Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2014

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.PSALM 90:1–2

New Year’s Eve is upon us. Tomorrow we will turn the pages of the calendar and we’ll be in both a new month and a new year. My family is together in Michigan. My friends are in Maine, Virginia and Florida. And I’m working in Reno.Nevada to ring in the New Year.

New Year’s is one of those reflective holidays and it’s a little disconcerting to have my family and friends scattered to the east. I’m lonely spending New Years without Glen. Like so many on the threshold of a new year, I face change in my life, an uncertain future and the dawning awareness that a chapter of life is closing for good. In an uncertain world I yearn for stability and predictability.

Then in the early morning darkness I found myself spontaneously humming the tune to the Isaac Watts hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”. The hymn reminds me that He has been at my side every year of my life to supply my needs. And He will stay by our sides as we meet challenges of this new year together.

May this new year bring you immense happiness in all you do and put a renewed confidence in your heart.

Unbroken

December 29th, 2014

Yesterday I had the honor of seeing the unbelievable true story of courage, survival, resilience and redemption through forgiveness. I went to see Unbroken. And before I begin, let me say I have not read the book.

The basic story line is that after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. But there is so much more to learn about American hero Louis Zamperini and his character.

I read a few reviews that called the movie predictable, fine, and mediocre. I can only guess they were hoping for something with more computer generated graphics to make it larger than life and exploit the genuine content of the story. Unbroken is real and deals with Louis’ struggles beyond war, beyond men, beyond race, beyond countries’ borders, but of deep faith beyond persecution.

Maybe those reviewers didn’t appreciate that Jolie wasn’t making an action movie, but created a character driven piece. That’s what made this a winning movie for me because she revealed the inner struggle to match the physical Louis was up against. This is a very real struggle many veterans face.

After speaking with a man who knew Louis Zamperini, I believe the film followed his life accurately. It shows Louis to survive WWII unbroken, character intact and with a heart of a true hero. The lesson to be taken away from Unbroken is the value and power of forgiveness, not just for the other person, but mostly for yourself. Forgive in all that the world has given you and you will leave a gift greater than yourself.

I was unfamiliar with the lead actor Jack O’Connell, but he proved himself with this great performance. He embodies the characteristics of Louis Zamperini and the life he lived, I’ll watch for him in more starring roles.

Unbroken is intellectually fulfilling, without extraneous scenes and the uplifting story is told very straightforward. It’s not a fluff film about friendships made during the war. And when the war, and movie, ends there isn’t a big hoopla. These men, like my grandfather, simply went home to their families, and back to work.

This is a story that needed to be told, as our WWII heros are quickly passing away like Mr. Zamperini did earlier this year. Do yourself a favor and see this movie. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Glory

December 27th, 2014

Christmas passed like a red, green and gold blur of lights, wrapping paper, and familiar carols again this year. Maybe you were bombarded by gift lists, holiday programming, church pageants, and relatives making it feel like the most blessed of season was more of a Florida hurricane.

As Christmas commences this frenzy can produce physical, emotional and financial overload instead of joy and peace. With all the activity and sensory stimulation, it’s no surprise that some become “thrill junkies”.  It’s a strange response to Christ’s humble birth when you think about it.

Yet something we desperately need is to be quiet and observant instead of constant stimulation. We need to learn that tranquility is to be cherished as a time to seek God’s peace. It’s amazing how much we can miss when we don’t take the time to be still.

Stopping in the midst of a hectic schedule and looking for ways God is working in our lives is an immensely valuable practice. It’s in the simple things that He chooses to display His glory, in the everyday occurrences of life. Ordinary things are used to display His glory and power to remind us He is still at work all around us in the humble day to day goings on.

Therefore, going into the New Year, enjoy moments of silence and meditate upon God’s character. Learn to look for Him and to anticipate His glory in the most unexpected places. In doing so you’ll strengthen the foundation of your relationship with Jesus. Isn’t that what the first Christmas was supposed to be about anyway?

Time For Christmas Music: Away In a Manger

December 25th, 2014

The popular Christmas Carol Away In A Manger was published in 1884 in Boston, Massachusetts with the heading “Luther’s Cradle Song”. It was later published in 1885 with simply Away In A Manger.

The earliest publication refers to Martin Luther, referencing his 400th birthday in 1883. The claim was that he composed the song for his children. However, the claim appears to be false. No records of the lyrics have ever been found among Luther’s work.

Regardless, the song has remained very popular since it’s beginnings. Away In A Manger appeared on the US chart twice, first by Reba McEntire and then Kenny Chesney. In 2013, popular TV series Glee covered the song and most recently Sadie Robertson recorded the song for her family’s Christmas album, Duck the Halls. And did you know Francis of Assisi gets credit for the first Nativity scene in 1223?

For unto us a child was born, far away in a manger …

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay, The little lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes. I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky. And stay by my side till morning is nigh.

