Saturday, March 22, 2014

Face to Face


 "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; 
but then shall I know even as also I am known."  --1 Corinthians 13:12

Many things today remain a mystery to our limited human minds.  The truth is often hard to find or understand.  What really happened to Amelia Earhart?  Who was responsible for John F. Kennedy's assassination?  Conspiracy theories abound and it is hard to know what to believe.  The sad mystery of the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 may soon be solved as satellites seem to have discovered wreckage in the ocean.  But other enigmas are destined to puzzle us for years to come.

God knows the truth about everything.  Hebrews 4:13 says, "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."  Luke 12:2 says, "There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known."  God has perfect vision of the past, present, and future.  Nothing can be hid from Him.

We, however, are looking through a glass darkly.  We cannot understand many of the mysteries of this world, much less the mystery of God.  We can see a glimpse of the heavenly when we feel His presence and are filled with the fullness of joy; but we can't comprehend the brightness of His glory.  

But there will be a day when the Lord will "destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death in victory." (Isaiah 24:7-8)  Then we will be able to see clearly to behold Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.  For those of us who love Him, it will be a wonderful day to see our Savior face to face!  No mystery is so great and marvelous as the mystery of God's love.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

God's Comfort

"A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; 
as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." --Isaiah 32:2

The Lord cares about us, just as a father cares for his children.  He has promised always to be with us.  He is our comforter.  In Isaiah 51 God says, "I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth."

We have had a flock of chickens for the past 10 years.  Growing up, the chickens were almost like extra siblings.  We followed them around and stalked them in the trees, studied their behavior, learned their language (well, almost--I'm still not fluent), and became friends with them.  

As much as we liked our chickens, they still had some bad habits; one of these habits was picking on the weakest.  If any of the hens were ill or suffering, all the other chickens would pick on her, hastening the coup de grace.  Nature sometimes can be very cruel.

Unfortunately, people too sometimes yield to these brutish tendencies, knocking down those who are falling and hurting those who are suffering.  But God is not that way.  He comforts those who are sad and lifts up the weak.

Jesus feels our suffering.  He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  He endured temptation.  He knew the pain of being despised and rejected of men, of being scoffed, beaten, crucified, and separated from His Father.  

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted.  He came to give us peace, so that we could know the comfort of His Holy Spirit.  He came to give us a zeal and fire for Him that no earthly power can dim.  He is faithful, full of compassion, and He understands our every need and sorrow. 

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." --Hebrews 4:15-16

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beyond the Grave

Beyond the grave, I see a Light shining 
Far past the entrance of the tomb.
I hear a voice, to me it is calling,
The voice of Him who called me from my mother's womb.

"Fear not, my dear child, I'm with you always:
Always to lead you by the hand.
I've comforted you on cold, gloomy days.
I'll never forsake you, this you  must understand.

"So trust in me, death also shall soon pass;
I've conquered it in victory,
Defeating enemies that did compass.
The tomb is not the end of life's marv'lous story."

Beyond the grave, my Jesus awaits me;
His glorious presence I shall see,
And with the angel chorus I shall sing
Of God's love and mercy--a song of victory!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Facing the Giants

David's father sent him on a mission to deliver supplies to his brother and the Israelite army.  David delivered the supplies, and having done his duty, could have quickly left and returned to work caring for his father's sheep.  No one expected him to fight Goliath.  His elder brother even scolded him for the idea.  
How could a shepherd boy with a slingshot and a few stones defeat this huge warrior?  From a human perspective it was impossible.  But David knew Goliath was wrong in defying the God of the armies of Israel.  He stood up for what was right at the risk of his life.  He had the courage to face the giant because he knew his God was greater.

It is easy to go about our daily tasks, avoiding confrontations, just doing our duty and trying to stay out of trouble.  It is good to live a peaceful life.  But it is wrong to shut our eyes to evil and injustice.  We must stand against wickedness.  

Raoul Wallenberg was a citizen of neutral Sweden during World War II.  He didn't need to fight; he could have stayed at home and read about the results of the war in the newspaper.  But no, he heard that thousands of innocent Jews were being murdered in Hungary by the Nazis, and he tried to rescue as many as he could.  It may have seemed like a hopeless task; he couldn't rescue everyone.  All the forces of evil were working against him.  His life was in danger.  

