Frankenmuth: The Birthday Club and Historical Society Roots Tour

I wrote about Frankenmuth eight years ago as a sort of “Christmas Present” event, where Alan and I enjoyed the Christmasy ambience of this historic German community, complete with an afternoon of shopping at Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, which houses over 50,000 gifts in an area nearly the size of two football field.

I’m sure I’ll write about Frankenmuth again as a “Christmas Future” event, because Frankenmuth now sports two waterpark hotels where several of my children and their children love splashing around for a weekend on adrenaline-pumping rides like the Super Loop Speed Slide or the Tantrum Twist Raft Ride (or . . . the warm kiddy pools). 🙂

Today, however, I want to write about my “Christmas Past,” outing last week with the Birthday Club, where we concentrated more on the historical aspects of this charming village, which has even more to offer than great food, shops, and joy rides.

Just a few historical “fun facts” for would-be tourists! There are absolutely NO parking meters anywhere in town, so parking (where available) is totally free! How’s that for German hospitality? Also, the oldest neon sign in Michigan stands in front of Zehnders (which is also probably the oldest, most famous restaurant in Michigan).

Frankenmuth is also home to Michigan’s oldest continuously operating woolen mill.

This was the first stop on our list of tours, although faaaaar from the last!

The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill has been in operation for 125 years.

Anyone can still have their own sheep’s wool cleaned, carded, and batted!

Even though it’s a working mill, they have windows where you can observe some of the processes when they work.

Also, if you call ahead, they will arrange personal tours for groups of ten or more.

However, if you don’t have ten in your party or don’t come at the right time, there is a constantly running, short but very informative video that explains the process, and the clerks are hospitable and willing to answer questions.

As you might imagine, the store is full of wonderfully pleasant woolen products . . .

and other fun stuff, sure to make you smile! (Susan made us pose for this one! 🙂 )

There is also a historical museum, although it was closed the day we were there.

All the shops were open, though, including this fabulous old fashioned market that seemed straight out of my childhood, complete with a big pickle barrel. Huge dill pickles are sold for $.49 or a whole gallon for only $7.00!

For those of you who long for a day to experience the past in all it’s present glory, Frankenmuth is hard to beat!

Another fantastic shop is the Cheese Haus, which brought back memories of Alan and my visit to Edam in the Netherlands a couple of years ago . . . a wonderful store full of amazing cheeses, many of which can be sampled on the spot! (Tourist alert: Come hungry to Frankenmuth and pace yourself!!)

Of course, the culinary highlight of the day was experiencing one of the city’s historically tastabulous chicken dinners. Frankenmuth has two restaurants that were begun over 160 years ago by two German brothers. They have identical menus.

The first and most famous is Zehnders, which was just announced as one of 6 recipients of 2020 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award. Zehnders seats 1,500 in their ten dining rooms. It was one of 10 largest restaurants in America in the 1980’s, and I believe it still has the largest seating capacity of any restaurant in Michigan, serving about a million chicken dinners annually.

However, in honor of Susan (who has German roots) and me (who has a German daughter-in-law), Cindi opted to eat at the brother restaurant right across the street, where everything is just as wonderful, albeit with Bavarian ambience rather than Zehnder’s colonial American decor.

Needless to say, we were totally charmed and completely pleased by our dining experience at the Bavarian Inn!

If you go to Frankenmuth, be sure to walk around to the side of the Bavarian Inn in time to see the wonderful glockenspiel and hear the 10-minute performance about the Pied Piper.

Although it’s done in a rather cheerful manner, the moral of the story is somber and clear:

Pay those to whom payment is due, be fair, and don’t lie, or you will be very sorry in the end!

Well, like so many travel posts, this one is way too long already, but I want to encourage you to save time for one more historical site if you visit Frankenmuth.

This utterly charming community was begun by fifteen German Lutherans who had a heart to share the gospel with the Chippewa Indians in this area (back in 1845).

Across the street from the present day church, there is a replica of the original church.

Except during services, visitors are welcome to ring two ancient “church bells in the forest!”

There is also a fascinating cemetery filled with gravestones and expressions of faith.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Lorenz in Frankenmuth, Michigan

This historic church is alive and well today, open to the public and sharing the Gospel!

Inscription on the wall of St. Lorenz

To Susan, Cindi, and me, it was the crowning touch to a completely warm and wonderful day!

Thank you, Jesus!

Rise Up, My Love (300): Feasting on the Bread of Heaven

Song of Solomon 8:14 Well, last week’s meditation was quite an aside. I hope you didn’t mind. Let’s go back to our last verse and savor just two words: “My beloved.” First, Jesus is ours: He belongs to us. Second, Jesus is our beloved: He is the one with whom we are entwined forever in a love relationship. “My beloved.” He is mine. He is yours! He belongs to each of us uniquely and individually, and we all belong to him and to each other in the universe’s grandest and most glorious, mysterious corporation…a corporation which offers incredible benefits, perfect job security, dividends “above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and a pension plan that will provide for us through all eternity. How do you like that for a package? “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Psalm 68:19).

Why is he beloved? To begin with, “We love him because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). He’s beloved because he loves us. Also, we love him because we know that his love will last forever. Nothing ever “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39). Other loves of this world come and go. Some passions seem intense but fade to nothing, and even the greatest loves of earth are at times fickle and frail. Not so the love of God! “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  We love him because the expression of his love through his mercies is fresh and new each morning. Look at Exodus 6:7, “In the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord.” Do you know what the children of Israel saw? They saw manna…the perfect bread sent down fresh from God’s kitchen. Did you know that “manna” means “What is it?” In John 6:51 Jesus explained what it is, and what he is: ”I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” Jesus is our manna…our living Bread and our living Word (Matthew 4:4).  He is our Morning Glory…the one who satisfies us early. (As a flower lover, the idea of him being my Morning Glory is my own “pet” name with a double meaning, but isn’t it a sweet thought?) Are you feasting on the warm, fresh, inviting, living Word and being filled afresh with his glory morning by morning? The children of Israel got to the point where they complained bitterly about having to eat manna in the wilderness. “Our soul loatheth this light bread” (Numbers 21:5). They grew tired of perfection. Have you?

I’ve had children who struggled with continuing the practice of a daily morning devotional time because it became “routine and boring.” I beg you, never quit!! Forty years ago my Sunday school teacher used to encourage me as a high schooler with her own view on the Scripture. “Feeding on the Bible is like taking medicine when you’re you’re young. It’s like eating shredded wheat when you’re mature. But, it’s like savoring peaches and cream when you get old.” I think I’ve gotten old…how about you? May he ever be our Morning Glory, and may our waking thoughts each day be to praise him for the glorious beauty of his love and holiness!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(—William Williams, 1745)

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
[or Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer…]
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.

Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold:
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
Sin, and Satan and the grave,
Sin, and Satan and the grave.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
Lord, I long to be with Thee!

P.S.—Although this is an ancient song, I noticed that it was sung in Eng­lish at the fun­er­al of Di­a­na, Prin­cess of Wales, in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, Sep­tem­ber 6, 1997. So, both the song, and the Bread of Heaven about whom the song was written, continue to feed our souls. Truly, feeding on the Word of God provides eternal nourishment, because Jesus is the Bread of Life sent down from heaven (John 6:48), and in him is life eternal (John 17:2-3)!