Category Archives: Parks

Lovely Ludington: My Favorite Lower Michigan State Park

If you live in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and you’re looking for something really special to do on a weekend, consider visiting Ludington State Park.  We went camping there last weekend, but frankly, if you want to camp at one of their 350+ sites (plus 10 more for backpackers),  you need to get your reservations about 6 months in advance, because the campgrounds fill up soooo fast! Still, it’s a great place to visit, if only for the day.                                                   What makes it so special?                             Well, its beauty, its size, and its variety for starters.  Ludington State Park encompasses 5,300 acres of forest, sand dunes, and water,       including a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s pristine, sandy shoreline.  There are over 21 miles of marked hiking trails (also cross-country skiing, canoeing, and bike trails, including some lovely paved pathways that are handicap accessible). In summer, Lake Michigan waves and fresh water make for refreshing swimming, and if it’s too bracing for your taste, Lake Hamlin is usually warmer and appeals to swimmers and boaters. (This photo was taken last summer.) Although it was too cold this past weekend, hot days are also perfect for tubing down the Big Sable River to Lake Michigan.               There is always a lot of wildlife, including good fishing! We saw deer (can you see the doe peeking out?), wild turkeys, a big, fat racoon (who scared some neighboring campers), and many colorful birds.  The campsites are heavy with the scent of pines and the comforting sounds of water and birds. When I closed my eyes, I had to think twice. Was this real, or was it just a new recording of music for relaxation?  Thankfully, at Ludington State Park, the soothing sounds of nature are real! Do you have any recordings of music meant to help you relax? We do, and we love them! Distant thunder, dripping rain, waves lapping and rolling, the haunting melody of the evening thrush…spring peepers. Of everything that is music to my ears, I think the sound that lulls me to sleep most peacefully is that still, small voice within me—God’s Holy Spirit—singing to me I am loved by God. He loves you too! I hope you know that and find peace and rest in His love!

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

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)
 

Beauty in our Backyard: Amen to Aman Park!

We moved from Michigan’s northern peninsula about 24 years ago, and one of the lingering memories I’ve cherished
is that of northern spring woods carpeted with trillium and wildflowers. Actually, we have a sprinkling of trillium in my backyard, but nothing like the gauze of white that drapes the hillsides near Fayette in the Upper Peninsula, so I’ve harbored a pensive ambition to return some spring just to feast my eyes on the wildflowers that bloom there. Therefore, I could hardly believe my eyes after church last Sunday when some friends showed me photos of the woods filled with trillium at Aman Park, which is just off Lake Michigan Dr. only about 10 miles east of downtown GR.In all the years we’ve lived here, I’d never stopped by to check out this park!  Talk about a deplorable lack of curiosity! (Well, I’d been curious a few times, but never enough to do anything about it!) Susan and I decided to go hiking there.It was S.O. beautiful! The little ridges of the woods seemed sprinkled with frost. Not only are the trillium in bloom, there are wonderful patches of Virginia bluebells and delicate hepatica, wild phlox, vinca minor, and violets. If you live in the area, love wildflowers, and have a couple of hours free in the next few days, consider visiting. It’s free. 🙂But, take a photo of the map on your cell phone for reference, because the trails are very poorly marked. The red (“Interpretative Trail” aka “B”) is only 1.5 miles long but gives you a wonderful experience  of peaceful trails through mazes of flowers.  I laughed with joy, but I also laughed at myself. In 24 years, I’d longed to drive hundreds of miles north (which I never did) rather than figuring out if there were any woods filled with trillium right here! I wonder, is there anything you’re missing and wishing for from days gone by? You might not be able to find exactly the same thing where you are,
but how about doing a little research? Perhaps like me, you’ll find some unexpected and wonderful opportunities
very close to home. In fact, it may be that heaven is closer than you think.Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee
” (Psalm 73:25).

(All these photos were taken on April 24, 2017 at Aman Park. If you miss it this year but want to try next year, they seem to bloom about the time the daffodils have peaked and the tulips are starting to bloom, which I’m guessing would be true anywhere trillium grows. Look online…you might have woodlands filled with wildflowers wherever you are!)

