Mom Nature

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Dena Dietrich

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:20-21).”

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”

That iconic Chiffon Margarine commercial made a big impact on consumers in the 70’s. If you’re too young to remember, it showed Mother Nature tasting what she thought was butter, and then when the narrator tells her she’s wrong, she angrily flashes her thunder and lightning threat with this catchy phrase.

Pretty effective advertising as her saying is still used today, especially when the weather acts up. So why mention this commercial? Frankly, I’m fed up with Mother Nature and cringe every time a weatherman uses it in their forecast.

It’s subtle, I know, but it undermines God’s place as our Creator. As Paul said in Romans, everyone knows He’s real because of the marvel of nature. Before you judge me as a nitpicker imagine this scenario.

You’re watching the weather tonight and there’s crazy stuff going on, from tornadoes to floods, to hail and ice, and the weatherman says, “God has really let lose on the Midwest with His power as this severe storm barrels down on Michigan.” It’d never happen, and if it did happen that person would be fired. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

I’ve never heard a meteorologist attribute the power of acute weather to God, but always to Mother Nature (and she doesn’t even exist!) She’s no more real than the Tooth Fairy, Santa, or the Easter Bunny (and those last two minimize His rightful place too). The point is this.

Unlike Mother Nature, God is very real and even atheists are “without excuse.” Just look around as spring bursts forth today. His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” And since we are the pinnacle of His creation, it also means that we are accountable to Him as our Maker (Hebrews 9:27).

As our Creator, He has every right to expect something from us. One day, as our Judge, He will look upon us for His holiness, which apart from Jesus’ blood to cover our sins and make us holy, just doesn’t exist. As James said, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

We are all guilty, and despite our very best efforts, unlike Mother Nature’s faulty taste buds, we can’t fool God by our good deeds when our sin remains (Isaiah 64:6). He knows real butter from margarine. Thankfully, He has withheld His thunder and lightning judgment that we deserved, and Jesus joyfully took it for us to make us as holy as God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Now that’s truly iconic!

 

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Twain’s Quip Twip

Screenshot 2017-04-07 12.00.17.pngSam Clemens

In 1867, Mark Twain was not very well known yet, but fame was waiting for him just around the corner, and his trip to Israel launched that famous writing career with his travel book, The Innocents Abroad. What he saw in Israel over 150 years ago is not what you would recognize today, with lush fields filled with crops. The national transformation of Israel is quite stunning today.

He had much to say about the Holy Land, then ruled by the Ottoman Empire, and Americans ate it up. The Innocents Abroad became a bestseller with vivid descriptions like these:

 The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the ‘desert places’ round about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour’s voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.

IMG_2112.JPGThe Sea of Galilee

A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. 

 And Jerusalem was not the amazing city we see today either:

IMG_2897.JPGNear David’s Tomb in Jerusalem

Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross.

 It seems to me that all the races and colors and tongues of the earth must be represented among the fourteen thousand souls that dwell in Jerusalem. Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound.

IMG_3206.JPGDavid’s Tower in Jerusalem

 He was struck by the size of the city of Jerusalem too:

 A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is.

IMG_2874.JPGBelow the Temple Mount (Wailing Wall)

 He had this to say about the Temple Mount:

 The mighty Mosque of Omar, and the paved court around it, occupy a fourth part of Jerusalem. They are upon Mount Moriah, where King Solomon’s Temple stood. This Mosque is the holiest place the Mohammedan knows, outside of Mecca. Up to within a year or two past, no christian could gain admission to it or its court for love or money. But the prohibition has been removed, and we entered freely for bucksheesh (bribe money).

 IMG_2696.jpgThe sealed up Golden Gate

He had this impression of the Golden Gate:

 Close by is the Golden Gate, in the Temple wall–a gate that was an elegant piece of sculpture in the time of the Temple, and is even so yet. From it, in ancient times, the Jewish High Priest turned loose the scapegoat and let him flee to the wilderness and bear away his twelve-month load of the sins of the people. If they were to turn one loose now, he would not get as far as the Garden of Gethsemane, till these miserable vagabonds here would gobble him up, sins and all. They wouldn’t care. Mutton-chops and sin is good enough living for them. The Moslems watch the Golden Gate with a jealous eye, and an anxious one, for they have an honored tradition that when it falls, Islamism will fall and with it the Ottoman Empire. It did not grieve me any to notice that the old gate was getting a little shaky.

