#AdventWord 2018


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The Season of Advent begins today and  having just completed the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month ) challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month, I’ve decided to take on another challenge for December:


This challenge will have me posting a photo  representing the word of the day (see above) every day in Advent. I have decided that my challenge to myself will be to post a black and white photo of the word every day. As today is the first day of Advent (December 2), I will post my first photo here to represent #Journey:


To find out more or sign up for a daily meditation: #AdventWord




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Ocotillo in Joshua Tree National Park

Or Fouquieria splendens is also known as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob’s staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus although it’s not actually a true cactus. It is native to the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico.


What’s cool about Ocotillo is it’s multiple uses. According to Wikipedia:

  • Individual ocotillo stems are sometimes used as poles as a fencing material in their native region, and often take root to form a living fence or hedge.
  • Due to their light weight and interesting pattern, ocotillo branches have been used for canes or walking sticks.


  • Fresh flowers are sometimes used in salads and have a tangy flavor.
  • Flowers are collected, dried, and used for herbal teas.
  • According to Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (a book published in 1989 by Museum of New Mexico Press), a fresh bark tincture can be made by chopping or snipping freshly removed bark into 1/2-inch pieces. It is said to be useful for those symptoms that arise due to fluid congestion and to be absorbed from the intestines into the mesenteric lymph system by way of the lacteals of the small intestinal lining. This is believed to stimulate better visceral lymph drainage into the thoracic duct and improve dietary fat absorption into the lymph system.


  • Bathing in water that contains crushed flowers or roots has been used to relieve fatigue.
  • Native Americans are known to place the flowers and roots of ocotillo over fresh wounds to slow bleeding.
  • Ocotillo is also used to alleviate coughing, achy limbs, varicose veins, urinary tract infections, cervical varicosities, and benign prostate growths


Elephant Seals


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This male Elephant Seal looks like he’s weathered a lot of storms, probably fighting other male seals.

The Northern Elephant Seal or Mirounga Angustirostris is the largest seal in the Northern Hemisphere (second largest in the world after the Southern Elephant Seal). Adult males are 14 to 16 feet in length and 4,000 to 5,000 pounds in weight. The females are much smaller at about 9 to 12 feet and 900 to 1,800 pounds. Pups are 3 to 4 feet long at birth and weigh about 70 pounds.

They get their name from the male’s long nose (or proboscis), which doesn’t start developing until they reach puberty at about five years of age, and isn’t fully developed until they are eight or nine years old.


I love how contented they look while sleeping!

Elephant Seals spend eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, diving 1,000 to 5,800 feet deep for periods of fifteen minutes to two hours, and migrating thousands of miles, twice a year, to their land-based rookery for birthing, breeding, molting, and rest.


An Elephant Seal scratches its face while napping at Piedras Blancas.

One of their rookeries is at Piedras Blancas on the Big Sur coast of California. And this is where we saw them during our drive down the coast. The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery spreads over six miles of shoreline around Point Piedras Blancas on the central coast of California.


Elephant Seal R&R at Piedras Blancas on the California coast.

This is why . . .


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. . . I didn’t get a real blog written this week. Between the 197th Convention of the Diocese of Georgia and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I’ve been insanely busy. Next week: Elephant Seals.


Enjoying the Clergy Spouse Breakfast with Kelly Benhase and Bishop Scott Benhase.


And the novel I am working on–more than 16,000 words into my goal of 50,000 by the end of the month.

A 7-Week Advent


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A Seven Week Advent? Yes! There was a time when liturgical churches used seven weeks of preparation for Christmas to match the seven weeks in Lent leading to Easter.

This tradition remained in the Orthodox churches–Russian, Greek, etc.

Nest Sunday, November 11, is the first day of this year’s Seven Week Advent and begins with this collect:

Eternal God, your Word of wisdom goes forth and does not return empty: Grant us such knowledge and love of you that we may perceive your presence in all creation and every creature; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, now and forever. Amen.

Frank and I created a booklet for a nightly service for a Seven Week Advent, which can be found here if you are interested: Seven Week Advent

You can also find more resources here: The Advent Project


Joshua Tree National Park


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Exploring Joshua Tree National Park at sunset in our rented Rogue.

From the National Park Service:

“While the Joshua Tree area has been inhabited by humans for at least 5,000 years, by the late 1920s the development of new roads into the desert had brought an influx of land developers and cactus poachers. Minerva Hoyt, a Pasadena resident who was extremely fond of desert plants, became concerned about the removal of cacti and other plants to the gardens of Los Angeles. Her tireless efforts to protect this area culminated in 825,000 acres being set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936.”

We’d heard about Joshua Tree National Park for years, and when we decided to turn a trip to California into a road trip that would take us down California 1 then across the state to Barstow before heading to Joshua Tree and then east to Phoenix to visit our daughter.

Joshua Tree didn’t become a National Park until 1994, but the designation added 234,000 acres to the monument. The new boundaries created an important habitat for desert bighorn sheep. Today the park ranges from 536 feet above sea level in elevation to 5,814 feet atop Quail Mountain.

And while the park’s unique landscapes are a stunning combination of the Mojave and Colorado deserts with their unusual plant life and rock formations, we were really there to see the Joshua Trees.

In addition to Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia is known as yucca palm, tree yucca, and palm tree yucca. Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave desert in the mid 19th Century, gave the tree its most common name because its unique shape reminded them of the Biblical story of Joshua raising his hands to the sky in prayer. The Spanish name for the Joshua tree is izote de desierto or desert dagger.


Joshua Tree at sunset.


Looking up into the Joshua Trees.


Joshua tree and rock formation.




A different view of Skull Rock.