Category Archives: Meditations and reflections

The Eagle’s Nest of Santorini and the Holy Chapel of Nektarios

Oia on the Greek Isle of Santorini, is both an area and a village.  The village is known as “the eagle’s nest” because it sits 490 feet atop  the volcanic caldera formed by the Santorini Volcano “Thera”
(which erupted 3,600 years ago) and caused such a tsunami  that some believe it is the source of the mythology surrounding the legends of Atlantis.  Oia is also the oldest settlement in Santorini and one of two harbors.   Today, there are over 70 churches in the Oia area,  and I want to tell you about our visit to one of them:The Holy Chapel of St. Nektarios.  This lovely chapel is part of the Roman Catholic “Prophet Elias Monastery,”  which was built in 1712 and dedicated to the Prophet Elijah.  The monastery was built at the top of Mount Prophet Elias
(the highest point on the island of Santorini, nearly 1900 feet), and it originally served as a fortress to protect the villages below. For the first 200 years, the monastery also served as an important source
of commerce and education,  although it eventually lost most of its commercial and political influence.  Today, the monks engage in meditation and in making
prints, candles, shoes, and wine.  The Holy Chapel of Nektarios also hosts collections
of rare, hand-written books and Byzantine icons.  Our guide took us there in time for a picnic lunch of roasted corn  in their lovely courtyard, which overlooks the entire island.  It was peaceful and calm, and the monks were gracious hosts.  It reminded me of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Michigan’s U.P., where we’ve often stopped at their Jam Pot Bakery for refreshments
(like muffins and thimble berry jam…
although in Santorini we snacked on sesame-covered peanuts and fruit drinks). Also, “our” monastery in Michigan is built on the shores of Lake Superior,  not on a mountain top in Greece surrounded by the Aegean Sea!  I did not hear the gospel while we were visiting, but standing on the top of the mountain in this inspiring setting, I remembered these words from the scripture:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7).

May all who know the good news proclaim it  from the mountaintops and valleys of our lives, whether we’re at home or abroad!

(All the photos were taken during our visit to Santorini while cruising a couple of weeks ago. What a gorgeous island! It has been used as the setting for numerous movies and listed among the world’s top islands by various sources, including BBC, U.S. News, and Travel + Leisure Magazine. In 2015,  Condé Nast Traveler listed it as #12 out of the top 20 islands in the world. Definitely worth a visit!)

 

Where to Eat and Where to Stay on Mackinac Island

Over the fifty years of our visiting Mackinac Island,  Alan and I have tried most of the restaurants and many different hotels. When the kids were little, we often camped in St. Ignace or Mackinaw City
and just took the boat over for the day, packing picnic lunches and mega snacks.  In fact, for years I would make my own fudge,
and sometimes Alan would haul over all our bikes too.  There’s no way of making a trip to the island “cheap,”  but these options definitely keep the costs down a little.  In the last ten years, since the kids have grown up, Alan and I have been exploring more, and I want to share a few of our favorite finds,  although to be honest, we keep trying new places, because the variety is fun,  and there seem to be so many great options.  Concerning food, our all-time favorite lunch spot is the Village Inn.  The food is always delicious.  It’s not quite as casual as a hotdog out on the boardwalk (also very fun),  or as gourmet as a dinner at the Grand Hotel (which is superb),  but every meal is consistently excellent,  and we almost always end up eating there at least once while we’re on the island.

When we still had several kids at home, we stayed at “La Chance” Cottage  (lovely; pictured above) and ate at “Brian’s BBQ” (great food and good prices). They’re under new ownership now, so I’m not sure how that’s affected prices.Since those “good, old days,” we’ve been “found” via social media, and I tend to look for special package deals and online offers.

Among our favorite “package deals” so far are the Island House,  which is one of the (many) beautiful, old historic hotels built back in the 1800’s, and Mission Point Resort,  which is another great place to stay.  They have excellent dining and a vast lawn for relaxing! Of course, the Grand Hotel is the quintessential lodging experience. My parents used to stay every year either early or late in the season, when they typically run special deals, although Alan and I have only stayed there once… during a medical meeting, with reduced, corporate rates. One of the perks for staying there is getting a carriage ride up to the hotel, but everything is top flight. It would make a great honeymoon spot!  For “every day special,” the main street is full of hotels. Here is my list of “Let’s try these someday.”
(If you’ve tried any of them, please let me know what you think, will you?) Cloghaun Bed and Breakfast Metivier Inn Lake View Hotel (on Main Street) Lilac Tree Hotel  The Inn on Mackinac If you’ve stayed somewhere and loved it, will you let the rest of us know? Thanks!

