The Savior’s Quest

Mike with Game BoardMichael masterminded an adventure game to play with his kids Anointing E for task while he was on paternity leave.  Notes for adventure game He developed it with inspiration from all his years of dreaming up Conjuringimaginary worlds and playing video games like Ultima IV. Toast  It’s called The Savior’s QuestChild working with Father and it’s rooted in a desire to help his kids understand Dressed to kill? and develop some of the major virtues, Colored Glasses like compassion, honesty, and justice. The Savior's Quest His children (and later the kids’ two closest friends also)10620639_10101471285533797_3180007572817802170_n became heroines and heroes in a world full of dragons and trolls, Armory where the kids had to fight evil to overcome it with good Light show…aided by wisdom from various prophets and sages along the way. Glowing Potion Although Michael reserved many mysterious surprises Fire Surprise to add excitement day by day, Making Action Figures he also let all of us help create Game pieces some of the “action figures” Game Boardand allowed the children to choose where they’d go and what they’d explore next on the game board. Practicing Moves The kids were totally enthralled, DSC01839 and although they knew it was just a game, Father and Daughter Swordfight they responded with all seriousness to each challenge, Soldier Trying out weapon somehow taking on the very character of  their costumes Dressed for Battle…daring fair maidens and deadly brave warriors, Sword and pillow fight fighting tooth and nail as if their foam swords were silver cutlasses, Journalingjealously guarding their secrets, Skeleton Keys and treasuring their skeleton keys like gold pieces. Children listening soberly to their father Their eyes were wide and sober as they listened to instructions, Scary exploration and they clutched at one another’s arms for support Boy with lantern and shiel while carrying their lanterns through the dark. Three Children I will be curious to know how much the kids remember about the virtues they discovered, Whirling Dervish but I am certain that they’ll never forget the thrill of adventuring together Talking to townfolk through a strange world where their stuffed animals served as villagers Father and Son swordfight  and their father was alternately a dangerous head master Father instructing children or prophetic sage. Talking to Townspeople I am also sure the game bonded their family together very tightly  during the hard transition of caring for another new baby, Mother with baby giving Grace a little more breathing room Ready to Fight! and the baby more freedom to enjoy his mama’s undivided attention
…at least for a little while at times. 🙂Father with infant son What an inventive way to occupy the children! Young warrior The Savior’s Quest will live in our hearts forever, Father as King along with—I’m hoping—a huge amount of enthusiasm and awe for their father’s leadership. Game Pieces Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that God has designed 535924_10101472494291437_7717746316256563131_n an ingenious adventure for each of us, Board with Game Pieces full of scary challenges, deadly battles, mysteries, wisdom, and cliff-hanging suspense? Mike holding Game board and pieces If we’ll let him lead us, we’ll come through just like Mike’s kids did: Family with lanternsbonded closely to our Father and our family, Mother with new baby and son not too jealous of those around us, Showing Armor and fully occupied with The Savior’s Quest for each of us—to become virtuous children of the King who are willing to fight hard to overcome evil with good.Treasure in Game“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
(2 Peter 1:5-7, ESV Bible)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (17): What’s Not to Love About Ducks?

