I Can’t Believe I Did It!

It has been a month now since I finished my physical therapy. My therapist warned me that I would need to keep doing my exercises at least two to four times a week if I wanted to remain strong and have less pain.

So far, I am exercising every day. Eventually I will probably move to just two to four times a week, but I am so glad to be free of pain that spending a few minutes each day in exercising is a small price to pay for this new life.

One of the things I struggled with beside the pain was just being able to walk any distance. It has been so great to be able to shop for groceries or go to the mall and walk with my husband.

However, we recently attempted a walk that was probably not one I should have tried. We went to Ludington, Michigan to see one of the lighthouses there. Since moving to Michigan four years ago we have made it our mission to see as many of the lighthouses here as we can. This was the beautiful lighthouse, Big Sable, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.

French explorers first called this place Grande Point au Sable. This area, approximately nine miles north of Ludington was a landmark for sailors on Lake Michigan. In 1856 Congress gave $6,000 and the Michigan Legislature donated the land for a lighthouse. However, it was not until the end of the Civil War that Congress again gave money – this time $35,000 – and construction began in 1866. The lighthouse was completed in 1867.

We were all prepared to drive to see this lighthouse. However, on entering the park that surrounds the lighthouse, we discovered we would have to walk to the lighthouse. The walk is 1.8 miles. The rangers assured us it was a level walk with benches along the way. Knowing this would be quite the challenge, we nonetheless decided to do it.

At first it was nice. A beautiful sunshiny day with a cool breeze from the ocean, we enjoyed the beginning of the walk.

My husband climbed the sand dunes to get a closer look at the Lake
Although the path was level, believe me walking in sand is not an easy thing to do.

About halfway up the trail I began to have strong doubts about the wisdom of attempting this. My husband offered to turn back. But I had committed to this, and I was determined to finish it. I stopped at every bench along the way to catch my breath. Just when I thought I could not go on, the lighthouse appeared in the distance.

Finally, we made it! I was proud of what I had done but was scared at the thought of making the walk back. My husband, who is 82, was tired but confident he could make it back. I was not so sure that I could.

This man is amazing! Still full of energy when we reached the lighthouse.

We sat by the lake and enjoyed the view while I gulped a bottle of water and ate a candy bar. After almost 30 minutes it was clear I was afraid I would not be able to make it back the 1.8 miles. My husband asked some of the workers at the museum and gift shop if someone could drive us back. Their response was: “The only way you get a ride out of here is in an ambulance.”

Faced with no other choice we started back down the trail. Although there were benches along the way, there were several places where the benches were very far apart. My legs were holding up fine, but my poor heart was not. About halfway back I began to have difficulty breathing. At one point I leaned on my husband and tried hard to get a breath. Other walkers on the trail asked if they could help me, but unless they were willing to carry me, I did not know what they could do.

Just when I thought I could not go on, we saw the end of the trail. Exhausted I sat on a picnic table for almost 30 minutes before I could go on.

We calculated our distance when we got back to the car. It was 1.8 miles there and back but when you added in the distance from the parking lot to the start of the trail we had walked over four miles.

Looking back I am not sure that was a smart thing for us to do – but I am so proud of the fact that I did it.

Before my physical therapy there is no way I could have done that. I was in pain for a couple of days afterwards – more sore than pain – but I recovered and I DID IT!!!

How Well Does Your Yoke Fit?

Jesus gave an invitation to put on His yoke.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

What did He mean by that? Exactly what is a yoke?

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they are to pull.

A yoke allowed two animals to share a load and pull together. Most of the wagon trains bringing people to settle the west were pulled by oxen using a yoke to keep them working together and to help them pull the wagons which could weight up to 2,500 pounds. In our own country before the modern tractor and farm implements, a yoke was used to help the farmer plow the fields for planting.

Two Oxen ready for work.

The Bible references for a yoke often referred to a heavy burden or duty. When King Solomon died and his son, Rehoboam, became king he warned his people that he would rule them with a “heavy yoke.” Their response was to desert him and create a separate nation with another king (1 Kings 12). The prophet Isaiah used the symbol of breaking a yoke to speak of freedom for the Israelites from foreign rulers. The prophet Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck as he warned the people of Jerusalem of their coming capture by the Babylonian empire.

