Sunday, June 24, 2018

Born of the Spirit

I belong to a prayer partner Facebook group that was started by a friend from college. The most recent post was a photo of a small group of Christian Saudi Arabian students here in the U.S. They heard a testimony by a young person who said they came to Christ through "kind American Christians and a dream."

This is the not first time I've heard about Muslim people encountering Jesus through dreams. Probably the first time was a few years ago, when author and apologist Nabeel Qureshi visited our church. Qureshi told us about how he came to Jesus through a long process of investigation and debates with college friends about the historical claims of Christianity and his natal religion, Islam.

Then, during a period of 5 months, he experienced three vivid dreams telling him the Christianity was true and he should follow Jesus.

The Gospel Coalition has a detailed story about Qureshi here: TGC Qureshi Obituary
Qureshi wrote a NYT bestselling author about his experience called Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Dreams are not normally taken seriously in our culture. Most of time when we hear people talking their dreams, or getting into dream interpretation, we are skeptical and think they are a little "out there."

Another thing we tend to be skeptical about is miracles. We are anxious to find scientific reasons for things such as healings or supernatural phenomena. To most of us, such things happened "back then" or "somewhere else."

But the truth is, if we believe in God and His creation and all the little details about our world that we take for granted, then we should believe in miracles and dreams and other things that are "outside the norm." We should not be immediately dismissive of these things when they are relayed to us. Conversations such as these can be pathways to great discussions about spiritual matters.

John 3: 6-8 tell us "Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don't be surprised when I say 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit."

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Rapture of Canaan, by Sheri Reynolds

The Rapture of CanaanThe Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wanting to fit in, wanting to believe, pretty much believing, but knowing something isn't quite right. I understood this book.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Book Review: The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

The Great AloneThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book and hate to return it to the library! I don't usually read books more than once, but I feel like I might have to revisit this one again in a couple of years. I think this is one of the best I've read by this author.
I've some reviews that complain the ending is rushed. I disagree. The book is about a family's hope for a new life and how that all played out. It's a compelling story and you just hate to see it end, so for the last few chapters you find yourself saying, "No! Don't end now!" I don't know if this author writes sequels, but this definitely is set up for one!

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 26, 2017

This Hiking Thing, part 2

Continuing to document our hiking/camping/meandering during 2017

March 5, 2017
River Park, Rock Hill, SC

Desperate to hike somewhere, for any amount of time, we looked to Rock Hill for ideas. We found River Park, which is on the Catawba River, down from the Pump House. Here is the link to the park website. The park says there are more than 3 miles of trails. We didn't see that, but we also saw no map. Looking it up now, I see that it is considered part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a connector to River Walk. It was unkept and winter-dead when we were there. We should probably give it another shot in spring, when things are blooming. There is a pretty cool boardwalk over a swamp area. And this little tributary creek:

April 1, 2017
Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center

Another local hike, this one in Charlotte. 10 miles of hiking trails, well marked. There are some cabin ruins in the park, and Native artifacts have been found there, as well. Here is a link to the Park website. We picked up sandwiches and ate at the Robinson Rockhouse. There is an enormous fallen poplar by the house, probably the biggest one we've seen.
As we hiked out, we passed a group shelter where a family speaking another language, we think Arabic, was gathering. We went on by them to the restrooms and Bob found a cellphone left in the Men's. There were texts in Arabic on it, so we took it to the group by the shelter. No one answered their shouts about the phone, but as they scrolled through photos they could recognize people! So we left the phone with them.

April 9, 2017
Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, SC

We have a fantastic place to hike pretty right in our back yard. The Greenway boasts 40 miles of trails, and they add on all the time. Here is a link to the park page. We hiked from the Recreation Complex to the old Grist Mill. It was about 4.5 miles out and back. We like the Greenway a lot, but it is all woods, with no big views, so we don't go very often.

This Hiking Thing, pt 1

So we've ramped up our pursuit of hiking opportunities in the last couple of years. This year we actually bought about $1200 worth of backpacking gear and took a one-night trip with it! It turns out we rather like our gear, but we don't see ourselves as budding through-hikers. A 4 or 5 mile limit is manifesting itself, and we really do prefer having firewood and maybe a pit toilet. We anticipate we'll do a bit of backpacking, but most likely will defer to car camping with our nice, light gear.

