Archive for the ‘Historical places and events’ Category

The Galilee and His Disciples

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001 photo credit: Joyce (Johnson) Mannhalter

 

The Galilee, quiet, cold and still

but for the ripples under a bright orange sky

lies in mournful praise. It was here

where once they’d gathered sharing life, 

they’d fished and prayed,

 but now the sea is silent like His grave. 

as the sun sets, its reflections seen

over what looks like a stained glass sea

  merging colors of purple, crimson red 

for the bruised and broken Son of God,

the crucified Christ who suffered and bled.

Now their boats sit idly by with empty nets drawn in and dry. 

His disciples aren’t here, gone to mourn their loss, 

 the Messiah, Savior Lord, whom they followed to His death.

the One who stilled the storm and taught

from a boat about faith, and hope

and how to believe for miracles received. 

Did He not promise he’d return one day? 

And find them again before going away 

to reign with His Father and they would know

that what He said, He would do,

and that in His place would the Comforter come too? 

So they left their nets and boats to moor

on the Sea of the Galilean shore.

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Joyce E. Mannhalter – April, 2019

The story of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus’s disciples can be found in the scripture passages here below: Matthew, 8: 23-27, chapters 14: verses 22-32, and chapter 17: 22 & 23. The promise Jesus made to his disciples of the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) that would come after he went away (after the resurrection) can be found in these scriptures here: John 14:16, 26, 15:26 & 27,and in chapter 16: verse 7. His promise made then for them and for all is the same today, and always. We have the assurance that whatever we face in life with all the challenges, the problems, the good, the bad and the ugly we have the assurance that our Redeemer lives, is still on the throne, and we will be comforted and shown grace and mercy. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever.” KJV

Happy Easter to all,

JEM

 

 

Pearl Harbor – USS Arizona Memorial – a shrine to lives lost during the attack, Dec. 7, 1941

While on a recent trip to Hawaii we visited the memorial site of the USS Arizona battleship, bombed and sunk off the coast of Honolulu, December 7,  1941. It lay entombed in the bottom of the sea along with other sunken ships when the harbor came under a surprise attack early that Sunday morning by the Japanese, and our country entered the war, historically known as World War II. The memorial site is a very solemn, subdued place of quiet reflection. We took the boat over to the memorial site of the USS Arizona and wondered what it was like to live through that time as a U.S. soldier or sailor called up to serve in a war that nearly destroyed all of our Pacific fleet, one that spread for miles off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii. As our boat drew closer to the site of the memorial we could see a film of oil that never dissipates, but settles in a pool at the top of the gun turret. There were over 1,000 men alone who lost their lives on the Arizona battleship. Below are pictures of the ship, the memorial site and the marble wall with all the engraved names of the lost that went down with the Arizona.

The memorial to the USS Arizona battleship as seen from the shoreline.

A portion of the USS Arizona battleship seen above the waterline, believed to be the gun turret. The remainder of the ship sits below the waterline, still in tact. It remains that way more than 70 years after the attack, a shrine to all those lost.

The marble wall inside the memorial with over 1,000 names of all the men lost on the sinking of the battleship, USS Arizona.

 

There are few survivors of World War II left to tell their stories. Most are now gone. But, their stories are documented, captured on film and video, told and retold to the many visitors to Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. They are written into the pages of history like the lives lost that experienced the horror.

If you are a military veteran or serving in the military now, or a family member of one I hope your Memorial Day holiday will be blessed, and that you will have family and friends to celebrate it with you. Thank you for your service. We will never forget and can never repay you for what you have done in the service of your/our country.

As we are perhaps in maybe the greatest of all battles of historic times, to win the fight against radicalized Islamic terrorists, and those who want to destroy us with their terror and carnage we can only pray and continue on with the fight, to eradicate the evil that conspires to destroy all that we have, and are about and hope for a better tomorrow, and a better world, that one day we will all live in peace and harmony together, without fear.

Happy Memorial Day to you and yours.

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

Footnotes: For more information on the USS Arizona memorial you can find it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Arizona_Memorial

You won’t walk that road alone…

Photo taken inside the church of the Holy Seplechure, Jerusalem, Israel in May, 2001 while on my trip there to Israel.

Don’t be afraid, for the road you take you won’t take alone.

When storm clouds come and darkness closes round,

and you fear that you might stumble, and cast your foot upon a stone,

and the burdens that you bear weigh you down and keep you bound,

and you ask, “What am I to do, does anyone really care?”

I want to tell you, I’ve walked this way before when I carried the sins of all.

With brokenness in spirit I struggled carrying my cross up the road.

And your sins? Forgotten, and no more, for I’ve born those too, you see.

You are free. I paid your price. You’re not alone if you’ll walk this road with me.

I came to save and redeem the lost if they believe.

It was all prearranged by my Father at Calvary.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

Matthew 28:5 & 6 – But the angel said to the women, Do not be alarmed and frightened for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here; He is risen, as He said He would do. Come, see the place where He lay.

