This one was Born There….

The leaders of the people were living in Jerusalem, the holy city. A tenth of the people from the other towns of Judah and Benjamin were chosen by sacred lots to live there, too, while the rest stayed where they were. Nehemiah 11:1 NLT

I love living in Florida, but that does not keep me from dreaming of other places. I love reading books and watching documentaries about far-away places. Sometimes late at night when my work is done or even when it’s not, I go on Google Satellite Maps and tour the world. When asked where my favorite places are I respond, “Mostly just the seven continents and all the little islands in between.” I like to go through neighborhoods in Australia and Canada and places in between on street view. It makes me feel like I am really there.

While Lima seemed to be a very modern and wealthy enough city, I visited other parts of Peru that reminded me I was far away from home. One night while walking with friends near our hotel in Chiclayo, we met a young girl sitting on a blanket with her little brother begging for money. We gave her several soles, and she gave us a warm beautiful smile, making us feel richer than we did while the money was still in our hands. Nearby another young nina watched, much too polite to ask, but you could  see in her eyes that she desperately needed some soles too. I went over to her and she quickly took my offering and smiled with a “gracias.” I realized while we were on the same planet, I, being a man from the United States, and the two girls begging in Peru were living in separate worlds. Reading all the encyclopedias in the world and visiting Google Maps would never give me a true picture of the world they live in, even tough we share the same moon and sun.

As I write this I can already hear you say, “William you don’t have to cross the sea to find people living in a different world than you. Just cross the railroad tracks!” True. I even read a while back that different siblings perceive their same family so differently based on age and order of birth that it is not even like growing up in the same family. I walk the campus of the school where I help, which has grades pre-k through 12. I realize each classroom is in its own little world. If you asked a pre-k student and a 12th-grader to each draw a picture of their school, you would never be able to tell that both pictures were of the same school, and it’s not just because the 12th-grader is a better artist. They are both in their own world on the same campus. So, yes, you are right. I don’t have to go far to find someone living in a different world than me.

Have you ever looked at a family member who just said something very far out to you, and wanted to ask them, “What planet are you from?” Even though they grew up with you in the same house? Chances are they may have grown up in the same home as you but  still from a different “planet” so to speak because of how they perceived the home and neighborhood around them. Today I will be talking to my sister about our childhood memories, and she will remember things I never noticed, while I was paying attention to things she never saw. Same home. Different worlds. That could explain why two siblings can both love each other very much and have many of the same values, while each being their own independent person. One moment they can both be in total agreement about an issue and then on another issue wonder what planet the other one is from.

While our worlds can be very similar in some ways but in another galaxy in other ways, it helps us understand why we can be so different and yet similar. This is why only God can judge us, because only God even knows what world we are living in.

The Lord will record, When He registers the peoples: “This one was born there.” Psalm 87:6 NKJV

And you know what? Only God knows where “there” is. In other words, God is the only one who knows what world you live in. But He knows everything about your world. He understands things our own family members have no clue about! And you know what else? He can change our worlds so fast. It’s been 13 years since my friends and I were walking the streets of Peru. That young girl sitting on a blanket begging for money may still be sitting there. Or she may be at the medical university near my home here in Florida. One day she may save my life at the hospital and then get into her Lexus and drive home. Stranger things have happened. Only God knows. Only God is our judge. Only God needs to know. For the rest of us, let’s just be kind. That’s all we need to know – just be kind.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Glimpses of Our God; God as Artist

This week’s SS lesson portrays God as an Artist in various ways.  Once while taking a walk near my apartment in Benbrook, Texas I saw a patch of Bluebonnets along with some Indian Paintbrushes. Unfortunately someone had mixed a little garbage in with the beautiful flowers. Still, I thought to myself, even in a world marred by sin, God still preserves His beauty amongst all the litter and garbage. “The whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

As beautiful as a sunset on the sea may be, God is just too glorious and beautiful for that one scene to express His majestic splendor. Same with an enormous snow capped mountain, or valley filled with Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes.

Please allow me to share just a morsel of the beauty I have captured with my camera over the last few years.

^This picture was taken last week near the Skyway Bridge near St.Petersburg, Florida. I had hoped to catch a cruise ship sailing under the bridge, but God blessed me with this scene instead.

This was taken at St, Pete Beach around 2007. I love the sunsets on the beach. As the sun sets on the beach, an erie calm and mysterious quietness seems to settle on everyone as they watch the spectacular sunset. Most people want a clear sky to watch the sunset, but often the couds reflect some interesting colors, adding to the beauty. Sunsets are my favorite photo subjects, but I have learned to take pictrures of other things too, after friends back home have asked me, “Are sunset pictures the only thing you can take pictures of?”

I took this pictue at Pine Lake Retreat, In north central Florida, back in 2007. I took several pictures for a friend back in Texas who loves horses. I call this picture, “More Than Friends.” God can express the beauty of love through animals as well as people.

In 2006 I went on a mission trip to Peru where I was a part of a large team holding meetings all over Chiclayo. All together we had over a thousand baptisms. Later we toured Machu Picchu. This is a picture I took from the bus as we were still climbing the mountain.  Every part of the world has its own beauty. Again, God is too great of an artist to be able to portray His greatness in one scene or one work of art.

God’s best artwork is with His people. While we are still in Peru, I want you to meet Juan Carlos and his family. Juan, seated on your right, was 18 years old in this picture. He had cancer, to which he had already lost one leg. Still, once hearing about our meetings, He walked, on crutches and one leg, over a mile each way to get to the meetings we were having. I might add these roads were full of pot holes and probably not the easiest to maneuver with crutches. He gave his heart to Jesus and was baptized before dying shortly after we left. I can’t wait to see Juan again in heaven! Juan and all the people we met in Peru were beautiful people. The people in the church were amazing! When we arrived from the bus to our Hotel, we were greeted my several Pathfinders welcoming us on a school night. I knew they did not have much, and I offered one who could speak English, money so they could go out and get some ice cream, but she said they did not want money for ice cream, they were just very excited we were in their city to tell people about Jesus. What really impressed me was that after flying from the United States to Peru, the same church, or Body of Christ, that bid us farewell from Florida, was there to welcome us when we got to Peru. God is everywhere! No matter where you go God is already there waiting on you! I thought the people in America were wonderful, but just like God has His beauty in nature all around the world, He also has his beautiful people all over the world. When I came to Peru I did not meet any strangers, only hundreds of friends I just hadn’t met yet!

Back in Florida now, God has created some beautiful Jacaranda trees. Mostly seen in Central and South America, but a few are found in South Tampa.

I took this picture recently at a friend’s house where I have had a few Bible studies. God’s artwork is seen in both the catepilar and butterfly, illustrating God’s artistic nature in re-creating us and making us all new creatures.

At my friend’s home, I also found this female cardinal guarding her nest.

I found the father not far away. I think cardinals are one of the most beauitful birds God has made, even though I don’t appreciate what they did to my Texas Team in the world series last year!

Even though I have shown my friends back home, that I can take pictures of more than just sunsets, still they are my favorite artwork of God. This was taken last Christmas season at Marco Island.

Key West Christmas season before last.

Naples

St. Pete

St. Pete

Clearwater, Florida