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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Prequel to the Christmas Story...

It’s unfortunate that one of the most fascinating parts of the Christmas story is often skipped in the traditional retelling of the birth of Christ.

Admittedly, the Bible verses, “Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah…” don’t lend themselves to the more traditional Sunday school plays. But that quick overview of Jesus’ ancestors is God’s shorthand way of reminding us how he kept his promise to send the Messiah.

When you study the history of these people, it’s incredible that Jesus was even born, especially in light of some of his unsavory relatives.

According to Hebrew tradition, women were never included in genealogies, yet in Matthew’s version of the family tree, he goes out of his way to mention several. Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (Matthew 1:3). So who was Tamar?

Tamar was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law. In a drama worthy of an episode of Jerry Springer, Tamar, a childless widow, disguised herself as a prostitute and tricked her father-in-law into a night of amour. Nine months later, Tamar gave birth to twins, and Perez would continue Jesus’ family line.

Another woman who merited a special remark was Rahab (Matthew 1:5). The book of Joshua tells us she was a prostitute who lived in Jericho. When Joshua sent two spies to look over this land, Rahab hid the foreigners on her roof and lied to her king saying she did not know who they were or where they went.

As darkness approached, Rahab spoke to the spies and proclaimed her faith and trust in the God of Israel. When the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, “Joshua saved Rahab, the harlot, alive and her father’s household and all that she had, and she dwelleth in Israel…” (Joshua 6:22). Soon after, Rahab was grafted into the family tree.

Matthew also refers to Ruth (Matthew 1:5). Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, left the land of Judah and sojourned to the country of Mosh. Both sons married Moabites, a hated people well known for their pagan idolatry.

The story continues that after the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decided to return alone to Judah. But Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law already had pledged herself to the God of Israel. Ruth left her homeland to live in Judah, and yet another foreigner became a part of Jesus’ lineage when Ruth married Boaz.

The last two women Matthew references are Mary, mother of Jesus, and another woman who is not specifically named in Matthew’s retelling. “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (Matthew 1:6) Now this had been a tongue-wagging scandal, and lest anyone forget, Matthew goes out of his way to make sure the horror is laid bare for all to remember.

Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, and certainly Uriah would have been one of King David’s biggest supporters if not one of his closest friends. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. When she discovered she was pregnant, David betrayed Uriah once again by sending him to the front line of battle and then removing all reinforcements ensuring that he would be killed.

David, however, knew God’s heart and repented for his atrocities. Although the son born of transgression died, David and Bathsheba would later have another son, Solomon, who is described as the wisest man who ever lived. He continued Jesus’ family line.

The entire old testament, summarized in those few verses in Mathew and Luke tells the saga of one family. It’s an account of kings and warriors, slaves and peasants, murderers and harlots, liars and cheaters, heroes and saints. It’s a story of hope and promise. Despite it all, the Messiah was born.

Today, God is still fulfilling his promises no matter how dark and bleak the world sometimes appears. At Christmas, we would do well to remember that.

From my home to yours, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Deb Ayers

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bumper Sticker Wisdom #2

Bumper Sticker Sighting (Tucson)

I achieved all of my goals at Butterfield Elementary.

Uh-huh. This person set a pretty low bar for themselves...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Living Desert Scene

Tucson artist Dave McMahon (http://www.fioretileworks.com) created a desert scene that was enticing enough to attract this lizard.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lake Tahoe - CA Side

You've got to love a company that sends you to Lake Tahoe for a three-day Directors' meeting. What an absolutely gorgeous place! Here's some video footage.

Lake Tahoe (CA side) at the shoreline.



Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Catalina Mountain Highway

Catalina Mountain Highway - This breathtaking scenic highway to the top of the sky island of Mt. Lemmon takes you from the low Sonoran Desert to a high Alpine forest (9100 feet). That's the biological equivalent of traveling from Mexico to Canada in 27 miles.