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He is risen indeed! 🙂 The story of Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection can be found in chapters twenty-sixth through twenty-eight of Matthew in the New Testament bible. I hope you have, and know the peace and joy that only Christ alone can bring, and I want to wish you all a happy, blessed Easter.


The Birth of a King

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001, Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

 

Nothing but chaos, crowds and noise

greeted the young couple, desperate to find

a quiet place, warm and dry

for the birth of their child, the newborn king.

Foretold and promised generations ago,

news of his birth was heard throughout the lands,

and the star in the east that lit up the sky

guided men of wisdom across desert sands.

Shepherds fled their flocks

frightened by angels that came nigh

announcing the news of Jesus’s birth.

To the king they hurried, and in haste found

the tiny babe chosen to rule and reign

lying in a feeding trough upon a cold bare ground.

Hope and redemption was born that night

where cattle grazed, and sheep and goats brayed.

No throne or palace was awarded this king,

yet people came from all around

seeking the savior born that day.

Now in a world where chaos, crowds and noise

  leaves hearts searching and seeking one to follow,

  where joy, comfort and peace

is eternal, lasting and hallow,

there waits the savior born that day

to reign in hearts that just believe.

_______________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14 NIV, New Testament Bible.

I would like to take this time to thank all of my blogger friends, followers and visitors who have visited my blog site through 2016, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of peace and joy in 2017. The amazing friends and opportunities I have, and the positive comments received are what makes blogging fun, rewarding, and an inspiration to my writing. Blessings to all.  JEJ

Whomever wins

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I took this photo of the U.S. capitol building while on a trip to Washington, D.C. many years ago., photo credit; Joyce E. Johnson

 

Whomever wins, whoever leads

however they reign from helm or tower

I won’t question, I won’t complain,

because I know there is One who

rules from a higher place of power,

and all, in His hands.

He will reign forever, supreme above all;

creator, master of the universe,

my father, God.

It is in Him I place my trust.

_____________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Is this our America?

 

On July 4th, 1776, a group of men from thirteen colonies came together to sign and date two important documents of the newly established United States of America. We were united as, “One nation under God, indivisible with life, liberty and justice for all.” Today, we are a country with laws looking more muddled, manipulated and misinterpreted.

Will God forsake a country founded on the principles of a democracy created to serve and protect all, regardless their color, faith, background or lifestyle? No. But, can he bless one that has so drastically moved away from the founding principles by which it was created? The pendulum swings in a different direction today, the country so divided, the parties so diverse. We can affect change from lessons learned in our history, but not if people don’t want to learn from its mistakes. There seems little likeness anymore to the original constitution created when our first congress came together, unified in spirit, like-minded.

Our laws today allow us to live however we choose, marry the same sex, change our sex, and silence the voice of the unborn, with little conscience of what we’re doing. The Muslims can meet, pray and attend their mosques, but a Christian’s rights are scrutinized, questioned, defended in court, and not allowed in our schools. That is not ‘equality’.

People want laws to keep guns out of the hands of killers. But, guns are only a means to a killer who will gain access to a weapon regardless of the kind, or how it is defined. If the intent is there to kill, he/she will find a way, and a weapon because there is evil intent in his, or her heart to begin with. Guns can still be found on the black market if gun laws are instituted, and those needing the protection with one have none.

People want to secure our borders, keep terrorists from coming in, but our country is already hosting and harboring thousands of refugees allowed into the country. Many more have gained access across our borders via Mexico with lax measures in place by illegal immigration. Terrorists can be recruited on the internet, even build their bombs from instructions found there.

Yet, how can this country pass judgment on those who enter our country illegally when thousands of unborn babies die every day in this country? Can we still expect God to bless this country? Are we living in grace, or disgrace when that kind of murder goes on? Where is the ‘justice’ for the unborn when our supreme court justices are appointed by a president who supports and allows such a law?

Is this the America we created when our U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence was signed? No! It is a new America. One that is in trouble, one only God can fix. Can we, “Make America great again?” (Trump). That depends on whether we are willing to get on our knees and pray, seek and acknowledge God, and trust him to heal our land. “Come together, work together?” (Clinton). Only if we are united under God,  will we stand together, but divided without him, we fall.

“We the people… to form a more perfect union…” With reported scandals, dishonesty, and accusations seen in both of our presidential candidates we are wondering who we can trust to lead us. We are a country torn asunder, not one striving to form a ‘more perfect union’. We are states in despair, struggling to get along, agreeing on little and it keeps us in a pervasive civil unrest.

II Chronicles 7:14 (Old Testament Bible) says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This was God’s covenant to Solomon after he built the temple for his people. Who will we choose to reside in our temple (White House), and sit in our congress?

