Visit the Holy Land Online with Wayne Stiles!

An Exciting New Opportunity to Experience the Land of the Bible

 

I have some great news for you! A good friend of mine, Dr. Wayne Stiles (see handsome mugshot above!), will be hosting an online walkthrough of the Lands of the Bible.

The focus for this series is on Passion Week and the sign-up will be open until April 19, but why wait? Go to this website today and sign up for Wayne’s FREE 3-part series on Passion Week, recorded on site in Jerusalem.

What you’ll see: the key places where Jesus walked and taught during the days leading up to and including His crucifixion and resurrection.

What you’ll hear: teaching from one of my favorite Bible teachers! Wayne delivers more than just information. He gives you lessons for living in light of biblical truth. I’ve been to Israel with Wayne on several occasions, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that God’s blessing rests on this man and his teaching. Don’t miss this opportunity.

If you enjoy the mini-series, as I’m sure you will, you’ll have the opportunity to subscribe to an ongoing video series where you will walk the Bible lands with Wayne.

The URL for the FREE 3-part series: www.passionweektour.com

Swayed by Tahitian Waters

Yet another lesson in maintaining balance

Tahiti & Bora Bora

Yep, the Lord called me to a ministry in Tahiti! Took me about 1/2 second to accept Chuck Swindoll’s gracious invitation to join him on a four-masted sailing ship that would cruise the islands. I would be performing Bible characters along the way.

One of them was Jonah, a new character for me. Old Jonah wasn’t called to paradise. He was called to go to Assyrian Nineveh. About as far from paradise as you’re going to get. And he did NOT want to go. In fact he headed the other way, only to be stopped by the Lord while on board a ship.

But who wouldn’t want to go to the South Pacific? When you think of Tahiti you may well conjure coral reefs ringing black sand beaches with shallow lagoons filled with iridescent rainbow fish and near-transparent eels with coal black button eyes. You may be able to feel the feathery touch of balmy breezes that carry just a whisper of coolness. You can almost smell the fragrance of a thousand tropical flowers. And that’s just the way it is. Tahiti is as close as you’re going to come to paradise.

On the island.

What you may not be aware of is that there’s a lot of what is ironically called the Pacific Ocean between the 118 islands that make up French Polynesia where we find Tahiti. There isn’t much that’s pacific, or peaceful, about some of those waters. The technical name for the dramatic movement of a ship caught in rough swells is called “sway.” So there I was, reciting the lines of God’s reluctant prophet, Jonah who found himself in the gut of an enormous fish—wondering if I might be in for the same fate. And I wasn’t even running from the Lord!

You should have seen me as I was performing Jonah—trying to maintain my balance and remember my lines as the ship was swaying back and forth—praying I wouldn’t tip over. I looked out the portholes on the starboard side and all I saw was gray sky. Five seconds later we tilted back and out the port side all I could see was water crashing against the thick glass. Thanks to a heavy stool they pushed out onto the stage for me I managed to avoid stumbling into the laps of the seasick seafarers to starboard or the green-gilled patrons to port!

The Lord graciously sustained me, though many passengers (including my sweetheart, Lauren) got seasick and stayed that way for more than 10 hours—all through the rest of the night. I should say “nights” because this was the first of two!

There was a good lesson here. There are going to be rough seas ahead.

I thought of another boat scene. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of him to the other side of the lake. Unlike Jonah, they were in the midst of obeying God when they encountered a life-threatening storm (Mark 8:33). Tumbling waves—even if they were going where He told them to go.

The same holds true for us today.

The good news is that He is with us. Always (Matthew 28:20). In the fish. On the boat. He is with us wherever we go.

Even between the islands of paradise, where the water can get rough.

Tahiti Bound!

Satisfying a Hunger for Real Beauty

Tahitian Women on the Beach - Paul Gauguin

Tahitian Women on Beach – Paul Gauguin

Tomorrow, Lauren and I will fly to Tahiti via LAX.  We are going with Dr. Chuck Swindoll and the Insight for Living bunch. We will be traveling on a beautiful 4-master, beginning in Papeete and then sailing northwest to Bora Bora. We have never been to Tahiti or anywhere close to the other paradise islands in French Polynesian Archipelago.

Tahiti exerts a romantic tug for a lot of folks. Part of the reason for the exotic allure grows out of our familiarity with the great artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and his bold renderings of raven-haired Tahitian women.

In 1891 Gauguin left France  behind (along with what Gauguin believed to be its repressive conventions) and moved to Tahiti, where he lived with native islanders far outside the capital, Papeete.

Gauguin’s striking use of color and symbolism in his Tahitian paintings set him apart from his French contemporaries by an aesthetic distance equal to the physical distance that separated Papeete from Paris. Some of his major works include La Orana Maria (1891), Tahitian women on Beach, (1891), The Seed of the Areoi (1892), Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897), and Two Tahitian Women (1899).

I have seen many of his masterpieces hanging in major museums around the world: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. You can find some of his other works in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The geographical distribution of his work is impressive.

Some folks consider it a shame that not a single original Gauguin painting remains in French Polynesia. The Gauguin Museum on the main island of Tahiti, displays only reproductions of his work.

I don’t share that sentiment. Why restrict Gauguin’s work to his adopted home? It’s out there as it should be, available to a foreign population, the vast majority of which would never have had the opportunity to view his masterworks in person were they kept in Tahiti.

