What’s the Scuttlebutt? How about a Scuttled Bucket?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the term “scuttlebutt” used as a synonym for “gossip,” but I never knew the derivation until we visited Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. Before people knew how to purify water, sailors would store fresh water gathered from local streams for their voyage in caskets. A “butt” was a casket used for storing water, and a “scuttled butt” was a casket that had been scuttled (by cutting a hole in it so people could get the water out). During the voyage, the “scuttlebutt” was the current casket, usually sitting on the main deck, where the sailors could come to drink, and—like employees around a water cooler today—people would often catch up on news and swap stories while drinking the water.

There are so many things I’ve never really reasoned through, but at this fascinating museum of naval history, they made a point out of the fact that water from local streams would not be very clean, and after being stored for weeks on end, it became foul. However, that was all they had, so drink it they did. Better than dying of thirst, although there were times when drinking it resulted in their dying of bacterial infections or other disease-related illnesses.

Do you believe in heaven? There were many people in previous centuries who did not believe in a “new world” across an apparently endless sea. However, there were also a few brave sailors who believed—at least enough to attempt crossing the ocean. For those who believed and were willing to travel, and survived the trip, they really did find a new world. On their journey, the sailors had to drink water to keep them going, but if the water was putrid, it may have killed them at any rate.

This is true for us in the spiritual realm as well. Some people don’t even believe in a “new world” called heaven and have no interest in searching for it, but for those of us who do, we’re off on an adventure in a “fellow ship” with other believers. On the way, we need to drink water to survive the trip. The only pure water that remains clean and healthful throughout life is the water of the Word of God. Every other type of spiritual water is just from the “scuttlebutt;” it’s gossip and rumors gathered from local sources that are never pure and always leave a stench in the end . . . perhaps even causing death to those who drink.

In John 4:14, Jesus taught: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” In Revelation 21:6, Jesus tells John in a vision: “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

When we are spiritually thirsty, let’s forget the scuttlebutt and go straight to Jesus and the Bible for our refreshment!

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).


