Iguazú (“Iguaçu”) Falls: The World’s Largest Waterfall System

Although there are higher, deeper, and wider waterfalls around the world, Iguazú is the largest waterfall system in the world.

Magnificent Iguazú Falls!

“Iguaçu” means “big water” in the native language.

Viewing the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls from the Brazilian side

This gorgeous system of falls forms part of the boundary between Brazil and Argentina in South America, and both countries have national parks to protect the pristine beauty “just as it had been created by God” (—André Roboucas, 1876).

Aerial view of the area before we landed at Iguazú Falls

Both national parks are also now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A rainbow of hope near the bottom of one of Iguazú’s 275 (+) falls

If you’re into native legends, it seems the falls were created when a deity plotted to marry a beautiful human named Naipí. However, Naipí attempted to escape in a canoe with her mortal lover, Tarobá. In a fury of unrequited love, the deity sliced the river in front of them, condemning them to an eternal fall.

Of course, I believe Iguazú Falls were created by the hand of the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth, who is eternal Love and creates beauty to be enjoyed, not out of spite! 🙂

View of Iguazú Falls from Viewing Tower, Brazilian Side

However you slice it, it’s one of the most breath-taking wonders of the world!

View of Iguazú Falls from the Trail on the Argentine side

In fact, it’s so majestic that Disney’s imagineers have featured it in Epcot’s simulated flight ride around the world called “Soarin.'”

Watch Tower and Rainbows at Iguazú Falls on the Brazilian side

(“Soarin'” is our family’s personal favorite ride and a “must see” if you ever go to Disney and might not ever go to South America).

Iguazú Falls from walkway on Brazilian side

The entire falls system is 1.7 miles long and fashioned from super hard igneous basalt columns that are part of the 3,300-foot thick Serra Geral Formation, so there’s only minuscule erosion each year.

(Only about 1.5 cm per year, versus 30 cm for Niagara!!)

Our guide, Jose, said there were 275 falls,

but the water level was so low that it looked more like “hundreds” to me!

Walkway to second level of Iguazú Falls on Brazilian side

The weather was perfect, and Jose also mentioned that it was ideal for actually seeing the falls, since when the river is really full, there’s so much mist that it’s hard to see much of anything in the canyon!

Half the river’s flow is through a long, narrow chasm called the “Devil’s Throat,”

Double Rainbow over Devil’s Throat

where the highest and deepest falls disappear into billows of rainbowed spray.

If you want, you can take a boat ride
that challenges the outer edges of the turbulence,

Panoramic View ofIguazú Falls

but I didn’t know that was an option before we signed up for our tour.

Capybara feeding on grasses along bank of Iguazu River

Ultimately, I was completely satisfied with how we spent our time,

Iguana at Iguazú National Park

because our guide was a local Brazilian who spotted all sorts of wildlife

in the distance

Caiman swimming in Iguazú River

that we would never have noticed had he not pointed things out!

Jose spent two days hiking us over twelve miles
along trails on both sides of the falls.

Great white heron fishing at Iguazú Falls. Argentine side

He was an expert in the natural, historical,
and even personal aspects of living with the falls.

“Black Fish” (excellent eating!) and minnows in the Iguazu River

Jose could tell all sorts of stories,
including how his father used to fish the falls fifty years ago!

Jungle Train!

On the Argentine side, a rainforest ecological train
transports you through the jungle to three access points:

The upper and lower falls, and the Devil’s Throat.

We arrived early, but the line for the train was already an hour long, so Jose had us walk through the jungle path to the Devil’s Throat.

Although it was a little early in the season for jaguars and pumas (which I was ambivalent about confronting face-to-face anyway), we enjoyed watching the antics of monkeys

Iguana ambling across the path at Iguazú Falls

and the bumbling progress of iguanas and various lizards of all sizes.

Coati walking past me on one of the trails at Iguazu Falls, Argentina

We also had many opportunities to observe what they called “raccoons,” although we call them “coatis” in America.

The coatis seemed completely nonchalant about interacting with people, although they can bite your fingers off or give you nasty scratches,

so there are signs everywhere warning people to stay out of their way.

In fact, they are so aggressive about looking for food that there are cages—not for the coatis, but for the tourists, if you prefer eating in peace without being challenged!

(We ate inside a lovely “cage” that kept the coatis at bay!)

