Category Archives: Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area

Keeping Track of Our Puzzles

This afternoon will be the memorial service for a 21-year-old student from Calvin College here in GR. Tara Oskam was killed in a car crash not far from our home on March 11 when her car was struck by the car of a 16-year-old who was fleeing the police. Tara was pronounced dead on the scene, and the 15-year-0ld passenger in the teen’s car also died; the suspected teenage driver was seriously injured but is in a stable condition at the hospital at this time. Tara was a beautiful young woman, admired and loved by many, a junior studying speech pathology, very much in love, and looking forward to a bright future. Where’s the justice in that? Can you tell me? I can’t explain it to you at all.

We’re a family of puzzlers. It’s been a favorite pass time on quiet winter evenings since our kids were little, and now even our grand children are hard at work learning how to solve puzzles. I love to watch the progress over time
as the kids think through how to put the pieces together. They’ve learned to arrange the border first.cinderellas-castle-puzzle-almost-completeNext, they sort out pieces that have the most color contrast. Finally, they fill in the hardest pieces
that look so similar it’s hard to figure out where they go.

I think trying to understand and solve the puzzles in our lives is a similar process. First, we develop a framework of ideas and beliefs for understanding our world and life experiences…often referred to as our “world view.” For the Christian believer, this framework is based on belief that God exists, and that He has spoken to us through His Word, the Bible. The scripture is our moral guide and compass. It’s filled with principles for making wise decisions, and it shows us what the picture is supposed to look like if we put life together right.The second step in puzzling out life is figuring out the contrasts: our perceptions of God, the world, and how we interpret our experiences with God in our world. This requires a lot of thought! How can we deal with all the circumstantial  contrasts and put them in the right order so our world makes sense to us?God gives believers the Holy Spirit to guide us. His Spirit takes the words of Scripture and helps us apply them to the various situations we face, so that we have the wisdom to make correct decisions and solve the puzzles in our lives. Finally, we tackle the hardest challenge: figuring out all the subtle situations that don’t have quick, easy, obvious solutions. Sometimes, even though we’ve figured out where the pieces belong, something is still missing. We don’t always have every piece of the puzzle in this life.I’m convinced that no one can solve all the puzzles completely here on earth. Some things are beyond us, and in those things—like little children—we need to trust in what we do know of God: God is good; God loves us; God works all things together for the good of those who love him.God calls us to faith in Christ, asking us to believe in Him and trust him with all the unsolved mysteries of life. Either we let our experiences kill our faith when we don’t understand what’s happening, or we allow our faith to transform our experiences. One makes us bitter; the other makes us better. Are we willing to trust God and obey Him even in the painful mysteries of life? Let’s trust Him to keep track of the missing pieces of our puzzles until we reach heaven, where I believe everything will at last make perfect sense to us.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Metamorphosis

 1
     Where once existed companies, workplaces, banks, restaurants and shops now swelled piles of dirt and rocks. Monstrous excavating machinery maneuvered on-site. Buildings were demolished and leveled while brick, masonry and mortar was unearthed, scooped up and hauled away. My delightfully  pleasant small town was being flattened!construction-zone
      Streets switched direction, traffic patterns transformed, avenues altered.  One who had lived in the town for decades may not recognize the place! And yet, the small town’s remodel will bring strength to it. Renewing and reworking will bring significant growth for families and businesses. Many of us are intrigued and curious to see what striking changes will come over the next year(s)!
new-construction-going-up      Jesus longs to transform me.  I may believe I live a pleasant, delightful existence but to change completely is what my Savior desires. Such transformation will not simply require moving things around, but it will demand that habits are demolished and hauled away, attitudes are altered…there will be conversion, modification, and even metamorphosis in my life.  
     Reconstructing and remaking my life to be conformed to the image of Jesus takes the excavating of the Holy Spirit’s power. Amidst the renovation process, I need to be consistently, intimately communicating with the Master Builder, knowing that my home will be eternally with Him.
     Praise you Jesus for being a Savior who transforms lives.  May I continue consistently to soak in Your Presence and seek the Power of the Holy Spirit to transform me into the body of Your Glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
new-constructionHe [Jesus] will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of His Glory”  (Philippians 3:21 NSRV).
(This article was written by Annette Latulippe Young, from our Blue Water Writers’ group. The article and photos were used by her permission. Thank you, Annette!)

