The Calaveras Jumping Frog

I had no idea what to expect when Carol and I went to San Andreas to visit our son and his family. Our first three nights were in the town named Angels Camp just eleven miles south.

No; that isn’t a place where celestial beings hunted and camped out. It is a town started by Henri Angell in 1848 as a gold mining town. Originally named Carson’s Creek, the town was incorporated under the name Angels in 1912 (located in Calaveras County) and eventually renamed to Angels Camp.

Although more than $20,000,000 in gold was processed there in the middle to late 1800s, one thing brought fame to both the town and a man: a story about a frog.

Sam Clemens, under the pen name of Mark Twain, was down on his luck and came to try his hand at panning for gold in the winter of 1864-1865. He didn’t do very well during his 88 days here in the California hills, but he heard a story in one of the taverns about a jumping frog. The veracity of the story is questionable; but embellishing it even further, Mark Twain wrote it up and sent it to his newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, in Virginia City, Nevada.

That story, only 2,637 words including the title (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras by Mark Twain), brought him immediate fame and fortune; that story became his “gold mine.”

Our son, Ron, took me to visit the site of his cabin on Jackass Hill where Mark Twain lived for almost three months. The hill received that name because at least once a week, a caravan of up to 200 donkeys with supplies for the miners in Carson Creek (Angels Camp) would stop there for the night.

Today, the main feature of the Calaveras County Fair is the frog-jumping contest. It is called the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee and is one the longest-running events in the state of California—going back to 1893. Of course, as with any good county fair, it includes entertainment, livestock, food, music, and crafts.

The frog-jumping contest is usually in the third weekend of May; and in a town of about 3,900 population, about 50,000 visitors attend the jubilee. People can bring their own frogs or rent them from a company in town (who catch the amphibians in the local ponds). The winner of the contest each year gets a plaque and $900 in cash. But if a frog beats the world record of 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches, the owner gets a World Record Holder title and $5,000 cash. Now maybe you can see why this is a big deal in Calaveras County.

Frogs are placed at the starting line. They get three jumps. The actual distance they jump is immaterial – it’s how close the critter gets to the finish line that counts. They seldom jump in a straight line, but you should hear the noise of the crowd as they both cheer the critters and scare the daylights out of them.

Another event that takes place is the Mark Twain Wild West Fest on the third Saturday of October. Gold Rush village is a kid’s area with fence-painting, knot-tying, a petting zoo, historic town with candle and soap-making, and more. There is gold-rush era music, and in honor of Mark Twain, a liar’s contest. That’s a real hoot!

Mark Twain was a good story-teller. In 1899 he wrote an article titled, “How to Tell a Story.” He said, “The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic and the witty story upon the matter.”

Twain learned to tell stories in a dead-pan manner. The audience would be in a gale of laughter while Twain would sit there and watch them. That made it even funnier.

Mark Twain sent his story about the Calaveras County frog contest to The Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada. I read recently that although the paper had gone out of business sometime ago, it is now back in operation. It was in this newspaper that Twain wrote, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Angels Camp is about 132 miles east of San Francisco by road, and about 80 miles southeast from Sacramento. My favorite eating establishment in town is called Round-Table Pizza, and the best ice cream place is called Yummy Ha-Ha.

When Things Go Wrong

Today started out wonderfully. I woke up at the normal time, although my Precious was up two hours previously. Why she wakes up around five in the morning, I don’t know. But she had coffee ready, so her early schedule is fine with me.

We had eggs, sausage, orange juice, and toast—and Coffee with cream and sugar. Of Swedish descent, Carol is a great cook. She would probably be a world-class cook if I could eat pepper, spices, and all the other stuff that comes with being a world-class cook. But she’s fed me well for almost 56 years. I love her and I thank the Lord for her every day.

This morning as we were reading the Bible after breakfast, my ears were pierced by an alarm.

We have a propane stove in the trailer, and we always open a window and turn on the exhaust fan while cooking. That greatly reduces the potential for CO and CO2 in the air and prevents the shrill alarm from offending my ears.

But breakfast was over, what we thought was an emergency was taken care of, window was closed, and the fan was off. Why the alarm?

I jumped up to turn off the sonic ear-buster near the ceiling, but it wouldn’t turn off. That’s when I discovered the propane sniffer at the base of the wall. I forgot that we have two ear-busters in the trailer.