Where: Just north of Tucson, AZ
When: October 17, 2009



Weather: Bright and sunny with some puffer clouds and a bit of a breeze. Temperatures in the mid-90s on the desert floor and mid-70s at the summit.


Birds of note: Townsend Warblers.

Trail notes: Beautiful fall colors. The leaves are just about at their peak.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Townsend's Warbler

Saw a Townsend's Warbler on my morning walk flitting in the canopy of a mesquite tree. It nests in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, so it's here to escape the cold. Aren't we all?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains 4000'

I took the convertible up to Mt. Lemmon today to catch some of the fall color. This shot is at 4000'--less than halfway up the mountain.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gates Pass on a Ninja

I took the Ninja out through Gates Pass and Saguaro National Park for some "mental health" exercise. As I rounded the bend to go through the pass, I realized that I was the only one on the road. I opened up the throttle and leaned into the curves... :-)

Hiked Brown Mountain Trail

Where: Tucson, AZ

Trail: Brown Mountain Trail in Tucson Mountain Park in the Tucson Mountains (where else?) west of Tucson. (Panorama View)

When: September 30, 2009

Weather: Bright and sunny with some puffer clouds and a bit of a breeze. Temperatures in the mid-90s.

Birds of note: One cactus wren.

Trail notes: It was a quiet day. Not many birds or animals--especially the two-legged ones--to be seen.

One Saguaro had a blossom on it which is very odd for this time of year.


View of the Tucson Mountains from Brown Mountain.


View of a dust storm in front of the Roskruge Mountains as seen from the top of Brown Mountain. These "younger" Saguaro will be living long after I'm gone.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Evening Cardinal

Every evening my male cardinal makes one last stop at the fountain for a drink. There have been a few days that I stopped myself from turning it off in the waning sunset because I hadn't seen him yet. That's when I'd sit on the patio and sure enough, he'd arrive for one last sip or two. I snapped his picture this evening.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Green-tailed Towhee

I saw a my first Green-tailed towhee this evening. Actually, I heard it first, and since I didn't recognize his call, it caught my attention. He was scratching around in the ground litter under the orange tree and then hopped up on the back wall so I got a good look at him (or her).

They don't summer in Tucson so clearly it's here for the winter. That's one of the things that's great about living in the southwest--you see MORE (different types) birds in winter than summer.



Monday, August 31, 2009

Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge, NM

I assumed the Rio Grande River cut this gorge like the Colorado river cut the Grand Canyon, but actually the valley was formed first and the river followed. This area sits between two tectonic plates and a bazillion years ago the shifting of the earth's crust formed the gorge. The bridge is the fifth highest span in the U.S.





The surrounding area at the top. You wouldn't want to be stumbling around in the dark because there's no indication that a gorge is nearby.



The Rio Grande from the valley.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

White Sands National Monument - NM

Trees that survive in this harsh environment have to grow faster than the sand dunes form. This isn't a three foot Cottonwood tree, it's a 30 foot Cottonwood. As long as some of its leaves stay above the sand, the tree will survive.



Animals emerge at night leaving a diary of footprints to record the events.



Most sand is made of quartz. This sand is made from gypsum which dissolves easily in water. Because there is no river for this gypsum-laden water to flow into, it pools, evaporates, and forms a residue that eventually turns into sand that's as fine as talcum powder. It also does not get hot despite the 100 degree desert temperatures.













Tuesday, August 25, 2009

White-winged doves gone for the summer

The white-winged doves (a.k.a. the Mafia birds) have flown south for the cooler season. I guess they must like it REALLY hot. They'll be back when the saguaro bloom.

Little bit of rain = Texas rangers

Texas rangers don't need much encouragement to bloom, and they don't have a "season." They just seem to bloom at whim, but they're more likely to burst into color after even the tiniest bit of rain. The neighborhood is filled with sprays of purple right now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's a Kickeroo, not a teddy bear!

I got the three spoiled fur balls a Kickeroo. As its name implies, this is supposed to promote activity in felines.