Pączki and a Recipe for Cookie Monsters: Dealing with Holidays

paczki-4-packDid you celebrate Fat Tuesday? I’m not sure why, but in Grand Rapids (which has Dutch roots), the traditional special treat are pączki (pronounced “punch key”). My guess is that this yummy tradition has drifted west from Detroit’s once large Polish community, Hamtramck. fat-tuesday-breakfastThis year for the first time, we enjoyed pączki for breakfast on Fat Tuesday.  Pączki are amazingly delicious, deep-fried doughnuts filled with fruit or custard. malasadas-in-kauai-hawaiiPączki have been a Polish delicacy since the Middle Ages, and they are similar to American bismarcks, German berliners, or my much loved Portuguese treat (which we’ve found only in Hawaii): Malasadas. paczkisHowever, pączki may be even richer; they often contain eggs, sugar, yeast, milk, fats, a touch of alcohol and are glazed or sprinkled with sugar. One theory on the development of this tradition was that the Christians were using up their stores of special ingredients before beginning the Lenten fast.

Which brings me to Ash Wednesday. Did you celebrate Ash Wednesday?  I think Ash Wednesday has some similarities to the Jewish Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement.” Both holy days focus on personal reflection, repentance, and the need for atonement through the sacrificial blood of a lamb (the Lamb, for Christians).  Recently I noticed afresh what the signs of true repentance are while reading the New International Version of 2 Corinthians 7:10-11: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.That’s a weighty list, and I’ve been continuing to examine myself so that I might experience more true repentance over sin.  brothers-and-sonDoes true repentance mean that I am in a constant state of mourning and can never enjoy life? Not at all! Many Christians observe a 40-day “Lenten Season” in which we fast from something we normally enjoy in order to focus more on God and identify in some small way with the sufferings of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we fast forever or never celebrate holidays! Thankfully, the Lenten fast culminates in remembering the death of Christ on Good Friday and ends on Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).party-time-for-small-boy I hope you’re able to observe times of fasting as well as times of feasting, because God condones both.small-boy-opening-cardOn Saturdays, I’ve been sharing recipes, and this week I want to share a recipe for one of our favorite treats, although I have to admit I served it before Lent started and won’t be serving it again until after Lent is over!cookie-monsters-for-dessert                                             Chocolate Chip Cookie Monsters

Bake big chocolate chip cookies (your favorite recipe) and place in individual bowls.

Add a scoop of your favorite ice cream

Top with hot fudge sauce. If you don’t have any on hand, here’s a great recipe:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (oleo works but doesn’t taste as good)
1/3 cup milk (you can use cream, but milk works fine)
2 T. (tablespoons) dark cocoa powder
Pinch of salt (optional)

Throw all the ingredients for the hot fudge sauce in a pan and cook until the soft ball stage, stirring faithfully so nothing sticks on the bottom. Allow it to cool slightly so it’s good and thick, serve it up with your favorite ice cream, and be sure to put plenty of whipping cream on top (plus a cherry or whatever your kids love). Enjoy, but don’t overeat!  🙂  chocolate-chip-cookie-monstersCharge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Restoration Over Rest at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

group-of-employees-receiving-5-year-awardsPine Rest just celebrated their annual employee appreciation and award evening, gourmet-dinner-at-pine-restcomplete with a gourmet dinner group-of-people-receiving-employee-awardsand awards for employees
who have served 5, 10, 15, 20…and on up in increments of 5 years. recipient-of-55-year-service-award-at-pine-restOne lady flew back from Florida to receive her 55-year service award!
Can you imagine working at the same ministry for 55 years?!

employee-appreciation-dinner-at-pine-restThis bright, beautiful lady shared that the reason she’s persevered so long is that she has the same heart for ministry as Pine Rest: compassionate Christian care for those with mental health needs.pine-rest-appreciation-dinner-awardsAlan has been working at PRCH (Pine Rest Christian Hospital) for 23 years, so he wasn’t up for an award, but because he’s the CMO (chief medical officer), we’re always invited to enjoy the festivities and honor the faithful employees! pine-rest-ceo-addresses-employeesOur CEO, Mark, is such a stalwart, spiritually-minded leader, and he gave a brief but very memorable message about “Two Holy Moments.” He said the first is when people wake up in the morning and make the decision to go into work, even though they’d rather sleep and are weary of putting aside their own needs to serve others. The second is when they are at work and choose to be present with those who are suffering. Pine Rest ministers to over 50,000 people each year. Like all attempts at intervention, many people are helped, but not all can be healed. However, employees can all express love by their presence and efforts to assist in the healing process. This is a second “holy” moment: Choosing to love each patient and serve them with “compassion and understanding in time of need and offer hope and help through the provision of excellent care.” ceo-of-pine-restThat’s a very high calling, but I think it’s something we can all ascribe to in our daily lives, no matter what our job is, be it leading a company, serving others in hospital or school settings, working as a mechanic, waitress, hairdresser, babysitter, parent, or whatever!

