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).

Rise Up, My Love (214): Beautiful Shoes on Beautiful Feet

beautiful-sandalsSong of Solomon 7:1 “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” I first began meditating on this verse during a communion service after just returning from taking the youth from our chapel on a mission trip to the “hills and hollers” of West Virginia, where we worked among the destitute of Appalachia…one of the poorest areas of our country. Thirty-four children had come to the Lord in our vacation Bible school programs, thousands of items of clothing had been given away, hundreds of dollars of food distributed to needy mountain folks, the missionaries’ house painted, and the gospel sung out in open air concerts. In thirty years of Bible study, the obvious never hit me! Our Lord was pleased with his bride for working out in the vineyard “with shoes on.” As the bridegroom begins his last great exaltation of the bride, he begins by commenting on her feet with shoes on.

Nowhere else in the Song is her clothing mentioned as praiseworthy. It is her body he admires so intensely. Bare feet are always considered more sensual and attractive, so why does Solomon praise her for wearing shoes? Because she has just returned from gathering fruit for him…from a labor of love which required her feet to be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). This “daughter of peace,” wearing the shoes of peace, had been gathering the fruit of peace in the mountains and valleys, and her Lord praised her. “Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:6-7)  beautiful-feetIn the bride—the body of Christ—feet may be beautiful…but how much more beautiful when they are adorned by the shoes of the gospel of peace! The word for feet is pa am which is elsewhere translated “steps” and may refer not so much to the physical form of her feet as to where she’s gone and what she’s doing. As one poet wrote, “Beautiful feet are those that go, Quickly to lighten another’s woe” (–L.M. McPhee, The Romance of the Ages).

It is interesting to note that the first time the bridegroom eulogizes his wife’s beautiful body, which is in chapter 4, he describes her from her head down, focusing first on her eyes, which are the gateway to her heart and love. It is the love he sees in her eyes that first arrests him. Now he describes her from her feet up, focusing first on her actions—the fruit of their love. As the bride of Christ, it is our love and devotion that Christ always desires first, and later on, as we become more like him and learn to move (dance) at the impulse of his spirit, he delights in our service. But still, it is always our love that most arrests and captivates him. Do we love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength? Are we aware of how much He loves us? Are we serving him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength?

“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Sunday Dinner in a Roaster

pork-roast-in-a-potOnce Thanksgiving is past and winter sets in, do you struggle with what to prepare for Sunday dinner? While I was in Africa, our guide (Dutch/German heritage) said his favorite Sunday dinner was a beef pot roast. What do you know? That’s my oldest son’s favorite too, so maybe westerners the world around love their Sunday pot roast. However, to switch things up a little, in our family, another treat is a German-style, seasoned pork roast with potatoes, onions, and apples sprinkled with cinnamon. roaster-full-of-veggies-and-meatTo pump up the veggies, you could add a layer of red cabbage and acorn squash on top. Pour in a cup of water, pop in the oven, and let it bake while you’re at church for a couple of hours at 350°F. sunday-dinner-from-the-roasterWe love sauerkraut, so I heat some up after we get home, add a little salt and pepper, butter, sour cream, and brown sugar (for the acorn squash), and presto! A great meal with lots of flavor and very little prep!

If you’ve found other roast/veggie/fruit combos that you enjoy, I’d appreciate your sharing ideas in the comment box. My kids have noticed that many of their friends don’t know how to cook, so that’s inspired me to share a few basic ideas for the young adults of the world who are now fending for themselves. Thanks!

The eyes of all wait upon thee;
and thou givest them their meat in due season
” (Psalm 145:15).