Every time we visit Mackinac Island, Alan says it feels like a little piece of heaven on earth, because it’s so remote, peaceful, and beautiful.      Like heaven, you can’t really get there on your own! (Some probably try.)Jesus is like the boat that ferries us to this place of beauty and joy: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). Like Mackinac Island, there will be wonderful food in heaven, but unlike Mackinac Island, you won’t have to be rich to afford it!  “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1)Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).Like Mackinac Island (and even better!), there will be many beautiful places to stay: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). However, like Mackinac Island, heaven is a “private residence,” and we can’t stay there without permission! Thankfully, Jesus has invited us all to come: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To go to Mackinac Island, you have to have time and money, but to get to heaven, all you have to do is have desire and faith: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Isaiah 55:3). What is the covenant? Salvation by believing in Jesus and and surrendering your life to him. As Jesus taught, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).You may never get to Mackinac Island, but you can always get to heaven if you want, because Jesus promised: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).* (*This last beautiful photo is another gift used by permission of Robert Hardee.)

 

Mackinac Island’s 2017 Lilac Festival: When is the Best Time to Visit?

The 2017 Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island is in full swing, and if you have any time (and money) between now and June 18 (and live anywhere within striking distance), I think you’d find great pleasure in visiting.      Alan and I couldn’t go this week, so we went over Memorial Day Weekend. This year has been so warm that I thought perhaps the lilacs would have started blooming, but they were still just tight buds at the end of May.                      Now I’m sure they’re probably as gorgeous as ever,                lining the streets and filling the air with their sweet perfume.                     Still, I think Mackinac Island is beautiful any time of  year,              and although the lilac festival is my all-time favorite time to visit,  my second favorite time is when the tulips and early spring flowers are abloom.  Over Memorial Day, the weather was an almost cloudless 68°…just perfect for strolling and biking!  It also just happened to be the same weekend our two youngest and their good buddy, Steve C., went north too,  so we had several happy opportunities to run into them and enjoy the ambience! Looking back over our years of visiting the island, I don’t recall ever having a “bad” trip! I think it’s a little like coming to Christ…it’s always a good time! Even though life is heartbreaking at times, it’s always better when we’re walking hand in hand with Jesus. A great mate is a wonderful blessing, but the greatest blessing of all is living in season and out of season with God. Have you accepted His love proposal yet? Now is the time! “For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV). “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-13) (All photos from my trips to Mackinac Island but the last two, which are used by permission of Robert Hardee. Thank you, Bob!)

Meditating on the Nature of God via “Andie’s Isle”

I rarely share videos, but this one, forwarded to me online, filled me with such a sense of peace and awe that I wanted to pass it on. If you can indulge in five minutes of nature photography and some encouraging thoughts, please visit “Andie’s Isle” for a gorgeous journey into the beauty of God’s creation on earth:

http://www.andiesisle.com/thenatureofgod.html

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
” (Psalm 29:2)

 “For the Beauty of the Earth*”

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;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

2. For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

3. For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

4. For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

5. For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

6. For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.”

(* Originally composed by Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917; there are several variations, but this is the version with which I’m most familiar.)

Telling Stories Around the Campfire

Last weekend we went camping at Ludington State Park, and I found myself fascinated by watching the flames leaping in our fire pit.  One moment, I could just imagine an angel praying (see the cross at the top?!),  and at the next I could see a hungry lion rearing his head for a mighty roar!  It reminded me the 1960s when I was in graduate school studying clinical psychology, training to give the Rorschach, which was the most widely used projective test at that time. Have you ever taken one? It was developed by a Swiss psychologist, Hermann Rorschach, and consisted of a series of black and white ink blots on cards which the client was supposed to interpret. What do you see here? I see a surprised dragon with fire coming out his nostrils.  How about this one? To me, there’s a genie emerging from the flames. How about this one? On the far left, do you see a scary yellow and orange face with a triangular eye and oblong mouth, or do you notice more the white image in front of the face that looks like a horned women with her hands on her hips? Or …close to the right can you see a scowling lizard-like creature with a beaked nose, white-tipped horns and a long, white eye?  There are so many ways of interpreting what we see, aren’t there? As we sat around the fire, we decided to share stories. I can see why “ghost” stories are popular with campers, because the flames leap and flicker, creating eerie shapes that more often than not do conjure up images of ghosts or goblins.However, we chose to share stories from our past, and it was really fun! Alan told about his Uncle Bud having an entire room full of tennis shoes folks could borrow so they wouldn’t hurt their feet on the pebbly lake bottom when they went swimming. Joel shared the glorious sights and sounds he remembered from hiking the White Mountains with his housemates when he lived in Boston.  I reminisced about spending the night with my childhood best friend, Brenda, and her grandparents, “Ma and Pa,” at their cottage on the St. Mary’s River. I loved waking up in the morning with the smell of Ma cooking breakfast and Pa sitting at the kitchen table, reading his Bible and praying. Brenda whispered to me that when Pa was young, he’d been involved with Al Capone, but by the time I knew him, he had become a Christian and was the picture of everything I’d always wished for in a grandpa! (Both my grandfathers died before I was born.)              Of course, after the fire has burned down to glowing embers,  there’s nothing so fun as roasting hot dogs…unless it’s toasting marshmallows! Just like leaping flames or ink blot images, we each take what we see and try to make sense of it, don’t we? I think the same goes for stories. Some stories are written with the morals obvious, like Aesop’s fables, but most of the time, we take in the stories and then try to figure out what they mean to us.Do you have a favorite story? My very favorite “story” (if you will, although it’s a true story) comes from the Bible. It tells about Jesus and how he came to rescue us from our sins. Have you heard that story? Have you figured out what it means to you? Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause” (Job 5:6-8).