Sweet bells they ring, they ring out the news today, That Christ was born, was born on Christmas day, Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me for ever and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there. Sweet bells they ring they ring out the news That Christ was born, was born on Christmas Day, That Christ was born, was born on Christmas day.

 

 

Remembering the True Meaning of Christmas

December 25th, 2014

As a culture we place a lot of expectations on the holidays. As kids we always looked forward to Christmas: all the cool toys we would get, all the delicious food and treats, and lots of time to just enjoy life and have fun since school was out for a few weeks.

These memories are imprinted into our mind and are revived every year with the sounds and sights of the holidays. To most it’s a special time of year, one in which we celebrate and connect with those closest to us. A time we remember life isn’t measured by how many breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

However, for some it’s a first holiday without that special someone to share Christmas with. For others, they may have moved away from their family and don’t know many people in their new city. Maybe they’re in a hospital bed unable to be with family. Or even just caught up in the rat race of having to keep up with this world.

Most of you reading this won’t have this experience this holiday season, but for those that do, I promise they would always remember being invited into your home to share with them the closeness of friendship.  This could be a co-worker, neighbor, relative, or friend. Regardless, this is the most significant gesture of the Christmas Spirit you could give this year. Presents are fun to give and receive, but the true nature of giving is really from the heart.

I know because I am new to Reno, and didn’t have anyone to share this Christmas with. Yet, I was invited to share a very special family Christmas Eve celebration with the Drendels. The home was filled with genuine warmth and kindness that will never be forgotten. Tonight I experienced a family that enjoyed being together and sharing time together in the real spirit of Christmas.

I want to thank the entire Drendel family for opening your home to me and being living testimonies to the real meaning and joy of Christmas.

Monday in Nevada

December 22nd, 2014

Today was an absolutely gorgeous winter day, and my day for adventure, so I drove to Squaw Valley, California. Located west of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada, Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski areas in the United States, and was host site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. www.squawalpine.com

Squaw Valley is a special place alone, but the Village at Squaw Valley is quaint and full of Christmas magic. It’s small enough to walk through and captures a European feel that I appreciated.

The village resort shuttles skiers up the mountain face to High Camp via an aerial tram which rises 2,000 ft. At High Camp, tourists have access to the facilities of Squaw Valley, including a pool, roller skating, dining, shopping, and high-altitude disk golf. Unfortunately, the pool and ice skating weren’t open for business along with dog sledding. The concierge sited lack of snow as the problem, therefore I may have to make another trip to try it.

Not that I would mind. The village has many fun shops and restaurants to stroll through. I popped into Soupa to warm up with a cup of slow-cooked sausage soup. They also offered hearty looking sandwiches that looked inviting. After walking around a bit to work off my soup, I stopped by Wildflour Bakery, located in the Olympic House, for a special cup of Scharffen Berger’s hot chocolate. It was divine.

You will notice some of the photos have a reflection. That was because they were taken from the aerial tram, however I kept them because I felt they offer breathtaking views of the Sierra Mountain range and really capture what a beautiful day it was.

May it inspire you to take an adventure into a Winter Wonderland! See photos at: http://emiling.com/photos/squaw-valley

Christmas: Jesus

December 22nd, 2014

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Sometimes a name is just a name, and other times the name captures someone perfectly. Long ago people would choose names carefully, so to make a lifelong statement about a person’s identity. The name “Jesus” is familiar to us today, so much so one could easily forget it was a name with extraordinary significance. The name an angel announced should be given to Mary’s unborn child. And it means, “the Lord saves.” Yes, He does!

None of us can claim that power. We needed a savior to save us from the tyranny and guilt of sin. Bethlehem was the beginning of God’s mission. We don’t need to wait until Good Friday or Easter to celebrate. Our saving began at Jesus’ birth.

Mary and Joseph probably didn’t understand all of this, of course. However, they were obedient and named the newborn Jesus, The Lord Saves. But how and when the Lord would save them was still a mystery to them. Not for us. This side of the crucifixion and resurrection, we know the extent of our Saviors love for us.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

 

Time For Christmas Music: Angels We Have Heard on High

December 19th, 2014

One of the most classic tunes in Christmas, the lovely “Angels We Have Heard on High” is instantly recognizable and  one of the most popular choices in Christmas carols during the holiday season. The first version of the song was from a traditional French carol called “Les Anges dans nos Campagnes” and was translated into English in the nineteenth century.

The French legend states that on Christmas Eve, many shepherds would sing and call to each other from hillside to hillside. They would call “Gloria in excelsis Deo” which means “glory to God in the highest” in Latin. It was how they would spread their holiday message and cheer from points far away to one another. From hillside to valley, the shepherds song must have truly sounded like angels calling to one another in celebration of the birth of Christ for the Christians living in nearby regions.

