Such a Peaceful Spot!

Driving along Route 21 in Wyoming we spotted a sign saying “Ayres Natural Bridge.” The sign was small and from its appearance did not indicate anything of importance. Still, we love to get off the main road and so we decided to take the secondary road and see what this was all about.

What a great discovery! It was one of the most beautiful and spectacular sites I have seen in our many road trips.

Surrounded on three sides by sharp bluffs there was only one way into this beautiful park. The road in was narrow and I was having a panic attack afraid of what would happen if we met a vehicle coming down as we were going up. Fortunately that did not happen.

Ayres Natural Bridge is one of the few natural bridges in the world that has water flowing under it. Part of the Casper Sandstone Formation laid down during the Pennsylvanian Age, time and water eroded a hole in the rock and the stream flowing there now is call the LaPrele Creek.

The arch is 50 feet high and 100 feet long. Surrounded by lots of trees with a picnic area, playground, hiking paths, a sand volleyball court, fishing areas and horseshoe pits, it was the perfect place for a family outing.

Indian legend said that an Indian brave was struck by lightning near the bridge and was killed. An evil spirit, “King of Beasts” lived beneath the bridge and had swallowed the life of this brave. From then on, Indians would not go near the bridge. It became a sanctuary for those fleeing from the Indians. If they could make it t the bridge, they would be safe because the Indians would not come near the bridge.

The bridge and the park are named after Alva Ayres. Ayres was an early day freighter who settled on the lland. In 1920 his son gave a deed for 15 acres of land to Converse County. This land included the bridge and so it became known as Ayres Natural Bridge. Later, others donated more land to the county and the park was established.

The creek running the park and under the bridge had such a peaceful sound. Standing there by the water surrounded on three sides by the high cliffs, seeing all the majesty of God’s creation it was to me a moment to worship the Creator.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.…..Psalm 95:1-5

We are not campers but at that moment I wished we had camping gear because I would have loved to camp by that creek and go to sleep listening to the water running under the bridge.

We have been blessed to see much of the USA on our road trips. This place will always be one of my favorite memories.

Once again, getting off the main road always leads to great discoveries.

Who’s Your Authority?

Heard a great sermon today on the principle of authority and respect. Pastor mentioned three sources of authority we can choose.

  • Our own authority. We can say “No one is going to tell me what to do. I am going to do what I want. I have my rights”
  • Other’s authority. We can decide to do what everyone else is doing, what is popular, what our crowd believes.
  • God’s authority. We can choose to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Hmm. You mean things like “pray for those who persecute you” or how about “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, ‘Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”

Or, how about A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as they had their last meal together just before He went to the cross. He said it was a new commandment. Yet He had told them before that they should love others. He had said that all the Law and the Prophets could be summed up in two commandments: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

What was new about this commandment?

It appears to me that Jesus was giving us a standard by which we could judge how we love our neighbor. It was more than just how we love our self. It was as He has loved us.

As we listen to the social and political world right now, we see little of love and kindness. But what disturbs me is that many of our evangelical Christian leaders are as guilty as non-believers in this battle of words.

Following the authority of Jesus is not easy. I am afraid I have failed a lot on that one. My prayer today is that God will help me put a watch on my tongue.

And I pray that those who claim to speak for the church will also return to following Jesus rather than following the example of the rest of society.

More Wisdom or Laughter

Continuing with my Friday’s list of quotes to bring wisdom or laughter (this one I confess will be more laughter than wisdom), here is a list of things you will NEVER hear in church.

  1. Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!      
  2. I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went over time 25 minutes.      
  3. Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.      
  4. I’ve decided to give our church the $500.00 a month I used to send to TV evangelists.      
  5. I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class.      
  6. Forget the denominational minimum salary: let’s pay our pastor so he can live like we do.      
  7. I love it when we sing songs I’ve never heard before!      
  8. Since we’re all here, let’s start the worship service early!      
  9. Pastor, we’d like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas.      
  10. Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign.

If you like the laughter, check out my other lists.

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.