Micro seems to think it's a teddy bear. She likes to cuddle it...



and sleep on it. Sigh...

Clouds rolling in

A lone cloud begins to tower over a peak in the Tucson mountains.



A bank of clouds hovers over the Santa Catalina Mountains.



It will be raining by evening.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Barrel cactus in bloom

The barrel cactus have been blooming for a couple of weeks. In the first picture, you can also see the red prickly pear fruit on the prickly pear cactus.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breaking the silence--AZ's dumb sales tax proposal

I've been on a self-imposed moratorium on the reading, listening and discussing financial or political news for more than a year. Last year, I let lapse a 28-year subscription to the Wall Street Journal. Ditto for the 26-year subscription to BusinessWeek.

I was sick of the spin and the hype that always accompany a major election. I used to tolerate it back in the day when the idiocy lasted only a blessed few months. But now it drones on for years. For the sake of my sanity, I just had to take a break.

So what has forced me to break the silence? I'm not sure. Maybe it's just because you can't keep a libertarian quiet for very long.

I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition on the drive to the office this morning. That's not a morning ritual--I just happened to be flipping through the stations. I heard the reporter or "correspondent" as I believe NPR prefers to call its minions talk about the proposed penny sales tax increase.

A penny.

Only a penny.

Who could object to that? It's only a penny.

Of course, NPR isn't the only one who's calling this a penny tax. Local radio hosts, newspaper reporters, bloggers, etc. have picked up on the penny pitch for higher taxes launching this into a slick pro-tax campaign worthy of Madison Avenue. Or the Washington Beltway.

But it's not "just a penny."

It's a 17.8% increase. (For those of you without a grasp of math, and that's the vast majority of people who yap about financial news, a penny increase on top of the current 5.6 penny state tax is an increase of 17.8%. That's 1 divided by 5.6.)

Of all the possible tax proposals that could be on the table, a sales tax is certainly more palatable (and fair) than others on the menu. But AZ must learn that you can't tax yourself into prosperity. If there's a shortfall in tax revenue, then you better cut your budget. That's what people have to do. That's what government should do.

The good news is that lawmakers are only determining whether or not the tax increase lands on the November ballot. If it does, I can only hope that 'zonans have the good sense to vote it down.

The views expressed here are mine and probably don't reflect those of too many other people.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Find the birds

I snapped this picture today of my water fountain. (Stone Cactus Fountains) This is the same fountain that coyotes occasionally pass through to slurp.

Find the birds in the picture. Give up? Click the picture for answers.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ash-throated flycatcher

I've seen this Ash-throated flycatcher off an on for about two months. At first I wasn't sure if it was an Ash-throated flycatcher or a Brown-crested flycatcher. Today, I heard it sing, and it's definitely the Ash-throated flycatcher. He flits around the fountain, and I assume he's eating bugs, but probably not flies because there aren't a lot of flies around here.

Today I saw parent and fledgling!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birds try to escape the heat

The house finches try to escape the 108° heat by resting on the shaded patio. (It's even hotter in the sun.) They're just standing there. Some spread their wings to try to circulate the air. Others "panted." It's truly survival of the fittest. Two in my yard didn't make it today.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gray, gloomy skies

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#2 Gray, gloomy skies

Most people in southwestern PA are oblivious to the gray, gloomy skies. I've never quite understood why because I certainly complained about it all the time. It's probably because people in the area just don't venture outside much.



Visitors to Pittsburgh assume the gray skies are caused by pollution, but there hasn't been much industry in the area for 30+ years.



What isn't well known is that Pittsburgh has more cloudy days than Seattle--without the cool espresso bars and high tech buzz. It's all of the downside, and none of the upside.