So why would Jesus use the image of a yoke to invite followers to come to him and take on a yoke? How would submitting to His yoke give us rest?

If we think of life as an allegory to plowing a field, we begin to understand how His yoke would give us rest. The oxen wearing a yoke help the farmer get the field plowed. But it is the skill of the farmer that directs the oxen so that the furrows are straight and at the right depth for the seed. So, as we allow God to direct us, we can rest in the knowledge that He will lead us in ways that are best for us. We can spend less time worrying and more time trusting in His direction.

He says we will learn from Him as we wear His yoke. I did some research on oxen and found that they are trained for months, even years before they are able to do the heavy pulling expected of them. Their owner spends time teaching them to respond to verbal commands like:

  • “Step Up” – go forward
  • “Gee” – turn right
  • “Haw” – turn left
  • “Whoa” – stop
  • “Back” – back up

As we take up the yoke of Jesus, we begin to learn from Him. Through prayer, Bible study and just learning to hear the Spirit’s prompting we gain knowledge of God and grow in spiritual maturity. Just as it takes time to train an ox, our walk with God requires time for growth.

I like to think that when I accept the yoke of Jesus, I am now walking alongside Him. The daily burdens of life are easier because He is pulling with me. Thus, His yoke becomes “easy” because I am not facing life’s difficulties alone.

Doing research on oxen I found that owners must adjust the size of the yoke as the oxen grow. Doing this keeps the oxen from being hurt by bad-fitting yokes. Jesus’s yoke is “easy.” He knows us well and when we trust Him, the yoke He places on us is not restrictive but rather helps us in our work for His kingdom. I don’t pretend to understand all the physics, but I am told when an ox allows his owner to put the yoke on him, it actually helps him pulling the load. When we submit to the leading of God and His direction for our life, our yoke will fit perfectly. If we resist the yoke (the direction of God) then the load will become too much for us.

Does your yoke fit? Are you seeking God’s direction and willfully obeying Him?

Day of the Christian Martyr

Church tradition say that the Apostle Paul was killed on June 29. This year Christians are called to take time today – and throughout the coming weekend – to remember and honor those who have given their lives to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have shared some of their stories in posts before. I hope you will take time to read them.

We have so many to remember. Check out the stores of some of these heroes of the faith:

  • John the Baptist
  • Stephen
  • Polycarp
  • William Tyndale
  • John Huss
  • John and Betty Stam
  • Eric Liddell
  • Jim Elliott and Nate Saint
  • Richard Wurmbrand

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3

Hard Work U

On one of our trips south we visited the College of the Ozarks. This Christian, liberal arts college is located near Branson, Missouri. Presbyterian minister, Rev. James Forsythe, founded the school in 1906. Called The School of the Ozarks, it was first a high school and became a junior college in 1956. Nine years later it became a four-year college and in 1990 took the name College of the Ozarks.

The students at the college work on campus to help pay for part of their tuition. They work 15 hours a week during the school year and do two forty-hour weeks during that time. Scholarships provide the rest of the tuition, so students do not graduate with a large debt to be repaid. This does not include room and board, but students can choose to work during the summer and that will cover their room and board for the next year.

When they first arrive, students are assigned to a service-oriented job for the first one or two semesters such as working in the cafeteria or the restaurant that is open to the public, or mowing and keeping the lawns and gardens in good repair.  After the first two semesters they may apply to work in an area more suited to their career plans.

For example, students seeking a degree in agriculture work to produce the dairy, beef, fruit, and vegetables used in the kitchen at The Keeter Center, C of O’s restaurant, ice cream shop, and bakery.

They have a beautiful art gallery where students seeking a degree in Art Education can also work helping with the many events the gallery has each year.

Students seeking other degrees are offered jobs in areas where they can apply what they are learning to real life.

The campus is beautiful. Set in the beautiful Ozark Mountains the views are breathtaking.

We watched one of the students demonstrating the use of a loom. Her major was in Arts and she was working in the museum area as part of her job to pay for tuition.

There was also a mill where they made their own wheat and bread (again students working off their tuition and also learning a trade).

We loved all the water fountains on the campus.

We ended our visit with a delicious meal at the Keeter Center and enjoyed the view in the distance.

If you are ever in the Branson area it is a beautiful and interesting place to check out. While the free tuition is great, it is a very conservative college and would not be a fit for anyone who does not lean very right on the political scale.