______________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Exploring the Yukon via paddleboat

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Our first full day of the land tour in Fairbanks, Alaska was via the paddleboat, Discovery. About a two hour trip up and down and around the Chena River provided shoreline views of life, the way it is now, and the way it was in the early years of the gold rush exploration in the Yukon territories. Gold mining, adventuring across untouched wilderness areas, homesteading, salmon fishing, and hunting caribou and moose were just a few of the reasons that brought thousands into these upper regions giving the state of Alaska its symbolic fame and iconic name, “The Last Frontier.” The town of Fairbanks now has about 100,000 inhabitants, second in size to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.

The instructional guided tour on this pristine river allowed us a glimpse into the culture, history and habitation of native Alaskans, the Iditarod sled dog races, the wildlife, game and environment preserved along the banks of the river and coastal waters.

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On the Chena River, as seen from the paddleboat, Discovery 1.

 

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A group of caribou in protected preserve, along the Chena River.

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An Iditarod sled dog team in training along the Chena River. The competing sled dog teams are a mix of Alaskan Husky, for their ability to withstand the extreme cold, and pull weight, and the Greyhound breed, for their speed. Bred together these dogs know two things well; to pull weight and run fast. Mushing is a word used in training and competing with these sled dog teams. Sled dog teams are not only used for the races, but also for a means of transportation to carry people in the bush country commuting to work, and also their children to school. During the dogs’ training in warmer weather they use ATVs (all terrain vehicles) to train them as is the case in this picture as they prepared the dogs to give a demonstration for us on the paddleboat during our excursion.

 

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After a workout the dog sled team is let off their tethers to go cool off in the river.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

 

 

 

 

Experiencing the famed Stanley Hotel

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“Look! There’s an ax. It’s just what we need,” my husband said. The long wood handled ax with its red steel blade was one of the featured sale items in the window of the hardware store on Elkhorn Ave., main street in Estes Park.

“Yes. It looks like a heavy-duty one, and a good buy.” I replied.

We bought the ax. We knew we would put it to good use on our newly purchased mountain property. There were a lot of trees to thin out, and we needed firewood.

When we got to The Stanley Hotel we grabbed up our bags and went to go check in. Then I remembered.

“Wait! We need to cover up the ax in the back of the car. It’s too exposed and someone will think…we don’t want someone calling the police on us.” I said.

I went back to the car, opened up the hatch back of our red Ford Escort Wagon and covered the ax with an old blanket.

This was the start to our weekend at The Stanley twenty-five years ago when we had a reservation to celebrate the weekend of our 25th wedding anniversary. We had a second floor balcony room that opened up to the veranda outside overlooking the magnificent Rockies encircling Estes Park. Beautiful and serene.

When we bought the ax we didn’t know that The Stanley Hotel was used for the inspiration of Stephen King’s horror story in his book, and movie, The Shining. Until we discovered all the copies of his book in the gift shop there, and vaguely remembered the story. The Stanley is also considered to be one of the most haunted hotels known. We didn’t know that either, or believed it. Until we heard sounds during the night like one banging pots and pans on old, creaky pipes. There was little sleep that night. Ghost story events are a regular form of entertainment at The Stanley.

The hotel sits atop a steep grade, in the mountains facing east, overlooking the town of Estes Park, Colorado. It is designated a national historic site, a mammoth four-story structure with the inside furnished in antique, heavy, ornate furniture in old world period pieces. It is located just six miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and remains still one of the most popular and expensive hotels in Colorado.

Our daughters wanted to grant us another ‘memorable’ night at The Stanley, this time for our 50th wedding anniversary we are celebrating this month. So, once again we were guests, in a king size suite, a gift from our girls, after having celebrated with friends and family at a surprise anniversary party. I guess our girls wanted to keep the tradition going, though it is not our wish to repeat it a third time in another twenty-five years, if we’re still around. 🙂

As popular and expensive as The Stanley hotel is we could not understand why there were no screens on the high windows up on the fourth floor in our room this time. They had been cut out. Literally.  The room was beautifully furnished, but, the balcony off of that floor is completely inaccessible by doors so tightly secured one cannot use them to step out for some invigorating mountain air, or for any other needed escape. It was hot, and there was no air conditioning in the room, so we opened up the windows and just pulled the shears together, and hoped for a good night’s rest after a long drive up through RMNP.

Whether the hotel’s popularity dates back to its founding and opening in 1909, named for F.O. Stanley who came into town on his ‘Steamer,’ or is due to its long rich history of story lore and fame, it has hosted many a traveler and tourists, and then maybe those, who walk the dark hallways, and balconies, unseen. 🙂

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For information and history related to The Stanley Hotel you can find it here: http://www.stanleyhotel.com/accommodations

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Given over to die, so we might live

 

No throne of gold with ruling court,

just a young colt prepared to carry

the One coming; so humbled was He

with no announcement, campaign or promise,

no regal bearing, pride or clout,

no pronouncement or declaration

to any who promised to follow,

but with a mission, soon to be found

guilty, with charges brought

not by Pilate, king or crown,

but by the common people

demanding condemnation.

His crime committed?

Nothing more but Love,

no threats or harsh in character

words thrown upon the crowd.

