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Friday, December 28, 2012

Year End Thoughts (or Snow in December)

Wow, I have not written a blog post in a while!  (Well, at least one with lots of type and pictures.) 
I need to be more faithful in posting, but life seems to get busy and I don't have time to sit down and write a reasonably decent post. Well, here goes.... 

It is now truly winter here! We have had two snows this week and it is fun to walk the puppies in the snow and watch them play. I don't think I have written about the puppies yet on here, so I will fill you in.
We got two Great Pyrenees pups in November, right after Thanksgiving. We are planning on getting a few goats and want the dogs to protect them from predators. It is hard to believe how big Great Pyrenees can get, because our pups are so small and cute!

I have been volunteering at a Bible Club for children in our area. It is a lot of fun, and I have learned so much from the children and other volunteers there. In January, I have a meeting scheduled to be certified as a teacher at Bible Club. I am a little nervous about how it will go, I have 3 "tests" to do, and if I pass, then I can start teaching a small group. It is neat to see how the Lord has prepared me for this and I am excited to be able to effectively share the Gospel and Biblical truths with children. 

A few days ago, my sisters went snow tubing Downtown. I went ice skating at the outdoor rink in the Myriad Gardens. It was so much fun! 

We are enjoying nights reading and playing "Scrabble" by the fireplace in our living room. It is rare now to have everyone in the family together in one room! 

Thanks for reading my blog. 

Have a Blessed New Year!

P.S. What kind of posts should I write?  Please leave your answers in a comment. Thanks for your help. 

A. Posts with lots of photos and some writing

B. Posts with no photos and just writing


C. Posts with an even amount of photos and writing.

This was the Choice Gleanings for today. 

"Lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen."
 -Matthew 28:20

When our Lord Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, He did not leave them alone. He promised them His presence and all these centuries later, we who serve the Lord may be assured of His abiding presence with us too. If the world sees us at all, it is probably as pilgrims, treading a lonely path. Yet we can know for a certainty that the Lord is with us! —Mark Fenn

He leaves us not alone to trace,
Our path across the waste;
But leads us still, with living grace,
Homeward, whereto we haste. —J. N. Darby

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bokeh photography examples

These are some beautiful pictures of Christmas light bokeh. I get this website's photography emails, they have some great tips and tutorials on photography.

Here is a link to their photography composition tips.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

An amazing story! One link in the chain....

There are many links in the chain, people who witness and share the love of Christ with a person. You might be the first contact, a middle contact, or the last contact who has the privilege of praying with a person to accept Christ as their own Savior. But we are all important in the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This story illustrates that. 


“A person’s coming to Christ is like a chain with many links…. There are many influences and conversations that precede a person’s decision to convert to Christ. I know the joy of being the first link at times, a middle link usually, and occasionally the last link. God has not called me to only be the last link. He has called me to be faithful and to love all people.” – evangelist Cliffe Knechtle

Vicky Armel didn’t look the part. She was an attractive blonde mother of two with a contagious smile and warm personality, but she also had a reputation as being an aggressive and street-toughened detective for the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia.

A spiritual skeptic, Vicky had little patience when Christians tried to talk to her about Jesus. She would put up her hand and say, “Back up! I don’t want to hear it.” If they persisted, she would explain that she had investigated many suicides and homicides. “Never once did that dead person get up in three days,” she would say.

Then she became partners on a series of cases with Detective Mike “Mo” Motafches, who is a committed Christian [Link #1 in the chain.] For a year, he periodically offered to talk to her about Jesus, but she rebuffed him like she had all the others. Yet somehow Mo’s persistence made an impression on her. “He never gave up on me,” she recalled later.

One day they were sent on an investigation to Maryland, which meant they would be in the car together for five hours. “Okay, this is your time,” Vicky said to Mo. “You can talk to me about Jesus all you want, under one circumstance: when we get back to Virginia, I don’t want you to talk to me about Jesus anymore.”

Mo grabbed the opportunity. He encouraged her to pray and ask God to reveal himself to her. “I guarantee he will answer you if you seek him,” he said. Mo talked about the reliability of the Gospels and the fulfillment of ancient prophecies in the life of Jesus against all mathematical odds. And he explained the Bible’s central message of redemption through the death of the Son of God.

“Suppose a serial killer is found guilty of his crimes,” Mo said. “Then suppose the judge gives him a fifty dollar fine and no jail time. How would you feel about that?” Vicky said she would be outraged.

Mo continued. “The payment for the penalty of our sin is so high that only the death of God in the flesh could wipe out the consequences of our sin,” he explained. “Imagine the judge found the criminal guilty and sentenced him to death, but then got off the bench, sat in the electric chair, and died in the place of the guilty man. Vicky, God paid the penalty for your sin as Jesus was executed on the cross.”