Laughter and Wisdom from the Queen

Since we just saw England celebrate the 70 years of the reign by Queen Elizabeth II, I thought I would share her comments for my Friday list of laughter and wisdom (even though i am a day late.)

  1. Grief is the price we pay for love.
  2. None of us can slow the passage of time; and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the Gospel of Christ and his teachings.
  3. When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.
  4. If I wore beige, nobody would know who I am.
  5. It has been women who have breathed gentleness and care into the harsh progress of mankind.
  6. Children teach us all a lesson – just as the Christmas story does – that in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential.
  7. We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.
  8. Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us have a monopoly on wisdom.
  9. Memories are our second chance at happiness.
  10. The world is not the most pleasant place. Eventually your parents leave you and nobody is going to go out of their way to protect you unconditionally. You need to learn to stand up for yourself and what you believe and sometimes, pardon my language, kick some ass.

Legend of the White Buffalo

Located in Jamestown, North Dakota is the National Buffalo Museum. They state that their purpose is “to advocate for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach.” It was an interesting stop on our road trip out west. The museum’s website states:

The National Buffalo Museum opened in June of 1993 and has since been dedicated to preserving the history of the bison and promoting the modern bison business.

In 1991, the North Dakota Buffalo Foundation (NDBF) (d.b.a. the National Buffalo Museum) formed to start a herd of bison that would graze in the pasture just below the “World’s Largest Buffalo” monument in Jamestown, ND. Around the same time, the National Buffalo Foundation was looking for a facility to house and display numerous accumulated bison-related objects, artwork, and historical memorabilia from the bison business. Thanks to tireless advocacy from the founding board members of the NDBF, many of whom were themselves bison producers, the first five animals in this herd came from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the site of that first small herd became the home of the National Buffalo Museum.

Paul standing below the “world’s largest buffalo”

We saw three white buffalo. The first one was White Cloud born in 1996. She gave birth three times before giving birth to Dakota Miracle in 2007. The next year another buffalo gave birth to an albino buffalo named Dakota Legend. These three very rare animals were quite a draw for the museum in Jamestown.

I wanted to get closer for this picture but decided I should probably stay outside the fenced area after I saw this sign.

This very rare animal is seen as sacred by many Native American plains Indians. The Lakota believed that the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought them the first sacred pipe. There are apparently different versions to the legend but this is the one we were told.

The legend states that two scouts were out looking for bison when they saw a white cloud coming toward them. As it came closer, they saw a young Indian woman dressed in white buckskin and carrying a bundle. She was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.

One of the scouts had bad thoughts about her and shared them with his companion. He responded “That is a sacred woman; throw all bad thoughts away.” She knew their thoughts and said “If you want to do as you think, you may come.” When the scout with the bad thoughts came close to her a white cloud covered them both. The young woman came out of the cloud, blew it away and at her feet lay the bones of the foolish scout with the bad thoughts.

She then told the other scout to go home and tell his people that she was coming and they should build a big tipi for her. Four days later she came to the village. As she sang, a white cloud came from her mouth that was good to smell. She then gave the Chief a pipe with a bison calf carved on one side to mean the earth that bears and feeds us, and with twelve eagle feathers hanging from the stem for the sky and the twelve moons.

She told the Chief, “With this pipe, you will be bound to all your relatives. All these people and all things in the universe are joined to you who smoke the pipe. With this, you shall muliple and be a good nation.”

She stayed with them for four days showing them how to prepare the pipe and how to smoke it. This is how the pipe came to the Lakota tribe.

When the left she promised to return in times of need. She walked in the direction of the sun stopping to roll over four times. The first time she got up as a black buffalo. The second time she became a brown buffalo, the third time a red buffalo and then finally a white buffalo. The white buffalo walked on, stopped, bowed to each of the four directions and then disappeared over the hill.

This legend also led to the white buffalo umbilical cord pouch. When a baby was born, the umbilical cord was dried and put in a beaded pouch which was often turtle or lizard shaped. They believed the cord was the connection to life before birth and after death. When the person died, the pouch would be buried with him/her.

I recently discovered that Dakota Miracle died from injuries he sustained when he fell down a ravine. The Museum said his lack of pigmentation included poor eyesight and they believe this contributed to his fall.