I quickly opened the door, and within five seconds the ear-piercing beeping stopped. What a relief! But now I needed to find the propane leak.

As I began checking all the connections, Carol said, “I found the problem.” and pointed to the stove. “I must have bumped the knob as I was cleaning and turned it on. I turned it off now. But we never tested that sniffer before, and now we know that it works.”

“Yay; it’s always good to know that our equipment works.” We didn’t blame anyone, we were alive, and we finished our Bible-reading.

That was the in the morning. With no internet at our son’s home up in the mountains, I went to the church building in town to do my work.

In the late afternoon as I was heading home, a pickup approached me on the dirt road, raising dust everywhere. “The road’s blocked by a downed pole and power lines. You can’t get home!” the woman hollered as she drove by. I pulled off the road.

Where is the road blocked? How far away? It’s over 45 miles if I try to go around the other way. But would that get me home?

The questions pummeled my mind. As I sat there, four other vehicles ignored the warning and continued on their way. Those same drivers looked aggravated as they came back five minutes later. My silent prayer was, Lord, what should I do?

Then I heard in my mind: Go ahead. It’s okay. So I started the engine and continued. As I reached the area where the car had plowed head-long into the telephone pole, I could see the splintered pole and power-lines strewn across the road.

“Sir, you can’t go any further on this street. The road’s closed until morning, most likely.” the state patrolman said plaintively.

“My friend, I only need to get to Swiss Ranch Road. Is that open?”

His face broke into a smile. “Well now, that’s the only road that’ll be open for a while. The accident happened just past that turn. Have a good evening.” And he waved me through the blockade.

There were no lights in any of the homes or ranches along that road—power was out. So when I reached the house, I prepared for another procedure: power the trailer with the car.

Power had been out for six hours, and the RV battery was nearing depletion, so I backed the car up to the trailer, connected the power cable, and charged the RV battery with my engine for twenty-minutes. I charged it again at 4:30 the next morning, and community power was back on at 5:35 am.

Afterwards, I remember thinking: When things go wrong, it’s good to know my equipment, and know the procedures to keep things running.

And that reminded me of something else: BEFORE things go wrong, we need to be familiar with Holy Scripture, and have an active relationship with the Lord Jesus. Scripture and the Lord give us knowledge and wisdom for life. It was the Lord Who prompted me with, “Go ahead. It’s okay.” Jesus is never wrong.

The Donkey Spoke

In the year 2000, I filled in as interim pastor for a couple of months in a small New Mexico town while the leadership searched for a new pastor. Then in December, the elders surprised me by asking me to be their pastor. I said “No.”

The church had a history of ups-and-downs with a poor reputation, and it couldn’t afford to give me a salary. It was 200 miles from where I lived, and I was already working 60-hour-per week; so you might understand why I didn’t want to accept the call. Part time at that distance was okay, but I didn’t want to commit to full-time.

The elders and I discussed the logistics, and they eventually offered a parsonage we could use; agreeing that I would keep the current employment.

But a 400-mile round-trip every weekend? Huh-uh!

They asked me to pray about it. Now I was trapped. Christians, especially pastors, can’t refuse to pray – that’s against the rules.

I found out that God must have a sense of humor, because after praying about it, it seemed like the Lord was prompting me to accept. So on January 7, 2001, I hesitantly accepted the call.

Now my attitude was different. Why? Instead of merely filling the position while they were supposed to be looking elsewhere for a pastor, my new objective was to find out why the church was having ongoing problems. Maybe I should have already known, but I had decided to let the next pastor figure it out. Now I was that next pastor.

However, as I did my pastoral homework, it didn’t take long to discover the problems. To put it mildly: a lack of Christian love ruled the roost. The owner of the local grocery store told me the church was known as “the Fighting Church.” That didn’t make me feel any better.

Part of the problem was, as is common in many local churches, poor communications and unwillingness to compromise on small issues in order to make headway on larger concerns. How was I going to turn it around?

Did I mention that God has a sense of humor? Keep reading.

After the service one Sunday morning, two of the elders and I were discussing an idea that I thought would help the church. They didn’t agree, so I invited them outside the church building to look at the situation. I hoped that by looking at the problem, it might help them understand my point of view.

Reminding me that they disagreed, they politely listened anyway.