IMG_2142.JPGThe mighty Jordan

And after seeing the Jordan River:

“When I was a boy I somehow got the impression that the river Jordan was four thousand miles long and thirty-five miles wide.  It is only ninety miles long, and so crooked that a man does not know which side of it he is on half the time.  In going ninety miles it does not get over more than fifty miles of ground.  It is not any wider than Broadway in New York.”

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The best part about his trip had nothing to do with Israel, per se. That distinction would go to a man in his group of travelers, Charles Langdon, who would become his friend and introduce Twain to his sister Olivia “Livy” Langdon…and she would become his wife in 1870, Mrs. Olivia Langdon Clemens.

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Some Pics…Worth 1000 Words

Sometimes words aren’t necessary.

Screenshot 2017-04-03 17.15.31.pngSurvivors of the Titanic

Screenshot 2017-03-28 16.13.44.pngJimmy Stewart with his bomber crew in England

Screenshot 2017-04-03 17.27.09.pngGoldsmith family (1907), before Titanic voyage (1915)

IMG_4082A 1953 Corvette

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Jim Vines’ Interview

june 2011 100 copy.JPGResearching Colonel Mosby for Something Gray in VA

I was recently interviewed by author and screenwriter Jim Vines for his blog, so thought it may be of some interest.

Here’s a bit on Jim from his bio:

“I’ve been a working screenwriter and script consultant since the early 1990s.  My non-fiction book Q & A: The Working Screenwriter (interviews w/ 16 working scribes) became quite popular upon its publication in 2006.  In April 2015 I published my debut novel, Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen, which is a rollicking tale about a young man coming to Los Angeles to become–yes, you guessed it–a screenwriter.  I currently have two blogs: one for screenwriters and one for indie novelists.”

He wanted to interview indie novelists, and the life of a writer, so we mostly discussed Xposure.

Xposure_paperback.jpgThe complete front and back covers for Xposure

So without further ado, here’s the link for those of you without cable or a significant other:

http://jimvinespresents.blogspot.com/2017/03/indie-author-spotlight-phillip-thomas.html?m=1

Although primarily about my novel, my screenplay (Something Gray) was also pertinent in regard to promotion, etc.  Still hoping the right set if eyes read it on Amazon and it gets optioned.  A long-shot, but one Mosby would have taken with great audacity.

jsm funeral.jpgThe turnout for Mosby’s funeral 1916

The funeral gathering (above) for Mosby incorrectly lists his slave, Aaron Burton, in the picture, but he had died in 1902.  Mosby remained close to Aaron and sent him money for most of his life as a sort of pension.  Their friendship was complicated by a war over slavery (Mosby’s own admission, Lost Causers be damned), but it never waned.

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Mosby’s slave in 1898

In a letter to Ranger Sam Chapman in 1907, Mosby wrote,

“I am not ashamed of having fought on the side of slavery—a soldier fights for his country—right or wrong—he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights in” and that “The South was my country.”

And in 1898, in another letter, he wrote with equal honesty,

I’ve always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about.  I’ve never heard of any other cause than slavery.”

That may seem strange to view your state as your “country,” but not in 1860 America.  Today it might be equivalent to a soldier fighting for his country, but disagreeing over a policy like abortion…but he would fight for his country first, despite moral outrage on an administration’s position.

 

 

 

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The Great Escape

Screenshot 2017-03-24 12.58.45.pngOne of my top ten movies of all-time

Born today, most folks don’t know he was born again because of his pilot, a guy named Sammy Mason, who shared the gospel with him while teaching him to fly.  The immortal tough guy had indeed become literally immortal when he was faced with cancer.
Just before he died, as he prepared for surgery, he met with Billy Graham.  He wanted to talk to him about his conversion and Graham arranged his schedule to come and meet McQueen.
They talked for several hours and Steve mentioned he’d misplaced his Bible.  Billy Graham gave him his Bible, inscribing it for McQueen.  He died after surgery four days later, with the evangelist’s Bible on his chest.
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Billy’s Bible, gifted to McQueen
Steve made the great escape on November 7, 1980.
As Jesus said in John chapter 11, when comforting Martha and Mary about Lazarus, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
You can read more about his life story here in his wife’s book.