Are you struggling with your job? I’m not saying you should stay in whatever job you have at present, but I would like to encourage you to feel a sense of holiness about whatever job you’re doing. Offer your decision to work as a sacrifice to God, choosing restoration over rest. As an offering to God, choose to love those you serve by providing excellent care. It will tinge what might otherwise be drudgery with the glow of Shekinah glory.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

And, here’s a verse that just struck me this morning as Alan and I were reading together: “ So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12, NIV). When we serve others in love for the sake of Christ, we are literally giving our life so that others may live. But, if we have eternal life within us by faith in Christ, then to give of our lives to bring “many sons to glory” is a supremely beautiful exchange!

Exalta’s Free Dental Day: The Joy of Volunteering

dental-director-explaining-free-dental-day-to-volunteers-exalta-grand-rapids-miIf any of you live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and can’t afford dental care, exalta-healthI’d like to introduce you to Exalta Health, volunteers-at-exalta-grand-rapids-mia faith-based non-profit (largely funded by donations) x-rays-at-free-dental-day-exaltato help with health care needs for the poor and uninsured in our area. danielarmstrongOur son, Daniel, is the dental director there, briefing-for-free-dental-day-exaltaand a couple of times every year they offer a completely free dental day. full-waiting-room-at-free-dental-day-exaltaI probably should have written this post before—rather than after—free-dental-day-exalta-dental-caretheir last free day, which occurred last Friday. dr-armstrong-explains-procedures-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miHowever, if you’re interested, I’ll give information at the end of the post daniel-armstrong-dental-director-exalta-grand-rapids-miso that you can call and find out about when the next free dental day will occur. visual-screening-at-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThe Free Dental Day includes not only dental care, free-eye-care-at-free-dental-day-exaltabut free eye exams,  triage-nurse-at-free-dental-day-exaltasome minor medical triage,chaplain-at-free-dental-day-exalta and for those who are interested, free consultation with a chaplain. president-and-advancement-director-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta Health, (these two are our president and advancement director)exalta-health-dentistrywas formerly known as H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services, belonging to HIM). fatherson-team-volunteering-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miThis charity for the poor began 20 years ago, oral-surgeon-operating-exalta-grand-rapids-miand there are now professionals from over 2 dozen areas of healthcare  retired-husbandwife-dental-team-helping-at-free-dental-day-exaltawho volunteer their time and expertise dental-care-exalta-grand-rapids-mi to serve the needs of our under-served population. free-dental-day-extractions-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta’s motto is, “Reflecting the spirit of Christ, exalta-health-staff-and-volunteersour mission is to provide compassionate, accessible health care.” secretarial-support-and-volunteer-coordinator-at-exaltaAlthough over the past few years keeping-tools-cleaned-and-packaged-exalta-grand-rapids-miI’ve had the privilege in serving in a number of different capacities, two-generations-volunteering-together-at-exalta-health-free-dental-day-2this time I was the photographer, which was super fun. patients-waiting-for-help-at-exalta-healthIt just makes me so happy to see people come in with tooth pain smiling-patients-exalta-health-careand go out with a smile and a look of relief!  consulting-on-patient-care-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miSo, I want to encourage you in three ways:

waiting-room-at-exalta-free-dental-day*If you need help personally and live in our area,
feel free to contact Exalta Health:

https://www.exaltahealth.org/

dental-hygenists-students-from-gvsu*If you have some time to invest in caring for people in need, volunteers-waiting-for-patients-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miconsider Exalta Health as very rewarding place to volunteer. teeth-cleaning-zt-free-dental-day-exaltaThey need not only healthcare professionals and clinical support, learning-about-patients-exalta-free-dental-day-grand-rapids-mibut also volunteers who can help with general supportexalta-health-support(secretarial or maintenance skills, etc.).  volunteers-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThese were the volunteers last Friday.registration-table-for-free-dental-day-exaltaAnd, they minister to a lot of Hispanics, faithful-interpreter-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miso if you know Spanish, you’d be especially valuable! caring-for-patients-at-free-dental-day-exalta*If you live in another city but are a healthcare professional or have a heart  chaplain-serving-as-interpreter-at-exalta-healthto help the poor, look around and see what you can find in your area. oral-surgeon-helping-free-dental-day-exaltaIf there’s nothing available now, volunteer-at-exalta-healthmaybe you could be the impetus to begin something.  listening-to-orientation-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miIt is such a blessing to be a part of helping others in need!  🙂exalta-volunteersIn all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV) preparing-for-dental-treatment-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miFor the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor,
and to thy needy, in thy land
” (Deuteronomy 15:11, KJV). preparing-patient-for-x-rays-exalta-healthWe who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, ESV). dr-armstrong-working-with-a-patient-at-exalta-healthAnd we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV).

