The Mystery

Do you ever just become overwhelmed by something? Something grand. Something mysterious. Something beautiful. Something powerful. As I read the words at the beginning of Psalm 50,

"The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken;
he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting
,"

an image of the earth penetrated my mind. An image of the earth as seen from space.


WOW. Just stare at that picture for a minute. How lucky we are to be able to see such a majestic image! But at the same time, how desensitized are we to such things?

"From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God." Romans 1:20

Now we can see the earth at our feet and from outer space. Looking at this photo, I am just overwhelmed with the awesomness of the inner workings of the earth. Atmosphere. Gravity. Weather. Light. Tides. Metamorphosis. Photosynthesis. Rain. The seas. And that is only the beginning, ignoring the pinnacle of all creation: us. The earth is an amazingly complex creation and this photo is evidence to that.

The Lord God calls to the Earth. He calls to the earth to know him. To know salvation through his Son. To know his glory and his power and his justice and his mercy and his love.

Photo Frenzy!

I've managed to pare down my 600 photos to around 140 and I have divided them into three albums for everyone's viewing enjoyment. Alright, I know the first step is admitting my addiction... :) Unfortunately, my snorkeling pictures are from an underwater camera, but I may scan some of those in.

The first is Island of Maui, highlighting the landscape in particular with a family photos thrown in.
The second is Flowers of Hawaii, no explanation needed. I was pleasantly suprised at the clarity of some of these considering I am using a fairly basic digital camera.
The third is Isabelle Fun in Maui, showing a collection of photos of my absolutely adorable niece who just turned one a month ago along with the rest of my fam.

Once I get my brother's photos, I may add some of his to my collection, because he's got a good photographer's eye. Then again, it's hard to take a bad pic in Hawaii, because it's so stunning. Hope you can enjoy Maui vicariously through these photos. :)

The poor


In reading the Psalms this morning (108-113), a couple themes kept arising from the pages and one of those is the continuing reference to the ways in which God will redeem and rescue the poor and needy on this earth.

Two excerpts:

Ps. 109:30-31 "With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him."

Ps. 113:5-7 "Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap."

As I finished reading these Psalms and opened my browser to come jot down some thoughts on this blog, I was greeted with an additional reminder of realities of those who are poor and in need today in our world. The spotlight for Operation World today is Mozambique, one of the poorest nations on earth. Operation World is a website that provides demographical data and prayer requests for a different nation each day.

The Son of God, who's prayers and heart truly are reflected in the Psalms (as I am learning through reading Bonhoeffer), said that the "Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." (Luke 4:18) And what good news it is! News that the troubles of this life are not to great to be overcome. That Jesus offers redemption and forgiveness and peace and hope to all.

I am reminded of a story I once heard from a lady who spent some time doing missions work in Rwanda. She was ministering to a woman in a village who had very little. Her daughter had just died of AIDS and besides the clothes on her back, she had only two possessions a tiny hut and a bucket to carry water in. One day that bucket was stolen and the rains were beating down on her hut. The winds had torn away one wall of her little hut and she sat inside cradling her grandaughter, who was facing a life withouth either of her parents. The missionary lady was talking with her about her life back in America and she asked the Rwandan woman, "If I could tell my friends back in America something, what would you want me to tell them?" She responded simply, "Tell them all that I really need is Jesus."

Stories like that sometimes sound far fetched for us in America who have so much, but it is the truth. And the point is not to paint a picture of all of life in Africa. I lived there for a little while and I know how much many of them don't want westerners to see only the poverty of that great continent. But the truth remains. Poverty and AIDS are rampant and I don't want to ignore it. UNICEF recently estimated that by 2010, over 15 million African children will have one or more parents who have died of AIDS.

Maui Travel Journal

I'm waiting on some pictures from my brother, before I put up the link to all the photos, but in the meantime...If you ever make it to the Island of Maui, I highly recommend checking out the following:

1. Snorkeling. Having never snorkeled, much less snorkeled in Hawaii, I didn't know what to expect, but I was blown away. Depending on the time of year, the clarity of water and plentifulness of fish will vary on different parts of the island. Summertime, the snorkeling is better in the upper west coast and north coast. These are the hot spots: Molokini Crater, Black Rock (Ka'anapali Beach), Turtle Town and Honolua Bay

2. Surfing. It's been a desire of mine for many years to give surfing a go and I never made it happen in South Africa, so I was determined to do it this time. All three of my siblings and I took a long surfing lesson and it was totally kiff! All four of us stood up nearly every time we tried to catch a wave. If I lived closer to a surfer's haven, I would definitely want to spend time getting better at this sport. Lahaina has many different beginner's surf schools and beginner waves. We did Maui Waveriders and were pleased.