Autumn Morning There’s something wild and wonderful about autumn on our lake this morning.Windy Autumn Oak Leaves Relentless winds strip the leaves, and heavy rains drench everything. Duck taking offAll the waterfowl are getting restless…preparing for flights south.  Ducks in fall mistIn the autumn, the mallards leave first, Ducks, Swans, and Geese but then the geese, and finally even the swans will seek refuge elsewhere. Feeding DucksEverybody loves feeding ducks, right? Don’t you? My grand children sure do! Lots of Ducks on RiverWhen I was little, my brother, sister, and I had so much fun feeding the ducks along the Red Cedar River. Duck. WhiteOur favorite duck was a big domestic white duck, which we named Gertrude. My brother Wolle built a duck pond in our backyard and then brought Gertrude home with us one day, but my parents made us take her back to the river. 😦  Ducks on RiverDucks—and all wildlife—are just like people. They’re happiest when they’re free. IMG_0983Today I want to share a little bit about the ducks on our lake. Mallards The most common ducks are known as mallards. Duck in flight Mallards are about 2 feet long and have a 3-foot wingspan. Mallards on beachMales have glossy green heads with a narrow white collar, chestnut-colored breasts, Ducks; mallard and domestic copy buff underparts, and brown backs with bright blue wing patches etched in white. Mallard motherMallard females also have the blue wing patches and are very beautifully colored, Male and Female Mallardsalthough their mottled coloring helps them blend in better. Even the ducks left!All waterfowl need open water, and so—although they can live year aroundFreezing Lake in the Great Lakes region— once our lake freezes over, Return of Ducks. April the mallards leave, usually from late December until early April. Mallards feeding in grass Mallards often come up on grassy areas to feast on seeds, insects, and snails, Mallards feeding along shorlinealthough their primary diet is seeds from sedges, marsh plants, & smartweed,Ducks and Turtle feedngso  they love to live in shallow, marshy areas where the water is about 18″ deep Lots of ducks feedingand they can turn upside down to feed off the bottom, known as “dabbling.” IMG_4245 Also, the “ducktail” hair cut was popular when I was little and refers to the curly Bottoms Up end of the ducks’ tails, which are so prominent when they’re bottoms up! Mallards FeedingWhenever the mood strikes—anytime from March to July—the mother duck will build a bulky nest on the ground out of leaves and grasses, carefully lined with duck down pulled from her own breast! Mother Duck in garden Nests are usually built close to the water’s edge, but we had one pair that insisted on building a nest every year under the juniper bush in our front garden. Mallards on grassNot a good plan, because the coons and foxes all too often had a feast of the eggs. Pair of mallardsThankfully, mallards are prolific breeders. In America, more than 4.5 million are hunted each year, which just nicely keeps the population in balance. Ducks in swampThe females lay 8-12+ light green eggs, and those who are cagey enough Mallard Duckling to outsmart the foxes soon have a nice batch of ducklings! DucklingsWithin hours, the mother leads them to water. Ducks in Disney Resort Pool This mama tried setting sail with her ducklings on a pool at Disney World, which probably wasn’t all bad, because so many of our ducklings Ducklings on shore get eaten within the first few days by our snapping turtles. 😦 Family of MallardsThankfully, it does seem like a nice batch of them do survive each year, IMG_0986and over the summer they grow into big, strapping teenage ducks 2 Male Mallardswho look just like their parents. GB Heron 11.16.12+6Mallards share fishing rights with other shore birds very peaceably, 10.04.12+20 GB Heronand our great blue herons never bother them…although our swans will! Mallards on lakeAnd so, another happy summer passes all too quickly, Duck swimming on lakeand soon it’s autumn again! Mallards on our lake in fallI’m glad the mallards can be free to come and go as they please. Jet Taking OffI wish people could be as free, no matter where they live around the world. I’m reading a book called Escape from North Korea and have been appalled at how Kim family regime has oppressed their people and will not let them leave.Flight of Geese 11.21.12 copyPeople need to be treated with at least as much respect as the birds of the air!Misty Fall Lake Reflections copyEven more awful is the plight of those without spiritual sight and freedom.Birds, migratingI hope that no matter what state your body is in, your spirit is alive and free! Fall Migration“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Climbing to Spring

Climbing to SpringOn our flight home from Seoul to Tokyo on Japan Air, I watched a really delightful movie called Climbing to Spring, and I wanted to recommend it to you as a sweet, joyful, family-friendly video. It was just released in June, 2014 and tells the story of a young Japanese man, Tooru Nagamine, and his quest to find peace…starting with his childhood of living with his parents in the Tateyama Mountain Range of Japan…to a career as a trader in the financial world…and then in returning home to reconnect with his family and the wonderful world of mountains and nature.