If you make a trip to North Dakota this museum is worth planning a stop to see.

A New Look at My Childhood Songs

On a trip south we visited the Stephen Foster Museum.

The house and museum is located in the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center Park on the banks of the legendary Suwannee River. This river was made famous by Foster’s song “Old Folks at Home.”

The grounds are beautiful with majestic old trees.

As wandered the grounds we headed down to see this famous river.

Getting closer to the water I saw the sign warning of alligators and beat a hasty retreat.

Inside the building were many beautiful old pianos and paintings depicting many of Foster’s songs.

Foster wrote over 200 songs and was called the “Father of American Music.”

His song “My Old Kentucky Home” is the official song of the state of Kentucky. It is believed he wrote his famous song “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” as an attempt to win back his wife who had left him. While many of his songs are about the South he never lived there and only visited it once on his honeymoon.

While I grew up singing many of Foster’s folk songs both at home and in choir at school, I doubt that many of his songs would be used today. They clearly depict a world of southern white culture and its ties to slavery.

As a child I sang “Oh Susanna” but it was only when I did more research of Foster that I heard the second verse. On my!

“Massa’s in the Cold, Cold Ground” talks of how the “darkeys” are crying because their master is dead and how he made them love him because he treated them so kindly.

The State of Florida’s official song is “The Old Folks at Home.” Thankfully they have changed some of the offensive words;

Original words: All up and down the whole creation, Sadly I roam. I’m a still a-longin’ for the old plantation, Oh, for the old folks at home.

New version: All up and down this whole creation, Sadly I roam, Still longing for my childhood station, And for the old folks at home.

Original words: All the world is sad and dreary, Ev’rywhere I roam. Oh, darkies, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home.

New version: All the world is sad and dreary Everywhere I roam. O dear ones, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home.

On the grounds there is a 97-bell carillon and his songs are played throughout the day. This carillon is one of the largest musical instruments ever produced in the Western Hemisphere, and the world’s largest tubular carillon in number of bells.

The park itself is beautiful with hiking, bicycling, canoeing and wildlife viewing for visitors. There is also a full-facility campground and cabins to rent.

While I enjoyed the beautiful grounds and recognized many of the songs from my childhood as I took a closer look at many of the lyrics I left with mixed feelings about the place.

Benjamin Franklin Could Not – Can You?

Most Americans know all about Benjamin Franklin. His many inventions – the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals as well as organizing the postal system are all well known. Perhaps less well known was his desire to reach moral perfection.

At the age of 20 he decided he would strive to become a perfect moral man.

“It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.”

To achieve that faultlessness, he made a list of thirteen virtues which he thought, if perfected, would make him a perfect man. That list was:

After completing his list, he drew up a chart where he could keep track of his progress each day.

Realizing how hard achieving perfection would be, he chose to tackle only one virtue at a time. He would evaluate his conduct at the end of each day and give himself a black mark for every time he did not succeed at the virtues on his list. After a week he checked his progress. If he had few black marks for the virtue he was working on he would move on to the next. If, however, he had a lot of black marks he would keep working on that virtue. He would continue this until he had completed all 13 virtues – and then start all over again.

It was not long before Franklin realized achieving perfection was not possible. The Apostle Paul years before Franklin had also understood that perfection on our own was not possible.

I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway….I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 

This inability to be the good we want to be is a common part of our nature it seems. So what do we do?

Paul had the answer.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

It is only when we realize we cannot be good enough on our own and turn to Jesus Christ for help in our struggles that we find the strength we need to be what we desire to be. Perfection is not something we will achieve in this life, but when we stop trying on our own and look to Jesus for help, we can begin the growing process of becoming all that God intended for us to be.

America’s First Lady of Courage

On a trip to Alabama we were able to stop at the home where Helen Adams Keller was born and raised. Built in 1820 by Helen’s grandparents who came to Alabama from Virginia, the house is a white clapboard home designed in Virginia cottage construction. Called Ivy Green because of the English ivy that grew on one side of the house, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1954.

Helen was born on June 27, 1880 and was a healthy child. At 19 months she became very ill (it is believed it was probably scarlet fever) and was left blind and deaf. Unable to communicate with the world, Helen became what was described as a “wild child.”