The church building was in the countryside, and a ranch was across the fence. Choosing my words carefully, I laid out my thoughts, and I was convinced I had won them over. But at the very moment I said my last word, the donkey in the adjacent field spoke!

I haven’t heard a donkey bray that loudly before in my life! Of course, the elders and I began to laugh at the timing of the interruption. But to make matters worse, my lead elder said as loudly as the donkey, “My Sympathies, Exactly!”

The three of us broke out in an uproarious laughter. We had been friends for over a year and disagreements never hurt us. But that event brought us even closer together.

When I muttered, “Dumb donkey!” the other elder said, “He’s not dumb. He spoke his mind quite clearly.” More laughter ensued, and we went back into the building to get some coffee—mine with cream and sugar.

Then Romans 12:3b came to mind. “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (NLT).

Over coffee, I asked them to state their opinion—again—and I would listen carefully. In the next half-hour, I realized they were right, and we worked out an alternate plan.

That incident did more than settle a disagreement. As word got around to the church members that they now had a pastor who was willing to listen, they began to trust me.

Still working on the other problems, I preached on forgiveness four times a year for three years—that’s what it took to settle the other personnel issues. And when I eventually resigned as pastor, that same groceryman told me, “Your church has a new name in town: the Loving Church.”

I thanked God for prompting the donkey to speak.

In Case You’re Interested ….

There are three books on Amazon that I wrote, and one that five of my siblings and I wrote. I’ll tell you about them in a minute, but first I need to tell you where to find them. Go to Amazon.com: S. Eugene Linzey: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle and scroll down to see them. All four are treasure-troves of information, insight, and good reading. You can order either print copies or kindle versions – or both.

I’d been taught that all Christians go to heaven. But how was a Christian supposed to live while on earth? I didn’t see much difference in many people’s lives when they became a Christian or joined a church. On Sundays, most people talked about the Lord, sang, bowed heads in prayer, listened to the pastor – most of them – but something was missing.

Why would the Church of Jesus Christ—including all divisions and denominations–need a charter? Simply because I know many Christians who don’t seem to understand the Faith they claim to believe. Going to church and joining it is not the same as understanding the faith.

The Church, including each member of it, needs to keep in mind that our goal in life is not merely to get to heaven. Our goal in life, both on earth and in heaven, is to be a member of Jesus’ team and grow the Kingdom of God throughout eternity. It is by becoming an adopted child of God, and growing into a mature spokesman for God, that we can fully take our place in the Kingdom. That is why we need to know and understand the teaching in Matthew 5:1-12.

This book, Charter of the Christian Faith, addresses this topic.

Absolute truth is something that is true at all times, in all places, for all people, and in all circumstances. For example, there are no round squares, and there are no triangular circles. We may change the descriptive terms, but that won’t change the facts. On the other hand, temporal truth changes with the passage of time. As an example, I am temporarily not hungry. That is true. But tomorrow, I will be hungry. That also is also true.


But why are so many people on both sides of all fences worked up about the differences in viewpoint? A difference in viewpoint can be healthy as long as we don’t fight over them. To use a verse from Isaiah 1:18, “Come, let us reason together.” However, in reasoning or discussing our viewpoints, we must have a standard against which to measure truth. That’s the crux of the matter. The problem is that too many people on both sides of many fences make mistakes.


Our worldview is the basis for how we live: how we think, how we act, how we respond, what we believe, and how we worship. But a worldview produced with limited input produces a restricted or narrow outlook. I endeavor to write about a variety of topics which, over time, can enable the reader to expand his or her horizons. A person doesn’t even need to agree with me, but reading what I write gets him or her to think; and that is the key to maturing both mentally and spiritually. These are my thoughts, my reflections on life, my beliefs. Read them and compare them with your worldview.

Over the years, we have seen a lot of change in the church. We have seen it change from the big central church of downtown in the 1950s to the outlying mega-church in the 1980s. We have seen hippies who accepted Christ in the Jesus Movement of the 1970s become yuppies in the 1990s. We’ve seen a major shift from mainline denominations to inter- and non-denominational organizations. But our desire through it all has been to teach people both in and out of the church to develop a relationship with Christ. Although we believe that church involvement is necessary, it is the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that will see us through both the problems and the blessings of life.