Of course, there are lots of ups and downs along the way, but the most outstanding thing about the movie to me was how gently and slowly the love relationship developed between Tooru, the hero, and the young heroine, Ai Takazawa, who worked at his parents’ resort. It’s the way I think all love stories should go: working together, admiring one another, and over a long time developing a deep friendship that culminates in what you know will be a happy and enduring marriage. Good people doing good things and helping each other through thick and thin.

Perhaps I shouldn’t give away the end, but it doesn’t appear to be available in our country (at least yet), and that made me sad, because Hollywood isn’t producing a lot of morally-elevated, happily ever after movies these days! Maybe they will in the future, and maybe Climbing to Spring will find its way to western markets. If it does, it’s worth seeing! But, whether or not we get to enjoy sweet love stories made into movies, all of us can live them by learning to love the people in our family and in our lives.

“And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Korea’s Enchanting Folk Village

1600s-cottswald-cottageIf you’ve visited and loved traditional cultural theme parks like Michigan’s Greenfield Village  aarhaus-5-14-13-copy or Denmark’s Den Gamle By, Korean Folk Village then you’d probably love the Korean Folk Village just 30 miles from Seoul. Pagoda This folk village is carefully situated on 245 acres according to the principles of Grace and Judahfeng shui (philosophy of orienting everything to harmonize with nature),Korean Pool with a river flowing in front and a mountain behind. Beautiful Pagoda Some 260 traditional Korean houses were relocated from all over Korea Korean Folk Village to create the atmosphere of a Joseon period village, Visitors to Korean Folk Village and visitors from around the world can spend the day Kids at the hen houseexperiencing the life and customs from days gone by. Mike and Grace Grace is an amazingly intrepid adventurer, so despite their baby being just a few weeks old, she and Michael took us there before we had to leave South Korea. Waving sheets We were totally delighted! Grinding mill stone The Korean Folk Village is one of those wonderful “hands on” living museums Jumping rope where children can run, play, and participate. Traditional dress. Sweeper Beyond the many opportunities to see villagers in period costumes Traditional dress. Sweeping carrying on life and practicing their trades, Spinning silk such as spinning silk from silk worm cocoons, Basket weaver weaving shoes and other items from straw, Kimchi pots or making pottery (which is crucial to provide for every family’s ample stash of kimchi pots).  We were also able to enjoy three live performances. Tightrope Walker A rather elderly looking man did some very active tricks walking a tightrope,  Tight rope practiceand afterward, daring souls could practice on a tightrope close to the ground! Korean Folk Dancers There was a troupe of traditional Korean acrobats Folk dancers who danced and performed Break dancing all sorts of break-dance style acrobatic feats. Equestrian Acrobatics The kids’ favorite were the Masangjae, Horseback riding a very talented group who performed martial arts Tricks on horseback and equestrian feats. Riding horseback double From previous experience, the kids knew that if they waited patiently enough, Child on horsethey’d eventually get to ride around the ring on horseback (for a small fee). Father and son on horse I think this was the most looked-forward-to & longed-for highlight of their trip! Snack time! Either that or snack time! 🙂  Fishy treats  Some Korean snacks aren’t as appealing to western palates, Coconut rice balls but the sweet, crispy coconut rice balls were a real hit with all of us!  Under the flying sheets We had a memorable, most pleasant afternoon, Donkeys although we were only able to enjoy a fraction of all that was available DSCN9929 and never even made it to the exhibition hall or the amusement facilities zone. Family in pagodaBut, what a wonderful day we had! Thank you, Mike and Grace. 🙂 Break dancing 2 I don’t know about you, but I often finding myself so excited by life Watching the horseback riders that I don’t want to stop, and I wish instead for  “just 1 more turn?!”Children with chickensOr, like the kids wanting to hold the chickens, I want even more than can be given. But, Mike and Grace love their kids dearly and do delight in giving them what they can…as long as it’s good for them.

