I cannot walk wherever I want, but I can walk. I cannot talk with whomever I wish, but I can talk. I cannot see whoever I want, but I can see. I cannot do whatever I want, but I can be. I cannot eat whatever I want, but I can eat. I am confined in many ways, but life’s still sweet.
I cannot hug, but I can love. I can’t do all I’m dreaming of. I cannot touch, but I can keep. I cannot guard, but I can sleep. I cannot save, but I can pray. Thank you, Father, for this day!
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
(No, we’re not on vacation with our two youngest sons in Ireland this morning; I’m sheltering in place at home. But, I am very grateful to be alive and more or less well after significantly recovering from the flu or a light case of COVID-19)!
If you live in the Grand Rapids area and haven’t experienced Rebecca Louise Law’s “The Womb” exhibit at Meijer Garden, I want to encourage you to take time to visit before this spectacular artistic creation ends on March 1.*
What is it? An entire gallery filled with a million flowers and plants from Rebecca’s personal collection plus ten thousand botanic treasures gleaned from Meijer Garden, all dried and strung from the ceiling in delicate chains on tiny copper wires.
Why? To give you an intimate and immersive experience of feeling like you’re personally enveloped in a warm cocoon . . . complete with the comforting sound of a beating heart.
In Rebecca Louise Law’s own words: “I like to capture and treasure small beautiful natural objects to create an artwork that can be observed without the pressure of time. Preserving, treasuring, celebrating and sharing the beauty of the Earth with the world is what drives me.”
And, who is Rebecca Law? She’s a British installation artist—born in 1980, grew up in a little village in the U.K, and studied at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures in England.
(As a fun side note, my daughter-in-law Gerlinde also studied at Newcastle University about the same time!) Law has exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Academy of Arts and the V&A (all in London) as well as in galleries in NYC, San Francisco, Athens, France, etc.
So, this is a young and upcoming internationally acclaimed artist with a heart for beauty and nature . . . and the warmth of the womb, exquisitely portrayed through blown glass and paintings which compliment her sublimely sensual experience (in the best possible way) of being encompassed in a womb of flowers.
As I wandered through the quiet beauty, I felt more than anything a silent witness to the sanctity and miraculous nature of life. And death. The natural flow from life to death in the drying flowers.
I tried to imagine 1,010,000 flowers all fresh and alive with color and fragrance. Can you imagine?
Although I’ve been back repeatedly and taken all my favorite family and friends who’ve visited since the exhibit opened last September, it wasn’t until last weekend—strolling through the halls with Alan—that we realized he’d somehow missed seeing this exhibit!
We’d been there the weekend before and meandered through all the snow-covered gardens outside.
We’d visited Meijer Garden with the family at December when we admired all the Christmas trees adorned so brightly with ornaments from countries around the world.
How was it possible that he’d missed seeing this stunning exhibition? We had to walk right past the door into the art gallery on every visit, where the name of the latest exhibit is proclaimed clearly on the wall.
Is it possible that you—like Alan—are walking right past the door to a wonderful opportunity every day of your life without taking time to read the signs or explore the goodness within? It’s so easy to focus on what we know and already enjoy without taking time to look around. In this world of distractions and time measured mechanically rather than spiritually, are you missing out?
God is a God of abundance and joy, which He offers to each of us. Jesus taught in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The psalmist also reflected this thought in the Old Testament: “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).
Although I think for many of us (at least in America), trusting under the shadow of God’s wings often leads to physical abundance, it doesn’t always. I don’t believe in a “wealth gospel.” However, I firmly believe in a gospel that brings spiritual abundance: “They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).
Notice what is abundant here: goodness and righteousness. If you want a life blessed by an abundance of goodness, righteousness, and the pleasures that flow from a life lived in the light of God’s presence, then please, please put your trust in God, our refuge and fortress, and in his Son, Jesus, our Lord and our Savior!
“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2).
“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).
*This exhibit has been running since September and will continue through February until Sunday, March 1.
