Category Archives: Travel & Spiritual Growth

The Word & The Wilderness

“The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Word of God transforms us as we read it, mediate upon it, memorize it, pray it, sing it, share it, and fellowship with the One Who wrote it. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are strengthened, and our behavior is changed; not by external force, but by internal transformation.”

I borrow that from the beginning remarks of Charles Simpson’s excellent pastoral letter this month. You can read the whole of it here. I’ve been in a spiritual wilderness of late, experiencing both the isolation, cleansing, and terrible beauty, reorienting as it is; and I’ve been in the Word experiencing it’s beauty, cleansing and reorientation.

Against the mostly hidden enemy of our souls, there is no substitute nor defense like the Word. Indeed Christ used the Word of God His Father, the the King of the Universe, when attacked in the wilderness by Satan.

Words from Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, come to mind: “…one little Word shall fell him.”

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

So we see the Word can silence our enemy and put him to flight — very important indeed, and the order of things in our earth journey in the seen and unseen realms.

But I’m thinking in this early morning moment by the fire of the “transformation and the renewing or our minds” power of the Word. It’s beautiful. It’s holy. It’s relational. It’s mystical. It’s joyful. It’s reorienting. It’s life and light really. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful to experience.

Our Catholic brothers have a saying, “Don’t read the Word, let the Word read you.” Indeed.

I have a very, very high view of Scripture. Yet once I felt the Lord impress me, “I didn’t give the Word for you to serve it; but for it to serve you.”That’s at once humbling, and important to know, if it is true. It’s an important distinction, even if both are true at the same time.

Jesus in His wilderness experience quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” We need food every day, in the natural and in the spiritual.

And we need to practice good hygiene every day to stay healthy. Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus “washes us with water through the word.”

We need healthy relationships each day to thrive. Our Father meets us when we read and meditate on His Word, to illumine us, love us, and just be with us, like a friend.

Recent visit to the College of the Ozarks with two friends

Please excuse me. It’s time to wash up, and have breakfast, with a Friend.

Valley of Decision

 This morning in our FYV Fellowship Matthew study, the location of this spot came up. I sent the following email to the leaders of the group in response and thought you might be interested as well. I hadn’t listened to Gene Little’s words in awhile, but they are timely perhaps and true. I invite you to listen with ears that hear, and see what you hear? For yourself?  Blessings
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More recent visit with my editor and friend – Jerusalem

Greetings Friends,

Good to be with you this morning.

I would not be clear on where the Valley of Jehoshaphat was myself except for a personal trip I took to Israel in 2017, when my lodging host in Jerusalem in a serendipitous fashion offered to take me to some of his favorite off-the-beaten-path places. Here’s what happened as he handed me his phone when arriving at the rim of the valley at Teqoa, and said “Record what I’m about to say.” I did, and that was that! Take one, take only, on the spur of the moment, without warning, then off to see Herodium, and his favorite, lesser-visited, Jerusalem sites. :):)  After getting home I added the introductory music, photos, title and sent it back to him. Since that’s a hobby of mine. Enjoy!
https://youtu.be/8_FgqGDbpdE

https://bibleatlas.org/tekoa.htm

“For behold, in those days and at that time,
When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will also gather all nations,
And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
And I will enter into judgment with them there
On account of My people, My heritage Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
They have also divided up My land.” Joel 3:1-2

From The Mt of Olives across the Kidron Valley
Most likely Joel’s Valley of Jehoshaphat

Many think this prophecy about the Valley of Jehoshaphat is the same location as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:20). After looking into it, I think they are a few miles separated geographically, but maybe not that different spiritually. His blessings as you ponder… or study further… and His grace to you and yours.

Addendum

After trading emails back and forth with Alan, a men’s Bible study leader, and doing more research the following came to light.

I never knew their was a reference of the Kidron Valley also being called the “the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” That’s where the confusion or debate comes from I would guess. This started in the 300’s A.D.? The ancient Jewish sources say there was no valley by that name. Wikipedia may have it as close as anyone, with their three insights or possibilities.

[1] The judgment we discussed will likely be in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate and the Mt of Olives, which Joel called “The Valley of Jehoshaphat” for some reason. Perhaps symbolically? As the LORD vanquished Jehoshaphat’s attackers in his day. Certainly that’s what Joel heard the Spirit say to write. Maybe it was known as such to people in his day, and has been lost in antiquity? There is after all, much mystery in the Word… seemingly on purpose at times! As well as, much revealed!

