Category Archives: Local News

Rain, Rumble, Rockin’ the Coast, and Rockin’ the Boat

Usually when Alan and I get up early and read our Bibles together, we can hear birds serenading the rising sun, but a couple of weeks ago, our background melody was the rumble of thunder and the drum of heavy rains. I didn’t think much of it—other than to enjoy it— but when it stopped, I could hear a singular bird caroling again.

Similarly, last weekend Alan and I spent Friday night at Grand Haven State Park, and the next morning as we were strolling along the boardwalk,  we were mesmerized by the deep, throaty roar of engines.   Three fleets of power boats, each led by a flag ship  (red, yellow, and the last green),  came out the channel of the Grand River like an armada off to war.   It touched something deep inside me, and I felt like crying.  It made me think of war, and I remembered Dunkirk.   We had no clue what was going on, but it was obviously a regatta of some kind, because when they got to the end of the Grand River channel,  they opened up their engines and went flying down the coast of Lake Michigan.  Have you seen Dunkirk yet? It’s gotten an 8.6 rating on IMDb,
and I think it must be be a stellar movie.  At least, when we visited the Normandy Coast of France last year,  I was totally overwhelmed by the heroism of the everyday Englishmen
who saved so many of the troops!   At any rate, I took videos of the three fleets as they roared off,  and what I noticed afterward
was the sound of a little cricket chirping in the grass beside me… something I’d been oblivious to while my attention was absorbed by the regatta.  Not long after the boaters were off,
we heard the wail of Coast Guard sirens and saw a helicopter.  One of the couples in the race was badly injured when they hit a big wave
on their way to Holland for what I learned was the “Rock the Coast” race.  I haven’t heard the end of the story,
but I know the wife was airlifted to Spectrum Hospital’s intensive care unit.  Probably very few of us ever enjoy the thrill of racing a power boat, but all of us experience  the race of life and hit heavy seas at times that rock our boats. Although we often fail to hear those quiet sounds until after the rumble of thunder, the roar of our engines, and we’ve gotten knocked around and injured, there is a voice that can be heard if we’re listening… the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, wooing us to Himself…offering to help us figure out our lives.  Are you listening? Are you willing?

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?‘”  (1 Kings 19:11-13, ESV)

(Photo credits: I took the photos of the Rock the Coast Race last weekend in Grand Haven [except for the one of me, which my husband took], but I took the three of the Normandy Coast in the spring of 2016. The B&W photo of Dunkirk is from the Australian War Memorial [Wiki], and the other is a poster for the 2017 movie, Dunkirk, which is showing in theaters right now.)

Big Sable Lighthouse…and Michigan’s 128 other Lighthouses!

Did you know that there are 129 lighthouses in Michigan?  There are 42 on Lake Superior, 43 on Lake Huron, and 44 on Lake Michigan. We’ve seen dozens of them.  (I would have said “most” until I realized just how many there really are).  No two are alike; each is unique, and all of them are picturesque.  Our local favorite is the Grand Haven Lighthouse, which is being totally refurbished and will include a museum when it’s completed.  Did you know that the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior
just north of Marquette also runs a bed and breakfast?* Wouldn’t it be fun to stay at a lighthouse?  Actually, quite a few of the lighthouses have conservancies to help care for them where you can volunteer for a two-week stint in the summer
serving as a host and giving tours.  While we were at Ludington State Park recently,   we visited the Big Sable Lighthouse.  We climbed the stairs to the top   for spectacular views of the Lake Michigan Coastline,  visited their museum and gift shop, watched a video,
and heard tales about rescues and shipwrecks.   Seeing a list of all the ships that have sunk in Lake Michigan
made me appreciate lighthouses even more!  Thousands have shipwrecked and lost their lives because they had no light
to guide them safely through the storms.  Spiritually, God calls us to be like lighthouses to draw others toward Him. 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).   Are you walking in the light? Can others see the light of God’s presence in you?

“Rescue the Perishing”
Refrain: “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (~from Fanny Crosby’s hymn, “Rescue the Perishing,” 1869…in the era when hundreds of lighthouses were being built!)

