Receiving God’s Bear Hug in Las Vegas, Nevada

Little girl in purple shorts and t-shirt bends over with blue shovel to find shells.
We “planted” shells in Vegas.

My birthday milestone was an excuse for a family reunion. I pictured three generations enjoying a Florida beach and gathering seashells. Can you hear the screech of protest tires? Here’s how we ended up in Las Vegas.

Florida to Las Vegas Is a Long Tale Trail

One family member: “Florida is too far. We can’t take off that much time.”

Me: “I understand. So, how about somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, close to home?”

Silence.

An aerial view of snow-covered mountains under a deep blue sky.
Rocky Mountains in March–Brrr.

And then from another loved one: “Remember the altitude sickness and migraine headaches I had the last time we visited Colorado?”

Yes, I remembered.

What to do? Our memory-making destination needed to be reachable for all, at sea level, and affordable.

How About?

Eight-year-old girl is in sand along a tropical pool with palm trees.
Just give me a pool!

“How about Las Vegas?” I was thinking cheap airfare, food, and lodging; sunshine; and low altitude. Just give me a pool!

At first, came the sound of silence again.

Then, one by one, adults offered unanimous approval.

Two girls in shallow water with sand shovels in their hands.
Happiness is warm water, sand and sunshine.

Last month, our family of nine gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday three months ahead of schedule. We found a family resort with no casinos. Lovely Tahiti Village even offered a lazy river for tubing, sandy beach, and pool.

God’s Bear Hug

My birthday cup was full, I thought, and then I was bear hugged by God right in The Venetian!  Let me tell you there is no greater experience than a God hug, and I wish I could transfer one to you, but that’s not how it works. He’ll deal with you as is fitting on his timetable. But here is my hug experience:

A six-year-old girl poses in front of an iron railing by canal water, Italian store fronts and a cloudy faux blue sky.
A little of Venice at The Venetian

Part of The Venentian is a mall called The Grand Canal Shoppes. The stores look like Venice nestled along a canal complete with gondola rides under a faux, but tasteful, blue sky. It is probably the closest I will come to the real thing, and the granddaughters and I wanted to do it.

The family split into two groups.

Gondolier stands in boat waving while one grandpa waves, his granddaughter smiles, his daughter takes a photo and her boyfriend laughs. All in the Gondola.
Four members of the tribe with Gondolier Luca from NYC, who sang “That’s Amore.”

Potty Break. No! Two Potty Breaks!

My group included favorite daughter-in-law and the three- and six-year-old granddaughters. Just as we were getting into the roped off line the six-year-old winced and whispered: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

The two of us hoofed it and returned to our group. Then, the three-year-old was holding her crotch plaintively.

Not sympathetically, I said, “You’ll have to hold it.”

Her little face melted me, and I pleaded,  “Can you hold it?”

“She can’t,” said Mom.

We got out of line. The gatekeeper was understanding.

By the time we were back with empty bladders we were assigned gondolier Francesca, from Naples, Italy.

Francesca, the Gondolier from Naples

 

Francesca!

Her accent gilded the glide down faux Venice. Francesca was so sweet to the children, even singing an Italian nursery song. Translation, she said: “Papa, I have to go pee pee.”

A little girl and her mom sit happily in a gondola.
Enjoying the ride with lots of smiles

As our gondola entered a circle of water in a holding area, I noticed the Japanese woman at the railing snapping photos of us. The sunset’s window light did create a soft glow, I thought.

And then, suddenly I was spiritually bear hugged. I felt total love, total peace. All was well. And all is well. I was in a thin space between heaven and earth. Time seemed irrelevant. Love embraced everything. I was teary-eyed from this surprising birthday touch from God. No words can capture the experience, but it was very good and too quickly over.

“Happy Birthday, Grandma!” declared the six-year-old.

In that circle of water, Francesca sang Happy Birthday in Italian to the German American “Nona.”  She then rowed us to the dock, and we hugged when I got off the boat.

All was well indeed.

the parchment sign says "All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Julian of Norwich

 

A three-generation family sits at a long outdoor restaurant table waiting for their food.
The Birthday Party Tribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico–Olé!

"In case of fire, freak out and run like hell."An Arizona fire last week prevented us from visiting in-laws, who evacuated their mountain cabin and retreated to Phoenix under record-breaking temperatures. My faithful companion and I decided to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico. Olé!

Here is an armchair glimpse of a delightful southwestern city and more art galleries than you could ever count!

First on the tour is a snapshot of the forest leading into Santa Fe, followed by photos of desert plants, lovingly tended by gardeners at Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill. I don’t know the plants’ official names– they’re just beautiful pokies. Using a camera lens, one can appreciate why so many artists love the lighting and colors of Santa Fe and the Southwest.

Hyde Memorial State Park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Hyde Memorial State Park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Prickly plant with many pokies. Do not know the name.