The Bible is a book about civilization, government, war, and intrigue. It contains drama, history, culture, and a lot more. However, it is primarily a book about faith and spirituality. This book was written to answer many questions to help people sift through the sands of time to gain a better understanding of the Word of God.

This book was written by three brothers and three sisters (six siblings in all) who realized after their parents had passed away, that the family was divided into factions. They also admitted there was much they didn’t know about each other, and they decided to do something about it.


The memories they wrote about prompted spontaneous email conversations and phone calls among the siblings. They found themselves saying things like, “I didn’t know you felt that way!” Or, “I never knew that!” Or even, “Me too!” They started learning about one another and seeing each other in a whole new light, and the conversations that occurred every week became highly therapeutic. They accepted one another, and in the process, learned to love each other more deeply than any of them had ever experienced.


Join them on a journey that spans the past 70+ years, as they tell you the stories of family, faith, and friendship. This is a memoir about love and laughter, anger and attitude, groaning and growing. In many ways, it is a story about coming of age.


“Whether you are a family member, a distant relative, a neighbor, friend, or even a complete stranger, we invite you to join us on this journey as we share our lives with you. We hope you enjoy the stories. Welcome to the family.”

Find these books and order them on Amazon.com: S. Eugene Linzey: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle.

The Passion Play

In our daily Bible study, we were reading about the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the Ark of the Covenant, and we wanted to see if we would be allowed to tour the Holy Land site in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It was only a 2-hour trip, so we hit the road.

When we arrived, we were surprised to learn that the Passion Play was to be presented that evening, and our granddaughter had never seen the play. We quickly bought tickets for the play and for the buffet dinner merely 150 yards away. Touring the Holy Land site would wait for another visit. The meal was wonderful.

I may be mistaken, but I think most of you have read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life, His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection in the New Testament. You might have seen a portrayal at church during Passover or Easter or seen a movie about it. But have you ever seen it live at Eureka Springs, or at Oberammergau, Germany? Seeing it like that enables the reality of the event to sink deep into our emotions and our mind.

The Passion Play in Eureka Springs started in 1968, but the production in Germany has been performed every year from 1634 to 1680, and one summer each decade since 1680, with the characters played by the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany. However, it was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic, but will be presented in May of 2022.

The producers send scouts throughout the town and recruit those who look like they might fit one of the Biblical characters.

I don’t remember what decade in the 1900s this was, but as a scout was looking for someone to play the part of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, he saw a man who appeared to be down on his luck. He looked disheveled, scruffy, unkempt. The scout asked him if he would be willing to be Judas in the upcoming production.

The man looked at the scout, eyes opened wide, then filled with tears as he began to cry. The scout immediately apologized, thinking he had offended or insulted the citizen, but the shabbily-dressed man motioned for him to wait a minute. Regaining his composure, the man said, “Ten years ago I was a well-to-do businessman in town and a valued member of our church. I was highly respected throughout our community. Ten years ago, I played the part of Jesus.” He began sobbing again as he ambled around the corner and out of sight. What happened to him? Did pride overtake him after playing the part of Jesus? Probably.

I’ve never been to Oberammergau, but I have seen the production five times in Eureka Springs. It’s amazing that I, a spectator, a student of the Bible, can be emotionally and spiritually impacted by watching this highly-professional Bible production, but one who played the most important part of the play in Oberammergau, that of Jesus Christ, lost his sense of reality, lost his job, lost his family, and seemingly lost his identity.

Many of us today are also hurting in some area of our life. Some of us are angry at God because He won’t play by our rules. Some of us have become arrogant and use scripture against the One who inspired the writing of Scripture. Some of us hurl insults at God and at His people, thinking that we are hurting them.

Please understand that you are hurting only yourself and those close to you. You can never hurt God; He’s above that. The hurt, the suffering, the torture, the excruciating anguish Jesus experienced was associated with bearing our sin while being beaten half to death, then mercilessly crucified. All for us. Why? Because He loves us. Jesus loves you!

Jesus came to give us peace and life. He came to help us establish our identity and help us identify with God.

I don’t know if the man in Oberammergau ever played the part of Judas, but I hope he eventually restored his relationship with Jesus.

Please understand, God doesn’t play by our rules. The Creator of the universe has His own rules, and He came to give us eternal life.

