Archive for the ‘Historical places and events’ Category

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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