He held no hate, or bitter accusation

against his jury, judge or fate,

but stood in silent confirmation

as one sent to suffer death

by the father who sent Him

to redeem the world from sin.

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2016

Today is Palm Sunday (the Sunday preceding Easter). In the New Testament gospels it is recorded as a significant time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbling Himself before the people. They welcomed Him then as the One who had performed so many miracles and healed so many. They threw palm branches at his feet when He entered town. But, within a week’s time their demeanor and attitude changed considerably and it became the consensus by all, to condemn Him to death, and release to them another man, Barabbas convicted of crimes charged against the people. It was the custom back then for Pilate, the people’s Roman ruler to release one man, and put the other man to death. They chose Jesus to be the one put to death. But, it was not a coincidence that Jesus be put to death, but was God’s plan from the beginning to send His only begotten son to death for the sins of the world, so that those who believed in Him would have eternal life. This story can be found recorded in the New Testament Gospels in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You can also find it here in this scripture passage, Mark, chapter 11: 1-11.


Brothers Divided

Hagar approached Abraham’s tent, Ishmael following after his mother with little concern for what was coming. Abraham had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and his first-born son, Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute in the desert of Beersheba with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the coveted inheritance. It would come through Isaac, Abraham’s second son, born to Sarah. He would receive God’s covenant blessing and favor, and all future generations of the Jewish nation after him. But, the God of Abraham did not turn away from Hagar and Ishmael. He heard her cry, and saw her distress. He would spare them both, provide for them, and through Ismael many nations would be born. (Paraphrased; Genesis, chapter 21 in the Old Testament Bible NIV.)

The above story is true. When I read about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and Isaac I think about the division, hate, and turmoil in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and people and cultures of other Middle Eastern countries with the ongoing conflict. One might think that what was written centuries ago and recorded of stories like Abraham’s might be of little consequence to us today. But, what was written back then by those who lived and recorded their stories is relevant to our lives today. It comes back, bigger, more profound. The two most basic things we need most are love and acceptance. They can unite and bind us, but. if we have neither only divide and separate us. The characters in the story below are fictional, but their situation and circumstances could be real. It is not just their story, but one in places all over the world.

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Tel Aviv, Israel – present day

“Why did you wait till now to tell me?”

“Gamal, your father deserted us. I never saw him again after that. I felt shamed, as if it was all my fault. So I left, moved closer to the settlements and just tried to blend in.”

“Like a Jew.”

“I had to find work, to support us…even though…” Sahar said, through her tears.

“Even though you were pregnant with a bastard’s son.”

Sahar shook her head, overcome with the emotion coursing through her like a hot iron.

“What about Sam’s father?”

“I was working in Jerusalem at a shop on Haifa Street when I met him. He was serving in the Israeli army then…At first I wanted nothing to do with him. He was Jewish. He came in often, was kind, and gentle…”

“And he married you.”

“Yes. We were married by a clergyman from another faith, because the Jews would not accept me, nor my people him.”

“So he captivates the pretty damsel, and off they ride into the sunset with her bastard son in tow.”

Sahar screamed at him. “Stop calling yourself that. You’re not! I never thought of you like that.”

“No? But, I was the curse that came with the shame of a sordid love affair with a man from Gaza…”

“We were a family. I tried to raise you both the same. I loved you. I never told Sam’s father anything…about your birth, or father. He accepted you and was willing to raise you as his own. He was not Orthodox so my past was not an issue with him. Then, one day…while on duty…with the military, rockets came. He was out there, trying to pull people from that carnage, but there were…Palestinians out there, shooting at them, and he was hit. He died, soon after.” Sahar’s shoulders shook, her cry intensified with every breath.

“And Sam? What does he know?”

“He only knows about his own father, how we met, how he died. Nothing about yours.”

“Then why tell me now, mother, after thirty years, making me believe I was Jewish, instead of…the son of a Palestinian?”

“Because your ties with Israel’s enemies affect your relationship with Sam, and his position in the army. You are brothers for God’s sake.”

“For God’s sake?” He laughed, sarcastically. “Your God does not care about us.”

“Gamal! What are you saying? The God of Abraham and Isaac is our God! We have no other. He is God to all.

“We come from different people, mother. Or have you forgotten that?”

“I don’t serve Allah!”

“But, I do!” He said, his eyes glaring at her, cold and dark. “Goodbye, mother.”

Gamal! She yelled after him, but he did not listen. He was gone, slamming the door behind him, shutting himself off from her, Sam, and all that he knew.

_____________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2016

Footnotes: Last year I posted short fictional stories under the title, Acid Rain, the first one under the title of Brothers Divided where Sam, a Jewish Israeli defense officer comes against those in the Arab nations set on destroying the Jewish people and the country of Israel. You can find those stories here. The above story is fiction also, and the prequel to Acid Rain.

