Enjoying our Italian Relations

With Michael (our second-born) and his wife living in Italy,  there’s been cause for super fun travel this summer!  First, Carleen (who is the wife of Aaron, our first-born)  went to visit with their kids for awhile.  These are two very brave women,  touring around with 8 children,  making home made pasta together,  and generally having a marvelous time catching up with each other!  Then, Aaron came to join the party.  The two families had lots of adventures together  as well as some double family touring. In Rome they were able to visit many historic sites,  including the Vatican and various museums,  and—of course—they feasted on some of Italy’s fabulous cuisine!  🙂 The day Aaron’s family left,  Alan and I went on a cruise with Michael’s family.  So, for the next couple of weeks you may be seeing lots of photographs  from Italy, Greece, Croatia, and the Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic Sea… as well as hearing tales of travels with four little ones in tow!We had a truly delectable time,  and I hope you enjoy sharing in our adventures  as much as I’ll enjoy recounting them!  “Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart:
for consider how great things he hath done for you
” (1 Samuel 12:24).

(All photos used compliments of my wonderful sons and daughters-in-law…and mostly the gals, I think! Blessings! You kids are super!!)

Rise Up, My Love (241): How to Have Fresh Breath

Song of Solomon 7:8 Second, the king refers to the smell of her nose as being like apples, or, if my understanding is correct, he likens the smell of the breath coming from her nose to the subtle spiciness of apples. That was a curiosity to me, since I have always felt self-conscious about my breath…and frankly have never noticed especially liking the smell of anyone else’s breath either (unless they were chewing flavored gum or breath mints).

I guess in some cultures, body odors are very attractive, but most Americans are taught to minimize their natural human scents and often go to great pains to mask them with toothpaste, mouth wash, fragranced soaps, deodorant, flavored chap sticks and lipsticks, hand creams, face creams, perfumes…and even make ups and powders. I mean, we even scent facial tissues and toilet paper. Among all this armament of aromatic accouterments, I have yet to smell the sweetness of apples…have you?

“How would someone’s breath smell like apples?” I asked my husband, who as a physician daily experiences dozens of people’s breath. (…“Say ‘Ah!’ please.”)

“The only way I know of would be if the person had just finished eating an apple.” That made perfect sense to me, so I researched the word “apple” in the Scripture to see if I could discover its spiritual significance. First, the word “apple” or “apples” is only used eleven times in the Scripture, four of which are in the Song of Solomon! Of the seven uses outside the Song, five are the expression “apple of the eye,” such as in Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.”

So, nearly half of the uses of apple in Scripture refer to the center of the eye, or that which is central to one’s heart, affections, and attentions. Of the two remaining uses of apple, believe it or not, do not include the fruit that Eve picked in the Garden of Eden! That fruit is not mentioned by name and has probably long since disappeared, or at least it hasn’t been an option for snacking in the last 6,000 years!

However, Proverbs 25:11 teaches that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,” and so perhaps given the context, apples could be associated with wisdom and discretion. Finally, the apple tree is mentioned with a list of the most important fruit trees that were withered during a time of judgment “because joy is withered away from the sons of men” (Joel 1:12). So, the apple is associated with wisdom, abundance and joy.

Within the Song of Solomon, the three other references to “apple” are 2:3, where the groom is likened to an apple tree: “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” Here we see the apple as the greatest of its type, providing delightful protection and sweet sustenance. Shortly thereafter (v. 5), the bride cries out, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” Here, the apple seems associated with that which stabilizes and comforts. The final reference is 8:5, where the bridegroom says, “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth…”

Obviously, this is all symbolic, since the bride certainly had not lived her entire life from birth through the early years of marriage under the shade of a singular apple tree. What did this apple tree symbolize? A composite of all the other occurrences used in Scripture depict the apple as symbolic of that which was central to one’s heart, attention, and affection, full of wisdom and discretion, joy and abundance…that which was the greatest of its type, providing delightful protection and sweet sustenance, stabilization, and comfort.

Could that be anything but a picture of Christ himself? He was the apple tree under which she was brought forth by her mother, and where she was raised up. Why did her breath smell like apples? Because she had just “eaten an apple.” Spiritually, she was feeding off the One who proclaimed, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever…For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6: 51,55).

In a spiritual mystery that has baffled and revolted unbelievers ever since Christ propounded this doctrine, we are taught to so take in Christ spiritually that he becomes bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, even as we become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Why did the bride have fragrant breath? Because she had the breath of Eternal Life! She had eaten the apple of Christ. She had been abiding in the Vine until her spiritual breasts had become like voluptuous clusters of grapes. She had been feeding on the Living Bread until the “smell of her nose”—the smell of her face and the very air coming out from her inmost being—had a subtle spiciness…the unmistakable fragrance of Christ…the invisible aroma of his eternally fresh and vibrant Holy Spirit being exhaled from her life. Oh, beloved, if you don’t get anything else out of this devotional commentary, understand the secret of spiritual fresh breath: Feed on the living Christ!