Southern Caribbean Favorites

After mentioning that Alan was in hot pursuit of “the perfect” Southern Caribbean island, I thought you might be interested in a quick look into what we found. We know lots of people who’ve been (or are even down there right now), so if you have photos or thoughts to share about what you found, or you have highlight experiences to recommend, please add them in the comment box below. One friend told me about an island where they were given bread to cast to the fish (while standing in waist deep water), and the fish nibbled at their toes. 🙂#1. Our first port was St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Due to terrible blizzards up north, we missed sailing from San Juan, so we flew into St. Croix and took a taxi to the ship. This gave us more of an unvarnished view of the island, as we took back roads from the airport to the port in Frederiksted. From the ship, we were able to walk to the beautifully sandy, warm Frederiksted Beach and enjoyed Fort Frederik, but as senior citizens, we felt a little intimidated by the poverty and number of young men who seemed to be homeless and roaming the streets with nothing to do. St. Croix is famous for fishing and is home to America’s only underwater National Park, Buck Island Reef, so if you’re a snorkeler or scuba diver, or love to fish, this might be a game changer for you. There are also miles of hiking trials and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, old sugar plantations, etc. However, we felt like Baby Bear from the three bears: This island was too HOT! (Well, maybe a little too remote and wild for us.)#2. St. Maarten. We landed at Philipsburg in St. Maarten and could walk to this gorgeous beach after several blocks of meandering through neatly arranged shops loaded with every possible item to allure tourists, including diamond jewelry, etc. I did end up buying a beautiful lacey coverup for 25E, which was about the only “major” purchase I made on the whole trip. St. Maarten is very cosmopolitan and rich. The little bears thought this island was too COLD  for us (not temperature-wise, but in sophistication, nightlife, golfing, expense, etc.).#3. St. Lucia felt like a real country, not just a remote wilderness or tourist trap. We anchored in the capital city, Castries, and then toured the island.Alan’s older brother used to be the Peace Corp Director of St. Lucia, so we’d heard many interesting stories about the people and culture. A highlight for us was touring “Mama’s (Botanical) Garden” and tasting various new fruits, like “golden apples” (which aren’t like apples at all), agave juice, sugar cane, etc. One story that stands out in my memory is that despite the many beautiful beaches in the Southern Caribbean, many people (20 years ago) didn’t know how to swim! I’m not sure if that’s still true or not, but swimming isn’t an instinct we’re born with, so just living by gorgeous beaches doesn’t make one a swimmer.The last time we were in St. Lucia, we took a mud bath at the sulfur springs at Soufriere, advertised as “the only drive-in volcano in the world” which was definitely a unique, fun adventure. This time we spent some time at Rodney Bay, a beautiful, family-friendly beach with clear, warm water and soft, clean sand!St. Lucia was definitely a place Alan and I would both enjoy visiting again. Lots of natural beauty, lovely beaches, interesting terrain, more than just tourism going. The little bears would say this island is JUST RIGHT!#4. For unexcelled beauty, Alan and I both fell in love with Grenada!Grand Anse Beach (as I mentioned in an earlier post) is one of the most splendid in the Caribbean, and the day we were there, it was alive with colorful sailboats, due to a big race that day. Also, there were  more lobsters being grilled than I’ve ever seen at one time. We thought we’d found “the perfect” spot until we inquired and found that rooms rent for about a thousand dollars per night, which is approximately twice as much as we paid per person for our entire 12-day trip, so we decided that we’d have to leave Grand Anse for rich grand aunts or whoever else might afford it!#5. This is Bridgetown, Barbados. If you’re there on a Sunday, try “The People’s Cathedral” for a morning of spirited worship! God is good, all the time!#6. Kingstown, St. Vincent is home to the oldest tropical botanic garden in the Western Hemisphere and definitely worth a visit. By the time we arrived in St. Vincent, we’d given up trying to find paradise on earth and began exploring highlights from each island. Their botanical garden was definitely a highlight!#7. This is Fort-de-France, Martinique. The height of modern civilization.Or not! The largest iguana we’ve ever seen outside a zoo was this fine fellow, just sauntering across the waterfront park. He was a bit on the bashful side, though, and would sit for a portrait but took off as soon as I asked for his autograph.#8. Dominica is rather wild and romantic. They have steaming mud pots, lush waterfalls, and the perfect setting for movies. In fact, some of the scenes from The Pirates of the Caribbean were shot here. We swam upstream (literally where the bases of two mountains meet) through the icy cold waters of the Titou River and along this gorge (used in one of the Pirates movies) to peer at Titou Falls. Definitely cold. Definitely gorgeous. Definitely took our breath away on both counts!Thankfully, our tour guide was thinking ahead, because after we were all half frozen from our time in the mountain stream, he took us to some idyllic mineral baths at Bongo Hot Springs to lounge until we were steaming hot!#9. St. Kitts was especially interesting to me, or else we just happened to have an especially varied tour. (This was where we ported, at Basseterre, St. Kitts.) We visited the Fairview Great House and their lovely botanical gardens that overlooked the Caribbean Sea.(This is a “Hong Kong Orchid.”)We also toured some beautiful tropical gardens at Caribbe Batik,and learned all about the artistry involved in making true batik prints. Oh, and there are some monkeys on St. Kitts—although I think most of them are used as pets and for commercial cuddling purposes. Pay as you hold! Many of the Caribbean islands are mostly beautiful sandbars, but don’t they look alluring? Bali-Hai, come to me! Our driver, on the other hand, said that St. Kitts looks like a chicken drumstick on a map, with Nevis (also under the same governmental authority . . . the island furthest away in this photo) looks like a dumpling, so together, folks have chicken and dumplings every day here. 🙂We definitely enjoyed our day in St. Kitts, but I’m not sure if it would be interesting enough (at least for us) to stay for weeks. Still, there was something almost heavenly about the ambience and glowing sunset, which made us want to linger rather than leave!#10. Antigua had lingered in my memory as a tropical paradise ever since it was our last stop before launching out across the Atlantic to Africa one year. Antigua is famous for having 365 beaches: One for every day of the year! I rode hoses down the beach and through the water once in Antigua (although they wouldn’t let you gallop or run free like you see in the movies . . . all quite sedate and in follow-the-leader format).      St. John’s, the capital of Antigua, is a unique blend of historic Spanish and modern English culture. Antigua is the largest of the British Leeward Islands and has a complex history.The area around Nelson’s Dockyard is a World Heritage Site and full of living history as well as a fascinating museum and array of old (but well maintained) buildings. The area also attracts  a huge sailing crowd in April, but even when we were there, there were lots of people around, as the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, “The World’s Toughest Row” was just finishing. I thought this was a sailing race, but it truly is a race where teams literally row across the Atlantic! I was amazed! I can’t even imagine trying to row across the ocean! The winning team had already arrived. They’d rowed 3,000 miles in 34 days, 12 hours, and 9 minutes, and I heard they looked pretty skinny when they arrived! Alan and I aren’t nearly so daring, I’m afraid. Our idea of a good time was a 90-minute swim at Fort James Beach. The weather and  swimming in the Southern Caribbean (almost uniformly on every island) were unparalleled in my mind.#11. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Downtown Puerto Rico was completely jammed with hundreds of women (and a few men) in pink tutus running to support breast cancer research and awareness. Our bus driver was very frustrated that he couldn’t take us to all the wonderful sites he wanted us to see, but we enjoyed what we did see, including the beautiful Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which is also a World Heritage Site.This fortress, along with El Canuelo (across the bay), protected the entrance to San Juan quite effectively, as cannon fire between the two fortresses could completely reach any enemy ship attempting to attack the city. After giving careful consideration to which was our favorite island (as you may have read a couple of weeks ago), we decided that our first choice would be to cruise from port to port, leaving all the difficulty of  transportation and food prep to the experts, and giving us maximal time to kick back and relax.On the other hand, if you have a favorite island and accommodation, I’d love to hear about it! However, my conclusion from our trip is to be very thankful for what we have, and to remember again to take joy in the journey. Ditto for our pilgrimage through this life. There’s always that illusive “perfect life” that seems to be out there somewhere—possibly a little out of reach but still within the realm of imagination. I think it’s the longing for heaven, but we’ll never really get there until we leave earth!

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).

Grand Plans and Grand Anse

Now that we’re approaching 70 in the next couple of years, Alan has started daydreaming about retirement possibilities. In particular, he developed a cherished fantasy about living in a little shack on a beach somewhere on a Southern Caribbean island during our first winter of “freedom.” That would suit me just fine, because I love to write and can keep myself occupied endlessly, but I had trouble picturing Alan content just puttering around a straw hut, hiking the shoreline, and chasing sea gulls for three months (without getting bored), so I thought it would be worth checking out prospects. About that time, I found an incredible deal for an inside cabin on the 5-star ship, Celebrity Summit, heading to the Southern Caribbean for 12 days, stopping at 11 ports, for only $579, which is $48 a day. (Okay, so add $15 per day for tips, but that’s still only $63 per day for room, transportation, and all you care to eat, which seems like a phenomenal deal for a vacation no matter how you cut it!) It was just what the doctor needed, so it’s just what the doctor’s wife ordered, and away we went!Our plan was to hop off the ship at each port and wander about, checking out the ambience, finding a close beach, and swimming all afternoon. In the process, I thought we’d get a good rest and give Alan a chance to find “the perfect island” for a three-month venture.Our dreams were fulfilled! Every day was gloriously warm, as was the water, and  every island had beaches every bit as beautiful as the ads! We were 100% happy! However, I also hadn’t been wrong about Alan’s capacity for rest. After a couple of days, he decided maybe two months would be enough on a Caribbean Island. After a couple more days, he thought probably one month would be long enough. And, about halfway through our trip, he thought a couple of weeks would do. By then, we had arrived at Grenada and discovered Grand Anse Beach, a two-mile stretch of silky sand and turquoise waters. (Since returning home, I learned that this beach was voted the Caribbean’s #1 beach by USA Today, 2018.)  We were so enthralled that I stopped at one of the hotels to find out how much it would cost for a room for a couple of weeks. $1,000 per day. No kidding! 😦  We started considering. The only real grass huts were in folk parks, not on beaches, and the mosquitoes would be an issue even if we could find one to rent. The food on the ship had been first class! We enjoyed open-air, gourmet breakfasts with beautiful ocean views each day.Each evening for dinner, attentive waiters doted on us, making sure we had everything we wanted from the menu, and that each dish was “just right!” The food alone would have cost us more than what we paid for our entire cruise, and it was always such a treat! As Alan’s mother used to say, “If I don’t have to cook it, and I don’t have to clean it up, I’m going to enjoy it!” In fact, life on a cruise ship is extremely cushy! After considering our options, Alan and I decided that maybe two weeks on a cruise each winter would be just about perfect! Our cruise ship could deliver us to fantastic ports, provide for our meals (so I would never have to cook), ensure us clean, freshly made up rooms each day (our cabin steward was a joy),and if we ever got tired of relaxing, reading, and enjoying the ship’s amenities, we could always hop off the ship and go exploring. Considering that we aren’t big on night life, and most Caribbean Islands aren’t big on day life (Culture? Yes, but not like Europe or Asia), island hopping affords ample opportunities to enjoy unique experiences and enjoy each country’s natural beauty without ever getting “island fever” (aka bored). Sound like a plan? We think so! By the way, are you dreaming about your sunset years yet? Do you have big plans or dreams? What do you think would be “just perfect”? May I encourage you to test out your theories a little before making any big decisions? It’s possible that what we think is going to be the greatest and best won’t turn out to be as good as something else . . . possibly something we already have! In my life, the very greatest and best is knowing and loving God, and I can do that at home or abroad. I don’t have to travel anywhere to know that being his child and experiencing an intimate relationship with Jesus as my Lord and Savior is better than anything else the world has to offer. Hands down!Jesus is the true gateway to every joy in life, not only while we’re young, but when we retire, and even—and especially—after we die! Have you got plans for your post-retirement years? If not, please explore life with Jesus. I think you’ll discover that it beats all the other options!!!

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

(All photos taken in the Southern Caribbean on our trip a couple of weeks ago, February, 2019.)



Adventures Getting To and From Paradise

Back in 2016 I wrote about flying to Hawaii in January during Storm Jonahs’s record-breaking Snowmeggedon. Despite the terrible weather, Alan and I commuted safely from Michigan to Hawaii. In fact, up until this past trip two weeks ago, Alan and I had never been late for embarkation (or even a tea party) on any cruise, and so we cavalierly assumed the best and made our reservations to minimize any loss of work time for Alan.I might have had an inkling of things to come when I finished packing and had a conversation that went something like this:

(Lord): Did you consult me about how to pack?
(Me, sheepishly): No. 😦  That was dumb. How should I have packed?
(Lord): You should have packed in carry-ons only.
(Me, rather reluctantly): Okay! I will. Thanks for letting me know. I pared stuff down to just the basics. We had trouble both getting down to sunny San Juan and getting home, but it wasn’t until our return flights that I understood the real reason why it was important to pack light. We left during the worst weather of this winter, and our United Airline flight from GR to Chicago got cancelled, then rescheduled through Newark, NJ, but at a time too late to make the ship. In a panic, we called our travel agent, who helped us find different flights via Delta that would go through Atlanta and hopefully get us to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in time to board the ship. Gratefully, we clambered aboard the Delta flight. However, the airport didn’t have enough machines to de-ice all the airplanes that needed protection from the severely below zero weather, so by the time our plane was ready to go, we knew we’d never get to Atlanta in time to catch our connecting flight. 😦Our travel agent had gone home by the time we arrived, but a supervisor went to bat for us and found another flight to San Juan, although it didn’t get in until about midnight (four hours after our ship had sailed away that starry night)!Believe it or not, because we’d bought our flights in a package with the cruise, the cruise line (Celebrity) not only paid for our flights but put us up at a hotel during the wee hours so we could get a little sleep before catching an early morning flight to connect with the ship at the next port of call.The flight from San Juan to St. Croix the next morning was beautiful! Alan said it was all worth the bother because it made our trip so memorable! I wasn’t so sure, but hey—doesn’t he have wonderful attitudes?!In retrospect, Alan and I both agreed that this Southern Caribbean cruise was one of the most relaxing vacations we can remember! It was “just what the doctor needed” and a fantastic way to celebrate our 46th anniversary! We slept in every morning, enjoyed delicious breakfasts in the open air on the back deck of the ship, had leisurely devotional times together reading our Bibles, praying, sharing, thinking . . . we even read through an excellent book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children, which gave us a lot of good food for thought.  On top of all that, there was a new jewel of an island to explore every morning (11 ports in 12 days!), and no tenders to contend with (where you have to wait to be ferried to the island), so we could hop off and on the ship whenever we felt like it. The weather was absolutely gorgeous: in the low 80°s every day with a light breeze and warm water. It really did seem like a little taste of paradise, and our only “guilt” was knowing that back home 140,000 friends and relatives in GR were out of power and enduring ice storms and blizzards!  😦               We wished we could transport everyone down to be with us!!  🙂 The return trip home was if anything even more harried, not due to weather, but do to the fact that when we didn’t take our first United flight to Newark, United cancelled ALL our flights, both coming and going. We didn’t know that we should have called to ask them to retain our return trip flights. United had sold our tickets to others and were already overbooked by 5 people! They could get us on standby or at 2:00 am the next morning. Another emergency cry for help went out to our travel agency, who found us 2 seats on a Jet Blue flight that was already in process of boarding. We literally ran from our terminal to theirs in order to make it before they closed the doors. It was too late to check any luggage, BUT, because we had only carry-on luggage, they let us buy tickets and board! Whew!!The rest of the trip was relatively calm, and I had time to reflect on God’s quiet question to me as I packed: “Did you consult me about how to pack?” It was just a still, small voice, the way the Lord usually speaks. Probably if I hadn’t packed so light, I would still have gotten home at some point, but not that day, and not without a lot more hassle! I am so thankful that the Lord invites us to ask Him for wisdom. We have no clue what tomorrow (or even today) will hold, but He does.  If you haven’t invited Him into your thoughts and plans, may I encourage you to pray and ask God to become your God?! There is no One like Him! He knows the end from the beginning, and He is good to those who put their trust in Him. He alone is worthy of being our Savior, our Lord, and our God!

Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me” (Isaiah 45:21).