Thursday, May 7, 2015

How to Become a Gondolier: Venice

Look closely at the gondola to the back.
The prow shows the Venetian flag.

Venice. The city of romance. And the city of those gondoliers. How does one get to be a gondolier? It's not as easy as donning a black and white stripped shirt and building up your bi & triceps.

  1. First of all, it's expensive and competitive. Only 425 licenses are granted. Each license costs 700,00 euros.
  2. Then you must join the gondolier guild.
  3. Because it's such a tight-knit community, licenses are generally passed down from father to son. If no son exists, then the license may be sold. Not until 2010 had a woman ever been a gondolier. Giorgia Boscolo broke the glass gondola ceiling.
  4. To become one, the man must attend 400 hours of instruction and pass  navigational and physical tests.
  5. Gondolas must be black. At the prow of each gondola is a silver flag representing the six districts of Venice. Five prongs of the flag point forward, one back, this rear-facing prong represents the island of Giudecca. This, more or less represents the geographical layout of the districts.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Love on the Grand Canal

English: Venice: Italy: 1913 map of city center
English: Venice: Italy: 1913 map of city center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I wouldn't leave Italy without achieving three tickets on my bucket list. The first: a gondola ride on the Grand Canal. And what a grand time we had.

The Grand Canal is Venice's major waterway and it divides the city in two. It looks like an upside down S making the east and west side look like two hands grabbing each other. (See the illustration to the left).

The glory of this canal is the splendid buildings lining either side--from gorgeous cathedrals like the Church of the Scalzi to the Rialto Bridge to mundane, everyday homes.

We boarded our gondola on some backwater alleyway (literally) just off the Piazza San Marco, and sailed down the Cannaregio Canal. While marveling at the glories of Venice, and accordion player and singer regaled us with quintessential Italian folk songs: "Amore," "Ciao Venezia," "O Sola Mia," and more.

Neil and I could cuddle with gondolier in the back of us, the muscians to the front and crowds of tourists staring in envy from the myriad bridges.

We didn't sail as far north as the Rialto Bridge--but that was a sight. It's the oldest of the bridges spaning the Grand Canal. It hosts twenty-four shops, has upper floors overlooking the canal.


The full day in Venice held more than this blog could tell: wonderful food, shops with glorious wares, glass factory, masks celebrating the Carnivale--just like the Mardi Gras. I need to return.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The Grand Canal

Neil LOVED the ride

Love on the Grand Canal

a balcony along the canal
Our serenade

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Venice: St. Mark's Square

Not the San Marco Lion--but a gorgeous model
The most famous section of Venice is St. Mark's Square. For me, Canaletto made it familiar. His exquisite oil paintings capture the beautiful and mood of this quintessential Venetian square. We traveled there on a water bus--a fifteen minute cruise to glory and the splendor of Piazza San Marco.

A hint of Canaletto
We walked along quays and over canals until we came to the piazzetta (little piazza--not pizza). We entered between two columns: one sported a statue of St. Todaro, a patron saint, the other the winged Lion of St. Mark. Rather than ushering us into the purity of cathedrals and bell towers, imagine my horror when I discovered this gorgeous piazzetta fronted with marble-faced buildings had once been the scene of public executions.

The crowning jewel of St. Mark's Square is the Basilica San Marco. The title basilica means the relics of a saint lie there. In this case, St. Mark's body. It was brought here in 828 from Alexandria, Egypt. The church was built to showcase its precious relics.

Bit by bit, the church was built between the 11th and 15th century and is an exquisite blend of Byzantine gold, Gothic spires, Romanesque round arches and Islamic domes.
Although being restored, you can see the myriad
architectural influences
I didn't give you a close-up, but look at
those columns

As impressive as the basilica is, the columns intrigued me. As I said before, the buildings are constructed with lightweight brick. However, all of them are faced with marble. The colors of these columns defied my imagination. I think of marble as statuary white. These were pink and green and blue. Beautiful.

The basilica joins the Doge's Palace. The doge was a magistrate, elected for life.

Note the risers. Although it rained, we didn't flood
When the tide is high and the moon strong, St. Mark's floods. Risers lay piled along the quay ready to be laid out as raised sidewalks. Shops along the tiny alleys that comprise the streets of Venice, shoppers can find thigh-high rubber boots in fashionable designs coordinated with raincoats.

Our guide showed us a picture of one tourist who sat in the outdoor dining room of one cafe. Water lapped his chest. Incredible, crazy tourists.

just a hint of detail
love in Piazza San Marco
note the lion of San Marco
(And the seagulls)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Venice: The Real Water World

Venice. Hardly a city in Italy is more romantic than Venice. Kevin Costner thought he had an original script with the Hollywood name of Water World. Venice trumped him by thousands of years.
Taxi acquei--from airport to Villa Mabapa

We landed in Marco Polo Airport--can you think of a more appropriate name for the watery world of Venice's airport? March 1, 2015 proved to be cool, but sunny. Our guide met us, and led us to our taxi. Imagine my surprise to discover we'd be taxied by boat!

