Hopewell Rocks Spiritual Lessons

One of the most remarkable attractions we visited was the Hopewell Rocks, with the highest tides in the world. At low tide we walked on the ocean floor, but at high tide the water rose 50′ to cover the entire rocky beach such that you can only paddle a kayak under the un-submerged upper part of the arches.

Hopewell Rocks:

How did the Hopewell Rocks become that way? I have embedded a video from Brainstuff that explains how tides work.

How Do Tides Work?

But the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun work on the whole earth, and the average tide worldwide is only about 3′ high. How did the Hopewell Rocks become #1 with 50′ tides? That is the contribution of the way the seabed of the Bay of Fundy, where the Hopewell Rocks are located, is shaped. At the entrance to the bay in the SW, the bay is deeper and wider. Towards the NE, the bay gets shallower and narrower. As the moon’s gravitation pulled and the earth’s rotation swung the water towards Cape Hopewell in the NE, the same volume of water occupying a lesser area would pile higher, thus magnifying the height of the tides.

Bay of Fundy tides 2

And how did the Hopewell Rocks become such a tourist attraction? Not just because of the tides, but also because of the way the flower-pot rocks look. The rocks became that way due to the tides slowly eroding the softer rock at the base, exposing the harder rock as the “neck”, and leaving the un-submerged rocks in tact as the “head”. The rocks became a big “draw” by giving itself away. Eventually the erosion may be so severe that the “head” will collapse, as some rocks already have.

There is a spiritual lesson here. I know the bay and the rocks are inanimate and can’t actively contribute anything, but here’s my rough analogy. The tides are like the sun and the rain that work on everybody:

Mt 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

But the topography of the sea basin is like the gifts, passions, abilities, personality and experiences He had uniquely given to each of us. If we cooperate with what God had planned for us, we will be successful, just as the Hopewell Rocks became #1 when the tides and the shape reinforce each other. The way God had shaped us is our competitive advantage.

But there is a second parallel. Just as the rocks were eroded to become a tourist attraction, and John the Baptist was burning away so that people gather to watch:

Jn 5:35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

we shine for Christ by giving our life away. The question is are you willing? Am I willing? Something for you and I to ponder.

Advertisements

Our Belarus Trip (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

One of our Belarusian friends is a gifted singer who recorded 3 CDs, 2 in English and 1 in Russian. She has a deep devotional life and her songs reflect her faith. Here is a snipet:

We attended a baptismal service on Sunday, which is rare. Official statistics in 2011 cite 59% of Belarusians are believers, of which 82% are Orthodox, 12% Catholics, and 6% all other denominations, including Protestants, cults, Jews and Muslims. The percentage born-again is therefore small. Making a decision is easy, but public witness by baptism is hard to come by.

Protestant baptism service

Protestant baptism service

The church’s music director has a strong tenor voice and tours often to present in other churches. Here is a sample:

A challenge we faced cooking an authentic oriental mean is the lack of condiments to season the food. This is the only Vietnamese grocery store we know of in Minsk that has a supply of Chinese and SE Asian spices to prepare a decent meal. We actually saved up seasoning packets from instant noodles to bring on trips to help out in a crunch!

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Of course we can always eat out, budget permitting. The best Chinese restaurant we tried in Minsk is “Chinatown”, opened just last week and where our friend is a junior partner. It is a first class diner with good food, excellent decor and service, and reasonable prices. Many of the decorations are imported from China, as is the chef who comes from Szechuan. We were the first customers on opening day, and it does not disappoint!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Among our Vietnamese merchant friends, the mood is sombre because of the poor economy. The Belarusian currency had depreciated 1/3 from US$1 = 10,000 BLR (Belarusian Ruble) to US$1 = 15,000 BLR, and sales had plummeted. Some shops have closed and the owners returned to Vietnam. Those staying open are eating into their capital in the hope that business will improve by year-end.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Despite the gloomy outlook, life goes on. Believers are helped by their faith and hope for a brighter future. Here we are in front of the white Holy Spirit Cathedral, a famous landmark in Minsk dating to nearly 400 years ago. The original building burned down about 100 years later, and the Bernadine monastery was rebuilt over 270 years ago.

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)

Our Belarus Trip (1 of 2)

We recently took a trip to Minsk, Belarus. One of the first things you need to do upon arrival is to register at the OGIM – Отдел по гражданству и миграции within 5 business days. If you stay in a hotel, they’ll do it for you automatically. However, since we were invited by friends, they have to take us to the Citizenship and Migration Department, fill out the form, pay 90,000 BLR (US$6)/person, and spend half a day there to do it. Don’t lose your migration card, you’ll need it to leave the country.

Citizenship and Migration Department

Citizenship and Migration Department

One of the first places we visited was the Zhdanovichi flea-market, which has several acres of both covered and outdoor stores selling everything from clothing, shoes, electronics, building materials, restaurants, and even sub-machine guns!