A Triply Blessed Thanksgiving

family-celebrating-grand-sons-birthdayDid you have a happy Thanksgiving Day? boy-with-a-balloonOurs was really special. basket-ball-birthday-cakeFor one thing, Thanksgiving Day
coincided with our grandson Samuel’s second birthday.
taking-a-selfieSamuel was a little micro-preemie born at 27.5 weeks with translucent skin and looking so fragile it was hard to imagine he could survive,
although by God’s grace he did, and look at him now! baby-dedication Last Sunday Dan and Brianna dedicated Samuel to the Lord.  blowing-out-birthday-candlesSunday was also Daniel’s thirty-first birthday,
so we’ve had one super happy week!little-boy-playing-with-a-balloonToday Sammy is a happy, healthy, bouncy little boy who is madly in love with all things ball! and lights up our lives with his laughter and joyful presence. birthday-celebrationLast night we joined Brianna’s family in celebrating Samuel’s second birthday. expectant-momI am so thankful for his life and health, and we’re delighted to be looking forward to Daniel and Brianna’s second baby, due to arrive next April!

family-funAlso, our son Stephen didn’t think he could make it home (from New York) because he was over his head with work. However, Wednesday night I heard his voice in the rainy twilight just about the time Alan was due to arrive home for dinner. WOW! What a treat to have him surprise us with a visit! child-stacking-blocksTonight, we’re having our GR kids over for a thanksgiving dinner of goose, and tomorrow we’re going to Plymouth to share in a Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter Kathy’s family, so this Thanksgiving seems like a celebration of firecrackers going off pop, pop, pop! children-playing-with-balloonsNot long ago, someone mentioned to me feeling like a failure because they didn’t feel very loved.mother-and-sonIt occurred to me that success isn’t in being loved, it’s in loving others. God doesn’t say “Be loved,” He says, “Love” and defines success as loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbors. couple-enjoying-autumnGod is the source of all genuine love, and as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves: “When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained, and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because [it was] His.” child-opening-birthday-presentsThank you, Father, for loving us. Help us to experience your love for us, be overwhelmed by love, and able to love others as a result.  stacking-blocksMy prayer for you is what Paul asked for the Ephesians: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

African Flower Thanksgiving

ixia-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaMay your Thanksgiving is blessed with joy this year! coral-tree-in-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaIf you’re an American, I hope you’re able to celebrate with loved ones,
and maybe enjoy a turkey dinner too! phylica-pubescens-featherhead-or-flannel-flower-bush-in-afternoon-sun-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaIf you’re not an American,
I still hope you will take a few minutes today to count your blessings. pink-cluster-of-roses-africaRight at the top of my list is God and all those with whom I share love. everlasting-flowers-south-africaI can’t think of anything more wonderful! golden-trumpet-tree-south-africa-cape-townI’m also thankful for the scripture, which feeds my soul. african-daisies-south-africaSomewhere way under that, but still exciting to me are beauty and color, bougainvilleaso today I want to share with you some of the lovely flowers I saw in Africa, angel-trumpet-tree-south-africapaired with a few of my favorite verses on the subject of thankfulness:  poinsettias-south-africa“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).  yellow-proteas-south-africa“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1). pink-rose-africa“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). flamboyant-tree-south-africa“I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). lilies-south-africa“Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). jacaranda-tree “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). scadoxus-multiflorus-or-red-ball-of-fire-at-victoria-falls-zimbabwe“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). bougainvillea-along-chobe-marina-lodge-botswana“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4) african-orange-flower“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). hibiscus-and-bougainvillea-botswana“We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). jasmine-cape-town-south-africa“O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 107:1).

