Cincinnati Museum Center

One of the most beautiful and fascinating landmarks in our area--and for many miles around--is the Cincinnati Museum Center, formerly Cincinnati's Union Terminal train station, which opened in 1933.

The lovely Robin and I visited this spot again today with our daughter, two of our grandchildren, our niece Nora, and her four boys!

We started our visit with lunch in the amazing half-domed rotunda, filled with visual delights from its Art Deco architecture and accoutrements to its giant murals.

After Isaac and Joel and I toured the natural history museum, we joined the others in the children's museum (that's Nora's middle two sons, Justyn and Joel, below).

Calleigh, Ryder, and Matthew spent most of their time in the preschool area.

I had hoped to sneak into the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, but guess what? It's Easter weekend and the exhibit was sold out today. Duh.

Still, it was a lot of fun for the kids. And the adults. And me, the lone adolescent.

Joseph Beth Booksellers

Not far from the Cincinnati neighborhood where I grew up--and even closer to the church where my son works (and where I'll sometimes meet him for coffee, to make sure he's still talking to me)--is a fine bookstore, Joseph Beth Booksellers, in Rookwood Pavilion at 2692 Madison Avenue.

It's a gratifyingly large and busy store, with more than books (like most bookstores, they also sell knick knacks, bric-a-brac, and other stuff that rhymes with "rack"). But, the important stuff is all there: books, more books, and coffee.

The second level was set up (front and center at the top of the staircase) for a book discussion group to meet that afternoon. I found a comfy chair and spent a little while reading and breathing in the literary air. I also appreciated the attention to detail (above), with railing decorations and door handles in book form, too. 

Joseph Beth has been a Cincinnati tradition for twenty-five years now, so it was high time I made my way down there. They also have stores now in Cleveland, Lexington, and Crestview Hills, Kentucky. 

A Trip to Change Your Life

Many years ago, the top item on my "bucket list" (though I didn't call it that back then, in the "olden times") was to visit the Holy Land. It seemed a nearly impossible dream. So far away, a volatile region, and too expensive. But we talked to friends who had made the trip, and learned that none of those impressions were accurate. So we decided to save, and borrow, and make the trip. It was probably the wisest investment I ever made, and the safest trip (see here for more about safety in the Holy Land).

Now, the lovely Robin and I are excited to announce the dates, itinerary, and cost of our March 2014 pilgrimage to the Holy Land (see the full brochure here)! Sure, it's a year away, but it's not at all too early to begin planning for such a life-changing experience.

There is no way to adequately describe the difference in perspective, appreciation, and understanding a person gets from discovering the land of Jesus, the apostles, prophets, and patriarchs. It is like the difference between reading about being born again...and BEING born again.

Words cannot describe what happens to your Bible reading, studying, and preaching once you have sailed the Sea of Galilee, and been baptized in the Jordan. Or prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and celebrated communion outside the Garden Tomb. Or taken an early morning journey starting at the Gihon Spring, in the City of David, and traversing the actual tunnel of Hezekiah (dug underneath the Ophel in Jerusalem about 701 B.C.) and ending up at the Pool of Siloam. Or the side trip Robin and I and a half dozen good friends took one morning in Jerusalem, when we took a cab to the village of Bethany, and walked the Palm Sunday route Jesus took from the traditional site of Lazarus’s tomb to the Temple Mount (see photo above). The topography and scenery of that three-mile walk will stay with me forever, and springs to my mind, of course, every time I read of Bethany or Palm Sunday or Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in my Bible.

You can't imagine the way Scripture and the past come alive after you have stood on the teaching steps of the Jerusalem Temple (on which Jesus’ feet undoubtedly trod, and where he would have sat to teach on many occasions) (see photo above).

And there's just no way to convey the depth and emotion of such statements as "Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:2) and "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion" (Psalm 125:1) and "the city of our God, the mountain of his holiness" (Psalm 48:1) until you've encountered such things in the very places the Biblical writers experienced them. It is, for me, an indescribably rich experience that is renewed every time I read such passages.

This trip will be even fuller than the previous four we've enjoyed. We will be spending more time than ever before (eleven days) and visiting places we have never yet been: Jacob’s Well, Samaria, Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, Emmaus, and the Valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath (in addition to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, the Sea of Galilee (photo below), Jericho, Qumran--where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered--Jerusalem, Caesarea, Capernaum, Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, and more)!

The brochure (click here) describes the high points of our tour, but it can’t even begin to capture all the memorable moments in this journey of a lifetime. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me here. If you want to reserve your spot right away (and get the best possible price with an $80 discount per traveler for registering by April 18), simply fill out the registration form on the brochure and send it (with your deposit) to me, or directly to the address on the brochure.

And, for those in the Hamilton, Ohio, area, you can attend an informational coffee in our home at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, to answer questions, meet other travelers, and share the excitement. If you need directions, shoot me an email. And start planning now for a trip like no that will ignite your comprehension and enthusiasm for reading the Bible, enlarge your perspective, deepen your faith... and change your life.

The Quarter Bistro, Mariemont, OH

Last night, on our weekly date night, the lovely Robin and I journeyed after work to one of our favorite date spots, the village center in Mariemont, a tony Cincinnati suburb that boasts a unique movie theater (that shows some movies we can't see anywhere else in the area) and many excellent places to eat. One of those, as we discovered last night, is the Quarter Bistro, right next door to the Mariemont Theater.

This was our first experience at the Quarter Bistro, and it was a great one. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation time, and were greeted and seated immediately. The decor, in rich reds and blacks, is unique and warm.

The meal began with warm bread, served (for some good reason, I bet) in a bag rather than a basket. Robin and I both ordered the lobster bisque, which was delicious.

I opted for the "Ruby Red Idaho Trout," served with (I'm reading from the menu here) "Ameretto glaze, pancetta caramelized shallot, haricot vert. brown butter vinaigrette, heirloom saratoga chips, and marcona almond." Excellent.

Robin (predictably enough) selected the Sea Scallops, beautifully presented and supplemented with Asian pear compote, Yuzu pineapple glaze, sauteed edamame, and purple potato gaufrette. Exquisite.

Our service was timely and we were able to step into the theater via a connecting door, without having to step outside again. The entire meal took less than an hour (we eschewed dessert; though the offerings were appealing, we were content). Though the restaurant was nearly empty (except for the bar) when we entered at 6:10 or so, it was nearly full when we left around 7. It is easy to see why.

The Colonial Cottage

The lovely Robin and I had the joy of hosting our friend (and my coauthor) Josh McDowell yesterday for lunch, after church and before he flew out from Cincinnati to his next speaking engagement. None of my first choices, near the church where he spoke that morning, served a noon meal so I had made reservations at the highly-rated (by Zagat) Colonial Cottage in Erlanger, Kentucky.

It is an eighty-year-old restaurant right on Dixie Highway, near the junction of I-75 and I-275, and it has been featured on the Travel Channel's "Taste of America." Despite the first floor fireplace, however (we were seated upstairs where a buffet was available), I was disappointed in the ambiance. I mean, Josh has consulted with presidents and dined with kings, ya know? I was hoping for something a little nicer than vinyl padded chairs.

The food, however, was excellent, and I got to introduce Josh to Goetta, a Cincinnati specialty. And the cottage's signature cream pies were not disappointing. And our bellies were full--a little too full--when we left. I just doubt that Robin will let me choose the restaurant the next time Josh is in town. Scratch that--I know she won't.