Hiking without gear though...that is becoming a passion. With nice poles (you don't need to spend a ton of money...ours are $50/ by most serious hiker standards), good shoes and a day pack, we love to hit trails within a couple hours of our house.

What's becoming increasingly obvious is that  we need to DOCUMENT where we have been. When we are sitting here at home trying to decide where to go, we find ourselves debating whether we've actually been to a spot already.

So, I'm dragging out one of my (many) blank books...which are still blank because no follow-through...and I'm going to jot down our hikes/travels/camps/Airbnbs so we know where we've been, which places we'd love to return to, and which we hope never to be back to again. And I'm gonna TRY to put them here, too. With at least ONE photo.

Here is 2017, cobbled together from Facebook posts. There may be some missing if I didn't post about them on FB, but this is the best information I can draw from:

February 12, 2017
Colonel Francis Beatty Park in Union County, NC

This park is about 20 minutes from our house. Here's the link to the park page. There is not much information there about the trails..namely, the length. The nearest I can tell, the park has about 4.35 miles of trails. They are beautifully maintained and hikers share them with mountain bikes, BUT...the trails TELL YOU which direction to walk around. If you follow the signs (and if bikers do, too), you will FACE mountain bikes so you won't get run over! We loved that. Major kudos to the planners for doing that. Not everyone follows those rules, but it certainly beats other places like the Springs Close Greenway and the Whitewater Center, where everyone goes any way they want, to their peril.
Francis Beatty is a popular spots for weddings, and there are plenty of sports fields around, so it's a great multi-use spot, but hikers don't feel too crowded.

February 18. 2017
Morrow Mountain State Park, Albemarle, NC

This park is about 90 minutes from our house. It took us that long to get there, but then about 2.5 hours to get home because we decided it would be cool to drive across country, rather than hitting the highways again. The address is Albemarle, but the tiny town of Badin is right there. Here is a link to the park page. We need to go back to this park. There are about 15 miles of trails and we hit a 3.9 mile loop that was all forest. We didn't feel up to climbing that day, so we didn't hit any of the mountain trails, where a lot of the views are. Morrow Mountain is in the Uwharrie National Forest, which we haven't really explored, either. We didn't really give this park a chance. Maybe we'll backpack there. They have some primitive sites that only about 2 miles in.
In February all the foliage is gone, so it's all black and white and of course we didn't hit a trail with a view. I took one photo:

With Badin right there, and being a little town, we just couldn't resist a stop there for lunch. We had lunch at a little pizza & Chinese place. I don't remember what I had, but before we had lunch, we stopped in an antique/junk store and got into conversation with the owner. She talked up the pizza place, remarking that she didn't expect the Chinese food to go over well in their sleepy little town, but everyone was surprised! The remarkable things that stuck with us in this town were:
1. It's pronounced Bae-din, not Bah-din. And it isn't that old. The town was established in 1913 when a French aluminum company bought property on the PeeDee river and open a plant. The little houses were built (with French drains, which are still there) to accommodate the workers. The town was not incorporated until 1990.
2. Reddy Kilowatt:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Out and About: Charging Up

Gone are the days of traveling with nothing but a paperback book.

When I started packing for my month away from home, I packed heavy. With substantial time in Minnesota, which would be warm(er) and then a week in Alaska, which will be pretty cool and damp, I wanted to prepare for every contingency. I packed ALL my summer clothes and shoes and then a bunch of warmer layers for the 50-60 degree dampness in Juneau.

But really the one thing I was most concerned about forgetting was some charger. Sure, you can find places to charge devices, but if you don't have the right cable with you at the right time, you are in for some frustrating moments. I needed cables for my phone, Kindle, laptop and tablet. I also packed my small portable charger. I can use it during the long trip on the plane and in airports tomorrow, when I go from Minneapolis to Juneau.

