20 July 2008


That's such a good word, ya know... but anyway, said epiphany occurred on a day of loneliness and depression whose cause still remains elusive. I was praying that God would take this miserable feeling away because I wanted to feel joyful again, and close to my Lord. But amidst the crying and pleading I found James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Now, I know these verses, have memorized these verses, and they are some of my favorites, but on this night I realized something. We fall into trials for a reason, and just begging God to take these trials away is not to our benefit. If he takes them away immediately, we'll be happy and thankful... and then like the Israelites before us, we'll forget and fall into the trials again. Believe me, I've done it :P

Happiness, and even the joy of the Lord, are not dependent on what we're going through in life, but how we handle being inside these problems. I was depressed and wanted it gone, but when I realized that I was supposed to find joy within this pit something changed. Even though I hate feeling miserable, if I can make myself remember that God does everything for a reason, I can be joyful in my misery, knowing that it will make me stronger... weird, I know, but it works... somehow.

I'm sure you all realized this long ago, but I hadn't.

07 July 2008

All Creatures of Our God and King by St. Francis of Assisi

Part 1: Em's Favorite Hymns of All Time

Because lyrics, especially hymn lyrics, no matter how beautiful and profound they may be, are so unappreciated these days.

All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voices, let us sing:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beams,
thou silver moon that gently gleams,

O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
ye lights of evening, find a voice

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
make music for thy Lord to hear,
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
that givest man both warmth and light

Dear mother earth, who day by day
unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise him, Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
let them his glory also show

And all ye men of tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
praise God and on him cast your care

And thou, most kind and gentle death,
waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
and Christ our Lord the way hath trod

Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, Three in One

05 July 2008

Starlight Starbright

The next day after a long evening of singing class at AVC we stopped at El Pollo Loco (they should have those in Washington) and then headed home… to bed… or so I thought. When we all got out of the car the sky was spectacular. On a spur of the moment idea Rosalie and I gathered star maps, binoculars, and a flashlight. Pillows and sleeping bags were thrown in the back of the Pink Phantom (Nissan pickup truck) and we drove down to the aqueduct at 12:30 at night. We set up our ‘beds’ and lay in the pickup bed and watched the stars for an hour or so until we fell asleep.

The Milky Way arched over our heads, showing the dome of the sky. The big dipper lay to the north and because the sky was so clear and dark I was finally able to find the little dipper, the North Star, and the entire Draco constellation. Sadly, the light pollution from Palmdale and Lancaster obscured Bootes, but Cassiopeia was clear and bright. Right above me was Cygnus and Lyra, and to the east was what (after some debate) we decided was Pegasus. To the south was a very bright star which we discovered through the binoculars was Jupiter, and we were even able to see 4 of its moons! But the most beautiful things of all were the shooting stars. Total I saw 10 of them, which more than made up for the meteor shower a few months ago, when I saw no meteors.

Now I know most people I know have great epiphanies and such while looking at the stars, but the only thing I thought of was that God knows all those stars by name, and that line from Matthew West, “I love you more than sun and the stars that I taught how to shine, you are mine, and you shine for me too.” It was an amazing thought though, because I have never seen the stars so clearly with the naked eye, and through the binoculars I could see twice as many. That’s a lot of names… I wonder what God calls them all?

Traversing the Mojave

Joshua Tree National Park houses some of the most ancient Joshua trees in the world. As a type of yucca and a resident of the Mojave Desert these trees only grow between a quarter inch and four inches a year, depending on its age and the weather. They require 320 days of frost free days, which severely limits their range. So because this remarkable tree is unique of course I had to hug one. The one we picked out was the biggest one we saw in the park, and based on growth rates was approximately 900 years old!!

Our first stop in J. Tree was the split rock

Under whose shade (on the other side) we avoided the 105 degree weather to eat lunch. And I know we all have strange bathroom stories, but I believe this one takes the cake. At least it gives a whole new meaning to the term Honeybucket.

See those dark spots? Those are honey bees. Swarms of honey bees. The first three bathrooms we stopped at all looked like this. Honey bees may be disappearing everywhere else, but they are alive and well in J Tree.

Oh, and Joshua Tree also has some remarkably marvelous rocks for climbing, jutting out of the landscape in great jumbled piles. It’s like God’s gravel truck drove around in random patterns dumping piles of granite and sandstone-like rock. Or, as Rosalie, Eugene, Phillip and I decided: they were like enormous piles of fossilized horse and bird poop.

The years of erosion have created remarkable patterns and textures on the rocks, making them easy to climb and grip with bare hands and feet. There were even a few rocks that had eroded into hand holds like you see on artificial climbing walls. Like the beautiful fifty or so foot rock that had hand holds all the way to the top. So cool! But, word of warning, the eroded granite has lots of tiny sharp edges, leading to a few nice scrapes, cuts, and a sliced open middle finger. Yeah… never fold your other fingers back and suck the blood out of your middle finger, you will realize after a moment that you are flipping off all your friends.

Amongst the rocks we found a shady spot with a tunnel that led down through the jumble of rocks. It was hard for Henrietta and her short little legs to maneuver down through, but a leap into Rosalie’s arms worked out pretty well. On the way down, through and out we found two colossal rocks nearly touching, but held apart by a tiny rock, no larger than my fist. I dubbed it Atlas

And then came the Cholla Gardens. There were randomly scattered Jumping Cholla cacti all throughout the park, but suddenly there were thousands. And then after about a mile, they were back to only a scattered few. Beautiful; and although it was a look-don’t-touch situation Rosalie thought I should hug one.

After the Cholla was the Ocotillo grove where we watched the sunset over Joshua Tree. Because there were no clouds it wasn’t very spectacular, but this is my favorite sunset shot. And on the way home it stayed in the 100s until 10:30 at night.