Fruit market within Zhdanovichi

Fruit market within Zhdanovichi

There are many Vietnamese restaurants in the market, over 20 of them called Сайгон (Saigon), possibly because they were a franchise, but with different layouts. The menus, however, offer essentially the same things, at identical or almost the same prices. One look may give you “sticker shock”, as a bowl of pho (beef noodles) costs about 55,000 Belarusian Rubles (BLR). But don’t worry, as the exchange rate is about US$1 = 15,000 BLR. So it costs only US$3.67, and you become a “millionaire” if you have as little as US$67!

One of over 20 Saigon Restaurants.

One of over 20 Saigon Restaurants.

Menu of traditional Vietnamese dishes

Menu of traditional Vietnamese dishes

One of the best deals in Minsk is a metro ride. A single ride costs only 4,500 BLR i.e. US$0.30! In comparison, a one-way subway ride in Toronto costs C$3 or about US$2.40, 8 times as much! Unlike Toronto or Hong Kong, subway stations have few advertisments.

"Moscow" metro station.

“Moscow” metro station.

Our favorite supermarket is корона (Crown), near a State University and where many foreigners, including students, have lunch and do their grocery shopping. Most prices are very reasonable, except when you buy imported brands.

Korona, or Crown Supermarket.

Korona, or Crown Supermarket.

July 3 is Belarus’ Independence Day, celebrated by fireworks at 10 pm. This shot was taken from our apartment.

Independence Day fireworks.

Independence Day fireworks.

(To be continued)

Making Memories

Rather than give our grand-daughter toys for her birthday, we decided to take her to Canada’s Wonderland to make some memories instead. We have not been there in ages, and did not know many of the rides added in recent years. Plus we did not realize how tiring it would be to run after a young child the whole day. But it was a lot of fun for young and old alike, even though there was intermittent rain. Here are some photos:

Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain

Carousel

Carousel

Red Baron!

Red Baron!

Space Race

Space Race

Snoopy!

Snoopy!

Train Ride

Train Ride

Flying Swing

Flying Swing

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

Swing Jet

Swing Jet

Bumper Car

Bumper Car

Another Hot Air Balloon

Another Hot Air Balloon

Maze

Maze

Spinning Cup

Spinning Cup

Blast Off

Blast Off

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown

Goodbye Thunder Mountain!

Goodbye Thunder Mountain!

Cheltenham Badlands

Our daughter told us that the Ontario Heritage Trust will fence off the Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon at the end of May, so that they can figure out how to preserve them. Although we have lived in Toronto nearly four decades, we have never visited this site less than an hour’s drive away. So we took a day trip to see what it is like before they are closed to tourists for at least a few years.

The place resembled the barren terrain on another planet, say Mars, in sci-fi movies – without vegetation, but with reddish soil in round mounds and gullies. Geologists identify the rock as Queenston shale, exposed and rounded by water and wind erosion. The red comes from the iron oxide, parts of which turned green by ground water.

Some believe the badlands started as a raised river bed turned into farmland. Over-grazing some 80 years ago stripped the area of vegetation. Without tree and grass roots to hold the soil in place, the top soil soon got washed away, exposing the underlying shale which does not support plant life, and gradually eroded to its current form.

I hope your church is not like the badlands, started out fertile but the faithful workers burned out through overwork and under-supported. With the faithful core gone, there is no one to hold the crowd together. Gradually they also thinned out. What’s left is only a barren landscape, devoid of life. I hope your church is a vibrant community instead, full of life and vitality. Pray that it will be so.

Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon

Cheltenham Badlands in Caledon

Badlands formed by water and wind erosion exposing the underlying shale

Badlands formed by water and wind erosion exposing the underlying shale

The reddish soil is due to iron oxide deposits. The greenish patches are caused by ground water turning the iron oxide green.

The reddish soil is due to iron oxide deposits. The greenish patches are caused by ground water turning the iron oxide green.

Taipei Zoo

On our last day we visited Taipei Zoo, smaller than Toronto’s Metro Zoo but the largest zoo in Asia. Too bad the Maokong Gondola is closed but the zoo is still worth a visit. We finished the day with dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung, more expensive and with long lineups, but wanted to see if they live up to their reputation. It’s pretty good, but I still prefer Cantonese over northern food.

There are many beautiful places to visit in Taiwan, such as Taroko Gorge National Park in the east, Kenting National Park in the south etc., but that would have to await another time.

Taipei Zoo

Taipei Zoo

Resting on a tortoise

Resting on a tortoise

Mimicking a penguin

Mimicking a penguin

Fake cage

Fake cage

That's as close as we can get to a wood duck before it flew away

That’s as close as we can get to a wood duck before it flew away

Hippo

Hippo

???

???

Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark

IMG_7051

Xiaolongbao at famed Din Tai Fung

Spicy beef noodle

Two Memorial Halls

We visited two memorial halls, Sun Yat-sen, Father of the Nation, and Chiang Kai-shek, former president of Republic of China. Of the two, the latter is a better known landmark sitting in Liberty Square together with the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. Sun overthrew the Qing Dynasty and introduced democracy to China. Chiang fought the regional warlords, the Japanese during WWII, and then the Chinese Communist Party.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

West entrance mural

West entrance mural

Statute in main hall

Statute in main hall

Statute in west garden

Statute in west garden

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Statute in main hall

Statute in main hall

National Theatre

National Theatre