Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Outer Space or Inner Space?

I am fascinated by things relating to 'outer space'. When I was in high school, I considered an academic pursuit of astronomy. But, later I decided that too much math was involved and I redirected my path. Perhaps that's why I am such a SciFi fan.

I love to visit the Hubble Space Telescope website and look at the photos taken of the universe. I understand that the next generation telescope to replace the Hubble (James Webb Space Telescope) will produce even more fantastic images of 'what's out there'. I also love the fact that the more they discover via these great inventions of man, the more they discover that previous theories (often cited as 'fact') were wrong. Perhaps we aren't as smart as we thought we were. The whole thing kind of puts 'mankind' into a new perspective.
I was struck by the similarity of some of these telescopic cosmic photos to those I've seen of itty-bitty micrscopic stuff. These huge stellar entities look like some sort of microscopic bacteria.

These photos are of The Crab Nebula and the Helix Nebula.

What strikes me as fascinating, is that the telescopes take photos of reallllly big things, and make them smaller for us to view. Conversely, these microscopic photos of bacteria take realllllly small things and make them bigger to for us view. Interestingly, this bacteria looks more like something out of Star Trek than something out of Innerspace.

Several years ago, I saw a fascinating presentation at the Carnegie Science Center Buhl Planetarium called "Journey into the Living Cell". It used the 'sky show' technology to demonstrate the intricate design of single human body cell, using 'stars' as parts of the cell composition. It took up the whole dome, and once again, put 'mankind' into a new perspective for me.

All of this screams to me that Creation is no cosmic accident. Looking at a bigger (and smaller) picture lends continuity and creativity beyond my imagination. I would find it much harder to believe that it WASN'T designed and created by God.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20

MVem JSun P

M Vem J Sun P. That's not the revised name of a famous rapper. That's the little mnemonic I invented in grade school to help me remember the names of the NINE planets in our solar system. Mercury, VenusEarthMars, JupiterSaturnUranusNeptune, and... Pluto.

But that got all messed up about a year ago when scientists decided that Pluto was no longer a planet. So that changed the ditty to MVem JSun noPe.

NOW, I read that some 4th grader has recentlywon a contest to come with a mnemonic to help us remember the ELEVEN planets in our solar system. Huh?? So, we lost poor Pluto, and now we've gained THREE more, and no one thought to tell us?? I checked the Hubble Telescope website, and THEY didn't even know!! And, ... to add to my confusion, some articles indicate that there are TWELVE planets. It's really hard to find a photo rendering of the new, improved solar system.

Seems that now, we've added three 'dwarf' planets to our solar system (with the potential for one more). And Pluto is making a come-back! The three dwarfs are named Dopey, Grumpy and Doc... no, um, sorry. Their names are Ceres, Pluto and Eris.

The contest winner's entry was My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants. I don't think I could ever remember that one. These 4th graders are way outta my league! So, I must adapt my original mnemonic to something even a 4th grader would like for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris: M Vem C J Sun PE.

No worries, it will likely change again soon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Wedding, Part II

We got back last evening from a fun weekend in Michigan with Leah & Brad and Brad's family. Brad's mom & dad hosted a second wedding reception at their church for the folks who weren't able to travel to PA for the first one!

The reception was Saturday afternoon, and was honestly wonderful!! The food and decorations helped us all to celebrate once again what God has done to bring us all together via the marriage of popcorn-girl and "the marshmallow-eating pastor" (click the link to understand that one ;-D).

We met many lovely people from Michigan and Church of the King. I loved being able to go to COTK for the Sunday morning service. 'Pastor Brad' is an eminently gifted communicator. That, combined with a profound insight into Scripture, and a genuine compassion for people, make him a dynamic, relevant, and inspirational tool in the Hand of God. His message made even me want to shout, "indeed" a few times (if you know my husband, you'll get that!). The worship and leadership team at COTK are also outstanding, and I pray that the folks in that area will be drawn there to be blessed, as we were.

The weekend gave me the opportunity to watch God's plan for our daughter defined in new ways. Of course, we miss her, but I was delighted to see her so happy and filling the role God has written on her heart. God continues to wow me with 'above and beyond' what I could've imagained or hoped for her, and I'm full of peacipation (peace & anticipation) for what He yet has in store for them as they trek this new adventure together.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

NOT Lost

If you've ever heard of Henry Blackaby, or done one of his studies on Experiencing God, you will be familiar with the statement, "Watch to see where God is working and join Him."