Overheard in an Orchard

As I sit in my easy chair and watch the birds in my back yard – robins, cardinals, flinches, blue jays and doves, this poem comes to my mind.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow;
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin;
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29–31 — New Living Translation (NLT)

A List for Wisdom and Laughter – In Honor of Mothers

I have shared some of the one sentence (or two) quotes that I have found either good for a laugh – or serious reflection.

So – in honor of our mothers, let me share some quotes that I hope will make you laugh – but also appreciate your mother.

Things mother would NEVER say:

  1. “How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?”
  2. “Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too”
  3. “Just leave all the lights on … it makes the house look more cheery”
  4. “Let me smell that shirt — Yeah, it’s good for another week”
  5. “Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day”
  6. “Well, if Timmy’s mom says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.”
  7. “The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.”
  8. “I don’t have a tissue with me … just use your sleeve”
  9. “Don’t bother wearing a jacket – the wind-chill is bound to improve.
  10. You don’t want to eat your vegetables – just grab a hand of M&M’s.

Do You Take Your Shoes Off – or Pluck Blackberries?

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Where is Your Bible?

In our devotions today my husband and I read about a king in Judah who began his reign following two very corrupt kings who had set up idols to pagan gods in the Temple and one had even sacrificed his son to Baal.

This godly king, Josiah, began his reign by ordering the priests and Levites to remove all the pagan idols from the Temple and began cleaning up the clutter that was there and to restore proper worship.

As the workers cleaned up the Temple they discovered a scroll. Looking at the scroll they realized it was the Book of the Law that Moses had given to the Israelites when they were set free from bondage in Egypt and given the land of Canaan for their inheritance.

The priest brought the book to the attention of the king and his court secretary read it to him. As he heard the Law of Moses apparently for the first time, he tore his clothes in despair. He realized how far from this book the nation had gone.

He immediately called for the nation’s leaders to come to Jerusalem and hear the Law and made plans to celebrate the Passover which they had not done in generations.

As I thought about this discovery, I wondered how long had the Book of the Law been missing. Had no one realized it was gone? Had no one searched for it? Did this generation even know such a book existed? Did anyone care?

Fast forward to today.

I have to wonder: How long has the Word of God been neglected in our homes, our churches, our families? Our children know the super heroes – Batman, Super Woman – do they know the heroes of the Bible – Joseph, Daniel, Stephen?

Many Christians today say we have made an idol out of the Bible. That it is Jesus we need to be concerned about, not the Bible.

But I have to ask: How would I know about Jesus if not for the Bible? Without John 3:16 I would never have known that God sent His son for me. Without the Sermon on the Mount, I would never know what being a part of God’s kingdom really looks like. Without Matthew 28 I would never know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news with the entire world.

Depending on what study you look at you will find that kids today spend 3 to 5 hours watching TV or on the internet. I realize that varies from home to home and many parents do limit their children’s screen time. Still, I wonder if in our Christian homes our children spend even one hour a week in God’s Word.

Do we really know what we believe and why we believe it? Do our children know?

  • The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Apostle Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
  • The followers of Jesus in Berea were commended because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
  • The writer of Hebrews tells us that “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
  • When Jesus was tempted by Satan he answered each temptation by quoting Scripture. In one instance he said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Today we have many that claim to be speaking for God. To know whether or not what they say is true, we have to go back to the Word of God. That is our guide.

Do you know where your Bible is?

Quote from Charles Spurgeon

Another list for Wisdom or Laughter

In my reading I love to collect those one or two sentence phrases that make me laugh or make me think. Here are a few I hope you enjoy.

  1. Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society…Mark Twain
  2. Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain he is not the man she married?…Barbra Streisand
  3. The trouble with “A place for everything and everything in its place” is that there is always more everything than places…Elayne Bundy
  4. The reason they are called the opposite sex is every time you think you have fooled your wife, It’s just the opposite…Walter Winchell
  5. Before we work on artifical intelligence, why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?…Steve Polyak
  6. Three wise men – are you serious?…Author unknown
  7. You can learn much from children. How much patience you have, for instance…Franklin P. Jones
  8. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself…Tom Wilson
  9. If we’re not meant to have midnight snacks, why is there a light in the fridge?…Unknown
  10. I love being married. It’s so great to find one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life…Rita Rudner

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.