Category Archives: Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area

Monte Carlo Night: Great Fun for the Holidays…but…No Gambling or Drinking!

Anybody who thinks Sunday school is just for kids has never been to our Sunday school class! In a mega church like Calvary (with about 6000± attendees), it would be easy to get lost in the crowd, so you need to connect with a smaller group of people for friendship and fellowship. Midweek prayer meetings, care groups, life groups, youth groups, music groups…short circles…there are so many ways to engage with other people, but one of our favorites has always been via a Sunday school class. Our class, Heirs Together, has about 120 members and a wide age span, although I think we’re pretty close to the median age with a profile like most of the members, including a similar world view and deep faith although somewhat irregular attendance due to travel, family and health needs. The class has been hanging together for many years, and although the majority have probably been married for 35-50+ years, there is a growing population of singles. (Yes, we’re getting older!)  We have a monthly “event,” and last weekend it was a “Monte Carlo” game night which was super fun and perfect for getting to know people. Therefore, I want to pass it along to you in case you think it also sounds like fun. I’m hoping to try it out over Christmas break when we have many of our kids home, but it could also be used in any group of 8 or more.  I think our Monte Carlo Night was the brainchild of Ed Avink, who’s one of our class leaders and an architect. The only tricky part is that you need groups of 4 people to make it work, and probably at least 8 to make it work well. Here’s how to play: Either number people off into teams of 4 or let them gravitate naturally to a seat at any of the card tables you have set up. We had 17 tables of 4 people, but that’s way more than you need, and actually none of us got to play a hand with everybody.  To prepare, set up a room (or rooms) with one card table, four chairs, 4 score cards, a couple of pens, and a deck of cards on each table. Once people are settled:1. Have somebody at each table shuffle the cards.
2. Everybody takes a cut. The person with the highest card deals. Aces are high. If two people get the same card, then it goes by suit: Spades (highest), hearts, diamonds, and clubs (lowest) 3. Deal out all the cards by going from left to right around the circle. (Should end up with 13 cards per person.) It looks to me like it’s polite to wait until all the cards have been dealt before looking at your hand. 4. Play your hand according to the instructions on the game card. (Obviously, you could make up your own rules and number of hands. Fourteen hands took us close to three hours.) The person to the left of the dealer starts first, but after that, whoever has the highest card wins that “trick” and starts the next round.
5. After all the cards have been played, count your tricks (by team, with your partner being across the table from you) and record your score on your score sheet.  6. The tables are all numbered: 1-??? The two winners move on to the next highest-numbered table and play kitty-corner, so they have new partners for the next hand. The losers stay at the same table they were at but also change positions so that they are sitting kitty-corner and will each have a new partner
7. Play through all the hands.
8. Count up your final points.
9. The winner wins! At our Monte Carlo night, Dean won with some 2,100+ points. The next two tied at 1,900+. Alan and I were in the 1700 range, but some people ended up with 700+, so there’s a huge variation. I’m not sure if anybody needs to know who loses, but there was much admiration for our winner, so that was fun.  Nobody passed out a candy bar or anything as a prize, but everybody brought an appetizer, or a bottle of pop or juice to share, which worked out great, because sometimes you had to wait for the next table to finish before you could play again. Alan and I had several good opportunities for conversations with members of the class that we’d met but didn’t know very well, including one couple that we discovered were married just one month before us (both couples married nearly 46 years now) and had attended the same university, the same year, even living in the same married student housing, although we never met! Best of all, the next morning we learned that one of our newest members, who was widowed last January, shared that the night of our Monte Carlo game night was the night he would have celebrated his 51st anniversary, and he’d been dreading that day for weeks. He said going to the game night and enjoying everybody’s company had turned a terrible night into a blessing for him.  So, if you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate and reach out this holiday season, you might enjoy throwing a Monte Carlo Night! If you do, please let me know how it goes! Or, if you’re lonely and aren’t plugged into a good group for fellowship, let me know, and I’ll invite you to our Carol Sing coming up in December. You are also cordially invited to try out our Sunday school class. Not only is it warm and friendly, the teaching is excellent, and we pray for every request that’s given each week! Let me know, and I’ll tell you when and where . . . and introduce you to everybody! And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The Birthday Club Ventures to Shipshewana

