Category Archives: Thoughts on God

An Unexpected Blessing at a Mackinac Island Church

No matter where in the world we go,
Alan and I like to fellowship in some church on Sunday morning if possible.  (If not, like we’re sitting in an airport or have no clue where there’s a church where they speak English, we watch our own church’s service online.)  In most American communities, there are usually at least two churches:
the local catholic church  and the local protestant church.

We are evangelical Christians (believing that people are saved by faith in Christ rather than by having enough “good works” to outbalance our “bad works” when we come to the judgment seat of God),  and so we always look for a churchwhere we hope this “gospel” (good news) will be preached.  (However, we did go to Notre Dame the last time we were in Paris, despite not knowing French or having much of a grip on the liturgy…at least we knew where it was!)   At any rate, I always think it’s good for my soul to learn about how other congregations worship the Lord,  and I also hope to be a blessing and encouragement to others as we share our faith together in corporate worship.              On Mackinac Island, there are several beautiful, old churches.  We were at a wedding held at St. Ann’s some years ago, which still makes me glow to remember.  The last few times we’ve been on Mackinac Island, we’ve gone to the Mackinac Bible Church, which meets in the theater of Mission Point Resort. We arrived a bit early and just happened to sit next to a sweet-looking couple. Moments into our chatting with them, we discovered that Nancy (the wife) and I both graduated from Bob Jones University and that her husband (a Harvard graduate) is now working in finance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where our son Jonathan and his family will soon be moving. This couple was so kind! Before (the very lively) service began, we exchanged emails, and they offered their home to Jon as a base for looking for housing, etc. etc. etc. Their gracious hospitality was totally overwhelming, and just knowing that there is a mature Christian couple in Chicago as a reference for them is so comforting (because—as a huge city with a bad reputation for crime—trying to find housing in Chicago will be a bit intimidating)!  Thank you, Lord, for this very special blessing! Only You could orchestrate such an unlikely meeting, but that’s the sort of amazing God You are!(The majority of photos were taken on Mackinac Island, but I did intersperse some of cathedrals and basilicas from Europe, where we were visiting last week. I hope to start writing about that trip next week! This last amazing photo is more of Bob Hardee’s creative genius at work. God bless you!)

 

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!)

Meditating on the Nature of God via “Andie’s Isle”

I rarely share videos, but this one, forwarded to me online, filled me with such a sense of peace and awe that I wanted to pass it on. If you can indulge in five minutes of nature photography and some encouraging thoughts, please visit “Andie’s Isle” for a gorgeous journey into the beauty of God’s creation on earth:

http://www.andiesisle.com/thenatureofgod.html

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
” (Psalm 29:2)

 “For the Beauty of the Earth*”

1. For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

2. For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

3. For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

4. For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

5. For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

6. For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.”

(* Originally composed by Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917; there are several variations, but this is the version with which I’m most familiar.)

Is Anything Better than The House of Flavors?

Do you—like me—just love ice cream?  Did you know there’s a Guinness-world-record-breaking creamery
right here in Southwest Michigan? There’s nothing quite so luxurious on a hot summer day
as a scrumpdelicious ice cream treat, is there?

Homemade ice cream is probably the very best (or at least the most fun to make), but for everyday yumminess, I keep some of our local dairy’s “homemade” vanilla in the freezer for my hubby, who has been known to have an ice cream attack any time of day or night and any time of year.
However, our all-time favorite creamery is in Ludington at the House of Flavors, and we always stop in if we’re nearby!
The House of Flavors has been in the business for over 66 years, and they produce an astonishing 25 million gallons of ice cream annually!
They call themselves the Ice Cream Capital of Michigan, and with good cause! Last year I wrote about being there when they attempted to set a new record for the world’s longest ice cream dessert (which I shared about here):   https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/i-think-we-just-ate-part-of-the-worlds-longest-sundae-and-it-was-yummy/ .  

 

 

Their attempt

was a great success, 

and now the House of Flavors 

is really on the map,  so to speak!
However, they’re not just good at making amazing flavors of ice cream!
They have a full menu of inexpensive and delicious breakfasts,
 and they always have a turkey roasting on a spit (which you can almost see in the center of this photo) for their fantastic turkey dinners, 
which they serve throughout the year! 
We’ve been coming since our kids were little, and our all-time favorite treat is a round of turkey dinners but a shared “Original Pig’s Dinner.”   This one was made from four scoops of ice cream with names like Michigan Potholes, Bear Claws, Eskimo Kisses, and Tennessee Toffee, but you get to choose whatever you want…plus four toppings of your choice and whipped cream with cherries on top.Needless to say, nobody leaves the House of Flavors feeling hungry!

I know of a place even more satisfying and fulfilling than the House of Flavors.  It’s the place of quiet rest when we place our trust in the Lord and abide safely under His wings, secure in the knowledge that no matter what is going on in the world around us, God’s “got ‘ya covered!” Literally. Spiritually and physically. We can rest in the knowledge that He loves us, and like a loving father, He’s looking out for us.                      In a world of choices, I pray you will choose “the best!”   Our God exceeds anything in the Guinness Book of World Records. What other God is perfect in love, kindness, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, and goodness? Who else is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, and all-present? What other religion teaches that God loves us even when we fail and has made a way to be reconciled to Him through the blood of a sacrificial lamb (Jesus)?  If you’ve never learned to love and trust this great God, I pray that you will put the past behind you and reach out to him in faith. As Jesus taught, “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).   May today be the day you join in the fellowship of those who are trusting God! How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

(I took all the photos in and around the House of Flavors recently, except for the ones taken a year ago on June 11, 2016… the day they broke the world’s record for longest ice cream dessert!)


Do You Know His Name?

Okay, so this might sound a little crazy, but it really happened, so I’m going to tell you! Yesterday there were so many family members visiting my lifelong buddy while her husband was having surgery that she suggested I come later in the day after the surgery was over, thinking it might be more restful to go out for dinner together after the company was gone. She texted me a map and the room number, and away I went, bearing a beautifully crafted, stem-entwined pink and white azalea tree as a gift. Because the gift was a bit heavy, I stopped at the reception desk just to double check where to go.

The receptionist cocked her head and knit her eyebrows. “I’m sorry, but there’s no one here by that name.”

“There has to be!” I pleaded. “He had surgery this morning, and his wife said he’s doing great, is through recovery, and is in his room.”

She studied her computer thoughtfully. “How do you spell his last name? One “n” or two?”

I spelled out his name again. Surely they couldn’t have lost track of him!

“Are you sure he’s at this hospital?”

“Well yes, I believe so. I know the surgery was going to be done at Spectrum…”

“Yes, but there’s the Butterworth campus and the Blodgett campus. Let me check and see if he might be somewhere else.” She took several minutes and even put in a call to someone. “Sorry,” she sighed. “We simply don’t have anyone by that name. We do have a patient with the same last name, but not one with the same first name. Could your friend have a different name from what you’re used to calling him?” I can’t give you any information unless you know the right name.

I thought hard. I had been friends with Tom’s wife for 55 years. I’d been at their wedding. The four of us had visited back and forth for the past 45+ years. We triple-dated with them and another couple almost every month. Was it possible that I didn’t really know this man’s real name?

Long story short, I was finally able to produce enough information on address, age, etc. that they took pity on me and were able to suggest I try the same room number at a different hospital…even though they still were not allowed to tell me his name!

I knocked timidly on the door and was amazed to hear Tom answer, as loud and strong as ever: “Come in!” I thought he’d be semi-conscious and miserable, but he was sitting up, smiling and cracking jokes with his wife and two sisters. Incredible! This guy just had major surgery for cancer, and (as Alan said happily that evening) he was already “holding court.” Praise God! Tom says he believes it was the prayers of the saints lifted up to God that raised him up so fast. Amen!

As I reflected on this experience last night, it made me think of Jesus, who was raised from the dead by God and “holding court” at a time when no one ever dreamed that such an amazing recovery was possible! Miracles never cease!

It also occurred to me that—just like my surprise at not knowing Tom’s first name—many people probably think they know Jesus without really knowing “the right” name to gain access to him. Jesus  himself taught us: “Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:26-28).

Just as I went to the wrong hospital (even though I was convinced I was at the right hospital), many people believe you get to heaven by being good, but that’s not really what God tells us in the Scripture. God warns, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, ESV).

But, what is “that name?” Is it Jesus? Is it Christ? What’s His name?

Just as the receptionist wouldn’t tell me how to find Tom without my knowing his true first name, neither can we gain access to Jesus and entrance to heaven without knowing Jesus’s true “first” name. Do you know what it is? Would you like to know?

The title by which we must know him is not just “Jesus,” a religious leader who existed 2017 years ago, or as “Christ,” who was the promised Messiah of God. The title by which we gain access to both the Father God and his Son, is Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we learn in 2 Peter 1:10-11, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

What is it that we must do? We must repent of our sins, surrendering to Jesus as the Lordthe master—of our lives and trusting him as our one and only Savior from sin. Have you done that? If so, the Bible says you are “born again,” a new creation and spiritual babe…a sibling of the Son of God and a child of the Father God, with full rights to his everlasting kingdom and his home in heaven! Do you know his name?

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)