If you go Sunday, March 1, it will be super crowded, but you will also be able to experience the first day of “Butterflies are Blooming” in the conservatory, which is always like a gulp of springtime air for winter-weary hearts. So, if you don’t mind crowds, that would be another excellent option. Also, the first photo is from Meijer Garden’s website. The rest are mine, taken at Meijer Garden.
Dear Heavenly Father . . . Oh Lord, my Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!
Thank you for creating this indescribably majestic world as a home for people—for all people—every person who has ever lived, the ones born thousands of years ago, those who live today, and those who will be born in the future. People I know and love, and the billions I’ll never meet on this earth. Thank you for creating us to need each other. Thank you for telling us to love each other and take care of one another. Help me to be kind and learn how to love the way you love.
Thank you for the beauty of this earth. Thank you for creating the seas—awesome! Powerful. Mesmerizing. Throbbing with power. Teeming with life. Thank you for water in all its forms—warm, moist breezes in the spring and frozen stars of ice falling from heaven as winter sets in. For clouds and rain, for streams and rivers, for our tiny lake, and for lakes so huge they look like oceans. For brooks that gurgle, waterfalls that roar, and waves that pound and lull. I feel like I could sit forever beside the sea, just drinking in the scents and sights and sounds. Thank you for water. Water is life to me. Thank you for the Water of Life, too—Jesus . . . that fountain of eternal life you’ve caused to spring up within me.
Thank you for forming the dry land . . . the unending display of beauty in nature seen in the trees and flowers, and the unending parade of curious creatures. Thank you for the astounding variations in topography, the rocks and rifts. Mountains so remote most of us will never stand beneath their shadow. Trenches so deep we could never withstand the pressure of descending into them. Lava flows that would incinerate us instantly should we attempt to walk on them. Icy polar winds that would freeze us solid in minutes if we dared to face them unprotected. Lord, as frail humans, we can only stand in awe of your creation, and of You, the One who has created such splendor and power for us to contemplate, but who is infinitely greater than everything we can see in the world around us.
Thank you for the seemingly infinite sea of stars above us, too. I look up into the night sky and marvel. Finger play? With your fingers you made the moon and the stars? What must heaven be like? By day, we can see the sun, without which we would all die within hours. How like your Son, through whom all things consist and without which nothing would exist. He is the energy that holds all things together and keeps all things from collapsing! The sun: We can see it, and we can’t live without it, but we can’t look at it, because it’s so brilliant we will become blind if we dare to stare at it. How like You! The glory of your radiance makes it impossible to see You! And yet, you have given us Jesus, the express image of your person for us to behold. God in the flesh for us to have and to hold. God become man, who purged our sins by his own blood so that we could be reconciled to God.
Thank you for salvation—that whosoever will may come and receive eternal life as a free gift from your hand. Thank You for giving us your Word, the Word of God—a lamp to our feet and a light to our path to guide us through this life. Thank you for your Holy Spirit to brood over us and rebirth our spirits into new life so that we can see your kingdom, sense your presence, and experience your fellowship. Thank you for your Church and the communion of the saints. May your love flow through us to all those around us. May your kingdom come and your will be done all around the world, even as it is in heaven.
I love you, Lord! Thank you for life. Thank you for allowing me to enter your gates with thanksgiving and come into your courts with praise. May I bless your name and be thankful unto you for as long as I live, and into eternity—forever and ever! Amen.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Although there are higher, deeper, and wider waterfalls around the world, Iguazú is the largest waterfall system in the world.
“Iguaçu” means “big water” in the native language.
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).
Both national parks are also now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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! 🙂
However you slice it, it’s one of the most breath-taking wonders of the world!
In fact, it’s so majestic that Disney’s imagineers have featured it in Epcot’s simulated flight ride around the world called “Soarin.'”
(“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).
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!
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,”
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,
but I didn’t know that was an option before we signed up for our tour.
Ultimately, I was completely satisfied with how we spent our time,
because our guide was a local Brazilian who spotted all sorts of wildlife
in the distance
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.
He was an expert in the natural, historical, and even personal aspects of living with the falls.
