How to Get Selected to Open Disneyland

How would you like to be able to open Disneyland Park? On the day we went to Disneyland, we got selected to open the park! Would you like to know how?

Well, let me tell you. I’ve been to Disneyland four times in the past 60 years:  1.) 60 years ago, in 1958, when I was only 8 (like my grandson Reid),
and the park was only 3 years old.  2.) 30 years ago, in 1988, when our oldest son, Aaron was 13
and I was 38 (like my daughter-in-law, Carleen is now).   3.) 25 years ago, in 1993, when our youngest son was a toddler.   4.) Last week, when our oldest son’s oldest son (Reuben, on left) was almost 13.

In addition, Alan and I have been to Disney World 50+ times in the past 45 years. So, we are definitely Disney fans (or at least, Alan is!).                                Talk about fun through the generations!  However, it wasn’t our devotion to Disney that got us selected, and it wasn’t through some application process. Also, it wasn’t because we were first in line (although I gather people do attempt to be first in line for that reason).  Actually, Alan and Aaron had dropped us off at the gate and gone back to our apartment to park (and then walk back) while Carleen and I were waiting in line with our four kiddos.  We were singing a song together about the states and capitals, when a man walked up and invited us to open the park. We were totally surprised. In all my years of going to Disney, I’d never tried to figure out how to get to open the park or even thought about wanting to open the park. BUT, presented with the opportunity, the answer was YES!  So, our patron led us through the crowds to the front gate, took us in, and let us be the ones to lead the count down and yell, “Let the magic begin!”Now, I know this might seem disappointing to you, because as humans we’d think it might be more “fair” if we could somehow be selected based on merit or hard work . . . because we were such devoted fans or got up the earliest and were the very first people in line, or because we had submitted an application explaining why we were the most deserving of candidates. But human wisdom is not God’s wisdom, and for whatever reason, He allowed us to be randomly selected for the privilege of opening Disneyland last week!    Thank you, Father, for that totally undeserved and surprising opportunity! I wonder, are there any of you reading this who believe in God but feel like you’re just waiting in line, hoping to get into heaven someday? You may be real “fans” of religious things . . . go to church faithfully and try to live right. You may even believe the “fair” way to get into heaven is by being good . . . by working very hard, disciplining yourself to be an exemplary student, employee, or parent, or by loving others enough to deserve getting into heaven. Maybe . . .Hopefully . . . ?Disney may be “the happiest place on earth,” but heaven is incomparably better than Disney, and God actually wants all of us to be shouting together, “Let the joys begin!” However, God knows that no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to be “good enough” on our own even to pay our way into the park (so to speak), so He sent Jesus to make it possible!  We don’t have to be in the right place at the right time, and we don’t have to attempt to earn our way into heaven. All we have to do is say “YES!” to Jesus, who like our kindly guide, has the power to get us through the gates: Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you . . .I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture . . .10I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (excerpts from John 10:7-11).  Are you ready to begin your best and greatest adventure yet . . . something infinitely more exciting than getting to open Disneyland?Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  

Lessons from Fossil Rim

Alan and I have flown through the DFW (Dallas, Fort Worth Texas) airport a number of times, and once we even had to spend the night, although we didn’t know where to go or what to do, so we pretty much “wasted” our day. However, my friend Marilyn (who’s also going to share her recipe for chicken enchiladas this Saturday), recommended one excellent opportunity for fun and learning if you’re in the area. Here’s what she shared with me:                                    Becoming a grandparent is a gift from God because you get a second chance to relive old memories and pour your life into your grandchildren. We are blessed to have our children living fairly close to us, and our two youngest granddaughters are home schooled, which presents new adventures for us.