By comparison to the world’s others greatest waterfall systems, I think overall the Iguaçu Falls are the most beautiful I’ve personally seen! The largest by volume of water is Boyoma Falls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (600,000 cu ft/s versus Niagara in second place at 85,000cu ft/s). However, none of the seven cataracts of Boyoma Falls are more than 16 feet high, so they might not be as dramatic to view (although I’ve never been there, so it may be more the remoteness of the Congo and the civil unrest that keeps it from being a big tourist attraction).

Angel Falls in Venezuela

The highest falls in the world are Angel Falls in Venezuela (3,212 ft), although they’re so far into an isolated jungle that it’s very difficult to actually get to see them, so I’ve not attempted to visit them either.

Victoria Falls as seen from Zambezi National Park

The largest “curtain” of water is at Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe (5,604 ft wide with an over 354-foot drop).

We visited Victoria Falls a couple of years ago, where we went swimming in the Zambezi River and cozied up in the Devil’s Pool for a bit, so we could look over the edge into the misty abyss below the falls.

American and Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls

Last but not least (among the world’s great falls), is our very own Niagara Falls between the United States and Canada. Although it isn’t “first” at anything, among the highest waterfalls in the world it does have the greatest mean annual flow rate because the Niagara River is typically so much deeper than the Iguazú River system.

Shallow water, just a few inches deep, coursing over Iguazú Falls

Hope this wasn’t statistical overload, and I hope you enjoy numbers. However, I think you’d love visiting Iguazú Falls if you’ve not gone yet, and meanwhile, I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing a little bit of our adventure! It always makes me happy to be able to share!

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

(Photo Credits: *Aerial view of entire falls system by Claudio Elias – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1517981.
** Angel Falls: Used by permission; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SaltoAngel4.jpg)

The rest are mine, taken a few weeks ago while visiting in Brazil and Argentina. 🙂

What’s Better Than Life?

So the quandary I’ve been pondering this past week is how to accept Jesus’ challenge to find something even more absorbing than the essentials of physical life on which to focus my thoughts.

Fish Market in Manaus, Brazil

In a way, I knew the answer as soon as I understood how to phrase the question! In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus says, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” But, my first thought was, “Wait, how can anybody not worry about food and shelter? We can’t survive without these basic essentials! Isn’t that true?

Returning to the Iberostar after exploring in a smaller river boat

Yes, that is true, but recently Alan and I were on a vacation where we were reminded again that there’s something even better than life, and we found it on the Amazon.

Aerial View of the Amazon

Well . . . we weren’t checking out the “Amazon” in Seattle that’s taking over the world of commerce in America, we were exploring a few miles of the world’s largest river system and tropical rain forest on the Iberostar Grand Amazon, a lovely 148-passenger cruise liner. But, let me tell you my tale of how I learned that even on the Amazon people have discovered there’s something better than the pursuit of food and shelter in this life.

Amazonia’s water basin meanders through 2,720,000 square miles in nine South American countries and is the greatest watershed on earth, discharging an average of 55 million gallons per second!!

Massive waterways through the Amazonian River System

This massive runoff accounts for 20% of the entire world’s river discharge into our oceans, and that’s more water than is expelled by the next seven rivers combined!

Blue Macaw giving himself a pedicure 🙂

Beyond being the largest water system in the world, Amazonia is home to the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world.

Monkey feasting on the berries from a tree in Brazil

One in ten of the known species throughout the world exist in Amazonia!

Grasshopper stealing a sip from my water glass 😦

For a starter, there are 2.5 million insect species, and before we were allowed to enter the country, we had to have Yellow Fever vaccinations. Because malaria and dengue fever are endemic, we also took oral malaria medication.

Coatie munching a stolen apple

Amazonia also boasts predators like jaguars, pumas, black caiman, anacondas, vampire bats, and poison dart frogs, not to mention a host of other critters that are willing to tangle for their supper, so the possibility for contracting rabies or some other unwanted disease is far from nil.

Houseboat on the Rio Negro

It was in this environment of rich natural resources but extremely humble surroundings that I pondered the question of how any of us can possibly not worry about our food and clothing.

Young fisherman displaying some of his fresh catch of the day

First, I think that no matter where we live, we might have to live like the indigenous people along the Amazon, who get up in the middle of the night to start fishing. Most people (including my husband) work extremely hard to earn their (our) daily bread (or fish)!!

Mother and child loading their fishing boat

Still, God doesn’t want us to allow our need for physical sustenance to be the consuming focus of our thoughts. He wants us to recognize that there is something even more important than the physical world, and something even better than life. Do you know what that is?

