot fully understand how God transforms a life, but like a seed, part of it is a hidden work underground. When we spend time in prayer, that work is accomplished in our spirit. We often water that seed with our tears as we wonder what God is doing in our life, but He is accomplishing His will! We just need to saw seed.

What else lies behind the story door? There is REVELATION to those who are willing to study the Word of God. He bids us to pay attention and to stay focused to hear and see the revelation in each story. We have to not let the distractions take us away from our time in the Bible and with God. Next, there is INVITATION in the story. God invites us into the wedding feast with Him. When we are clothed with His wedding garments and righteousness through Jesus Christ, we can celebrate with Him! And let me tell you we celebrated, both in worship music and a mini dance party during the break. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to dance and I certainly joined in and celebrated! Why not? Our God had done amazing miracles in our lives!

The fourth point had everyone shaking their head in agreement. Even though there is a fair amount of MANURE behind the story door, we can enter in. We can let God use all the ugly and hurtful stuff to transform us. Like the parable of the unfruitful fig tree, He also digs down around us. He unearths the junk that keeps us from bearing fruit. Then He spreads manure to fertilize the tree, that’s us. This is how Jesus wields His stories. He invites us in to listen and then if we are willing to perceive what he is truly saying, we realize the parallel to our own lives. We all have garbage, manure, that happens in our life and God wants to get it out into the open so He can deal with it and heal you. He also uses it to “fertilize” us so we can bear fruit.

We are also made to REJOICE in our trials and shake off the junk of this world. Joy is the hallmark of the Christian and Satan is working overtime to stress us out and destroy our joy. The parable of the prodigal Son invites us into both parts of the story, as the prodigal, before we knew Christ and as the other son, who judges the Father for rejoicing over the return of the prodigal. Where do you stand? Are you a prodigal or stuck in legalism, religiosity or pride?

Have you invested all you have for the KINGDOM and obtained the pearl of great price and worth? I hope so, for “What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard nor heart has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corin. 2:9). The kingdom is of great worth, beyond the treasures of the earth.

Lastly and supreme above all is the story of JESUS. He is present in every book of the Bible and the Supreme plan of God for redemption and salvation. He is in Genesis from the beginning as the Word of God and appears often in the pages of Isaiah who prophesies Jesus coming and his death on a cross. He is given birth on the pages of the gospels and in the book of Revelation as the only one worthy to open the scroll of the book. He will appear once again riding on a cloud and will claim His own. The Bible is a powerful story from one page to another and we are invited in to participate, to allow God to write His story on and with our lives. I thank Beth Moore for inspiring me to write His story in my life again.