Venice. I always imagined it firmly attached to Italy--sinking, but attached. It's not. It's made up of 116 islands. Canals separate these islands and essentially form the city streets and boulevards.

Too cold for swimming. Lido's sandy beach and cabanas.
The city became defined during the Middle Ages. The buildings had been constructed in brick on cedar piers that have petrified into stone. The brick was covered with marble--the stuff of buildings in Italy as wood is too expensive.

The only island with cars is Lido. And that's where we stayed. This eight-mile island forms the barrier between the Adriatic Sea and the lagoon. On the seaside, rows and rows of cabanas line the sandy shore whose shallow waters offer summer fun.
Lobby of Villa Mabapa

In the 1800s, Islo del Lido was popular with artists and poets such as Shelley and Byron.

It is also known for its upscale shops. Although, when Neil and I roamed the city, shops were the last thing on our mind. We were hungry.

Which brings up an interesting point. If you want a cup of coffee--and even the cafe American is strong--you can pay two separate prices. One, the cheaper, is to order at the counter and drink it there. Europe rarely offers take-out. If you wish to sit, it will cost you more.

Lido has beautiful hotels. We stayed at the Villa Mabapa--shown left. Most hotels don't open until mid-March or April. Ours opened for our tour.

And one benefit of going off season, tourists don't abound and you can enjoy the sights. The weather can be cool, but as I live in the northern reaches of eastern New York, the Italian temps were quite pleasant.

Downtown Lido
A hearse. All transport is by boat
Lido is connected to the main island of Venice by the vaporetti. These are boats that serve as buses. It's about a fifteen minute cruise to get to the main island.

Seeing as I adore the water, this city is for me. But everything in Venice is expensive since everything--food, clothing, furniture--must be imported from the mainland.

Each day we stayed here was overcast. I do have it on good authority that you can see a fabulous sunset over Venice from the lagoon side of the island.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Appetite of Vengeance by Jennifer Slattery: Psalm 103: 6

“Vengeance is a monster of appetite, forever bloodthirsty and never filled.” ― Richelle E. GoodrichThe Tarishe Curse

Few wounds hurt as deeply as betrayal. It pains our hearts, shatters our trust, destroys relationships, and most notably, awakens our inner sense of justice. Ah, vengeance! To make the other pay for what they did, or at the very least, to feel the same pain they have caused us.

Whenever I think of betrayal, mine or someone else’s, I can’t help but think of Joseph. (Gen. 37-50) That poor man was betrayed continuously! First by his family then by his boss, then by two men he helped in a darkened dungeon. And how did Joseph respond? With bitterness, spending his time calculating how he’d get even? Or at the very least, how he’d alert everyone to how greatly he’d been wronged?

Nope. He responded with praise-filled surrender, because he knew God had it all—Joseph’s hurts, dreams, and current circumstances—under control. More than that, he knew God is a God of justice. It’s part of His very nature. Couple this with His Father’s heart, and you’ve got an all-powerful, ever-present, completely just and righteous God who, at this very moment, is working all things—all things!— for our good (Rom. 8:28) and His eternal purposes.

That means that betrayal that completely leveled us and even now causes our teeth to grind will be used for our good.

Consider this, speaking of Jesus, Paul said, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purposes and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross” (Acts 2:23—emphasis mine).

Speaking of this, in his book, The Peace Maker, Ken Sande says, “[God] chose not to restrain the acts of evil men so that His plan of redemption would be fulfilled through the death and resurrection of His Son.” (Rom. 3:21-26) (Pg. 61)

In other words, God allowed His only beloved Son to be betrayed to the point of death so that you and I might be saved. Pause and meditate on this for a moment—the very God that allowed you to be betrayed or wounded in a situation is the same one who allowed His son to be betrayed and wounded—for you. That’s a lot of love—incomprehensible love. Enough love to warrant our full surrender and trust, even when betrayed.

Because we either believe God is all-loving, or we don’t.

We either believe He’s all-powerful or we don’t.

We either believe He’s all knowing or we don’t.

We either believe He’s just and righteous or we don’t.

And let’s not forget, it was our sin that drove Christ to the cross in the first place—that led to His betrayal unto death.

If we believe those things, and if we remind ourselves of those things, especially when we’re hurting, our response to our offender will be utterly different.

Because grace changes everything and takes vengeance off the table, replacing it with surrender and praise.

Vengeance never belonged to us, anyway. As Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD” (NIV).

And as Psalm 103:6, today’s focal verse says, “The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated fairly.”

In other words, God will deal with appropriately—righteously—with the offender and the offended. So take a deep breath and let it go. It’s too big of a burden for you to carry, anyway. And in trying, chances are, we’ll only get in God’s way.

As you read today’s devotion, did one hurt or person rise to the forefront of your mind? If so, ask God to take that from you, then trust Him to work all things out—for your good.