Tying wishes I think God is just the same. At the front gates of the Korean Folk Village there’s a place where you can write out wishes and tie them up. I don’t exactly do “wishes,” but I certainly ask the Lord for blessings. Do you? If you could have any good thing in this world, do you know what it would be? Have you asked your Father lately? The answer may be “Yes” “No” or “Wait,” but He encourages us to ask, and we’ll never know what’s possible unless we do ask!

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask,
and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full
” (John 16:24).

[Not that you have time or interest, but if you want to see my posts on Greenfield Village or Den Gamle By, you can just type those words into the “Search” bar at the top right-hand side of this article, and it will bring them up. This is also true if you’re curious about whether or not I’ve written on any other topic.]

Don’t Forget the Towels!

Camping with KidsDo you love camping? I can’t ever remember not. My parents were both educators through and through—both by profession and by heart—and during our summer vacation breaks they’d take us on camping trips somewhere wonderful…often to a national park or to visit relatives, but always somewhere very fun and educational (my mom’s ploy for getting Dad to sign on)! I could write a book about our misadventures, as could probably anybody who grew up in a family of campers.

Alan did not grow up camping, and his idea of a good vacation was a motel with a warm pool Until. Until we became a family of 6, since most motels in the U.S. allow only 5 people per room, and renting two motel rooms per night was definitely not in our vacation budget. So, 30 years ago we took up camping again.

There’s nothing quite like it. At motels, you always feel a little insecure about whether or not to say “hi” as you pass in the halls, because you know everybody’s tired, hurried, hassled, and probably wants to be left alone. Campers are friendly. At a campground, everybody is a new friend just waiting to happen. People aren’t out to impress you; they’re out to relax. Pressure down; warmth up. Folks are sitting around the campfire, not the T.V. The smell of pines…the sound of the surf…the comfort of covers snugged up around you. Open air, open spaces, open hearts! It’s exhilarating! Grand Haven Fishing Pier So, last Friday Alan and I ventured to Grand Haven State Park for an overnight of sheer delight, soaking up some of the the last golden rays of autumn in Michigan. We’d just returned from South Korea the previous weekend, time-whacked and sick with colds. Alan spent his week waking up at 2-3 am every morning and working 12-15-hour days trying to catch up at work, and he was totally beat. I packed a picnic dinner and supplies for breakfast, a warm down comforter to make sure the wicked wind wouldn’t freeze us, and everything I could think of to make our adventure “J.P.” (just perfect).  In fact, everything was pretty much just perfect, until it was time to clean up for bed and I realized that I hadn’t packed any towels! I only had one little dish towel. Now, I suppose for many people, that would be no big deal, but Alan and I are as fastidious as coons about washing, and a night without bathing was unappealing! Alan graciously gave me the dish towel and used his tee shirt for his towel. We both had hot showers, and it didn’t take long before we were warm, dry (enough) and snug under the covers, but I had to laugh at myself for forgetting something so basic. How can you keep clean and dry without a towel?  Grand Haven, MI SunsetHere’s my thought. The scripture talks about Jesus washing us with the “water” of the Word (Ephesians 5:26), but I also noticed that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he wiped them clean with a towel (John 13:5). The water of truth loosens the grip of dirt on us, but it takes applying a towel to remove all traces of dirt and leave us looking dry and clean instead of “all wet.” I think spiritual cleansing is the same. Not only do I have to allow the Word of God to shower over me each day, I have to submit to the Lord’s towel drying (application) in order to be truly pure and holy. I mustn’t forget the towels, or other people might look at me and say, “You’re all wet!” How ’bout you? Let’s not forget the towels!Grand Haven Sunset    “The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey” (Joshua 24:24).

Rise Up, My Love (108): From the Mountains of the Leopards

LeopardSong of Solomon 4:8 “From the mountains of the leopards…” What is the king’s request when he asks his bride to look “from the mountains of the leopards”? The king has asked his wife to view the kingdom from the mountain tops to obtain a heavenly perspective and to traverse the open grassland domain of the roaring lions to face and overcome the dangers of the world. Now he asks her to follow him through the treacherous forests and mountains where there is practically no view at all…to go up and down through the “mountains of the leopards,” however dark and mysterious the way, however dangerous and frightening the circumstances. The pattern goes something like this: See what Christ sees; do what Christ does; follow Christ at all times.

