Monday, February 28, 2011

Two Friends and Two Museums

On Feb 19 John and I were going to take a day to do sight-seeing in Washington DC, but the subway stations we needed to travel through were closed for repairs.  It was also an extremely windy day, so we decided to stay home.  We'd reserve our day out for the next Saturday, Feb 26.

Then on Tuesday we got a call from Daniel and Victoria, asking if they could come visit.  We met Daniel in Niger when he came out to teach Math at Sahel Academy.  During his time there, his fiancee, Victoria, came to visit, so we got to meet her.  We visited them in Chicago last September and went to their wedding last January.  Daniel spent a lot of his time in Niger, not just teaching, but also mentoring the high school kids.  He had a huge impact on Suzanne's life.  Daniel and Victoria are preparing for missionary service and well, we just really enjoy being with them.  So of course we were excited when we heard they were coming!

We decided to move our plans for a day in DC up to Friday instead of Saturday so we could enjoy the outing with Daniel and Victoria.  Our first stop was the Smithsonian, particularly the African Art Museum. They had a lot of stuff that we've seen in museums in Jos and Niamey, but it was still interesting.  One of the most interesting was this henna gourd.  In Niger, and probably most of West Africa, the women love to decorate their hands and feet with elaborate henna designs.  Suzanne and I have even done this.  But apparently back in the day, the women put their hands in these gourds while the henna was setting.  Nowadays, women put their hands in plastic bags like you take your groceries home in.  

John and I had our honeymoon in Washington DC.  During our honeymoon we spent hours one day trying to find the African Art Museum which was then being housed in temporary quarters somewhere else.  So, it was fun to finally get to see it....almost 25 years later!
We didn't see the entire museum because we also planned on seeing the Holocaust Museum which we knew would take a long time to get through and we also knew it closed at 5:30 p.m.  So we hurried on our way, stopping to get a hot dog at a stand.  The day had started out feeling very warm, but by the time we got our hot dogs, it was extremely windy!

We couldn't take pictures in the Holocaust Museum.  It was a four-story building and each floor was packed with information to absorb.  It all became a bit much after awhile and my back was killing me from standing so long.  But it was definitely worth it.  Some of my favorite things were:
1.  The shoes.  There were piles of shoes that had been taken from Jewish people who were gassed.  There was a poem there that said: 
We are the shoes, We are the last witnesses
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers.
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire
-Yiddish poet Moses Schulstein
2.  The little things that had been taken from the prisoners who thought they were simply being moved from one ghetto to another.  There were tea strainers, eye glasses, silverware, razors, and all sorts of little things.
3.  The mock-up of the gas chambers.  It just graphically told the story of how they went in the door of the gas chamber having no idea what was about to happen to them.
4.  The bunk room with actual bunks from the camps and also the train car that you could go in.  It made the whole story very real.
One of the things that struck us was the way the whole holocaust was extensively documented by pictures and records that were kept.  To Hitler it was all a scientific experiment to be documented.  I'm sure the Nazis thought they would increase in power and that those pictures would never be used against them because they would soon exterminate all those weaker than them.

Another thing that moved me was the progression of the evil.  At first benches and public places were marked "Jews only" (which idea they got, by the way, from the United States with our segregated "Coloreds only".  Shame on us!).  Then they began boycotting Jewish places of business.  That was soon followed by sterilizing all who were mentally handicapped, deformed, or in some way less than perfect.  Jewish people were then moved into ghettos and from there on to the camps where the fittest were left to become slaves of the Third Reich while everybody else was gassed.  

And the scary thing is that any government, any country, any individual, is capable of the same hatred and horrible acts while excusing it as "scientific" or "for their own good".  

We left the museum to discover it had turned cold again.  We were glad to hurry home to our crock pot full of groundnut stew!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rooted and Grounded in Love

John and I decided not to go out for Valentine's Day.  We just didn't think it was worth facing the lines we knew we'd find at most restaurants.  So I just made a special dinner.  We splurged on steak and I made my special potatoes.  We also had asparagus, fruit salad, and home-made banana bread.  It was probably better than anything we could get at a restaurant we can afford and at a much better price!  I think John looks pretty satisfied with his meal, don't you?

John gave me some chocolate and a pretty potted rose plant for Valentine's Day.  Unfortunately the rose is already looking, ahhh, shall we say, not very healthy.  I know I do NOT have the green thumb required for keeping plants alive.  I really do try, and I love having plants, but......  Maybe I didn't water it enough?  

Or maybe its roots are just not deep enough.  Let's blame it on the plant, shall we??  The past two weeks our pastor has been preaching on being rooted and grounded in love.  "Rooted" is an agricultural term and it means that a plant or a tree has roots that go so deep it can't be blown over or uprooted in a storm.  (Unlike the national Christmas tree that blew down in Saturday's storm!)  The word "grounded" is an architectural term, referring to a building having a foundation or a footer so that it won't topple in storms.

The phrase "rooted and grounded in love" is part of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-21, a prayer of empowerment.  This being rooted and grounded will only come as I allow the Holy Spirit to have full control of my life.  I need to ask myself if I have the intimacy with the Lord Jesus that allows Him into every room of my heart.  One thing the pastor said that really hit me and that I've been thinking about for over a week now is this:  When trouble (whether in the form of an event, a circumstance, a person) comes knocking on my door, do I REACT or do I RESPOND?  Reacting would be lashing out in anger, getting depressed, snapping at people, lying, denying, etc.  It is acting automatically without thinking and these reactions are almost always sinful behaviors.  A good way to identify strongholds Satan might have in my life is to examine the places where I REACT.  Instead of REACTING, I need to ask the Spirit to help me RESPOND.  What would Jesus do?  How would He answer?  What is the best way to handle this situation?  What can I do that will most help the other people involved?  Pastor Fuller said it's like trouble comes knocking on your heart's door.  When it comes do we say, "OK, Jesus, you answer the door and deal with this" or do I say, "Step back, Jesus!  I got this one!"  Letting Jesus deal with it is RESPONDING.  Pushing Jesus out of the way and dealing with it myself is REACTING.

Being able to RESPOND instead of REACTING takes time spent in intimacy with the One who loves me more than anybody.  It is getting to know Him, becoming more like Him, and learning to step out of the way and let Him handle it.  It is growing my roots deep into Him so that I don't bend and break when the storms come.  Or whither and die like my poor rose.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cotton Castle

What image would your mind conjure up when you hear the term "cotton castle"?  

I have been scanning my mother- and father-in-law's slides, converting them to a digital format.  My in-laws were in Turkey from 1958-1962 and my husband and two of his three brothers were born there.  My father-in-law wrote a brief description on all the slides he took in Turkey, which has helped immensely in knowing what and where the pictures were taken.  I came across a series of pictures entitled "Hierapolis, Cotton Castle, Pamukkale".  So my mind was prepared to see bales of cotton stacked up....enough bales waiting shipment that they looked like a castle.  Instead, this is what the slides were:

Now I was really curious!  Clearly this wasn't cotton, but was some kind of rock formation.  So I looked it up on the internet.  First of all, I learned that "Pamukkale" is a Turkish word meaning "Cotton Castle".  Then I found out that this "castle" was formed where there are limestone-laden thermal springs.  The limestone leaves heavy calcium carbonate deposits which create the formation of stalactites, potholes, and cataracts.  The hot springs themselves have been touted to cure all sorts of ailments from high blood pressure to nervous and physical exhaustion.  (Click here for a direct link to this web page for more info.) Probably it isn't the water itself that cures but just sitting in the pool enjoying the beauty!  That would bring down anybody's blood pressure.

At one point in time hotels (seen in the photo 2nd from the bottom) were built on top of the "castle" and a road (seen in the last picture above) was formed to go right up the side of the "castle".  Water was taken from the cataracts to fill hotel pools.  Waste and dirty water were dumped directly on the "castle".  People walked all over it and even rode bikes and motorcycles on it.  The site was beginning to lose its attraction when UNESCO stepped in.  The hotels were demolished and the roads were filled in with artificial pools which are accessible to tourists.  More information about the transformation and preservation of the Cotton Castle can be found here.

Today, this is what you would see if you were to visit the Cotton Castle.  The photo was found at this site.

 I never thought I'd want to go to Turkey, but now I find myself really wanting to see Pamukkale, the Cotton Castle.  (This picture found here.) Warm springs sounds like just what the doctor ordered for the winter blahs!

Monday, February 07, 2011

John's Birthday

John's birthday was on a Saturday, so it was a perfect opportunity to take another sight-seeing venture into Washington DC.  Again, we took the metro.  After our friend's car got stolen at the metro station we've been a little leery of parking there, but we bought one of those steering wheel bars and decided to risk it (yes, the car was there when we got back.  Whew!).

The first place we went was the African-American Civil War Museum.  That was quite a disappointment.  It was being temporarily housed in the U Street YMCA, which turned out to be just as interesting as the African-American Civil War Museum. I think because the museum was in temporary quarters, they were down to what they could squeeze into one room.  Then a large group came in and we couldn't really see around much.  The YMCA (which is now a museum on the ground floor and offices on the other floors) was the first YMCA built for black men.  It was a beautiful building and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  This is a room set up exactly as one of the rooms for the  men would have been.  As most YMCA's back then, this Y offered classes in business skills, Bible classes, and tutoring in school subjects as well as warm, safe, dry rooms.

From there we went back to the metro station.  On the way we walked by this house.  Do you have any idea why the porch ceiling is painted like that?  When I taught school in North Carolina, the kids were always talking about "haints".  I finally had to ask what a haint was and found out it is a ghost or a restless spirit.  Then I discovered that many porch roofs, house walls, or shutters are painted blue which is supposed to keep away the haints.  You can read more about it here.  Anyway, I believe that this porch ceiling is painted like this to keep away haints.

Back at the metro station we spent time at the African-American Civil War Memorial, which really was worth seeing.  There is a statue depicting black men who served in the different branches of the Armed services during the civil war.  You may have thought there was a handful of men who did so, but, according to the curator of the museum, 10% of the Army and 25% of the Navy were African-American.  There are two walls with about three layers of names of African-American soldiers who served during the Civil War.  It was really amazing and a good thing for us all to remember.  This part of town is not where most of the touristy stuff is, but it's worth a trip out of your way to visit this monument and see the historic U street district.

From there we got back on the metro and rode down to the center of DC where we visited the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) museum and period rooms. The museum itself wasn't all that interesting, but the period rooms are well worth a visit.  For free a member of the DAR will take you on a tour of each of the period rooms....rooms in a typical American home in the fashion of a set period of time. Each state sets up a room.  I forget which state set this room up, but it is a typical Victorian style. You can see how dark and over-decorated it is.  This is the Texas room and may have been my favorite. It would have been from a simple room in the late 1800's or early 1900's.  And I LOVED the library!  The library is full of books about the history and records of every state and county in the USA.  Many people come here to do research on the history of an area or to research their roots.  The DAR building also has a hall that can be rented for weddings or big events.  This room reminds me of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

As we headed back to the metro station we went past the White House.  Of course, the Obamas saw us out in the cold and invited us in for a cup of hot chocolate!

When we got back to Lanham,we went out for supper....TexMex, the watched a boring movie, Enchanted April.  I kind of liked it, but John hated it.  But all in all, it was a good day.