Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rhine River Cruise - Our Day in Speyer and Heidelberg

Horse Chestnut Trees

On Tuesday morning, we had free time to roam the quaint city of Speyer, Germany, and, as we began our walk into town, we were greeted by these beautiful Horse Chestnut trees in full bloom. Not so common in the United States, but they seemed to be everywhere in Germany. I love their upright plumes.
Joel, Jeannette, Debbie, Darren

Also abundant in Europe were massive wisteria vines growing on walls, trellises, and buildings. So lovely! 
Jeannette in the front of the Rhemish Helm
History notes: The Romans established a fortress and settlement in Speyer during the 1st century A.D.  Pictured above is a portion (with some reconstruction) of the original fortification. 

Heidelberg Castle
Many of the cities we visited along the Rhine had historical significance for the Protestant Reformation. I can't hear Heidelberg without thinking of the catechism of the Reformed Church, published in 1563. Heidelberg is also famous for its magnificent castle, dating back to 1225 A.D. Most of the castle, along with the Old City, was destroyed by the army of Louis XIV in the last 1600s. The city was rebuilt in 1720. 
A reconstructed portion of the castle
View of Heidelberg from the castle courtyard

Friday, May 22, 2015

European Vacation - Strasbourg, France

Avalon Felicity
Cruising on a river is quite different than on large cruise ships. Avalon's Felicity hosts around 130 passengers, making for a much more intimate group of travelers. And unlike large cruise ships, river boats don't offer much in the way of entertainment. Think of the boat as a floating hotel, with the entertainment being on shore. But some of us consider food to be a great source of entertainment, and we were treated to an array of European fare reflecting the cuisine of each city visited. We were never bored. 

Petite France
Our first excursion was a boat ride through the canals of Strasbourg, France (the heart of Alsace Wine Country). We loved the winding canals and streets flanked by the half-timbered houses and shops of Petite France. 

Joel is front of the Strasbourg Cathedral

After the canal ride, we did a walking tour which included the Strasbourg Cathedral. The cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world at 466 feet and is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. One of the more interesting features is the astronomical clock housed at the rear of the cathedral.

Joel and I opted to do more exploring and shopping in Strasbourg in the afternoon, while Darren and Debbie visiting an area vineyard and village.

As the day ended, we set sail for our next port - Speyer, Germany. 

Astronomical Clock

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

European Vacation - Day One. . .and Two

Ready to leave home
After over a year of careful planning, our first trip to Europe for a Rhine River cruise became a reality. We were so excited on our day of departure as we drove to the Denver International Airport where we met our traveling companions, Joel's brother and sister-in-law, Darren and Debbie. But sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, and we found that our flight to Zurich via Iceland Air was cancelled due to the plane's mechanical problems. We were booked on the next flight three hours later, and we knew we were going to miss our connection in Reykjavik (Iceland) unless the airline decided to hold the plane. They didn't.  When we arrived in Iceland, we received the disappointing news that we wouldn't be leaving until the next morning, meaning we would miss our excursion to Mount Pilatus in the Swiss Alps. Bummer! The airline made "lemons into lemonade," however, as they put us up in the Hilton, fed us three scrumptious meals, and made us feel very welcome. The hotel even provided after dinner entertainment in the form of a local brass band - a fun evening!

A view of Reykjavik, Iceland

In the afternoon, we had time for a trip to the Blue Lagoon Spa and enjoyed the comfort of geo-thermal springs. The weather that day was a cloudy 45 degrees, and the life guards were wearing parkas, but we were toasty warm in the 100 degree mineral water. Surprising to us, Iceland has much to offer tourists, and we just might choose to make that a layover destination on a future trip.

Debbie and I are in the middle of the photo.

The next morning, we flew to Frankfort to catch a short connection to Zurich. As we made our way through the Frankfort Airport, we recognized American music playing loudly over a sound system. . .Elvis' Burning Love! We got off the escalator and rounded a corner to see that, not only was it Elvis music, it was an Elvis impersonator entertaining a crowd!  I guess there is no escaping them!  ;)

The Rhine River had experienced high water from rain and melting snow in the days leading up to our cruise, so the cruise line changed our departure location from Basel, Switzerland to Strasbourg, France. A two hour bus trip through the French countryside was the next leg of our journey. We were so thankful when we finally set foot on the boat, and felt both relieved and eager for the amazing week ahead. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Biking Obsession

I have to admit it became an obsession. As part of our weight loss program (begun last year), Joel and I decided we would get our exercise through bicycling. It was innocent enough at the beginning - ride for 30 minutes or so a few times a week.  Then January came, and I was bitten by the New Year's resolution bug.  I had to have a goal, and 1000 miles seemed like a good attainable distance.

