Table Mountain: One of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders

view-of-table-mountain-from-distanceIconic Table Mountain is the most beloved and photographed landmarkyellow-fynbos-edges-the-view-of-cape-town-from-table-mountain in all of South Africa. lions-head-and-long-lines-at-table-mountainEvery year more than 800,000 visitors ascend to the top (so come early)!hiking-path-up-table-mountainSome hike up the steep mountainsides, aerial-cable-car-going-up-table-mountainbut most ascend the way we did: via a revolving aerial cable way view-going-up-table-mountainwhile enjoying 360° panoramic views of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean. view-of-table-mountainTable Mountain is 3,563 feet at its highest point,
although the Back Table is a two-mile long, level plateau of “table top.”

aerial-cable-car-ascending-table-mountainSome geologists estimate that Table Mountain’s mesa was formed by volcanic and glacial action during the Ordovician Period some 5oo-600 million years ago, making it at least six times older than the Himalayas and one of the oldest mountains in the world. panoramic-view-of-cape-town-from-lions-head-to-devils-peakRegardless of it’s exact age, Table Mountain is ancient, and it’s the only terrestial feature on earth that has a constellation named for it: Mensa, meaning “the table,” so named by the French astronomer, Nicolas de Lacaille back in 1763 after a two-year study of 10,000 stars in the Southern Hemisphere.

plaque-on-table-mountainTable Mountain is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. world-floral-kingdoms-at-table-mountainThe Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s plant kingdoms, orographic-clouds-forming-behind-lions-head-gorgeous-wildflowers-near-table-mountainbut the richest for its size, boasting 8,500 distinct species, silvery-leaved-native-species-of-plants-in-cape-peninsula1,470 of which occur on Table Mountain and the Back Table. diverse-plants-in-cape-town-and-around-table-mountainThat is more than all the plant species in the United Kingdom!yellow-fynbos-and-trails-up-table-mountainSadly, 70% of the plants are endemic (found no where else in the world), lilies-on-table-mountainand despite incessant attempts at conservation, this area also has the highest number of threatened species of any equivalently-sized continental area. visiting-the-top-of-table-mountainWe only had an hour to explore the top, but there are many hiking trails of varying lengths to experience Table Mountain’s beauty. cape-town-as-seen-from-table-mountainThere are jeep trails up the steep slopes that make first class mountain bike paths, the most famous being Plum Pudding Hill.steep-sides-of-table-mountainRock climbing and caving are also popular sports.
The largest cave is Wynberg, but over 100 caves
have been discovered in the peninsula and on Table Mountain. yellow-fynbos-and-shop-at-the-top-of-table-mountainGood maps are available, and if you decide to go exploring, be sure to buy a map, because dense mists can descend without warning any time of the year. table-cloth-spreading-over-table-mountain-saIn fact, the flat top of the mountain is notorious for being enveloped
in orographic clouds,  orographic-tablecloth-covering-table-mountainwhich are formed when the moist sea air rises to the top of the mountain
and hits colder air. alan-on-top-of-table-mountainWhile we were visiting, we were able to enjoy one of these dramatic changes orographic-clouds-forming-on-table-mountainfrom sunny to cloudy in a matter of minutes.

table-cloth-of-clouds-over-table-mountainThe locals call this effect “spreading the table cloth,” and legend has it that the foggy table cloth is caused by a smoking match between the Devil and the Dutch pirate, Van Hunks. table-cloth-clouds-on-table-mountainWhat do you think? Do you believe that legend? I’m always charmed by legends, which are known to be fictitious. I’m not so charmed by scientists who promote their theories as fact. view-of-cable-way-station-and-cape-town-from-table-mountainFor instance,  I don’t think anybody can “prove” how the world came to be. Personally, I believe God created the earth with the appearance of age. I believe each “day” was a period of time, like the word “day” is used in other passages, such as “the day of the Lord.”clouds-move-in-to-cover-table-mountain I don’t know if a “day” had 24 hours or one nanosecond or 600 million years, but I believe God spoke and it happened. Our world did not need 600+million years to evolve.clifton-beach-from-table-mountain“Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could…” (as Maria Von Trapp sings). But, I don’t think our world’s beauty comes from our doing something good in our childhood or from eons of evolution, atlantic-ocean-of-cape-peninsula-saI believe the biblical account, which says that our gorgeous planet was created by God, who is the definition of goodness and omnipotence. How about you?
orographic-clouds-obscuring-view-of-cape-town-from-table-mountainIn the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)