The first time I read that, I thought to myself, "I don't want to 'work'... I want to get something good for myself out of this study... enough about 'work'... what about ME???" But, by the time I finished the study, I understood and embraced the perspective that I have a God-given purpose and when I line up with that, I will thrive.

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend I ran into at the mall. Her daughter was about to get married, and I said something like... "Oh, aren't you going to miss her? How are you dealing with that?", thinking, of course, how I might feel in a similar situation. She smiled, and with great wisdom replied, "Sure I'll miss her, but I'm truly happy for her and that makes me happy. Because, it's not about me."
The moment she said that, it sunk in. It was as if a light went on in my brain, and a new truth became part of my own gray matter. And it's a truth that has stuck.

I think we have a bent to view things from our own little world. If something doesn't effect our daily lives, we hardly pay attention. Our perspective often revolves around what we think will make us happy, what seems good for us. But, Henry Blackaby, and subsequently my friend at the mall, opened my eyes to a better reality. There's a bigger plan afoot. There's a greater drama unfolding. My part in that is important, and will be stellar, as I follow the directions of the Director. It's kinda like when actors are part of TV series, like Lost, that aren't privy to the episodes beyond the ones they are filming. They know the general direction of the show, but they have to wait for their next script to see how they fit into the bigger story.

When our daughters each went away to college, I leaned on that truth. Two of them have also married and 'moved away', and when people say to me, "Oh, don't you miss them? How are you dealing with that?", I can honestly identify that God is at work in bigger, and better, ways than I can imagine. Because I trust God and His Plan, I know it will be a great adventure for all of us. Sure, I miss them, but I'm truly happy for my daughters, because they are happy. Because, it's not about me.

At Leah's wedding, I was able to share with my friend how her statement has helped me deal with things over the years. Wish I'd met her long ago... those 'first days' to kindergarten were really tough.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daughters who are Sisters

Three of the best things about being a mother are... my three daughters! I am so truly blessed to be able to say that even if they weren't my kids, I'd seek them out as friends. And I'm even more blessed to be able to say that the three of them are such wonderful friends to each other. Whatever sibling rivalry MAY have occurred as young children has matured into supportive, caring, fun-loving, prayerful LOVE for one another.

Our girls have always been big fans of broadway musicals! Often they attended local stage productions with us, their grandmother or their great aunt. But they also watched them incessantly, over and over on video. They knew the scripts; they often danced around the house, singing the medlies! I loved it!!

A great favorite of mine is the song "Sisters" from the musical, White Christmas. If fact, I once offered them $50 if they would perform it in their school's talent show. But,... they wouldn't. :-(

So, it was more than delightful to me when Ashley & Samantha put together a funny rendition of the song and performed it at Leah & Brad's wedding dinner, complete with blue fans and boas. To make the performance complete, they engaged Leah in the last verse, pulling her into the dance along with them. Honestly, tho', they didn't need to coerce her... she jumped right in!

It was funny, but more than that, it spoke of their true sisterhood, in its fullest and fun-est capacity!!

I wish so much that I would've thought to videotape it. I didn't. I'll regret that forever... but I do have a couple of pictures to remind me of the three, beautiful... sisters!

Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when sisters live together in unity!

Friday, February 15, 2008

All Clean

My car was realllllllly, realllllllly dirty. There was so much salt/slush residue on all of the windows that it was hard to even see. And it looked so, so bad. So, even though it's supposed to rain this weekend, I just had to get the car washed.

I headed to CleanTown this morning, and the attendant told me that my car wash was FREE!!
I didn't even realize it, because I wasn't keeping track, but they give you a free wash for your birthday, and while that was a while ago, I never used it!

It was great! The car is sparkling clean; all the gunk is washed away, and all I had to say was... "Basic Wash, please." And it was FREE.

"...and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Rev. 22:17b

Lost the Ticket

It used to be that if you parked at the lot at the Pittsburgh International Airport, and you lost your parking ticket, you had to pay some exhorbitant 'full price'. So, whenever we returned from a trip last fall and couldn't find our parking ticket, we started frantically rifling through all of the luggage, and came up empty. We were frustrated, ...but then the poor guy wandering around the parking lot, without a coat in the freezing weather, looking for his car, seemed to be worse off than we were. At least we rememberd to write down the section and row of our parking space.