As spring rolled around with warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, we extended our riding time and increased our speed. We followed a daily route through surrounding neighborhoods, switching it up by either going "frontwards" or "backwards." And at the end of each ride, we recorded the distance traveled. We were driven, and the closer we got to reaching the goal, the more biking became work for me, not a source of joy as it had been in the beginning. After we surpassed the 1000 miles at the end of August, I reduced my bike riding to a pace that is once again pleasurable. No more goal setting; I want to keep it in perspective - and fun! 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Why Read?

If you've been reading my blog for some length of time, you know I love
books. But that hasn't always been the case. I wasted way too much time as a child glued to the television, indiscriminately watching game shows, variety shows, sitcoms, and even boring fishing shows (when Dad controlled the television knob). Sadly, I usually only picked up a book to complete an assigned book report.  Mark Twain said, "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read," so, as an adult, I've been purposeful in making up for lost time, loving every minute of it. 

I am thankful to be a member of a book club, sharing the love of literature with other like-minded women. Along with the monthly selection, we are working our
way through Honey for a Woman's Heart by Gladys Hunt, a guide to good books and the joy of reading. In the first chapter, the author develops her philosophy of reading. She says we read to feel life; authors' expressions of feelings cause our own spirits to soar. We read for pleasure; "Learning to see, to laugh, and to enjoy encounter with others is reason enough to read. The world has comedy built into it; the ridiculous is but to be explored." (p. 26) We read to learn. Good books give us information and perspective not only on history and those who have influenced the world, but on humanity and differing worldviews.

Books develop our hearts.

Gladys Hunt writes, "Life has a story-shape. Stories are built into the very structure of the universe.  A good writer takes the materials of our experience and makes it into a story and helps us understand. . .The Great Story of the universe can be told in many forms, and when it is told well it involves you and me, and makes us see that our lives are stories too.  The stories always involve a view of truth and what we will make of the choices given us. . .There are many reasons to read.  Read as a way to work through problems in real life; read as a way of celebrating your joys, read for enjoyment, read for entertainment, read because you love beauty. Read to savor your memories." (p. 29) 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's for Dinner?

Even if you're not a big fan of sauerkraut, you might enjoy this recipe for Polish Kraut and Apples. The recipe was given to me years ago by a sweet, older, dyed-in-the-wool Polish woman, and it's become one of our favorite Fall dishes.  The apples, brown sugar, and apple juice provide a balancing sweetness to the kraut - very tasty!


1 can 14 oz. sauerkraut, rinsed and drained 

1 lb. full cooked polish sausage or kielbasa, cut in thin slices

3 tart apples, peeled and cut into slices

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 t. caraway seed (optional)

1/8 t. pepper

3/4 cup apple juice

Place half of the kraut in a slow cooker.  Top with sausage, apples, brown sugar, caraway seeds, and pepper.  Add remaining kraut.  Poor apple juice over all; cover and cook for 4 - 5 hours or until apples are tender.  Stir halfway through cooking time.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

If It Looks Like Rome. . .

From blogger A Daughter of the Reformation:

"I’m not sure why so many Catholic practices are finding their way into Reformed Presbyterian churches. It seems to me that these things have the “feel” of worship, and maybe that is the attraction. Maybe there is boredom or discontent with our own traditions. Maybe there is a desire to “do church” differently. Whatever the reason, maybe we should stop and reconsider. All of these things are part of a religious tradition that our spiritual ancestors broke away from."

Read her complete blog post discussing the trends here.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cheap Grace

"Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God.  An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. . .no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.  Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.  Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.  Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before."

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."  

~quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Lord, forgive us for those times when we love our sin more than we love and value you and our redemption purchased with the blood of Christ.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

A couple years ago, we received homemade vanilla extract as a Christmas gift, and I discovered how amazingly simple it is!  The only items needed are vanilla beans, vodka, bottles with caps or corks, and time. I ordered Madagascar vanilla beans online (getting a better price on a larger quantity of beans).

With a sharp knife, I cut a long slit the length of each bean, leaving about 1/4" at each end, and placed the beans in washed bottles (using 3 to 4 beans per 8 ounces of vodka).  I poured the vodka into the bottles, completely covering the beans. After placing the cork in the bottles, I placed them in a cool, dark location.  The vanilla should be ready to use in about eight weeks, but additional time will provide a more intense vanilla flavor.  