Angels we have heard on high Sweetly singing o’er the plains And the mountains in reply Echoing their joyous strains

Angels we have heard on high Sweetly, sweetly through the night And the mountains in reply Echoing their brief delight

Gloria, in excelsis Deo Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing, Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Gloria, in excelsis Deo Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Angels we have heard Angels we have heard on high

Angels we have heard, oh Angels we have heard on high

 

Amusing Christmas Angels

December 17th, 2014

Kids say the funniest things about Christmas Angels:

Mindy, age 8: I only know one angel and his name is Herold. Mommy sings a song about him, “Hark! Herold the angel sings.”

Peter, age 7: Angels don’t eat that much, but they drink a lot of milk from the holy cows.

Veronica, age 8: I don’t understand about angels, why when a girl fancies a boy, they get an angel to shoot arrows at him??

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Just before Christmas God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the evil that was going on.  He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out.  So he called one of His best angels and sent the angel to Earth for a time.  When she returned she told God, yes it is bad on Earth, 95% is bad and 5% is good.

Well, he thought for a moment and said, maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another point of view.  So God called another angel and sent her to Earth for a time too. When the angel returned she went to God and told him yes, the Earth was in decline, 95% was bad and 5% was good.

God was discouraged by this news. So He decided to email the 5% that were good to encourage them, give them a little something to help them keep going.

Do you know what that email said?? … Ah, so you didn’t get it either?

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Christmas angels are hard to find when your eyes are closed, but when you choose to see, angels are everywhere you look. So, open your eyes and count all your Angels; for you are truly blessed.

Exodus: Gods and Kings

December 15th, 2014

I went to see Exodus with an open mind. I left feeling disappointed and wondering why Ridley Scott decided to make this movie. Other than spectacular visuals, use of CGI and gratuitous use 3-D, he don’t seem to care about anything else, such as Biblical truth. You will probably never see such detailed visuals of ancient buildings, slums of slaves, and huge ocean waves. The added effect of 3-D adds a lot to the powerful plague scenes.

Amazing, over-the-top visuals aside this is a classic example of poor movie making. When will filmmakers realize the main reason people watch films is for a story to be told and to relate to the characters involved? It’s not to watch scene after scene of meaningless special effects, as entertaining as they are! The story of Moses in the Bible is rich, amazing and epic. Unfortunately the story in this film is slow, lacks heart, but more importantly, completely betrays the Bible story.

That’s it! There is nothing more that I could appreciate other than I getting out of the house for awhile. Exodus felt empty, cheap with ficitious Moses and Ramses. Christian Bale’s acting was alright, but it’s nothing special. And in some scenes he seemed to have a British accent. That was just weird. Some scenes are memorable, and others down right laughable. There are many points Exodus is actually a bit boring, even if the visual effects are great. It’s hard to imagine the same man directed Gladiator. He should have stuck to fiction and not tried a classic Biblical story people are familiar with.

It’s like this, when you don’t tell the whole truthful story the characters involved are ultimately betrayed. The movie suffers from this particularly in the distortion of Moses’ relationship with God was idiotic – portraying God as an unwise brat. Ridley Scott would have done well to concentrate on staying true to the Bible and establishing a connection between the audience and the two central characters: God and Moses. Unfortunately we end up with a movie that is desperately trying to be epic in scale and visuals but somewhat confusing in it’s story and characters.

I just don’t understand how the director blindly spent so much of his budget on CGI technology without caring about the integrity of the story, character building and writing a decent script. All of which, together with the special effects, could have created a masterpiece. Instead the viewers had to be happy watching the magnificent sequence of millions of frogs jumping ancient buildings. Ridiculous! You’ve been warned.

Christmas: Angels

December 15th, 2014

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

The real meaning of angel is simply: messenger. It reminds us that Christmas is about the message. And it’s good news! And delivering the good news were powerful spiritual messengers whose very presence struck fear and awe into people. Their message transformed mankind forever.

What did Mary see when the angel Gabriel appeared to her? What was it like to look upon this spiritual messenger of God that came with words that would change the world forever? How would Joseph describe his encounter with the angel? In the days leading up to Jesus’ birth, supernatural appearances were occurring as never before.

This year, many of us would like to hear a personal message from God. However, we’ve already received the message, and it’s individually suited to each of us because it was sent to all of us. As the angel said to Joseph: “Jesus will save his people from their sins.” The angel’s message from that cold night continues to ring loud and clear. Centuries later it’s still as true as it was when first proclaimed. In this world so full of wonders, yet seized by sinful human nature, we’ve been given the gift of salvation as proclaimed by angels. Hallelujah!

Time for Christmas Music: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

December 12th, 2014

“Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” Christmas Carol was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley founder of the Methodist church, in 1739. A sombre man, he requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics and thus “Hark the herald angels sing” was sung to a different tune initially.