This fall’s birthday adventure took us all the way down to the golden corn fields of northern Indiana and a little corner of the world where time seems to have stopped about a hundred and fifty years ago!Shipshewana (affectionately called “Shipshe” by the residents) is home to one of America’s thriving communities of Amish folks.  There are about a third of a million Amish people living in the United States now, mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.  They are most easily recognized by their head coverings, simple, modest dress  and style of transportation, which is exclusively horse-drawn carriages. (They will not own—but will ride—on other forms of transportation, such as school buses for the children.) If you want to take a tour of the town, they offer horse-drawn buggy rides!Or, you can eat sitting in a buggy at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in the little burg of Middlebury, which is where the girls took me for wonderful, old-fashioned buffet lunch of great country (and Amish-style) cooking!If you go to northern Indiana’s Amish country, I definitely recommend enjoying some of their excellent food, but come hungry, because you will get very full!  🙂

Besides yummy food, there are all sorts of interesting shops to visit,  so save some time to explore their wonderful assortment of homey craft stores. They’re also famous for their simple but sturdy, hand-crafted furniture. Susan’s youngest daughter married a young man whose mom works in Shipshe, so we stopped by for a visit!I always think of Grand Rapids as having a lot of Christian influence, but for those of us who love Scripture, Shipshewana is a shopper’s paradise!

The focus of the afternoon was a visit to Menno-Hof, a museum of Mennonite and Amish history. Menno-Hoff is a warm combination of personally guided segments of the tour and  state-of-the-art audio-visual explanations.  As I have baptist/brethren roots, I felt a real connection with the “anabaptist” movement that eventually spawned the Mennonite and Amish communities, although it wasn’t clear to me from reading the information at the museum if they believe the Gospel…the wonderful good news of salvation by faith alone through Christ, or if they are somehow depending on their humility, modesty, good works, and self-denial and to qualify them for heaven.  (If you are Amish and read this, please feel free to explain the Amish position to us, will you? Do you believe you are saved by being a faithful disciple, or do you pursue God’s holiness as an expression of gratefulness for his salvation?) We couldn’t do the museum justice in less than an hour or two, and it would have been easy to linger for longer, although the girls had more in store yet!One popular myth about the Amish is that if a farmer has an eligible daughter, he paints his front gate blue, which means young men may come ‘a courting! Although this is apparently not really true, The Blue Gate Restaurant capitalizes on the long-standing fable, and they serve wonderful food…such as you could imagine a mother might serve up to a favored prospective beau for her daughter! It was the  perfect place to stop in for our birthday party, and to experience some of their popular peanut butter, custard, and pumpkin pies. Diet alert for sure!! In all, we had another spectacular day, and I can heartily recommend visiting Shipshe sometime if you’re looking for a quiet, cozy place to relax and reflect.    The Amish folks live plain, simple lives, but everything we saw was pleasant!   Even their public restrooms (like the Blue Gate’s) were clean and beautiful!    And, everywhere we looked, there was something to lift our hearts to God!            So, if you’d like to get away from the frenetic pace of life sometime,          consider an afternoon or weekend retreat in an Amish community!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Drawing Lines