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Bonaparte in Israel?

IMG_1928.jpgAlong the Med at Caesarea

Most people are surprised to learn that Napoleon not only visited Israel in 1799, but that he tried to conquer it too. Napoleon was only one of a long list of rulers that wanted Israel, including Seti of Egypt, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, and various Caesars, to name a few. What is even more surprising is that Bonaparte’s attack was meant to be a liberation of the Jews from the Ottoman Empire and allow them to be a free state, not a conquest as others had done before him. In this regard Napoleon was a unique invader because of the French Revolution’s ideals.

In 1789, France had issued toleration laws (the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) that allowed anyone, including the Jews, to worship and be citizens in France in theory. There was still opposition to it in Catholic Europe, but Napoleon’s conquests spread this idea of tolerance and equality far and wide, even to Israel. When Napoleon’s army entered Ancona, Italy, in 1797 the Jewish community was relegated to living in a small ghetto. A confused Napoleon asked why some people were wearing yellow bonnets and yellow armbands with the “Star of David” on it, and he was told it identified the Jews who were required to go back to their ghetto every evening.

Napoleon was shocked, and immediately ordered all the ghettos closed, armbands and bonnets removed, that the Jews could live wherever they wanted, and were free to practice their religion. He also closed the Jewish ghettoes in Rome, Venice, Padua, and Verona. After conquering Italy, with many enthusiastic Italian Jews joining his army, Napoleon successfully attacked Egypt in 1789 with 35,000 men in an effort to end British control of trade routes with India, and replace it with his own.

Screenshot 2017-03-24 12.02.21.pngThe Little General’s hat

The following year he brought 13,000 troops from Egypt overland into the Ottoman Turks’ Syria-Palestine to take control of the four critical port cities of Gaza, Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre (Britain’s Horatio Nelson had destroyed most of his French fleet in Egypt). Acre was a critical choke point for trade with Damascus and he hoped to eventually go there after taking Jerusalem.

Gaza fell easily, but after a stubborn Jaffa held out for four days, and was brutally ravaged by the French for its obstinacy, Napoleon continued north and conquered Haifa. En route, another enemy hit him hard, one that ravaged the whole area equally–the bubonic plague. The Haifa Carmelite monastery became a hospital for them and his injured men. When Napoleon left here, the Turks took back the city and brutally killed the wounded and diseased French soldiers for the Jaffa atrocities.

IMG_2880.JPGJerusalem evaded Napoleon’s conquest

Napoleon led his remaining troops on to the main prize, Acre. Bonaparte surrounded the city with three concentric rows of trenches and laid siege to it for almost two months. Six times the French attacked the huge walls, but could not take the city. The Turks, supported by British warships and stiffened by the savagery at Jaffa, barely held on. Napoleon finally decided to abandon the siege when he got intelligence that the plague was killing over 60 people a day inside and that a joint force of British and Turks were heading to Alexandria. With barely 8,000 soldiers left, and many deathly ill from the plague, he headed back to Egypt in defeat, burying his cannons or sinking them at sea in Tantura to free up carriages for the wounded and sick. Those who could not be transported were killed by the Turks. Despite this crushing defeat, one of very few, Bonaparte was portrayed as a conquering hero in his return to Paris.

Underwater excavations in Acre’s harbor have found countless cannonballs that bounced off the thick Crusader walls and more than 20 ships. The most recent one was dated to Napoleon’s failed siege of the city in 1799 and found by a British map that depicts the British navy fighting with Napoleon’s ships. In the drawing, the symbol of a sunken ship led to the discovery of this ship with a cannon ball in the hull, apparently shot on purpose to block the harbor from the French fleet.

