Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Few (Dozen) of My Favorite (African) Birds (42): A Pictorial Guide to Exotic African Birds

Last fall in Africa, I saw dozens of gorgeous birds. (Okay, some were really ugly too.) Many were familiar, but even more of them seemed exotic and strange. I took photos until I was dizzy from my head spinning ’round, and although our guide was an able ornithologist, after we returned home, I couldn’t remember the names for many of my new-found feathered friends. Worse yet, there’s no Complete Idiot’s Guide for Identifying African Birds, so it took me a long time (too long to admit) to figure out their names. For any of you who’d enjoy a birds’ eye view of African exotics, or for any of you who’ve been to Africa and are trying to figure out what you saw, I’ve catalogued 30+ birds alphabetically by name and where I saw them. Some of them have interesting stories, but that will have to wait for another day… Hope you enjoy!  🙂

African Fish Eagle (Choebe River, Botswana)

“The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left.” ~William Mathews


African jacuna (Also known as “Jesus Bird.”Choebe River, Botswana)

“Perseverance is not a long race: It is many short races, one after another.”

~Walter Elliot   African openbill stork (Choebe River, Botswana)

“We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope.”~ Martin Luther King, Jr.  Black skimmers (Choebe River, Botswana)

“Who, being loved, is poor?”
~Oscar Wilde 
Red-winged starling (Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

~Henry David Thoreau  Blacksmith lapwing (or “Plover.” Choebe River, Botswana)

“I am a leader by default, because nature abhors a vacuum.” ~Desmond TutuCape Glossy starling (Swaziland)

“I remind myself every morning: ‘Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.'” ~Larry KingCape Weaver (South Africa)

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.”  Egyptian Geese (South Africa)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.”~Marcel Proust
Golden-breasted bunting (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
~Ralph Waldo EmersonGoliath heron  (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“Beautiful light is born of darkness, so the faith that springs from conflict is often the strongest and best.”~R. Turnbull  Great heron (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”~Alexander Graham Bell  Hadada Ibis  (aka/Threskiornithidae, Zambezi River, Zimbzbwe)

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
but he who conquers that fear.”~Nelson Mandela   Blue Helmeted guinea fowl  (Kruger National Park, S.A.) 

“Integrity is never being ashamed of our reflections.”~David Cottrell  Little bee eater (Very little! Choebe River, Botswana)

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~John Wooden  Marabou stork (Very big! Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) 

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” ~Winston Churchill  Ostrich (The biggest! Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.” ~Lewis Mumford   Spotted Eagle Owl and Owlet
(Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Capetown, S.A.)

 “There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”
~Buddha  Yellow-billed oxpeckers on a warthog’s back
(hitchhikers! Chobe National Park, Botswana)

“He who assists someone up the hill cannot help but get to the top himself.”
~Chinese Proverb  Peacock (most beautiful…as if you didn’t know! South Africa)

“God is a prolific artist. His paintings are everywhere.”  Penguins  (Boulders Beach, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher  Pied kingfisher (eating an insect along the Choebe River, Botswana)

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~William Jennings Bryan   Trumpeter hornbill (aka/Zuzu!  Chobe National Park, Botswana)

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.
You mustn’t lose it.”~Robin Williams 
Red-headed weaver bird (Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”
~Chief Tecumseh 
Reddish egret (pair of them! Kruger National Park, South Africa)

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins… not through strength but by perseverance.”
~H. Jackson Brown  Saddle-billed stork (Mbabane, Swaziland)

“I’m far from perfect, but I’ll be perfect for
that imperfect person that’s perfect for me.”  ~Amanda Bynes  Southern masked weaver bird (Choebe River, Botswana) 

“If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself.” ~Normal Vincent Peale  Trumpeter Hornbill (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”   White-backed Vultures (drinking water in Chobe National Park, Botswana)

 “We determine whether something will be a blessing or a curse
by the way we choose to see it.”~Kate Nowak  Whydah (Widow?) bird (Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa)

“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy.
It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~Sarah Bernhardt  Yellow-billed egrets with an openbill stork (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“You can tell the value of a man by the way he treats his wife,
by the way he treats a subordinate,
and by the way he treats someone who can do nothing for him.”~Ken Babcock

Hope you enjoyed the “tour” of African birds. Africa is by far the most exotic place I’ve ever been, and I love being able to share with you a little bit of the blessing wherewith I’ve been blessed.