But. The charger has to be charged too. And for a while this morning I thought I was missing a way to make that happen...the charging cable! So I sat down and started working on other projects, sipping my coffee, and figured I'd have to go get another one somewhere today. I'll be traveling around 13 hours tomorrow, when you count the several-hour layover in Seattle. As I sorted through all the wires and plugs, I discovered that the plug for the tablet would fit! That little cheap, free Verizon tablet has come in handy more than I like to admit. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness, by Sheila Hamilton

All the Things We Never Knew is without a doubt one of the best books about mental illness I have ever read. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is more informative than the Mental Health First Aid class I took this winter at work.

Sheila Hamilton was married to her husband for 11 years. It wasn't until she was well into the marriage that she learned that the cause of his erratic, unusual (and rather jerky behavior) was his undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder. I'm not ruining anything by tell you he ultimately committed suicide. She reveals this at the beginning of the book.

Hamilton alternates chapters in the book, covering the story of their life and information about Bipolar Disorder. She gives a very detailed account of the toll this illness has on the sufferer, their family and work life. But she also gives excellent advice for those who are caught in this nightmare.
I especially appreciate how she talks about educating her daughter about Bipolar Disorder. Her daughter is at risk for the disease, and Hamilton is careful to teach her about that.

I told my counselors at school that I think this should be required reading. I'd recommend this book to anyone, though. It's engaging and informative at the same time...which always delights me as a reader.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

First (Well...Second) Visit: Gusto!

The school year was winding down and one day we just needed to go out for a tapas and wine wind-down after work. Since I get off at 3:30, and my friend, a teacher, gets off at 4, it's a good time of day to hit a restaurant that will most likely be crowded a little later. We chose Gusto! in Ballantyne.

Bruschetta Barcelona-kale pesto, goat cheese, garbanzos, and tomatoes

My friend is not a fan of goat cheese, but she's willing to give things a try. I didn't push her. She kind of pushed it herself. I love all things goat cheese and she was willing to try it again, thinking she may not have had good applications. This was an excellent appetizer, and she definitely came over to the goat side. 

Let me say here that the most memorable part of this experience at Gusto! was NOT the food. It was the service. Actually no...not the service...which was excellent. It was the server himself. He brought the food, suggested the wine, gave us good ideas on the apps. All that was good. BUT HE WAS ANNOYING. He was a pure salesman. And it was not about what we were ordering. It was about what we were NOT ordering. Namely, the pasta. 

Gusto! prides itself on their house-made pasta. Every noodle, every sheet, rolled out by hand. The dough made from the finest semolina flour. "Have you tried it?" he asked. "Yes, I have," I said. "But today we are here for light appetizers and drinks. Thank you." 

He was relentless. 

Seared tuna crusted with sesame seeds. I am just now realizing the menu says there is avocado. Maybe they were out that day? No matter, because this was absolutely ravishing. It was all I could do stop myself from pulling the entire plate of tuna to my side of the table!

This was my second visit. I visited Gusto! one Saturday morning with another friend and we had an early lunch. My companion that day had a pasta dish. I don't remember what I had. We tasted each other's. Yes, the house made pasta is good. So is Oggi's. And so, for that matter, is mine. 

Stuffed zucchini with roasted veggies and orange almond sauce

We ordered our apps all at the same time, but they came in a succession. Which was fine. He paced them rather well. We were not quite done with the first when the tuna arrived, and then the third arrived as we were savoring the tuna. I thought it was cool, how he did that. I thought, "This is nice. Sort of a progression." But the problem is that, each time he came back to the table he would try again to get us to order a pasta entree. More rhapsodizing about their pasta. 

I was getting more and more dismissive. My friend was backing me up, but not quite as vocal. When he said, "Have you had homemade pasta before?" I said, "Yes." She said, "She makes it." He said, "Oh, but the semolina flour..." I cut him off and told him "I KNOW". 

As we wound down our visit, my friend looked at me and said, "Would you come back here again?" And I honestly can say I don't know. The food was delicious. Fresh and light. The wine was good, the time of day was wonderful for a sit-down after work. 

Maybe I should drink a glass before I go. Then maybe the hard-sales waiter might not bother me so much.