[2] Jehoshaphat witnessed the LORD’s promised deliverance in his day near Teqoa… about 10 miles south.

The Word is always understood better in community with illumination by the same Spirit Who breathed it. 🙂 Grace be with you all.

Honduras 2019

I just returned from a week long trip to Honduras, Jan 16-23, with friends from Louisiana, Colorado, and California. There were eleven of us, 7 men and 4 women. The bulk of the team and it’s leadership was from the West Monroe, Louisiana, area. Our intentions were to teach a group of 20-30 village pastors from the surrounding mountains from the Bible and a book, “The School of Obedience,” by Andrew Murray, as requested by their pastor and leader, Dairo Deluca, in a two day conference at a remote mission house in the mountains. We also came to preach the gospel, pray for the sick, visit a prison to share the Gospel and distribute some needed supplies, then visit two villages with preaching, teaching, prayer, music, large boxes of food for families, and toys for the children.

It was a very enjoyable, successful, rewarding trip on many fronts. Unexpectedly in degree, because I’ve been to Honduras seven times now in the past five years, and five times with this team. I can’t really put my finger on the reason, but these trips seem to get more and more special and intriguing.

I continue to be amazed and impressed with what God is doing in this country and with these people. The people impress me too, with their humility, hospitality, transparency, and simple joy in living.

Honduras is in Central America about a three hour flight south from Houston. It’ s the second largest country in CA, slightly larger than Tennessee, beautiful, mostly mountainous, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast. According to Operation World, Honduras is “one of the Western hemisphere’s poorest countries,” with “widespread unemployment, low wages, and long lasting devastation from  Hurricane Mitch (1998)”… making it a country of great need.“ Thirty-seven percent of the population is under fifteen years old.” So there are lots of needs and opportunities to serve children in Honduras.

Operation World further reports that “Honduras has experienced five decades of evangelical growth. In 1960, evangelicals numbered 32,000 and were 1.7% of the population. They are now 1,750,000 and 23%, and growth shows little sign of stopping. Some polls show that up to 36% of the population identify with evangelical beliefs.” Local pastor Dario tells us more recent statistics show the number to be 45%. These statistics make me believe God’s heart and ear is turned to the people there, and the people are responding.

This infusion of truth from the Gospel and the resultant teaching of truth from the Bible, along with God’s love,  will transform this country, as it will any country and has historically, from the inside out.

The attractive lady sitting next to me on the airplane on the trip down was from Austin, TX, and had been to Honduras several times. She was traveling alone this time to spend two weeks at an orphanage where her purpose was to “refresh the workers, and love on the kids.” There were also several small groups on the plane wearing Christian t-shirts coming to serve. This has been the case every time I’ve come here. Maybe you’ve not heard about this on CNN. 🙂

Each year this group breaks up the long van ride back to the airport by stopping for rest and reflection for the night at the seaside city of Tela. Besides swimming, walking the beach, reading with the sounds of the surf, and enjoying some good food; the team meets and shares with each other their defining moment or moments of the trip. Let me end this post by sharing mine from my journal. Other reflections will follow in future blogs, I’m sure.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the twilight at Los Enquentros two nights ago. A sizable group of women walking down the road with heavy boxes of rice on their heads. I know that may sound strange for a defining moment but it just hit me: [1] The beauty of it [2] How other worldly it seemed and surreal [3] How happy they were with the gifts and to see their children happy and amused with toys [4] The joyful children [5] The curious attention they all paid to Mario while he preached his heart out minutes earlier [6] No idea what their thoughts were? [7] But we were in a village in the mountains of Honduras, preaching the gospel, praying for the sick, feeding the poor, loving on children and their parents [8] Are you kidding me? [9] Topped off by six boxes of rice being tossed back in Dario’s truck as we drove away with six grown women running like school girls, laughing and climbing in the back of the moving pickup with three men from the US — a truck that died on the bridge, then twice more in a short distance, before stopping to let them out as they unloaded the rice themselves before we could help — in front of their homes on the main gravel road, in the early evening darkness, right in front of two soldiers in starched fatigues with automatic rifles standing in the middle of the road. You can’t make this stuff up! The end.”

“The need, the joy, the love, the strangeness of the encounters, the leading and provision of the Lord. How the Spirit had us each doing our own thing but completely a team — comfortable and glad to serve and depend on each other. 🙂 How beautifully peaceful it all seemed. The end, again.”