Although the lions are gone from modern Palestine, the leopards are returning and have been found roaming the remote, forested mountain ranges right up to the snow line. Leopards are noted for their speed more than their strength (Habakkuk 1:8), and for their preying nature (Jeremiah 5:6). Although they rarely hunt man, once leopards discover that man is an easy prey, they have been known to become even more brutal killers than lions. According to Grolier Encyclopedia, one leopard in India was thought to have killed 125 people over an eight-year period. BlackleopardUnlike lions, leopards typically hunt alone in the night, often springing down on their quarry from an overhanging tree. Panthers are black leopards, and in the dark of the midnight, a silent panther waiting in the shadows of the trees would be almost impossible to detect. To walk alone through “the mountains of the leopards” would be asking for almost certain death: the trail through the forest too obscure; the wiles of the opposition too treacherous. But, we are never asked to walk alone! Our heavenly husband’s invitation is always, “Come with me.” HogbackHave you ever been hiking in a forest and gotten lost? Our family once got lost trying to find our way down the side of a small mountain without knowing where the trail was. It was one of the most frightening experiences of our lives! It began to snow, and the sun began to set. We had trouble keeping our compass readings straight, and we became totally lost. The way back to our van, which had appeared so obvious from the top of the mountain, became a complete mystery to us as we struggled through the thick undergrowth and circumnavigated small swamps. By God’s tender mercy, we eventually found a road and did survive, but we learned to never climb mountains without following a trail!

Going up had been relatively easy, because if you just keep climbing upward you eventually get to the top. But, going down was not so simple, because mountains have very large bases and you may arrive at the bottom miles from your car or anything you recognize (which we learned the hard way)! So, to repeat another so-oft-used-that-it-almost-seems-trite but nevertheless very true saying, always “Go with God!”

Spiritually, life is exactly the same. We should climb up with Him…and down with Him! How often, after a mountain top experience, Christians fall into depressed confusion as they descend into the valley below. Rather than stumbling along trying to find our own way like teenagers who refuse to believe their parents’ reasoning for “Why not?”, we would be wise to follow our Savior and the wisdom of his Word, which is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). To survive and thrive, we need to learn lessons “as cheaply as possible”…through devoted study of the Bible, through prayerful attention to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and through listening to the loving counsel of those God has given to lead us, rather than through costly and painful experiences of encountering evil on our own.

Have you been called to follow the Lord through “the mountains of the leopards?” All who have been called to become one with Christ will be called to this experience. Rather than fear, we just need to follow…holding tightly to his hand!

(I took the picture of the leopard at the Philadelphia Zoo, but the  picture of panther is from Wiki. The picture of our family was from years ago when we climbed Hogback Mt., near Marquette, MI.)



The Armstrong Archives (108): Moving to California?

Armstrong Archives 1982 [On top of this years’ letters is a note from my mom, which reads: “How well have you used your life? Good memories must balance bad moments. Bad moments pass. ~Helen Hoover Santmyer” I think 1982 was one of the hardest years of my life, and my mother doubtless understood that. After all, she and my dad had lived through the depression, World War II, and had had four kids all before I was even born!]

Saturday, January 2, 1982 Hi!  Alan worked all night last night, so he’s already in bed, and I’m on my way. It’s only 9:00 pm, but we’re getting up at 5:30 am. for our flight. Have a good week! We’ll give Lynn a kiss from you and bring a little sunshine home from Florida to enclose in the next letter!

