“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11) God will bring us through the messes and suffering, just as he did for Job, who was able to testify after all he endured: “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). May our hearts echo his faith.
While we were on our North Sea cruise and sailing in and out of Norway’s gorgeous fjordlands, Alan and I watched The King’s Choice, a recent docudrama that tells the gripping story of the Nazis’ arrival in Oslo, Norway on April 9, 1940, and how King Haakon VII of Norway chose to respond to that threat. The unthinkable ultimatum? Surrender or die! Although the movie primarily follows three of Norway’s most historically dramatic days, it is really a lesson in courage, valor, and one family’s anguish over making the right moral choice …not simply for themselves, but for their entire nation. If you’re not versed in Norwegian history, you might not know much about the events, and actually, this is the first time I understood more of the complexities from “behind the scenes.” As a kid, all I knew was that the king and his family had escaped from Norway during World War 2, and I admit rather sheepishly to wondering why everybody loved the king’s family so well when they escaped and so many Norwegians died. In Norway, the film was a huge success. In fact, it was the best-selling film in 4 decades of Norwegian cinema and was short-listed for the Oscars in the U.S. It premiered at Norway’s royal palace with all available members of the royal family attending, so you know it honored not only country, but king! If you (like me) have ever wondered why countries capitulated so easily during World War 2, this movie will help you understand some of the terror they felt. (I realize being terrified doesn’t give us permission to make wrong choices, but I’m just sayin’! The only way to overcome evil is with good, by God’s grace!) It’s also helped me understand why Jesus taught, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”* We never ever understand all the circumstances around anyone else’s actions, so we should never suppose we can judge another person’s motives. We can (and must) judge people’s actions, but even there Jesus cautions us to “judge righteous judgment.”** I aspire to (as in, “I want very much but have not arrived”) being a person who respects other people enough to withhold judgment and exercise a gracious spirit toward them as much as possible. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). * “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5). ** “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is the world’s largest man-made geothermal mineral bath and listed in National Geographic as one of the world’s Twenty-Five Wonders.Many people travel to Iceland in January in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights, but we have good friends who went last January and didn’t see a single streak of midnight light, so Alan and I were happy to go in August, when the thermostat doesn’t dip so low and the daylight hours are luxuriously long. Iceland in August is unforgettable, and among the dozens of delights we enjoyed, savoring a day lulling in the legendary Blue Lagoon was right up there at the top. The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most visited attractions, and people come from all over the world to enjoy the ambience and healing waters. How does it work? Well, the lagoon is filled with sea water channeled from over a mile underground, past a volcanic lava flow that super-heats it to a searing 464°F. The water is used to generate power at the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station and then cooled to 100°F. before being pumped into the lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is built into a black basaltic lava field that’s thought to be 800 years old and looks natural (for a moonscape) as well as ethereal. The pools contain 9 million liters of water, which are circulated through the baths and then discarded, completely renewing the lagoon every 40 hours. The result is an enormous “spa” with luxuriously warm waters rich with algae and mineral deposits like sulfur and silica (which gives the water it’s beautiful, milky-blue color). If you’re squeamish about modesty (like I am), you can relax. The changing rooms are divided by gender, and everybody wears a bathing suit. Each person is given a fluffy, white, warm bathrobe (hanging on left) for wearing before and after entering the pool, which was comforting even in August! Complimentary silica-mud is distributed if you want to try a face mask, and refreshments are available at their swim up bar in the pool. There’s also a fresh-water drinking fountain in the pool if you feel dehydrated. There are walkways around the lagoon, although lava is sharp, so you’d need shoes and warm wraps before attempting a hike. Now, perhaps some of you who find this post are researching Iceland and are considering a visit to the Blue Lagoon. I hope you go and love it! However, there may be others who won’t. Either way, I’d like to share that there is a place even more restful and wonderful than the Blue Lagoon, and that’s the spiritual rest that Jesus offers: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-29). That doesn’t mean we never work anymore, but that does mean that we don’t “work” in order to obtain our salvation! Jesus has provided for us through his death on the cross, so we can stop trying to be “perfect.” Mud baths are unnecessary; we can be washed clean through His cleansing power!Instead of trying to “work” our way to heaven, we need to completely relax. Jesus died for us. He is our healing water, and He will hold us up. He provides clean, white robes for us! He gives us the pure water of life to drink. All we have to do is believe: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:9-11).