Swimming with Penguins, Anyone?

penguin-colony-and-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africa                   Penguins are nothing short of adorable in any context. swimming-with-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaWe have some at our local zoo, but it was a unique treat to visit the Boulders Beach colony near Simonstown, South Africa, which is the only place in the world where you’re allowed to swim with these perky little playmates. swimming-at-boulders-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaActually, it was November when we toured, and our group wasn’t allotted time to swim, but the beaches—with their warm sand and turquoise waters—looked irresistibly inviting. close-up-of-an-african-penguin-at-boulders-south-africaPenguins have razor-sharp beaks, however, so despite their appeal, one should keep a respectable distance from their acrobatic antics. kathi-on-boardwalk-with-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africa        We visited Foxy Beach, perhaps Africa’s best site for viewing penguins.raised-walkways-through-foxy-beach-african-penguinsIt has raised boardwalks through one of only two nesting sites in South Africa,granite-boulders-and-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africa where about 3,000 happy little fellows spend their days sunning on the granite boulders and cavorting in the deep blue sea in search of tasty treats like fish.african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaIn the nineteenth century, there were over three million African penguins, but today there are less than 100,000 penguins left world-wide, and penguins are protected.  information-on-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaAfrican penguins are just under 20 inches tall and weigh about 4.5-8 pounds, about 100 pounds less than the ostriches that roam nearby. Still, they are bigger than the average bird, and their bones are heavier, making them great divers. They’ve been known to go as deep as 115 feet underwater, hold their breath for 1.5 minutes, and zip along at nearly 15 miles per hour, so in the bird world, they don’t have to be early or resort to catching worms to be a success!gorgeous-scenery-at-foxy-beach-boulders-penguin-colony-of-african-penguinsThey dress in tuxedos and dine on seafood at waterfront resorts. Very classy, don’t you think?🙂 I’ve read that penguins usually live 11-12 years, but some have been known to live almost twice as long. african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africa-cute-coupleThey are practically obsessed with finding their way home for nesting (even climbing over fences, which is a trick for these flightless birds) and normally mate for life. They share parenting duties, are social, mild-mannered, and multiply rapidly if protected. (Sound like ideal children to anyone?!)african-penguin-couple-at-boulders-south-africaUnfortunately, they are not always protected, and they don’t always make wise choices. One of the biggest problems at Boulders is that the penguins like to stand in front of warm cars, and several have been run over!
group-of-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaThe worst tragedies in recent years have resulted from tankers spilling oil. In 1994 about 10,000 birds were oiled, and only about half of them were saved. In the 2000 disaster, when the tanker Treasure sank off Robben Island, 18,000 oiled penguins were rescued and cleaned, and another 19,000 unoiled penguins were transported to Port Elizabeth, where they were released. signpost-for-boulders-beach-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaHowever, almost all the penguins returned to their original home with amazing accuracy and speed. Reporters seemed hopeful that most of the penguins would survive, although it made me think of us as humans! african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africa-turquoise-waters-of-the-atlantic-oceanMany of us are rescued by Christ—saved, cleaned, and released in clean waters. What do we naturally do? Head straight for home, whether or not home is a safe place. If you’re a believer and have been delivered from an unsafe environment, please consider prayerfully if and when to return home. I am sure God wants us to love our families, but He doesn’t want us living in an environment that will kill us, like a coat of black slimy oil will kill a penguin.

sheltered-bay-and-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaAre you safe? Please don’t instinctively return home too soon.
Swim in clean water and let the Lord direct your paths.
warm-sand-for-african-penguins-at-boulders-south-africaThe Lord direct your hearts into the love of God,
and into the patient waiting for Christ
” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).


