Florence 5/6-5/7

It was raining off and on when we got to Florence.  First we walked across this beautiful bridge with shops and houses perched on its rail.

 

The rain scared off some of the visitors and left an opening for us. Jesse asked – what was the main thing I wanted to see in Florence. Of course – David by Michelangelo. After settling in our very nice Airbnb, off we went to check out the city and find The Academia where David was housed. We waited about an hour to get in, but it was worth the wait. There was a musical instrument museum, amazing stuff.Yes, this is a Stradivarius!and a harpsichord.We wandered through rooms and rooms of beautiful paintings centuries old and Michelangelo’s sculptures. He was an architect and sculptor first and foremost.Until you see David close up, you cannot really fathom what a huge statue this is. It has been moved to this museum for preservation but stood outside for many years.  For a perspective, here’s another view.So glad I got to see this in life. Thank you God for the rain, because if it had been a nice day, don’t know if we could have hung in there for the long lines that we saw waiting the next day when it was sunny! Everywhere we looked, the paintings and sculptures seemed to have a religious theme. So different from much of modern art!

So many nursing Madonnas!

We learned from our guide in the Vatican that Medieval artists depicted the Christ child with an adult face. This signified the reality that Christ came as a baby but with His sacrifice for our sins in mind the whole time. We noticed folks here don’t apologize for Christianity, and most don’t cover up the injustices that have happened in the past.

 

Another amazing painting from the 1200’s. Yep, it’s another nursing Madonna! I promise I won’t post all the pictures I took!

There were embroidered tapestries and banners also. Think of all the hours of stitching that women did to create this!

In between our visits we ate and let Judah chase the pigeons too.Judah shares his beloved monkey with mama. And dinner with daddy.

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Crazy beautiful everywhere!

And yep, this is two old people still walking in Florence!

We found a little Leonardo da Vinci museum in our wanderings.

I will never think of the Mona Lisa in the same way! 

Judah loved the pigeons. Not sure how the pigeons felt about Judah!

Statues everywhere

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One of the beautiful churches we found – under renovation because the front wall fell in during Mass!

Treasures in the side room of the church.No we did not climb the cupola. Too many steps, too long a wait!

J

Dante

It was a fun adventure but it really started raining so back home to Vicenza!

Vicenza Adventures

We loved Vicenza! It’s a good-sized Italian city, but not too big.  Some tourism, but not too much. We saw some great things and not too crowded. Jesse and Paige took us to dinner out on Friday evening after we’d overcome a little jet-lag. Beautiful things everywhere.

A night on the town for two old folks!

Just the neighborhood church.

My baby and his beauty!

Us oldies on a rooftop drinking the Vicenza special drink.

Nothing like Italian gelato on the square, listening to street musicians.

People walk around like they’re not living in a museum! I have the best kids! Great hosts, friends and family. They are great parents too. The senseless beauty of antique works of art uncovered during renovations of buildings that are hundreds of years ago is overwhelming. Every church was a work of art.

We spent time here before and in between visits to Florence, Rome, Garmisch and Venice. Loved it and want to come back.

One of the greatest things Italy has to offer is gelato. I am especially fond of mango gelato.  Vicenza had the best!I can’t find this in America. Guess I’ll have to go back.

Arriving Vicenza 5/3/17

After a slight misadventure in the Atlanta airport (went to the wrong terminal and had to back-track, passport got stuck in the security scanner), we made it on our plane for the ride to New Jersey. Found our connecting flight and then off to the next connecting flight – to Munich. We had a four hour layover.We have arrived in Munich. After wandering a bit, we caved and found a McDonald’s for breakfast. Yea, I know. Chickens. But we are really afraid of getting lost and we’ve had to ask multiple times to get this far. Praying we get in the right plane for Venice. I must say, we haven’t met a single unkind person along the way through our airport adventures. God has been good. And we see here are a lot of nice people in the world. With coffee and eggs in our bellies, we are ready to move on.
We arrived in Venice on Wednesday morning but here is the reason we came! Hi Judah!

Off to the Airport

May 2  Well, here we are. Off to the airport. Fantastic time visiting my sister and hubby in Atlanta. How wonderful it is to spend time with others who are believers. No awkwardness of conversation. We are loaded up like camels for the journey but it is all good!

First Time on Marta!

The Italian Adventure begins

Our kids moved to Italy in January of 2016, taking our precious grandson with them (of course). It has been quite the adventure but with the aid of FaceTime (thanks to Apple phones), and a few visits from our daughter-in-law and grandson and son (mostly due to deaths in the family), we have been able to stay in their lives. Thank God for the internet! But it was our hope that we would be able to make a trip to their current home and see the country where our next grandchild will be born a citizen.
The planning started not long after they departed the USA. I was able to find reasonably priced airline tickets to Venice. Next to plan adventures for Ron and me, some with them and some alone (who needs to Rome multiple times?). By January of this year, all the arrangements were made for our great adventure. What follows post by post is our tale of travel.
5/1/17
The tickets are in our hands. American money swapped for Euros. Reservations made for tours and train tickets. AirBNBs and hotels reserved. Suitcases packed and clothes laid out. This bucket trip is going to happen. Hope I can blog as I go. Venice, Rome and Florence here we come! But even more important, Jesse, Paige and Judah – we will see you in a couple of days! Ciao!

