Christmas Stars

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: 
 who created all these? 
 He who brings out the starry host one by one 
and calls forth each of them by name. 
 (Isaiah 40:26)

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
 the moon and the stars
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
 human beings that you care for them?
 (Psalm 8:3-4)

He determines the number of stars 
and calls them by name 
(Psalm 147:4)

Praise Him sun and moon:
 praise him all you shining stars
 (Psalm 148:3)

A star rises from Jacob, a scepter from Israel. 
(Numbers 25:17)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village Judea territory - 
this was during Herod's kingship - 
a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. 
They asked around,
 "Where can we find and pay homage 
to the newborn king of the Jews?
  We observed a star in the eastern sky 
that signaled his birth. 
 We're on pilgrimage to worship him."  
(Matthew 2:1)

When they saw the star they were overjoyed 
(Matthew 2:10)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault,
in a warped and crooked generation.
Then you will shine among them,
like stars in the sky.
(Philippians 2:14-15)


Christmas Lights

Have you ever wondered
as you wandered through the aisles
 of all the stores we love to shop ~
the discount stores, the dollar stores, 
the lumber yards, and the drug stores.

Have you ever wondered 
what the Chinese factory workers 
think about all this stuff on our shelves?
 Especially the Christmas Decorations.

 99.9% of the items on those shelves bears a
Made in China sticker.


Bob Fu of CHINAaid,
based in Midland, Texas,
 was imprisoned in China for "illegal evangelism",
 and later fled China because
 his wife had become pregnant
 without proper permission from the government. 

She would have faced forced abortion had she not left. 

Mr. Fu tells a story in his book,
of a woman, newly rescued from China,
 being at his home
during the Christmas season.

He tells of her walking to the Christmas tree

 and touching the lights.


Thinking that she had never seen a Christmas tree 
or the beautiful twinkling lights,
he explained them to her,

 then showed her an unopened box of Christmas lights.

He says, that quick as a flash,
she opened the box, disassembled the string of lights,
 reassembled them, 
and placed them perfectly back in the box.

Her explanation was that she had 
spent four years in a prison
referred to as a

...assembling Christmas Lights.

The horror of it takes my breath away 
and clouds my vision. 




News from the Peaceful Valley

Here in North Dakota, 
the NEWS is the WEATHER and the WEATHER is the NEWS.

Conversations begin with WEATHER:
How do you like this heat? (80)
How do you like this wind?
How do you like this fall?  
Are you ready for winter?
How do you like this winter?

Well, I can't let today pass without reporting the weather.

The temperature is currently
 real feel -38

Streets are snow packed
School goes on
The Christmas choir met for practice at the theater
The Oilfield is in full swing.
And Papa hung Christmas lights on both porches today!

And conversation ends with WEATHER:
Stay warm!

And to my Texas friends in 
Ya'll Stay Warm!


Happy Thanksgivukkah!

 Happy Thanksgiving!

O, give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good;
for His lovingkindness is everlasting
(1 Chronicles 15:34)

Dinner is at 5
The table is set
The turkey is in the oven
The bread is rising
Mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, green bean bundles,
cranberry salad, yammy pie,  pumpkin bread,
Texas pecan pie......
It's all about ready.

This is our third Thanksgiving in North Dakota.
(Where has the time gone?)
The first year I would have been
one mess of a lonely granny
had it not been for our neighbors inviting us over
for a  North Dakota, Norwegian
Thanksgiving Dinner.

Last year we invited some other temporary transplants
who needed to get out of their trailers for a day.

And this year, our guest list is four other
oil field workers who are away from home.
Coming tonight are an Australian, a Thai, a Russian
an unexpected guest from Hometown, Texas.

I love Thanksgiving.....
It's all about
Being thankful
It's beginnings are rooted in Religion
It was started by a group seeking Religious Refuge in America
It's a great reason to be with family
It's a great excuse to overeat wonderfully rich food
And it's a time to be thankful

A day like today won't happen again for another
79,000 years!

This year, Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving Day!

79,000 years - Wow!

