Category Archives: Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area

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).

A Tale of Christmas Shopping: Trying to Find the Perfect Gifts

christmas-tree-and-decorationsI hate shopping. Do you? It’s not that I’m a total Scrooge. I enjoy being able to gift people…if I know what they need or want, but I’ve never been endowed with the gift of giving. Inspirational visions from the Ghost of Christmas Presents for what might delight someone rarely brighten my brain, and successfully dreaming up great gifts in my concrete cranium seems as impossible as attempting to imagineer great plots for fiction stories…a non event waking or sleeping.   🙂  window-shoppingI believe it was my daughter-in-law Carlie who recently published on Face Book: “Am I my brother’s shopper?” (Uh…I think her husband is my son.)christmas-presents-under-christmas-treeNevertheless, ‘tis the season, and in our family the tradition is for each wannabe gift receiver (that’s all of us) to publish a list of wanted gift possibilities via our handy-dandy online Armstrong exchange accessed by a Christmasy password. a-light-dusting-of-amazon-packages-for-christmasSome kind-hearted kids even publish links to show the rest of us where to find said suggestions, so there’s always a light dusting of Amazon packages along with the light dustings of snow on our doorstep, as my son Aaron would say. And, as the days before Christmas draw nigh, there tend to be blizzards of both packages and snow. deep-snowsHowever, I’m a firm believer in buying locally if at all possible, and so I trudge through the drifting snow and freezing weather to every mall in America (or at least GR) looking for facsimiles thereof to delight my kids and soothe my civic conscience. To little avail! shopping-at-the-mallEver try finding some heavy-weight bookends these days? How about a Celebration Hymnal accompaniment book or a brown desk chair with an adjustment to raise the seat up to 25 inches? And that was just the tip of the iceberg! Kindly merchants sent me from store to store and mall to mall, suggesting other shops where I might find my particular treasures.slippery-winter-highway Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, and my theory was that somewhere in GR I could find the desired items. Wrong!o-christmas-treeHow is it that in the shopping center for a quarter of a million people, there are so few choices available? Sadly, I think it’s a vicious cycle: More and more of us find it easier to shop online, so even the best local stores can’t afford to stock anything besides the most commonly wanted items.christmas-shopping     By the way, are you also looking for the perfect gifts for those you love? christmas-ornaments-on-treeWhat about a gift for Jesus? It is His birthday, after all! Have you thought about what He might want from you for a present under your Christmas tree?believe-presents-under-a-christmas-treeJesus isn’t looking for something you can find in a store or online, He just wants you. He wants you to believe in Him, love Him, trust Him, give yourself to him, and wait patiently on Him. Can you believe that?? After all, is there anything you’d rather have from your loved one?isaiah-40-31-they-that-wait-upon-the-lord-will-renew-their-strength“…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4).

 

 

 

Power Out

full-cold-moon-12-13-16jpgLast night was extremely cold. Our chimes clanged in distress and the wind whined mournfully in our chimney, rattling at the damper like a robber trying to force a lock. Just as Alan and I were getting ready for bed, everything stopped. Everything warm and light, that is! The thief that hadn’t been able to gain entrance through the flue had successfully robbed us anyway—by snapping a power line. We piled on more covers and climbed into bed, noticing that the temperature in the house was dropping 3° per hour, which meant temperatures in the 40°F. range by morning and frozen pipes within 24 hours.downed-trees-buried-under-snow-12-11-16-3I tossed and turned, thinking about the fact that we have a wood-burning stove in the basement and a 10-year supply of downed firewood in our woods.
trees-destroyed-by-emerald-ash-boreYes, it looks like a tornado went through, but it was really West Michigan Tree Service, who downed all the trees killed by the emerald ash bore that were threatening to fall on our home and shed, and routinely obstructing our lane. downed-trees-buried-under-snow-2-12-11-16However, all of that wood was buried under a mantle of white and would take days to prepare for proper burning. Why hadn’t we taken time to prepare? We knew this type of emergency was possible. I thought about my friends, Rex and Cindi, who had already built “The Great Wall of Ada” with their downed trees. (Both Rex and Alan received chain saws for their Father’s Day gift this year knowing that their leisure-time work was cut out for them for the entire fall and winter, so to speak.) full-moon-and-snow-12-14-16In the wee hours, I peaked out the window. All was calm and bright. It reminded me of the lines from “‘Twas the Night before Christmas”: “The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.”snowy-wood-pileWhy had we left our stocked woodpile unprotected? Why hadn’t we thought to stash a pile of wood on our screen porch?snowy-pile-of-wood               Unless there was a break in the weather, we’d  be doomed! cold-blue-morning-with-iciclesThankfully, somewhere in the night the power came back on, and by this morning the temperature was creeping back into—if not our comfort zone, at least a viable-for-life zone. icicles-on-a-snowy-dayI hope none of you are spiritually where Alan and I were at physically last night. No power, heat, or light…growing colder by the hour…heading for disaster if something doesn’t change, but all the while surrounded by untapped resources that could make your survival possible.snowy-homeIf you’re reading this, then the lights are on again! Your soul is not yet buried under an impossible load of snow. You have been given another chance at life…at power, light, and heat. Where? In the Bible, the Word of God. Do you have a Bible sitting around your house? Please read it and stash a pile of its promises in your heart. How?? Through Jesus. He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 4:6). Just ask him to save you and He will! As Alan and I read together this morning: cardinal-in-the-snow-12-12-16“Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Ezekiel 18:30-32). christmas-cactus“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:8-10).