Recently we went on a home school cooperative field trip to Fossil Rim, a 1,800- acre conservatory protecting 1,100 animals on open meadows near Glen Rose, Texas (just an hour or so from Ft. Worth or Dallas). Not only can you observe these animals, you can interact with some of them as well!                                   Fossil Rim was named for the terrain which is an upheaval of land that is the beginning of the Texas Hill Country.  Limestone outcropping and caves may be seen in the area. Many fossils can be found indicating total flooding. My granddaughter picked up a rock in the picnic area that was a conglomerate of aquatic fossils and reminded me of Genesis 7:19, “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” When we first arrived, there was a presentation on the importance of being good stewards by Mark, a former missionary kid and missionary, using a creation Jinga (though he didn’t use the term creation). Blocks were stacked in the order of creation starting with the appearance of the land and ending with the creation of man. Genesis 1:9, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Mark then talked about stewardship, and as the children were chosen to pull boxes from the stack, Mark illustrated the imbalance that occurs when man does not care for what he has been given. Eventually the stack collapsed. Genesis 2:15, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”  Next was a discussion of how an animal is brought to the park vet for examination. There are three methods: 1) Place food inside a trailer to entice the animal to enter, 2) Use a snare, or 3) Tranquilize the animal, which is only used as a last resort. We were taught how to use a blow pipe and had fun practicing our skill on a cardboard zebra.  After the teaching time, we boarded the tour bus where our guide told us, “The bus is to the animals what an ice cream truck is to children!” He was so right. The giraffes were the first to see us and approach. Did you know that because of their weight, the giraffe’s gait is to advance front and back legs on one side and then the other in unison?  That was news to me! I also learned that giraffes have no upper teeth. They took the pellets from our hands with their soft lips. They have whiskers on their chins and long beautiful eyelashes. We were told that their favorite food is the leaves from the acacia tree, which also has thorns. The whiskers and eyelashes serve to protect their mouths and eyes from the thorns. The eyelashes also shield their eyes from the sun. Their tongues can be up to 20 inches in length.  The giraffes were tall enough to “come into” the tour bus. When they took the pellets from our hands we felt their soft lips and bristly whiskers. The biggest one, a male named Mosey, was able to reach beyond me all the way over to my hubby on the far side of the bus.  All along our route, the bus continued to be an attraction to the animals. This aoudad sheep seemed to be smiling at us.  Fallow deer hunted for the pellets that were thrown. Fallow deer come in a range of color from white to dark brown, and many are spotted like white-tail deer fawns.  The proud blackbuck was too busy guarding his harem and territory to come to the bus,                   and the mountain bongo stayed in the shelter of the trees.                                                   But the gemsbok,                                                                 addax, and a Hartmann’s mountain zebra came to get their share of pellets. Other species came to the bus, and still others were in restricted areas that we could see but not feed. I couldn’t help but marvel at the variety of God’s creation and in considering the animals’ ability to approach the bus unafraid made me ponder the bond that God designed between man and animals before the fall. Genesis 2:19b, 20a explains: “and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.

  “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

Even More Reasons to Love Meijer Gardens…All Around the Year!

Last Tuesday I mentioned six reasons why I love Frederik Meijer Gardens, but I was really just getting a good start when it occurred to me that 27 of my favorite photos and so many more words was enough for one day. So, to continue—

#7. Meijer Garden is a great place for bonding with loved ones!   As one example, it’s the perfect place to teach your kids how to use a camera because there’s beauty everywhere! #8. Speaking of bonding, the cafe is sunshiny and the  food delicious. Where else can you sit with a garden of Chihuly glass flowers above you,  a wall of green (and one of your sons) beside you, and a table adorned by real, live orchids in front of you? #9. Meijer’s Michigan Farm Garden is a treasure. It’s a real, live working farm where they grow lots of produce.They also have lots of real, not live (but still adorable) farm animal (sculptures).  #10. There are nature trails and abundant wildlife throughout. You can find turtles on sunny rocks, swans hiding behind brush, sunning themselves with their little ones, birds sitting in trees, frogs croaking in the bog,  geese and goslings to observe on the lawns,& friendly caterpillars who just happen to be at the right place at the right timeso even little ones can find them!  🙂  #11. There’s an excellent, family-friendly art gallery that has rotating exhibitions throughout the year.  One of the things I love most about Frederik Meijer Gardens is that I always feel like I can take my children and grand children there without worrying about what they’re going to see!  #12. There are special seasonal events. Not only are there beautiful bonsai exhibits all summer outside, There are numerous exhibitions and contests year around. If you’re not into competitions, you can still get ideas and buy supplies. They have really interesting arts and craft shows too, where you can buy fascinating items from various artists.  Of course, my favorite seasonal event is Christmas, when the garden turns into a fairyland of lights and color,complete with Christmas trains that chug around tracks and an elaborate, handmade village.

Well, it’s time to end again, and I haven’t begun to tell you about the  concert program at their amphitheater, their gift shop, or their great volunteer program, so I’ll just stop for now by saying that there is so much beauty and variety at Meijer Garden that I have trouble telling you “all about it!” Of course, that makes me think of Jesus, of whom the Apostle John wrote, And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Jesus is incomprehensibly more beautiful and infinitely more complex than a simple botanical garden here on earth! He’s worth exploring not only all around the year but every day forever. Have you gotten to know Him? You can learn about him through reading the Bible. The Book of John is a great place to start.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent
” (John 17:3).

Mackinac Island’s 70th Annual Lilac Festival Starts Today!