Still he persevered, saving tens of thousands of lives.  In the end, he was arrested by Soviet "Allies" and after rescuing so many Jews, died alone in a Soviet prison with no one to rescue him.  Even today his fate remains shrouded in mystery.  He could have lived out his days unknown in quiet peace, but he chose instead to fight against evil.  He faced the giants.  He made a difference in this world.

If we do not fight for what is right, who will?  The Bible says, "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him."  Stand against injustice.  Your actions, great or small, can make a difference in this world.  God is bigger than the greatest giants we will ever face.  

"If God be for us, who can be against us?"  --Romans 8:31

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Mark of God

We recently read in Ezekiel when in a vision the Lord commanded a man clothed in linen to "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof."  After him, others followed to execute everyone who did not have the mark of God on their foreheads.  In Revelations the well known mark of the beast is mentioned in chapter 13, and the seal of God in chapter 7.

Many books and articles have been written speculating about the mark of the beast and the seal of God, but what really matters to me is that God's name is written on my forehead: in my thoughts, in my speech, and in my heart.

1 John 4 says: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.  They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.."

Some people have the mark of this world on their lives.  They can't think or talk about anything other than this world.  Several years ago I was in a church eating delicious homemade pie with all the other attendees after a concert and was quite surprised to overhear a few elderly gentlemen talking about their last trip to the bar!

We need to be just the opposite.  We need to have the seal of God so much on our lives that our every thought honors Him.  We need to confess Him before men, so that people can't help but notice we are Christians.

We need His presence and power with us so mightily that it's unmistakable.  We need His Spirit in us so that we will hate the wickedness and abominations that he hates.  We need His love to cry out for the souls that are perishing in sin.  The desire of our hearts must be to do His will.

We need daily communion with our Savior, so that on the Judgment Day he will recognize us and say, "Come ye blessed of my Father into the kingdom prepared for you."  It will be a sad day for those to whom he says, "Sorry, I never knew you."

Know the Lord Jesus as your Father and your best friend.  Let God place His mark upon your life.  Stand against all wickedness.  We must be living testaments of the great work of Jesus Christ.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Winter Breathes its Last at Pine Lake

As many of you know, Pine Lake is one of my family's favorite hiking destinations.  There is always a new adventure to unfold, and each season brings a different flavor of beauty.  We finally had a warm day on Tuesday and decided to take our first hike of the year around the upper lake.  
The first sight to meet our eyes was a flooded-out bridge (above), so we took a detour up a steep snow-covered hill and climbed up to the Christians summer camp where we crossed on their much higher bridge.
We did our best to avoid some very muddy spots on the trail.  Anyone interested in a cabin with a lakeside view?
Uhmm...no, that's the road.

We climbed down another very steep snow-covered hill back to our trail.  It's a bit tricky to climb down a hill like this while taking pictures and still not slip, so I finally put the camera away, and my dear papa and brother (wonderful gentlemen) gave me a hand over the steepest parts down to the trail.

We passed a few real lake-side houses.  This beauty (below) was for sale, if any of my readers would like to buy it we can stop by for hot cocoa and a visit every time we hike here...
Unfortunately, it appears that the lake has a big fish kill this year because of the heavy snow and ice cover which denied sunlight to the lake and seriously depleted the oxygen supply.
What you see in the water above is a mass of dead fish.  Some were rather large--why can't we ever catch any big ones when we go fishing here?  What a sad sight!  There were some living fish that we saw swimming among the dead--hopefully they last until summer!  Winter can be very cruel.
We continued on our hike...


Until we saw a dismaying sight!  

The trail was flooded once again, so we took another detour across a swiftly flowing little stream.  Most of the party jumped across, but Mama and I opted to walk over the log below.

Soon we had to cross another creek, this time over more substantial logs placed there by the park for hikers.
We reached the concrete part of the trail and as the sun set we made our way back to the van and left for supper (a snack) and a peaceful evening at home.  Isn't God's creation beautiful?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Red Rooster Grill

We have driven past The Red Rooster Grill in Iowa Falls many times, stopping at the McDonalds next door for fries and sandwiches whenever we're hungry.  Last time we were in town, we decided to find out if the Red Rooster really has the "good food" it advertises.