Grilled Steak to Die For

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking it might be a good time to discuss grilling meat. We were visiting friends not too long ago when the husband mentioned that for Father’s Day all his kids were coming home, but that he would be manning the grill. “Go figure!” he grinned.

I’m sure he was delighted with the prospect of seeing his kids and grand kids, but it occurred to me that he might have preferred the prospect of sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade and watching his kids grill instead of continuing to be “the man of the hour.” So, if you have a father that you’ll be seeing this weekend at his home, and if you think he (or your mom) might be grilling, how about asking if they’d like a little help? It would be one great way to honor your father on his special day!

If you’ve never grilled steak, it’s really very simple, but there are a few tricks to optimize the flavor:1. Choose a good piece of meat. Frankly, for the first 40 years of our marriage, I felt blessed if we could afford chuck steak. Doubtless the favorite cuts are the most tender, but not everybody can afford a filet mignon or Porterhouse. If you’re a little more budget conscious, rib eyes are amazingly tender, and sirloins are great, but a good chuck steak works just fine. Avoid round steak, which is unbearably tough unless you slow roast it for a million hours.2. Tenderize your steak. I use Adolph’s meat tenderizer, but I’m sure there are other fine brands out there. Sprinkle liberally and then use a hand tenderizer (pictured above and available at kitchen supply stores)      to puncture the steak liberally on both sides. This helps soften the steak                                               and infuse the tenderizer.3. Marinate your steak with some type of oil and your favorite seasonings. The oil helps keep in moisture, and the seasonings (obviously) enhance the flavor. My favorites are Italian Wishbone, minced garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning. (I ran out of the steak seasoning just before needing it for this photo. 😦  Normally, I always keep one of every common cooking item in my storage pantry and buy a new one when I finish the old one so I’m never without, but this requires a little extra investment of cash and keeping close watch on the current shopping list.) 4. Gourmet chefs would doubtless recommend marinating the steak covered in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night, but even 15 minutes (not refrigerated) can make a distinct difference in taste. 5. Make your grill HOT and throw on your steak, searing it on each side for about one minute (to seal in the juices), and then turn the heat down to medium and cook it for another couple of minutes on each side. (Note: my beloved husband just took over as the grill master at our house again after a 40-year hiatus, and he’s lovin’ it! Working together is really fun!) 6. There’s a learning curve to figuring out when your steak is “just right.” If you’re not sure, test it by cutting into it. A medium rare steak is usually safe to eat and most tender, but if you like it more cooked, that’s your choice. Just know that the more cooked, the more dry and less tender.7. Serve it up sizzling hot. If it’s done, you can keep it for a few minutes in an iron skillet in your oven, but the steak will continue cooking even after it’s off the heat. Some people suggest letting the meat rest for a minute or two before cutting, but by the time we’ve thanked the Lord for our food, I figure it’s rested enough! 8. Serve it up with several healthy (yummy) sides, and enjoy!

(Here’s a playful contribution by Bob Hardee, who has a great sense of humor!)

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!)

 

Where to Eat and Where to Stay on Mackinac Island

Over the fifty years of our visiting Mackinac Island,  Alan and I have tried most of the restaurants and many different hotels. When the kids were little, we often camped in St. Ignace or Mackinaw City
and just took the boat over for the day, packing picnic lunches and mega snacks.  In fact, for years I would make my own fudge,
and sometimes Alan would haul over all our bikes too.  There’s no way of making a trip to the island “cheap,”  but these options definitely keep the costs down a little.  In the last ten years, since the kids have grown up, Alan and I have been exploring more, and I want to share a few of our favorite finds,  although to be honest, we keep trying new places, because the variety is fun,  and there seem to be so many great options.  Concerning food, our all-time favorite lunch spot is the Village Inn.  The food is always delicious.  It’s not quite as casual as a hotdog out on the boardwalk (also very fun),  or as gourmet as a dinner at the Grand Hotel (which is superb),  but every meal is consistently excellent,  and we almost always end up eating there at least once while we’re on the island.

When we still had several kids at home, we stayed at “La Chance” Cottage  (lovely; pictured above) and ate at “Brian’s BBQ” (great food and good prices). They’re under new ownership now, so I’m not sure how that’s affected prices.Since those “good, old days,” we’ve been “found” via social media, and I tend to look for special package deals and online offers.

Among our favorite “package deals” so far are the Island House,  which is one of the (many) beautiful, old historic hotels built back in the 1800’s, and Mission Point Resort,  which is another great place to stay.  They have excellent dining and a vast lawn for relaxing! Of course, the Grand Hotel is the quintessential lodging experience. My parents used to stay every year either early or late in the season, when they typically run special deals, although Alan and I have only stayed there once… during a medical meeting, with reduced, corporate rates. One of the perks for staying there is getting a carriage ride up to the hotel, but everything is top flight. It would make a great honeymoon spot!  For “every day special,” the main street is full of hotels. Here is my list of “Let’s try these someday.”
(If you’ve tried any of them, please let me know what you think, will you?) Cloghaun Bed and Breakfast Metivier Inn Lake View Hotel (on Main Street) Lilac Tree Hotel  The Inn on Mackinac If you’ve stayed somewhere and loved it, will you let the rest of us know? Thanks!