  Alan and I have been going to Mackinac Island together for over 50 years now, and I try to take him up every year for his birthday. This year the timing worked out to go last weekend, and the lilacs were just beginning to blossom out, so I’m sure it will be spectacular for this year’s       Lilac Festival, which begins today and lasts through Sunday, June 17th.Every day there are over a dozen events planned, and the whole festival culminates in a Grand Parade down Main Street on June 17th…
which also happens to be Father’s Day this year. The weather is predicted to be in the upper 60°s and sunnyish every day,        so if you can afford the time and money and live within driving distance,    it might make a marvelous place to visit this week or to celebrate Father’s Day!  M-185, the 8.2-mile highway circling Mackinac Island, Is (I think?) the only highway in America that doesn’t allow cars, although the quiet road is punctuated with the clippity-clop
of horse hooves now and then. Most years Alan and I walk around the island and bike around too, although over the years we’ve had to make a few compensations to offset the effects of aging. When we were young, we couldn’t afford to stay on the island
(not to mention we weren’t even married the first few years),so we’d just head over for a day, walking in the morning
and riding in the afternoon after a yummy picnic lunch. By our fifties, we could afford to stay overnight and eat at restaurants,
which gave us ample opportunities to rest up between excursions. This year (68th birthday), we noticed that after our 10+ miles of hiking         around the island, enjoying lunch,  walking around town, shopping, and meandering through the gardens at the Grand Hotel, we were too bushed to take a bike ride on the same day!Even worse, there is only one restroom, which is halfway around the island, so if you’ve got an aging bladder, don’t drink a lot of coffee or tea before heading out!Give your body a little time to digest and equilibrate  before your hike,
or you might find concentrating on conversation a little more challenging
at times as you journey to the site of the British Landing!  🙂Over the years, we’ve stayed at a number of different hotels. Many people have a favorite and always go back to the same place, but we love trying new places so often try some particularly good “special.” This year we stayed at the Harbour View Inn. The landscaping, room, and ambience were lovely! The continental breakfast was…adequate. However, unless we’re staying at the Grand, we do have a favorite lunch spot. We almost always have fish at the Village Inn, and the food is always excellent! Have I piqued your interest? It’s never too late to embark on a new adventure!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

(All photos were taken on Mackinac Island last Saturday, June 2, 2018.)

The Birthday Club Strikes Again

Happy Spring to you!! We celebrated spring and Cindi’s birthday yesterday, which was so much fun that I wanted to share right away in case any of you living in the GR area might be interested in going to the Sugarbush Festival at Blandford Nature Center tomorrow (March 24, 2018) where they’ll be making maple syrup, etc! Also, this coming week would be an ideal time to take your kids
to the Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI, during spring break because they have all sorts of babies being birthed,  and if you show up at feeding time,  they may even let you give the baby goats a bottle of warm milk!  (This may depend on how many children come.)  Of course, being our Birthday Club, we stopped at Sandy’s Donut House  for some of their famous donuts,  and we took a lunch break at El Aztecas Mexican Restaurant,  where they spontaneously blessed us with some festive fried ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday” when they found out we were celebrating Cindi’s birthday.  If you go to the Sugarbush Festival tomorrow,  dress warmly, because it’s only supposed to be a high of 39°F,  but there are lots of things to see outside and some lovely nature walks.  Also,  think about stopping at Sandy’s for a donut on your way, or maybe serving pancakes and syrup at home first, because there isn’t a pancake breakfast there. However, they did let us taste the syrup,
and you’ll be able to buy some yummy maple syrup cotton candy or other treats! If you decide to go the Critter House,  I’d recommend going in the next few weeks while the mothers are birthing,  and call ahead to see what time the next feeding will be.  Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little warm milk on,
because even kids will be kids…but it’s well worth the spilled milk! I’d never in all my years fed a baby goat before, and it was so much fun!One of the things I love best about our Birthday Club (and about life), is that we’re never too old to try new things, experience new joys and find new beauties. Are you trying new adventures? Keep exploring! The world is full of good things!

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5).

He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

In The Cave

As we prepare our hearts for Easter, I’d like to share this meditation written by a dear friend from my writers’ group who is a retired English teacher…wise, deep, and sweet!

It is the season of Lent, before Resurrection Sunday, and our church is encouraging us to be more contemplative in our personal worship, to be quiet, to listen to the voice of the Lord as we clear our minds and pray and wait. We have practiced being quiet in the worship service, in small meetings, in vesper services. It is a lovely and beautiful time. It is also totally awkward for someone determined to learn through study, to work out the faith in good deeds, to be busy just about all of the time.

In the middle of Lent we take a trip to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky with two of our grandsons. We have been there before and also to various caves around the country, so small wet stairs going down down down, slippery handrails, and the “Now I am going to turn off the lights” from the Ranger are not brand new events. However, they are the events I most dread even though I am thrilled to be there with our grandsons.

After a long hike down into a truly mammoth cave, “you can do it you can do it” keeping time with my footsteps, our group reaches a large inner space with high ceiling and park-supplied benches. The Ranger tells us all to “take a seat.”

He talks about where we are, how the large space has been formed, and answers several questions from the group. Then he says, “I am going to turn out the lights.” I schooch over closer to my husband. “But first, I want all of you to close your eyes. Keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them.”  Yikes, I find my husband’s hand, move even closer to him. And I also close my eyes. Best not to remember we are 250 feet underground in a damp cave, “Now I am going to turn out the lights. Keep your eyes closed.” Click, he turns them out. Best not remember we are 250 feet underground in a damp cave with our eyes closed and the lights turned off.

“When I tell you to, open your eyes.”  Momentarily, he tells us to open our eyes. I do, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference, the darkness, the blackness, is all the same. I can’t see anything. Then the Ranger says, “I am going to turn on my light; it is the equivalent of one candle.” He clicks something and a light goes on. He is standing in the same place as before, he is holding a small light, and I can see the whole cave — ceiling, walls, jagged floors, bench seats, my husband, our grandsons, everyone else.

The Ranger makes some jokes about the overhead lights. Then he tells us that we can see well enough to get all the way out of the cave by this one small candle light if needed.  However, he does turn on the regular lights and we breathe easier.

And deep in the cave I think, “Wow, this is just like the practices for Lent. ‘Close your eyes,’ the Ranger says. ‘Be still,’ the Lord says. The choice is mine.”

The Ranger says, “I am going to turn out the lights. Keep your eyes closed.” The lights go out which is not by my action, but I keep my eyes closed which is my choice. I choose to let my eyes adjust, I choose to clear other images out of my mind and heart. These are my choices.

The Ranger says, “Open your eyes.” I obey. It is deeply dark, fearsome. When I am quiet, focused, it can be deeply dark, fearsome. Light-action-busy is much more comfortable. “Now I will light one candlepower of light,” he says, his action not mine. The acuity of my vision astounds me. How can I possibly see this much? I see because I obeyed the Ranger and prepared my eyes.

So it is in the time of Lent. I can be still and quiet, close my eyes to the confusion of life. I can accept the darkness and allow the eyes of my heart to adjust. And now, with my eyes prepared, what more do I see?

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10, ESV).

(Written by Helen Bell. Thank you so much, Helen!)

St. Joseph’s: A Beautiful Surprise!

There are small two towns just off I-96 between our home and Chicago, and we’ve driven by the exit sign probably more than a hundred times over the past 25 years. One is St. Joseph, and the other is Benton Harbor.  They are known as “The Twin Cities” and are only separated by the St. Joseph River, so in my mind, I always thought of them as basically the same town. In fact, because of their proximity, I confused their reputations.  Sadly, Benton Harbor has the lowest per capita income of any town in the state, with over 40% of the population being below the poverty level. The town also has a reputation for being crime-ridden and a place to avoid…rather like the south side of Chicago: Don’t venture in unless you’re prepared for the possibility of being mugged or shot.  However, not long ago, Joel showed us a photo of a beach in St. Joseph that looked so appealing Alan and I decided to do something we’ve never done before: We stopped by to check out St. Joseph on our way home from Warren Dunes.

We were amazed…and delighted! St. Joseph is a beautiful little resort town.  Last Saturday, they were having an auto show with a parade of old cars.  How fun!  They also had a great farmers’ market  loaded with everything  that makes an open-air market mouth-watering  and delicious.  They have a downtown area lined with restaurants and shops  as cute as that in Holland, Michigan.  They have their own neighborhood of classic old homes  that looks like Heritage Hill here in Grand Rapids.  They have a free splash pad at their ” Whirlpool Centennial Park,”   and a gorgeous waterfront at Silver Beach Park  that rivals that of our all-time favorite getaway, Grand Haven.  In fact, the parking lot at the beach was full,  and we had to park some blocks away down a quiet side street.  However, that worked out just fine, because it gave us a good chance  to have our own walking tour of the downtown area and waterfront,  and Alan’s nose tracked down a delightful roof-top cafe  for some fresh perch fish’n’chips.

  All told, we had an A+ experience and marveled that in all these years we’d totally overlooked this little gem of a beachfront resort because of their “twin” city’s reputation. Now the harder question is: Why is one city thriving while the other is failing?, and I don’t know the answer to that. They’re both too far from home for me to try to get involved in solving that problem. (And, we have plenty of poverty and crime right here in GR.)  But, the easier question is this: What or who else am I avoiding because of an undeserved bad reputation? Am I missing out on getting to know someone just because they are related to someone with a bad reputation?  May I (we) learn to be more discerning, evaluating each potential friend according to their own character, not the character of their “family.”  The Bible sets the right example: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20).  Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:8-9).