The Meandering River of Life

The Büyük Menderes River is the longest river in Turkey that twists and turns in a tortuous path as it rushes to the Aegean Sea. The name Menderes is a derivation of Maiandros which is transliterated into English as Meander, and that name has become prominent in our culture.

A good illustration of meandering is when my dog and I walked the three-quarter mile dirt road to our mailbox when we lived in the mountains of northern New Mexico. For every 50 feet I walked, Tyke ran to-and-fro about 200 feet. Another illustration is the Ohio River which flows from Pittsburg, PA to Cairo, IL. The Ohio is 981 miles long, but Cairo is only 549 miles from Pittsburg by helicopter. The meandering nearly doubles the distance.

Due to natural causes such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, and hurricanes, river paths change at times. Dad was raised in McAllen, Texas which isn’t far from Brownsville. Years ago, Dad said, “Brownsville is usually in the United States. But during flood stage, the Rio Grande changes course, flows north of Brownsville, and puts the town in Mexico.”

Of course, Dad was joking about Brownsville being in Mexico, but the Rio Grande did change course at times before the flood-control dams were built.

Not only has the Mississippi River changed course, but it also flowed backwards several times. The first time that we know about was after an earthquake in 1812, and the reverse flow generated a tsunami which wiped out a pirate’s den on a river island. When it resumed its southern flow, it cut a new channel and a portion of its course had changed. The second time was in 2005 when it reversed its flow for several hours during Hurricane Katrina. The third time was in 2012 when Hurricane Isaac forced the southern end of the river to flow backwards for 24 hours. You probably read about the mess it caused up and down the river.

As Carol and I were driving from Bloomington, IN to Worthington, IN last month, I turned onto a road that wasn’t on the map. It was headed in a northerly direction, and I knew I would get to my destination. The road meandered every-which-way like a stream trying to find its way to the ocean. Nevertheless, it was relaxing until we reached a T in the road with no indication as to which way we should go. Frustration was about to raise its ugly head, but a man in an old rusty car stopped and asked where we wanted to go. We told him, he told us to turn right, and peace reigned again. The road took us to Worthington, and we joined up with our son and his family.

Then while assisting our son in building his home, I came into contact with poison ivy. That changed my life for a month.

Events throughout life generate corporate change as well. Businesses closed and people lost employment because of our reaction to the recent pandemic. War affects political and financial decisions. I officiated at the funeral of a dear friend in Kentucky recently. Direction in life changed dramatically for that family.

Life is like a meandering river. Change is ever-present. Confusion is prevalent. Emotions are visible and anger often flares.

But stop. Let’s not react negatively. Change is guaranteed almost every day, so how do we establish and maintain a steady course?

The captain and helmsman of the ship must know the river. Sam Clemens, known as Mark Twain, studied the Mississippi and knew every turn. Some captains hired cheap help and lost their vessels to rocks, hidden logs, and erratic shorelines, but Mark Twain kept his boats in safe water.

As we sail the meandering river of life, we need help in keeping our “ships” in safe water. We dare not trust our lives to myths, fables, imaginations, and humanistic religions. We need a solid anchor with a reliable chain that keep us secure during the storms of life.

That anchor is Jesus Christ, and the double-chain consists of the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” So read what Jesus said in the Bible.

Jesus our guide in the meandering river of life. You can trust Him.

Death Valley

When we reached California to visit our son and his family, Ron asked, “How was the trip?”

“It was a tough trip. I went through the valley of death just to see you.”

“Really, Dad? So you, a 74-year-old Californian, finally visited Death Valley National Park. Was it worth the time?”

“For a Californian, definitely, YES. But I think for a US Citizen, the answer is still, Yes.”

After Carol and I drove through Bryce and Zion National Parks on May 10 and 11, our next visit was to Death Valley.

There are three basic routes to visit the Valley: the Fast Route, Scenic Route, and the Explorer Route. Any of the three are worth the time spent, although I think the Scenic Route is the most rewarding.

Situated in the northern Mojave Desert, Death Valley is an intriguing part of our Country. Here’s an interesting travel trivia tid-bit. The highest point in the Continental United States (that excludes Alaska and Hawaii) is Mount Whitney. The lowest point in the US is Bad Water. Are you ready? These two geological points are only 88 miles apart. Mount Whitney reaches 14,494 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, and Bad Water is in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.