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“How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; you give them drink from Your river of delights.” Psalms 36:7-8

Christmas 2018

Christmas is here! I have resisted the urge to blog or write about advent and simply read, meditate, and enjoy this season and its Reason the last month of 2018.

I wrote early this morning in front of our fire, with all our kids home in their beds, “Thank You Lord for this nice place to gather, and for Your indescribable Gift — becoming human, to dwell with us…

In accordance with the Word of the LORD given through the prophet Isaiah and other prophets:

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)

“For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2)

“… land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali …, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:1–2)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7)

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, ….” (Isaiah 11:1)

““Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“… which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”(Matthew 1:23)

You can’t say it better or more succinctly than that! Scriptures about the Blessed One — given 2700 years ago and lived out 2000 years ago. God is a faithful King. Amen. אמן”

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Time to add a few photos of our new home, with a Christmas poem I was inspired to write a few Christmases ago, then join the family to enjoy this moment in a quiet and relational way, as it began on that humble day. Noel.

Twice a King

In Bethlehem twenty centuries ago
A young boy was born and began to grow
He worked in Dad’s shop and built wooden things
He, nonetheless, was, the King of all Kings.

He now sits by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth
And remembers a time, when the Spirit of God
Was sent to give Him birth.

Into a life He hadn’t known
A life of joy and pain He was thrown
A life quite low, for a Being so high
Yet He bowed to His Father, and went without sigh.

He helped people daily
He healed many lives
By many men worshipped
By many despised
Now see what is written! What is said He did do!
Remember His living — He was king then too.

He’s coming again in unspeakable power
As a time is reckoned, we’re close to the hour
The whole earth will witness this most righteous King!
Rulers will bow, angels will sing
Tongue nor pen can describe what we’ll do
Now worship the Christ Child, He was King then too.

Within the vast expanse of space
Sits a resplendent, most beautiful place
Home of great beings, powerful and bright
Its Sovereign sits clothed with all glory and might.

He is creator; sustainer of all!
He’s worthy! He’s worthy! “
Around Him they call!
Angels and angels, their numbers a hoard
Fall before Him Who’s rightly adored.

Bethlehem Judea; a destiny for who?
Worship the Christ Child; He was King then too!

Dwayne Bell 2003
Based on Micah 5, Isaiah 6 & 9, Rev 5
[In a moment when a heart was warmed and spiritual eyes were open. Amen אמן ]

Serving In the Storm

(From my journal) July 31, 2018      FSM-DFW-BIL-Zortman Montana    Up early with Beth who takes me to the airport at 0600L.

We both feel it’s right for me to go but are hesitant to separate with so much swirling about us?

Cabin framing started yesterday (amid showers — signs of Father’s blessing) We found a house in Springdale EB loves and I am content and comfortable with. Our Adelaide oasis has shown 8 times today, after only three days on multi-list. With a quick call to USAA we were pre-approved for a VA loan. Kim is helping sell our Fort Smith home. Barbie is helping us buy one in Fayetteville / Springdale. All this coming about in the last three weeks!

I’m going today to Zortman, MT and an Indian reservation where Justin died about one year ago on mission — for six days of spiritual focus, prayer, asking and listening, and service to the people there — some who know the King, and most who do not. Lord show us Your grace and favor. Amen. A prayer.

I just read on my flight out, from front to cover, “God Came Near” on my iPad and received much, much, much peace, faith, grace, and confirmation from it that “all is well.” Ps 23, Isa 30:15, Zech 4:6 TYL! Amen.

I texted EB to read it within the next 24 hours — starting with chapter 10, “Selling the Farm.” There are many, many similarities! And many, many marks of the Lord’s leading and favor!! :):) TYL! for leading me to write it and then read it — perhaps “For such a time as this.”

I’m going to Montana also, and primarily, to honor Justin and pray for what was important to him. And to thank God for the privilege of having such a friend. 🙂 Amen.

Arriving in Billings Intl Airport, I realize I haven’t even asked some praying people I know to cover our time and efforts with prayer — something I’ve leaned by experience is critical. I do so with texts, emails, and phone calls; then have a salad lunch, pick up a rental car and start the three hour drive north to the reservation.

I cross the Missouri River, and drive a little distance past the quirky, beautiful little town of of Zortman to Beaver Creek Camp on the Belknap reservation. I have dinner, meet Rick & James from TN, also Michelle, Bruce’s daughter. And several other interesting folks, Philip from Lavaca, his wife and daughter, and Carol, with here friend Stephanie from TN. I walk up the beautiful valley past the camp, enjoying the pristine weather, and pray. The main part of our Arkansas  group is scheduled to arrive about 10 pm tonight.