Happy Hanukkah!

from what my research tells me is...
All about being thankful
Rooted in religion
Celebrated by a group who have sought
 Religious refuge in America
A great reason to be with family
A great excuse to overeat wonderfully rich food
And a time to be thankful
(Did I say that already?)

So in honor of one of our international dinner guests,
who actually did seek refuge in America 
from Russian religious persecution
a couple of decades ago,
I'm trying my hand at some traditional Jewish food.

So if you'll excuse me now, 
I'm going to grate some potatoes for 

Happy Thanksgivukkah!


Dream Trickles

How does it start?
Where does it begin?
The Great 
The Successful
The Big Business
The International Ministry
The Mission

It seems it's just always been there
Grand and Beautiful 
Ebbing and Flowing
the tides of success rolling in and out
seemingly without end.

The rushing rivers of hard work
and perseverance and patience
that have flowed into it
can't be seen from there.

You have to back up to see them.

These rivers transport life and
provide refreshment and growth.

But where did the river begin?
Has is always been too wide to wade across?
Did it start that way?
Did other rivers of inspiration merge into it?

Maybe somewhere along the way, 
it wasn't alone,
but in another larger body of water
influenced and encouraged to start out on its own.

Beginning as a small stream
of ideas and dreams

that came when one Aha! Moment of a thought
dripped into a heart
and a dream trickle began it's course.

Here in Itasca State Park, Minnesota,
1475 feet above sea level, 
the mighty Mississippi River
begins to flow on it's winding way
2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Now he brought me back to the entrance to the Temple.  I saw water pouring out from under the Temple porch to the east.  The water poured from the south side of the Temple, south of the altar.  he then took me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the gate complex on the east.  The water was gushing from under the south front of the Temple. 

 He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep.  He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep.  He measured off another fifteen hundred feet.  By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possible walk through.

He said, "Son of man, have you had a good look?"

Then he took me back to the riverbank.  While sitting on the bank, I noticed a lot of trees on both sides of the river.

He told me, "This water flows east, descends to the Arabah and then into the sea, the sea of stagnant waters.  When it empties into those waters, the sea will become fresh.  Wherever the river flows life will flourish - great schools of fish - because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water.  Where the river flows, life abounds.  Fishermen will stand shoulder to shoulder along the shore from En-gedi all the way north to En-eglaim, casting their nets.  The sea will teem with fish of all kinds, like the fish of the Great Mediterranean.

The swamps and marshes won't become fresh, they'll stay salty.

But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds.  Their leaves won't wither, the fruit won't fail.  Every month they'll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them.  Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."

This is for you who have held that drop of a dream
in your heart, winding your way,
picking up steam
and are seeing the fruit
of those healing trees and refreshing waters 
along the banks.
You know who you are.

And it's for you whose dream is still just a 
a drip, a drop, a trickle, a stream,
a crik, or a creek
hang on and don't give up hope.
You know who you are, too.

We look forward to enjoying
 the refreshing benefits of your rivers.

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
Rivers of living water
will brim and spill
out of the depths of anyone
 who believes in me..."
John 7:38 (The Message)


Throwing Stones

Taking a museum break,
I found a small secluded courtyard where 
I could rest my aching feet.

I put my feet up in a chair 
and settled my mind to the rhythm
of a waterfall pouring onto rocks.

There was a little sign nestled in the rocks.
I had to get up and walk a few steps to read it.

It said:


At first I thought it was a little strange.

Then I wondered how my throwing stones
could be unsafe for ME.


The more I thought about it, 
the more I thought about it.

Then I remembered the story of the woman caught in adultery 
being brought to Jesus for her punishment.

He said to her accusers,
"Let any one of you,
who is without sin,
throw the first stone."
(John 8:7)


He also said,
"Do not judge
or you, too will be judged"
(Matthew 7:1)


Everybody knows that us church ladies
can polish our pretty little stones
and rename them
prayer requests
helpful comments
how they should have done it.

But it is still stone throwing
and it's still judging.


"For in the same way you judge others,
you will be judged.  
and with the measure you use, 
it will be measured to you."
(Matthew 7:2)


I guess it is true.

Throwing stones 
hazardous to my own safety.