We arrived between breakfast and lunch time, so we had our choice from both menus.  I ordered a fish sandwich ($5.00) and glass of water.  
The sandwich was delicious.  I would rate it as better than McDonald's fish filet, which can be a bit greasy.    
Papa ordered a hamburger ($6.50) and onion rings ($4.50).  He reports that the hamburger tasted very good (he could taste a difference between the meat and the bun whereas at some other places, he jokes, the hamburger, bun, and package all taste alike.)  The onion rings, however, were slightly well done and not worth their price.  
My dear mother ordered the soup of the day (chili) for $3.50; she says it was all right. Her side of hashbrowns ($2.75) was unfortunately overcooked.

 
One of my sisters ordered a grilled cheese sandwich ($3.00); it tasted good.  My other sister ordered a pancake ($1.50), and it was a winner!  It was very large (it filled the plate),  and was fluffy and tasty. 

The atmosphere was homey, as if this is the place all the older folks come to drink coffee on a Saturday morning, and the waitress was friendly.  The restaurant was opened sometime around the '50s it seems, and is currently for sale.
 
We enjoyed our meal.  The cooking isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than McDonalds--and rest assured, you don't need to worry about eating anything raw.  At the Red Rooster you'll be around good old-time country folk, eating down-home Iowa cooking.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Secret Sorrow

"Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?"
  --Psalm 56:8

Treating everyone respectfully, kindly, and considerately is a good general rule.  There are many things we will never know about the people we deal with: the cashier at the grocery store, the mailman, the waitress at a restaurant.  

Most, if not all, people have a secret sorrow, physical or emotional: a sore foot, a cough, a back-ache, an injustice, a broken tooth, a heartache, insomnia, and the list goes on.  They may smile and try to be brave, living their lives as joyfully as they can in spite of the problem, but the pain is still there.  

Even the apostle Paul had a "thorn in his side" which he prayed the Lord would deliver him from.  God said, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

Be kind to your fellow humans.  Try to encourage and lift them up.  Everyone has a pain or secret sorrow.  

There are three types of people in the world: those who tear down, those who do nothing, and those who build up.  Help others along life's way; encourage others.  Be a blessing in this life.  

"Only one life; twill soon be past.  Only what's done for Christ will last."  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cedar Rapids Leatherjackets: Part 2

     After my second round game, I walked into the kitchen and helped myself to bottled water and one of the small packaged snacks which the tournament organizers offered gratuitously to all the players.  Coffee was also available, and by the third and fourth rounds it seemed many of the players were drinking it to help their energy levels.  Chess tournaments can be mentally tiring, and even a non-coffee drinker like myself had a hard time resisting the temptation to try some! 
The spacious tournament room
Papa won his second game, and before the third round the tournament director, James Hodina, who had graciously arranged so travelling companions would not have to play each other, warned us that if we both won our games we would have to play each other for the championship.
My third opponent was Komiga Paniah, who had a provisional rating of 693.  I suspected that to have beaten his first two opponents he must be better than his rating; during the game I decided he's not just better than his rating, he's way better than his rating.  (The dreaded thought that I might lose to a 600er unless I was careful crossed my mind a time or two...)  He almost always played the move I had decided was the best for him, so it was slightly frustrating.  Eventually though, I was able to break up his pawn structure and take a couple pawns to achieve a winning endgame

Soon Papa, who faced all the highest rated players in the reserve section, finished another hard-fought upset victory; we were both undefeated and would have to face each other in the championship game!

 There were a few children playing bughouse, so while we waited for the pairings, Daniel J., Gokul (1 game), Ana, the current Iowa Girls Chess Champion Teresa, and I got another game started.  There's nothing more fun, exciting, and relaxing (is that a contradiction?) to do between rounds than play bughouse. 

It was snowing outside, and hoping the road conditions would not worsen for our trip home, Papa and I started our game.  We really prefer not to play each other in tournaments since we know each other's style well, but we had a long hard battle. 

I finished in first place in the reserve (U1600) section, and now my rating has gone up to 1628 which means unless I do poorly in future tournaments, after this month I will have to play in the open section at tournaments.   My dear coach, Papa, tied for second place, with his rating increasing by over 100 points! We really enjoyed the tournament and are very happy we went.
The tournament director, Mr. Hodina, and I 

The roads in Cedar Rapids were treacherous, but thankfully the driving was a lot better once we made it to the interstate.  We stopped at McDonalds for some burgers and fries to eat on the way home (thanks Papa, it was delicious!). 