He who stands alone to worship

 

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The Sea of Galilee in Israel; Photo taken May, 2001 while touring Israel just four months before the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

 

 

The shepherd struggled to his feet. Smoke rose into the sky as winds carried the smell of death and destruction of Bethlehem to the hillside.

The annual  pilgrimage of thousands who came each year to see the place where the Christ child was believed born was only a trickle this year in the wake of all the terrorist attacks.

They are the smart ones, who stay away. The Palestinians did not fear the Jews, or their retaliation to the missiles and suicide bombs, but instead the much darker force of evil who controlled the region destroying and desecrating all historic or religious sites. Like a plague of death their victims fell to their swords, and their black flag now flew over Gaza.

Hassan heard a soft bleat.

One has survived.

He made his way through the carnage to the sound growing weaker with every step and found him half buried under rock and debris carried by the blast. Bleeding, legs broken, but alive his eyes pleaded with silent cries.

As the night grew dark, and now quiet the shepherd tended after the lamb. He supposed the rest of his flock was now dead, or scattered. Like all the nights before when the stars came out he looked up, searching, studying those that never failed to shine their bright light upon the hills of Bethlehem.

A glow penetrated the cave dwelling. A star has fallen!

“Hassan! It is I.”

He shook with fear. Where did that come from!? 

“Hassan, you alone have survived. Don’t be afraid. I will be with you. Worship me, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ sent to save the world from its sin. I came so that you may have eternal life. Believe only in me, and you will be saved.”

He had no understanding or comprehension of what had just happened, or what he had heard. Yet, a calm came over him, seeping into his very soul. Food and water appeared mysteriously before him. Provisions?

He ate. Taking the lamb he rose and walked to where the destroyed grotto now lay in ruins.

It is only a shrine.

Lifting his voice toward the heavens he cried out. “If I stand alone to tell my story I will tell how you came to save me, and that I live to worship You.”

One by one the scattered sheep came back, compelled by the sound of their shepherd’s voice.

It mattered not that he alone survived the attack, but that he was no longer alone. His time remaining he did not know. He was alive. He had this moment now.

___________________

Footnotes: The above story is only fiction. Thank heaven for that. Literally.  🙂 Bethlehem was one of the places we visited while on our tour of Israel in May, 2001. Although the U.S. has seen much of its own terrorism (the 9/11 attack and the one most recently in San Bernardino, Ca.) and those in Paris and elsewhere I remain very thankful I live in a free country, and can still worship the living Savior who came to this world born of a virgin, went to the cross to die for the sins of this world, and was buried and resurrected so we can have eternal life. The real story (a much happier one) of the shepherds and Jesus’s birth can be found in Matthew and Luke, chapter 2 of the New Testament Bible.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV)

_________________  

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)    

 

 

Remembering 9-11

Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson, 1998

World Trade Center Twin Towers, New York City, April 1998

It was April 1998, when my husband, Wayne and I took this vacation, and these pictures.  We flew into New York City to Laguardia airport on a weekday, picked up a rental car and traveled north up to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, across upper New York to Niagara Falls, down through Pennsylvania, in to Maryland, Washington D.C.,  Delaware and back into New York City and Staten Island before leaving for home from Laguardia. It was a whirlwind trip in nine days as we covered all of the upper northeast and New England from the east side to the west and back again in a loop.

While in New York City those final three days we took a ferry-boat over to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Battery Park. As we toured scenic sights of Manhattan taking pictures we stood in front of a memorial at Battery Park dedicated to the early immigrants who came ashore to the U.S., processed through Castle Gardens there before Ellis Island opened up in 1892.  It was a very emotional time for me as I walked about that park, looking up at the Statue of Liberty and wondering what the immigrants thought, what they saw when arriving through the portals of our country’s immigration processing centers.

My grandfather and his family were Germans who came over from Odessa, Russia, and were processed through Castle Gardens like thousands of others. Enduring hardships, making sacrifices to come over to America immigrants by the thousands came over on ships, hopeful to begin a new life here. They were as diverse in color of skin, religion, faith, occupation, and status in life as those in our country today. But, the one thing that bound them all together was their desire to begin a new life in a better place  than the one they had come from, and live it in freedom away from tyranny, and anarchy. Poor, destitute, seeking a new life in a country offering so much, to those having so little, they came, hopeful, committed, and excited to become an American.

New York was at that time the primary gateway into America. The hope of prosperity, the right to choose their own destiny, occupation and the promise of an education gave them a sense of purpose without rules and regulations enforced upon them by a dictator.

My grandfather was only three years old when they immigrated. His greatest dream was to become a naturalized citizen and vote in a real election for his country’s president. He worked hard, got an education and cherished every day and moment he had in life to be all he could be with God’s help.

As I stood in front of Battery Park taking pictures I was amazed at how tall and large the Twin Towers of the WTC were, as  they towered above all other skyscrapers in Manhattan. Such a stark contrast to all the rest of those in the skyline they were like beacons to our country’s business district,  icons of the American dream of success.