“Tell Me the Story of Jesus” (~Fanny Crosby, 1880)

  1. Tell me the story of Jesus,
    Write on my heart every word;
    Tell me the story most precious,
    Sweetest that ever was heard.
    Tell how the angels in chorus,
    Sang as they welcomed His birth,
    “Glory to God in the highest!
    Peace and good tidings to earth.”
  2. Fasting alone in the desert,
    Tell of the days that are past,
    How for our sins He was tempted,
    Yet was triumphant at last.
    Tell of the years of His labor,
    Tell of the sorrow He bore;
    He was despised and afflicted,
    Homeless, rejected and poor.
  3. Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
    Writhing in anguish and pain;
    Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
    Tell how He liveth again.
    Love in that story so tender,
    Clearer than ever I see;
    Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
    “Love paid the ransom for me.”
  4. Tell how He’s gone back to heaven,
    Up to the right hand of God:
    How He is there interceding
    While on this earth we must trod.
    Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit
    He has poured out from above;
    Tell how He’s coming in glory
    For all the saints of His love.
  5. (Refrain):
    Tell me the story of Jesus,
    Write on my heart every word;
    Tell me the story most precious,
    Sweetest that ever was heard.

 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
(1 Timothy 2:5-6)
 

Lessons from Louise’s Kitchen

In Black Mountain, North Carolina,
there’s a perfectly adorable breakfast spot known as Louise’s Kitchen. It has a lot of things that make it unique: five-inch sections of fettuccine that they use for stirring your coffee…playing cards to designate your order number…inspirational thoughts to brighten your day…a pick-your-own, self-serve beverage counter, and a great menu with great prices for food with flair!  It’s a hit with everybody, and the place was jammed by the time we left.(So come early if you don’t want to have to wait!)  I was luxuriating in the ambience and yummy food,  when I noticed that our waitress looked like she might have a hard life, but she was an absolutely stellar waitress, and her genuine warmth really attracted me.  She was (IS) obviously an over-comer, and it didn’t take long to figure out why! Thank you, dear waitress, for letting your light shine! The world needs you!

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).

“This Little Light of Mine”

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine

Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?”

(All photos from Louise’s Kitchen in Black Mountain, North Carolina)

The Inimitable Biltmore Estate

At 178,926 square feet, the Biltmore—the Vanderbilt family’s 8,000 acre estate— ranks as America’s largest privately owned home, and I’ve wanted to visit for about 50 years, particularly after hearing the rumor that we’re related by marriage to the Vanderbilts (many cousins-removed ago). In the early 2000’s (at the height of our family’s musical ministry), I was negotiating with the Biltmore to sing gospel music there one Sunday afternoon           (which they still do, by the way),  although one of my closest friends ended up planning her wedding for that same weekend, and being in the wedding preempted everything else! Nevertheless, the mystique of America’s grandest estate nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains hovered like mist in the back of my mind, and last May, after visiting many of the gorgeous châteaux along the Loire River in France, several of which were the French Renaissance inspirations for the Biltmore,    such as  Château de Blois,        Château de Chenonceau,         and Château de Chambord,         I realized that a trip to the Biltmore was still on my unconscious bucket list. So, when we attended a conference this May just 15 miles from the Biltmore, you can imagine my excitement to see this romantic tribute  to America’s Gilded Age!  Yesterday I shared photos from the gardens (in conjunction with thoughts for pondering how to overcome your past and fulfill your potential),  but today I want to share a few photos from the inside of this grand home,  which would have made a worthy location for Downton Abbey! The Biltmore Estate has 250 rooms,  including 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces,  a dining room table that can seat up to 64 guests,   and many novelties for the 19th century,  such as  a 70,000-gallon heated indoor swimming pool  and one of the nation’s first bowling alleys to be installed in a private residence. Only half of George Vanderbilt’s collection of 22,000 books can fit in his library, and while we were visiting, their was a special exhibition of costumes  and information related to movies that have been made  from some of the many first-edition classic books owned by the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilt family still live in and operate their estate,  but unlike many European grand estates and palaces, the Vanderbilts allow visitors to take photographs of all the home’s treasures,  including many beautifully preserves tapestries  and gorgeous paintings.  On a sunny day, like the day we visited,  one could easily spend their entire day touring the home,  enjoying lunch at one of their stable-turned restaurant venues,  and exploring their vast gardens.  Although we loved visiting, Alan and I both left thinking
how happy we are to live in our snug little “Tanglewood Cottage.”  I’m not even sure “I want a mansion, just over the hilltop.” Do you?  Actually, I don’t care where I live, just as long as it’s with Jesus!

Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10).

“Mansion Over The Hilltop”

“I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined.

Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely
I’m not discouraged I’m heaven bound.
I’m but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold.” (Ira Stanphill)

(All photos, except the four related to our trip to France last May, were taken this May on our visit the the Biltmore Estate, near Ashville, North Carolina.)