Monday, January 18, 1982 I just finished typing a letter to Faith Baptist Church in Canoga Park, California, where we will be going—if you’re still up to watching the kids—on February 3rd. Some of my best friends from Bob Jones went to church there, so we thought maybe would could hit a Wednesday night prayer meeting and look around some. Yesterday I was so sick with the flu and a sinus headache (of all things; I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those before) that with that on top of nausea [I was newly pregnant with Kathy Kris] I didn’t go to church. After I got the house cleaned up and lunch ready, I read all about California, Michigan, Los Angeles, etc. in your World Book Encyclopedias. They gave such glowing reports of California that for the first time I began to get seriously interested in it as a possibility. We talked to Ann and Ralph, and they said they want to live on the West Coast for the rest of their lives if Ralph can possibly find work there. Wolle and Nana have always been interested in CA, and Rob, Jan, and Terry are immoveable. I think they’ll live and die there! We talked to Lynn when we were in Florida. She would prefer Michigan to California, but she says she thinks family is more important than place. [Amen to that!] I think Alan is basically down to either the Soo or California, and obviously—to be near family. Dad told us last time we were home to count on him being in the Soo for “at least 1-5 more years;” then, are you thinking of relocating? It is only about 350 miles from Canoga Park to Rob’s house in Cupertino. Northern California has bad allergens for Alan, but by Alan’s medical books, southern California (as long as you stay out of the smog regions) is fairly similar to Arizona in the grasses and weeds, and he thinks he should feel pretty well there. Did you know that there are fewer people per square mile in California than in Michigan? The average temperature in Los Angeles is 55° in January and 73° in July; that’s even more temperate than Florida. You can grow almost everything; it’s the #1 agricultural producer; you probably wouldn’t have to worry much about starving or freezing. Can you tell I’m trying to convince you too? Can you still come on the first or second and stay until the ninth? We’ll call next weekend and see how things are going. THANKS! Please pray for us to have wisdom.

[Here is a very unusual treat! A letter from Grandma to Grandpa while she was baby sitting!]

Thursday, February 4, 1982  Dear Grandpa,

How is everything in the Soo? Have you had any more snow? We had another good one yesterday, but it’s sunny and nice today. Aaron and Mike with Mark G.Aaron did a lot of shoveling yesterday and had a bad cough and sore throat last night. I didn’t take him to school today—maybe tomorrow.

Aaron wants me to tell you that he helped a man shovel his car out and the man gave him a dollar. Aaron thought maybe it was play money but was very proud and excited when he found it was real. He said, “This is very important, Grandma! I’m trying to save for skis. When I get half enough Mom will put in the rest.”

We’re all a bit shop worn today. For some reason Michael got up at three o’clock am. and thought it was morning. He woke up Jon and Aaron. The lights on the snow did make it about as bright as day. By the time I got all of them back to sleep it was nearly four o’clock.

Michael just brought me some sort of puller he made out of tinker toys. He said it was for you. He also wants to know when you are coming to see him.

When I couldn’t open Aaron’s medicine last night in the night we both wished we had you with your screwdriver. I never did get it open either. I’ll get some man to open it after work—Linda’s husband probably. [Linda and Mel Greishaber lived just a couple of doors down and were wonderful, helpful friends. They offered to do anything Mom needed.] I don’t want to break it off.

Alan called last night. They made it okay before the worst weather struck. It was 72° in Malibu where they were. Kathy was resting.

Enjoy your vacation.

Love, Mom, Aaron, Michael, and Jon

[For Valentine’s Day 1982: A picture of a puppy and a kitten]
Happy Valentine’s Day!  Well, Alan and I are still marveling over what a competent mother we have! The house was so clean, the laundry done, the boys as happy as larks, the WHOLE of Hannah’s Sod House recorded, and all the household’s little routines happily preserved. I really don’t know how you do it! No wonder you miss her so much, Dad; she can just about do everything!

We’re back on Eastern Time, and I’m starting to feel a little less nauseated and more energetic every day. Last night I helped one of the Palestinian girls for an hour with American history. She’s in 11th grade and has only been in the U.S. since last summer. She can’t spell words as simple as “but,” but she can understand much of her text if I read aloud to her. She needs a lot more than I can give right now…like a full-fledged tutor. The needs of life are endless!