Who would have believed that just a few short years later we would see the annihilation and obliteration of the World Trade Centers’ Twin Towers, and attempts made to destroy our country’s capitol, and the pentagon as well?  The horrific event on September 11, 2001 killing almost 3,000 people will live forever in our memory and hearts.

As Americans we owe a debt we can never repay to our military servicemen and women  for what they did so we can have this freedom. Having fought, or died in wars protecting it we can only support them, honor them, pray for them, and thank them for their sacrifice, and service. This is my way of paying tribute to them, to our firefighters, and police officers for what they did then, and do now to protect our lives and freedom here in the U.S.

May we never forget.

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I am re-posting this blog post today, in commemoration of the fourteenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York city.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Rocky Mountain National Park – 100 years

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This year (2015) marks the 100th year since RMNP opened and declared a national park in 1915. We live in Loveland which is only about thirty miles from the park entrance and every time we go up we are in awe at all there is to enjoy and photograph. Longs Peak (14,000 + ft.) and other mountain peaks, their majestic beauty, the wildlife, and wonders of nature and environment always makes us so thankful for what we have in our own ‘neck of the woods’ to the west.

No matter what kind of storms or situations come such as the devastating flood in 2013 that washed away so much of the pristine natural areas  we find that in time nature restores and replenishes all, eventually. Much of it returns and comes back in a new or different way like the re-channeled Big Thompson River. Work is still being done on roads, campgrounds, and monumental markers of significance that was affected during the flood. RMNP and the town of Estes Park has seen record attendance this last summer bringing in the much-needed revenue to fund and support the projects still in construction. But, whatever the storm took from us there will always be the magnificent awe-inspiring mountains that welcomes visitors each year, and us who live near them who never tire from seeing all God has created for us to enjoy.

For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park and the 100th anniversary celebration you can find it here

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Two brothers, two nations, and what divides them

She was hated by one, yet loved by another; the God of the father of her illegitimate child. The Egyptian maidservant approached his tent with trepidation.

Abraham didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute, they set out alone in the barren wilderness with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the ‘promised inheritance.’ That was reserved for Isaac, Abraham’s legitimate son and rightful heir to the Jewish nation of God’s chosen to inherit His coveted blessings.

Hagar could not bear to watch Ishmael die, the first-born son of a Jewish father. There was not enough food to sustain them both, so she chose to die, so he could live.

Was it an omen of things to come, a future not yet prophesied? She gave him what was left of the rationed bread, then walked away alone to die. But, the God of Abraham did not walk away from her. He heard her cry, and saw her tears. He spared them both, and the Palestinian nation was born. But, their God was not the God of Abraham.

This story is not fiction, but true. The bible does not give the date and time of this historical event which separated two brothers, and divided a family. Yet, each of these two boys would lead their own to the creation of two cultures and two nations living side by side. It was hate then that sent her away, and it is hate today that divides them still.  

But, although Abraham and Sarah made mistakes then there were other decisive moments later that proved and tested the faith and strength of a man obedient to God who was willing to sacrifice his beloved legitimate son, Isaac on an altar to God. But, God stayed his hand in time before Isaac was slain. A transition and period of time in between events shows Abraham’s strong character and maturity changing forever the direction of his life, his descendants’ lives and ultimately the destiny of Israel’s.

Today, centuries later we see still the turmoil and unrest in the Middle East as reports come almost daily of terrorist’s acts, missiles and rockets fired at Israel, and new threats of war as tensions rise and Iran promising the destruction of Israel, a country blessed by God since its creation. There is no ‘deal’ or treaty that will work to stay the hand of a country like Iran that seeks to destroy another.  

It is not just the prophetic events that unfold before our eyes, but the same hatred and animosity that has prevailed since Abraham’s time. We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the Middle East, even the world, but unless the tide of hate turns, and evil is eradicated completely there will always be those who bear the kind of hate and evilness that wishes only to destroy life, not preserve it.    

You can find the stories of Abraham in Genesis, chapters 21: 1-20, and 22:1-14. of the Old Testament, NIV

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

 

 


Memories of vacations past

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It was the morning of July 5th, 2005. My husband, and I with our daughter, husband and children headed north out of Colorado towards Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.  It was not my first trip to Yellowstone. I had gone on earlier trips there as a child and years later with our youngest girl.

The beautiful red mesas, buttes, and plateaus of Wyoming merged with the vistas of the serene Grand Teton Mountains as we entered Yellowstone. The sun disappeared as dusk settled over the mountains. We all watched for wildlife and enjoyed the scenic drive through steep terrain and thick forests.

Suddenly, my eyes caught sight of a beautiful animal standing still behind the brush. Too soon, it was gone from view. It looked like a gray wolf with its gray and white fur coat. Yet, from that distance I couldn’t be certain it was a wolf, or a coyote.

After checking into our cabins and getting a good night’s sleep, we got up early to go sight-seeing.

We headed first for the Norris geysers and Old Faithful. The strong sulfuric geysers smelled like burned hard-boiled eggs.