Screenshot 2017-03-24 12.05.50.pngThe death of the Emperor

Napoleon later wrote of his 1799 campaign in Israel, comparing himself with Alexander the Great’s many triumphs and the Persian Immortals who won at Thermopylae, “(If I had) been able to take Acre, I would have put on a turban, I would have made my soldiers wear big Turkish trousers, and I would have exposed them to battle only in case of extreme necessity. I would have made them into a Sacred Battalion–my Immortals.  I would have finished the war against the Turks with Arabic, Greek, and Armenian troops. Instead of a battle in Moravia, would have won a Battle of Issus, I would have made myself emperor of the East, and I would have returned to Paris by way of Constantinople.

 

 

 

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The Law of Return

IMG_1935.JPGMegiddo, where the end begins at Armageddon

“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live (Deuteronomy 31:1-5).

 It will be an exciting 70th anniversary in Israel very soon. After 2,000 years of wandering, and even more being ruled by other nations, the Jews were back in their biblical homeland in 1948 as the independent state of Israel. This was a major turning point in history that cannot be underestimated and seemingly prophetic (Jeremiah 16:14-15).

Despite this statehood miracle, there were less than 725,000 Jews in Israel in 1948. Today, however, there are over 8 million Jews in Israel and that will double by 2059. In 2014, another landmark occurred; the number of Jews in Israel passed the number of Jews living in the rest of the world. That milestone grew larger in 2015 with roughly 30,000 Jews who made aliyah (immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return). So what is the Law of Return that fostered this dramatic population explosion that the Old Testament predicts (Isaiah 11:10-11)?

IMG_2896The bullet scarred Zion Gate from 1948’s war

On July 5, 1950, the governing body of Israel, the Knesset, passed the Law of Return, that began with the remarkable words that would define the country’s core value, “Every Jew has the right to immigrate to this country….”

This law not only populated Israel, but it provided a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that peaked in Hitler’s Europe. Despite overt opposition and even wars, it’s been a remarkable catalyst to grow Israel and make her desert bloom around thriving, modern cities. Can the Law of Return be solely responsible for this miracle?

To be sure some of it is the practical encouragement from the Israeli government that fosters population growth with free schooling for children, child allowances, and funding for in vitro fertility treatments (Jewish families average over 3 children per family). There are also incentives for immigration, which contributed to over 1 million Russian Jews coming to Israel. Despite these obvious stimuli, from a biblical point of view, one has to look at the Old Testament for deeper spiritual answers (Micah 2:12).

IMG_3123.JPGThe ruined streets from the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (giant blocks of stone hurled down from the Temple Mount above crushed the street)

Some think watching these immigrants arrive at Ben Gurion Airport is literally watching biblical prophecy unfold before their very eyes! Why is that? Looking at the prophecies of Jeremiah (23:3,7-8, 30:10, 31:9, 33:7), Isaiah (49:8-22, 43:5-6, 54:7), and Ezekiel (11:17, 20:34, 28:25, 34:13, 37:21) help us understand that this is from God, especially Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel had a vision in chapter 37 where he saw a valley filled with the dry bones of thousands of skeletons in open graves that came together, grew flesh, and came to life. God revealed that the dry bones symbolized Israel and her agonies of dispersion for rejecting Him (Deuteronomy 28:15-68, 29:21-22). The graves were gentile nations where they were banished, but they were open graves and would not be permanent. The coming together of the resurrected bones is the prophetic restoration of the dispersed nation to its biblical homeland.

IMG_2923.JPGThe gate to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem

Is this too far-fetched? What would Ezekiel think if he read the Declaration of the State of Israel that says, THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles?Or Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Poland when he closed with Ezekiel’s vision and quoted chapter 37:11-13 as fulfilled,

“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.”

It’s clear that the physical restoration of Israel is taking place today with the Law of Return, but Ezekiel’s next verse promises a spiritual restoration too.

IMG_2855.JPGThe remains of the Temple, the Western (Wailing) Wall

The Law of Return is part of a major turning point in history, but verse 14 will be the consummation of it (Ezekiel 36:26-28).  “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”

 

 

 

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