January 20, 2013

The Rocks of Arizona

The picture at the top was taken several years ago in the Chicago-ish area of Illinois.   Nearly four years ago, we moved to Arizona, which has a markedly different vista.  If you like rocks, Arizona IS the place to be.  Some rocks, like the canyon lands, are beautiful.  If Arizona was a house, these would be the formal living room and dining room, where all the owner's taste and best pieces are placed and which are reserved for company, rather than everyday use.  Most of these pictures were taken by my husband, by the way, who is a far superior photographer than I am.
The Grand Canyon--North Rim, with the South Rim in the background

The Grand Canyon at Sunset from the Grand Canyon Lodge


Phoenix is surrounded and spattered with all sorts of mountains, most of them in the "little, cute" variety--"montanitas" (Spanish for "little mountains).  If the canyonlands are the living room, these mountains are the spare bedroom or the attic or unfinished basement, where you put all the stuff you don't know what to do with, or where you throw all of your stuff when you don't have a lot of time to pick up the house for company.  The pictures below were taken from a New Year's Day hike at Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale, AZ.

Could someone get a broom and sweep up all of these crumbs?

My hubby with the pinnacle behind him.  Doesn't it look like someone dumped a bunch of boulders, like kids dump all the LEGOs on the floor to find the exact piece they need for their creation?

Some houses and more peaks on the outskirts of Scottsdale. Tom Thumb peak is on of the little spikes. What a mess!

A stone junkyard

Of course, whenever we would pick a day to clean up the spare room/attic/basement, we would always find a treasure trove of pictures, old toys, long forgotten school assignments and other items that would bring back wonderful memories and create great stories for our family.  The stones scattered around the mountains, creating such a disheveled appearance also seem to tell great stories when you see them up close.  It almost makes you think that God carved them and placed them exactly where He wanted you to find them to tell you a story.  These pictures were taken on my iPhone:
Two rocks "kissing"

The rock on the far right reminded me first of  Darth Vader,  then Boba Fett 
This one reminded me of the troll dolls of my youth, the kind with the wild, bright hair. There is even an "eye" and "mouth."  Coincidence, design or my imagination?

Do you see a finger-shaped rock?  It is pointing to its designer (God).

So even though I would never classify Phoenix as the prettiest spot in Arizona, it certainly has character and even in the mess of the city and scattered montanitos, and the mass of humanity with all of its warts and scars marring its beauty, God reveals himself, His story, and His sense of humor.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 
Luke 19: 37-40

January 10, 2013


I have been assimilated...into Pinterest.  Resistance is futile.  And I have made my first pins.  The one below was inspired by at least two of my kids who will not be named.  My husband thought I should add something about there being consequences to "do not", but really, there are consequences regardless of whether we do or do not.  Kids generally like the consequences from "do" better than "do not."  I also have a variation for whining.  I made this using Hallmark Card Studio.

January 9, 2013

Strength in Joy

I talked about being courageous and brave this year in the last post.  However, that is not really my focus this year.  The idea for my focus was percolating sometime after Thanksgiving, but was given a big boost by Matt at The Church of No People, who shared the concept from  OneWord365.  The concept is to focus on one thing for the year and one thing only.  My one thing to focus on is joy.

It's not that I am not happy or thankful for the life God has for me.  But happy and thankful are not the same thing as joy.  And sometimes, I confess that I can be downright begrudging at what He has me do when it looks like a sloppy mess or when His plan for accomplishing His job for me looks nothing like my plan.  What I want is the joy that is found in the Bible:
  • Nehemiah 8:10b--"And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
  • 1 Chronicles 16:27--"Splendor and majesty are before Him (God); strength and joy in his dwelling place."
  • Psalm 16:11--"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence..."
  • Psalm 94:19--"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."
  • John 15:10-11--"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
  • Luke 6:22-23--"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven."
  • Galatians 5:22-23--"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.  Against such things there is no law.
And interestingly enough, there are some blatant links between strength and joy in some of these verses.  

The first application of finding joy I will be working on involves weight loss.  I started losing weight last year when my fabulous SIL (all of them are fabulous, by the way), challenged me to "The Game-On Diet", which turns losing weight into a game. I lost 20 pounds, and then took a four month sabbatical, in which I maintained the weight I lost until the last two holidays.  I only crept back a little bit, but it was enough to motivate me to get back in the game.  So I am back at it, this time playing the game solo with my family as my support.  And my goal in this is to have joy, not just in the decreasing numbers, but in saying "no" to all the sweets that my sweet tusk desires, being hungry, working out, and making good food choices.  I have changed it around a little bit.  If I lose the minimum weight (1%) and make a minimum of points at the end of the week, each of my family members takes a turn rewarding me in some way.  When I told my oldest that it would be her turn to reward me this week, she immediately offered to pay  my way to see "The Hobbit-3D" with me even though we have already seen the movie.  Her extravagent gift (though not totally altruistic, since she has been asking to see it again) totally floored me and gave me HUGE incentive.  It looks like she and I will be having a movie date tomorrow. 

And of course, the purpose in finding this joy is to pass it on.

Hebrews 12:2a
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before him endured the cross...

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year Thoughts

Isaiah 57:15-16, 18-19
For this is what the high and lofty One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

I will not accuse forever,
    nor will I always be angry,
for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me—

  •     the breath of man that I have created.

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
    I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
19     creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.

Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

In a world that seems to be increasingly angry, violent, vulgar and lacking in all restraint, these words bring me comfort and and a great reminder for me to  be humble.  It is also a reminder that God intimately knows my ways, and in spite of the good, the bad and the ugly, chooses to heal me and bring me peace.  

The last week before Christmas, the kids and I studied a part of history when the nation of Isreal enters a new country that God had promised them with a new, untested leader, Joshua.  Before they even start the daunting process of crossing the Jordan at flood stage and attacking people who had scared their parents faithless forty years earlier, God gives Joshua a pep talk:

  • As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)
  • The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
  • Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses (Joshua 3:7)
  • Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 9)
  • Be strong and very courageous. (Joshua 1:7)
  • Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged (Joshua 1:9)
I think this is especially appropriate to remember that God gave Joshua a God-sized job, told Joshua to rely on Him and that He would take care of the details.  Joshua was faithful to God in almost everything and God fulfilled every promise He made.  Here is another quote, this time from 66 Love Letters by Dr. Larry Crabb about the central theme in the book of Joshua:

"It is a call to fight. Loving Me and becoming holy requires that you realize there is an enemy within you who will cause you more trouble than all the enemies outside you, than even the devil.  I want you to fight, but I want you to fight the right battle...Loving Me and being faithful to My plan requires hating everything in you that is opposed to Me, everything about you that wants someone or something besides Me to have first place in your life.  You'll need help discerning what that is."  (The italics and boldface font is copied from the book.)

So, this year, I will be strong and courageous, even with the looming fiscal cliffs, the dairy cliffs, the prospect of the country collapsing under the weight of the federal deficit, the prospect of government trying to control our everyday lives, the prospect of nations who want to destroy America having nuclear weapons or carrying our IOU's.  I will not be terrified nor will I be discouraged because I place my hope in God's infinitely loving, powerful, and omniscient hands, knowing that He will carry my through whatever He has planned until He completely heals me and brings me home to Him.  Hallelujah!