Jose could tell all sorts of stories, including how his father used to fish the falls fifty years ago!
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
and the bumbling progress of iguanas and various lizards of all sizes.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
Ever hear of Chand Baori? It’s in Abhaneri, which is near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Does that help? I didn’t think so! Ever hear of stepwells? If you have, you’re a step well ahead of me! 🙂 (Was that a groan I heard?)
Before we visited Chand Baori in India, I didn’t have a clue what stepwells are, and I was unfamiliar with any of the names above!
However, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s insignificant! In fact, the word “stepwell” isn’t even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (considered the “gold standard” for many American publishers), but thankfully, it’s in Wikipedia, which explains that stepwells are ponds or wells dug deep into the earth and surrounded by series of steps that descend to the bottom. Stepwells are the brainchild of India and developed as early as the 8th-9th century AD.
The utilitarian purpose was to provide a water supply even during the hot months of summer drought, although many of the remaining stepwells had shaded rooms that were also a bit cooler, where women (particularly royalty) could rest and socialize.
Because water is so essential to life, many of the stepwells also provided adjacent temples, where people could worship various gods and thank them for providing water. Over the centuries, some of the more prominent stepwells were elaborately ornamented, and now they are considered national monuments.
Alan and I visited Chand Baori, which is one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning stepwells in India. It has a beautifully symmetrical system of staircases running down 13 stories to about 100 ft. below ground. In all, there are 3,500 stone steps. Chand Baori is truly a work of art and beauty!
Today Chand Baori also houses various archeological treasures, so it’s a living historical museum as well!
It all looked so beautiful, except the gorgeous green pond was covered with a thick layer of algae and had all sorts of debris floating in it.
I said to myself, “Well, of course they don’t use the water from stepwells any more!”
Just a few days later, I observed a man collecting water from a stepwell in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.
He patiently cleared a space in the algae before gathering his water, but I wasn’t convinced that the water would be very clean, even so!
Since returning home, I’ve thought often about stepwells . . . the fact that I’d never heard of them, but they do exist.
The fact that they are still being used today, even though they probably aren’t very sanitary. How do people survive?
I know everybody thinks their way of doing things is best, and that their gods are the best, but I want to offer Jesus as an alternative to the millions of fearsome gods that are worshiped in India. If you live in India, you may never have heard about Jesus before, but just like I didn’t know about stepwells—and even if Jesus isn’t in your list of gods—that does not mean that Jesus doesn’t exist! Jesus is the “God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47)—everything wonderful wrapped up in one God— and he offers spiritual water that is pure and holy. He is the Lord, “the fountain of living waters” (see Jeremiah 17:13 and Revelation 7:17) who can quench our spiritual thirst: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
He is also the author of true joy and happiness: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Can you imagine the joy of worshiping the one true God, who is a Spirit and calls for all of us to worship him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:24). This God can provide spiritual water for your soul that will spring up into eternal life. He can protect you from evil. He loves you with an everlasting love and gave Himself so that you can become One with him. His name is Jesus, and He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:6).
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).
July is the perfect time to visit Mackinac Island!
And, the eight-mile road around the island on Highway M-185 is the perfect venue for taking young kids on a big biking adventure, because it’s the only highway in America where no cars are allowed!
So, a couple of weeks ago we headed north with our two oldest sons and their families on a U.P. “roots” tour, including a trip across the Straits of Mackinac on a Shepler ferry boat to spend a day on Mackinac Island.
It was a picture-perfect day, and we were all in very high spirits!
Although the nine grandchildren are living in suburban California and Belgium now (read that, no easy, safe places for long bike adventures), they were all up for the challenge, so the first stop was to get fitted on bikes.
Mike pulled the baby in a Burley, and Grace had a trail-a-bike for their four-year-old. Actually, trailer bikes (which have wheels for pedaling while allowing the parent to control the balance) are recommended for the 4-7 year-old set, but our two seven-year-olds opted to ride their own bikes, which was very brave of them!