The Valley is also the hottest spot in the Western Hemisphere. When we visited it on May 12, 2021, the temperature was 110 degrees F. A year earlier on August 16, the temp reached 130 F. The highest air temperature ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere was in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. It was 134 degrees F. But there’s more. The hottest surface temperature ever recorded on earth was in Death Valley on July 15, 1972. That was 201 degrees F, and some folks fried eggs on the ground. I hope they didn’t eat them.

The Valley is called a “graben” which is a block of land between two mountain ranges that has dropped, probably due to earthquakes. Over 5,000 years ago, the Valley held a 100-mile-long lake which was about 600 feet deep.

Have you ever heard of climate change? Long before industries developed and before we contaminated the atmosphere, several thousand years before the Pilgrims came to America, climate change was already well-developed, and Death Valley Lake, along with thousands of others, dried up.

The area turned to desert and most of the water evaporated which left an abundance of crystalized material; the primary one was borax. Borax was mined heavily from 1883-1907. Have you ever heard of Boraxo, or 20 Mule-Team Borax? It came from Death Valley, and the Pacific Coast Borax Company sponsored radio and television shows called Death Valley Days. The radio program ran from 1930-1945, and the television show ran from 1952-1975. Ronald Reagan was the narrator of the television show from 1964-1965.

Several geological faults intersect in the Valley, and the Amargosa River runs into it but disappears in the sand. And, if you’re wondering, it snowed once in January of 1922.

The Valley is home to the Native American Timbisha tribe, formerly called Panamint Shoshone. They called the area “tumpisa” which means “rock paint” because red ochre paint is made from the clay found there.

On February 11, 1933, President Herbert Hoover declared the area as Death Valley National Monument, but in 1994 it was renamed Death Valley National Park. Located in California and Nevada, it’s the largest national park in the 48 states, and has almost 1,000 miles of roads in it. Dress with loose-fitting clothing and take plenty of water with you during your visit.

But why is it called Death Valley?

In the 1849 California Gold Rush, about 300,000 adventurers went to find their fame and fortune. A group of 13 were just a few who entered the Valley but didn’t understand the dry heat of the deep desert and didn’t take enough water. They were found dead, and people called it a valley of death.

Do you know that millions of people around the world today are searching through an emotional and spiritual valley of death for fame, self-worth, or mere acceptance, while others are seeking wealth, power, and prestige? That craving will never be satisfied outside a relationship with Jesus Christ. Fulfillment in this life, and joy throughout eternity is found only in Jesus.

Visit Death Valley but live for Christ. The treasure you seek can be discovered by reading the treasure-map, the Bible.

Revisiting Noah’s Ark

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that we went to see Noah’s Ark. This one really isn’t Noah’s because he’s not here, and he didn’t build it. But according to the dimensions listed in the Bible, this structure is a life-sized model. Is it the exact same shape? We don’t know because no one alive has seen the original ark. Many people doubt whether the flood was world-wide, but their doubt does not disprove what the Bible says.

At the turnoff from I-75 onto State Road 36 in Williamstown, go east for about a mile, and the ark is behind several small hills. When it first comes into view, it doesn’t look so large, but there is still another mile to go. When the shuttlebus drops us off, the ark looks large, but not huge. But we’re still an eighth of a mile away.

As we walk up to it, the enormity of the structure is striking!

How big is this boat? Genesis chapter 6 gives the dimensions in cubits: 300 long, 50 wide, and 30 high. The length of the cubit has varied with time and people, and historically has been between 18-22 inches. The Builders of this model used a nominal 20-inch cubit.

The ark in Williamstown is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. The internal volume is equivalent to the volume of 570 modern railway boxcars.

For size comparisons, a football field is 360 feet long from the back of one end zone to the back of the other, so both the original ark and the model in Williamstown are too long to fit inside the football stadium. The size of the ark is truly impressive!

Can this boat in Kentucky float? No. It wasn’t built to float, but to illustrate what Noah, his boys, and probably many hired hands built. I believe it took Noah and company about 100 years to build the original because of what God told Noah in Genesis 6:3. “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh [meaning, evil]; his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” I believe those words informed Noah that the flood would take place 120 years after that discussion.

Prior to entering the ark, we watched a video of the construction of the ark. It was quite a feat and was done without any government financial assistance. That means, no tax money was involved.