Vicky listened intently but made no commitment. As a trained detective, she needed time to investigate what Mo had explained to her. The very next day she listened to the Bible on CD in her office [Link #2 in the chain]. Mo gave her tapes from his pastor, Lon Solomon, [Link #3] and Christian books [Link #4]. She began listening to Christian radio as well [Link #5].  ”I had never seen anyone so anxious to learn more about God and the Bible,” Mo said.

Another friend of Vicky’s, Tim Perkins, invited her to Mountain View Community Church on Easter of 2004 [Link #6], where people warmly welcomed her [Link #7] and she heard the gospel from pastor Mark Jenkins [Link #8]. The church also gave her a copy of my book The Case for Easter [Link #9], which discusses my examination of the resurrection of Jesus – an event that was the major stumbling block for Vicky. It turned out to be the perfect gift for an evidence-minded detective.

“I read it and read it,” Vicky said. “Everything I needed to prove the case for Jesus I found in this book.”

Virtually none of the people who were links in the chain of influence in Vicky’s spiritual journey knew each other or knowingly worked together to reach her. But each one of them was an influence that God orchestrated to pull her slowly toward the Cross. Eventually, overwhelmed by the facts, Vicky prayed to receive Christ as her forgiver and leader.

Mo was there to see her baptized. “What a joy it was for me to watch Vicky publicly dedicate her life to God – a God she once swore didn’t exist,” he said.

The following year Vicky got up in front of her church to tell the story of her spiritual journey. She began by saying, “My name is Vicky Armel, and if you told me last year that I would be standing in front of hundreds of people talking about Jesus Christ, I would have said you were crazy.”

Just one later, on May 18, 2006, Vicky was working at the Sully District Police Station when she got word there had been a couple of carjackings in the area. She rushed out of the police station to investigate; Mo had been in the midst of addressing an envelope and was just 15 seconds behind her. When she and another officer emerged from the station, they were instantly shot to death by a crazed teenage gunman brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle.

The senseless slayings stunned the community. Mo was grief-stricken. “I will miss my partner, my friend, my hero, and my sister in Christ,” he said.

But that’s not the end of Vicky’s story. Nearly ten thousand people – many of them police officers – paid their respects at Vicky’s funeral. I’m sure that none of them came expecting to hear from her personally. Yet at the funeral, Jenkins played the tape of the testimony Vicky had given at the church the previous year, in which she described her journey from skepticism to faith.

“I know there’s probably a Vicky or Victor out there who is searching for God,” she said on tape to the hushed crowd. “I hope that my story might help you find God.”

And it has. Incredibly, even in death Vicky has become a link in the chain of influence helping to lead many people to Christ. After the funeral, the church received emails and phone calls from spiritually interested inquirers all over Northern Virginia. “Some people just walked in off the street,” Jenkins said. “They said, ‘We want what Vicky had.’”

One person told Jenkins: “It made me rethink my whole life over. I know I’ve made many mistakes and hurt some people. I want to be saved. I want the Lord in my life. I want him to know that I love him. I’m not sure how to go about doing this. Can you help?”

The unusual nature of Vicky speaking at her own funeral even brought media attention, which spread her story – and the story of her Savior – all over the globe. Who knows how many people will be encouraged to seek Jesus as a result? A church member by the name of Dwayne Higdon summed it up best. “Vicky didn’t just save lives,” he told a reporter. “She also saved souls.”

So remember that all the links in the chain – the beginning, middle, and end – are vital in leading a person to Christ. Most of the time, God uses us as an initial or middle link. Even your smallest gestures – an invitation to church, the gift of a book, an act of kindness in the name of Jesus – can become one of many Christian influences that will accumulate over time in that person’s life, hopefully bringing him or her to faith in the end.

All too often Christians feel that they have failed if they’ve never actually prayed with someone to receive Christ. They mistakenly believe that the unexpected adventure of evangelism is confined to that single moment of a person’s conversion. Unfortunately, they forget that generally it takes a variety of experiences and conversations with numerous people over time before a person decides to become a Christian.

I can think of many people whose spiritual input encouraged me to investigate Christianity. There was the authenticity of my Christian neighbors; the transformation of my newly converted wife; the prayers of my mother; the kindness of a Christian who offered to serve us during our child’s illness; the authors of the books I read; the faithful preaching of the gospel at the church I visited; and even the testimony of a convicted street gang leader who shared his newfound faith with me. I’m sure you, too, can think of numerous links that eventually led you to Christ.

