Thoughts to Ponder Learned from Some of the Giants of the Faith

“Find your purpose, then lose your life fulfilling your purpose” (John C. Maxell).

Learning from the Giants, by John C. Maxwell, started off a little slow for me, but by the end, I was very happy to have persevered in listening my way through it. Maxwell imagined sitting in his study for a day, being visited by a number of the Bible’s great leaders. As I was usually driving while listening, I resorted to writing down my favorite memories of what Maxwell had to say after arriving at my destination, so they may not be perfect quotes, but I wanted to share some provocative bits of advice gleaned from his studies and commend the book to you as encouraging reading. (P.S.—You know how I love to share photos, too, so I picked out some pictures from my last trip to Mackinac Island, although they were chosen more for beauty than connection to the text.)

Queen Anne’s Lace

Elijah:
*God loves you, even on your worst days!
*Wait, serve, and learn while you wait.
*Our purpose must always be more important to us than our position.
*Find your purpose, and then lose your life fulfilling your purpose.
*Brokenness always precedes blessing.

Arch Rock on Mackinac Island

Job:
*Character is more important than reputation, so work on growing your character.
*Reputation is like a shadow; it has no substance.
*Character is what will enable you to withstand tribulation.
*At the end of Job’s life, he was filled with promise and not pain anymore!

Deborah:
*Be prepared for God to surprise you.
*Expect the unexpected.
*You must deal with your past before God will give you a future.
*God can make nothing out of you until you realize you are nothing without God. (Editorial Note: We are always the objects of God’s love, which gives us great worth, but I think Maxwell was pointing out that God loves the humble in heart.)

Jonah:
*God is a God of second chances.
*Mercy always runs downhill.
*But—think about what you missed by not living right from the beginning!

Joshua:
*God will only give you the promises you claim.

Daniel:
*Be motivated by conviction, not convenience.
*Greatness isn’t doing all you can do; it’s allowing God to do all He wants to do through you.
*You will never lose your way if you never lose your why.
*Courage is like muscle; it is strengthened by exercise.

With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).

Highlights of Biking Around Mackinac Island (and Life)

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.

Horse and buggy in front of Fort Mackinac 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!

A Bicycle Built for Two. Mackinac Island

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.

Burley and trail-a-bike on Mackinac Island State Park, Michigan

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).

Roadsides full of wild, pink roses on Mackinac Island

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!

Monarch caterpillar on a milk weed

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.

Golden coreopsis and purple harebells on Mackinac Island

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!

Hungry biker eating a Cannonball at British Landing on Mackinac Island

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,

The Island House, Mackinac Island

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!

Waiting for the Shepler Ferry on Mackinac Island

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).

Gentle Rains

Another day of gentle rains! I want to publicly thank God for these wonderful rains, because I’ve been praying for them!

In the process of building an addition, our yard became a muddy mess! Alan carefully sowed grass seed everywhere, but every time we turned our backs, the geese would come and gobble up the profits! One of my daily tasks has become chasing the geese away so the grass has a chance to grow. (And then, I have to scatter more seed after they leave.) I feel like Disney’s little cocker spaniel, Lady!

A Tangle of Wild Grapes and Highbush Cranberry Blossoms

Our yard covers more than an acre, and to water the lawn with a hose and sprinkler would take more time, energy, and hose-length than we possess, so I’ve been asking the Lord to bless us with gentle rains to help the grass seed sprout and take root before it all gets washed away or eaten up.

Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa, growing wild along our Michigan woodland lane

God has been answering my prayers! We have had one of the most wonderfully cool springs I can ever remember, with the perfect blend of sunshine and soft showers!

The grass has taken root, and we’ve become hopeful that—short of a disastrous drought—the grass may flourish. Perhaps by next summer we will have enough soft grass to support both the grazing of geese and the romping of grand children!

Wild turkeys grazing in the meadow

Well, and enough for the wild turkeys too . . .

Doe and her young fawn grazing with the geese in our yard

And the deer, especially now that the herd
has a number of new fawns to feed!

Mock orange on a rainy morning

Working hard to plant and protect the grass, and praying for rain and sunshine—which only God can provide—reminds me of a greater task we’ve been given: that of sharing spiritual “seed” (the Word of God) with others. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Dueteronomy 32:2).

Fragrant wild roses perfuming the misty morning air

God has been merciful and kind to me, and he will provide for you too if you’ll surrender your heart and will to Jesus. He calls each of us with a quiet, gentle voice that can only be heard in our hearts. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

White-tailed fawn in our woods

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35).

Spring Beauty All Around!

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.

Refrain:
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!!)

The Birthday Club Goes Ludington

When we planned our trip to Ludington State Park for Susan’s birthday outing (months ago), I had visions of bright blue skies and balmy weather, but the weather—like all of life—is totally unpredictable, isn’t it?!