(Photo Credits: Two of the photos I used appear on multiple sites, and I couldn’t trace it back to the original photographer to ask permission. However, I’m going to link them back to the most likely options I found:
The rest are mine, taken on our trip last August.)
Although I’ve never been deep-sea fishing, Alan and I have definitely been sailing on the deep blue sea, and not always when it was sunny and bright! Our scariest adventures have been during big cruises . . . once trying to outrun a hurricane in the Caribbean, and once hiding behind the Hawaiian Islands in an effort to avoid too much damage to the ship. In both instances, the ships and passengers all survived, although Alan was sicker than a dog both times and couldn’t eat for a few days until the soup stopped sliding off the tables. Another memorable trip was rounding Cape Horn off the southern tip of South America. That was breathtaking, because the wind was so strong it took our breath away and we could hardly stand on the deck (only 3% exaggeration). However, that day was also breathtaking because we saw a rainbow arching over the Beagle Channel as we made our way from Ushuaia around the horn.At the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, Alan and I were standing on terra firma celebrating a beautiful spring afternoon, so it wasn’t the least bit frightening, although still awe-inspiring and unforgettable for us. With these memories bolstering our courage, we looked forward to crossing the Arctic Circle on our cruise with Holland America’s Koningsdam, although I will admit to having some visions of the Titanic going down as we stood dreamily on deck in Iceland’s Isafjordur Harbor the night before our crossing. Our captain was Werner Timmers, a Dutchman who had served over 30 years with Holland America, and we had heard him talk about his career. He said that over the course of his years as captain, he’d experienced almost everything! Low points included a man overboard, losing an anchor, and facing a storm with 80-foot waves. The fact that Captain Timmers had weathered such a terrible storm and survived gave me a sense of confidence that he could probably pilot us safely through the icy, possibly treacherous waters ahead, so after our usual bedtime prayers, Alan and I went to sleep, knowing there wasn’t anything else we could do to help! As it turned out, the crossing was smooth and uneventful, and we woke up the next morning in a cloud of foggy sunshine. As the fog cleared, I could tell that we’d arrived safely at our new harbor . . . a beautiful, new land full of promise and adventure. Alan and I are also on an adventure in our personal lives. Are you? We’re heading to a faraway land called “heaven,” and we’re going to have to cross some very deep water to get there. I don’t know if the crossing will be choppy and frightening . . . if we’ll see a rainbow of hope or have to weather huge storms.As we embark on this journey, it’s reassuring to know that we have a pilot, Jesus, who has experienced both life—and death—and can lead us safely to heaven. Captain Timmers piloted us to our port in the North Sea, but only Jesus Christ can bring us safely into heaven’s harbor, and I know it will also be a fantastically beautiful land, full of unbelievably wonderful love, joy, peace . . . and adventure! Are you trying to pilot your own ship? Have you lost your anchor? Are you facing storms that could shipwreck you emotionally and spiritually? I hope you are trusting Jesus to guide you safely to heaven’s haven of rest!
The Haven of Rest
(—Henry L. Gilmore, 1890, public domain)
- My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea,
So burdened with sin and distressed,
Till I heard a sweet voice, saying, “Make Me your choice,”
And I entered the Haven of Rest!
I’ve anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest,
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep,
In Jesus I’m safe evermore.
- I yielded myself to His tender embrace,
In faith taking hold of the Word,
My fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul;
The Haven of Rest is my Lord.
- The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole,
Has been the old story so blest,
Of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have
A home in the Haven of Rest.
- How precious the thought that we all may recline,
Like John, the beloved so blest,
On Jesus’ strong arm, where no tempest can harm,
Secure in the Haven of Rest.
- Oh, come to the Savior, He patiently waits
To save by His power divine;
Come, anchor your soul in the Haven of Rest,
And say, “My Beloved is mine.”
Jesus taught us in John 14:1-6 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.“
(All photos taken during our cruise of the North Seas on the Koningsdam except for the three taken in South America and South Africa.)
