Archive for July, 2006

On the Road Home – Sort of . . .

Friday was checkout day at the Washington Court Hotel, but no one was in a hurry to rush right home. After loading the van, we started the morning off with visits to the World War II Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. After those stops we headed down the road to tour George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. The visit there gave a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man who thought of himself more as a farmer than as a general or president. The evening wrapped up with a huge dinner at the Mount Vernon Inn, and then it was back on the road towards the Valley.

Seeing the Sights, Part 2

We started the day off with a visit to the National Zoo. Of course one of the highlights was visiting the pandas. Everyone was excited about the upcoming first birthday (July 9) of Tai Shan, the panda cub. A new panda habitat is under construction, so we’ll be able to enjoy that next time we visit Washington! Other highlights included the cheetahs and the Mexican wolves.

After several hours at the zoo, I made a quick side trip to the National Gallery of Art. It’s always fascinating to see great works of art in person. They go from being simply a picture in a book to something that I have seen myself. It’s also amazing to think that the Gallery is OURS. It belongs to the people, and those are OUR works of art. The museum is filled with the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, El Greco, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Thomas Cole, Edwin Church, Edouard Manet, Edward Degas, Henri De Toulouse-Latrec, Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Paul C├ęzanne, Winslow Homer, Rembrandt, and Degas. The collection list reads like a who’s who of the art world, and those treasures belong to the American People.

The evening wrapped up with visits to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most thought-provoking memorials in the entire city. As you walk the length of the wall, you pass the names of thousands and thousands of people of who gave their lives for their country. We know from studying history that casualties were extremely high during the war, but when you see row after row of names, the enormity of the sacrifice is easier to grasp. The visit to the Lincoln Memorial was a serene and tranquil way to end the day. As we stood on the steps gazing down the length of the National Mall, the sky was awash in summer sunset colors. It was a wonderful way to spend our last evening in the city.

Seeing the Sights

Today was a busy one! We started the day off by dividing forces to get in lines for tickets to the Washington Monument and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. After getting the tickets, we walked over for a view of the White House. At first we thought we wouldn’t have a very good view at all because the road and sidewalks in front of the White House were blocked. We found out that several roads and sidewalks are typically blocked when the President is entering or leaving the White House, and they were re-opened within a few minutes so that we had a much better view.

After seeing the White House, it was time for another Metro ride up to the Capitol. Ronnie had arranged a tour for us, so we went to Roger Wicker’s office to meet our guide. (I must say that it was nice to finally receive some good ol’ Southern Hospitality!) The Capitol tour was very interesting, and it’s a beautiful building to see. During the tour we stood on the point which is at the geographical center of D.C.

After visiting the Capitol we had to catch a cab to make it to the Washington Monument in time for our afternoon tour. Of course everyone thinks of George Washington as the father of the country, but as we traveled about the city, we were constantly learning new and fascinating facts about this remarkable man and the ways in which he served his fledgling nation.

Our last tour of the day was at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. As we proceeded through our tour, we saw the various machines that print, cut, and stack our paper currency. How many people have seen a million dollars stacked up in a pile? Well we have! That was one of the first sights we saw as we entered the building.

Fireworks

There is nothing like Independence Day in our nation’s capitol! There is a special feeling that comes from being in the center of our seat of government surrounded by so many buildings and monuments that represent this country.

We spent the evening at the Washington Monument facing the Lincoln Memorial at the other end of the reflecting pool. Everyone was eagerly awaiting 9:00 pm when the fireworks would begin. The fireworks were wonderful! Set to a medley of patriotic music, shells burst for 20 minutes, reaching peaks and crescendos each time we heard a bit of the 1812 Overture or Stars and Stripes Forever. It was a wonderful display, and a great way to wrap up Independence Day in the capitol.

Independence Day Parade

We started the morning at the steps of the National Archives. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were there for a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Following the opening ceremonies, the parade got underway.

The parade started right on our corner, and it ran for TWO HOURS! As you’ll see from the parade photos, the melting pot nature of our nation was well-demonstrated by the wide variety of ethnicities and cultures represented.

There were bands and floats and dancers and unicyclists and stilt walkers and flag units. And there were balloons! This was the first parade I’ve attended that used large balloons like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so that was a special treat.

