Category Archives: Gardens

Meijer Garden: Butterflies Are Blooming Again, But Not All Butterflies Are Free

One of the perennial delights of living in Grand Rapids
is access to Meijer’s beautiful botanical gardens, and from March 1 until April 30th, 60 colorful species of butterflies bloom  in the 15,000 sq. ft. tropical conservatory,  which is kept at a luscious 85° with 70% humidity  so you feel a rush of warmth  every time you enter, no matter what’s going on outside! We’ve been at night and during the day, but unless you enjoy flashlight hunts and sleeping butterflies,  a bright, sunny day is by far the best option. In unclouded sunshine, the butterflies are dancing everywhere, and if you wear brightly colored clothing, they’re apt to light on you
just in case you taste as delectable as they look!         Usually, our times searching for butterflies is pure bliss,

but this year, there is another ongoing exhibition that counterbalances the joyous uplift of butterflights with the broken-hearted reality of suffering and captivity.The artist is Al Weiwei, a Chinese activist who was arrested in 2009 (and had the presence of mind to take his own photo, which he later tweeted to the world!).  In 2011, the Chinese authorities took his passport so that he couldn’t travel. Once he was beaten so badly that he was unable to go to court to testify. During his house arrest, he bought and photographed beautiful bouquets of flowers as a silent protest against his captors, a practice that he continued until his passport was restored on July 22, 2013.

Perhaps his most provocative sculpture is a vibrant collection of twisted rebar, commemorating the many children who were killed during an earthquake. Reading his story made me think of many Christians who have been similarly persecuted for their faith, not only in China but around the world. As humans, we are born to be free—as free as butterflies!
However, just like humans, not all butterflies are completely free! When we leave the tropical conservatory, each person is carefully examined to make sure no butterfly has landed on them and will end up outside in the cold.Of course, we don’t think of it in terms of their freedom being limited,
because we know they couldn’t survive the freezing nights outside. We think they’re being protected, but the butterflies don’t know that! They flutter happily wherever,
with no apparent sense of direction besides sipping nectar.

My heart aches for Al Weiwei and all who are unfairly persecuted and confined. But, I am also exercised to think about those who wander off in an attempt to “escape” all contraint (like the butterflies who flit outside on a freezing day). Sometimes we’re like those butterflies, totally oblivious to how carefully God has provided a safe environment, mindlessly wandering away from warmth into an exhilarating, freezing freedom which cannot sustain life. In our flights and fights for freedom, let’s make sure we’re fighting for what promotes health and life rather than what will destroy us. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, NKJV).   Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:7-8).

Song of Solomon (227): Fish Eyes? Fishy Eyes?