Floating supermarket near one of the bigger cities along the Amazon

I found the answer among the tools and sacks of food supplies at this little floating market.

You need it? They’ve got it!
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!”

So I brought home this coarse little towel to remind me of what’s even more important and better than life: The Lord! “Thy lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). With the Lord as our shepherd, we can stop worrying about our physical lives. We don’t have to “want” for anything! As we trust God, He will make a way for us, and when life is over, we will pass through the valley of the shadow of death and dwell with Him forever!

Horses drinking from the Amazon River

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (Psalm 23)

(All photos taken during our trip to Amazonia, Brazil, last week.)

Celebrating Baḍādaśãi बडादशैँ घटस्थापना Dashain: The Blood of Bulls and Goats

I debated whether or not to write on this experience while visiting “Incredible India and Nepal,” and whether or not to illustrate it with actual photos, but we happened to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durban Square (in Kathmandu, Nepal) when they were celebrating their most important festival in the Nepal Sambat (lunar calendar).

Crowded streets of Kathmandu, Nepal

As a holiday, it felt a bit like Christmas for Christians, in that people had come home from all around the world to be with friends and family during this time. However, instead of celebrating the birth of Christ (as Christians do), Dashain is a time of celebrating the victory of the goddess Parvati over the evil demon Mahishasura, who was terrorizing Devaloka (the world of the gods) but was finally killed by Durga, who is a manifestation of Parvati as the goddess of war . . . if I understand correctly. I am clearly not an expert on Hinduism!

During the fifteen days that Dashain is celebrated, there are various holy days with special events, but the most holy was the day we happened to be there while they were sacrificing bulls and goats in the temple. I believe our tour guide said they sacrificed 89 bulls, one for each of the most prominent manifestations of the gods.

Depiction of one of Hindu gods in Durbar Square, Kathmadu, India

Hinduism is a very complicated religion, and just like many religions, different people have different ways of explaining what they believe their religion teaches. Our guide explained that there are 339 million gods, and that new gods are named continuously as people discover more about the universe. I’ve read sources that say all the gods are just manifestations of the “ultimate reality” known as Brahma, and I’ve read other sources that say the supreme being is Krishna, and all the others are demi-gods helping him run the universe.

Celebrating Dashain at Hindu Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hinduism is also an ancient religion that has developed into significantly different branches in the various countries where it is practiced, most evidently in India and Nepal, so what our guide believes might be quite different from what other Hindus believe.

Sacrificial bulls and goats being removed from Hindu Temple

Nevertheless, I believe I’m correct in understanding that the priests had sacrificed 89 bulls and goats in order to appease the 89 gods the people were worshiping. We just happened to be walking by as they were dragging the beheaded animals out of the temple, and we all stood in stunned silence.

Some looked sick and turned away, while others were very curious and took lots of photos. I kept thinking of the passage that starts in Hebrews 9: 11 and reads through Hebrews 10:1-25. It’s a long passage, and is somewhat hard to understand, but the point is that Jesus Christ came as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins because the blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Only Christ, as the perfect, sinless Lamb of God could become the perfect, eternally efficacious sacrifice for our sins.

Like some in our group, you may find yourself repulsed by the thought of a bloody sacrifice being made to remediate for sins.

Crucifixion by Michelangelo, 1540

But, I hope you are drawn to the mysterious beauty of Christ—out of infinite love—sacrificing his life for yours and mine, so that we can have all our sins forgiven and be made right before God. Isn’t this sublime? “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour o flife unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Goat sacrificed to the Hindu gods in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hebrews 9:11-Hebrews 10: 1-25 (bold print added by me): “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. [starting Hebrews 12] “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 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.”

Temple in Durbar Square. Kathmandu, Nepal

Roof Tops of the World

As a short woman living in flat state, I can’t even see the dust on top of my refrigerator, so don’t ask me what’s on my neighbor’s roof . . . or even what it’s made of!

Grackles and leaves on my roof!

In fact, half the time I don’t even know what’s on top of my own roof! 🙂

Flying through the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal

However, a couple of years ago in the fall, Alan and I traveled through Nepal, a country which calls itself “The Roof Top of the World” because it’s home to 8 out of 10 of our world’s highest peaks. (Although technically it is second to Bhutan in average elevation [at 10,715 feet, versus 10,760 in Bhutan].)