Beauty and the Beast and the Nutcracker—Two Wonderful Tales

grand-rapid-ballet-company-programThis holiday season, Alan, Joel, and I have attended the musical, Beauty and the Beast, at Civic Theater and the ballet, The Nutcracker, at DeVos Hall. Both will be playing again this coming weekend, and if you live in the area (or probably any area where they’re being performed), I can recommend them as really delightful. gr-ballerina-jumpingOne thing that strikes me about plays and ballet is that even though the words and music usually remain constant, a new creative interpretation for the sets and choreography, and a different set of actors playing the roles, makes each year’s experience fresh and unique. tale-as-old-as-time-from-beauty-and-the-beastDid you know that “Beauty and the Beast” type tales exist from 4,000 years ago? Truly, the story of love transforming us from beast to beauty is a “tale as old as time.” clara-and-the-nutcracker-gr-balletIn The Nutcracker, little Clara dances with her heroic prince only in visions of the night, but in Beauty and the Beast (as the story goes), being genuinely loved by someone is what breaks the curse of our ugly selfishness and transforms us into something beautiful…not just in our dreams, but in the reality of our lives. winter-setting-in-disneys-beauty-and-the-beastDo you have a love that brings the best out of you and makes you into a better person? Whether or not you have a human love with whom you share such an inspirational relationship, there is Someone who loves you with an everlasting love. Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated this Christmas season, came to earth as “Immanuel” (“God with us). He was born, lived, and died in our place for our sins. Faith in Christ as our Savior is what transforms our hearts from the icy cold of selfishness to the irresistible warmth of true love. beauty-and-the-beast-love-story-disneyCan you feel the love tonight? If not, I pray you’ll open yourself up to living out a creative, new version of Beauty and the Beast where you and Christ are the protagonists. ballerinas-en-pointe-gr-ballet-coEver want to participate in a musical or a ballet? Here’s you big chance…no auditions necessary! God the Father as already invited you, and He is the best when it comes to artistic direction and set design! Also, the Holy Spirit is the best ever choreographer. Let Christ transform your life into a story of beauty and grace.

nutcrackers-available-at-meijerThe Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying,
Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee
” (Jeremiah 31:3)point-shoes-gr-balletAnd let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us:
and establish thou the work of our hands upon us;
yea, the work of our hands establish thou it
” (Psalm 90:17).

(As no photos are allowed during professional performances, I took photos of The Nutcracker from our program and found pictures of Beauty and the Beast on line. If anyone is offended, please let me know and I’ll remove them.)

Birthday Reflections à la Rogue River to Help You Keep your Chin Up

feather-floating-on-water-of-rogue-riverThese last quotes are more like strengthening medicine for Roo than honey for Pooh, but I still think they’re good food for thought!

bridge-across-rogue-riverl-in-rockford“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” ~James Joyce

fisherman-on-rogue-river“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~M. Scott Peck

billows-of-bright-helianthus-salicifolius-willow-leaved-sunflower-along-the-rogue-river“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it
the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” -Napoleon Hill   maple-leaf-on-water“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles,
they toughen and make strong.” ~Norman Vincent Peale   3-canoers-fall-leaves-beginning-to-turn“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him,
and to let him know that you trust him.” ~Booker T. Washington   punting-on-the-rogue-river“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   sunshine-and-starry-water“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” ~Conrad Hilton  turtle-on-a-rock-in-rogue-river “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.” ~Charles Darwin  boy-canoeing-on-rogue-river “You will never be the person you can be if pressure, tension and discipline
are taken out of your life.” ~ James G. Bilkey  end-of-canoe-trip-on-rogue-river “Aim for service and success will follow.” ~Albert Schweitzer   a-blessed-day-canoeing-on-the-rogue-river“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   little-boy-playing-in-sunshine-along-river-bank“COURAGE doesn’t always roar. Sometimes COURAGE is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher   leaf-crowned-warriorFor a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Proverbs 24:16).