“God can draw a straight line with a crooked pencil” (passed on by Michael Faas, CEO of Metro Health). Last weekend Alan and I enjoyed attending Metro Health-University of Michigan Health’s annual fundraiser, this year to raise money to assist cancer patients…which is near and dear to our hearts!  We sat next to the CFO of Mel Trotter Rescue Mission, which is an outreach to the homeless in our area. Anybody can get free meals at Mel Trotter, but you earn the privilege of spending the night there by listening to a one-hour service where the gospel is preached.  Their current CFO was  one of the founding fathers of Pinnacle Bank, but instead of golfing in Florida, he’s spending his retirement years helping keep this great ministry (Mel Trotter) solvent! I am so grateful for people like this sweet couple! For about ten years when our kids were young and we had a “family band,” we helped out by providing music and a message about once a month down at Mel Trotter, and then I taught the ladies’ Bible study on Wednesday mornings for several more years, but we haven’t done anything since.  😦 Especially honored that evening was Michael Faas, who is retiring as the CEO after twenty-five years of faithful service to the hospital and our community. He could have talked about how wonderful he is, but instead he talked about how wonderful the incoming CEO is! I’ve never met Michael Fass personally, but I admired what he had to say, and he passed along one bit of wisdom that I hope I never forget: “God can draw a straight line with a crooked pencil.”  Isn’t that a beautiful thought? I can’t tell you how many times I saw lives transformed by the grace of God at Mel Trotter over the years. Conversions from alcoholism, drugs, and desperate situations are really undeniable miracles.  But, you know what? Those transformations are no more miraculous than the undeniable miracle God works in each one of us when we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior! We are all “crooked pencils” by birth…unable to perceive 100% truth or walk a truly straight line. Today is my 68th birthday, and I want to tell you that without Jesus as my Savior and the Bible as my moral compass, I’d be so lost! I’m still a “crooked pencil,” but I pray that God will use me to draw straight lines. Also, I’m thankful to be alive today! Thank you, Father, for sending your Son to die for us so that we can all have two birthdays: the day of our birth here on earth, and the day we are born again into everlasting life!

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).

CITYFEST: Let’s Remember!

Grand Rapids’ Ah-Nab-Awen Park was overflowing with thousands of Christians and seekers in search of fun and spiritual life this past weekend.  Some 450 churches and Christian organizations worked together to provide a weekend festival of family-friendly activities and entertainment, carnival-style booths with food (for sale) and lots of (free) information,  worship music, and great messages by Luis and Andrew Palau.  Alan and I came in time to see some incredibly daring stunt riders  doing flips and flights on their motorbikes. Over the course of the weekend, there were about a dozen famous Christian singers and bands sharing music and great stories of faith from their lives.

The high point for me was hearing the message by Andrew Palau, the son of evangelist Luis Palau. Andrew said that until he was 27, he ran away from God and tried to deny His existence, although the net effect was to become a frustrated, unhappy alcoholic. I’m not sure the circumstances of his conversion, but he shared that later he and his entire family were in a plane crash where an American Airlines jet broke into 3 pieces on a beach in Jamaica. Everyone survived, but from that day on, he realized the uncertainty of life, the certainty of death, and the importance of sharing the fact that God offers eternal life to everyone who will put their trust in Jesus. At the end, there was an invitation for people to join in a prayer of repentance and confession, and a sea of lights twinkled on when the opportunity was given to express a need for God’s help. It was a beautiful weekend, and an unforgettable evening, and I’d like to ask for Christians to continue praying for everyone who came to Christ that night.If you didn’t happen to be in Grand Rapids last weekend or make it to CITYFEST but are interested in hearing the message on “How to Get to Heaven” or would like reading materials to help you grow in your faith, you can access these resources here:

https://www.palau.org/

Also, I was also happy to hear that a movie is coming out next month (October) about the life of Luis Palau, who—as a little boy in Argentina—came to faith and has spent a lifetime sharing his joy in the Lord around the world. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s the link to the movie:

https://www.palauthemovie.com/

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:30-31

Would you like to become a Christian? If so, just ask! Pray something like this:

Dear God,

Thank you for loving me so much that you sent Christ to die for my sins, and the sins of everyone in the world. Thank you for the promise that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their savior from sin will not perish but will have everlasting life. I know that I have sinned and broken your laws many, many times. I believe that Jesus died in my place, to pay for my sins, and that you will forgive me based on what Jesus has done for me. I give my life to Jesus, asking him to become not only my savior but my lord. I gratefully accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. Thank you! Thank you for loving me and forgiving me. Thank you also for the precious gift of your Holy Spirit to guide me into all righteousness and goodness. Thank you for the Bible to teach me your truths. Help me to pray, to read your Word, the Bible, and to find other believers so that we can encourage each other in our faith. I love you! Amen.