Song of Solomon 7:4 “Thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim…” Although we have probably all been privileged at some point in our lives to enjoy an oriental fish pool and catch the glimmer of goldfish darting about in the clear, green waters, there is much in the imagery of this praise which the western mind would miss without studying the ancient city of Heshbon and the culture of the times.   Heshbon was located about fifty miles east of Jerusalem. It is mentioned thirty-seven times in Scripture and was a powerful city in ancient Palestine. In Numbers 21:25-30 we learn that Heshbon was originally a Moabite city but was conquered by Sihon, the king of the Amorites, who made it his capital. Later (Numbers 32:37) it became part of the inheritance of the tribe of Rueben, and although it eventually reverted back to Moabite rule (and both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied of coming judgment because of its evil), during the reign of King Solomon it was part of the inheritance given to the Levites as a city of peaceful refuge for the families of the priests. It was a beautiful city, a powerful city, and a city of peace.   The name Heshbon means “he that hastens to understand or build.”1  Already we find rich ore for the mining! For the bride to have her eyes compared to the fishpools in Heshbon would have brought to the ancient eastern mind thoughts of beauty, power, peace, and a heart to understand and build. Oh, that in our eyes our Lord might see beautiful spirits…peaceful spirits, but spirits with a passion to eagerly pursue wisdom and growth!   Recent excavations of Heshbon (now in Jordan) have uncovered the remains of large reservoirs near the city. The word for “fishpools” is the Hebrew berekot, which does not refer to springs or fountains, “but the deep reservoirs which the springs supply. The sense here is one of still, deep calmness rather than the sparkle and shimmer of flowing springs”(2).   The translation “fish pools” followed the Latin Vulgate rendering piscinae, referring to pools for fish, but there is no actual intimation from the Hebrew text that the pools were so used (3). Fish pools were typically shallow, and the deep reservoirs near the gate of Bath-rabbim were more likely used for the city’s water supply, particularly in light of the name Bath-rabbim, which means literally “the daughter of multitudes.” Ah, and here is another resting spot for meditation!  How often the names in Scripture tell a story in themselves. The deep reservoirs supplied life-giving water for multitudes. The task of carrying water from the city well to the family dwelling place was one of the housekeeping responsibilities of the women and was normally assigned to daughters (if there were any) who were old enough and strong enough for such work. (For examples, Rachel, Rebekah, and the woman at the well in Sychar.)   So, the reservoirs supplied water for the “daughter(s) of multitudes…” and through them, the entire city. Anyone who came to the wells could drink. Everyone who came could drink. It didn’t matter if the person was a beautiful and virtuous young virgin like Rebekah or a five-time has been with no real family of her own like the woman Jesus redeemed by the well of Sychar… everyone who came was allowed to drink. Oh, to be a woman whose eyes are deep, peaceful, reservoirs of life-giving spirit, open in compassion to the poor and prepared to minister to the needs of all the daughters of this earth!

(1) Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981, p. 113.
(2) Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984, p. 158.
(3) Patterson, Paige.  Song of Solomon. Chicago:  Moody, 1986, p. 105.

 

Surprises at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saOne of the highlights of our Cape Town tour was visiting Kristenbosch Garden.ixia-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africa-2 It was established in 1913 as the first indigenous botanical garden in the world. view-of-cape-town-from-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saKristenbosch is part of the Cape Florisitc Protected Areas Site,flowers-in-kirstenbosch-botanical-gardenone of only 154 natural World Heritage Sites, Butterfly on Scabiosa in Africaand the only natural World Heritage Site to include a botanical garden! ancient-tree-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saThere are over 4,500 plant species being cultivated in this 528 hectare estate,ochna-natalitia-birds-eye-bush-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africa-jpgmany of which are rare or endangered, looks-like-a-pineapple-but-its-not-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saand the Cape site boasts the world’s highest levels of endemismkirstenbosch-botanical-garden-flowers(species that occur nowhere else): 31.9%. table-mountain-as-seen-from-kirstenbosch-botanical-gardenAlthough you can access Table Mountain from the garden,
we took a more gentle walking tour.tree-lined-walkways-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-sa Thanks to careful labeling (and our knowledgeable guide),
we were able to learn a lot about the various plants, king-protea-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saand I particularly loved the huge King Proteas, South Africa’s national flower. egyptian-goose-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saEgyptian geese wild-birds-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saand other unusual birds grazed quietly on the lawns,
reminding me that there is no garden quite like this in America! centenary-tree-canopy-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saOne recently added highlight of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is a graceful aerial walkway that glides like a snake twelve meters up through the tree tops.centenary-tree-canopy-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saThis gleaming structure has been nicknamed the boomslang
because it’s shaped like a snake’s skeleton.
view-from-boomslang-centenary-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saIt’s a whooping 130-meters long and made from galvanized steel and timber. standing-on-top-of-the-centenary-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-botanical-gardenHowever, the walkway reminded me more of a sky-high swinging bridge
than a snake, because it moves when you walk!centenary-tree-canopy-walkway-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-sa-2It also twists and turns in artful suspension so it can withstand the winds but still let you feel the breezes while enjoying a birds’-eye view of Kirstenbosch Garden below, distant Table Mountain, and the Hottentots-Holland peaks. orchid-tree-flowers-south-africaAs a lover of beauty and the out of doors, I was entranced!