The View from My Window

As I look over the fields from my office window, spring is blooming everywhere.  The redbuds are in full display, their fuchsia petals enhanced by the still brown limbs of trees not fully awakened.  Piles of old hay rolls, never claimed to nourish a hungry animal, lie rotting in the middle of the field.  Everything that nature reveals, has an underlying story for me.  The Bradford pears that bloomed last week in the neighborhood and looked so beautiful, are preparing to cast their deadly spawn which will fill my fields with nasty prickly sprouts that I won’t be able to eradicate.  I am in the process of preparing my garden plots for the seeds and plants that will bear fruit in the fall.  Grass is already overtaking the sidewalks.  Peach flowers are giving way to buds that will form the fruit of summer.  Deer and rabbits are looking for the tender plants they know will soon form a feast after winter’s long sleep.

So many stories lie before me, so many analogies.

Retirement – Retreadment

I retired.  Yes, it’s only been 3 months. But a lot has happened in these 3 months.  I’ve gone through a couple of viral illnesses, said goodbye to my youngest son who moved overseas, opened a “retirement business,” started a fun job working for a company I believe in, and now dealing with my father’s impending death.  Yes, a lot has happened.

I was blessed to be able to leave my job in time to spend some time with my son and his family before they left for Italy for 3 years.  I was blessed to have enough savings to carry us through until my retirement funds could kick in.  I was blessed to have time to write for my new endeavor – Hope Breastfeeding Support – and learn how to manage my website.  I’m learning that, yes, old dogs can learn new tricks.  I’ve been blessed to have a couple of clients in that endeavor.

But I’m still not settled in my path.  I’m not sure if my “business” will succeed – or that I even want it to.  The stress and responsibility of being “it” for my clients is hard.  I find it hard to gracefully back out when they still have needs – and I have gone far beyond the limits I set up.  And with this continuing vacillation in my soul, it’s hard for me to commit to other opportunities.  I hate to say no, but I don’t want to say yes and not be able to keep my promises.

Retirement is both easier and harder than I thought.  There are more opportunities than I expected, but I find that aging has taken away some of my stamina.  My prayer is that I will stay close to God and listen to His voice wherever He may lead.

Suffering and Trials

A few years ago, I was in a conversation with my dad and asked him a hard question.  “If the angels, who knew and enjoyed the wonders of Heaven and life with God, sinned and lost their place in Heaven by rebelling against God, how do we know that a few thousand years after we get to Heaven, that we won’t do the same?”

God saw what was in Lucifer's heart. He changed Lucifer's name to ...

 

 

Angels were created by God to be His messengers and ministers.  Some of them serve their purpose by praising God on His throne.  Others serve His purposes by interacting with humans – to protect, convey messages, etc.  Angels existed before God created the earth and mankind.  They have freewill.  But they were created as part of God’s plan for the creation and redemption of mankind.  God did not send Jesus to redeem angels, only mankind.

The most important reason we rest secure in our salvation for eternity is the simplest and most logical one: the work of Jesus Christ.  If Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient, there is nothing more to be done to procure salvation.  Period.  If we deny this sacrifice, refuse to accept that what he has purchased with his own blood was enough, then we have no other recourse and only fear.   The only thing left to “do” after receiving Christ’s gift of salvation is to walk in it.   If we are not walking in that gift, then perhaps we haven’t received it.  Make it right, then.   Can we un-choose Christ’s gift?  Perhaps – but there is no other way to eternal life.

I believe that one of the reasons that we can trust in our salvation for eternity is the experiences we go through in this life.  We experience the true ugliness of sin and its aftereffects.  When we place our faith in Christ, we are turning away from our own sufficiency and turning towards God’s sufficiency.  We receive what we can’t understand and what we can’t manufacture – God’s faithfulness.   Every choice we make to trust God as we see the reality of sin’s effects in this life, further seals our forever choices to continue to trust in Him.  In heaven and later on the new earth, we will be constantly grateful for the freedom from sin’s effects and burdens.  Our life’s experiences of suffering and victory will be part of the glorious story in God’s Book of Life.

I may not be doctrinally correct in what I am thinking, but it is an interesting way to look at eternal security.

Faith

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1) a :  allegiance to duty or a person :  loyalty   b:  fidelity to one’s promises :  sincerity of intentions

a:  belief and trust in and loyalty to God :  belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion   b:  firm belief in something for which there is no proof:  complete trust

:  something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially :  a system of religious beliefs

From Dictionary.com

1.  confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.

