Relaxing in the Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is the world’s largest man-made geothermal mineral bath and listed in National Geographic as one of the world’s Twenty-Five Wonders.Many people travel to Iceland in January in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights, but we have good friends who went last January and didn’t see a single streak of midnight light, so Alan and I were happy to go in August, when the  thermostat doesn’t dip so low and the daylight hours are luxuriously long.  Iceland in August is unforgettable, and among the dozens of delights we enjoyed, savoring a day lulling in the legendary Blue Lagoon was right up there at the top. The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most visited attractions, and people come from all over the world to enjoy the ambience and healing waters.                                                    How does it work? Well, the lagoon is filled with sea water channeled from over a mile underground, past a volcanic lava flow that super-heats it to a searing 464°F. The water is used to generate power at the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station and then cooled to 100°F. before being pumped into the lagoon.  The Blue Lagoon is built into a black basaltic lava field that’s thought to be 800 years old and looks natural (for a moonscape) as well as ethereal.  The pools contain 9 million liters of water, which are circulated through the baths and then discarded, completely renewing the lagoon every 40 hours.  The result is an enormous “spa” with luxuriously warm waters rich with algae and mineral deposits like sulfur and silica (which gives the water it’s beautiful, milky-blue color).  If you’re squeamish about modesty (like I am), you can relax. The changing rooms are divided by gender, and everybody wears a bathing suit.  Each person is given a fluffy, white, warm bathrobe (hanging on left) for wearing before and after entering the pool, which was comforting even in August!      Complimentary silica-mud is distributed if you want to try a face mask,         and refreshments are available at their swim up bar in the pool.  There’s also a fresh-water drinking fountain in the pool if you feel dehydrated. There are walkways around the lagoon, although lava is sharp, so you’d need shoes and warm wraps before attempting a hike. Now, perhaps some of you who find this post are researching Iceland and are considering a visit to the Blue Lagoon. I hope you go and love it! However, there may be others who won’t. Either way, I’d like to share that there is a place even more restful and wonderful than the Blue Lagoon, and that’s  the spiritual rest that Jesus offers: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-29).  That doesn’t mean we never work anymore, but that does mean that we don’t “work” in order to obtain our salvation! Jesus has provided for us through his death on the cross, so we can stop trying to be “perfect.” Mud baths are unnecessary; we can be washed clean through His cleansing power!Instead of trying to “work” our way to heaven, we need to completely relax. Jesus died for us. He is our healing water, and He will hold us up. He provides clean, white robes for us! He gives us the pure water of life to drink. All we have to do is believe: Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:9-11).

 

(Photo Credits: Two of the photos I used appear on multiple sites, and I couldn’t trace it back to the original photographer to ask permission. However, I’m going to link them back to the most likely options I found:

Photo #1: https://wakeupreykjavik.com/iceland-in-january/

Photo # 3: https://www.travelandleisure.com/flight-deals/cheap-flights-icelandair-northern-lights

The rest are mine, taken on our trip last August.)

Are You a Follower or a Leader?

Are you a leader or follower by nature? Do you think one is better than the other? American culture puts a high premium on being a leader, but this isn’t what Jesus taught, as Joe Stowell reminds us in his book, Following Christ. God calls us first and foremost to be Christ-followers, not leaders! In truth, I don’t think any of us make good leaders until we’ve learned to become good followers.

Joe is the president of Cornerstone University, where six of our seven kids began their college training, and I think this book is spot on! Ever hear of “Wrong Way Reigels”? He was the University of California center who became infamous for scoring a touchdown. . .at the wrong end of the football field during the 1929 Rose Bowl! His team lost to Georgia Tech by one point, and Joe points out that Reigels’s problem was living by “instinct without direction,” which is an issue for each of us.

Perhaps the most crucial of all life’s questions is: Do we want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our own soul, as the poet William Ernest Henley wrote, or would we rather follow the guidance of a higher being (God!) who is infinite in his knowledge and wisdom, capable of accomplishing his will, loves us more than we love ourselves, and has our good (and that of all people) and his glory as his game plan?

The only hitch is, we have to surrender to Christ, and most of us are either afraid to trust him because we’re not sure he’s really God, or we don’t believe He truly loves us and has our best interests at heart, or we don’t want to share our “glory” with God! By nature, most of us find it hard to believe that God really loves us more than we love ourselves. We are also proud and resent the idea of giving God the glory. We’d rather seize control of our own destiny and bring glory to ourselves, so at strategic crossroads, even Christ-followers often fail to obey, even though we know good and well what we ought to do. If we want to be true Christ-followers, then we need to commit to obeying Christ even when it seems impossibly hard (and probably is, apart from God’s grace and strength).   We’ve each been given one life to live. . .one challenging but glorious adventure. For those who do not believe in God, or have chosen to take a position of being agnostic, they must default either to being their own leader or following some earthly leader, but I would rather be a follower of Christ. Because, as Joe Stowell points out, having “the real, risen, transcendent, ever-present resident Christ to relate to me in the very depths of my being apart from the inherent trappings of visibility is an advantage with which no earthly relationship can compare.”

Amen! There is no Best Friend Forever who was with us at the day of our birth, can abide with us forever, and loves us with an everlasting love. God alone, in the person of Christ’s Holy Spirit, offers to indwell us and provide guidance, purpose, abundance of joy, and life eternal. Besides all this, there’s another wonderful promise attached to being a true Christ-follower: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make  you free” (John 8:31-32). Being a Christ follower offers us true freedom and can lead us out of the prisons we’ve made for ourselves.