There are opportunities for adventure all along the chain! Our role is to be faithful to God’s command to be his ambassadors in a spiritually perplexed world. You may never know how many times God has used you as a beginning or middle link until you get to heaven – and then you will be eternally thankful that you reached out in so many seemingly simple ways to people in your life.

In her testimony played at her own funeral, Vicky Armel had a message for Christians like you and me. “Don’t give up on your friends,” she said. “Be there for them. Just always talk about Jesus.”

And trust that God will use you as one more important link long the way.

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”  – 1 Corinthians 3: 7-8

For a six-week devotional full of stories that will raise your motivation to share Christ with others, check out "The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk With People About Jesus", which I co-authored with my ministry associate Mark Mittelberg. It’s also available in e-book or audio.

By: Lee Strobel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Which hope we have - poem

I found this lovely poem while I was reading one day. It is very thought provoking. Enjoy!

If we could for a moment to ourselves portray 

  All hope removed --hope which pertains to God--
How black and awful would the picture be!
How blank the future! yea, how aimless life!
What turning of the tide of better thoughts!
What chaos! ruin! what despair!    But oh,
The God of mercy hath not left us thus!
For is not Christ our hope?   yea, more,
The precious pledge of all we hope to have?

Earth's hopes are fleeting, and the fondest dreamed
Could never satisfy the longing soul.
How many a soul, all tempest-tossed, and cast
Upon the shoals of disappointed hope,
Turns, in the bitter loss of earthly prize,
To Christ, and sure and everlasting gain!

Life, at least, looks bright and hopeful
To the young and strong.
Forgetting all things bear the stamp of death,
That this is not our home,
And God must needs make new this blighted earth,
The treacherous heart lusts here and there,
And grasps with eager hold some object coveted.
And so, like children who must needs be checked
In wants most hurtful, and undue desires,
Our Father oft breaks up our much-loved plan,
Or lays our idols in the dust:
And then, if not submissive, comes the storm.
He must accomplish what He will
In His unwilling child.

What folly now it seems, as we look back,
And see how once we dared to fight
Against the Lord!-- the worm to quarrel
With the One who made the universe!
Yet so it was; so foolish are our thoughts;
And all because we could not have our way.
No man e'er wrestled with the mighty God,
And came off conqueror: He must the battle win!
And when the storm is passed,
And we have learned to trust His love
As much as we had feared His power,
We'll thank Him that He took such pains,
Through discipline and patient care,
To teach us that His love was on our side.

For though to break our wills must often break our 
'Tis well; for then we fly to Him; --
And who can bind the broken heart but Christ?
Then, in the quiet of a heart at peace with God,
We rest, and, like a weaned child,
Accept the firm restraint, nor doubt the love
That ministers the pain.
Then we can seek His way with singleness of heart,
And, waiting, work His will.

Experience works by patience in the soul,
And sorrowful indeed it oft must be
To work in us the fruit the Master craves.
But then, the heart that's weaned from the earth looks up,
And hope displaces all solicitude, and we are free
To wait the changing tide of this life's troubled sea,
Now tossed no longer by its turbid waves;
But patient wait upon the rugged shore,
And, though it cover all our heart held dear,
We gladly count our loss our gain,
Because we have a better hope beyond.

The furnace we so dread but burns the bands,
Which hold us down to earth and dim our faith.
Then let us walk with Him; if on the troubled sea
Or though affliction's fire, yet still with Him;
And while we give Him thanks for mercies by the 
For sweet companionships and tender ties,
To soothe our pains and make the way less drear,
We'd hold these gifts as though they were not ours,
But His, and weep as though we wept not
For joy of that bright hope
Which lifts the heart above this blighted scene,
Where sorrow's school and disappointment's blast
Have weaned us, once for all, to wait for Him
In whom is all our hope.

         Fulfill to us, ere long,
             That soul-entrancing word,
         Which thrills our hearts with joyful song, -
               "Forever with the Lord!"

-poem by H. Mc D.

From "Help and Food for the Household of Faith" Vol. XIV 
Published 1896 by Loizeaux Brothers 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I am reading a book called "Think" by John Piper right now. It is so good! 
I thought I'd share a quote with you. 

So I conclude that we must use our minds and we must know that the use of our minds is not enough. We must exercise our reason in the proclamation of the gospel. We must contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We must be ready, like Paul, to go to prison for "the defense and the confirmation of the gospel" (Phil. 1:7).

That is indispendable.