And the whole "accounting" of cloudy days isn't consistent. If a sunbeam appears at any time of the day in Pittsburgh, it's counted as a "partly cloudy" day. Frequently, the mornings are clear, but by 10:00 AM a thick blanket of gloom has spread across the entire region. A "partly cloudy" day in Tucson often still leaves you with brilliant sunshine.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Road kill

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#1 Road Kill

Dead raccoons, and possums, and deer, "Oh my!" Everywhere there is road kill. Someone I know from California who was visiting the area for the first time remarked, "You have a lot of dead animals."

Yep.

Lots of woods plus lots of critters plus lots of speeders plus lots of people not paying attention to anything beyond the hood of their car.

Add it all up and...

Ta-da!

Lots of road kill.

It's sad. It's disgusting. And it's definitely something I don't miss.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rivers

Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#4 Rivers

Oh sure, southwesterners CLAIM to have rivers. But in order for a body of water to earn the moniker of 'river,' it should:
  1. be wide enough and deep enough to swim across, and
  2. actually HAVE water in it 365 days a year.
Here's a shot of the Ohio River flowing under the Belpre/Parkersburg Bridge in West Virgina. (All right, so technically this is not a shot of southwestern Pennsylvania, but this river flows through it.)




Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brick cheese

Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#3 Brick cheese

I can't find Brick cheese in Tucson. (Read my rant.) Sure I can live without it, but I wish I didn't have to!

And for all of those people who have never heard of "Brick cheese," here are photos to prove I'm not making this up!

Here it is in a Pittsburgh grocery store deli.




Sold by the brick.



And pre-sliced and prepackaged.



At the Super-Wal*Mart in Pittsburgh.



At the Super-Wal*Mart deli in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Merlins at the pool

I can count on seeing a Merlin around the house at least twice a week. (Read the first blog post.) Today I saw three of them lurking around the pool. One of them posed for several minutes so I was able to snap this shot with my cell phone.



Hmm, it must be a fledgling since it wasn't very camera shy. Sure enough, I spotted the nest up in the palm tree.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Colorado River toad

This evening presented another monsoon light show accompanied by actual rain. It wasn't a torrential downpour, but it did indeed rain. I didn't head out on my walk until after the storms cleared through the area.

Just up the street I encountered this guy. I snapped his mugshot with my cell phone (at night) so he's hard to see, but this Colorado River toad is as big as a small dinner plate!



He was so huge he couldn't heave his girth up onto the curb though I tried to shoo him in that direction. (I didn't want him to get smashed on the road!)

I knew not to touch him (or her?). Around here, you just never know what's poisonous. Sure enough, this guy is poisonous--enough so that its venom can kill a full grown dog.

And its venom also has hallucinogenic characteristics. Uh, huh. I don't want to BEGIN to imagine how THAT trait was discovered...(Let's smoke a toad...)

In case you're wondering, those other things in the picture are seed pods from a Velvet Mesquite tree. They're everywhere--especially after a storm!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Winding back roads

Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#2 Winding back roads

It's a mistake to think that you can ride a motorcycle 12 months out of the year in Tucson. When the temperatures climb into triple digits, most bikers park their bikes. Air temperature of 103° is easily 140° in the sun. Add the heat reflected from pavement, and heat emitted from car engines and...well, let's just say it's not fun. My bike will stay parked until sometime in September.

Back in PA, I mapped out the BEST commute to the office. Unless it was treacherously icy, I always skipped the main roads opting instead for nine miles of winding back roads.

Myoma Road in Butler, PA

Myoma Road in Butler, PA

Summer was perfect for either a top-down convertible drive or a ride on my Ninja. These kind of roads are almost non-existent through much of the West. If there is a "back road," it's usually flat, straight, and the only way to get from A to B. Not very challenging to ride.

Railroad tracks

My current commute takes me right through downtown, and it's stop-and-go traffic all the way. It is what it is, but I miss my ride time on these roads.

Farmland in Butler, PA

No matter how bad the day was, I could always look forward to the drive home.

Farmland in Butler, PA

Farmland in Butler, PA

Country cemetary in Butler, PA