A bush has blossoms that are fuzzy puffs of pink with a blue sky and green scrub trees behind it.  Pink cactus at Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill

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Visiting the New Mexico History Museum offered us a good account of the state’s past 500 years. It’s a mix of several people groups: Spanish

Mi compadre stands by the Palace of the Governors, which was built in the early 1600s and is the oldest public building in the U.S.
Mi compadre stands by the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, which was built in the early 1600s and is the oldest public building in the U.S.

settlers, who founded Santa Fe in 1607; various Indian tribes; countless adventurers; farmers; tourists and artists. Many pushed westward with donkeys and horses, and later with trains and motorcars.

Regrettably, we didn’t learn as much about the more ancient citizens. Nor did we visit the Taos Pueblo, an ancient community belonging to the Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people and considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the U.S.

I was intrigued by one story of nine-year-old

Illustration of peasant girl on donkey with colt next to her. Done in pen and ink.
Illustration by José Cisneros (1910-2009)

Josefa Antonia de Pas Bustillos Ontiveros. The museum plaque states Ontiveros arrived in Santa Fe in 1694 after a 1500-mile trip from Mexico City.

She belonged to one of  hundreds of Spanish families that recolonized New Mexico after an earlier Indian war drove out the Spanish to Mexico. Though Josefa never married she bore at least six children and cared for many more. She owned property, fought land disputes in court, and made her own way in colonial New Mexico. Her descendants still reside in Santa Fe.  Do you think Josefa Antonia had true grit?

Another Sante Fe person who blew me away was Sculptor Allan Houser (1914-1994 ). Allan’s parents, Sam and Blossom Haozous were members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, who were held as prisoners of war for 27 years. Allan’s father was with the small band of Warm Springs Chiricahuas when their leader Geronimo left the reservation and later surrendered to the U.S. Army in 1886 in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.

After release from the U.S. government, Houser’s parents raised the family on farmland in Oklahoma. Houser eventually settled in Santa Fe after extensive art training. Below are several of his pieces that we discovered as we wandered Canyon Road and “the museums on the hill.”

Homeward Bound bronze statue by Allan Houser (1914-1994)
“Homeward Bound” bronze statue by Allan Houser (1914-1994)
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Homeward Bound, front close up
A 49"x42"x42" bronze head of an Apache man, sober, shoulder-length hair topped with a head scarf
Allan Houser’s “Warm Springs Apache Man”
Bronze statue, 107"x44"x39"
“Morning Prayer,” Allan Houser

 

Canyon Road and the International Museum of Folk Art are two Santa Fe sites bursting with art. Canyon Road is populated with a half mile of galleries. We were quite content to view the sculptures on the patios, although in one gallery we longingly admired a $5500 bronze of a shepherd, dog and sheep.

Veryl Goodnight's "Shepherds of the High Plains"
Veryl Goodnight’s “Shepherds of the High Plains”

 

"Out of the Park"
“Out of the Park” by Walt Horton, Sage Creek Gallery

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Flight of Folds, powder coated cast and fabricated stainless steel, by Kevin Box and Robert J. Lang
Flight of Folds, powder coated cast and fabricated stainless steel, by Kevin Box and Robert J. Lang

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A statue on Canyon Road

 

Bronze sculpture of cowboy on horseback

A centerpiece at Museum Hill is this fellow below, who reminded me of Goliath:

 

Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer, by Craig Dan Goseyun
Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer, by Craig Dan Goseyun

 

The Museum of International Folk Art is the largest collection of miniature folk art in the world. I couldn’t photograph all the museum’s 130,000 objects from 100 nations! We particularly liked the dioramas that showed figures of different sizes, which created a lengthy 3-D perspective. Below are a few of the art pieces we saw.

Small clay figures inside the open doors of a church show parents holding a baby with the priest by the Baptismal and godparents standing around them. Through the open doors, one can see many figurines of people looking in from outside.
An infant baptism–clay figures are smaller in scale the farther back they are positioned in the display
Hundreds of little clay people sit in bleachers in an arena. The bull fighter and bull with two Spaniards on horse back are in the front.
All of these people watching a bull fight are individual clay figures.
Eight little dolls sit on chairs at a table ladened with goodies for Victorian tea.
Miniature dolls at tea
Asian child, dressed only in cloth that looks like a swimming suit on her chunky body, holds a butterfly net.
Butterfly Catcher

A primitive wood tableau of mother, daughter, son

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Performers in the circus

 

Mothers and children
Mothers and children

 

Pudgy boy and girl in swimming suits, his red, hers' white with red polka dot bikini and swim cap, stand in a box of sand. They are wind-up toys.
Wind up toys

Santa Fe is definitely a visual feast. I hope you will get to travel there and experience it for yourself. But try to go when the temperature isn’t 95 degrees!

 

Thanks for browsing
Thanks for reading “There’s a Blog in My Eye”! Happy summer!