Alan and I took a little razzing from the attendant for what he must have considered a non-feminist approach to modern cycling, but we opted for a bicycle built for two. After (literally) more than 50 years of riding such bicycles around the island together, we weren’t about to be talked out of our old-fashioned favorite.
There are many advantages to riding on a bicycle built for two! You’re always together; you can hear, talk, and be super close to each other at all times (very bonding).
The other advantage, at least for me, is having total freedom to take photographs of all the gorgeous scenery as we pass by!
Highway M-185 is full of flowers on both sides of the road all through the summer, so all you have to do is avoid horses and other people while soaking in the beauty!
We did take numerous stops along the way to enjoy all the byways, including a little wetland walk, where we learned that there are over 415 varieties of wildflowers on the island!
We have lots of budding (and grown) botanists in the family, so the kids stopped to check out many of the flowers and captivating critters.
I’m not sure if it was the flowers, the the gorgeous water, or too many cousins riding too close together, but one of the seven-year-olds took a bad spill at one point!
I’m sure Judah was in a lot of pain from the bad scrape on one leg, but after taking a breather to regain his shaken confidence, he was willing to take off on his own again. It’s good to be tough!!
Thankfully, it wasn’t too much longer before we reached the halfway point! Whew!
We stopped for lunch at British Landing, where lots of seagulls as well as people hang out.
Just in case you’re wondering, the seagulls are not only beautiful and interested in people, they LOVE good food as much as humans!
We stopped for hotdogs and hamburgers at the Cannonball snack shop.
Everybody was “starving” by the time we got there, so it was a really welcome break.
(Of course, some of us are still pretty insistent about what we like best for lunch!)
Other highlights of the bike adventure included skipping stones,
riding beneath tree-lined canopies of fragrant cedars,
enjoying all the spectacular hotels, homes, and gardens that line the island,
and our long-standing tradition of stopping at “The Devil’s Kitchen,” a series of limestone caves. (Can you see the Devil’s eyes and nose?)
When Alan and I were kids in the 60’s, and when Aaron and Mike were kids in the 80’s, we were free to scramble up the rocks, and that’s exactly what kids do if left to their own devices, but today there are signs prohibiting such pleasures. 😦
However, nobody can stop a child from having fun and being just a little scared!
I think everybody was happy to return victorious from our big ride. (Aaron and his oldest had to go an extra two miles to qualify for a boy scout badge, but they are also extra tough!!)
After returning our bikes, we wandered down Main Street, checking out all the possibilities for an afternoon treat to celebrate conquering the trail.
When our kids were little, I usually made fudge to bring with us (to keep down the expense), but this trip our generous (and rather more affluent than we were) sons bought a little fudge and then let each of their kids pick a treat of their own.
Despite being dead tired, I didn’t hear any complaining as we waited for the ferry!
It seemed like the perfect end to a perfect day, although I was a little worried about Judah and wondered if his spill on the bike had traumatized him. So, I asked him what his favorite parts of the day had been.
His response was unequivocal: “The trip to the candy store . . . and the bike ride!”
That made me super happy, but it also made me think about my own life. I’ve been on a journey. Most of it has been really great, but like Judah—I had one bad fall near the beginning and got pretty scraped up! However, wouldn’t it be sad if we let our hurts and pains and accidents make us too skiddish to keep trying? And, isn’t it wonderful that we have a Father who watches over us, encouraging us along, and who promises to reward us at the end?! Do you know Him? Are you trusting in Him? God is good. Life is good. It’s not all picnics and vacation days, but it’s all good for us when we let God be our Father and never stop trying!
“Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast” (Psalm 36:5-6).
This is the time of year when everything bursts into glorious song and bloom!
Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.
The rebirth of life in springtime is both majestic and mysterious!
It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently for water to open up.
And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!
Robins are busy rearing their broods,
and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak) come to our feeder every day!
This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!
Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.
This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!
Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests dotted with tiny woodland anemones
and later covered with bright bluebells!
Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills covered with bright orange poppies,
and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!
Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!
How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).
“There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).
“For the Beauty of the Earth” (—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)
1 For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies.
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.
2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]
3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]
4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]
(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)