Sampling Courageous Love: Many Shades of Light

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been working on a lot of wonderful quotes to share about love tomorrow, but today I want to talk about what real love is, because I believe too many people have become confused and no longer understand the difference between love and lust. Case in point will be the contrast between two new releases that are coming out: Courageous Love, and Multiple Varieties of Blacker Evil…or something like that. If you’re wondering what genuine love looks like, here are a few examples from Courageous Love:

actress-addilyn-houk-with-actress-jessica-koloian-copyLove protects and is tenderhearted: “Love is patient and kind.”  courageous-love-protecting-sisterLove confronts possible evil and seeks truth…but for the right reasons:
“Love does not envy or boast.”  courageous-love-helping-serveLove serves humbly: “It is not arrogant or rude.”     courageous-love-administrative-assistantLove speaks wisdom but allows free choice: “It does not insist on its own way;” actress-jessica-koloian-playing-michelle-long-7 Love listens and cares: “It is not irritable or resentful;”  courageous_love-timkaiserLove demands integrity: “It does not rejoice at wrongdoing,” courageous-love-telling-the-truthLove sacrifices self-interest: “but [love] rejoices with the truth.” courageous-love-faithful-sisterLove is faithful: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,” courageous-love-keeps-working-hard Love keeps working no matter how tired: “[Love] endures all things.”  jaredwithrow-jessicakoloian True love is sincere…forever: “Love never ends…”  courageous-love-lawyer-helpsLove reaches out to help even when it doesn’t know all the answers:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” courageous-love-solving-the-mysteryLove never stops trying to figure out the truth and learn more:
“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
  courageous-love-sisterLove is undyingly loyal: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;” courageous-love-shelby-engineeringLove leads to happy endings for all! “but the greatest of these is love.”courageous-love-cohort(Quotes above from 1 Corinthians 13)

I hope this inspires you to watch Courageous Love.
It would be a great way to celebrate genuine love this Valentine’s Day!  🙂

courageous-loveWoe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) courageous-love-knudsenSee that none render evil for evil unto any man;
but ever follow that which is good,
both among yourselves, and to all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).actress-kristina-kaylen-2Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

(The best photos were used by permission of Daniel Knudsen,
who directed the movie; the rest I took while watching the film.)

What Does Courageous Love Look Like?

courageous_love_movie_posterCourageous Love is being released on Valentine’s Day…perfect timing and perfect contrast with another movie just coming out that looks at “love” from a perfectly selfish (evil) standpoint. Mark A. Knudsen has written a powerful story to demonstrate what real love—courageous love—looks like. In this romantic drama, young Alex Shelby is shocked to discover that he’s become the CEO of his father’s engineering company following the tragic death of his parents.  alex-shelby-in-courageous-loveWhile relying heavily on the wisdom of the remaining executives, his own intuition, and guidance passed down to him from his father, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” Alex learns to make the hard choices that integrity demands but could lead to bankruptcy for his company.  director-daniel-knudsen-with-actress-patricia-mauceri-1Monday I’ll share more about this inspirational movie (which I had the privilege of previewing last night), but today I want to spend a minute reflecting on the courageous love demonstrated by those who’ve written, directed, acted in, and produced such a movie! These are not Hollywood professionals. They are flesh and blood, every day heroes who have spent a tremendous amount of time and money, and they’ve invested heart and soul in developing a product to impact our culture for good…to give us a choice. Thankfully, I’m finding more and more such movies on the shelves of our local video store, which thrills me no end! actress-holly-houk-with-actress-kristina-kaylenAre we going to watch glamorous stars spewing profanity and teaching immorality as the new morality, or are we going to choose inspiring stories produced by a budding Christian industry that wants to exalt God and promote Truth? Courageous Love was developed and filmed right here in Michigan, and I hope a zillion people watch it, love it, and are inspired by it! Will you give it a try? It’s coming soon. Look for it! (It can also be pre-ordered now.) Please watch it, and let us know what you think!

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things:
and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things

(Matthew 12:35).

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
whether it be good, or whether it be evil
” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).