Friday, February 29, 2008

Thomas K. in the winter ...

Poor Thomas K. He has just about had enough of this winter weather! In the mornings, Tommy's favorite spot is right here by Dylan's piano, basking in what little sunshine can be had around Michigan these days ...
Numerous times throughout the day (too many to count), he insists on going to each and every door of the house, begging to be let outside. Nine times out of ten, we'll open the door a crack, Thomas will prick his ears up, bat his paw in the air, turn around and run back towards the warmth (compared to outside) of our house ... but five minutes later, he's begging for us to open the door again!
Sometimes when we go to bed, we shut Thomas in the family room for the night. I know that sounds cruel and unusual, but it prevents him from scratching on our bedroom door at 4:45 in the morning asking for his milk ... however, see where he is sitting? That's very naughty of Tommy! Mr. Jones DOES NOT ALLOW him to sit on the cable box!! You've been caught Thomas!
Now and then, Tommy will venture outdoors. Sometimes one or more of his friends come over to call. They usually can be heard making frightful noises from the bushes out front, but sometimes they actually come to the back deck and meow until Thomas comes outside to play ...
Thomas really doesn't stay out in the cold for very long, however. If Mr. Jones and I are sitting at the dinner table, trying to eat our dinner in peace without being pestered for milk and food, and Thomas wants to come inside, he merely climbs up the outside screen and meows loudly, clutching the screen with those lovely claws of his, until we get up and let him in.
Thomas has actually climbed all the way up the screen and hung around like a big bat ... he's very talented like that. He completely wrecked the screen that was originally there. Mr. Jones wisely installed a pet proof screen ... apparently Thomas is not the only cat who makes a habit of being a "Peeping Tom."
The hot tub is another one of his favorite haunts. He's pretty smart about where he goes to relax.
However, he heard me taking this picture and immediately decided the house was still warmer than the top of the hot tub ... not by much though, I can tell you!
Thomas has gotten so used to being an inside cat, that he will actually cuddle sometimes if you catch him in just the right mood. Now and then in the evening, he will sit on my lap while I'm watching the news. His fur is so thick right now and so soft! He's the very best heater ... well, almost ... Mr. Jones will claim that he is a better heater, and I would agree if it wasn't so COLD in this house!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Four years ago today ...

It was February 27, 2004 and Mr. Jones, myself, and 23 others took a nice long spring-time walk on the road that leads from Chorazin to Capernaum. It was day five of our 12-day walking/study tour of Israel. As we walked along, we talked about the stuff Jesus taught his disciples as they would stroll between these towns together all those many years ago.

It was a pretty intense hike to Capernaum. Sometimes we were ankle-deep in mud ... and always, always, always, there were ROCKS and then more rocks. We talked about the significance of having your feet washed after a journey like this. Imagine wearing thin sandals and taking this difficult hike!
At various intervals, we would stop to rest and read Scripture. I really enjoyed reading some of the parables Jesus taught like the one about the farmer sowing the seed along the path and about some seed falling in rocky places, some falling on good soil, and other seed falling among thorns. As we walked along, we could see with our own eyes exactly what Jesus had been teaching about!
Can you see Mr. Jones walking along the path? It took us over two hours to walk the two miles to Capernaum. It is a hike that I will never forget.
Later that evening, we went to a site commonly thought to be the Mount of Beatitudes and had a great time of Bible study there. We read all of Matthew chapters five, six and seven sitting right here on this hillside. It was awesome!
The acoustics are great on these hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee! Our guide demonstrated how clearly a person's voice could carry over a very long distance. It was a misty evening when we were there, and it's difficult to actually see much of the Sea.
These pictures were actually taken a few days later, on the other side of the lake. It was incredible to actually walk around the areas where Jesus called his disciples, where he performed tons of miracles, healed so many folk and taught about the kingdom of God!

I am tremendously thankful for the three times I have been able to travel to Israel. The trip we took four years ago was the very best and we made the most of every minute we had! Many of our days were 12-hour days of climbing, hiking, talking, praying ... to study there is so faith affirming! Some day, I would like to spend several months in Israel ~ studying, walking, digging at an archeological dig, and taking thousands of pictures! I hope we don't have to wait another four years before we return to this beautiful place.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On the edge ...