When you were little, did you have a favorite soup? How about now? When I was little, my favorite lunch was tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and this is still the favorite lunch of my youngest son’s lifelong buddy (who’s now an adult). Also, on our recent cruise of the North Sea, we were served tomato soup several times and discovered that it’s popular not only aboard ships but on land as well…from Iceland to India. Therefore, I believe it’s an international, inter-generational classic!Alan and I have enjoyed many iterations of tomato soup, such as this unusual bowl of tomato soup with spinach and pasta. Tomato basil soup has become quite popular with hipsters and in upscale restaurants. My “Little Sister, Liz” made some from scratch last time I visited her in Washington D.C. , and it was outstanding!However, I think possibly the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted was served at Friðheimar, a restaurant near Selfoss, Iceland, while Alan and I were on the “Golden Circle Tour.” It was basically super fresh and creamy, with a swirl of yogurt and a sprinkling of parsley on top. Of course, I don’t know exactly what ingredients go into fabulous dishes, but I can usually come pretty close, so I want to share what I dreamed up, inspired by mulling over the delectable tastes and smells of that wonderful meal and dedicated to the memory of Iceland. If you’re the chef at Friðheimar and find this recipe, please feel free to share “the real” recipe with us. I looked online trying to find your recipe, but all I found were reviews that said things like, “the best fresh tomato soup I’ve ever tasted,” “we just instantly fell in love with the sweet’n’fresh tomato soup,” “simple but so tasty,” “amazing soup,” “gorgeous soup,” etc. That’s just the way we felt too! So, I tried, but mine is not as amazing as my memory of Friðheimar’s. Maybe I’ll write and ask him if he’ll share his recipe. Meanwhile, here’s a bright, healthy soup to warm you up on a chilly autumn day.
Fresh’n’Sweet Tomato Soup
In a large stock pot, combine:
2 tablespoons butter (turn on heat and melt), then add
1 medium onion, finely chopped (I only used half of the one above)
1 garlic clove (or 1 teaspoon pressed garlic; I just used 1 clove of this bulb)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (your favorite; mine is Lawry’s) seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper. Saute until the onions start to brown. Then add:
2 tablespoons flour; stir until absorbed into the juices before adding:4 large tomatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon crushed basil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken broth (or 2 cups of water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes=2 tablespoons of chicken bouillon powder). Simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat. Let it rest 15 minutes, then run it through a food mill or use a blender or immersion blender to puree. At this point, I believe Friðheimar must have run the puree through a strainer to remove skins and seeds, but I tend to think all sources of healthy fiber are good for you, so I didn’t. Suit yourself on this one.Next, taste it, and possibly add more salt and pepper per your personal taste.
Just before serving, reheat to make it piping hot, and serve with some swirls of yogurt and sprinkles of parsley (fresh or crushed).
“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (Proverbs 15:17).
P.S.—In the picture above, I had stirred extra yogurt into the soup (trying to match the color I remembered and add protein), but it wasn’t as yummy with the yogurt as without, so I left it out of the recipe above. Tomato soup is very light, however, so it’s good to combine it with something like fruit and fresh bread with cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich so you don’t end up hungry in an hour! 🙂 )
Flying is one of the most exhilarating experiences on earth, perhaps because it’s something we all imagine from childhood but can’t actually accomplish on our own. Or, as Amelia Earhart explained: “The lure of flying is the lure of beauty.” This summer, I flew from Grand Rapids to Venice via Atlanta, Georgia, up the eastern seaboard of America past Cape Cod just as the sun was setting… then across a cloud-blanketed Atlantic Ocean for an overnight voyage to Ireland. The sun rose bright and clear above a snowy sea of clouds covering Europe, so I couldn’t see much again until we got close to Venice. What a fascinating world of water ways and colors! I don’t think we have anything quite like Venice in America. That trip was to help my son Mike’s family during the birth of a new baby boy. Alan came for just one day to meet the baby, and then we were off before sunrise for a flight across the Alps and on to Amsterdam for a three-week cruise of lands around the North Sea. I have lots of cruise stories to share over the coming weeks
(like the night we attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo), because this adventure was the longest and one of the most relaxing ever. However, today I mostly want to share photos from the flights, because I think flying is one of the most thrilling rides on earth, and if you haven’t flown across America or the Atlantic, I thought you might enjoy seeing some aerial views. So, after our wonderful cruise of the North Sea, including Scotland, Iceland, the Norwegians fjords, and The Netherlands, we flew from Amsterdam back home, following a northern route that passed above the lower tip of Greenland, across northern Canada, and back to home, sweet home along the Grand River…
known as Grand Rapids to most, but lovingly nicknamed “Green Rabbits” by our sixth-born son when he was four.
(There were green rabbits on our ship, too!) I hope you enjoyed this round trip in a minute!
Since returning home, I’ve been thinking about something John Muir, the American naturalist wrote: “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” Indeed, I think that’s true! The only thing more beautiful to me than flying over the earth will be that last great flight to heaven! Are you ready to fly away? I am!
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 9:10).
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6-7).