One of my favorite books as a child was Follow My Leader, a story about a teenage boy who is accidentally blinded by a friend’s carelessness and has to find a way out of the hatred that poisons his soul as a result. If you find yourself feeling imprisoned by hatred or embroiled in sin, My Leader (Jesus) can help you find your way out! Don’t believe me? Well, it’s not about me, it’s about God, and He’s the one who made these promises: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-29).

Will you join me and the multitude of pilgrims who’ve become Christ-followers?

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.)

 

Camp des Cimes (“Camp of the Peaks”): It’s a Small, Wide World after All

Camp of the Peaks. Chopping WoodWhile in France, our team spent one morning working Camp of the Peaks Chalet sidewith GEM (Greater European Mission) at Camp des Cimes, French Alpsa refuge for youth nestled in the French Alps French Alps La Rivoire? below the alpine village of La Rivoire above Bourg d’Oisans. Camp des Cimes Dilapidated BarnThe first “Camp of the Peaks” ran back in 1967 in a dilapidated farmhouse without electricity or running water, Camp des Cimes Barnand the first workers slept in a drafty barn in the hay! Camp des Cimes rebuildingHowever, over time—and through years of dedicated vision and hard labor—
the tiny 200-year-old village complex of Rivoire was bought and restored, Workers at Camp des Cimesand eventually an idyllic chalet was added, turning the shelter into a dream-come-true haven in France for “God to save the lost and strengthen the found.” Camp of the Peaks workingOur team divided into two groups. Chopping Wood at the Camp of the PeaksHalf of us (them) chopped and hauled wood, Moving Rockswhile the other half of us (including me) cleared out and leveled
a very rocky area in preparation for making a patio. Camp des Cimes preparing for PatioBoth jobs required such strength that half a day was plenty of exertion,
and by the time we stopped for lunch, we were all ready for a change of pace. Camp des Cimes volunteersIn fact, my arms were hamburger and my back toast after a couple of hours,
so I found less glorious work changing the bedding
with a group of volunteers from Canada who were just my age!

Camp des Cimes. AmyWhile airing out the blankets, I had the surprising joy of meeting a young lady named Amy who was doing an internship at Camp des Cimes, and as we chatted, we discovered that we have a special connection: She’s a student of my son Jonathan, who teaches at Moody Bible Institute over 5,000 west of Camp of the Peaks!Camp of the Peaks Chalet                                                        Talk about a small world!  Panoramic view of hiking in French AlpsOne of the things I love about being a Christian is that we’re part of a global family…a very wide, very deep, but also very small and intimate world-wide web of family where you are related both by blood (Jesus’) and by love to everybody!

The Old Rugged Cross (French Alps)   Thank you, Father, and thank you, Jesus! Camp des CimesBy the way, I don’t know what you’re planning to do this coming summer, Road through Alpsbut if you don’t know either, Quaint Charm at Camp of the PeaksCamp des Cimes is looking for volunteers again (2016). Cottage at Camp of the PeaksAccording to their website, “Camp of the Peaks seeks to be a refuge
where God can recharge, encourage, and save everyone.”  Camp des Cimes 2“Through the friendly environment and the shared camp experiences,
they share their lives, demonstrating what life can be
when permeated with Biblical truth and the person of Christ.” Camp of the Peaks. France If you’re interested, here’s their website:

http://gemeuroteam.org/stories/camp-des-cimes/Inside Camp des CimesCome unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-29).

The Sapphire Princess: A True Gem

SingaporeA friend called me this morning, “Now, Kathi, what I don’t understand is this: SingaporeWhat were you doing in Singapore?” Bangkok, Thailand Ah! I forgot to tell you that Alan and I recently returned from Easter Decorations Sapphire Princessa 17-day cruise around Southeast Asia aboard the Sapphire Princess. Hong Kong Harbor I’d been wanting to go to Asia with Alan for many years and had been watching ads for several, but last fall we received a flyer from the Princess Cruise Line Lobby of the Sapphire Princessadvertizing a very special price on this cruise as part of their 50th anniversary celebration for just $70 per day for their lowest-priced inside room. Sapphire Princess at nightWe put down a deposit that day, which was my birthday!  Swimming pool Sapphire Princess I’ve never seen  such a great offer again, and it was touch-and-go for a long time whether or not Alan felt like he could actually take that much time off, but his boss and colleagues backed him, and away we went! Sunrise in Vietnam It’s the longest vacation we’ve ever taken together (just the two of us) and a very special way to commemorate our 65th year of life! Leaving Hong Kong Harbor at Night Sapphire Princess The Sapphire Princess is gorgeous ship, and the ports were unforgettable! Temple in Bangkok, Thailand We toured many exotic places in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, and China, and I hope to tell you tales from each of those countries, but today I just want to highlight the fact that we went and had an awesome time. Sapphire Princess Long Corridors!We traveled 5,280 miles aboard the Sapphire Princess.
She’s one of the world’s largest ships, immaculately maintained (refitted 2012), Dinner on the Sapphire Princesshas fabulous food, and even the sea days were incredibly fun and relaxing. Sapphire Princess Conservatory Swimming PoolThursday I’ll share what a typical day at sea was like for us, but today I want to encourage you to dream, to watch, to pray, and to take a few risks. Fabulous Food Sapphire Princess For instance, I found an outstanding cruise this fall for only $43 per day (truly), but Alan hesitated, and now the deal is gone. Sigh. Well, I am content. Sapphire Princess Atrium But, a trip to Southeast Asia or the Mediterranean on a cruise ship is nothing to compare with a trip to heaven with Jesus. Jesus Christ has already paid the price and offers each of us the opportunity of an eternal lifetime. Sapphire Princess Elevator If you haven’t done so yet, please accept the world’s best offer—forgiveness and eternal life through Christ— and join us in an adventure that never ends!Sapphire Princess“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-29).