Over a hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed a cantata in 1840 to commemorate Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s music to fit the lyrics of “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” already written by Wesley.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark the herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled” Joyful, all ye nations rise Join the triumph of the skies With the angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem” Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come Offspring of a Virgin’s womb Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings Ris’n with healing in His wings Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Christmas Cookie Magic

December 10th, 2014

There is in my childhood memory chest a tradition I remember best. The special, yearly family treat when we helped Mom bake Christmas cookies sweet.

An expert cook, Mom cast her spell, teaching us to cream butter with sugar and sift flour well. The kitchen became a magic place, we watched Mom mix and knead Christmas loaves with grace.

Then each of us, bright eyes aglow, would roll out a precious bit of dough and cut out chosen shapes with care in the spicy, fragrant Christmas air. As cookies into the oven went, our mouths all watered at the scent.

Till out they came, a welcome sight, all golden brown and baked just right. Each of us would sample one the very minute they were done. Then frost the Santa, Christmas tree, bell and star with glee.

Though now a modern kitchen Mom can still recall our cookie fun from when I was small. She still gets out her favorite Christmas recipes and continues to make some Christmas memories. Thanks Mom

Gingerbread Cookies

3-1/2 C. flour     1 tsp. baking soda     1 tsp cinnamon     1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt     1/2 C butter, softened     3/4 C. sugar     1 egg

1/4 C. dark molasses     3 Tbls orange juice

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add egg, molasses and orange juice; beat well. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour until firm enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 350F. On a greased baking sheet, roll out half of dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut out desired shapes and remove excess dough from baking sheet carefully. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 1 minute; transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies to frost and enjoy.

Christmas: Peace

December 8th, 2014

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

Peace is a noble aspiration at any time, either in times of war or harmony. When you find yourself at odds with someone, or when you’re feeling pretty good about your relationships. Whether you’re feeling good or bad, it’s always important to pursue peace.

Peace is so much more than the absence of conflict. Maybe you can lay your head on your pillow tonight and thank God that you experienced no conflict, but that isn’t the same thing as experiencing peace. If a husband and wife get tired of shouting at each other and both slip into indifference, that isn’t the same as peace.

The Hebrew word for peace is isshalom and means: May you be healthy, whole, and complete. May you know where you fit in the universe, and may find tranquility there. Augustine said peace is the “tranquility of order.” When you know where you fit into God’s world, you will be in a state of tranquility.

Therefore, let’s pray for peace at Christmastime. Let’s pray that people everywhere will experience His grace, and be filled with a peace that is beyond our understanding. The special peace brought to us in the form of a baby boy, to put things in order.

 

Time for Christmas Music: O Holy Night

December 5th, 2014

One of my favorite Christmas songs. I hope you enjoy this version by Il Volo:

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

Ho! Ho! Ho!

December 3rd, 2014

Christmas joy brings out the Christmas jokes in me, what can I say. Hope these bring a smile to your lips and a bit of Christmas joy to your hearts:

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. They’d been worn all week and needed the air.

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Did you know realize that according to the song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Santa has twelve reindeer? Sure, in the introduction it goes “There’s Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen…” That makes eight reindeer. Then there’s Rudolph, of course, so that makes nine. Then there’s Olive. You know, “Olive the other reindeer used to laugh…” That makes ten. The eleventh is Howe. You know, “Then Howe the reindeer loved him…” Eleven reindeer. Oh, and number 12? That’s Andy! “Andy shouted out with glee.” The proof is in the song!

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Q: Where does a snowman keep his money? A. In a snow bank.

Q: Why do mummies like Christmas so much? A. Because of all the wrapping!

Q: If Frosty the Snowman married a vampire, what would they name their child? A: Frostbite!!

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One last thought … Don’t you hate that awkward moment when Santa Claus has the same wrapping paper as your parents?!

 

Christmas: Joy

December 1st, 2014

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10

Yesterday marked the first Sunday in Advent and it seemed to go largely unnoticed by people I spoke with. Yet, the days leading up to Christmas present us with an extraordinary opportunity for great joy. And that seems to be noticeably lacking, too. Therefore, over the coming weeks I will consider words key words or phrases with are associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. Starting with joy…

Great joy, is it too much to hope for? Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated and replaced with a nonstop buzz of lights and weary shoppers? It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to step aside and experience the angel’s proclamation, “I bring you good news of great joy!”

The angel came to the shepherds on a night like any other. But that night changed everything.

That’s the way it works with real joy. It changes everything. You might enjoy a Christmas cookie, or a gift received. But joy itself, true and pure, is so much more than enjoyment. Joy is a thirst that can’t be quenched. A never ending hunger to know God.

The angel’s proclaimed “great joy” is great because it’s everywhere with us and it’s for all people here and now. This Christmas season take time out of your busy schedule to sit and experience real joy.

 

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.