Archive for the ‘Historical places and events’ Category

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.

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.

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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)

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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)

 

 

 


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