  1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
    Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
    Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
    Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
  2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
    Waiting the penitent child to receive;
    Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
    He will forgive if they only believe.
  3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
    Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
    Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
    Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
  4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
    Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
    Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
    Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

(* Photo of Big Bay Point Lighthouse from their website; I took the rest.)

Restoration Over Rest at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

group-of-employees-receiving-5-year-awardsPine Rest just celebrated their annual employee appreciation and award evening, gourmet-dinner-at-pine-restcomplete with a gourmet dinner group-of-people-receiving-employee-awardsand awards for employees
who have served 5, 10, 15, 20…and on up in increments of 5 years. recipient-of-55-year-service-award-at-pine-restOne lady flew back from Florida to receive her 55-year service award!
Can you imagine working at the same ministry for 55 years?!

employee-appreciation-dinner-at-pine-restThis bright, beautiful lady shared that the reason she’s persevered so long is that she has the same heart for ministry as Pine Rest: compassionate Christian care for those with mental health needs.pine-rest-appreciation-dinner-awardsAlan has been working at PRCH (Pine Rest Christian Hospital) for 23 years, so he wasn’t up for an award, but because he’s the CMO (chief medical officer), we’re always invited to enjoy the festivities and honor the faithful employees! pine-rest-ceo-addresses-employeesOur CEO, Mark, is such a stalwart, spiritually-minded leader, and he gave a brief but very memorable message about “Two Holy Moments.” He said the first is when people wake up in the morning and make the decision to go into work, even though they’d rather sleep and are weary of putting aside their own needs to serve others. The second is when they are at work and choose to be present with those who are suffering. Pine Rest ministers to over 50,000 people each year. Like all attempts at intervention, many people are helped, but not all can be healed. However, employees can all express love by their presence and efforts to assist in the healing process. This is a second “holy” moment: Choosing to love each patient and serve them with “compassion and understanding in time of need and offer hope and help through the provision of excellent care.” ceo-of-pine-restThat’s a very high calling, but I think it’s something we can all ascribe to in our daily lives, no matter what our job is, be it leading a company, serving others in hospital or school settings, working as a mechanic, waitress, hairdresser, babysitter, parent, or whatever!

Are you struggling with your job? I’m not saying you should stay in whatever job you have at present, but I would like to encourage you to feel a sense of holiness about whatever job you’re doing. Offer your decision to work as a sacrifice to God, choosing restoration over rest. As an offering to God, choose to love those you serve by providing excellent care. It will tinge what might otherwise be drudgery with the glow of Shekinah glory.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

And, here’s a verse that just struck me this morning as Alan and I were reading together: “ So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12, NIV). When we serve others in love for the sake of Christ, we are literally giving our life so that others may live. But, if we have eternal life within us by faith in Christ, then to give of our lives to bring “many sons to glory” is a supremely beautiful exchange!

