I Can Only Imagine…Can You?

I Can Only Imagine is not only  one of the world’s most popular songs today, it’s been made into a fantastic movie sharing the painful life story of composer Bart Millard and his abusive father, who was transformed by the power of God’s forgiveness and love. The beauty of  I Can Only Imagine (2018, newly released to video, PG, IMDb 7.4), is in understanding the change that really can occur in someone who gives their life to Christ.             The movie is deeply moving, and I wish everybody could see it! We watched it on Father’s Day, and it would make a wonderful father-son bonding event (particularly if there’s been any strain in their relationship).  As Bart has explained in various interviews,“I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus.” “By the time he passed away when I was a freshman in college, not only was he my best friend, he was like the Godliest man I’d ever known.” “It’s literally changed the trajectory of my life.” “I guess I grew up thinking that if the Gospel could change that guy, it could change anybody. There was no denying it.”There were a few things that didn’t come out in the movie that I want to add, because it made some of the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind. Bart’s father didn’t drink (the usual precursor to abuse), but he suffered a closed-head injury at work that left him extremely impulsive (a common side-effect of closed-head injuries). Bart’s father never beat his mother, although he smashed everything she treasured, and he didn’t abuse Bart until after the mother left. (As a mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving my child undefended with an abusive father.)The chronology of events is also not exact. Bart’s father came to faith in Christ after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while Bart was still at home. It was during his high school years, while Bart cared for his father, that he learned how to forgive through God’s mercy and formed a wonderful bond with his dad. One of the happiest discoveries from research was finding that the love story between Bart and Shannon was probably very true.

They’ve been married now for 20+ years and have five lovely children!
(The romance is so special…reminded me just a little of Alan’s and mine.)If you get a chance, please watch it! I think it will touch your soul!

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

“I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I…”  (—Bart Millard)

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.)

An Inspiration for All Saints

Ready to be inspired by a (dramatized) true story? All Saints recounts the tale of Michael Spurlock, who—as a young seminary graduate—was sent to close down a dwindling church but got sidetracked by trying to help a group of Karen refugees from Burma who came to him seeking spiritual and physical aid. A tense but heart-warming 2017 movie, All Saints relates what happened back in 2007. It’s PG, has a 94% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and is a wonderful story for young and old alike…and every age and ethnicity in between!  🙂 John Corbett plays the role of Michael Spurlock, the Anglican minister who’s trying to figure out how to help the faltering little country congregation.  Although the key actors are professionals (and the movie is very well done), many of the Karen refugees play themselves! How fun is that?! I have a dear friend who has been working among the Karen refugees in Thailand for the last 20 years. Did you know there are over half a million Karen people who have been displaced by ethnic cleansing in Myanmar?Are you aware that there are over 65.5 million displaced people in the world today and 12 million refugees (up from less than 3 million refugees in the mid-1970s)? America has historically been a global leader in resettling refugees, and we also take in about a million legal immigrants annually (who are not fleeing persecution and war). If you are an American, this means that there are probably foreigners who live close to you and need help in understanding the language, etc. I know our church hosts a weekly “Language Cafe” to help with this problem (if you’re looking for a place to help), and there are a lot of programs to come along side refugees in Grand Rapids. My son has helped a young man from the Congo for two years now, and I greatly admire his dedication, as well as the young man’s progress!One of the most exciting things about All Saints, to me, is bringing the problems of refugees into the public eye and reminding people that God still works miracles today. In an article interviewing Rev. Michael Spurlock for Christian Cinema News, Jacob Sahms reflects: “That in itself is the beauty of All Saints, that God would use an ordinary man, flaws and all, strengths and weakness, to work a miracle, to bring people together, to build the Kingdom of God upon the earth.”

If you’d like to read this wonderful interview in full, it can be found here: https://www.christiancinema.com/news/rev-michael-spurlock-tells-the-story-behind-all-saints-in-theaters-friday

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)

The Taj Mahal: “Jewel of Muslim Art in India”

The Taj Mahal is in Agra, India, along the Yamuna River. It was voted one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2007
by over 100 million voters (largest poll in the world at that time).  It’s valued at over US$ 827 million and considered by many
to be the world’s premiere example of Mughal architecture.        It is perhaps the most perfect architectural monument in the world.  Commissioned in 1632 by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved wife, (Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the age of 38 giving birth to their 14th child), the Taj Mahal (which means “Crown of the Palace”) took 20,000 artisans twenty-two years to complete and was made of white marble  inlaid with precious and semi precious stones.  Because the Taj Mahal is Muslim artistry,