 

Fasting on Praise Mountain

It was a gift to experience a 44-hour prayer fast recently on Praise Mountain in the Rockies. No, this isn’t a blog entry to make you feel guilty about not fasting. Trust me, I am a lowly white belt in the spiritual discipline. And some of you know that Jesus instructs us to fast in secret. So, why am I writing about it?A dirt road between yellow Aspens and green pine trees leads to Praise Mountain

The hope is that the photographs and slivers of my experience will open you up to the possibility of trying it–that is, if you haven’t already or if it has been a long time ago. Turn off your cell phone, TV, and other sound bombardiers. If possible, get alone somewhere from your usual environment. Even an empty church classroom or a parked car for a half a day can become a personal retreat. At least, just one time, make prayer under a liquid fast a priority in a busy life. Someone, who loves you very much, wants special time with you. Don’t be anxious or afraid. He meets you exactly where you are. Be patient with yourself. It might take time to settle down.

I had no agenda for my fast except the expectation that I would receive a wordThe brown sided cabin with a green tin roof has pine trees in the back an dirt and gravel in the front with a few withered plants.–one special insight.  I selected about 30 books to take to Praise Mountain, and they were one reason I felt tired unloading the car at 9000-feet altitude. The Esther Cabin was spacious and more than adequate. I made up a bed, put drinks in the refrigerator, and spread out a bibliophile’s tools on the table. Much of the time I used the Bible and other books. I read for pleasure and meditation. I wrote and prayed. I bounced between two comfy sofas and a Two delicate purple flowers stick up and out of a climb of dry grass.kitchen chair. Often, the tea kettle whistled. It was all good, but not soul-shaking.Against Autumns brown leaves and grass is a gone-to-seed flower, its white seeds still clustered in flower form.

There are 110 acres to explore at Praise Mountain, shared with llamas, horses, and deer. On my firstA small, yellow flower pops out among a pinwheel pattern of aqua green lichen walk in the late afternoon I was drawn to “look down, draw close.” Fall’s peak week had past, yet the effortless wonders of nature boggled the mind.

“Look down. Draw close.”

A piece of ground in shadow and light, revealing a circle of aqua-green lichen and below it a baby evergreen.

After a good sleep in a very quiet and dark room, I did a Bible study on the word “rock.” After all, Praise Mountain is rock. Then I took a walk to the chapel. Below is the sign in front of the building!A large boulder has gold letters on it that read "Jesus--The Solid Rock."

Inside the chapel was an old piano. I hadn’tThe first line in the sheet music, coffee stained, of "Let's Go Take This City." played for six years, but now was an hour of joyful racket, and even an original tune. Opening up a coffee-stained praise booklet I found Let’s Go Take This City. How coincidental to stumble upon this unfamiliar song just as my faith community had completed a weekend emphasis on city missions.

Near the chapel were prayer caves. Think Gethsemane and Desert Fathers. IMG_0469I wasn’t planning on going into one, especially after opening the door. Dark and rustic are words that come to mind. True confession: I used my iPhone’s flashlight to check out the corners. The candles drew me. I lit them, locked the door, and sat on a wooden bench. Here was my epiphany, which is too personal to share. It was powerful and so creatively given through the candle arrangement that I didn’t doubt it was God’s word to me.

“Look Inside. Light Candles. Sit Down.”

On a rock ledge in the dark cave are eight candles of various sizes--all are lit except the two red ones that have a small white candle between it.

Both nights I forced myself to go out into the darkness and view the stars. It was chilly, and I couldn’t shake the thought that some sneaky beast prowled the forest desiring a tasty city slicker. Yet, oh the beauty displayed in the Milky Way and a thousand other stars!

Sunshine circle beams through pine trees with a wooden fence in front

“Look up. Search wide.”

A pond reflects the gold Aspen and Evergreen trees around it. A few ducks can be seen in the distant water.

 

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No place is perfect. For me it was the flies. I killed quite a few with a swatter–retribution on the little demons for distracting tranquil moments. Here wasHeadline in big, black letters says: "How To Attract Flies." God’s joke on the subject. In the cabin were many Christian books, dvds, and magazines. On an end table I noticed several issues of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine. I didn’t even know it still existed! I randomly picked up the July issue and opened it to an article entitled “How To Attract Flies.” Yes, ha, ha. The article was a good study of 1 Peter 3:8: “…be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” Writer Skip Heitzig used Ben Franklin’s quote “you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar” to emphasize that a follower of Jesus should match the walk with the talk.

My final morning was a time of gratefulness and the business of breaking camp. I drove down Praise Mountain and out of the Rocky Mountains refreshed. Quickly back into life’s busyness, I filed away this fasting time as one more reminder of what should daily remain important.

A bright, yellow half-circle sun sinks behind the black forest line. Ponderosa pine branches, also black, frame photo on top.