 Her parents, desperate for help took her to see Alexander Graham Bell when she was six. Bell connected the family with a 20-year-old teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Ann Sullivan came to live with Helen in Alabama and stayed with her from March 1887 until Ann died in 1936.

As Anne began working with Helen she recognized that her family had given no discipline to her and she need to teach Helen both obedience and love. She convinced the family to allow her to take Helen from the main house and they lived together alone in a nearby cottage. After a few weeks as Helen began to respond to Anne, they returned to the main house ad the family.

Ann began having Helen feel objects and then would spell out the word on Helen’s palm. At first it was a difficult effort but a breakthrough came when Ann kept running water over Helen’s hand and then writing the word “water” in her palm. Suddenly it was as if a light went on. Helen understood what Ann was trying to teach her.

Having read the story of how her teacher, Ann Sullivan, was able to reach her through sign language, it was so amazing to see the well where this amazing event took place.

As Helen received a way of communicating with others, she quickly showed how brilliant a mind she had. By age ten she had mastered the Braille alphabet and learned to type. She then began the difficult process of learning how to speak. By 16 she had learned how to speak so well that she went to preparatory school and then won admission to Radcliffe College in 1900 and graduated cum laude in 1904.

She became an author and published several books including The Story of My Life (1903), Optimism (1903), The World I Live In (1908), Light in My Darkness and My Religion (1927), Helen Keller’s Journal (1938), and The Open Door (1957).

She became active in promoting laws and policies to help the handicapped. When she attended the Lions Clubs International Convention in 1925 she challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Accepting the challenge the Lions have programs aimed at preventable blindness every since.

At her home there is a statute of a Lion and plaques commemorating that partnership between Keller and the Lions.

There is a garden on the grounds with a bust of Helen as well as a statute inside the house of the young girl standing at the well where Ann Sullivan was able to reach her with the word “water.”

When you consider she was blind and deaf, her achievements are even more amazing.

She fought for workers’ rights, for women’s suffrage and was an early member of the American Civil Liberties Union. She worked for over 40 years with the American Foundation for the Blind. Her speeches and efforts for the blind led to state commissions for the blind, rehabilitation centers and made education more accessible to those with vision loss.

She made multiple trips to other counties and met world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Golda Meir. General Douglas MacArthur sent her to Japan as American’s first Goodwill Ambassador. Her appearance brought attention to the needs of Japan’s blind and disabled citizens.

A lot of credit should also go to her teacher, Ann Sullivan, who devoted her life to Helen. Her work with Helen as a child was depicted in the play The Miracle Worker. This play won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and was made into a motion picture in 1962.

The Pony Express

The Pony Express route ran from St Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California and covered 1,996 miles. It took the riders on average ten days to make this long trek.

This mail service only lasted 18 months from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1961. The telegraph wires which provided such quick means of communication meant the death for the Pony Express.

When it began in 1860 the charge for delivery was $5.00 per ounce. Later it was reduced to $1.00 per ounce. The riders carried up to 20 pounds of mail. Because speed was so important, most of the riders were small weighing between 100 and 125 pounds. Average age was 20.  

The city of Gothenburg, Nebraska has the original station that was used by the riders. This cabin was first built in 1854 on the Oregon Trail and used as a trading post. The Pony Espress used the cabin as a station from during the short time it was in operation. Used after that as a Overland Trail Stage Station and then a storage building, in 1931 the cabin was taken down and restored in Gothenburgh. Mrs. C.A Williams bought the cabin and donated it to the city.

We visited the cabin site on our road trip west.

The Pony Express was founded, owned and operated by the freighting firm of William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell.  There is a plague at the site remembering the founders. The Gold Rush of 1849, The Mormon journey to Utah in 1849 and the pioneers who moved west on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s created a need for a fast mail service.

Shortly after the Pony Express began Congress authorized the building of a transcontinental telegraph line connecting California to the East. On October 26, 1861 San Francisco was in direct contact with New York City. The last Pony Express letters completed their journey to California in November 1861.

Although it was only in service for 18 months, the legend of the riders have become a part of our American culture. In 1960 the post office issued a stamp in honor of the riders.

As a history nut, it was a great feeling to know I had stepped inside the cabin where many of the Pony Express riders had also been. I closed my eyes and just imagined one of them walking up to me and saying “hi.”