 “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

The Three Rondavels of Mpumalanga

From the overlook at Blyde River Canyon, there’s a dramatic view of the “Three Rondavels” (named for circular African dwellings with conical thatched roofs). These fascinating rock formations are shaped like round, grass-topped, huts similar to those still in use today among the indigenous people groups of Africa.   Renier, our guide, explained to us that the people believe evil spirits like to hide in dark corners,              so they make their homes (and even hotel and other structures)                     somewhat round to keep away such unwanted intruders. Of course, these massive shale, dolemite, and quartzite “huts” are monumental in size, rising 700 meters from the ground (which is already 1,390 meters above the river floor below). They are utterly spectacular!Traditionally, the three peaks were known as “The Three Sisters” and were named for three troublesome wives of Chief Maripi Mashile, who was the courageous nineteenth-century Pulana chief that defended his people from a Swazi invasion.Legend has it that the three wives were Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto, and the three rondavels are named to commemorate these irksome busybodies! In this photo, you can see the “three sisters,” and to the right is a long, flat-topped mountain known as Mariepskop, named in honor of Chief Maripi, who used the mountain as a stronghold during the invasion.Blyde River Canyon is gorgeous, and the Three Rondavels are definitely worth visiting, but I’d really hate to be commemorated for being a troublesome wife.                                                            Wouldn’t you?   “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 21:1).I’m also glad that the Holy Spirit indwells believers in Christ so that we don’t have to fear evil spirits hiding in the corners of our homes! Instead, God tells us that we’re protected by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12-14), and that we do not need to fear evil spirits: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Later in the same chapter God explains: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

World’s Largest Canyons, Blyde River Canyon, and Changing Names

Our next stop was for some magnificent views of Blyde River Canyon, which is the world’s third largest canyon, (although I’d never heard of it before). In fact, would you like to see photos of the world’s largest and second largest canyons? Do you know their names? I wasn’t sure! America’s own Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the world, although Copper Canyon in Mexico’s Chihuahua state is a group of six canyons with a combined area that’s even greater, and Peru’s Colca Canyon is twice as deep. Nevertheless, we’ll keep our Grand Canyon as Numero Uno!The second largest canyon in the world is also in Africa. It’s called the Fish River Canyon: 550 meters deep and 160 km long! The Fish River Canyon is in Namibia. We didn’t get to see it on this trip, but it’s a popular tourist attraction and reported to be gorgeous. In 2011, they began an annual ultra marathon along the banks of this river! Can you imagine???We were blessed with a beautiful day and had the leisure to walk along the rim of Blyde River Canyon, luxuriating in the views and learning a little of its history.  There are over 1,000 different species of flora in this area, including many beautiful wildflowers in the spring. The canyon is part of the Blyde River Nature Reserve, one of South Africa’s most stunning geographical features. This 29,000-hectare (71,660-acre) park is carved from red sandstone along 60 km of the Blyde River. Our guide shared with us that the river was first named “Treur,” which means “mourning” in Afrikaans, because in 1844 some distraught settlers feared that their leader, Hendrik Potgieter, and all the members of his pioneering expedition had perished. However, shortly thereafter, the men returned, and the river’s name was changed from Treur (mourning) to Blyde (happy; joyous). This made me think of how the Lord works in us, to change our mourning into joy: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Since returning home, I’ve discovered that now there is a push to revert back to the canyon’s most ancient name: “Motlatse Canyon Provincial Nature Reserve.” Motlatse means “a river that is always full.” That’s also a wonderful name, especially in an area that has been beleaguered with drought for twenty years!Do you have any idea what your name means? My name means “pure,” but I used to mourn that—hard as I tried—I couldn’t live up to my name. However, the Lord has comforted me, changed my name to “Christian” and filled me with joy, because I now know that Jesus Christ was pure and gave me his name when I accepted him as my savior from sin: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). How about you? Have you made “the plunge” into the canyon of God’s love and experienced the life-changing depth of his forgiveness and grace?

For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” (Psalm 92:4-5)

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee! (—S. Trevor Francis, 1875)

(The photos of the Grand Canyon, Fish Canyon, and the last photo of the Blyde River Canyon are used by permission of Wiki; the rest are mine, taken November, 2016, at Blyde River Canyon. Also, I’ve since learned that the section of the Blyde River that was first dubbed the Treur River was a tributary which separates in the canyon and still retains that name.)

Grace is Greater than______________

Have you given up anything for Lent? I have a young friend who said he gave up self-loathing. I was dumbfounded (which is all too rare in me), but this past weekend I heard the same thing from a sweet older lady in Sunday school.

Do you struggle to forgive—either yourself of others? Are you experiencing deep pain in your life? Do you have wounds that just won’t heal? Are you seething with bitterness, raging with anger, fantasizing about revenge, or despondent over your brokenness? Do you believe that if God really was good and all powerful, He wouldn’t allow all the sin and evil in our world?

If you’re struggling with any of these issues, then I’d like to recommend Kyle Idleman’s latest book, Grace is Greater. Kyle is the bestselling author of Not a Fan, but he’s also the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky (reported to be the fifth largest church in America), where he preaches to a congregation of over 20,000 weekly. This pretty much insures that he’s a super engaging speaker and writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows what he’s talking about. Nevertheless, after reading his book, I’m convinced he does!

The term “grace” has been overused but under-understood for at least a generation. Grace is Greater breathes fresh insight into this matchless subject. Kyle’s subtitle is apt: “God’s Plan to Overcome Your past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story.” No matter where you are on your own spiritual journey—even if you’re just staring down the path wondering if it would really lead anywhere—you’ll find lots to motivate, challenge, and help you grow in grace.