By the time we reached Waterloo I was quite tired and was fighting the urge to fall asleep.  Finally we saw the church on the hill near our exit.  We took the exit and then asked "Where's the road?"  The local highway was covered with snow!  Thankfully there wasn't much snow and we proceeded slowly toward home. 

Next were the gravel roads!  First there was a little drift to one side, and a little drift on the other side, and then the whole road was covered by one drift after another!  We were blessed to be able to make it, plowing through the drifts to finally reach our driveway.  But it was hardly time to breathe a sigh of relief.  My dear mother and sister had shoveled out our driveway earlier in the day, but a 2-foot drift now blocked the entrance. 
  In case any of you are as tired as I was after the tournament, here's a peaceful tune
I ran to the house to grab a snow shovel and was delighted to see reinforcements (my brother and sister) who came through the cold and dark of night to help us dig our way through.  Finally we made it to the house and thawed out our frozen fingers, and I, totally exhausted, went straight to sleep. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cedar Rapids Leatherjackets 2014

Saturday, Papa and I attended the Cedar Rapids Leatherjackets chess tournament for the fourth time. We always enjoy the Leatherjackets tournament and decided to make the 80-mile drive, provided driving conditions were good (or at least tolerable) on the day of the tournament. Saturday morning dawned and I--almost regretfully--bid farewell to a felicitous repose.  We took our leave of our dear family, and started on our journey.

The local roads were passable, but not in very good condition.  Papa stopped at a nearby gas station to fill up the tank, and I went in to the convenience store to pick up some chewing gum and a couple donuts for breakfast.  
Since it was quite early, the donuts were very fresh.  The one above was filled with cream cheese and apple pie filling (very delicious)!  Thankfully, the highway was in good condition except in the Waterloo area where there were several cars in the ditches.  On one exit ramp there were 3 cars in the ditch.  

I read the first two chapters of Mark about the beginning of Jesus' ministry and his first miracle.  The verses that really stand out to me are about the men who had a friend who was sick of the palsy.  When they couldn't reach Jesus because of the crowd they climbed onto the roof and lowered their friend into the house to Jesus and he was healed!  Now, that's what I call faith and determination!  It's something we need in life if we're going to get anything done.  As a hero in one of Longfellow's poems said, "I'll find a way or make it."

We reached the Physician's Clinic in Cedar Rapids, parked in the parking ramp, and took the skywalk into the clinic.  We registered and greeted a few of our fellow chess players.

I played a practice game with Ana Denison, the 4th highest rated female chess player in the state (of active tournament participants).  Ana beat me last time I played her; this time we had a very tough game though I did manage to pull through a win. I was worried that by the end we'd both be worn out instead of warmed up for the tournament!  After the game, we played bughouse with a couple other players while we waited for the start of the first round.  

My first opponent, Christopher Huber (1300), was returning to tournament chess after a 14-year hiatus.  I played my beloved Sicilian Dragon as black, was able to cause his misplaced rook discomfort, and eventually won.


Papa was on board 2 playing Steve Jacobs.  They both had a rook and several pawns.  Steve had about 5 minutes left and Papa had about 1 minute when I started watching.  A few moves later, Papa took a relatively long time thinking and I was holding my breath, hoping he'd notice the clock!  He made his move and hit the clock with 1 second remaining.  The rest of the game Papa played solely on the 5 second delay.  It was very exciting for observers, but obviously stressful for the players (Steve ended up with less than a minute as well).  After an epic battle, Papa emerged victorious. 
 
It was time for our lunch break, so we walked out to the van to get the cookies and sandwiches Mama had packed for us.  We sat on a comfortable bench in the skywalk and enjoyed our meal; then we hurried back, just in time for the second round. 
 
This time I found myself facing Daniel Johnson (1374).  I have played Daniel and his father Robert in tournaments several times throughout the years; and we've always had interesting, hard-fought battles.  This time I gained a pawn in the opening, but had a bit of a struggle holding on to it.  Still I felt like I held my position together well and kept his position under pressure until he made a mistake in the end. 
 



When I looked at the game afterwards it was shocking how many times I missed good moves because I was afraid of losing a pawn or unable to look beyond the obvious to see the opportunities I was missing.  I know what to work on before the next tournament!
 
Cedar Rapids Leatherjackets 2014: Part 2 will be posted soon!