Rise Up, My Love (215): King’s Daughter or Prince’s Daughter?

mother-and-son-playing-at-the-john-ball-petting-zooSong of Solomon 7:1. “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” Prince’s daughter? Commentators generally agree that the bride is a woman of unknown identity and apparently without any pedigree (although one theory is that she might possibly have been the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter). Even if she had been the pharaoh’s daughter, how did she come by the title Solomon gave her? Why he didn’t call her “king’s daughter?” Whether or not she was the pharaoh’s daughter (and I don’t believe she was from chapter 1:5-6), as the bride of Solomon, she would have become the daughter-in-law of David, the king, so she could have been called “O king’s daughter!”

I think he called her “prince’s daughter” because he was not speaking of her earned title. Have you ever heard of an honorary PhD? It is a title earned by outstanding work in a certain field that is recognized by someone(s) with the authority to confer degrees. Rather than earning a PhD by the usual process of taking classes, writing and defending a thesis, the person is given an honorary title out of respect for their accomplishments. This is what has happened to Solomon’s wife. Having been proclaimed “Mrs. Solomon…Daughter of Peace” by the daughters of Jerusalem, now Solomon himself gives her a title: “prince’s daughter.”  visiting-the-john-ball-zooThis praise was special and I believe more intimate and spiritual than simply a commentary on the external reality of her official position in the family. Solomon was indeed the present king, but he had also been the prince…the “son of peace” and the foreshadow of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6). This Shulamite, the “daughter of peace” was the daughter of the Prince of Peace. Solomon was claiming her as his own in the most intimate relationships possible for a man and woman; he was giving her not only all the privileges of wife, but also all the privileges of daughter. In the same way, we as believers are not only the “bride of Christ,” but “Christians”—the sons of Christ! God intends for us to become children of the Prince of Peace…so like him that we not only act like him, we even look like him!   four-siblings-from-the-same-familyHave you ever noticed how people from the same family have many characteristic habits as well as similar physical features? Have you ever watched a toddling boy attempting to imitate the manly gait of his father? How many times have you heard, “She has her mother’s smile,” or “He sounds just like his dad!”  john-ball-zoo-sitting-with-sonsOh, dear Lord, thank you that we are your children! Thank you for the knowledge that “He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)…for knowing that because we are your children, we will grow up to look like you someday! “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, (2 Corinthians 3:18). the-avenue-des-champs-elyseesPlease help us to learn to walk and talk as you do, and may we become as beautiful as the Prince of Peace! Thank you for the truth of 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

(I don’t have any literal royalty in my family, so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve used photos of my family to illustrate. By faith, God makes us all royalty!)

Two Upscale (and Delicious) Recipes for Brussels Sprouts

brussel-sprouts-and-walnuts-sauteedHave you noticed how vegetables come and go in popularity just like clothing styles? In the past couple of years, Brussels sprouts and green beans have made a definite comeback, and today I want to share two favorite discoveries for how to dress up Brussels sprouts beyond the usual way of steaming them. The first discovery was at a little restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town last year, where we had the most scrumptious Brussels sprouts I’d ever eaten. They tasted almost candied. After experimenting, I’ve developed a recipe that’s at least close enough to make me happy: Wash and trim one pound of Brussels sprouts, cutting each in half length-wise. Sauté them in lots of butter with onions and garlic until tender and well browned. Sprinkle liberally with brown sugar, salt, pepper, and walnuts, and continue browning them until the sugar has caramelized and coats the sprouts.brussel-sprouts-with-walnuts This may not be among the world’s healthiest ways to serve a veggie, but I guarantee it will be a crowd pleaser for anybody who fancies Brussels popular way to serve Brussels sprouts is roasted in the oven with butter, salt, and pepper. They’re yummy and healthy. However, if you want to dress them up sometime and add a twist of flavors, try this: Wash, trim, and slice one pound of Brussels sprouts into about 4 length-wise pieces each. Mix with a large apple cut into 1-inch cubes. (We love honey crisps, but probably any apple you like will do.) Add 1/2 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, blueberries, or what have you) and 1/2 cup of your favorite nuts (walnuts are hard to beat). Mix with 1/3 c. melted butter, 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, 1/3 c. brown sugar and liberal doses of onion and garlic powder plus a hint of cinnamon. Spread on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 350° for 20-30 minutes, turning them once or twice to make sure they brown evenly. Don’t overcook them! Once they start to brown, they’re done. Enjoy!

He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).

Have You Seen The Man Who Knew Infinity?

the-man-who-knew-infinity-dvdOn the flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town, my seat assignment was changed, view-of-clouds-and-wing-from-airplaneso instead of an incredible view out my window,
I saw the middle of a huge wing for eleven hours. So disappointing! the-man-who-knew-infinityThankfully, there were some good films available. the-man-who-knew-infinity-jeremy-ironsMy favorite was a new release from April, 2016:
The Man Who Knew Infinity, starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons.notebook-of-srinivasa-ramanujan-from-the-man-who-knew-infinityThis poignant biography recounts the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan,
a brilliant but unschooled clerk from the slums of Madras, India.poring-over-his-studies-in-the-man-who-knew-infinityIn 1913, Srinivasa wrote to the famous mathematician, Professor G.H. Hardy, who was teaching at Cambridge University. cambridge-university-the-man-who-knew-infinityHe asked Professor Hardy’s opinion on several ideas about mathematics. jeremy-irons-as-professor-hardy-in-the-man-who-knew-infinityHardy, recognizing the Indian man’s genius, arranged to have him come to Trinity College in Cambridge to study and collaborate with him.

srinivasa-ramanujan-on-cambridge-campus-from-the-man-who-knew-infinityThe movie is based on Robert Kanigel’s 1991 book about Srinivasa Ramanujan, and it provides evocative insights into the relationship between Ramanujan, a devout Indian Hindu “Prince of Intuition,” and his mentor, Dr. Hardy, who was an eccentric and emotionally withdrawn “Apostle of Proof.” srinivasa-ramanujan-dying-of-t-b-in-the-man-who-knew-infinityAs comes out in the story, Ramanujan worked tirelessly, but to his own detriment, ignoring signs of developing tuberculosis until it was too late. the-real-srinivasa-ramanujan-the-man-who-knew-infinity-2He died at only thirty-two, but he left behind a legacy of mathematical theory that is still being probed today. Srinivasa Ramanujan seemed like such an admirable person that I couldn’t help but feel our world really lost a lot in losing him. legacy-of-the-man-who-knew-infinityIt made me think of other geniuses who died young: John Keats, Emily Bronte, Percy Shelley,  Alexander the Great, Mozart, Schubert, Van Gogh, Jeanne d’Arc, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux…the list goes on! How would our world be enriched if these brilliant people had lived longer lives? crucifixion-by-pietro-perugino-1482-wikiOn the other hand, what about Jesus, who died at thirty-three? His dying wasn’t a great loss, though; it was a great gain! His death and resurrection provided forgiveness for our sins, and because of his sacrifice we are offered regeneration and resurrection life! Jesus knows not only infinity, but beyond!

transfiguration-of-jesus-by-carl-bloch-wiki-jpgThank you, Jesus, for laying down your life for our sakes.
The world will continue to plumb the depths of your love forever!

st-peter-freed-from-prison-by-pier-francesco-mola-1612-1666“And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
(Charles Wesley, 1738)charles_wesley-by-john-russell-wiki

Surprises at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saOne of the highlights of our Cape Town tour was visiting Kristenbosch Garden.ixia-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africa-2 It was established in 1913 as the first indigenous botanical garden in the world. view-of-cape-town-from-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saKristenbosch is part of the Cape Florisitc Protected Areas Site,flowers-in-kirstenbosch-botanical-gardenone of only 154 natural World Heritage Sites, Butterfly on Scabiosa in Africaand the only natural World Heritage Site to include a botanical garden! ancient-tree-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saThere are over 4,500 plant species being cultivated in this 528 hectare estate,ochna-natalitia-birds-eye-bush-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africa-jpgmany of which are rare or endangered, looks-like-a-pineapple-but-its-not-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saand the Cape site boasts the world’s highest levels of endemismkirstenbosch-botanical-garden-flowers(species that occur nowhere else): 31.9%. table-mountain-as-seen-from-kirstenbosch-botanical-gardenAlthough you can access Table Mountain from the garden,
we took a more gentle walking tour.tree-lined-walkways-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-sa Thanks to careful labeling (and our knowledgeable guide),
we were able to learn a lot about the various plants, king-protea-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saand I particularly loved the huge King Proteas, South Africa’s national flower. egyptian-goose-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saEgyptian geese wild-birds-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saand other unusual birds grazed quietly on the lawns,
reminding me that there is no garden quite like this in America! centenary-tree-canopy-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saOne recently added highlight of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is a graceful aerial walkway that glides like a snake twelve meters up through the tree tops.centenary-tree-canopy-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saThis gleaming structure has been nicknamed the boomslang
because it’s shaped like a snake’s skeleton.
view-from-boomslang-centenary-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saIt’s a whooping 130-meters long and made from galvanized steel and timber. standing-on-top-of-the-centenary-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-botanical-gardenHowever, the walkway reminded me more of a sky-high swinging bridge
than a snake, because it moves when you walk!centenary-tree-canopy-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-sa-2It also twists and turns in artful suspension so it can withstand the winds but still let you feel the breezes while enjoying a birds’-eye view of Kirstenbosch Garden below, distant Table Mountain, and the Hottentots-Holland peaks. orchid-tree-flowers-south-africaAs a lover of beauty and the out of doors, I was entranced!

spotted-eagle-owl-and-chick-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saAlthough I was delighted by everything, I was particularly excited when our guide showed us a spotted Eagle-owl snoozing in the sun with her little chick. We have owls around our home, but in twenty-three years of searching, I’ve only caught a few dim glimpses on dark nights. To see owls in their natural environment unperturbed by our presence was a unique experience I never even thought to hope for. Africa was full of great surprises!gardens-in-kirstenbosch-botanical-garden-sa Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 2:20-21).

Little Known Facts about the Cape of Good Hope

beautiful-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveSouth of Cape Town is a spectacular peninsula,
most of which is part of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. cape-point-lighthouse-south-africaFrom the nearby lighthouse on Cape Point, vistas-from-cape-point-south-africayou can see beautiful vistas of the entire area. baboons-traveling-along-road-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveBaboons, ostrich-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveostriches, cormorants-and-seals-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reservecormorants, and seals roam freely.wildflowers-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveIn the spring the hills are lush with wildflowers.

cape-of-good-hopeSometime during childhood I was taught that the southernmost tip of Africa was called The Cape of Good Hope, but I didn’t know why it was so named until we visited. Near the end of the fourteenth century, the Mongolian Empire was crumbling and the Ottoman Turks gaining power, making  passage along the Silk Road unsafe for Europeans and putting pressure on traders to find sea routes to the East. In 1487, the Portuguese navigator, Bartholomew Diaz, took three ships to explore the southern extent of Africa. They were gone over sixteen months and first encountered the cape during fierce December storms, so they named it The Cape of Storms. point-where-atlantic-and-indian-oceans-meetHowever, after further exploration, they realized that this cape marked the beginning of the end, so to speak, because at the cape the warm Mozambique-Agulhas current from the Indian Ocean seemed to converge with the cool Benguela current from Antarctic waters and the Atlantic Ocean. the-cape-of-good-hopeOnce this was understood, the cape was renamed The Cape of Good Hope, because European sailors were overjoyed to think a route to India and the East had been discovered. indian-ocean-1Diaz was lost at sea in 1500 during a storm off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope, but he had a grandson, Paulo Dias de Novais, who founded the first city in southern Africa and governed Angola a generation later. southern-tip-of-africa-wiki-johantheghostToday, Bartholomew Diaz is considered the greatest Portuguese navigator to explore the Atlantic during the fifteen century, although we now know that the Cape of Good Hope isn’t actually the southernmost point in Africa; that honor goes to Cape Agulhas, some miles ninety-three miles to the southeast. cape-of-good-hope-peninsulaDid you know that? I did not! Here it is, nearly five hundred years later,
and misinformation is still being circulated as fact! How does that happen? cape-point-south-africaKnowing exact details of geography aren’t critical to life, but some facts are. breathtaking-ocean-views-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveIn particular, the existence of Christ and his resurrection from the dead are facts that are often misrepresented or denied, but they are critical to spiritual life, faith, and hope. Do you know the truth about Christ?southern-tip-of-africaMoreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).