I wish I could show you some of the 545 photos Carol and I took. The builders of this model indicated how the thousands of animals might have been housed or caged. Noah might not have had full-grown elephants, hippos, giraffes, etc., but perhaps young ones. However, it was God who brought the animals to the ark, not Noah, so the age and size of the critters didn’t matter. God somehow tamed all the animals that He brought to the ark, and, as you might guess, the heavier animals were on the bottom of the three decks.

It’s also amazing how food might have been stored for a year for all the animals and for up to two years for the eight human passengers. With our current understanding of how much animals and people eat, and of how many kinds of animals there probably were back then, it’s easy to figure how much food would have been required. And there was still plenty of extra room.

Animal excrement removal must have been a chore!

I enjoyed the way they imagined living quarters for the four families, and the names they supplied for the four wives were relevant to the times. Much geologic, social, and cultural history is shown by several videos, and by many charts and graphs throughout the ark. Cultural history prior to the world-wide flood, therefore, the reason for the world-wide judgment, was highlighted.

In planning for this ark, the people did their research and identified many animals that have become extinct in the past 4,500 years, many of which would have been on the ark. That enhances the educational aspect of the visit to the ark. In fact, we saw four public school buses bringing students to the ark for an educational field trip.

If you ever have an opportunity to go east, go to Williamstown, Kentucky and visit the ark. It’s only 40 miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio.

It rained while we were there, but we were safe in the ark.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? No, I don’t mean in a picture, on television, in the theater, or on IMAX. Have you ever driven through the Great Rocky Mountains? Perhaps many of you have driven through a portion of them, but did you observe the grandeur of these magnificent granite formations?

Carol and I visited the Rocky Mountain National Park, just after viewing the total solar eclipse in Glendo, Wyoming, as we celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. It was a spectacular trip. The word “spectacular” is the keynote for this trip.

The Rocky Mountains, commonly called the Rockies, start in northern British Columbia, Canada, and extend about 3,000 miles south to New Mexico, USA. Several facts about the spectacular Rocky Mountain features are: 1) the Sangre de Christo Mountains run from New Mexico through Colorado; 2) the Rio Grande has its headwaters near Wolf Creek in Southern Colorado; 3) Pikes Peak is near Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs; 4) the Grand Tetons and Big Horn Mountains are located in Wyoming; 5) Branff National Park is in Alberta, Canada; and there are many more! This mountain range should not be confused with the Pacific Coast Ranges, the Cascade Range, or the Sierra Nevadas.

Some geologists say the Rockies are well over 55 million years old on a 4.54 billion-year-old earth; some say they were created about 6,000 years ago when the earth was created; and others say the Rockies were created just after the great flood about 4,500 years ago. But whatever age is ascribed to them (only God knows their true age), my Precious and I had a great trip.

The original Native American Cree name was probably “as-sin-wati”; loosely translated as “seen across plains, look like rocky mass.” But their present name was given by Frenchman Jacque Legardeur de Saint-Pierre in 1752 when he called them “les Montagnes de Roches” (pronounced: lay Montanye de Rosh) – or, the mountains of rocks. And that evolved into the Rocky Mountains. Seventy-four peaks in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) are over 12,000 feet; twenty-three more top out over 13,000 feet; and two peaks are over 14,000 feet (called 14ers). That’s a total of 99 spectacular peaks in only 415 square miles.

This continental ridge is 70 miles wide at its narrowest, and 300 at its greatest span. I read that the lowest elevation of the Rockies is 3,400 feet above sea level where the Arkansas River flows from Colorado into Kansas; but I didn’t know the base of the Rockies reached that far. And the highest point is magnificent Mount Elbert in Colorado at 14,400 feet.

Driving through Boulder, CO, we started our tour through the RMNP in the town of Estes Park, CO. situated at 7,522 feet. The east entrance to the park is on highway 36, only 3.5 miles from town. If you are driving from the south or west, you can take exit 232 on I-70, west of Denver, and drive north on highway 40. Follow the signs.

Hiking is a common activity. Starting at the parking lot near Bear Lake at 9,475 feet altitude, seven lakes are within 4.7 miles walking distance. That is: 4.7 miles – ONE WAY. Save your energy because you probably want to come back. We walked around Bear Lake – only 256 feet away – and back to the car.