World’s Largest Canyons, Blyde River Canyon, and Changing Names

Our next stop was for some magnificent views of Blyde River Canyon, which is the world’s third largest canyon, (although I’d never heard of it before). In fact, would you like to see photos of the world’s largest and second largest canyons? Do you know their names? I wasn’t sure! America’s own Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the world, although Copper Canyon in Mexico’s Chihuahua state is a group of six canyons with a combined area that’s even greater, and Peru’s Colca Canyon is twice as deep. Nevertheless, we’ll keep our Grand Canyon as Numero Uno!The second largest canyon in the world is also in Africa. It’s called the Fish River Canyon: 550 meters deep and 160 km long! The Fish River Canyon is in Namibia. We didn’t get to see it on this trip, but it’s a popular tourist attraction and reported to be gorgeous. In 2011, they began an annual ultra marathon along the banks of this river! Can you imagine???We were blessed with a beautiful day and had the leisure to walk along the rim of Blyde River Canyon, luxuriating in the views and learning a little of its history.  There are over 1,000 different species of flora in this area, including many beautiful wildflowers in the spring. The canyon is part of the Blyde River Nature Reserve, one of South Africa’s most stunning geographical features. This 29,000-hectare (71,660-acre) park is carved from red sandstone along 60 km of the Blyde River. Our guide shared with us that the river was first named “Treur,” which means “mourning” in Afrikaans, because in 1844 some distraught settlers feared that their leader, Hendrik Potgieter, and all the members of his pioneering expedition had perished. However, shortly thereafter, the men returned, and the river’s name was changed from Treur (mourning) to Blyde (happy; joyous). This made me think of how the Lord works in us, to change our mourning into joy: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Since returning home, I’ve discovered that now there is a push to revert back to the canyon’s most ancient name: “Motlatse Canyon Provincial Nature Reserve.” Motlatse means “a river that is always full.” That’s also a wonderful name, especially in an area that has been beleaguered with drought for twenty years!Do you have any idea what your name means? My name means “pure,” but I used to mourn that—hard as I tried—I couldn’t live up to my name. However, the Lord has comforted me, changed my name to “Christian” and filled me with joy, because I now know that Jesus Christ was pure and gave me his name when I accepted him as my savior from sin: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). How about you? Have you made “the plunge” into the canyon of God’s love and experienced the life-changing depth of his forgiveness and grace?

For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” (Psalm 92:4-5)

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee! (—S. Trevor Francis, 1875)

(The photos of the Grand Canyon, Fish Canyon, and the last photo of the Blyde River Canyon are used by permission of Wiki; the rest are mine, taken November, 2016, at Blyde River Canyon. Also, I’ve since learned that the section of the Blyde River that was first dubbed the Treur River was a tributary which separates in the canyon and still retains that name.)

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga: Not All Potholes are Problematic!

                Do you go crazy trying to avoid all the potholes in spring? In Michigan, the winters are so brutal that by springtime roads are pocked with depressions where the ground has heaved, leaving broken asphalt and treacherous traps just waiting to pop the tires of unwary commuters. So, when we were told we were going to stop along the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa to see “the potholes,” I wasn’t particularly impressed…until I saw them!  These potholes have been created by the confluence of the Treur & Blyde Rivers                                                      at Blyde River Canyon, where centuries of wear have formed deep, cylindrical depressions in the sandstone bedrock. They are indeed potholes, but they’re not the dangerous ones we see in America. These potholes are grand and spectacularly beautiful formations in layered shades of rust, amber, brown, and taupe.  Their name refers to Tom Bourke, who was an unsuccessful gold prospector in this area, but I think he found something better than gold! Today, tourists (like Alan and me) come from around the world to marvel at the natural beauty of this area. So, the next time you see a pothole in your road, please avoid it to be sure, but remember that some potholes can be beautiful. How about us? Is the wear and pressure in our lives revealing natural color and creating unique patterns of beauty in us, or are we becoming broken and depressed? God intends the floods of time and pressure to transform us (particularly at the confluence of ourselves with another “river”).He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:10-12)   But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour (Isaiah 43:1-3)

(All photos taken on our trip to South Africa at Burke’s Luck Potholes,  2016.)

Anticipating the View from God’s Window

“God’s Window” is in South Africa and was our first stop on the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg.* For  those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you might notice that I haven’t written anything about Africa for a month, and that I have as yet to say one word about our safari in Kruger National Park, which is likely to be even more interesting to you than the view from God’s Window.

I apologize. At the most interesting sites, I take hundreds of photos,
and it takes hours…no days!…to choose and process the best to share. This requires unhurried days at home without any heaven-sent opportunities to interact with family and friends
(which often fill many days to overflowing).

That aside aside, I want to share three favorite stops along this famous Panoramic Route in the coming week before April begins and I try to finish telling tales from our adventures in Southeast Asia last spring. (I will return to African experiences sometime, though, because they were great!)Renier, our travel guide in Africa, explained that God’s Window was a special place in Mpumalanga along the Drakensberg escarpment where the cliffs drop over 2,200 feet to the “lowveld” (low grassland) below, opening up vistas of the entire Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and on a clear day you can see some 150 miles to the border of Mozambique!**                         That’s pretty close to “On a clear day you can see forever!”                                                   We were all super excited! Unfortunately, by the time we actually got there, clouds had filled the canyon and we couldn’t see anything but a sea of mist. So disappointing!  😦  But, how like life on earth! We have hopes and dreams and prayers for vision, and sometimes it does seem like we can see everything clearly from God’s window…from His perspective. However, other days our vision is totally obscured, and we have no clue what the future will hold. No matter how clear or cloudy the present is, may we keep calm and carry on with what we know to do (even if that means not going very far), waiting patiently for the clouds to lift and the Lord to give us more vision for the next steps in our journey.  And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40: 36-37).

(Photo credits: *First photo from South African Tourism: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-gods-window
**Photo from Wikipedia
I took the animal photos during our safari in Kruger National Park and the rest on our trip to God’s Window and along the Panoramic Route in South Africa.)

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.