Category Archives: Seasonal Pictures

These Colors Don’t Run

Happy Fourth of July to all Americans everywhere, and if you’re not an American, I hope you are living in a country where you are happy enough to want to celebrate, and that you’re able to enjoy safety and freedom. My little grand daughter Amélie was helping me arrange this bouquet, and when we got finished, she sighed happily. “At least we won’t have to water the flag!”  My sister heard this sentiment: “Red, White, and Blue. These colors don’t run.”

I am glad to be an American, just like I hope you’re glad to be a citizen of your country, but even more precious to me than my citizenship in America is my citizenship in heaven…where the color red most often refers to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, the color white speaks of purity, and the color blue is known as “the heavenly color,” pointing us heavenward. What keeps me from running—from being afraid—is that I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, can daily experience cleansing by the water of the Word of God, and am filled with eternal life through faith in Christ.

Today, I want to praise God for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness here in America, and for the even greater spiritual blessings of life, liberty, and love! I hope you’re experiencing the same joys and freedoms wherever you live!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, ESV).

 

Mackinac Island’s 2017 Lilac Festival: When is the Best Time to Visit?

The 2017 Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island is in full swing, and if you have any time (and money) between now and June 18 (and live anywhere within striking distance), I think you’d find great pleasure in visiting.      Alan and I couldn’t go this week, so we went over Memorial Day Weekend. This year has been so warm that I thought perhaps the lilacs would have started blooming, but they were still just tight buds at the end of May.                      Now I’m sure they’re probably as gorgeous as ever,                lining the streets and filling the air with their sweet perfume.                     Still, I think Mackinac Island is beautiful any time of  year,              and although the lilac festival is my all-time favorite time to visit,  my second favorite time is when the tulips and early spring flowers are abloom.  Over Memorial Day, the weather was an almost cloudless 68°…just perfect for strolling and biking!  It also just happened to be the same weekend our two youngest and their good buddy, Steve C., went north too,  so we had several happy opportunities to run into them and enjoy the ambience! Looking back over our years of visiting the island, I don’t recall ever having a “bad” trip! I think it’s a little like coming to Christ…it’s always a good time! Even though life is heartbreaking at times, it’s always better when we’re walking hand in hand with Jesus. A great mate is a wonderful blessing, but the greatest blessing of all is living in season and out of season with God. Have you accepted His love proposal yet? Now is the time! “For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV). “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-13) (All photos from my trips to Mackinac Island but the last two, which are used by permission of Robert Hardee. Thank you, Bob!)

Meijer Garden: Butterflies Are Blooming Again, But Not All Butterflies Are Free

One of the perennial delights of living in Grand Rapids
is access to Meijer’s beautiful botanical gardens, and from March 1 until April 30th, 60 colorful species of butterflies bloom  in the 15,000 sq. ft. tropical conservatory,  which is kept at a luscious 85° with 70% humidity  so you feel a rush of warmth  every time you enter, no matter what’s going on outside! We’ve been at night and during the day, but unless you enjoy flashlight hunts and sleeping butterflies,  a bright, sunny day is by far the best option. In unclouded sunshine, the butterflies are dancing everywhere, and if you wear brightly colored clothing, they’re apt to light on you
just in case you taste as delectable as they look!         Usually, our times searching for butterflies is pure bliss,

but this year, there is another ongoing exhibition that counterbalances the joyous uplift of butterflights with the broken-hearted reality of suffering and captivity.The artist is Al Weiwei, a Chinese activist who was arrested in 2009 (and had the presence of mind to take his own photo, which he later tweeted to the world!).  In 2011, the Chinese authorities took his passport so that he couldn’t travel. Once he was beaten so badly that he was unable to go to court to testify. During his house arrest, he bought and photographed beautiful bouquets of flowers as a silent protest against his captors, a practice that he continued until his passport was restored on July 22, 2013.

Perhaps his most provocative sculpture is a vibrant collection of twisted rebar, commemorating the many children who were killed during an earthquake. Reading his story made me think of many Christians who have been similarly persecuted for their faith, not only in China but around the world. As humans, we are born to be free—as free as butterflies!
However, just like humans, not all butterflies are completely free! When we leave the tropical conservatory, each person is carefully examined to make sure no butterfly has landed on them and will end up outside in the cold.Of course, we don’t think of it in terms of their freedom being limited,
because we know they couldn’t survive the freezing nights outside. We think they’re being protected, but the butterflies don’t know that! They flutter happily wherever,
with no apparent sense of direction besides sipping nectar.

My heart aches for Al Weiwei and all who are unfairly persecuted and confined. But, I am also exercised to think about those who wander off in an attempt to “escape” all contraint (like the butterflies who flit outside on a freezing day). Sometimes we’re like those butterflies, totally oblivious to how carefully God has provided a safe environment, mindlessly wandering away from warmth into an exhilarating, freezing freedom which cannot sustain life. In our flights and fights for freedom, let’s make sure we’re fighting for what promotes health and life rather than what will destroy us. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, NKJV).   Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:7-8).

What’s Under the Mantle of White?

img_7265It’s snowing and 8° here in Michigan this morning.snowy-lake The sky looks almost foggy,img_7263 and everything is wrapped in a mantle of white as luxurious as ermine fur! img_7262Don’t you love how snow softens lines and covers over the deadness and defects img_7273of our landscapes after the cold has killed off everything green? img_7272-2It occurs to me that it’s almost impossible to guess what’s under the soft, glistening mounds of white unless you know the landscape well.
img_7270For instance, wouldn’t it be impossible to know what’s under the white mounds of snow in the preceding photos grill-buried-under-snowunless you’re able to back up and see the bigger picture?  (Outdoor grill)snowy-stack-of-wood(Not a bed, but a stack of firewood!) img_8471Makes me think of God, who covers over our sins with his grace and makes us clean, not only on the outside but on the inside too! (Kayak on our dock.) overturned-row-boat Thank you, Father, for a new year and the chance to be renewed again!  picnic-table-covered-in-snowPurge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow
” (Psalm 51:7).  huge-snowy-doghouseWhoever covers an offense seeks love” (Proverbs 17:9).

When is it Time to Say Goodbye to Traditions?

creche     Have you taken down your Christmas tree and all your decorations yet? putting-away-christmas-ornamentsDo you do a good job of purging out old decorations that have lost their luster, christmas-card-children-drinking-cocoa-on-front-stepsor do you— like me—cling to every little, ratty decoration
because you cherish the associated memories?

christmas-card-children-looking-at-moonWe have (scratched) glass bulbs and birds that hung on my parents’ Christmas trees, and oodles of dilapidated designs created from popsicle sticks, ceramic figurines painted by clumsy little hands, and tattered felt decorations made in Sunday school classes and as home school projects over the years. green-christmas-tree-bulbThis year, Joel masterminded the Christmas tree decor, and I noticed that none of these beloved treasures merited even an honorable mention in his artistic arrangement. needles-from-a-christmas-treeI’m sure our world would be a more beautiful, neatly organized place if sentiment didn’t cloud our judgment. Or, what is the right word? Alter our judgement? Distract? Affect? Inform? Some traditions are good, right?creche-painted-by-childrenBut, what about the decorations that have been glued back together after curious grandchildren accidentally broke off the heads of the skaters or knocked over (and cracked) the wise men? When is it time to let go of the past to make way for the future?christmas-tree-skirt-and-needlesI’m pretty sure I am way over on the semtimental-to-a-fault side of the bell-shaped curve.thomas-kinkade-home-in-country-wallpaper-trim My Lant Henna (Aunt Helen) told me that her son arrived to visit one day with a stack of new towels for her house and replaced her entire stock. tinsel-for-christmasLast week, Alan pointed out that we need to do the same. Really? I hadn’t even noticed. What’s wrong with 20-year-old towels?? At any rate, you get the picture! watchnight-service-candleI think we all grapple with the same questions, and the answers will be different for each of us, but I am going to attempt to loosen my grip on clinging to the past in order to make room for the future this year…at least a little…and if you’ve been a nostalgic-to-a-fault, hopeless pack rat like me (spiritually and emotionally as well as physically)…I hope you’ll do the same!blur-of-red-and-green-lightsPut off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness… And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:22-24,30-32, ESV).

What’s On Top Of Your Pole?

snowy-michigan-gardenI’d been thinking a lot about those baboons sitting on top of the fence posts when I took a walk down our lane after the last big snow storm, and it occurred to me that I don’t have monkeys perched on my fence posts, I have snow! Lots of snow!snowy-swampOf course, I didn’t really place the snow on top of the posts, God did! Still, it made me think about the fact that—symbolically—we each have posts in our life. super-snowy-morning-in-michigan As we begin 2017, what’s on your post? What’s on the top of your pole?  Snow? Something that comes and goes with every gust of wind and change of weather?totem-pole-in-alaskaI’ve been examining my life and thinking about priorities…what I value and what I want as my highest priority…at the top of my pole. I don’t want it to be pleasure, or wealth, or even happiness or being loved by others (although those are all good things). I want God—the living, personal God who created the universe and everything in it, and yet who loves us with everlasting love—I want that most wonderful of all gods to be at the top of my pole. How about you?  old-fence-around-a-garden-in-winterAnd if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

(In case you hadn’t guessed, that totem pole isn’t at our home; it was taken when we were in Alaska years ago.)

A Tale of Christmas Shopping: Trying to Find the Perfect Gifts

christmas-tree-and-decorationsI hate shopping. Do you? It’s not that I’m a total Scrooge. I enjoy being able to gift people…if I know what they need or want, but I’ve never been endowed with the gift of giving. Inspirational visions from the Ghost of Christmas Presents for what might delight someone rarely brighten my brain, and successfully dreaming up great gifts in my concrete cranium seems as impossible as attempting to imagineer great plots for fiction stories…a non event waking or sleeping.   🙂  window-shoppingI believe it was my daughter-in-law Carlie who recently published on Face Book: “Am I my brother’s shopper?” (Uh…I think her husband is my son.)christmas-presents-under-christmas-treeNevertheless, ‘tis the season, and in our family the tradition is for each wannabe gift receiver (that’s all of us) to publish a list of wanted gift possibilities via our handy-dandy online Armstrong exchange accessed by a Christmasy password. a-light-dusting-of-amazon-packages-for-christmasSome kind-hearted kids even publish links to show the rest of us where to find said suggestions, so there’s always a light dusting of Amazon packages along with the light dustings of snow on our doorstep, as my son Aaron would say. And, as the days before Christmas draw nigh, there tend to be blizzards of both packages and snow. deep-snowsHowever, I’m a firm believer in buying locally if at all possible, and so I trudge through the drifting snow and freezing weather to every mall in America (or at least GR) looking for facsimiles thereof to delight my kids and soothe my civic conscience. To little avail! shopping-at-the-mallEver try finding some heavy-weight bookends these days? How about a Celebration Hymnal accompaniment book or a brown desk chair with an adjustment to raise the seat up to 25 inches? And that was just the tip of the iceberg! Kindly merchants sent me from store to store and mall to mall, suggesting other shops where I might find my particular treasures.slippery-winter-highway Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, and my theory was that somewhere in GR I could find the desired items. Wrong!o-christmas-treeHow is it that in the shopping center for a quarter of a million people, there are so few choices available? Sadly, I think it’s a vicious cycle: More and more of us find it easier to shop online, so even the best local stores can’t afford to stock anything besides the most commonly wanted items.christmas-shopping     By the way, are you also looking for the perfect gifts for those you love? christmas-ornaments-on-treeWhat about a gift for Jesus? It is His birthday, after all! Have you thought about what He might want from you for a present under your Christmas tree?believe-presents-under-a-christmas-treeJesus isn’t looking for something you can find in a store or online, He just wants you. He wants you to believe in Him, love Him, trust Him, give yourself to him, and wait patiently on Him. Can you believe that?? After all, is there anything you’d rather have from your loved one?isaiah-40-31-they-that-wait-upon-the-lord-will-renew-their-strength“…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4).