spotted-eagle-owl-and-chick-in-kirstenbosch-national-botanical-garden-saAlthough I was delighted by everything, I was particularly excited when our guide showed us a spotted Eagle-owl snoozing in the sun with her little chick. We have owls around our home, but in twenty-three years of searching, I’ve only caught a few dim glimpses on dark nights. To see owls in their natural environment unperturbed by our presence was a unique experience I never even thought to hope for. Africa was full of great surprises!gardens-in-kirstenbosch-botanical-garden-sa Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 2:20-21).

Got Time for a Little More Politics? On Presidents and Posies…

yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-7Here’s a big bouquet of roses gathered from Manito Park last summer while helping out with Jon and Gerlinde’s new baby, paired with a bouquet of quotes by former presidents of America that I thought might help inform our thinking as we consider for whom we should vote next week:

pink-perfect-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”  George Washington, Jan. 8, 1790  red-tipped-white-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“The happiness of society is the end of government.”
John Adams (1797–1801)  white-rose-cluster-manito-park-8-1-16
“That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)  red-and-white-striped-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.”
Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)

pink-peach-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-5“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone,
and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
John Quincy Adams (1825–1829)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.” William Henry Harrison (1841)
red-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” John Tyler (1841–1845)  lavendar-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“I have come to realize that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865)  red-and-white-striped-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-4“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.”
Andrew Johnson (1865–1869)  white-rose-single-manito-park-8-1-16
“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”
Ulysses Simpson Grant (1869–1877)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-6
“No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love or a land so magnificent in extent, so pleasant to look upon, and so full of generous suggestion to enterprise and labor.”
Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893)  orange-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government.
It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens.”
Theodore Roosevelt  (1901–1909)  pink-and-white-striped-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty.” Herbert Clark Hoover  (1929–1933)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-4Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”
Harry Truman (1945–1953)  magenta-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy  (1961–1963)  white-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961–1963)  yellow-rose-manito-park-8-1-16-3“If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves.” Richard Milhous Nixon  (1969–1974)  peach-rose-manito-park-8-1-16“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Gerald Rudolph Ford (1974–1977)  pink-rose-manito-park-8-1-16
“The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.”
James Earl Carter (1977–1981)

pink-and-white-rose-manito-park-8-1-16John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (Psalm 90:17)

Rise Up, My Love (208): Looking for…What? Where?

gardens-in-israelSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” What did Solomon’s wife do? “I went down…” This action is one she chose on her own, but it was not a willful “I will” like Satan’s, who declared, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14: 13-14). It was the “I will” of one who knew the will of God and joyfully set her heart to do it…one who had learned to be guided by his eye…who no longer needed to be commanded, or even asked. The bride now knew him and knew his heart. She knew what he wanted, and she did it. It was as simple as that. Her action was an act of love, drawn from her heart of love, as one whose will had become submitted to and submerged into the will of her beloved…one whose desire had become nothing more than to please her Lord.  the-sea-of-galileeShe went down into the garden of nuts for three purposes: to see the fruits of the valley, to see if the vine was flourishing, and to see if the pomegranates were budding. In spiritual parallelism, what might this mean? The Hebrew word for the grove of nut trees is ginnat. The only other Old Testament uses of this word are in Esther 1:5 and 7:7, where it refers to the palace garden where state banquets were given. For the queen to go into the palace gardens to check on the state of the orchard in springtime seems like the perfect wifely thing to do! How did the gardens look? Were they flourishing and beautiful for the king’s use?
tunisia-dry-riverbed-where-r2d2-got-lostBut, the meaning of “to see the fruits of the valley” was a bit puzzling at first. Was the valley part of the garden, or simply something she could see from their garden? The Hebrew word for “valley” is nahal which is translated in the New English Bible as “stream,” because it generally referred to the narrow wadis where streams ran in the spring, but dried up during the summer. I don’t know if the valley was part of the garden proper or not, but it was definitely at least something that could be seen from the banqueting garden, and this gave me such a thrill as I meditated on the possible spiritual parallelism!   valley-below-garden-song-of-solomonIn the New Testament, the Lord tells us to go out into the highways and hedges to bring in guests for his banquet (Luke 14:21-23). Could it be that here the bride is looking beyond the garden proper (her normal sphere of influence), to see the possibilities for fruit in the regions beyond…the wadis that were dry most of the year but that were now filled with water and might bring forth fruit?…the blind and halt and maimed of this world whose hearts were stirring and might bring forth the fruit of eternal life to the praise and glory of the king? I believe so. I think the bride looked beyond the palace garden to see the possibilities for fruit in the valleys below, and her action is still a model of sacrificial love for us, as the bride of Christ today. Jesus is still delighted when we leave our comfort zone and go in search of fruit for him among the seemingly desolate valleys of this world!dry-riverbed-in-tunisia

