Tolkien Visits Disney

“May the wind under your wings bear you
where the sun sails and the moon walks” (J.R.R. Tolkien).

Recently, Alan and I visited Disney World with some of our kids and grandchildren. The richness of sights, sounds, tastes . . . experiences of surprise, laughter, excitement, and layered memories always makes our trips memorable. I was thinking about all the spiritual symbolism in J.R.R. Tolkien’s wild imagination, and how his wisdom and wit could be inscribed on some of our experiences at the parks. Tolkien would have loved a day wandering through the world of Disney, I’m sure. So, in his memory, I’m going to combine a few of my favorite Tolkien quotes with a few of my favorite photos from traveling to Disney!

“The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus means that one day
everything sad will come untrue.”

“How do you move on? You move on when your heart
finally understands that there is no turning back.”

“It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.”

“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”

(From Psalm 91:13-16, KJV Bible. You see, even the Bible has dragon stories!) “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation

“Above all shadows rides the sun.”

“You can only come to morning through the shadows.”

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world.”

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”

“True education is a kind of never ending story—a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure.”
(Speaking more of this beautiful 1919 corvette [soon to be outdated by the 2020’s coming out] rather than my beloved husband!)

“For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.”

“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

“Living by faith includes the call to something greater
than cowardly self-preservation.”

“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”

“There is a place called ‘heaven’ where the good here unfinished is complete; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet.”

“The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks.” . . . Amen? To know, to love, to trust, to praise! As we are taught in Psalm 100:3-5, “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Sonnet 81: “Shall I Compare Thee To a Summer Play?”

“I’d rather go to a Dime-Dog ball game than watch a boring Shakespeare play.” Yikes! Times are changing! In the light of that comment, and in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, I couldn’t help but write a (somewhat playful) response expressing my preferences too.

What was considered the height of literary wit four hundred years ago is out of vogue with most of Gen Z, and maybe Gen X too!

As I admitted last time I wrote, even I found a walk in the park more refreshing than a night at the theater!

So, here’s to my Maker, in honor of his glorious being, his creation, and His immutable Word, which stands above time and is eternal, surpassing the eloquence of even the most revered of our English-speaking writers!

Shall l compare Thee to a summer play?
Thou art more worthy and more glorious:
The winds of change oft temper what men say,
Their words, once apt, become notorious.
Words melt and molt; they fade and lose their voice.
What once was wise, youth’s wisdom doth suspect.
The audience today rejects past choice
And says it’s not politically correct.
Though wit be wit and dark be dark through time,
Though love and life and death collide with pow’r,
No light shines like Your canticle sublime,
No truth excels the wisdom of Your bow’r.
Yea, thine eternal grandeur shall extend
Thy Word still pure, unchanging to the end.

Thy word is true from the beginning:
and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160).

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5)

Sunset Falling on a Bridge Along the Avon River

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

Walking the footpath along the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario with my son

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).

Top Cultural Attraction in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: World’s Busiest Lock System!

If you ever go to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, be sure to take time to visit the Soo Locks, which is the single most significant cultural contribution the Yoopers (“folks from Michigan’s upper peninsula”) make to American heritage.

Alan and I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, so we sort of took the Soo Locks for granted, although we loved sitting together by their lovely fountain even 50 years ago!

However, since traversing the Panama Canal a couple of years ago, we now have a new appreciation for the importance of the Soo Locks, so on our recent “Roots” tour, it meant a lot of us to be able to take some of our kids and grand children there and tell them “all about it!”

Source: Unknown. Found at http://geo.msu.edu/extra/geogmich/SooLock.html

Begun back in the early 1800’s and opened in 1855, the Soo Locks was one of America’s great infrastructure engineering feats, making it possible to ship the resources from the Lake Superior region to the rest of America’s Great Lakes (and beyond).

Michigan Survey Map. Wiki Commons
(mauve-colored areas to north and east are Canada)

The project was heroic, as it meant forming a lock to accommodate the 21-foot drop in water level from Lake Superior to Lake Huron via the existing rapids along a 1000-foot-thick sandstone river bed on the St. Mary’s River.

Poster at Soo Locks Visitor Center, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Although the Soo Locks are one of America’s National Historic Landmarks, they continue to be a vital part of the modern shipping trade, receiving ships from around the world, and by cargo tonnage they are the busiest locks in the world!

Soo Locks, Aerial View. Wiki Commons

They consist of four individual locks that allow between 7,000-10,000 ships carrying more than 80 million tons of cargo (including over $500 billion’s worth of iron ore) per year to pass free of charge through their gates.

Photo from Soo Locks Visitor Center

The locks are powered entirely by gravity, and each traverse requires 22 million gallons of water to fill the lock.

View of the locks from a walk across the International Bridge Alan and I took in 2013. https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/walking-the-international-bridge/

A complete transit takes about 9 hours through the St. Mary’s River system.

Because they are part of the transportation system from Duluth, Minnesota all the way to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway, cargo ships may be on a 2,342- mile trip when they traverse the Soo Locks, although ships from around the world have passed through this port.

The biggest freighters that come through the locks are up to 1,013 feet long (which is more than three football fields!), but the morning we visited, we got to see the Joseph H. Thompson pass through.

Joseph H. Thompson passing through the Soo Locks

Although the Thompson is only 706 feet long, it is one of the Great Lakes’ most historic vessels.

It was originally built in 1944 and has served both on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, during wartime and peacetime!

Although impressive to watch, even for youngsters, it’s really helpful to go to the Visitor Center, where there are excellent explanations on the history and technical aspects of how the locks work.

Soo Locks Visitor Center

The most fun (and educational) exhibit for kids is a hands-on display where you can “open” and “close” the locks and let the ships go through.

Observation Deck at the Soo Locks

Obviously, you want to be out (or better yet, up on the Observation Deck) when a ship is passing through the locks, but if you have time beforehand, I almost think it’s better for people with young children to see the Visitor Center first so they have a better understanding of what it is they’re seeing.

Reflecting on our trip, I couldn’t help but think about how much we humans take for granted. Alan and I—as young kids fifty years ago—enjoyed the ambience and lovely gardens around the locks as just “the garden in our backyard” without any deep appreciation for the significance of the locks. Our grandchildren had a similar response. They had fun running around watching the big freighter come in and exploring the park, but they reacted with a simple acceptance of what “is” without any apparent wonder over the locks’ complexity or significance.

Another photo from our bridge walk in 2013. This is of the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario side of the St. Mary’s River. There are twin “Soo” cities, and the locks are on the border between the U.S. and Canada, although the four U.S. locks carry the commercial trade.

My grandchildren remind me of myself! In so many ways, I am completely oblivious to the vast complexities of both God’s creation and the world’s civilizations. I find myself taxed trying to figure out how to use and care for the material blessings in my life—everything from turning on our video system to caring for the flowers in our garden—but I couldn’t begin to make a video system or create a flower! Could you?

However, like a child, I want to learn, and experiment, and grow in my understanding of what’s around me, and I am thankful for the wondrous world God has made! I’ll never learn everything, but I want to understand the most important things about life, and for that, I turn every day to the God’s Word! 🙂

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

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).

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