We sheepishly drove up to the toll gate, and admitted we'd lost our way. The attendant asked for our car registration, and Bruce's driver's license (to prove we weren't stealing the Gray Goose), and within moments told us what we owed, when we'd arrived, AND even where we had parked. We were amazed to find that a computerized tracking system at the airport knew of every vehicle that entered, where it was parked, and when it departed. All due, no doubt, to the increased security systems put in place over the last several years.

It was a good thing that we weren't penalized for the lost ticket, and it's a good thing to know that if you can't remember where you parked, someone can tell you where it is. And, it's a good thing to realize the technology is in place to help thwart acts of terrorism. But it is a little disconcerting to realize how much Big Brother has infiltrated our daily lives.

I was reading this morning about the spy satellite that is falling out of orbit and back to earth. The US military is attempting to shoot it down because if it enters on its own, it could release a lethal, toxic gas cloud the size of two football fields, as well as have components which may not burn up upon re-entry. They don't know for sure yet where it would even fall.

But hey... at least someone can tell you where and when you parked at the airport!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No Other Name

My name doesn't carry much authority with it. When my kids were young, and my name was 'Mommy', there was a measure of authority in that name... "Because Mommy said so!!" was often the last word in a dispute way back then. But other than that, 'using my name' wouldn't get you special treatment at a booked restaurant, or leniency from a speeding ticket. In fact, my name is somewhat non-discript... I know a woman who can't ever remember my name, and when she sees me, she always calls me "Janet". I answer to it anyway :-D And, the Social Security Administration reports that there are children in our country named "Gouda", "Veal", "Adonis", "Denim", "Dung" and even "ESPN". Hmmm.

Bruce & I are once again involved in leading a small group study at our church. It's an adaptation of Experiencing God (Henry Blackaby) for couples. One of the points Blackaby makes is that God reveals Himself to individuals who seek Him, and as a result, they (we, me, you) come to know Him by a special and unique name. For example, He identified Himself to Abram as El Shaddai (God Almighty) when He told him that his 90 year old, barren wife would have a baby, --something so impossible, only a mighty god could accomplish.

There are many other names of God recorded in scripture, and in my mind, as He has revealed His nature and His character to me at various times in my own life. But one divine appellation that I find most interesting is Hashem.

In Hebrew, it means "The Name". So many times in the Bible, that's what He is referred to...
David and Solomon talked about building a temple for "The Name". We're told that Jesus came in the name of the Father. Psalm 20:1 says "may the name ... protect you." Our Lord is so mighty that just the name has the power to protect us and authority to do what He says.

This is significant to me because it doesn't imply that God is an ambiguous, out-there whatshisname. But it tells of a personal God... one whose name can reflect meaning to each individual as God reveals Himself by name and we experience His nature.

He knows my name, and I know His.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Don Quixote, Eat Your Heart Out

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Greece, and one of my favorite places was Mykonos. It's a very small island in the Aegean Sea, famous for its whitewashed buildings, and its windmills. The windmills were used long ago to power grinding mills for grain, but actually no longer serve any purpose other than lending their charm.

About 90 minutes east of here, along the PA Turnpike just outside of Somerset, is a sight that always fascinates me every time I drive through the area. Huge, modern windmills, which do serve a purpose (generating electricty), majestically line the mountain ridge. The six Somerset windmills along with 10 companion wind mills in Mill Run, PA comprised the largest source of wind-generated power in the US when they went online in the fall of 2001. Generating energy from windmills can be adapted to both rural and urban areas, and can impact overall availability of electricity.

A friend of ours, Jackson Ndizeye, is stepping out, using his talent, ingenuity and physical resources to make an impact in his home nation of Rwanda. We met Jackson several years ago when he was a student at La Roche College. He is currently on the cusp of implementing a great plan to exploit wind energy in the nation of Rwanda and provide electricity to both rural and urban areas for intellectual and economic growth and improved health services. Jackson started the non-profit company, Rwindalectric Inc., for that purpose and is gaining support and attention worldwide. He and his efforts were recently featured in an article in BBJ, a Hungarian based business journal. Read about it here:

We are very proud of our friend, Jackson!