Still, for all its glory, Gauguin’s vision of Tahiti is self indulgent. Theosophism and native Polynesian religions limited the great Gauguin to a selfish and egotistical exploration of all that Tahiti could provide with its natural beauty and its exotic sensuality. Many of Gauguin’s masterworks reflect exquisitely his allegiance to the carnal appetites of the god he beheld in the mirror.

Having seen and appreciated many of Gauguin’s paintings, I look forward to experiencing the real Tahiti, up close and unfiltered by another artist’s point of view. I want to draw my own conclusions. To interpret the beauty of the islands from my own perspective. As Christians we enjoy a an increased capacity for distinguishing the beauty of creation from the beatific Creator of nature. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to celebrate the infinite beauty of the Divine Artist even more than His masterworks of creation.

While we will enjoy the beauty of the islands, our allegiance and our deepest appreciation are to the One who, by the power of His Word, called all things into being—including Tahiti.

Portland, ME – Coasting

Finding Southern Hospitality in Yankee Country

The Wedding Cake House, Kennebunk, Maine

The Wedding Cake House, Kennebunk, Maine

Did you ever see a place that looks like it was built just to enjoy? Well, this whole state of Maine looks that way to me. – Will Rogers

I chose “coasting” in my title for a reason. Getting to Portland was anything but a rush – it was more like coasting  north from Boston on the Amtrak DownEaster. The trip was supposed to take 2 1/2 hours. It took four. The conductor told us we had some unanticipated “slowdowns” – a technical railroad term, no doubt, for “Moose on the Rails!” It didn’t matter. It could have taken us 7 hours, and it would have been fine.

The slowdowns were a welcome relief from the hectic pace of Dallas. The gentle rocking of the train as it lumbered through canyons of towering trees, just leafing out (in May!) and the sun setting, its golden light filtering through those fresh layers of green – why rush? “The journey’s the thing,” I keep telling my students. “Love the journey, or get off the train!” Yes, I use that metaphor when encouraging my DTS students to slow their pace. The destination we all share will come quickly enough. It’s the middle part we should savor.

Portland, Maine. Delightful – from the Portland Harbor Hotel and our host, Ansel (named after Ansel Adams, the great Photographer from the Left Coast), to Mr. Reginald Herbert Humphrey, Jr., our Concierge, who told me he had met only one other “Reggie” in his life, and that was back in the Jurassic days of high school. We had nothing in common but our first name, but we visited like long-lost brothers. It was the same with most of the folks we met.

Pam Goode (MaineDayTrip.com) was no exception to that rule. She was our hostess for a  scheduled 6/actual 8-hour guided tour through Portland and points south. Pam is a generous wellspring of fun facts about Portland proper (director, John Ford was raised here; Stephen King and H. W. Longfellow were born here), Cape Elizabeth (home of the late Bette Davis), and the Portland Head Light (a lighthouse operating since 1791 in Ft. Williams Park) – and, of course, George and Barbara (as they are known to the locals), who summer about 25 miles away to the south in Kennebunkport. There, the Kennebunkportians (?) enjoy watching Barbara tool around in her tiny smart car trailed by an entourage of secret service personnel in their limousines. It makes for wry New England observations as the line of shiny black limos trail “Snowbank” (white-haired Barb’s Code name) to the Bush’s favorite Lobster shack, or to do a bit of shopping.

The real highlight, though, came when we rolled to a stop at 104 Summer Street, in front of the famous Wedding Cake House in Kennebunk. According to Compass American Guides (2005), “it’s the “most photographed house in Maine.” The home was built in 1825 by shipbuilder George W. Bourne (1801–1856). As Pam described the place we noted an elderly gentleman in the front yard holding the leashes of several golden-haired Springers. He was waving at us to come into the driveway. “Oh, I can’t believe this!” Pam said, as we pulled into the gravel drive. “That’s Jimmy Barker! He owns the place.” Jimmy (a spry 87 and 1/2, as he boasts), welcomed us with a firm handshake and a smile as bright as a lighthouse, and asked if we would like to see the inside of this famous home.

We piled out of the car and went to the front of the house as Jimmy put the dogs back in the kennel. He opened the door and ushered us into a home absolutely packed with paintings, treasures, and decades of memories tucked into every corner. He gave me permission to take pictures and gave us a brief tour of the place, which included numerous portraits of a much younger and strikingly handsome Jimmy Barker. He was so kind, so gracious and welcoming. We in Texas pride ourselves on our southern hospitality, but I’m saying, we could take a few lessons from a Yankee named Jimmy Barker.

As far as I can tell, Pam and her boss, Norm (a Texas transplant to ME, by the way), are the only game in town when it comes to personal guided tours of Portland and the surrounding area. It’s no wonder. They are so good at what they do, and so reasonably priced, any potential competitors would face a stiff climb to even come close.

Having said goodbye to Pam, Lauren and I ended our day with a slow walk among the quaint shops that border the streets that run parallel to Wharf Street in Portland. Inside The Mind gift shop, we picked up a “Crab Clock” for Evan, and a few small gifts for friends. Down the street, we moseyed into another shop where we found a mug with a lobster on it (we always pick up a memory mug) for ourselves, then into a variety of other creatively designed stores, where we enjoyed a sprinkling of conversations with the wonderfully homey shopkeepers, many of whom had some odd connection to Dallas.

So – if you’re looking for a picture perfect environment, filled with interesting, and friendly folks, downshift!  Or better still, coast into Portland. If you’re like us, you will find it hard to leave.