Bundles of sticks and tin roofing secured b y stones in Nepal

While riding high up in a big bus traveling through the mountains of Nepal, I was often able to look down on homes and was fascinated by all the materials and methods these inventive people use to protect their homes from the elements.

Clay Tiles on Roof of Home in Nepal

To be sure, some of the homes were beautiful, new, and in excellent repair,

Shingles on farms in the mountains

but those homes were more exceptional than standard.

Thatched Roof in Mountains of Nepal

By comparison, this home seemed like a pretty prosperous farm.

Home sheltered by bamboo poles, grasses, and sheets of material

But, the roofs on some of the homes
seemed really inadequate to shelter those who lived within. 😦

Tin roofing on shops along the Privthivi Highway in Nepal

The average “prosperous” shops along the highway we traveled had tin roofing.

Tin and shingle roofing on new construction

Some of the more upscale building projects included tin and shingles, which I bet was a pretty effective combination.

Concrete rooftop on apartment building

Many of the multi-storied apartment buildings had concrete roofs and balconies, which seemed like a very secure method for protecting the occupants!

Grass growing atop the apartment building on the left

Before our trip was over, I’d seen just about every type of roofing material imaginable!

Beautiful thatched roof and tin on farm
Canvas Roof over Restaurant
Plastic Sheeting over small business
Roof made from sticks reinforced with plastic
Grass, and garden vegetable vines growing over boards on rooftop!

Beyond the problem of what materials to use was the issue of how to keep the roof on!

Rows of bricks keeping tin roof in place

I suppose there are many high winds living in the mountains, so most of the roofs were reinforced with heavy materials such as these rows of bricks.

Heavy rocks reinforce tin roofs

The other issue is that destructive earthquakes are very common.

Rock-lined tin roof on commercial buildings in Nepal

I’m not sure what happens when an earthquake shakes the ground of places like this, edged with heavy boulders . . .

A tray of hot peppers drying in the sun on top of this roof! 🙂

Over the course of our trip, I saw all sorts of unusual things on rooftops!

A bird resting on the head of a serpent hanging over a man on a tower . . .

My personal favorite were the monkeys, although we were warned that they are cunning thieves with bites worse than their barks, so we were told to beware!

Surveying all the rooftops on my journey made me think about my own “house” and what I use as “roofing material” (if you will) to protect it.

Homes from sticks and boards with thatched roofs in country village
Cascades of bougainvillea and vines hanging from rooftop
of Nepal’s Temple Tree Resort

The Bible says that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God wants me to make my body “home” a place of beauty that will glorify God, and I suspect He wants me to have a secure “roof” protecting my life as well.

Tin roof secured with old tires

Physically, I believe that means to be healthy, clean, well-groomed,
and modestly (but attractively) dressed . . . in good repair! Spiritually, that probably includes having my head—my mind—pure and protected too!

Not all of us can be rich and have well-protected roofs materially, but we can all be rich and well protected spiritually if we want to be!

What does that look like, and how can I protect the roof top of my spirit?
We don’t have to be left wondering what to do,
because God has made us an offer too good to pass up!
Roof top of Samode Palace in Jaipur, India

God invites us to let Him be our rock, our fortress, our high tower, our refuge, and our “roof top” if you will! He can provide for us in ways that we could never provide for ourselves—physically and spiritually!

All you have to do is ask!

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.” (Psalm 61:1-4).

Pass It On
(—Kurt Kaiser, 1969)

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

“What a wonderous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you’ve experienced it.
You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

“I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound
I’ll shout it from the mountain tops
I want the world to know
The Lord of Love has come to me
I want to pass it on.”

A Look into the Life and Legacy of J.R.R.Tolkien

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

“The Father of Modern Fantasy,” John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (BBC News)

Today, nobody stumbles over the name “Tolkien” in the English-speaking world, but back in 1962, when I was in junior high, it was all news to me! The Lord of the Rings was just becoming popular in America, and one of my closest friends, Danny Green, kept me fascinated as he reported day by day what he’d read about the little Hobbit who had to leave his cozy home and go adventuring to save Middle Earth. Since those days, Tolkien’s series has ranked as one of the most popular fiction works of the twentieth century!

Fifty-five years later, I’ve still not read Tolkien’s fantasy books for myself, but I was delighted to watch the recently released movie, Tolkien, based on the youth and formative years of this brilliant and dedicated scholar!