3. Sunsets. Watch as many sunsets as possible. Being on the west coast of Maui offered the advantage of enjoying many gorgeous sunsets.

4. Beachtime. Duh. Ka'anapali beach is where we stayed and it was hoppin. Lots of activity on this 3 mile stretch of beach, but it is a bit narrow and has a steep grade at points. On West Maui, for a bit more secluded feel, check out Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay. In the southwest, Wailea and Makena have great beaches. If you make it to the east coast, check out Paia (they hold many surf competitions) and Hamoa Beach. Hamoa was rated one of the top ten beaches in the world, but it is not easy to get to. The sand isn't the pertiest, but the waves are incredible and the setting is very secluded.

5. Polynesian culture. Try and experience some of the local music, arts, festivals, food. Every Hawaiian native I spoke with was incredibly friendly and they give off an aura of peace and joy that is quite noticeable. We did a luau and it was great for the food and entertainment, but it didn't feel that authentic.

6. Calvary Chapel, Westside. The church meets outdoors, right on the coast in Wahikuli Wayside Park, Lahaina. I can't imagine a more beautiful setting to gather together to worship God. The pastor, Steve Santos, is this laid back islander who teaches from the Word for 45min to an hour. It feels long if you're not used to it, but I was really encouraged by his messages.

7. Flora. The flowers and trees of Maui are breathtaking. I have never seen so many different colored flowers, without being in a botanical gardens. You don't have to go far to find the diverse plant life.

8. Food. The fresh fruit is absolutely delicious, but not as cheap as I anticipated. Pineapple, passion fruit, guava, mango, papaya, bananas...mmmmm. Meals are about as twice as expensive on Maui as in the Midwest, unfortunately, but the food is incredible. Three of my favorites: Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina (get the Mixed Plate or Kalbi ribs), Hula Grill on Ka'anapli (check out the coconut creme brulee), Old Lahaina Fish Company in Lahaina.

9. Photography. THe whole island is one big postcard, so take a big memory card for your digital camera!

10. The Road to Hana. The so-called "Most Beautiful Drive in the World" is a windy, narrow passage along the lush eastern coast and it doesn't disappoint. One piece of advice, all of the best stuff is at the end, so make sure you allot enough time to enjoy the stops near Hana. Allow an entire day, literally 12 hours. The most beautiful stops are Wainapapana State Park (black sand beach and brilliant blue water with camp sites), O'heo Gulch (aka, Seven Pools, a series of waterfalls and pools that you can swim in, right on the coast) and Hamoa Beach. Make sure to stop at one of the remote coconut vendors and instead of turning around and driving the road to Hana in reverse, take the 7 mile unpaved road around the southern coast and drive back up Route 37 to see the sunset. The drive after Hamoa beach was nearly my favorite part, because you feel like you are the only person on the island and the road is so narrow and all you see are cattle grazing on the Haleakala foothills to your right and the endless Pacific ocean to your left.

11. Haleakala summit. The crater looks like the surface of the moon, or so they say. Take a short hike down into the crater, bringing plenty of water, and get a closer look at the diverse colors of the crater's surface. It's so different than anything I've ever seen and so dry, but so beautiful.

12. Entertainment and the Arts. I totally dig pacific islander music and you can find some great venues to hear local artists. Kimos in Lahaina was a great find for listening to live music on Friday nights. Maui is a great place to find some beautiful artwork. Lahaina has myriad art galleries to peruse and on Friday nights some of the artists show up to paint.

13. Last, but not least, Hiking. I'ao Valley is a lush green, rainforesty, mountainous area to hike. Hiking on Haleakala or at certain points along the Road to Hana are beautiful as well.

I'm sure I am forgetting some obvious things, but then again, I doubt anyone made it all the way through my list anyways :) THe proof is in the pudding, so you'll just have to wait for my photos to be uploaded soon.

Aloha


Two weeks. Two glorious weeks. God did a good thing when he dreamed up Maui. My holiday on the island was incredible and I can't wait to get my photos up online for all to see. Here's one just to get the ball rolling.

Well, guess it's back to reality. Thankfully, the midwest heat and humidity of August weren't too bad when we arrived home today. I feel invigorated and recharged, despite the fact that I am a zombie right now...can't wait for a good night's sleep tonight!