Kyle is a great story teller, and we all know that stories are the sugar that makes the medicine go down. We remember stories. We retell stories. We learn from stories. In under 200 pages and ten thoughtfully (but also playfully and transparently) crafted chapters, Kyle addresses his (and our) mistakes, hurts, and circumstances, sharing through scripture and example how God’s grace is not only equal to but greater than each of these challenges.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga: Not All Potholes are Problematic!

                Do you go crazy trying to avoid all the potholes in spring? In Michigan, the winters are so brutal that by springtime roads are pocked with depressions where the ground has heaved, leaving broken asphalt and treacherous traps just waiting to pop the tires of unwary commuters. So, when we were told we were going to stop along the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa to see “the potholes,” I wasn’t particularly impressed…until I saw them!  These potholes have been created by the confluence of the Treur & Blyde Rivers                                                      at Blyde River Canyon, where centuries of wear have formed deep, cylindrical depressions in the sandstone bedrock. They are indeed potholes, but they’re not the dangerous ones we see in America. These potholes are grand and spectacularly beautiful formations in layered shades of rust, amber, brown, and taupe.  Their name refers to Tom Bourke, who was an unsuccessful gold prospector in this area, but I think he found something better than gold! Today, tourists (like Alan and me) come from around the world to marvel at the natural beauty of this area. So, the next time you see a pothole in your road, please avoid it to be sure, but remember that some potholes can be beautiful. How about us? Is the wear and pressure in our lives revealing natural color and creating unique patterns of beauty in us, or are we becoming broken and depressed? God intends the floods of time and pressure to transform us (particularly at the confluence of ourselves with another “river”).He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:10-12)   But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour (Isaiah 43:1-3)

(All photos taken on our trip to South Africa at Burke’s Luck Potholes,  2016.)

Rise Up, My Love (228): Would You Like Eyes of Peace?

“Thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim” (Song of Solomon 7:4). A gate where multitudes passed by for water suggests a broad gate and an extremely busy thoroughfare. For the husband to experience his wife’s eyes as deep reservoirs of water beside a busy gate brings to mind a husband who—in the midst of the press and rush of business—could stop to drink in his wife’s beauty and find himself refreshed by the placid, unruffled serenity reflected in her eyes. There is nothing so appealing and calming as bright, clear, peaceful eyes in the midst of a world of confusion…not eyes that have been blurred by staring at earthly possessions, fired by anger, or clouded by guilt, but eyes with clarity, depth, and purity…eyes like the reservoirs of Heshbon—deep calling unto deep (Psalm 42:7)—reflecting the radiant image of the Son of God. “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). Dear Lord, please give us such eyes…eyes that “are ever toward the Lord” (Psalm 25:15). Give us eyes that sparkle and shine with eternity’s “I love you” and hold heaven in their heart. Eyes that reflect the depth of your character and can guide blind travelers searching through the trackless deserts of this world for reservoirs supplied by your springs of living water. Please give us eyes that reflect the perfect peace of one whose mind is stayed on you (Isaiah 26:3)…whose eyes are calm with the quietness that only you can give. “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). Oh, Lord, teach us to open that door which separates soul from spirit in our inmost being and retreat to the spiritual world, closing the door on the yearnings of our flesh so that we might focus without interruption on you. Please give us “eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim.”

“Peace”
There is a peace which cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled:
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on the tempest that is stilled.
A peace which lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in a happy life of love secure;
But in the strength the heart possesses—
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
A peace that is in Sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passions free;
‘Tis not the peace which over Eden broodeth,
But which triumphed in Gethsemane.” —Jessie Rose Gates
( Found in Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981, p. 116)

Savory Cream of Mushroom Soup

After a fabulous buffet one night at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando (where Alan’s conference was held), Alan and I both agreed that our very favorite dish had been the creamy mushroom soup. “Shocking!” I thought to myself. How could something so simple be so delectable?  Well, after talking to the waiter, doing a little online research, and experimenting a bit, I’ve come up with a recipe that Alan and I think is at least a worthy competitor. Here it is:

Savory Cream of Mushroom Soup
(serves 2-4)

2 T. (Tablespoon) butter (Melt in an iron skillet.)
1 chopped onion (Choose your size depending on your love of onions.)
1 T. fresh garlic (or dried; saute with onions until starting to caramelize.)12 oz. sliced mushrooms (any type you prefer; saute until starting to brown.)
3 cups water
1 T. chicken bouillon powder
1 T. rosemary (fresh or crushed)
1/4 teaspoon basil
Pepper to taste
1 bay leaf  (Add all ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes.)3 T. flour (easiest if whisked together with cream first; I failed!)
1 cup light cream (Heat entire mixture until it’s simmering but not boiling.)                             Serve immediately, while it’s still piping hot.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17, NKJV)