2. belief that is not based on proof: 

3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion:  

4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.:

5. a system of religious belief: 
6.  obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise,   engagement,etc.:
7.  the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath,allegiance, etc.:
Webster’s 1913 Dictionary
1.Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting solely and implicitly on his authority and veracity; reliance on testimony.
2. The assent of the mind to the statement or proposition of another, on the ground of the manifest truth of what he utters; firm and earnest belief, on probable evidence of any kind, especially in regard to important moral truth.
3.  (Judeo-Christian Theol.) The belief in the historic truthfulness of the Scripture narrative, and the supernatural origin of its teachings, sometimes called historical and speculative faith.
4.  (Theol.) That which is believed on any subject, whether in science, politics, or religion;especially (Theol.), a system of religious belief of any kind; as, the Jewish or Mohammedan faith; the Christian faith; also, the creed or belief of a Christian society or church
5. Fidelity to one’s promises, or allegiance to duty, or to a person honored and belovedloyalty.
6.  Credibility or truth.
Above are three different dictionary definitions of faith.  I have deliberately left out the examples given by each site.   Dictionary.com is the most contemporary of dictionaries.   As you can see, it introduces a definition of faith that includes the statements “belief without proof”.   The 1913 Webster dictionary includes “belief based on authority and veracity, reliance on testimony.”  A secondary definition includes “firm and earnest belief based on probable evidence of any kind.”
The Bible has much to say on faith – “without faith, it is impossible to please God,” “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,”  “the just shall live by faith.”   In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is actually faithfulness – meaning persistent commitment.  God is faithful – He keeps His promises.  This has great importance – what God promises He will do, will come to pass.  It cannot be stopped by anyone.
The problem I have with faith is when it is defined as a “belief without proof.”  Many folks will state that those who require proof are without faith.  When a scientist or a skeptic points out inconsistencies in a point of view, they are often castigated and pronounced heretics, instead of encouraged to investigate those inconsistencies and try to resolve them.  There are many scriptures that invite us to test God – but those invitations also demand action.  We test God (in a good way) by walking in the direction He is leading.  When we put our faith in Christ, we walk towards Him and away from our selfishness – a life totally bent on pleasing our flesh.  We rest in His accomplishments – His death, burial and resurrection – and trust that when we are buried with Him, we will also be raised with Him.  The walk by faith is not always an easy one, but the testing and trials we go through strengthen our commitment and character in Him.

A Framework for Assessing Truth

I am a skeptic by nature.  What I mean by this is:  if you tell me that A causes B, I cannot accept that at face value.  You must tell me by what mechanism does A cause B.  I apply this to just about everything that I am analyzing.  A good understanding of organic chemistry, physiology and biology can really help when trying to decipher whether a particular course of action is likely to be effective or just a waste of time and money.

The internet is a wealth of information and an overabundance of unsubstantiated claims.  To support the dissemination of this information, wherever you look, someone is trying to sell you something  and that’s what keeps the internet alive!

Many of the controversial debates – vaccinations, GMO’s, alternative medicines, etc. consist of one side making assertions and the other discounting them.    The problem I see is that often each side is demanding absolute proof from the other side that what they are asserting is truth.   In the real world, truth is a probability estimate – and there’s always a margin of error.  We can say that it’s highly unlikely that there exists a black swan with white polka dots, but we can’t absolutely know since we can’t survey every square inch of the universe to make certain that there is indeed no black swan with white polka dots!  (thanks to Ravi Zacharias for the illustration).   When looking at biological systems, we must seek for the best possible explanation, proposing the mechanism of action for the observed effect.  Experiments can be performed that can demonstrate similarities and differences.   For instance, we know that candida flourishes in the presence of iron.  Remove iron from the environment and candida languishes.  Red blood cells need iron to form hemoglobin.  Remove iron from the diet and anemia can result.

When debates occur over what causes or exacerbates autism, cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, there are many proposed answers to the questions.   Processed foods, vaccinations, sugar, GMO’s, plastic containers, microwaves, teflon, barbecue grills, air pollution, coal, nuclear energy, high frequency electronic waves, etc. are some of the proposed facilitators of modern ailments.   What I want to hear from the proponents of each theory of cause and effect, is this:  what is the cellular action of each of these cause agents?  How do they affect the human biology?  Don’t just say: “it’s poison”.  Tell me what normal cellular function is disrupted – and prove it.   When the problem is properly assessed, then the solution can be developed.

I don’t believe GMO’s cause cancer.  I don’t believe vaccinations cause autism.  I don’t think electric wires cause schizophrenia.  Or that space aliens are experimenting on random humans.   I do believe that much of what we think is settled science, is not really settled.  The human body and mind is much more complex than we can imagine and there is much yet to be discovered.  Here’s to more science and less rhetoric.