But as we use our renewed mental powers for Christ, we must pray with Paul that the Holy Spirit would attend the preaching and hearing of the gospel. We must pray that the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," would shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Only when that happens will true faith be awakened and true Christians be created who say, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3:8)

~exerpt from "Think" by John Piper.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Water in the Desert

Since the 1967 six-day war, Israeli scientists have been surveying the desert and have discovered that below the surface of the Sinai are great reservoirs of water - enough to supply the wide, dry regions in the center of the Sinai Desert with millions of cubic meters of water per year for the coming fifty years and longer. The water is salty but drinkable. Their tests cause the scientists to believe that the water has been there thousands of years.

   Yet, in that very place during the war, many soldiers died in agony of thirst because they were cut off from supplies of water!

   When Moses led the children of Israel out in the wilderness from Egypt, they came to this same desert place and they, too, were thirsty until the Lord commanded Moses to strike the rock in Horeb.Water came out from the rock and flowed out into the desert. The people drank and were satisfied. The Lord knew that water was there thousands of years ago, but it was unattainable to the Israelites until the rock was smitten!

   There is a remarkable verse in the New Testament referring to this incident. It says they all "drank from the same spiritual drink, for they long drank the water that flowed from the spiritual rock that went with them- and that rock was the Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4 Weymouth).

   You see this world is truly a wilderness because of sin. And everyone is thirsty- apart from Christ! There is truly nothing of the world itself that can truly satisfy the human heart. Solomon had every opportunity to find satisfaction in wisdom, in great works, in gardens, in music and in great riches of silver and gold; but he was still thirsty! He said: "All is vanity and vexation of spirit."

   That rock in the desert which Moses smote- and from it flowed out water- is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ who was smitten on Calvary because of our sins. Now, from Him flows true satisfaction to all who will place faith in Him; and what He gives will not only quench our thirst as we journey through the wilderness of this world, but He also gives eternal satisfaction and joy!

   It was sad indeed that those many soldiers during the war had to die of thirst because, even if they had known of the reservoir underneath them, they could not get the water because it was so many feet below them. We do expect that in the coming years the technology of pumping the water from those reservoirs will so advance that extraction of the water will become practicable and the desert will be transformed into gardens.

   In our situation, spiritual satisfaction is now attainable; for the Lord Jesus said:
"If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." (John 7:37) And, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)

"I heard the voice of Jesus say,
   Behold I freely give
The living water, thirsty one,
   Stoop down, and drink and live.'
I came to Jesus and I drank
   Of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
   And now I live in Him."


tract by Tom M. Olson
originally published by Christian Missions Press (CMP)

Me and my sisters

I had a fun photo shoot with my sisters.  :) 

A few things things I'm thankful for:

#1. being photographer at photo shoots with my sisters.
#2. a quality reflector. (graciously lent to me by a friend)
#3. finding just the right angle for the reflector.
#4. laughter, lots of it.
#5. a warm house to go to after the photo shoot.
#6. great portraits!

We got these from a birthday party we went to. We accidentally let them go! :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Abilene, Kansas trip

                                                   Beautiful Abilene countryside.

           The lane leading to the farmhouse.

   Mimosa tree. I always think of Amy Carmichael's book about a girl called Mimosa, when I see these trees.
          My Grandpa grew up in this farmhouse with his one brother and three sisters. I am the 5th generation to have slept in this house. It is right in the middle of wheat fields in rural Kansas.

                          We were there for the 122nd Birthday of Dwight Eisenhower.

Dwight D. Eisenhower's 122nd birthday will be marked this year with a number of activities at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene.

A wreath laying ceremony is slated for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. Maj. Gen. John K. Davoren, Commanding General, 35th Infantry of Ft. Leavenworth and CSM Miguel Rivera of the First Infantry Division at Ft. Riley will lead a procession to the burial site of President Eisenhower and lay a wreath. Following the ceremony, the Kansas American Legion Annual Pilgrimage will be held at the Eisenhower Statue in the center of the campus. A firing squad and colors will be presented by Chapman Post #240. 

                      Mrs. Eisenhower's sewing machine at the Eisenhower family home

    The Eisenhower family.  Dwight Eisenhower is on the far back left in both of these pictures.

                                                   Beautiful china plates in the Eisenhower home.

                                                       The Eisenhower Family Home.
                                                                 Abilene, KS

                              Classic car and fall foliage outside the Eisenhower Presidential Museum.

 Me standing by the old pump well in front of the house. My Grandpa's initials are written in the concrete foundation of the well.

       Freshly planted field of Winter Wheat. The tractors were busy the whole time we were there.

       "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."

~James 5:7-8 
                                               The barn

                 The piano at the family farmhouse, in rural Abilene. :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog!