MSU’s Golden Gala: Happy Endings


Wharton Center, E. Lansing. MSULast weekend Alan and I went to the Wharton Center in East Lansing Playbill to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of MSU’s School of Human Medicine. Aerial view of the MSU Marching Band.When I was little, my dad taught at Michigan State,  and we lived right across the street from the main entrance to the campus. My brother, sister, and I used to play at the construction site where they were expanding the Spartan Stadium. (Don’t tell; I think it might have been off-limits, but my sister and I pretty much followed Wolle anywhere on a hike or adventure when we were young.) DSC00020 I could not have imagined that nearly 60 years later I’d be married to an associate professor at MSU… or that the Spartans would become the 2014 Rose Bowl champs the year one of our sons earned 2 M.A. degrees there, or that
MSU would grow to be the nation’s seventh largest university… Sparty with a Stethoscope…or that in 1964 they’d start a school of Human Medicine and I’d be invited to their Golden Gala celebration 50 years later! Lou Anna Simon Both MSU’s President Simon Marsha Rappley

and the medical school’s Dean Rappley mentioned how the university had been “blessed” over the years, and I appreciated their emphasis on using the gifts we’ve been given to serve and care for others. Amen! A happy ending, indeed, although it’s really just the ending of the first chapter in an exciting story that I hope will have many more chapters with happy endings.

Strolling Dinner Beyond the fun of a strolling dinner with an incredibly large selection One Menu of truly memorable foods, Evening Agenda the special entertainment was provided by Broadway’s Tony-Award-Winning Sutton Fostersinger and actress, Sutton Foster, who came on stage wearing Sutton Foster in a Medical Lab Coat a white medical lab coat and spent an hour charming us with a concert of powerful, poignant, and playful love songs. DSC00031We were totally enchanted, but I also found myself feeling the highs and lows of human love relationships. Sutton Foster in Concert

Have you ever appreciated the fact that worship songs are always totally uplifting? They always make me feel happy and high! God loves us forever. God never walks off and leaves us, or cheats on us, or teases us, or breaks our hearts. We fail Him, and we can sometimes turn our backs on Him or walk off and leave Him. We may cheat or be unfaithful, but He never is. He may be angry with us when we sin, but he is compassionate and forgiving when we repent. Loving God and trusting Him is the one love story that always has a happy ending, because when we come to Him by faith and entrust our lives to Him, He promises that some day He will take us home to be with him and all our troubles and tribulations will be over. In the end, everything will be more than worth it all— everything will be unbelievably wonderful! Praise God for happy endings!

“In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.”
(Isaiah 54:8)
[Aerial view of the Spartan Stadium from Wikipedia]

Rise Up, My Love (103): Jehovah-Jireh

Grand Tetons  copySong of Solomon 4:8 “Look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon…” Where does our heavenly husband want us to go with him? From the fragrant forests nestled in the bosom of this earth to a mountain top experience with him. It is a call to spiritual elevation, to the heavenly perspective. He calls us to climb up, up, up with him until we can see what he sees. He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

Why should he want us to leave the security and pleasure of the scented cedars of Lebanon? Have you ever walked through a cedar forest? The closest thing we have in America are the great sequoia trees in California, and anyone who has spent time meandering through John Muir Woods or Sequoia National Park knows the marvel of their majesty. It is perhaps my husband’s favorite place to visit…so restful…so meditative. There is an indescribable sense of serenity and peace that comes when you are lulled to sleep at night by the wind whispering through these primeval giants, some 2,000 or more years old.

The cedars of Lebanon were very similar, only fragrant as well as magnificent! The cedars grew to be 120’ tall and as much as 30-40’ in girth. About ten feet from the ground, the sweetly scented branches spread out and formed a thick canopy, making a welcome shade from the hot sun of the Middle East. To have lodged in the magnificent forests of Lebanon would have been delightful indeed!

What would ever motivate someone to leave such a lovely spot? This: Solomon was not just a rich man, free to pursue the pleasures of this life. Solomon was the king, and his wife now had the calling of reigning at his side. She had to know more than the pleasant beauties of this earth—she had to see the length and breadth and depth of her calling. She had to see the vastness of the kingdom and understand her responsibilities. Similarly, the Lord calls us away from a life of ease and pleasure to go up the mountainside so that we may sense the vastness of our calling and responsibility. We need a higher perspective than that which is possible from our comfortable homes and lives resting securely in the bosom of this world…the “forest floor.” As Abraham learned through the terrifying obedience of offering his one and only son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah: “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14). It is only as we’re willing to give up everything to obey God—even our most cherished possession—that we climb with him up the mountain side and begin to see life from God’s perspective. Can we refuse such a call? Do you want to see the world from God’s viewpoint? If so, let’s keep climbing with Him, our Jehovah-jireh: “In the mount of the Lord, it shall be seen!”


The Armstrong Archives (103): Fun for Kindergarten and Triple Birthdays

1981 Aaron + MikeWednesday, September 30, 1981 Well, we’ve finally conquered yet another round of colds, ear infections, and croup. It seems someone is always sick! You’d think we don’t live right, but I don’t know what to do differently to get the kids any more germ-resistant.

School’s going just fine for Aaron. He now has an extended repertoire of songs and poems, etc. to tell Jon (and Mike) as he drifts off to sleep. Tonight he was even telling Jon the Pledge of Allegiance.

Did I tell you about Aaron’s Wonder Book? I got him a notebook when he started school for questions and ideas. He draws pictures to remind himself, and then after school we look up the answers to his questions—so far mostly from the encyclopedias. It is a great tradition…our “homework” [It was just my idea, not really from the school], and even Michael enjoys it. You’ll have to look at it when you come. I’m learning fully as much as the boys. It’s very exciting! Legos. Little Giant JonIt’s been cold and rainy here—but little do we care since we’ve just been sitting inside playing legos and listening to stories. I’ve been busy taping stories. The boys are hot to have all the Pooh Bear stories taped. Right now we’re doing some simple ones: Dr. Seuss, Curious George, and Babar…which may not have even been popular when you were reading to small boys. I’ve also solicited for some help from Boris Karloff and have a couple of records of him reading Kipling’s Just So Stories. The boys have gotten into poetry a little lately too. They just loved Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six, so I’m going to try them on Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses tomorrow. We went to both the Main Library and our Loving Branch today, and I had just gone a couple of days ago. Aaron has scheduled “a walk in the woods, legos, and a lot of reading” for his birthday, so I wanted to BE PREPARED! Aaron's 6th BirthdaySaturday we’re going to have a birthday party for both boys, and Saturday night Alan is going to take me out for dinner for my birthday. Aaron requested that we all go to the Ponderosa Friday night and have cheesecake for his birthday. (I could hardly have thought of a better plan myself!) Alan agreed to take us, so I lucked out! Nice to have a son with similar tastes. [Aaron and I share a birthday, so it’s been fun over the years to celebrate almost all our birthdays together!]Aaron's Birthday 1981Michael wants a chocolate cake with flowers and rocket ships. He’s really growing! Jacques was an awful crab last week with his cold. He’s developing quite a spicy personality and becomes more of a ham every day. He’s so lovable though, that we all forgive him his antics. [As I’m transcribing this bit of info, I have on my computer desktop a wild picture of about a 27-year-old Jon with a dew rag on his head and his Saturday night live crazy stance! Some things never change!] I’ll call when I know what we’re doing. MIke's 4th Birthday



A Meditation on Pictured Rocks and Miners Castle

Miner's CastleOur last major stop in Michigan’s paradisial U.P. was at Miners Castle Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore near Munisingalong Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a spectacular 73+thousand-acre park which includes 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline.Unusual Arches of Pictured Rocks If you ever get a chance to visit, Pictured Rocked Boat TourI’d really recommend taking a boat tour along the coast, Caves along Pictured Rocks because you can’t see the incredible colors and intricate designs of the rocky Pictured Rocks  formations nearly as well when you’re standing atop the sandstone cliffs. Hike to Munising Beach  However, there are also many memorable hikes along the forested ridges. Path full of roots Of course, they tend to be steep and rooty, but they’re absolutely beautiful! Miner's CastleOn this especially glorious August morning, we opted to visit Miners Castle Lake Superior from Miner's Castleand take a hike along the top of the 200′ cliffs overlooking Lake Superior. Kayakers in Lake SuperiorHowever, we got distracted when we saw groups of kayakers Kayakingplying the clear, quiet waters, Munising Beach.and we noticed that Miners Beach, which is usually quite deserted,Munising Beachwas brimming over with groups of kayakers! Sand PointSo, instead of taking a hike to Sand PointPictured Rocks National Lakeshorealong the rocky cliff tops, Beautiful colors of Pictured Rockswe decided to trek the trail down to Miners Beach. Miners RiverHappily, there’s a well traveled foot path that leads along Miners River Miners River reaches Miners Beachas it meanders from the high country down to Miners Beach. Miners River. Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreMiners River has its origin in Hiawatha National Forest, Looking back at Miners Riverand it’s the largest river in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Testing the water at Miners RiverThe water is cold but clear, Miners River Meets Beachand it’s very clean, despite looking brown from all the tannic acid (due to decomposed vegetation). Children playing in Miners River However, the color doesn’t stop anybody (like these children) from playing! Crossing Miners RiverNear the end of the trail there’s a footbridge across Miners River,Miners Riverand then it’s just a quick jaunt along the sandy river shoreline Miners Beachbefore you’re out to Lake Superior and ready for a swim! Lake SuperiorWell, we could have if we’d only thought to bring our swimsuits! Too bad. 😦 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 2The other thing we’d failed to consider was just how hot and thirsty we might become. Water water everywhere, but ne’er a drop to drink! Picking Wild BlueberriesThankfully, it was blueberry season, and even the little bursts of wild Wild Blueberriessweetness were enough to invigorate us for the return trek (uphill). Miners River 2

It struck me that we took fewer precautions for this hike because we were so familiar with the area. Instead of my usual “Semper paratus” attitude (“always ready”), I felt so at home that I became careless. Not exactly that “familiarity breeds contempt” but that—at least in my case—familiarity bred a lack of normal precaution and thoughtfulness in planning. Munising National LakeshoreIs there any chance you and I are so familiar with this world that we’re not making adequate preparations for our spiritual journeys? Are we packing the swimsuit (garments) of salvation and the water of life so we don’t miss out?

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7).


A Few of my Favorite Birds (14): Flyin’ High Like the Eagles

Eagle 9.20.12 at our homeAlthough it’s rare to see an eagle flying over our lake (as one did 2 years ago), they do live in the area, and eagles are definitely one of my favorite birds! Golden Eagle Profile There is probably no bird as exalted as the eagle, which was used as a symbol of power and majesty even during biblical times. Great Seal of U.S. The bald eagle, indigenous only to North America, has been the national symbol of the United States since our country’s inception in 1789.Eagle Fluffy Feathers This great bird has been protected and honored ever since, as former President John F. Kennedy affirmed: Eagle as symbol of our Country 2 “The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America.”  Eagle. Bronze Statue Bald eagles are among the largest of the “raptors” (birds of prey). Males weigh 7-10 pounds and have wing spans of up to six feet. Surprisingly (at least to me), the females are even larger, weighing up to 14 pounds and attaining a wing span of up to 8 feet! So, if you ever have the privilege of seeing a pair, the bigger one is actually the female. Eagle watching Although bald eagles have been carefully protected in America since 1940, some zoos are allowed—by special permission—to keep eagles. Golden Eagle 1The High Desert Museum near Bend, Oregon, has 2 eagles who were found injured but rescued. These stately birds could no longer survive in the wild. Pair of Eagles Did you know that eagles mate for life and live up to 30 years? The John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids has a mating pair, and this year they have an eaglet, although I’ve not been able to get a good picture of it despite several trips to the zoo!  Eagle's Nest Eagles use the same nest year after year, which can eventually become  massive in size (up to 10 feet across). Although the female usually lays 2-3 eggs, only one eaglet normally survives, because it will kill any other eaglet that hatches, and the parents don’t intervene. Janine Harles's photo via Pivot Evans. Woodway, WA 5:12:14 (Above is a very happy exception, photographed by Pivot Evans this past May, 2014 in Washington State.) Bald-headed Eagle Wings  After about 4-6 months, the eaglets learn to fly by a do-or-die dive out of the nest. (If they’re too hesitant, the parent will eventually push them over the edge!) Bald Eagle in coniferHowever, because nests in the wild are usually at very high elevations, the parent eagle will swoop down under the eaglet and help support it if the young eagle doesn’t learn to flap fast enough to survive the first dive.  Bald Eagle over our lake 1.31.13Hence, the scripture in Deuteronomy 32:11-13, where the Lord speaks of his tender care for his children: “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him.” Bald Eagle. Heather CushmanAs I consider the mighty eagle—and how it represents America—I am sobered to remember that God is not only a tender parent, he is a demanding God who requires holiness. Bald-headed Eagle 1 In Obadiah 1:4 he warns against the sins of pride and arrogance, “‘Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down,’ saith the Lord.” Eagle EatingIf we don’t want to be reduced to living in captivity, we need to resist feeding on the carrion of this world and humble ourselves as a nation, Eagle flyingturning away from evil and prayerfully seeking the way of Light. Bald eagle fluffy feathersI would love to see our nation known for courage and goodness Bald-headed Eagle 2 rather than self-indulgence and degenerate living, wouldn’t you? Bald-headed EagleMay God give us grace to be true to our calling, individually and nationally, Eagle Flyin' High Heather Cushmanso we can keep on flyin’ high like the eagles! Bald Eagle (EJ Magnuson)(Close up of the bald eagle sitting high up on a snag and the next-to-the last picture are used by permission of my cousin, Heather C. The last picture was taken by my friend E.J.M. in Juneau, Alaska in July! The rest I took in Michigan, Colorado, and Oregon.)

Writer to Writer

09.17.14 Writer to WriterIf you’re serious about writing and ever hope to publish, I’d highly recommend Cec Murphy’s recent book, Writer to Writer: Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing. Cec, who’s published over 135 books in his 40+ year career as a professional writer, filled his book chock full of ideas on how to improve as a writer and how to get published.

Cec’s style is plain, personal, and pointed. The entire book is written in bite-sized essays that provide excellent snacks for thought and are easily digested. He begins with a plethora of information to help unpublished writers grow beyond the amateur look—starting with your book’s first sentence. He walks you through principles for writing the best book you’re capable of writing and then goes on to explain many things about the publishing business, including how to write an engaging query letter, things to consider when looking for an agent, and even some tips on what to watch for when you’re getting ready to sign a contract with an editor who’s offered to take your book.

Writer to Writer is also a practical writing manual containing sections on grammar, verbs, point-of-view, and on and on! As a final gift, Cec includes a “bonus chapter” about marketing written by Kathy Carlton Willis (head of a communications company), because—as he puts it—she “knows more about marketing than I’d figure out in years.”

I highlighted so much material in my copy of Writer to Writer that it looks like a text book…and in reality, that’s exactly what it is! If you’re interested but can’t afford your own copy, Cec also has an excellent blog where he has shared much of this information over time and continues to give out freely from his lifetime of experience, as well as providing insights from other writers.  You can access his blog here:

Happy writing, and all the best to you as you write! If you read Writer to Writer, get inspired to be a part of a writing group such as he describes, and live in the GR area…let me know. Maybe we can get something going!

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
(Colossians 3:23)



Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Peaceful Munising Falls

Beautiful Fall LeavesAlan and I have visited Acadia National Park in the fall, Lake Superior Sunset and it is truly beautiful, Dead River. Autumn but I don’t think it’s any more stunning Munising National Lakeshore in Fall than Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) in autumn. Mackinac Bridge ViewIt wasn’t quite autumn when we got lost in blue Mackinac Bridge copy crossing the Mighty Mac during our last trip, Miner's Castlebut the U.P. was every bit as beautiful as we remembered it! Munising River After visiting Marquette, we stopped in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Munising Falls Trail to see a peaceful little waterfall tucked away deep in the woods.Munising Falls and Stream Munising Falls drops 50 feet over a sandstone cliff but is relatively quiet.Munising Waterfall. Kids youngSince “time immemorial” in our family, we’ve been hiking the kid-friendly trail Munising Waterfallthat leads upstream along a gurgling brook to the base of the falls. Munising FallsThere is a path on the ledge behind the first falls just before the second falls,  Enjoying Munising Falls and we used to walk Munising Falls 2 completely around the falls using this narrow passageway. Munising Falls Path endsHowever, the pathway is now deemed unsafe and has been closed,Munising Falls Stairwayalthough you can still climb the stairways on both sides for some lovely views. Tahquahmenon Falls copyForty years ago, when Alan and I were first married, we used to be able to walk behind Tahquahmenon Falls too, but that’s no longer allowed either. Dead River in FallSometimes I find myself wishing for the “good, old days” when there were fewer restrictions and more freedoms to enjoy America the beautiful! Joe Pye WeedInstead, in this world of change, I need to have more appreciation for the things Cloverthat remain constant—even the very little joys— and be more thankful for them. Barefoot CreekWe may not live on our beloved “Barefoot Creek” anymore, Munising Falls. Peacefulbut wherever we are, we can be at peace, because God is with us.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

(I took all these pictures in Michigan’s beautiful U.P.)