We stood, fascinated at the effect created by the boiling, bubbling pockets in the earth. Steam, heat and odor spewed forth from belching, gray puddles.

In the next three days, we explored the park, the sights of waterfalls, gorges, forests, lakes, rivers, went horseback riding, and hiked trails.

Amazed at the mammoth brown bodies and girth of the grazing bison, my grandson sat up on a mound of dirt  in front of our cabins watching them intently. They watched him just as intently looking too dangerously close.

One morning we headed across the park to the east side towards Roosevelt Lodge for breakfast and stopped to photograph the lush, green pastures and landscape. That night we enjoyed an old-fashioned cowboy style cook out and wagon ride through sage brush, prairies and pastures. Wildlife of all kinds roamed freely about undaunted to our encroachment on their habitat.

On the way back down to Canyon Village that night sitting contentedly in a wet marsh just a ways further was a big male moose. Parking the SUV on the side of the road, we all jumped out. My excited husband was once again ready with the camcorder and ran down the road towards the marsh. The moose got up and sauntered out of the marsh, up into the hills all the while unaware that my husband had captured his essence on tape.

A trip to the wolf and grizzly bear game preserve on the northwest side of the park was another place we visited while on this trip. The preserve had several different species of bears, mountain lions, snakes and other game set back into a natural area where they were treated and cared for as if in a royal zoo.

It was 6:00 a.m. and our last morning there when we drove south, watching the wildlife grazing for food when we spotted it. There, coming towards us was a huge male grizzly bear off the side of the road. The sun was just coming up over the horizon. What an amazing sight to see this beautiful creature foraging for his early morning breakfast. The large humped back bear sniffed the air as if sensing our presence parked, about fifteen feet away, snapping pictures and taping his every move and turn.

“This way, over here. Now! That’s it. That’s good. Great! We got him.” My husband said as he was sticking halfway out through the sun roof aiming his camcorder. The bear stopped and stared back as if daring us to come closer. We had no way of predicting his movement or reaction to our being there. My son-in-law was prepared with his foot to the pedal if we needed to get away in a hurry.

Before leaving the park that day we had photographed and videotaped grizzly bears, black bears, a moose, elk, wolves, coyote, fox, otters, bald eagles, and bison.

We reluctantly headed south out of the park through the Grand Tetons, thankful and felt blessed to see what our country and national parks has preserved and maintained for over one hundred years.

Although a big fire in 1988 destroyed much of the park’s trees and forests, it has since revived itself with new growth, and regeneration. Old burnt down trees lay beside the new seedlings and saplings reminding us that nature can restore it and compensate for its loss. It is a vivid illustration of rebirth.

The bears, bison and wildlife still remain one of the biggest attractions for tourists. But, because of the confrontations and attacks by bison and bears the rules were changed to protect visitors to the park. They aren’t allowed to feed peanuts to the bears like we did when I was a child as we hung out of car windows to get a good picture of them, luring them ever closer with the peanuts.

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

The scarlet cord

“Go! Check out the land, especially the city of Jericho. Then report back to me.” Joshua said.

The two men entered town under the cloak of darkness. A thick wall rose above them encompassing the entire city.

They went directly to the home of Rahab, a prostitute whose house was built into the high wall. She agreed to hide them under stalks of flax on her roof.

But, the king learned of their mission and where they were. He sent his men after them. “By order of the king, you are to release the spies to us.”

“They were here, yes, but they have left. I didn’t know who they were, or where they’d come from. But if you go now, and hurry you might catch them before the city gates close.” Rahab said.

When the king’s men were gone she went to warn the spies they would be pursued.

“Everyone knows of your strength and reputation. All the people fear you. They’ve heard of your victories, how you have conquered all where you have gone. Promise me you will spare my family and household when you return, since I have been good to you.”

“You have our word. Hang this scarlet cord from your window the day we return and you and all your family and household will be saved.”

Rahab agreed. “It will be as you say.”

They lowered themselves down by the scarlet cord from her roof, and ran into the hills where they hid for three days until it was safe to return to their camp.

On the day that Joshua and the Israelites took possession of  the city of Jericho Rahab and all her household were saved because she hung the scarlet cord from her window above the city wall.

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

Footnotes: You can find the story of Rahab and the spies in Joshua, chapters 2 – 7 of the Old Testament bible. Rahab put herself at risk hiding the Israeli spies, and lying about their whereabouts. But she chose to take an active part in their plan to capture the city of Jericho because she knew they were God’s chosen people. Because of her courage she and all her family were saved.    

The ways in which God performs His miracles will astound us because in the natural we cannot comprehend it. Our walls may look impenetrable, doors and gates firmly shut beyond our control. But, when Israel’s army marched in and surrounded the city their loud call and shout brought down the wall, collapsing all at their feet, and the entire city was open to them so they could take possession, because they believed. “Everything is possible for him/her who believes.” Mark 9:23

Preserving the past with a projection towards the future

1873 yr. old farmhouse, Loveland, Co.