ArtPrize 8: Just Where is the Rising of the Sun?

the-more-you-sweat-in-practice-the-less-you-bleed-in-battle-artprize-8-kathryn-w-armstrongArtPrize 8 is off and running! I’ve had several friends wander into the Holiday Inn without realizing that my mural is there, so let me give you the details in case you’re in GR and planning to go to ArtPrize, because I’d love to see you and I’d hate to miss you! My entry is titled “From the Rising of the Sun” and is being displayed at the Holiday Inn at 310 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

gerald-r-ford-museumIt’s opposite the Gerald Ford Museum, van-andel-museum-center-jpgacross the street from the Van Andel (Grand Rapids Public Museum), devos-learning-centerand kitty corner from Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

grand-riverIt’s just across the river (0.2 miles) from the Amway Grand, so it’s at the cross roads to some of the best art in town. It’s also just 0.4 miles from Grand Rapids Art Museum, 0.5 miles from the B.O.B. (Grand Rapids’ “Big Old Building), and 0.6 miles from DeVos Place, so it’s super convenient for the most popular venues! arriving-at-the-holiday-inn     Whether you go in the front or back entrance,  you’ll see half the mural.artprize-8-front-lobby-mural-at-holiday-inn “January through June” is at the front entrance, and “June through December” is at the back entrance. Using 400 of my favorite  photographs from around the world, I’ve created a collage trying to tell the story of life on Planet Earth through the seasons of one year and one lifetime. artprize-mural-summer-to-winterHere’s my “Artist Statement: “The top row reminds us of the universal constants we all experience: the glorious sun and moon, rising and setting with comforting precision. Row two showcases another global experience, the beauty of flowers, which can be found everywhere around the globe. Row three highlights the experience of fauna through the seasons. Row four looks more closely at how the flora and individual homes are affected by seasonal changes, using photographs from our cozy “Tanglewood Cottage” here in Grand Rapids. Row five takes an intimate look into one person and one family (mine) through the seasons of one year and one lifetime, but my hope is that it resonates with the emotions and cultural experiences of everyone who views it: birth, growth, adulthood, marriage (or family life; I know some never marry), new life and enjoying grandchildren, growing older, and finally, in the December of life, walking into a sea of clouds on the mountain top, looking hopefully to a glorious future life after we leave Planet Earth.january-of-the-year-artprize-8The lower half of the mural is arranged in ten collages, each comprised of twenty photographs from around the world on a particular theme that compliments the season above.”   artprize-8-from-the-rising-of-the-sunThis is my hope and prayer for the mural: “From the rising of the sun on the day we take our first breath until we walk into life’s sunset, I hope the beauty of our world lifts our hearts to praise the One who created us and provided such a glorious home.” friends-stopping-by-to-see-from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-artprize-8I have a booklet with notes on each photograph for anybody who comes and would like to know more detail, although if I’m there when you come, I can answer questions! I’d really love to see you if you come, and if you leave me a message in the comment box or on Facebook (message works too), I’ll try to make sure I’m there when you come! I’ve been going about 10:00-5:00 Monday-Friday every day, but I’ll be less regular on weekends due to family responsibilities and fun, although I’ll still be there at times, so please don’t be shy! It’s a real highlight of my day when friends drop by!