We drove down Devil’s Gulch but couldn’t figure why the name because it’s a spectacular drive. The next day, we left Estes Park, drove to I-70, took exit 232, and entered the Park from the other side. Did I say the scenery was spectacular? Well, it WAS!

Going through Idaho Springs, Granby, and Grand Lake, the west entrance was 145 miles from Estes Park and the views were breath-taking. We visited the Alpine Visitor Center and the Trail Ridge Store above the tree line at 11,796 feet and took pictures of a coyote pouncing on an unseen rodent – probably a mountain vole, yellow-bellied marmot, or some other high-altitude critter. Words and pictures cannot adequately describe our emotions and experiences as we saw God’s handiwork in the high Rockies.

This trip caused me to focus more intently on my relationship with Almighty God: the Creator of every natural thing we saw. The song by Stuart Hamblen sums it up: “How big is God, how big and wide his vast domain, to try to tell these lips can only start. He’s big enough to rule the mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.”

If you get the opportunity, I encourage you to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park. And you can call them les Montagnes de Roches if you prefer.

Happy Traveling.

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

Do you know that the first hint in the Bible of what we call Christmas is in Genesis 3:15? A lot happened between Genesis 3:15 and Matthew 1:18, but we won’t go into all that today.

My questions are: How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you go over the river and through the woods to visit grandma? Do you read the Scriptures that talk about Jesus’ birth? Do you take a trip? Invite people to your house? Do you watch movies or football games? What’s your favorite Christmas meal?

I looked up historic Christmas celebrations. For about 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection, there were no observances of His birth – therefore, no festivities. The first one recorded was in Rome, on December 25, 336 A.D., but didn’t become a primary Christian observance until the 800s. Decorating trees started in Germany, but had nothing to do with Christmas.

In the fourth century, church officials decided to observe Jesus’ birth as a holiday; and for non-biblical reasons, Pope Julius chose December 25. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 A.D., and to England by the end of the sixth century. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders thought that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but in doing so, they gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. Therefore, on Christmas, many people attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere.

Hmmmm … It seems like that still happens today.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in Victorian England in the 1840s, Charles Dickens vowed to do something about it, and writing was what he did best. So, in 1843, he published his novel, A Christmas Carol. Although the book is more a work of sentiment than of Christianity, it captures something of the Christmas spirit.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. While acknowledging the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them. Dickens encouraged joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

How do Carol and I celebrate Christmas?

We read about the birth of Jesus in chapters 1-2 in Matthew and Luke. That sets the tone for the celebration. We often visit one of our kids, but this year we’ll visit our daughter’s in-laws, Robert and Phyllis Crawford, near Oklahoma City. And instead of buying gifts for our families who live far away, then pay more for mailing them, we’ll mail the allotted money and let them choose the gifts.

Have you heard of the song, Over the River, and Through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House, We Go? I grew up singing it at Christmas, but it was written as a Thanksgiving Poem by Lydia Maria Child in 1844, and referred to Grandfather’s house. I find it interesting that where Carol and I live, all five of our children and their families have to travel over rivers and through forests to reach us.

My favorite Christmas meal is not turkey. (Shhh…don’t tell Carol.) My favorite is ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams with marshmallows, and fruit salad with whipped cream. Two to three hours later, I want pumpkin or apple pie with vanilla ice cream! Oh, yes – and coffee.

I like to watch football. On this coming Christmas day, the Minnesota Vikings will play against the New Orleans Saints. But I won’t watch it. Not on Christmas Day. This is a time to spend with family, which includes church family, and helping others.

We usually watch It’s A Wonderful Life the week before Christmas. It helps us to realize – again – the intrinsic value of each and every life. I hope that every one of you reading this reflection understands that every person is important. If you are hurting emotionally or are happy, if you are sick or healthy, if you feel rejected or accepted, if you are poor or wealthy, please believe me: you are important! Whatever may be your status or position in life, reach out and help others. THAT, my friend, is one way of manifesting the spirit of Christmas…the Spirit of Christ.

I understand that the covid-19 pandemic is putting a crunch on worship services, family gatherings, and celebrations this year, but you can still give to others. Be creative and find a way.

But stop and think about what this celebration is really all about – Jesus Christ. He came as a human baby, but never relinquished His true identity – God.

That is spelled out in John 1:1-4. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people.”  

Then verse 14 says, “The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father—and he was full of grace and truth.”

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

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