Thank you Lord, for a good, good day of remembering Your faithfulness. And for allowing — leading me on this adventure! 🙂

Those new friends I met a bit ago from TN & GA, who are returning home in the morning, were so pumped up about the Milk River Pow Wow they had just experienced! They say Rocky Boy is much (4x) bigger. They also said it was so rough a few years ago that Bruce wouldn’t go, nor take anyone. Then two years ago two ladies from the mission were invited by the chief — Bruce said they could go under his protection — and since then Bruce has started going back there…

Sounds like adventure to me! ?:)

These folks in the camp tonight are from all over — and some have been coming since 2002 — 13 or 14 years — some stay for weeks, and some all summer. They have a calling and have developed a heart for the Native Americans here. TYL! for caring and for pouring out Your heart to and in these people. Amen.

Click here for photos of the week and adventure.

Click here for a video of the week.

 

 

 

 

 

A Tent and An Altar

I’ve not really blogged about this nor told all that many people, but we are considering moving to another city an hour to the north, and into a new chapter of being, with God.

It’s a decision I don’t take lightly at all. We’ve lived in this area since the 1980s, a period now spanning most of our lives, some thirty-seven years. We’ve worked here, raised our children here, been a part of the same church family here for thirty-five years. Most of our close friends are here. We love our home as much as we love global life insurance rates. We love our neighborhood and neighbors. I’ve been a part of three men’s groups here for the past four or five years, and have made some deep spiritual friends. Life is pretty simple and comfortable here. Why would we leave?

About a year ago, I started feeling God was leading us into a new chapter of life and adventure with Him, especially spiritual adventure. I’ve been hearing and sensing His leading and promptings ever since then, and journaling about them, after times of reading His Word, sharing faith with others, and of meditation. Those promptings have intensified in frequency and intensity in the last six months. But there has been one serious sticking point — my wife. She hasn’t been hearing what I have been hearing or sensing the same thing.

And I couldn’t see dragging her away from her friends, and the life we have built here, unless I heard so strongly this is the will of the Lord and the right timing that I just did it. I have confidence she might come screaming and kicking, but that she would come in that case. Yet I’ve been praying as I walked, “God if this is You, please change her heart in this matter.”

About four weeks ago, after a sleepless night of “wrestling with the Lord,” to quote her, she said to me, “I think the Lord is telling us to move to Northwest Arkansas.”

And so it is… with somewhat heavy hearts, and somewhat excited hearts, we’ve moved out in faith (faith involves risk) and put our home on the market, looked around in NWA and made an offer on a home there. I would also mention we are building a cabin during this period. Are you kidding me?! All this upheaval at the same time? After we’ve fought for the peace and simplicity we have here?

Well, we who desire to follow Jesus as Lord, and count His Presence the most important thing in our lives, know that “when the cloud by day or fire by night” moves, we must move with it and Him. Maybe that peace and simplicity has allowed us to hear His gentle voice? And that same peace and simplicity can also translate to “comfort” or “being too comfortable?” which can be an enemy of our spiritual lives. I’m thinking of a quote from a recent blog: “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal” Paulo Coelho

At any rate, during this time of amazing activity, it’s been relatively peaceful spiritually, feeling His nearness. I went on a long-scheduled mission trip to an Indian reservation in Montana, and Elizabeth went on a trip to NYC with a friend to visit our son, while we trusted the Lord to work out the details as He wished. Proverbs 3:5-6, my life verse, continues to be applicable to my life and guidance. As does the main Scriptures journaled in the past chapter of my life: Isa 30:15, Ps 23, and Zech 4:6.

On my way to Montana, I reread my recent book, beginning with chapter 10, “Selling the Farm.” It seemed to be amazingly apropos to this chapter of our lives, as did the entire book. 🙂 Seems like the Spirit may have had me write it so I could read it and have my faith renewed, reflecting on His past faithfulness in our lives “for such a time as this.” 🙂

Yesterday I was with a new friend Jeff on top of a mountain standing by our cabin under construction. He said, “The Bible tells us two amazing things about “faith.” [1] It pleases God, and [2] it can move mountains.” May it be so!!