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-artprize-8“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,
the Lord’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

A Hidden Garden in Grand Rapids

Grandpa's GardenNot everyone has the brilliance and budget to develop a Giverny Aquilegia (Columbine)(or maybe no one), but just a few days after we’d returned home from Europe, Alan, Daniel, and IDaniel and Brianna had us over for dinner, and then
—knowing how much I love gardens—Hostas Galore!+they took us to see a beautiful garden in their neighborhood. Hostaholic Lives Here SignThis amazing garden has over 1,000 hostas growing, Hosta Garden. 2plus dozens of flowering perennials that can tolerate shade.  Statue in Hosta GardenI was totally surprised (but delighted), Clematisbecause we’ve walked through the neighborhood many a time, Alan with Samuel in Hosta Gardenstrolling Baby Samuel after dinner, Hosta Garden. 5and none of us had never noticed this hidden treasure before!Bug on a bench(Of course, it is in their neighbors’ back yard.) Dan and Brianna in Hosta GardenApparently our kids’ next-door-neighbors knew about it and invited Dan and Brianna to view the gardens…who in turn invited us, because—as it turns out— Hosta Garden. 9the couple who owns the gardenRhododendronsare very willing to share all the beauty they’ve created! Hosta Garden. 6It was like visiting a lovingly tended botanical garden! Pooh Bear HostaEach type of hosta was neatly labeled, and everywhere we turned Native hydrengeathere was something to delight our eyes. Decorative bugs on tableIt was obviously designed with their grandchildren in mind too, Face on a treebecause there were lots of playful touches. Grandma's Garden of HostasThe lady of the home toured us around Hosta Careand was super gracious about discussing the plants, Columbinehappily dispensing tips on how to care for shade-loving species Hummingbird Feederand even answering questions about how to attract and care for hummingbirds! Hosta Garden. 7I stood in awe of her willingness to share the fruit of all her hard work Solomon's Sealand wisdom with total strangers! Hosta Garden. 10To keep the garden free of weeds,Hosta garden 17they literally go through on their hands and knees weeding! Hosta Garden. 8When we returned home, Dan and Brianna’s next-door-neighbor was up on a ladder repairing something, and he filled in the details. Pink AzaleasApparently the owners of the hidden hosta garden started their work
20 years ago when their daughter was graduating from high school. Hosta Garden. 4The family had tall trees in their big backyard, and between the children
and the trees, the grass just couldn’t thrive in the shade, Primroses and Columbine in Springleaving the area pretty bleak and muddy (which is obviously no longer true!).Hosta Garden 13In order to have a beautiful setting for their daughter’s graduation party, Hosta Garden. 12they planted some hostas…and one thing led to another. Peonies“Quite the love story!” the neighbor reflected. Indeed! Hosta Garden. 11And, one that I’ve thought a lot about this past week. Hosta GardenImagine if every believer cleaned up the mud and mess in the backyards of our lives so that our kids would be glad to have their friends over. Hosta Garden 16Imagine searching through our lives as couples on our knees, rooting out sins!Hosta Garden. 3Imagine having such beautiful lives Statue of a lady with waterthat neighbors notice and tell other neighbors and bring them over to visit!Ceramic Toadstools in a gardenImagine being that open to having people just drop in out of the blue, Azaleas. Orangeand being willing to share the fruit of our spiritual lives…of being willing to take time to explain what we’ve learned and “how to” grow in grace. Chipmunks. Ceramic statuesWow. Have I ever got a long way to go!   Listening to gardenerBut in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).