Beauty and the Beast and the Nutcracker—Two Wonderful Tales

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

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

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

ArtPrize 8 Winners…and Tips for ArtPrize 9 Contestants

lizzie-checking-out-from-the-rising-of-the-sunAfter 19 days with hundreds of thousands of visitors viewing 1,453 entries from 44 countries at 171 venues here in Grand Rapids, 380,119 votes were cast to determine which entries were the best of the best! wounded-warrior-dogsAlas, I was not among that starry group, but I can definitely take my hat off to the winner of the public vote, James Mellick, whose entry was called “Wounded Warrior Dogs,” an exhibit designed to raise awareness and support for vets using wooden carvings of several canine warriors who were wounded in war.  xThe other (juried) $200,000 grand prize was given to Stacey Kirby for her “The Bureau of Personal Belonging,” which was a three-part installation hearkening back to 1968, interrogating visitors about their views on sexual identity and gender in order to determine if they were “valid” members of society. Ummm.  benedicts-visit-from-the-rising-of-the-sun-artprize-8Despite the fact that there are now fifty-eight gender options for Facebook users these days, under 2% of the population self-report as anything other than heterosexual, so I’m not sure why gender studies have become all the rage on college campuses across our continent, but I’m certain that how we answer questions about gender is not the proper litmus test for our validity as members of society. It’s my theory that if we are human, we are valid. Nevertheless, we are called to be law-abiding, not law-breaking, and countries differ widely on their laws, which (whether or not anybody’s willing to admit it) are all based on moral ethics. What is moral and what is not? What is so immoral that the society is willing to outlaw it? Tough issues, and obviously highly charged with emotion, as we each defend our ideas of right and wrong based on whatever makes us believe this or that is right or wrong. Right? And, those issues really never disappear. As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”   meijer-garden-panel-from-artprize-8When Alan and I left a paneled interview of the artists that exhibited at Meijer Garden, I whispered in his ear, “Well, I have no worries of ever winning a juried award!” The popular vote is totally unpredictable and as capricious as people, but the juried vote is much more predictable and follows distinct patterns.   recycled-items-for-artprize-entryIf you’re after a juried prize for 2017, I have a few tips for you! Tips one and two: be sure your work is modern art, not traditional, and use recycled waste. ditch-liliesThe singular contestant who was ranked in the top twenty for both the popular and juried votes was a man who gathered dead day lily stems from ditches around Grand Rapids and lined them up in such a way that they cast interesting shadows on a wall. ditch-lilies-2Clever, and his play with light was creative, but when interviewed, it sounded like he came up with his plan and executed the project in a day or two after arriving in GR, and the fact that he was a finalist in both categories was a bit deflating for those of us who spent months or years preparing our exhibits. artprize-8-mural-with-armstrong-familyTip three: you’ll get the most positive attention if you can come up with some creative way to make a philosophical statement that reflects support for gender diversity. artprize-8-family-visiting-from-the-rising-of-the-sunOtherwise, (tip four) come to ArtPrize for the joy of it! Create to give, not to take, and like Eric Liddell, take delight in sensing God’s pleasure in what you’re doing.  artprize-8-kathryn-w-armstrong-with-helen-bI returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).monarch-butterfly-exhibit

How Much Does it Cost to Vote?

trump-and-clinton-at-first-presidential-debateHow much does it cost to vote? Well, that depends on what you’re voting on. For instance, it doesn’t cost anything to vote for your favorite ArtPrize entries, although you do have to be in downtown Grand Rapids and take the time to register on line. But, what about something huge, like a presidential election? In our country, the “cost” is about the same: you have to be a citizen of America and take the time to register. However, to vote wisely is a different story! At ArtPrize, right now you can vote for anything you like, so you can cast 1—1,453 votes. If you like it, you can vote for it, and that’s fun! Unfortunately, just the opposite is true in this year’s presidential race.

Did you watch the presidential debate last night? Trump and Clinton were introduced as the least-liked presidential hopefuls in the history of our country, and sadly, that reflects my personal opinion as well. Whether it’s a matter of voting for which one I “like” better, or even which one I like less, I just feel like throwing up my hands in despair. I believe this election will test each of our individual priorities and beliefs more severely than any previous race. I don’t have the slightest confidence that either of them is an altruistic statesman with the integrity and wisdom to stop our country’s sled ride into moral and financial bankruptcy. However, I don’t believe any of the 20± independent candidates—if elected—could do better (not to mention I don’t think any of them has a ghost of a chance of being elected). Bottom line: Are we sunk? I’d like to think not, but I’m fearful.

However, just when I’m feeling pessimistic about our country’s future (like last night), I remember that we can all choose to be part of the Kingdom of God. (“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” [Psalm 56:3].) This opportunity is open to anyone, not just in Grand Rapids or in America, but anyone who lives anywhere in the world. Like ArtPrize or the U.S. election, it doesn’t cost us a penny to vote! Like the U.S. presidential campaign, there are basically two choices on the ballot, and the “vote” concerns whom you’ll choose to be your personal sovereign: The Prince of this World, or Jesus, who is “The Prince of Peace.” I choose Jesus, because He alone brings peace to my heart, and I know someday He will bring peace and healing to our entire world.

Thank you, Lord, that despite the unrest and difficulties we all face now, we can have the peace that passes understanding in our hearts, knowing that we belong to You, that there’s a spiritual kingdom greater than any kingdom here on earth, and that someday evil will be overcome by good.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

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).