The Smithsonian Institution

We visited a couple of museums today: the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.

The Museum of American History is an amazing place with fascinating pieces of our country’s history around every corner. We saw a lot of pop culture items including a collection of Jim Henson’s Muppets, Fonzie’s leather jacket, Minnie Pearl’s hat, and Lance Armstrong’s bike. There were a numbers of items that showed the technological development of our country including a 1924 John Deere Model D farm tractor; “Old Red,” one of the first commercial spindle cotton pickers (built in 1943); an 1878 light bulb from Thomas Edison’s public demonstration; and a large collection of cars and automobiles including a 1903 Winton touring car, the first car driven across the United States.

We also saw many historical artifacts including a uniform worn by George Washington, a section of the Berlin Wall, and the hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing the night he was assassinated. The flag that hung at the Pentagon following the 9/11 terrorist attacks was on display at the museum as well. Perhaps the most inspiring piece was the Stars and Stripes which flew over Ft. McHenry, inspiring Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner.

The Museum of Natural History has a fascinating exhibit on the Lewis and Clark expedition. For most people, the museum’s extensive gem and mineral collection was a favorite – especially the Hope Diamond. (Well . . . except for Zack. I think he liked the dinosaur fossils best!)

Home Sweet Home

After a long night of driving, a long afternoon at Arlington, and the trip to the hotel, everyone was glad to arrive at place with air conditioning and soft beds! The Washington Court Hotel will be home for the next few days. It’s only a short walk from Union Station, so we have easy access to shopping, dining, and the Metro.

After our adventures on the New York City subways, the Washington Metro will be a piece of cake! Even though we’ll have plenty of subway rides, we’ll still do a lot of walking, so I’m sure we’ll all be ready for a comfortable bed when we get home each night.

Arlington National Cemetery

After morning worship, we drove over to Arlington National Cemetery. This was my second time to visit, but my thoughts were much the same as the first time I visited. As I stood looking across row upon row of plain white crosses, I thought of all the people – people I will never even know – who sacrificed so much so that I can enjoy the freedoms that I cherish.

Although some of those people came home, many of the people buried in Arlington never got to enjoy the peace and freedom they fought so hard preserve. How can you repay a debt to people who died before you were even born? I think the best way is by being worthy of those freedoms – by cherishing them, by using them wisely, and by never forgetting that people suffered and died to guarantee them for future generations.

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns is one of the most impressive ceremonies I’ve ever seen. It isn’t elaborate. It isn’t accompanied by a lot of pomp and fanfare. It is impressive because it shows us a simple but persistent dedication to honoring the memory of those who, but for this memorial, might go unremembered. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year the Tomb is guarded by volunteer sentinels who are considered to be the very best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry.

It’s interesting to think about how closely this parallels our relationship with Jesus. He sacrificed so much for us. He died, rose again, and went to be with His Father before we were ever even born. We owe him a debt that we can never repay.

But we can obey. What better way to honor the Son of God than to simply do what He asked? Follow his commandments, give our lives to Him, be cleansed through baptism, and do the work of leading others to Him.

Just as the sentinels at Arlington National Cemetery have a duty to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns, we have a duty to spread the Gospel. Just as the sentinels volunteered for their posts, we volunteered for our duty when we gave our lives to Jesus. And just as the sentinels are honored by the very way in which they serve, we receive the highest honor from the One who called us and allows us to serve Him.

On the Road Again

We certainly seem to enjoy long drives! We left around 1:30 Saturday afternoon and drove and drove and drove . . . you get the idea. This year’s traveling crew includes Genna Berry, Kevin Herrera, Lisa Melton, Zack Melton, Betty Stark, Lorraine Stark, and Ronnie Stark. We switched off between our three drivers before finally pulling over for a little roadside nap in Virginia around 7:00 Sunday morning.

After dozing for a couple of hours, we had a quick breakfast at McDonald’s and drove to Central Christian Church for morning worship. While everyone enjoyed the music and the morning message (Got Faith?), several people thought that the best part of the service was the special music: a solo violin rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic. Now there’s something you don’t hear in the Valley every day!