Instead of sunshine, there was a misty rain. Instead of being 80° (which it had been one day last week), it was 52° with a stiff wind.

We debated whether or not we should even try the four-mile hike to the lighthouse because, despite bundling, we knew we’d be uncomfortably cold by the time we climbed to the top of the Big Sable Lighthouse.

However, it seemed like the right thing to do, so we persevered.

It was indeed windy and bone-chillingly cold at the top!

But then, as if by magic, when we descended and started our trek back to the car, a streak of blue appeared along the horizon!

In less than an hour, the dark storm clouds blew away, and soon we were immersed in a world of bright blue skies and—well, maybe not balmy, but certainly lovely—springtime weather!

We recovered with a very late and very yummy lunch at the House of Flavors, where we celebrated Susan’s birthday with gifts and happy conversation. Our Birthday Club isn’t just dedicated to honoring the birthday girl, it’s a time to celebrate the blessings of God and the encouragement of friendship, so there is often a theme and some thoughtful sharing of comforting verses as well as communal prayer on the way home.

This year, Cindi had found a 100+year-old book of poetry from an antique shop (Souvenir Rhymes by James Hamilton) and read some to us. My favorite concerned the preciousness of faithful friends who administer mercy and grace to one another, which I’ll include at the end.

There is something very nurturing about true friends who inspire one another to persevere, not only through gloomy weather but also through gloomy circumstances. I thank God for every treasured friend of mine, and for every person who is willing to be a friend to someone else.

Are you feeling discouraged and sad? We all need companions to journey with us, not only through the bright and balmy times of life, but when the wind is in our faces and we’re not prepared for the unexpected and sometimes very miserable changes in our situations. We need one another to help us push on until the rain passes by and the sun starts shining again!

Have you got a friend? Be a friend! Reach out. We need each other! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrew 10:23-25, ESV).

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV).

Pussy Willows Stalking Spring

Soft as kitten paws,
Silent as a crouching cat,
Pussy willow stalks.

We live close to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, which is fast becoming a world-class venue for botanical garden lovers. Every week or two, we take a stroll through the gardens, and although there were no flowers blooming as yet on our last visit, we found a bank of pussy willows glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. Don’t you love the signs of new life emerging after the long, dark winter?

Truth shall spring out of the earth;
and righteousness shall look down from heaven” (Psalm 85:11).

Over the Rainbow Pan-Fried Trout

We used to live in Marquette, Michigan, on forty acres in the woods, where you could pull a rainbow or brown trout out of our pond for dinner (if you knew what you were doing, which we didn’t, but our friend, George Sokoly, did).  Michigan has 12,000 miles of trout stream along approximately 1,400 trout streams, and 190 of them are open year around, so trout season never ends here! The Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Muskegon Rivers—all fabled for great trout fishing— are within a few hours of our home even here in Grand Rapids, although we also live on a little spring-fed lake that theoretically has trout. (For the record, we’ve never caught one here either! 😦 ) However, even though we’re terrible fishermen (“God made fishies to live!” was Alan’s wail as a small boy observing fishing near his Upper Peninsula home),  we do love to eat fish, and trout is one of the sweetest-tasting, most delicate and delicious fish you’ll ever eat, so when it’s offered on a menu, we often order it.  Alan said his rainbow trout from the mountain streams of Nepal last fall was his favorite dinner from that entire trip. On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had some excellent trout dishes, including rainbow trout in Reykjavik, Iceland that was so fresh it must have been in school earlier that morning! So, I decided to write about trout today, even though for those of you who are old hands at fishing, I know you’ll say, “I already knew that!”

Simply the Best Rainbow Trout

Are you ready for this? The fact of the matter is that the best fish are the freshest fish, flash-fried in hot butter on a griddle or in cast-iron skillet (or over a fire!).Wash the fillets, brush a light coating of flour on both sides, and fry them skin-side up for 3 minutes in hot butter (browned but not burned). Flip them over (carefully, so they don’t break apart), and cook them for three more minutes, sprinkling them with salt, butter, and seasoning salt to taste. (I use Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, but whatever you like works). If you’ve not overcooked your trout, it will be tender, flaky, and moist. Serve it up immediately with some fruits and veggies. If you like tartar sauce and lemon, that’s fine, but if your fish is really fresh, it can stand alone on its own fins!

P.S.—Have you noticed that in life (like cooking), many things are complicated, but sometimes the best way is to apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? In most of the scriptures, “simple” is equated with “ignorant” and given a negative connotation, but there is one verse that tells us to be “simple,” and in this case, it’s a good thing: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). When it comes to exploring evil, God actually wants us to avoid learning about it. Do friends tease you because you’re so “naive” or inexperienced? I used to get teased a lot. One girl friend alleged that on my honeymoon I’d probably make chocolate fudge because I wouldn’t know what else to do. Keep life pure..and “simple.”