What’s Not to Love about Cape Town?

view-of-cape-town-south-africa-from-table-mountainI didn’t know much about Cape Town until I started prepping for our trip to Africa, but in 2014 both the New York Times and U.K.’s Daily Telegraph named Cape Town “the best place in the world to visit!” Now I know why! lions-head-mountain-cape-townCape Town is where our African adventure began, and both Alan and I fell in love with this beautiful city. If it weren’t for the fact that most everyone we love lives in America, it might be tempting to retire there. For one thing, the GDP per capita is just under $16K, less than a quarter that of the U.S., which would mean we’d feel four times richer if we lived there! shoreline-of-atlantic-south-of-cape-town      But, Cape Town isn’t simply special because it’s relatively inexpensive.
It’s gorgeous. The coastal areas are rugged and tropical, reminiscent of Hawaii. sandstone-fynbos-on-table-mountainCape Town shares a latitude and warm Mediterranean climate with cities like Sydney in the southern hemisphere and Los Angeles in the north, so it has lots of sunshine and very temperate weather. cape-town-in-natural-amphitheaterCape Town began 400 years ago as a supply station for the Dutch East India Company along the Atlantic seaboard with a sheltered city bowl that’s nestled in a natural amphitheater surrounded by mountains. table-mountain-south-africaTable Mountain, forming part of the bowl, is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world, and the entire area  is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots. bustling-harbor-of-cape-town-in-table-bayCape Town’s population has grown from 360 in 1658 to over 3.6 million today!ocean-basket-restaurant-cape-town Their bustling Victoria and Albert Waterfront hosts several hundred shops and restaurants, making it the city’s most visited tourist attraction.  victoria-and-albert-waterfront-cape-townI’ll write more about several of the area’s most unique features, but for today I just wanted to introduce you to this magnificent city in case you’ve not had a chance to visit for yourself. cape-town-as-seen-from-table-mountainIdeal as it seems in many ways, Cape Town (like every other city in the world) has some devastating problems. They have trouble with drugs and gangs, and (to me) the most severe problem regards ongoing racial tension. cape-malay-bo-kaap-in-cape-townSouth Africa feels like it’s about 80 years behind America in trying to reconcile blacks and whites. These are things not to love about Cape Town! However, visiting also gave me a sickening reminder of how much work we have yet to do in America concerning racial equality. We are all created in the image of God and descendants of Adam and Eve, which makes us brothers and sisters! Do you believe that? I do!

black-busker-in-cape-townSo God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

Rise Up, My Love (213): Dancing Armies?

dancing-at-peterhoff-palace-russiaSong of Solomon 6:13 “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” What did they see in this daughter of peace? The answer: the meeting of two hosts. What exactly does that mean? The Hebrew word for “company” is mehola. It is used thirteen other times in the Old Testament, all in reference to dancing of some kind. The Hebrew word translated “armies” is mahanayim. It is used over 200 times in the Old Testament, and it literally means “to encamp” although it normally refers to an army, such as in Exodus 14:20: “And it [the pillar of the cloud] came between the camp [mahanayim] of the Egyptians and the camp [mahanayim] of Israel.” When Jacob met God’s host of angels before returning to the land of Canaan, Jacob named the site Mahanaim (Genesis 32:2), and some commentators believe that in this verse they are referencing the geographical site known as Mahanaim.

I loved trying to envision what the Solomon meant by the simile of the bride appearing like two armies “dancing” or being in company with one another! Armies are meant for war, not peace. Dancing is associated with peace, not war. In the Bible, dancing is usually mentioned in connection with the joyful celebration of marriage or worship and is often used antithetically with mourning, as in Matthew 11:17 where Jesus likened his fickle generation to unpleasable children: “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Dancing conjures up images of levity, harmony, and joy…a whole community of people together in cheerful celebration of life. Armies conjure up images of heaviness, conflict, and mourning: the menacing thunder of a advancing troops, the sickening clashes and booms of weaponry, and battlefields strewn with dead corpses. Armies are meant to kill opposing forces, not join in a dance with them!

But, what is seen in the Shulamite…this daughter of peace (not war) is “as it were the company (or dance) of two armies.” What are the “two armies?” Just three verses prior, the bride herself is described as “terrible as an army with banners.” She is doubtless one of the armies. What is the other army? Perhaps…as with Jacob at Mahanaim…the other army is the host of the Lord. A lovely picture develops when all these puzzling pieces are fit together.