the exterior walls include some calligraphy from the Qur’an, carefully written with perspective so that you can read the letters at the top almost as easily as those right in front of you. The Taj Mahal is also a sacred site, so everyone is required to cover their feet (or go barefoot, but the hot pavement would burn your feet pretty badly, I’d think). Thankfully, the Taj staff provide shoe coverings as part of the admission price. My mom adored all things adventurous, especially if they involved travel. In fact, she was such a free spirit that she imagined being the daughter of gypsy parents dropped off on her parents’ doorsteps. Given how much she looked like her six siblings, I never took her tale seriously, but I definitely absorbed her curiosity about the world. Mom graduated to heaven before Bucket Lists became a thing, but had there been Bucket Lists while she was still alive, visiting the Taj Mahal would have been at the top of hers, because she always wanted to see it (although she never did).I can remember as a little girl being enthralled with her stories about a love so strong that the emperor would build a palace just to commemorate his queen…a “teardrop on the cheek of time” (as romantically described by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore back when my mother was young).  Therefore, it was with an awe inspired since childhood and a touch of my mother’s spirit within that I visited this wonder of the ancient world with Alan and our Gate 1 Discovery Tour Group a few weeks ago! Although I thought I knew a lot about the Taj Mahal before we visited, I learned a lot more and discovered that real life experiences are never quite what you imagine they’re going to be! For one thing, the Taj Mahal isn’t “just” the gorgeous onion-domed building you see in books and movies.               It is part of a 42-acre complex which includes a working mosque,                                                                a guest house,                                                      gates and watch towers,                                                   and extensive gardens.     I also learned a few things about India, which is so different from the West!     For one thing, if you go to India, prepare for extremely hot, muggy weather.  I think it was 100°F (±) with about 95% humidity that day (and I’m not kidding or exaggerating), and I was lightheaded despite drinking water constantly.  There are 7-8 million tourists who visit the Taj Mahal every year, so it’s crowded, and there are lines. (That shouldn’t be surprising, especially in a country with 1.3 billion people…but it also adds to the heat.)                                Everybody was trying to keep in the shade,  and many people were sweating through their clothing. (One of Alan’s docs warned us: “I know I’m from India and should love all things Indian, but India is too hot!”) Oh, yes!!However, the most lasting impression from my visit is that life is even more magnificent experienced than explained, which makes me all the more excited to experience heaven, which God has promised to all those who love Him.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).

(I bought photos 1,3,11-13 from the photographer who was taking pictures for us. Photo 5 is a public domain photo from Wikipedia, because we were not allowed to take pictures inside the mausoleum. I took the rest a few weeks ago in India.)

 

Maui’s Magnificent South (west) Beaches

Sunrise Walk on Big Beach, MauiLooking for some dream-come-true tropical beaches to walk where there are wide stretches of golden sandWailea Beach  lined with palm trees and crowned with rainbows?Kahoolawe from Big Beach, South Maui… where crystal-clear waves caress the shoreline with gently swirling kisses… distant islands beckon…Humpback Whale cavorting. Maui and humpback whales cavort in the bays?  Waves rolling in on Big Beach If you can make it to Maui, then you’ll look no more, because—as Andy Doughty says— Maui has “an embarrassment of riches” when it comes to fabulous beaches. Longboats along Wailea Beach For whatever reason, Maui residents talk about the “South Maui Beaches” when they’re referring to the treasure trove of gorgeous beaches that run from Maalaea Bay to La Perouse down Maui’s southwestern (leeward) side. Misty Maui MountainsWe only had one day to explore, so we began our journey before sunrise and Highway 31, Mauiheaded to our southern-most point (to minimize traffic and maximize pleasure). Puu Makua in distanceThe road deteriorates before you can actually get to La Perouse, but the scenery is outstanding. This is where Maui’s last fresh lava flows reached the sea (1790), Last lava flows on Maui 1790and fields of lava rock and boulders line both sides of the road. Kanahena, Ahihi BayThe coastal side of the road is an unending feast for the eyes… jagged beauty Maui. Yellow wildflowers and profuse wildflowers blooming wherever there’s enough soil to take root. South Maui BeachesThere are no fewer than 17 major, named beaches on the map, but I’m really only going to tell you about our two favorites. Big Beach, Maui“Big Beach” (aka Makena or Oneloa) is a 100-foot wide, 2/3 mile long crescent  that is considered by many to be “the beach” in Maui. I concur with that opinion! Big Beach, MauiIt’s a state park with facilities and is said to be crowded, but early in the morning Walking Big Beach, Hawaiiwe had the entire waterfront to ourselves! Big beach is one of the premier spots Coconuts on Big Beachfor swimming, snorkeling, beach combing, or just basking in the sun. Wailea Bay The other incredibly beautiful beach is Wailea, and there’s a boardwalk that Resort at Waileafollows the coast for 2 miles, linking 5 beaches & a string of world-class resorts.Wailea PointWe were able to park for free at Polo Beach and found the walk to and fro Boardwalk at Waileautterly delightful! This is the most expensive area in Maui, and rumor has it thatCabanas in Wailea  to rent a cabana for a day can cost $450. That’s right. $450.00! So…we didn’t. Purple Palace of PrayerHowever, by then we were pretty much starving, so we stopped for a late lunch Kihei, Mauiin Kihei, where were served the most humungous Mahi Mahi Steakmahi mahi steaks we’ve ever seen. Paia Fish Market SouthPrices are high, and we had to wait in a very long line, but it was worth the wait!Maui RainbowThe day was full of both sunshine and showers…with lots of rainbows Ice Plantand flowers. “Just another perfect day in paradise,” I think he said. Sunset over MauiIf there are places on earth this beautiful, what will heaven be like?
I can hardly wait!

“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)

The Woman with the Fork

09.12.14 Woman with ForkHave you heard this story yet? It’s an anonymous forward from the internet, and not exactly material for a usual “Friday Fun” post, but I really liked the message:

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things ‘in order,’ she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.
“What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.
“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”

The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.
“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor. Apple Struedel copyThe young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. Grandma said that in all her years of attending socials and dinners, she used to remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ That was her favorite part because she knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie with ice cream. Something wonderful, and with substance!  So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork ..the best is yet to come.'”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had more understanding than many people twice her age, because she knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and saw the cloak she was wearing…and the fork in her hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And, over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. I think he was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come! Dessert Chocolate Medley copy“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).