 

Come Celebrate CITYFEST: It’s All Free!

If you’re going to be in Grand Rapids this weekend, I’d like to invite you to join in the joy of CITYFEST Saturday and Sunday at Ah-Nab-Awen Park (just across from the Gerald R. Ford Museum at 198 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). There will be lots of exciting music by award-winning bands like TobyMac and Mac Powell, some thrilling (I hope not too scary) BMX and FMX demos, a “fun zone,” and great gospel presentations by Luis and Andrew Palau.

Here’s the link to CITYFEST’s homepage and a 60-second promo: http://www.cityfestwestmichigan.org/

Check it out, and if you’ve got some time this weekend, I hope you join in and bring a friend!

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

 

Epic Changes

Over the past few months, we’ve experienced some epic changes, not only around our home, but in our family and at Alan’s office. I’ll work backwards, since the first epic change occurred at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, where Alan works. After months of intensive planning and preparation, the entire hospital system (which is now one of the largest free-standing psychiatric hospitals in the U.S.) switched over their medical records to Epic Systems Corporation, a software company that holds the records for some 64% of all the patients in America. It was truly an “Epic” change…hugely expensive, hugely difficult, but also hopefully hugely helpful in better caring for their patients.  The second (although tiny) epic change was the addition of a new baby in our family! Little Marius joined Michael and Grace’s family at their villa in Italy in July. I was blessed to be with them during this precious time, made particularly epic for me because I ended up caring for their four older children solo for a few days…a first for me in my 12-year grandma-ing career. Grace ended up back in the hospital for several days (she is fine now), and in Italy they wouldn’t allow the baby to stay unless Michael also stayed to care for him!  The last epic change I’ll report (although there are still more) is happening as I write: the addition of a new sun room onto our home. Talk about digging and grubbing in the dirt! The view out the window is thrilling and intimidating…so much so that we gave up an opportunity to have our son Jon’s family visit for fear of their three little girls getting inadvertently injured by falling into the pit or being run over by some monstrous machine. One day there was such a thunderous impact from workers removing concrete abutments that a music box fell off the mantle inside! Lots of jolts and jars…concrete and mud sprayed all over our music gear in the basement when a plastic drape fell, etc! Beyond these changes for us, we have two close friends who are in epic battles with cancer right now…one friend who was in the hospital for three weeks, and another couple who needed to move from their (his) home of 60 years into a condo. It feels a little the earth is quaking under my feet, not just in my home, but in my heart!     How are you doing? Are you also experiencing epic changes in your life?  If so, may I comfort you with this prayer by Henri J.M. Nouwen? “Dear Lord, Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: ‘It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.’ You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and down in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life, by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. . . .”  “O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea. Amen.” (—from A Cry for Mercy).Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:28-29). (I just spent 5 weeks in Europe, partly in Michael and Grace’s “castle in a cave,” and partly on a 3-week cruise of the North Sea, Iceland, and Norway. Hopefully, next week I’ll start recounting tales from these wonderful weeks of adventure! Meanwhile, God bless you! I pray for everyone who reads my blogs, that you will find all your needs met in God, our heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord!)

Learning to Focus at Church

Did you enjoy your Labor Day break? Are you ready for all the activities of fall?
I love this super short video! My friend (Jane A.) posted it on her Face Book page a while back, but I want my blog friends who aren’t on FB to be able to see it too. Such good advice! If you don’t have a church home at this point, this fall might be the perfect time to start going again. Growth, healing, and love are done best in community…even though no community is perfect!

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

P.S.—If you don’t have a church home and live in the Grand Rapids area, I’d love to have you visit our church, Calvary (on the Beltline). Let me know, and Alan and I can meet you there and introduce you to our Sunday school class if you have time! In big churches, being part of some smaller group—like a Sunday school class, the choir, or a life group—really helps a person feel a sense of belonging.