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet CafĂ© Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently on sale at Amazon for under $4 (print and kindle version)! You can get that here:

When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

You can buy a copy here:

On Barnes and Noble:


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Psalm 103:3:: Jake Our Miracle by Ally Carter

Seeing them in there as big as they were was hard. They’d stop breathing while eating, and let me tell you that made my heart stop when it happened when I was in there. It was a helpless feeling. No family around to lean on. They were 14 hours away. I thank God for our church family. The pastor and his family took in our two older children, so we knew they were safe and cared for.

But, I tell you that wasn’t the hardest thing to go through. No. The doctor coming in and telling us Jake had some heart defects. It felt like someone kicked me in the gut. I couldn’t breathe. We didn’t know how bad it was. Numbness took over. I couldn’t think or feel much of anything. I’d just given birth, and this was to be a joyous time but then we got slammed with this news.

I remember on the outside keeping it together but on the inside I was falling apart. Each time I held them, because twin two had problems too just not as severe. I’d pray over them. I’d sit in the rocking chair rocking them back and forth praying. I didn’t talk much as I was taking it all in. The hospital they were at couldn’t do a cardiogram on him, so it took a couple weeks to find out.

Again in the Dr. office 45 minutes from our home he told us he did in fact have some heart defects. Two to be exact. The one may close and it may never. We were facing surgery for him somewhere between then and 2 yrs of age, but he was hoping for the latter. My close knit group of prayer warriors got right on this. There wasn’t a day I didn’t worry. But, I knew God had this. We had to step out in faith into His Grace. I can’t even tell you how scared I was. I wanted to run away and hide.

God was working in the background. I became close to the Lord through this. I met another mom with a baby who had the same condition. She was a believer and we sought God for one another. God knew we needed each other during this time. Two years later, we took him in for a check up, and the cardiologist couldn’t hear any murmur. He did another cardiogram and everything was perfect. He said he didn’t get how because he should need surgery. We told him, God healed him. He called Jake a miracle. I don’t think he believed us when we say God healed him. That’s the only way this could have happened.


Allyson writes in the Christian romance and suspense genres. In her books, you’ll find emotionally stirring story lines, as well as suspense with faith mixed in. She resides in Missouri with her loving husband and four wonderful children, and three cats. When not spending time with her family, you can find her knitting, and watching way too many suspense shows and reality TV

You can find her on her Facebook, website and Twitter.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Praise the Lord, O My Soul by Sarah Ruut

“Praise the Lord, O my soul!
With all that is within me, praise his holy name!”
(Psalms 103:1, NET)

You probably know that David was not afraid to be genuine and to pour out his heart in his songs. He pleads for deliverance, vents his anger, and begs for forgiveness. Here in Psalms 103 we find him pouring out his love for the Lord.

Do we do the same? Does our worship bubble out of us, unstoppable?

I’m afraid, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes we go to church because it’s just what is expected of us. We sing the songs because that’s what you’re supposed to do. We go through the motions, doing what we ought, and then we go home. As we make our way through the week, our time and effort is spent putting out “fires” and tending to the billions of little things we all have on our overly-full plates. There’s not much time for the Lord, because we have so much else to do.

Before we know it, it’s time for church again. We load up and head out, only to repeat the same expected pattern once more.

Sound familiar? Trust me, if that describes you, you’re not alone.

So what made the difference for David? He didn't just say, “Thanks, God! You got me out of that mess!” He didn't text, “PTL!” and go on with his day. He didn't even post on Facebook: “David is feeling blessed.”

It was more than a lack of technology that made his response different! ;-) Here’s what he said: 
With all that is within me, praise his holy name!”

There’s the key. David wasn't doing what was expected of him. He wasn't going through the motions. Instead, he was praising God with ALL that was within him.

Praise like that comes from deep within us. It bubbles to the surface in response to who God is. The more we understand God, his nature and character, the more we desire to praise and obey him. It’s a natural outpouring that comes from the fullness of knowing God.

If your worship has been feeling a bit robotic lately, I encourage you to take some time digging through the following verses. I pray that He will show you, through His Word, just how praiseworthy He is. And I pray that, as your heart begins to overflow, you will join David in saying, “Praise the Lord, O my soul! With all that is within me, praise his holy name!”

Psalms 9:1
Psalms 28:7
Psalms 35:28
Psalms 40:1-3
Psalms 59:17
Psalms 68:19
Psalms 96:6
Psalms 103:20
Psalms 104:1, 14
Psalms 107:8
Psalms 119:7
Psalms 136:1, 25

Psalms 138:7

Sarah Ruut is an avid reader who loves talking books and authors on her blog. Although she is regularly interrupted by geometry proofs and foreign languages, she wouldn’t trade her homeschooling days for anything. All she needs is a cinnamon roll and a great novel to get through the rough spots!

You can find devotional thoughts as well as reviews of Christian fiction, interviews with amazing authors, giveaways and more at You can also connect with Sarah on Twitter: