The Glass Church: Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel

If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area and want to spend a blissful day   soaking up the majesty of the Pacific Coast and meditating on our majestic God, consider visiting the “Glass Church.” This National Historic Landmark was built from 1949-1951 by Lloyd Wright (son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright) as a memorial to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg.
It is beautiful, open to the public, and totally free! Tucked into the hills at 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South in Rancho Palos Verdes, the chapel sits like a silent beacon above the din of traffic . . .and serves as a serene respite from the frenetic pace of Southern California . . .a quiet place to come away and commune with our heavenly Father! The Wayfarers Chapel is both simple and complex. The Glass Church has an elegant, open design
that incorporates nature into its sacred space. But, the complex also has lovely, tree-lined lawns  and plenty of benches where one can sit for a while to rest and reflect . . .  or enjoy gazing out at the vast blue Pacific.  Although I wouldn’t say it’s really a “kid place,”
Alan and I went with our kids and grand children,  and they definitely enjoyed playing with some of the toys in the gift shopas well as meandering along the garden paths breathing in the sweet scents and reading the love stories etched in stone.  Alan and I are having a new addition built for our home.  It isn’t an elegant glass house. (It is a simple sun room.) And, our little lake—though lovely— doesn’t hold a candle to the grandeur of the world’s largest ocean! Nevertheless, beauty is beauty, our Father’s world is glorious everywhere,
and no matter where we live, we all need time to pray and worship!I hope our new addition will offer a warm welcome to all who visit,  and I pray that each of us, as humble temples of the Holy Spirit
(1 Corinthians 6:19), will provide respite for everyone who comes our way! Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth:
the Lord is upon many waters
(Psalm 29:1-3).

The Birthday Club Ventures to Shipshewana

This fall’s birthday adventure took us all the way down to the golden corn fields of northern Indiana and a little corner of the world where time seems to have stopped about a hundred and fifty years ago!Shipshewana (affectionately called “Shipshe” by the residents) is home to one of America’s thriving communities of Amish folks.  There are about a third of a million Amish people living in the United States now, mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.  They are most easily recognized by their head coverings, simple, modest dress  and style of transportation, which is exclusively horse-drawn carriages. (They will not own—but will ride—on other forms of transportation, such as school buses for the children.) If you want to take a tour of the town, they offer horse-drawn buggy rides!Or, you can eat sitting in a buggy at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in the little burg of Middlebury, which is where the girls took me for wonderful, old-fashioned buffet lunch of great country (and Amish-style) cooking!If you go to northern Indiana’s Amish country, I definitely recommend enjoying some of their excellent food, but come hungry, because you will get very full!  🙂

Besides yummy food, there are all sorts of interesting shops to visit,  so save some time to explore their wonderful assortment of homey craft stores. They’re also famous for their simple but sturdy, hand-crafted furniture. Susan’s youngest daughter married a young man whose mom works in Shipshe, so we stopped by for a visit!I always think of Grand Rapids as having a lot of Christian influence, but for those of us who love Scripture, Shipshewana is a shopper’s paradise!

The focus of the afternoon was a visit to Menno-Hof, a museum of Mennonite and Amish history. Menno-Hoff is a warm combination of personally guided segments of the tour and  state-of-the-art audio-visual explanations.  As I have baptist/brethren roots, I felt a real connection with the “anabaptist” movement that eventually spawned the Mennonite and Amish communities, although it wasn’t clear to me from reading the information at the museum if they believe the Gospel…the wonderful good news of salvation by faith alone through Christ, or if they are somehow depending on their humility, modesty, good works, and self-denial and to qualify them for heaven.  (If you are Amish and read this, please feel free to explain the Amish position to us, will you? Do you believe you are saved by being a faithful disciple, or do you pursue God’s holiness as an expression of gratefulness for his salvation?) We couldn’t do the museum justice in less than an hour or two, and it would have been easy to linger for longer, although the girls had more in store yet!One popular myth about the Amish is that if a farmer has an eligible daughter, he paints his front gate blue, which means young men may come ‘a courting! Although this is apparently not really true, The Blue Gate Restaurant capitalizes on the long-standing fable, and they serve wonderful food…such as you could imagine a mother might serve up to a favored prospective beau for her daughter! It was the  perfect place to stop in for our birthday party, and to experience some of their popular peanut butter, custard, and pumpkin pies. Diet alert for sure!! In all, we had another spectacular day, and I can heartily recommend visiting Shipshe sometime if you’re looking for a quiet, cozy place to relax and reflect.    The Amish folks live plain, simple lives, but everything we saw was pleasant!   Even their public restrooms (like the Blue Gate’s) were clean and beautiful!    And, everywhere we looked, there was something to lift our hearts to God!            So, if you’d like to get away from the frenetic pace of life sometime,          consider an afternoon or weekend retreat in an Amish community!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

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

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

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

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

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

Who Needs to Travel the World? Six Reasons Why I Love Meijer Gardens

When our family or friends come to Michigan, there are a few places I always recommend, but in Grand Rapids my favorite place to visit is—without a doubt— Meijer Garden. So, for those of you who may be looking for something very special to do in Michigan this summer, consider visiting Meijer Garden. Why? #1. The flowers are always spectacular! No need to travel to Holland to see tulips, or to Giverny near Paris to find a wistful arbor of wisteria. #2. The Japanese Gardens are stunning.Meticulously designed and artful in every detail. Restful and serene.  Filled with quiet spots to chat or sit and be creative! And, if you want a little taste of cherry blossoms in the spring,
there’s no need to visit Washington D.C. or Asia anymore!  #3. Lena Meijer’s Tropical Conservatory is like a breath of warm air.  Even when it’s snowy outside, there’s a world of warmth and beauty within. #4. Butterflies bloom during the barrenness of late winter
through early spring,
so you don’t have to go to Central America for a taste of the tropics!  #5. The Sculpture Park has become an international destination! With more than 200 sculptures in their permanent collection, you no longer have to go to Europe to see the work of famous sculptors! #6. The Lena Meijer Children’s Garden is a total delight!  Kids can get soaked…but you don’t have to! Or, they can have tea parties  while you rest in the shade and enjoy catching  up with each other. You don’t have to go to the Caribbean to take your kids sailing,  and if the boat capsizes, it’s no big deal!Also, no need to go to Africa to let your kids feel like big time explorers!

I was going to list ten reasons, but this post is already too long, so I’ll try to finish the others later this week. Meanwhile, happy planning as you think about your summer. Of course, while I’m promoting Michigan, three of my sons are vacationing in Italy together…but what can I say?  The other three and my daughter’s family are visiting us here in Michigan, so it’s all good!  As Robert Louis Stevenson would say, “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness,
and shall sing of thy righteousness
”  (Psalm 145:7).

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

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

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

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

Tips for Climbing Diamond Head…and One Strange Sign

I’ve read that Oahu’s Diamond Head is the world’s most climbed and photographed extinct volcano.  This iconic landmark of Hawaiian splendor lures over a million tourists to climb up its verdant crown each year, and although we’ve been to Hawaii many times (mostly for conferences, babies and graduations), we never had the leisure to climb Diamond Head until this last trip.  The forecast was for rain, but our mantra is “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” when it comes to weather. Frankly, I can’t remember any time we’ve been disappointed for forging ahead (particularly since most of the time it’s a do-now-or-forever-miss-your-chance sort of situation), so we went anyway. We were rewarded with a cool morning trek and only misty rain from time to time. Although I wouldn’t recommend trying to climb in a thunderstorm, I was pleased to note that there are sturdy guard rails along most of the difficult parts, and the paved path is as artfully rugged as any mountain trail, forcing you to watch your step or sprain your ankle at all times while still providing quite a manageable, fairly skid-proof walking surface.  I saw a few strollers hiding in the bushes awaiting the return of their owners, and very few small children. Two of our sons carried their kids up on their backs about six years ago, but that’s not a particularly easy way to do it either, since my cell phone recorded our ascent as 36 flights of stairs, 82 of which are steep and narrow.  Furthermore, there weren’t too many grey-haired folks among the crowds, and those who were, were pretty trim.  Finally: When you climb up through the last tunnel and see a sign that looks like this, go left!  Both routes take you to the top, but the trail to the right is extremely steep and narrow, so you slow down anybody coming up behind you who thinks they need to be running. Those steep stairs are much easier to handle on your descent! The trail to the left is open and ever upward but lovely, with areas where you can rest and enjoy the panoramic views (or Facetime with you son, as we did with ours!)  The entire trail is crowded, particularly at the top, but the views make up for the traffic jams!   To the south and west you overlook the lush crater and dazzle of Honolulu,  and to the east and north you’re met with soothing vistas of the Pacific Ocean’s turquoise waters and the Diamond Head Lighthouse far below.  There are several methods for tourists to get to the base of the mountain besides walking: Taxi, rental car, trolley, or bus. For $5.50, you can get a day pass for the entire island’s public bus system, which is an amazing deal!  There is a bus stop right at the base of Diamond Head Monument, and it’s a bit of a climb up to the toll booth (just $1 per person), but just past this entrance there are restrooms, drinking fountains, and options for refreshments. The wind was so strong that my wide-brimmed hat kept taking flight, so Alan bought me a baseball cap (which I will always cherish!)  There are no restroom facilities at the top, so take advantage of what they provide at this way station, and think about saving your water for drinking on your descent!  We also stopped for some passion fruit juice and a rainbow shaved ice upon our return, which revived us until we could make our way to the South Side Grill                                                 for an amazing (and cheap!)  lunch of Ono fish’n’chips. (We also took advantage of our day bus pass by ending at the Leonard Street Bakery’s for some of their famous malasadas for dessert.) All in all, it was a perfect day with only unexpected sight: A blue stop sign. Truly! I have never seen a blue stop sign in my entire life…not even in Disney World. Have you? However, after the surprise of seeing a bright blue stop sign, it occurred to me that it really doesn’t matter what color a sign is. It was the normal size and shape, and bore the same message: STOP. I had to think twice about whether or not it was real, but it was at a juncture where it would be totally appropriate to stop.  Moral of my meditation? We can be taken off guard by a warning that doesn’t fit our normal expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Red or blue, “Stop” means “Stop!” If I (or you) have come face to face with a surprising warning, let’s not disregard it just because there’s something different about it (maybe an unusual source or given by someone whom we don’t automatically believe). If we should stop, let’s stop. On Diamond Head or our own back yard!The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12, ESV).

The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:42-43).

 

Pineapple Pancakes with Creamy Coconut Syrup

          In Honolulu, we ended up eating at several really fun restaurants,  and my favorite breakfast was at Hatsuhana’s Japanese Restaurant at the Waikiki Hilton Village Resort, which consisted of pancakes, bacon, tossed salad, papaya, hard-boiled egg, and green tea, all for $9.99, which is an incredible deal in Hawaii! Not only was it one of the most unusual breakfast combinations I’ve eaten (outside Asia), it was truly delicious, and one of the highlights was their unique coconut syrup. If you’ve been following along with my recipe blogs, I hope that you—like me—are starting to say, “I could make this!” when you find something you really like. I’ve been making home made and berry syrups from childhood  (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/blackberry-syrup-reminiscent-of-the-cracker-barrel/ ) so it wasn’t hard to  adapt what I already knew in order to make a very refreshing coconut syrup:

Creamy Coconut Syrup
(serves 6-8)

Add together in a pan:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes until it just barely reaches the soft-ball stage (about 115°F if you’re using a candy thermometer, although I just go by the look; it starts looking thicker than water).
Add:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
Light sprinkle of salt
Keep simmering and use a whisk to stir until it’s all milky white and uniform in consistency. Let it cool. It doesn’t need to be warm so can be prepared a little bit ahead, although warm is always nice. It should thicken slightly when it’s sufficiently cool.

Another item I saw advertised at a different restaurant but never tried was pineapple pancakes, which also sounded good, so I worked out a recipe that met with high approval from both husband and son last weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It made us all feel a little like we were back in Hawaii! 🙂

Pineapple Pancakes
(serves about 3…at least we ate them all!)

Mix together:
1 cup pancake mix (I use Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk, but suit yourself!)
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil (or melted butter, or bacon fat)
1 cup milk
1 cup crushed pineapple

That’s really all there is to it! Fry on a well-buttered skillet at about 325° (medium heat…not as hot as regular pancakes, because they take a little longer to bake through). If you really want Asian fusion, I guess you could serve it with hard-boiled eggs, papaya, and tossed salad, but we opted for a more traditional American flair, and even stuck with black tea rather than green.                            However you like it, I hope you’ll try it…and like it!

Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezekiel 3:3-4).