Michael and Jon are running circles around the rocking horse, eating apples, and “walking” their alligators. Jon still sleeps with the new mustang you gave him. Alan told me, “There are five interesting-looking jobs in Florida,” as he walked out the door this morning. At least by July we’ll have to have decided something!

Love, Us


[As beautiful an area as Agoura Hills, CA is (known as “The Gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains”), Alan was quite certain it wouldn’t be a good choice. I was so enamored by the gorgeous vistas of the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills that it was harder for me to give up the idea, although I have not regretted our choice over the years, since visual beauty is not as important as the spiritual characteristics of a location (or a person). While touring around the area, I saw a little rundown sheep ranch by the side of the road. “That’s the kind of place I’d like!” I said, imagining that such a humble abode wouldn’t cost much. The physician touring us said, “Well, that dirty little piece of property would probably cost you around a quarter of a million.” (For reference, Alan was making $17,500 per year as a resident.) Later at a meeting with several doctors, I asked what the greatest challenge was for a doctor practicing in the area. Without batting an eye, one doctor responded, “Making enough money.” I didn’t want to live in an area that was so materialistic. Looking on Wikipedia just now, I notice a long list of well-known people (e.g.: Mel Gibson) listed as residents.]


Flight Plan—His is Better than Mine!

Above the WorldSomething strange has happened to the world of flight. Instead of gazing transfixed out the window at the earth below, most people—even those with prized window seats—tend to pull down their window shutters so they can’t even see out, preferring to watch videos or sleep. How is this even possible?? Alaskan Fjords On our trip from Michigan to South Korea and back, I had great plans for watching the world go by, especially since on our trip last spring we enjoyed an unparalleled  commute and saw thrilling vistas of Canada, Alaska                                                                           Alaska, Bering Straits                                                           the Bering Straits, Arctic Sea                                                            the Arctic Sea, Siberia                                                                       Siberia, China and China. This time, our return flight was through Tokyo, so I was also hoping to see Mt. Fuji, although when I called Japan Airlines to ask for a window seat on the right side of the plane, the attendant informed me that there were only window seats available on the left side of the plane, and that it would be impossible to see Mt. Fuji from the plane regardless. Sigh. Well, as it turned out, Sunrise over Canada copythe entire trip from Michigan to Seoul was cloud-covered, and I hardly saw any land (although the sunrise was spectacular). I was very disappointed, but every once in a while I’d cast a wandering eye from my book to the banks of clouds below just in case I could catch a glimpse of something…and guess what? Mt. McKinley copy Rising out of the clouds over Alaska, I saw the most breathtaking views of Mt. McKinley! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was the best view I’ve ever had, even though Alan and I drove to Denali National Park once in pursuit of seeing this highest of all peaks on the North American Continent! What a thrill! Seoul Sunrise On the flight back to the U.S. two weeks later, it was clear from Seoul to Tokyo, and I really did enjoy the views of our flight across South Korea and Japan, Mt. Crater. Japan copyalthough I was still feeling sorry to miss Mt Fuji…when all of a sudden the airline hostess mentioned over the intercom that Mt. Fuji was visible above the clouds on the right side of the plane. I asked a passing stewardess if there was any chance I could take a picture, & she smiled brightly and asked me to follow her. Mt. Fuji copyShe actually offered me an empty seat in the first class cabin so I could take pictures! Thank you, Japan Airlines, for your hospitality! The rest of the trip was straight clouds again, and I rather reluctantly resigned myself to a blank night of flying over the polar regions of the Arctic Circle with nothing but the flash of the wing tip against the inky black of the midnight sky. Temperature After reading until I was sleepy, I decided to check out the window one last time before going to sleep. It was -81°F. and we were traveling 622 mph at 37,000 ft., so I had no expectations. However, what to my wondering eyes should appear? Northern Lights 1Not Santa, but  in the distance, across the entire northern expanse of earth out my left window, were the most amazing, pulsing Northern lights! I am sorry that my camera was not able to capture the glory of that display (traveling as fast as we were in complete blackness). Northern Lights I’m not even sure if people on earth could see them, since we were so high above the clouds (I’ve googled in vain for images to share with you), but it took my breath away and I sat transfixed for a long time, just worshiping our awesome Creator who displays his power and beauty for all creation—whether or not anyone on earth even notices—in a light show more magnificent than mankind could ever imagine how to duplicate.Northern Lights Bering Straits Truly, his flight plans were even better than mine. Our God is an Awesome God!