The Milner- Schwarz House – 1873 yr. old farmhouse, Loveland, Co.

 

It is impossible to imagine what life was like well over a hundred years ago when we did not live in that time. This small 1873 yr. old farm-house was the first built, in this town and housed a family of farmers who made their living by what they grew. This historic home was nearly washed away in our 2013 flood here like so much else. But, fortunately it survived and is once again in the hands and care of people restoring it to its original state to be open for tours with newly added features like a miniature railroad, train like the big one that passes through town on tracks behind it, and community gardens typical of those grown with produce sold at the farmers market. It will also house antiques on display that tell their own story and history.

In preserving what once was we are reminded of things important to our community back then when farming and the sugar beet industry were paramount to living on what the land could return back in produce. Today as a thriving, growing city with its many museums and fine arts galleries hosting sculpture shows and companies with a long history like Hewlett-Packard and Woodward it continues to thrive, grow and prosper with the times. Still, the nurturing of the land with its community gardens, nearby farms, and the restoration of old homes, churches and structures like the feed and grain building that processed local crops grown, the sugar mill, the Burlington Northern railroad and depot, the old Loveland House Hotel, the Elks Lodge and others gives us a window to its past, with a hopeful glance towards its future even though we haven’t yet arrived there. We have only the present. And sometimes, even that is too unsettling or precarious to hold on to in today’s world with so many catastrophic events of nature that can so quickly, easily wipe out homes, towns or communities. So, we savor this moment in time and are thankful for what we have now.

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

A Cross and an Empty Tomb

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The tomb of Jesus, in Jerusalem, Israel – I took this photo while on a tour of Israel in May, 2001

A cross lies prone

on Golgotha’s Hill,

bloodied, scarred,

the body, gone.

A tomb sits empty,

a cold slab of stone

now bare but for a

shroud, stained and worn.

An angel stands near

on the third day’s morn

“The Savior’s not here.

He’s alive. He’s risen!”

The gates of Heaven

shake thunderous acclaim to

the resurrected Christ, crucified one,

Jesus, redeemer, sacrificed lamb.

Angelic hosts shout their praise,

“Glory to God!

Hallelujah, He reigns!”

His accusers stand silenced,

filled with shame.

“How could it be

that the one who was slain,

the one proclaimed

to be King of Kings

now lives and reigns?”

“Surely He is the prophesied one!”

“Praise to the Father, and praise to the Son!”

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 Footnotes: The life and history of Jesus, his miracles performed, his ministry on earth, and the story of His crucifixion and resurrection can be found in chapters 14-16 of the book of Mark in the New Testament as well as other parts of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  I want to wish everyone a happy Easter and hope your day is filled with hope and joy in knowing the One who sacrificed His life to give us eternal life and peace.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Triumphal Entry

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The Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, Israel; photo taken in May 2001 while on a tour of Israel

He came with humility

to serve; not to be served;

He came to prepare for us a place

a home where His father and eternity abides.

Wherever He went, whatever He did

people came from all around

from towns and villages to the mountainsides

to hear His teaching and wisdom found.

He came in love, He came with grace;

He chose a donkey, not a chariot or steed,

 the Father’s glory shone about His face.

He was not sent to impress, or proceed

a following of men with clout or fame,

but with the twelve chosen walking beside

called Disciples, and with Him they came

to learn the ways of the One sent out

who carried our sin and carried our shame.

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Footnotes: The life and history, stories, miracles and words of Jesus’s teachings can be found in the first four books of the New Testament Bible known as the gospels. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)



One bite of the forbidden

It slithered into their lives with no warning. They felt there was no reason to fear it. They thought there was no reason to mistrust it. It was cunning, crafty and deceptive.

The tree, the most beautiful in all of the garden stood in stark contrast to all others in the Garden of Eden, a garden where foliage flourished under a bright sun, where nothing ever died or wilted. The fruit looked like succulent scarlet jewels adorning the tree’s outstretched arms.

Declared the, ‘Tree of knowledge of good and evil,’ the, ‘Tree of Life,’ belonged to God. From all other trees of fruit in the garden they could eat; but not this one.

But, why? What could it hurt? How could one bite of the luscious fruit make any difference? Those were Eve’s thoughts.

Satan, disguised as a serpent used his deceitful manipulation on Eve, daring her.

“Go ahead. Take a bite. What harm can it do? Did God not give you all of it to enjoy?” He said.

So, she gave in to the flesh, and persuaded her husband Adam to eat of it too. The fruit was good.

Ashamed of their sin, and naked they covered themselves with leaves and tried to hide from God. But, God could see all which He had created. They were banished from the ‘Garden of Eden.’

Adam and Eve were a part of God’s master plan of creation. Now, they became a part of ushering in His plan of redemption.

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To learn more about Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden you can find their story in the book of Genesis, chapters 2 & 3 of the Old Testament Bible. The above is my own paraphrased interpretation.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

 


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