Every time we visit Mackinac Island, Alan says it feels like a little piece of heaven on earth, because it’s so remote, peaceful, and beautiful.      Like heaven, you can’t really get there on your own! (Some probably try.)Jesus is like the boat that ferries us to this place of beauty and joy: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). Like Mackinac Island, there will be wonderful food in heaven, but unlike Mackinac Island, you won’t have to be rich to afford it!  “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1)Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).Like Mackinac Island (and even better!), there will be many beautiful places to stay: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). However, like Mackinac Island, heaven is a “private residence,” and we can’t stay there without permission! Thankfully, Jesus has invited us all to come: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To go to Mackinac Island, you have to have time and money, but to get to heaven, all you have to do is have desire and faith: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Isaiah 55:3). What is the covenant? Salvation by believing in Jesus and and surrendering your life to him. As Jesus taught, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).You may never get to Mackinac Island, but you can always get to heaven if you want, because Jesus promised: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).* (*This last beautiful photo is another gift used by permission of Robert Hardee.)

 

Sixteen Wonderful Ways to Enjoy Mackinac Island

Most of the time when Alan and I travel, we go places we’ve never been before, because we love how much we learn from new experiences.  However, there are a few treasured places that we return to again and again, and Mackinac Island is one of them.  Our first trip together was back in 1966, and this spring marked our 50th anniversary of enjoying the island together, so I’m no longer a novice and feel some confidence in sharing our list of all-time favorite things to do:  #1. Take a boat to the island. This is mandatory, since you can’t swim there, but the ride is super fun, so be sure to savor it…which will happen if you’re prepared.It’s usually chilly and windy, so you might want a fleece or hoodie, which you can store in locker on the island if carrying it in your backpack is a problem.         (Of course, if it’s really too cold or rainy, you can ride inside the cabin.) Also, the weather is unpredictable, so you might want an emergency raincoat. Last summer we took Michael’s family on a day when the weather prediction was “sunny and warm,” but our bike ride turned out to be “rainy and cold!”  If  you time it right, the Star Line will take you under the Mackinac Bridge in transit. This is definitely worth considering, although being on the island as long as possible is worth more than checking under the bridge for trolls.

 #2. Bike around the island.  It’s just eight miles and can be done in an hour  (plus stops, but do stop!).               The views are stunning  and the adventure totally memorable!    Besides all that, it’s the only highway in America  where no cars are allowed!          #3. If you don’t want to bike, walk around the island. (We usually do both.)              It might take you more like 2-3 hours, but it’s worth every minute.         #4. Climb up to the top of Arch Rock for the best views on the island!     (If you don’t have a heart attack, you’ll never regret it nor forget the view.) #5. Chase some seagulls… (and watch your food!)  #6. Skip some stones. (It’s usually too cold to swim, but wading works,
and a few people have been known to swim in July or August if it’s really hot.)  #6. Build a cairn; it’s trendy the world around. If you’re in the mood, you could even associate it with some special prayer that you’ve been asking God about. However, lots of people just build them strictly for the fun of it!  🙂  #7. Buy some fudge. It’s overpriced but wonderful,  and the shop keepers don’t call the tourists “Fudgies” for nothing!  #8. Explore the town, taking time to enjoy all the beautiful buildings,  people, sights, sounds, and scents! #9. Tour the Grand Hotel, which has the world’s longest wooden porch. They do charge you to walk on it, however! If you can’t spare the cash,
you can still walk around and enjoy the beautiful views and gardens.  #10. Tour historic Fort Mackinac. They have costumed soldiers and shoot off cannons (with tin foil balls) into the harbor. It’s educational and fun.  #11. Enjoy lunch at one of their great restaurants, or pack a picnic and eat on the governor’s lawn. (Did I say that?? I think we actually did that 50 years ago because the governor wasn’t there, but today we wouldn’t be so cavalier.)  #12. Take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the island. You’ll learn a lot of interesting facts about the island and its history. (Next week I’ll share more.) #13. If it’s a sunny day and you’ve got the time, stop at the Butterfly House.  #14. If you’re a shopper (or even if you’re not, like me…)
there are dozens of lovely shops worth exploring. #15. If you’re spending the night on the island,
walk down the boardwalk and watch the sun set. #16. Otherwise, get in line early so you don’t miss the last boat off the island! I’ve thought a lot about the fact that even when we’ve been somewhere
a zillion times, we can never perfectly predict what will happen.  There are times when we’re expecting sunshine but get caught in the rain! We’re praying for a friend who’s developed an infection at the port site
for his chemo, causing a delay in treatment, and for another friend
who badly injured her leg while visiting Japan a few weeks ago.  Life is full of storms and challenges. I am thankful that through both the sunshine and shadows of life,
we can know that God is ahead. He will lead us and guide us
safely through all the storms as we trust in Him.   (As I watched the sunset, I saw this cloud formation, which looked like an angel with a lamp in his hand, flying down to earth to light the way. Can you see it?)

“In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed:
deliver me in thy righteousness”
(Psalm 31:1).

 

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!)