There is so much I didn’t know about Tolkien, and almost everything I learned has made me admire him more than ever! Tolkien lived in Britain and was orphaned at a young age. He was among those who had to make his way in the world through sheer grit . . . for Tolkien—hard work, wisdom, and unending, passionate drive.

At a young age, he fell in love with another orphan, and the movie records their very sweet relationship. (Although, as in all good romances, there were many challenges, twists, and uncertainties.)

Because of his brilliance as a student and the care of the Catholic priest who was his guardian, Tolkien was eventually allowed to attend Oxford, where he succeeded in becoming fast friends with several of his classmates. (This was no easy feat, either! My father, who attended Harvard for graduate school—also in philology—as a young man during the Great Depression, found it very difficult trying to fit in with the wealthy elite without the trappings of material privilege.)

Perhaps the most difficult part of Tolkien’s journey was his military service during World War 1. The movie is PG-13, so the war scenes—though terrifying and disheartening—are not about the gore but rather to give us a feel for the intense suffering and emotional trauma that all soldiers experienced.

Did he survive the war? Did he get to marry the girl of his dreams? Did he get to finish his studies? When and how did he become so famous? All great questions, and most of them were answered in this wonderful depiction of his life!

The very best aspect of the movie (for me) was the goodness of Tolkien’s character throughout (in stark contrast to most stories you hear about the “bright young things” of his era). Sometimes people are so bright and shiny with goodness that it just makes you wonder why, so I studied more of his life from Wikipedia. There I discovered the reason: He had a “deeply religious spirit.” As Tolkien explained: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

Sign in the Eagle and Child Restaurant, Oxford

Ah, ha! Yes, I did know of the connection between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and the good spiritual influence Tolkien had been on Lewis, helping him come to faith. It was C.S. Lewis who later wrote Mere Christianity . . . the book that influenced both my mother and my dear aunt, “Lant Henna,” to believe in Christ many years hence!

Alan and I even made a bit of a “pilgrimage” to Oxford’s Eagle and Child (pub/restaurant where their literary group, The Inklings, met) with two of our sons (one of whom is now an editor and aspiring writer himself). So, we have a very personal experience of being inspired and edified by the works of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

So, thank you Tolkien, and thank you to those of you who gifted us with this great movie! I hope many people see it and find the story uplifting and encouraging!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Free Movie: Have You Started Your Pilgrimage?

Have you ever read The Pilgrim’s Progress? If you’re under thirty, you may not have even heard of The Pilgrim’s Progress, although it’s one of the most significant works ever written in the English language (some say it is the first English novel), and until recently it was second only to the Bible as the most published book in the English language!

“Christian Reading His Book,” by William Blake from the Frick Collection, NYC

If you love reading, this is the one classic I hope you don’t miss. During World War I, many of the English soldiers carried a copy in their pockets to help keep up their courage!

The Pilgrim’s Progress from a 1683 printing

Written almost 350 years ago (1678) by John Bunyan and originally titled The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come, the story is an allegory about the spiritual journey every Christian takes.

If you’re not familiar with the story, this might be the perfect time to learn about it, as an animated version of this great classic has just come out, and anyone can watch it free online August 25-26 (2019) if they register using the link below (which simply asks for your email address so they can send you the link).

https://www.pilgrims.movie/live-event-201908/

When our children were little, Alan read through Little Pilgrim’s Progress several times aloud to our family.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress is a charming adaptation by Helen Taylor and told in a way that will make little eyes grow wide from time to time without causing nightmares! (It can be ordered on Amazon right now for $4.41.)

Although the artwork in older editions of this classic tale
is wonderfully detailed,

and I love all the beautiful pictures,

the 2019 animated version combines more realistic graphics with a more “modern” fairy-tale look that will be familiar to children today

without compromising the story (or so I’ve read).

Heretofore I’ve always reviewed movies after I’ve seen them, but this time I’ll be watching right along with you if you choose to view the movie during their free event. Therefore, I’ll be especially interested to hear any comments you might have about the movie. Is the movie true to the book? Is the message compelling? Are the characters believable and likeable?

Have you started on your own pilgrimage toward heaven? If so, do you identify with all the frightening, disheartening, and thrilling adventures that befall Christian? If you haven’t started your journey, does the movie inspire you to strike out in search of God?

A Plan of the Road from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City (1821, Wiki)

Will you join me on the pilgrimage
from this world to that which is to come?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13, speaking of a multitude of faithful believers who went on their pilgrimage to heaven before Jesus came to earth).

“Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green

“We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful,
may the fire of our devotion
light their way.
may the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful.
Surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses,
let us run the race
not only for the prize,
but as those who’ve gone before us.
let us leave to those behind us,
the heritage of faithfulness
passed on through godly lives.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful.”

Home Along the Dead River Falls

Have you ever thought about the fact that some time may be your last time? When our children were little, we lived in a beautiful home on 50 acres of pristine woods that abutted the Dead River Falls in Marquette, Michigan.

Our six sons and little girl spent endless hours playing among the ferns and foliage in that somewhat paradisal setting, and so when we took our two oldest and their children on a Roots Tour of the Upper Peninsula last month, it was important to us (and them!) to hike their beloved Dead River Falls with their kids.

Foxgloves (from our old home), ferns, and a little boy

I had contracted a miserable cold and felt feverish that morning, so I slept until after noon while the kids took their hike, which broke my heart in a way, but I was too sick to participate. So . . . what are you going to do??

They didn’t want to disturb the present owners of our old home (with nine rambunctious children), so they parked along the power line (on property which had been taken away from us by “right of public domain” . . . so we felt justified in still using it) and retraced what had been a very common and extremely pleasurable hike.

Wild strawberries and wild blueberries ripening at the same time
in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

In the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), it is so cold and the growing season so short that all the flowers and fruits that are going to grow have to grow quickly, and you can often find more than one crop of wild berries ripening at the same time!

Scrambling up steep rock faces along the Dead River Falls in Michigan

If you’re ever in the Marquette area, a half day adventure climbing the Dead River Falls is well worth the effort! According to “Great Lakes Waterfalls and Beyond,” this is “one of the best waterfall adventures in Michigan,” and I totally agree!

In a 0.7-mile stretch, the Dead River drops 90 feet on its way to Lake Superior, tumbling over a wonderful series of waterfalls.

Three of the waterfalls drop over 15 feet, but there are dozens of merry falls cascading down the rocky river bed.

Shortly after we moved to Marquette, Alan and I took a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands, and we felt like Maui’s “Seven Sacred Pools” were no more beautiful (albeit a great deal more well known)!

Seven Sacred Pools by Eric Chan, Wikipedia Commons

(In truth, it was very dry when we visited Maui, and just googling for images of the Seven Sacred Pools now, I see that when they are full they are bigger and more spectacular. Still, there aren’t as many waterfalls, and they are less cloistered, so I think thirty years later I still prefer the Dead River Falls!)

Kids examining a garter snake along the Dead River Falls

Besides, there are no snakes in Hawaii,
and what would a nature hike be without snakes?

(What, you say you’d like that??!?) 🙂

If you’d like to use your GPS to find the lower trailhead,
it’s located at: 46.56841N 87.47839W

Picnic Lunch along the Dead River Falls
(You have to wash up in the river afterward and pack out all your trash. It’s rustic!)

Before making the somewhat arduous trek back to the top of the falls, they stopped for a picnic lunch. Major Armstrong’s army skills and strength came in handy, as he packed and carried ALL the supplies for a scrumptious lunch (along with his youngest son in a front pack).

The Dead River Falls were such a magical part of the kids’ growing up years that I wrote a mystery story for them called The Dead River Diamonds. A GR publishing house expressed interest in it, although they wanted me to cut down the number of children from seven to four, which I couldn’t imagine doing! How could I ever “cut out” any of my kids? Maybe someday I will improve it and find a publishing house who will consider a mystery series based on a such an unfashionably large family. 🙂

Father, sons, and grand children along the Michigan’s Dead River Falls

I have every hope of returning to the Dead River Falls again some day, but as I write, I’m grieving with a young friend who just lost her precious husband, who is the age of my sons.

One of my sons dated her older sister when they were teens. It occurred to me that I may never live to hike the Dead River Falls again. In fact, my sons and even my grand sons may not live to hike the falls again—what a horrible thought!

Looking back, even long lives seem short; how much shorter those that end before their youthful beauty fades? “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isaiah 40:6-7).

Family enjoying a day at the Dead River Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

It is my earnest hope and prayer that my family—and everyone who reads this—will enjoy a long, healthy, active life. But, I have to ask: Are you as prepared to die as you are to live? “Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:13-14). “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Are you saved? If you’re not sure, all you have to do is ask Christ to save you: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:9-11).