I told a new friend Joe at our early morning men’s meeting today, who had just prayed for us and expressed his excitement about the new chapter God was providing for us, “Derek Prince once said when teaching about the life of Abraham, “‘From the time Abraham started following God, he knew only a tent and an altar.’” Amen. He also came to know God better than thousands, and seemingly experienced God’s nearness and covenant love at every bend of his journey. Isn’t that what we all seek?

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For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:3)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...He leads me ...” (Psalm 23)

 

Travel & Spiritual Growth

Travel is a part of my life, especially since being led to a career as an airline pilot. I’ve thought from time to time about sharing some of those travel experiences on this blog, but decided against it until now concerned it might distract from the main message. And it might appear I’m bragging?

I’ve no more concern about that! It’s a hobby I enjoy because it refocuses me on life and living in the present. One can also learn a lot about people, cultures, history, themselves, and God through travel. It seems to enlarge our spirits and inspire our souls with mystery, beauty, wonder, and adventure. These are some of the things it does for me, and I hope for some of you too.

Last year was a banner travel year for me as I visited Alaska, Montana, Korea, Africa, Honduras, Greenland, and Iceland. Most of the photo work is done and accessible on the web, so I decided to launch out and share some of these travels with you in hopes it will inspire and motivate you to enjoy your life and consider it an adventure with the Lord. Maybe it will refresh your spirit with images of beauty and thoughts of mystery? Reignite your passion for exploring and living? If it does any of that, I will feel good about sharing!

What pushed me over the edge this week was a quote I discovered by St. Augustine, the most influential theologian in the first one thousand years of church history.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.” Augustine of Hippo

Shortly thereafter I discovered this quote, which is a mantra for me in this chapter of my life, “live life in the present.” There are really only two important days for each of us, [1] today, and [2] that day. Said another way, don’t let undue concern about the past, or the future, rob you of your life today. Or as someone exclaimed, “Put your phone down, and be present to the circumstances and people around you!” 🙂 Ouch!

“Travel at it’s best reminds us to be present where we are.” Waylon Lewis

Travel As An Idol

I’m aware any gift from God can be turned into an idol if your affection for it displaces or becomes more important to you than the Giver. I’m pretty sure travel is not an idol for me. I’m very thankful for the gift and every opportunity. Yet I’m content to never travel again. But if you sense it might be an idol, speak up! I would need to pray about that and consider your insight.

Is Travel Necessary

I don’t consider travel as necessary to life and happiness. Our family is divided on travel. My wife and son really don’t enjoy it unless they are traveling with someone they like, or going to visit family or friends. My daughter and I like travel for travel’s sake — exploring, adventure, beauty, and when with loved ones, all the more! 🙂

I’m even aware there is a dissenting opinion among spiritual giants and church fathers about travel. I already told you what Augustine thought. Thomas ˋa Kempis (1380-1471) one of my favorite authors and Christian mystics who wrote the most published book in the world after the Bible, The Imitation of Christ, said that travel wasn’t desirable nor that beneficial, and I’m still looking hard to find his quote. Until I do, just know there are highly respected people who hold that position. The following will give you insight into his philosophy and his life grounded as it was in Truth and in Christ.

“The more you are at harmony within yourself and become inwardly simple, the more you will understand higher things without effort, for you will receive intellectual light from above.” Thomas á Kempis

With Friends in Greenland

“However, because many endeavor to get knowledge rather than live well, they are often deceived and get no or very little benefits.” Thomas á Kempis

“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.” Thomas á Kempis

“Everywhere I have sought peace and not found it, except in a corner with a book.”
Thomas á Kempis

With a Friend in Iceland sporting our Greenland Caps

“Wherever you go, there you are.”  Thomas á Kempis

So we see travel has two sides, like a coin, or a sword! And how you are led or decide with your free will will determine what path is best for you. Godspeed on your journey.

Whether you travel or not, I hope the commentary and photographs on these travel blogs will bring you joy and stimulate your spirit to adventure in Christ. (Psalm 23/Col 1:27)

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“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” Kurt Vonnegut

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” Robert Louis Stevenson

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

“Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” Seneca

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal” Paulo Coelho

Inside Images Simple and Powerful

Hallgrímskirkja church- Reykjavík – from top view to SE

“Paul and his friends went through Phrygia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit would not let them preach in Asia.  After they arrived in Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them.  So they went on through Mysia until they came to Troas.” Acts 16

[This wildly popular song “Oceans” by Hillsong United describes what travel is to me at the moment; not just exploring my city, state, or planet — but adventuring in the spirit, in relationships, and in life with the Father, Son, and Spirit of Life.]