Winter is Coming

We took a little trip 
out of the hectic North Dakota Oilfield
to visit our quieter neighbor to the west - 

Even though something in our brains 
wants to tell us 
that we are still 19,
 we seem to be, unbelievably
in the Autumn years of our lives,
Looking at Winter in the distance,

so for hundreds of miles,
our discussion was in and out 
of the future - the last years of our lives.

Where we should live?
What we should do?
Could we build a new house?
Should we travel?
Should we work?
Should we buy a little travel trailer?
Could we live a simpler lifestyle?
How will we get rid of all the junk
(that seemed important at the time)
so no that one else has too?

Looking back, time has flown by.
My Mama used to snap 
her 80 something year old fingers
and say,
"It happens just like that."  (snap)
Life is short.

But for now,
We are healthy.
We have a little savings.
We've been able to travel some.
Life is good.
We are content.

Autumn is a good place to be.

There's no need dreading the future,

Because it is coming

 whether we like it or not.

We can't just sit in a rocker and knit for the rest our days.
We should do the things we enjoy doing.

We could work on those bucket lists.
We could play with
and improve the hobbies 
we already enjoy.

We could learn some new skills,
even if it's something as crazy as learning to
 fly fish in our
Winter years...

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying
"You are never too old to set a new goal
or dream a new dream"

We are looking for those new dreams 
and new goals.

King Solomon, 
the wisest man to ever live said,
"There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity
under the heavens.
A time to live...."
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)


Look out WINTER,


Winners All

My North Dakota friend, Elaine invited my out to her farm to harvest the last of her rhubarb to take back to Texas.  After a beautiful garden tour, we went inside and compared travel notes about her upcoming trip out west, which included Cody, Wyoming.  "Which road is best?  Which is most scenic?  The Beartooth Highway had snow higher than the truck last June.  Don't miss the museum.  Ride the trolley.  Look at this brochure that mentions Meeteetse.  Where is that?  How do you think it's pronounced?  It must be close to Cody.  You should go there too!!"

The next day we played musical gates at the Denver Airport when our flight was delayed and a group of  red-shirted high school boys made all three changes with us.  I finally got close to read the printing on the shirts - "Meeteetse Fighting Longhorns".  What? Meeteetse?  A Wyoming football team going to Texas?  Unheard of.  And to think that I had just heard of Meeteetse - population 327 - just south of Cody, Wyoming.  And going to Robert Lee, Texas (population 1049) of all places.

The coaches of the two teams had met at something like a football camp and made a plan.  After months and months of fund raising, which included building a mile of fence for a rancher, the six-man team's dream was turning to reality.  Their ages probably spanned four years.  They came in all shapes, sizes and athletic abilities.  These well-behaved young men wore naturally faded jeans, scruffy boots, and a little peach fuzz on the chin.  I imagine that not only can they play football but can also rope a calf, skin an elk, and shoot a coyote.  Who knows - they may even carry shotguns in their pick-up trucks.

This team that practices in 80 degree weather under the backdrop of the the Beartooth Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, and the Tetons were headed straight to triple digit heat, and a town whose water supply has completely dried up.  The host team is another gritty group of kids who live in rugged rocky West Texas ranch country.  They can sheer a sheep, ride a horse, and chop down a cedar tree. They too can rope a calf, skin a deer,and shoot a coyote.  Who knows - they may even carry shotguns in their pick-up trucks.

As there is no lodging in Robert Lee, the guests will be staying in the homes of their opponents.  Before going back home, they will attend classes together for a day.

AND - get this - Robert Lee, Texas residents did their own fund raisers to get those guys here.

The Friday night lights are probably turned off by now and the score board is dark.  But no matter what the score was - they are all winners! ALL.  Both teams.  Both towns.

Let's send up a big "YEE HAW" to the Longhorns and the Steers for good news and hope for the future of America!




Bring Back the Front Porch

After MUCH reflection,
I have figured out the problem with America.

It's not the right or the left or the center.
It's not the Baptists or the Methodists or the Lutherans.
It's not the Cold War, the Civil War, or Star Wars.

It's the 
front porch.