It’s hard to imagine two armies “dancing” together…but what happens when two people dance together? Think of ballet dancers or a couple in a ballroom. They move together…work together to create a beautiful pattern of movement. One leads and the other follows—sometimes so closely intertwined they seem as one, and sometimes farther apart—but always working together and totally intent on one another and what they’re doing. What would happen when the “army” of the bride danced with the “army” of the Lord? It’s easy to imagine that such a breathtaking ballet would ensue that all the onlookers would stand transfixed.   golden-pillarsThe text does not say that the daughters of Jerusalem actually see the bride dancing; it says “as if.” What they see is something that they can only describe by simile. I believe they are trying to put a spiritual reality into terms that people can understand. What they see is a beautiful union between the Spirit of God and the soul of this daughter of peace. They see that she has become so much one with him that she is moving at his impulse as perfectly and enigmatically as if two powerful hosts were choreographing a ballet. The “army” of the Lord and the “army” of the bride had become one compelling, amazing, awe-inspiring force.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we as individuals could be so flawlessly guided by the Spirit’s impulses in our lives? Oh for the day when the Church becomes united to the Lord’s hosts of angels in an invincible army of peace! Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Wedge Salads: Something Old and Something New

wedge-saladI’m not sure when wedge salads became popular, or why, but they are, and it’s not uncommon to see them listed for $6.98 or more on a menu. To me, they’re just an old-fashion tossed salad made from iceberg lettuce with one step saved: you don’t have to tear up the lettuce! So, they’re fast, easy, delicious, healthy, and trendy. Can’t beat that, can you? The basic idea is to wash a crisp, compact head of iceberg lettuce and slice off a round chunk. Depending on the size of your head and your table, you can get four to eight wedge servings from one iceberg lettuce. wedge-salad-copyClassic toppings include crisp bacon bits and blue cheese crumbles, preferably drizzled with a little buttermilk dressing, salt, and pepper. However, what really makes them remarkable are additional taste points such as avocado, dried cherries or cranberries, toasted almonds (or other nuts), and some finely sliced red onion. But, the list of possibilities is pretty much limited only by your imagination and taste. So, when you’re looking for a healthy way to begin your dinner and are a little tired of the tossed salad look, try a wedge salad!wedge-salad-with-brie-peppers-tomatoes-greek-olives-pepper-rings

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.” (Genesis 6:21)


condorman-video-coverDo you ever want a feel-good movie that makes you laugh but doesn’t make you cry and has some suspense thrown in for good measure? barbara-carrerea-as-natalia-rambova-in-condormanRecently, Alan, Joel, and I decided to kick back and relax with an old family favorite, Disney’s Condorman. michael-crawfored-as-condorman“Condorman” is just a cartoon character, but the creator, “Woody Wilkins” (played by Michael Crawford, who later became famous as the Phantom of the Opera), decides he wants his superhero to be believable. condorman-jumping-off-eiffel-towerSo, Woody dons a Condorman costume and launches himself off the Eiffel Tower…straight into the Seine River in Paris, where he’s been visiting his friend…who happens to work for C.I.A. condorman-in-disguise-in-monte-carloThings only get zanier from there, as Woody becomes embroiled in a high-profile espionage defection with all the bravado of a James Bond and none of his skill. woody-wilkins-and-natalia-in-condormanHowever, Woody’s indomitable good nature, cow-eyed affection for the heroine, and happy-go-lucky ingenuity save the day…or not! explosions-abound-in-condorman                                It’s not a sure thing until the very last scene,escaping-their-fate-in-condorman but there is so much fun along the way that it’s one of those “cult classics” in our family, and we all know all the lines by heart!condorman-oliver-reedWould someone like Woody really be able to win against tough KGB spies? I don’t think so; at least, not without divine intervention. But, I love the underlying theory: the good guys win because they’re good, and the bad guys lose because they’re mean and nasty. And, I think there’s definitely biblical precedent for that!

condormanBe not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).