“When the sky was starless in the void of the night
(our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness and created the light
(our God is an awesome God)
Judgement and wrath He poured out the Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an Awesome God.

Our God is an Awesome God
He Reigns from heaven above
With Wisdom pow’r and love
Our God is an Awesome God.”  ~Rich Mullens Canadian Sunrise copy“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV Bible). Northern Lights. Arctic Circle

A Few of My Favorite Birds (16): Chattering Magpies

 “He prayeth best, who loveth best; All things great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Magpie in tree  Most of the birds I’ve written about are native to Michigan and daily companions, feeding just 3 feet from my desk at our bird feeder, Magpie hunting for food but in honor of my recent trip to South Korea, I want to write about magpies, which were daily visitors to my son’s backyard…and everywhere else we went! Magpie on roof top Magpies are common throughout western America as well as Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are large members of the cordivae (crow) family, often more than 18 inches long (although half is tail) and with a wingspan of nearly 2 feet. Magpie looking for food Magpies have bold, black and white coloring, and they’re just as bold in personality. Two hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark recorded in their expedition notes that magpies entered their tents to steal food! Magpie 1 They are bold and clever.  Magpies are the only birds able to identify themselves in mirror tests and are believed to be not only the smartest of the bird family but among the smartest of animals generally, having a brain to body ratio rivaling that of great apes. In captivity, they’ve been known to imitate sounds, count, use tools to clean their own cages, and perform other very clever tricks. Magpie 2 Magpies are always notable because they are extremely social and fill the air with raucous, cackling calls as they glide from tree to tree overhead, but they move so fast and are wary enough that I found it extremely hard to photograph them.  Magpies in treeBesides being gregarious generally, they have one special custom. They mate for life and display grief over loss, holding funerals for one another! Magpies flying away If a magpie finds a dead fellow magpie, it will call until a group of up to 40 birds gather, where they all cackle together for 10-15 minutes and then disperse in silence. Isn’t that amazing?   So, when I talk about birds “in the hood,” I’m not just alluding to human social behaviors. God created our feathered friends to have true community too. May we take joy in them and learn from them! Magpie 3“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~Rose F. Kennedy DSCN0064“Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
(Psalm 150:6)


What’s the Difference?

DSC01974John Piper has written a more comprehensive book, called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but I found this short work (just 82 pages) very useful in providing a simple framework for understanding the essence of the differences between the mature, healthy mindsets of men and women. At the deepest level, these differences have nothing to do with “who does what” in the home, sex or gender per se; rather, they have everything to do with attitudes and trust, allowing men to take on the challenge and women to relax into the way God designed us as complimentary partners. I found myself really resonating with his ideas, and as Elisabeth Elliot says in her foreword, “I think his thesis rings true to the manliness or the womanliness in each of us.”

I will give you Piper’s thesis statements, although they may not seem very profound to you. It was definitely through reading his discussions that the definitions  came to life for me. However, here they are: DSC01971“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” DSC01973“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

Do you find these ideas soothing or distasteful? I suspect Piper’s thesis might not be popular at a gender studies conference, but I found my heart saying, “Amen!” Many people have grown up without good role models and therefore find themselves all the more confused about who they are, who they want to be, or what healthy adulthood even looks like. If you or someone you love struggles to understand what mature manhood and womanhood are, you might appreciate this short book. I certainly did!