Or, more specifically, 
it's the demise of the front porch.

With urban sprawl (whatever that is...),
we built modern houses and neighborhoods
without front porches or sidewalks,

because we need our privacy.

So we have built behind every house, a secluded outdoor living space.

 Away from prying eyes and the sounds of the street.

We love it - no matter how low budget, thrift store, redneck.

But we have forfeited knowing our neighbors.

We don't know when the Olson's are on vacation
 because someone else picks up their papers.

We don't know that the new neighbors next door
have three little boys and one on the way.
We wouldn't know that the Daddy 
let those same little boys 
ride on the leather couch on the trailer on moving day.

We don't know about the guy sitting on the tailgate 
holding a barbecue pit with one hand and waving with the other

or the man standing in the back of his truck 
balancing a floor lamp while his wife drives.

And we don't know about the man on the Harley,
trying to convince his very disgruntled rider 
to get back on.

We would miss waving at
 all the couples, families and friends
 that walk or bicycle by on warm still evenings.

 Let's bring back front porches.

It's a place for a cool drink after a hard days work.

 Problems get smaller as the front porch
breeze blows them away.

Nothing is more relaxing or inviting 
than fern baskets and rocking chairs.

And besides all that,
How in the world would we know when our yards
have gone to 

Courtesy of the Church Youth Group Fund

Come on over and still a spell..... 
ummm.... on the porch.


Nothing Wasted

On the long drive from the South Dakota Black Hills
to our house in North Dakota
we had a bucket list discussion.

Where would you like to go?

What are some things you would like to do?
Well, the children's answer's just needed to be recorded
for future comparison:

Bronze Statues of Past Presidents greet visitors in Downtown Rapid City

Big Brother said:

Food Critic
Graphics Designer
And Nothing Outdoors

Little Sister said:

BMX Course Rider
Bucking Pony Rider
Dolphin Rider
Rodeo Trick Rider 
Dog Trainer
But NOT a Race Car Driver - I might DIE!

What?  An Art Gallery in an Alley in Downtown Rapid City?

Do not ask that your children live up to your expectations.
Let your kids be who they are,
and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit.

Time spent with children is never wasted.


Six in Six

 Family Vacation Pictures!
Leave now while you still can!

This trip was somewhat of a re-creation of a long ago trip
with two girls who were about the same age as the grandchildren.

It fulfilled the mama's dreams for her children to see it too.

We picked them up at the Billings, Montana Airport.

We were 

Happy, Happy, Happy!

Our first night
("How many nights are we staying here?")
 was at Gardner, Montana - 

the north entrance to the park

Where we had a close encounter

with some wildlife

as we meandered 

through on our way to

Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

We spent the second night across from the elk preserve.
("How many nights are we staying here?").

 The beauty and grandeur 
of the Grand Tetons took our breath away

where Papa decided his favorite thing was being old enough

for a lifetime pass to any National Park.

We headed back to Yellowstone

for an Old Faithful afternoon

and seeing everything along the way 

to our 
next hotel in West Yellowstone, Montana.
("How many days are we staying at this hotel?")

The next day we drove through the

Gallatin Mountains

to another hotel room in Billings, Montana
where the daddy flew back to Texas.

On the fifth day we stopped at The Little Big Horn
National Monument
and ate Indian fry bread just outside the entrance
at the Trading Post,

on our way to the Black Hills 
where our next night was in Custer, South Dakota
("h o w  m a n y  n i g h t s  a r e  w e  s t a y i n g  h e r e?").

Day six was spent seeing as much

of the Black Hills sights

as we could possibly


in one day.

Then we drug, dragged, drugged
our tired booties to the next hotel
in Deadwood, South Dakota
("How many.....?")

These well traveled children saw
One breathtaking view after another
Two grizzley bears
Three dozen geysers
Four National Parks
Five states (counting Texas and North Dakota)
Six hotel rooms
Six Days

If you haven't seen all this beauty in person,
get there as fast as you can!

You are a true friend if you made it to the end of this post.

Thanks for stopping by 
and thanks for staying!

p.s. there are still 633 more pictures!
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