I received a forwarded e-mail from a very good Christian friend last week alerting all on her mailing list about an important omission on the new presidential coins. The gist of the forward was that these new coins should be boycotted because the phrase, “In God We Trust” had been left off. If you were out shopping, the article advocated returning any of these new coins back to the merchant and requesting a paper dollar bill instead. The premise was that if everyone refused to use these coins, they would not be circulated, and hopefully the message would be communicated that Americans were sick and tired of God being left out of everything!

I was telling Mr. Jones about this information and he stopped me practically mid-sentence. He claimed the debated phrase WAS on the coins! I gave him one of my doubtful looks so he marched me right over to the internet, where we were readily able to bring up this exact picture of the new presidential coins. And there it is in plain print ~ “In God We Trust, “ right along with “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one). How DOES Mr. Jones always know this stuff?

Anyway, all of this reminded me of a conversation I had with Dylan a few years ago about the Pledge of Allegiance. I am uncertain of all of the facts involved, but there seems to be an ongoing argument that the two words “under God” should be eliminated from the pledge (“…And to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God. Indivisible …”)

Dylan said he would be delighted if those two words were completely left out of the pledge. At first I was shocked and disappointed to hear him say that. But then he explained that our nation didn’t seem to be willing to be “under God” or His authority at all! Why give ungodly folk a wrong impression? Perhaps by reciting the pledge, people were gaining a false sense of religion, a completely wrong understanding of their relationship to their Creator!

“In God We Trust.” I wish it were true! Sometimes it seems the god who is worshiped in America is just a man-made egotistical, impotent, whimsical weakling … someone we blame all of the ills of the world on … but Scripture says He is the exact opposite!

“Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin! The Almighty can do no wrong…The Almighty cannot twist justice!” Job 34:10-12

“Look, God is all-powerful. Who is a teacher like him? No one can tell him what to do. No one can say to him, ‘You have done wrong.’ Instead, glorify his mighty works, singing songs of praise.” Job 36:22-24

The LORD, your Redeemer and Creator, says: “I am the LORD, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. By myself I made the earth and everything in it.” Isaiah 44:24.

“I created you and have cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime ~ until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” Isaiah 46:3-4

“… do not forget the things I have done throughout history. For I am God ~ I ALONE! I am God, and there is no one else like me.” Isaiah 46:8-10.

Well, now you know! If you receive any forwarded e-mails about the presidential coins, fear not! “In God We Trust” is inscribed on the edge of the coins. Perhaps they used the rim because the inscription won’t rub off as easily as it would on the surface of the coin. Or perhaps they just wanted to see how many Evangelicals or Religious Right folk would glance over the coin, miss seeing the words, and immediately jump to the conclusion that it was intentionally omitted? I’m not sure, but perhaps there is more information out there on the internet as to why they put the words where they put them. I just know that our God is The Almighty, Powerful, fair and perfect Judge, Redeemer, Creator and Savior, the One who “cares for us and carries us”! He is a God we can trust in! There is surely no one like Him! Perhaps if true believers daily walked with Him, "letting their light shine", proclaiming the great salvation of their great God, all people everywhere would bow before Him and truly put their trust in Him!

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Karis Danielle

How can this possibly be? Karis Danielle is TWO ~ already?! I would like to wave a magic wand and just STOP TIME right at this place ... everyone is growing up much too quickly!
Grandpa and I have never lived nearby our Rauch grandchildren. There is a lot of sadness in that sentence that I want you to hear! Our only consolation is that about 3-4 times per year, we have either spent a week with them at their house, or they have come here and spent a week with us. It's very fun to live under the same roof, even if it is just for a little while.
This is Karis playing outside in the snow just this past Christmas Eve at our house. She looks precious in that little hat, doesn't she?
And here she is all dressed up in her pretty outfit for church the Sunday before Christmas.
We had a lot of fun playing with her in our downstairs playroom during the holidays. Karis enjoyed our marble run very much. She plays really well with all kinds of toys. She is a very bright and happy little girl.
We have so many cute pictures of Karis. I love her facial expressions, her beautiful eyes and those chubby little cheeks ...
But that nose of hers! Isn't it just about the cutest? We think you are adorable, baby Karis ~ oops! It's going to take some time for me to stop calling her "Baby Karis" ~ it just fits her so well.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

We tried our best ...

Mr. Jones and I gave it our best try last night, but our pictures of the total lunar eclipse were quite disappointing! We had a great view of it right from our back deck. The sky was wonderfully free of clouds, and the moon was distinct and clear! I thought we might just have a good chance at accomplishing and capturing the moment!
These first two pictures are Dons. He has one of those BIG and expensive Nikon digital cameras with gygundo lenses, a tripod, and all the gear that goes with it. He came home from choir last night at about 8:30 and saw me with my pathetic little Canon PowerShot A560, my manuals open, reading about how to do a night shot properly ... and I think he took pity on me! I told him I didn't care WHO got the shot, but I told him we ought to at least give it our best effort. We won't have another such opportunity until 2010, and who knows if we will be alive then? So he dutifully went and got all of his equipment and set it up and very seriously went about photographing this very beautiful sight. The above picture has a glare in it, but it was actually one of the nicest and clearest shots he got ~ much better than any of mine.
"I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth ~
blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon will turn bloodred
before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.
ON THE NAME OF THE LORD will be saved."
JOEL 2:30-32

This bottom picture is mine. It's a pathetic photo, but the moon was actually that RED. I was using the 4x magnification (which is the most I have) and I haven't altered this picture at all. I tried all of the fancy stuff on my photo program, but it really only distorts the image and doesn't do anything at all to enhance or clarify it.

If you want to see what the eclipse REALLY looked like in all of its beauty, and exactly like we saw it, click onto my sister's blog. She has a great picture of it there. I thought she took it with her camera, and knowing that her camera is very similar to the one I use, I was completely amazed at her technical abilities! I was insanely jealous until I read that she obtained the picture from the internet, and then I was relieved, and then hugely ashamed of myself all at once! (We artists have complicated emotions).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh the MISERY!

I think I've mentioned the fact that about two weeks ago, while chomping on a really delicious, salty, ridged Lays potato chip (I love them ~ with or without dip!), I broke one of my back molars. I went to our dentist out in Sparta, Dr. L-----, and he kindly sanded down the jagged edge on the tooth and told me I needed it crowned. I resisted the notion quite vehemently. But my tongue wouldn't stop going to that gaping hole in my tooth. I had visions of myself ten years from now being not only OLD ~ but OLD, FAT, and TOOTHLESS! Not a pretty picture. I made appointments for the two-step crowning process with much dread. I don't make a habit of going to the dentist. I HATE anyone messing around with my mouth or teeth. I am almost phobic about it.
My dentist knows my weakness for pain and said he would "double numb" me and give me some kind of gas that would make me oblivious to everything! So that's what he did yesterday. He numbed me up SO good that I couldn't feel my chin, my tongue, or even my nose! But he ran into a problem after cleaning out the filling in that molar. He discovered that infection had gone all the way down to the root. He looked at me and said in a rather doleful voice, "I'm afraid you are going to need a root canal before we can get a crown on this tooth." He gave me a referral to an odontologist (a dentist who deals with structural abnormalities of the teeth) and said he would see me after the root canal was completed. !!!
My x-ray: the middle molar is the bad one!
I came home from the dentist, still not being able to feel half of my face, and made the call to set up the root canal. The scheduler said she had an opening for Tuesday (today) if I wanted it. I told her, "No. I've got some volunteering to do tomorrow." She said there was an available appointment Wednesday morning ~ would that work for me? No, no, no. Much too soon. Then she mentioned that since this was an emergency, they could fit me in Thursday afternoon. I very relunctantly agreed to the appointment. I wondered WHAT emergency she was talking about!? She asked if she should call if there were any cancellations before that, but I declined her offer. I had just been to the dentist and endured extreme anxiety in the chair. I needed a few days to muster more courage! At about 7:30 last night, however, the numbness was wearing off and the PAIN was setting in. I totally didn't expect it! I took some aspirin. But the throbbing, constant aching and intense pain continued right on through the night. First thing this morning, I got out the odontologist's card and put his phone number next to the telephone. As soon as that office opened, I was going to call and BEG for an earlier appointment!
The phone rang at 8:15 and it was that very office. The kind woman asked how I was feeling this morning? I moaned and replied: "In pain!" It seemed that due to the bad weather (again!) there was an appointment open for 9:20 this morning if I would like it. I told her she could certainly count on me!
So this morning (two days in a row now), I found myself in the dreaded dentist chair, my mouth forcibly pried wide open ~ full of cotton, suction tubes, and carboard braces ~ listening to that shrill and torturous sound of a drill IN MY MOUTH!
I returned home by 11:00 this morning having survived the ordeal of a root canal. There! I am beginning to be able to feel my face now, but I still can't smile or laugh without looking like a stroke victim. I think I'll avoid looking in the mirrow for the rest of the day ~ it's just TOO scary.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A blissful few hours ...

Ever since the middle of January I have wanted to drive out to the lakeshore and photograph a lighthouse encased with ice, as well as to see Lake Michigan in the winter. I hadn't been out to the lake during the winter months for a long time ~ not since 1972! Yesterday, I checked the weather reports and all was clear to take a drive out there for a little bit of adventure. Mr. Jones had been to a committee meeting for model railroading all morning and declined my invitation to come along. I decided to go to Muskegon because it's not a difficult drive, and there are TWO lighthouses there! I had taken a bunch of pictures of them about two years ago, but that was before I owned a digital camera, and I wasn't real happy with how they had turned out. I left home at 3:30 in the afternoon.

I actually made it to the lakeshore, exactly where I wanted to be ~ and I only had to stop one time to ask directions! I had two hours before sunset to take all the pictures I desired.

"... We cannot comprehend the greatness of God's power.
He directs the snow to fall on the earth ...
The stormy wind comes from its chamber
and the driving winds bring the cold.
God's breath sends the ice,
freezing wide expanses of water.
LISTEN! Stop and consider
the wonderful miracles of God!"
JOB 37:5b-10, 14

"God's breath brings the ice." WOW! Isn't that passage of Scripture so beautiful? Well, like I said, there are two lighthouses and they are called by very similar names. The taller one at the end of the pier is the South Breakwater Light. The smaller lighthouse is known as the Muskegon South Pier Light ~ it is actually on the west end of the south pier, on US Coast Guard private property.

I was wearing my winter hiking boots and really got a good workout, sometimes walking through knee-deep snow. It was so much fun! I dressed in lots of layers so that I could really enjoy the day. I determined not to walk anywhere foolish or dangerous, and actually I didn't think it would be possible to walk out on the pier at all. But I was wrong! I walked quite a distance out on the pier, surrounded by mounds of ice and snow. I made sure to stay right in the center and follow everyone else's footprints in the snow. I was very careful. It was a GREAT walk. I was amazed over and over again at the "awesome works of His hands."

"Who is the mother of the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
For the water turns to ice as hard as a rock,
and the surface of the water freezes."
(God talking to Job)
JOB 38:29-30

"Have you visited the treasuries of the snow?" (God)
JOB 38:22

The sunset was dazzlingly spectacular! I loved every single minute of this marvelous two hours at the beach!

"You, O God, are my king from ages past,
bringing salvation to the earth ...
Both day and night belong to You;
You made the starlight and the sun.
You set the boundaries of the earth,
and you made both summer and winter."
PSALM 74:12, 16-17

Thank you, LORD, for every single snowflake, each shimmering icicle, the seagulls (!), the beach grass peaking through the drifts of snow ... the shadows, amazing cloud formations, and the wonderful array of colors of the sunset ... I stand amazed!