After I add pretty labels, the homemade vanilla will be ready to be given as gifts to friends and family. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Quotable Thomas Watson

"The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself by the fire.  Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our breast."

Friday, February 07, 2014

Idols of the Heart

 "The human heart is an idol factory...Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols"  ~ John Calvin

I recently heard one of my favorite Bible teachers say that if you're wondering what your idols are, just reflect on what you usually think about as soon as you wake up in the morning and right before you fall asleep at night. Those are the times when we are alone with our thoughts. We are free to dwell on matters of our own choosing, so naturally our thoughts will drift to those things which are important to us, or maybe even control us.

Scripture has much to say about the practice of idolatry, and, although Christians don't worship graven images of other "gods," we certainly are prone to create attachments to things in the world that replace the affections for our Heavenly Father. I John 5:21 states "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."  The Lord desires, even commands, that we love him above all else and look to him to as a child would to an earthly parent. He alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. I believe that is why we should start and end our days reflecting on the Lord and his goodness.

When the alarm clock sounds, my tendency is to race through my mental list of people to see, places to go, and things to do. But Psalm 5:3 says, "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up."  I love this verse. It's a reminder to start my day by thanking him for his faithfulness that is new every morning. I also pray that, by "looking up," I will remember that each moment and situation of the day will pass through his sovereign hands. The Lord is working all things together for my good and his glory. It's my desire to faithfully walk through the day in a manner worthy of his love for me.

Likewise, when we I put my head on the pillow, my impulse is to mull over the day's pleasures, accomplishments, irritations, failures, disappointments, etc. It's not necessarily wrong to do so, but I know I have a loving Heavenly Father who is always waiting for me to bring those cares before his throne of grace. I am faced with either trusting in my own wisdom and strength, a form of idolatry, or obediently casting all my burdens on him, and thanking him for. . .well, everything!  What a blessing it is to drift off to sleep after a time of worshipping my Lord.

"Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord." Psalm 4:4b-5

Friday, January 31, 2014

Quotable John Calvin

The cross makes for discipline:

"That we may not become haughty when we acquire wealth; that we may not become proud when we receive honors; that we may not become insolent when we are blessed with prosperity and health, the Lord himself, as he deems fit, uses the cross to oppose, restrain, and subdue the arrogance of our flesh.

And he does this by various means which are useful and wholesome for each of us. For we are not all equally afflicted with the same disease or all in need of the same severe cure.  This is the reason why we see different persons disciplined with different crosses.  The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients; he gives some a milder medicine and purifies others by more shocking treatments, but he omits no one; for the whole world, without exceptions, is ill (Deut. 32:15)."  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Refrigerator Ever-Ready Rolls

A friend who is a caterer gave me this wonderful roll dough recipe. I prefer the flavor and texture of these rolls over a traditional bread dough for making bierrocks, cheeseburger or breakfast pockets. Very yummy!

Refrigerator Ever-Ready Rolls

1 T. rapid rise yeast
1 cup warm water - 110 to 115 degrees
2 tsp. sugar

Dissolve first three ingredients and set aside.

2 cups very warm water
1 1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
8 cups flour

Add the remaining ingredients to the first three and mix by hand or with mixer for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Turn out into a greased bowl and allow to double in size. Punch down and either make your rolls or refrigerate dough for up to two weeks and use as desired.  

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes.

Friday, January 24, 2014


"Now perfect and complete glorying in God is this:  not to exult in one's own righteousness, but being aware that one is lacking in true righteousness, to be justified by faith alone in Christ."  

"Much time had I spent in vanity, and had wasted nearly all my youth in the vain labour which I underwent in acquiring the wisdom made foolish by God.  Then once upon a time, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the truth of the Gospel, and I perceived the uselessness of 'the wisdom of the princes of this world, that come to naught.'  I wept many tears over my miserable life and I prayed that guidance might be vouchsafed me to admit me to the doctrines of true religion."

~ Basil of Caesarea 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And Such Were Some of You

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."  I Corinthians 6:9-11

The early church at Corinth was a mess. Instead of growing in Christ and in unity of the faith, the congregation fell into many sinful and prideful practices.  The Apostle Paul penned a letter to the church, giving them a spiritual smack-down, calling them back to sound doctrine and Christian love and unity.  Paul didn't doubt that the congregation was comprised of true believers, having been justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. He was, however, rightly concerned about their lives of cheap grace, evidenced by their disregard for walking in a manner worthy of their calling to Jesus.  So he calls them out on their sins. It's hard not to read the list above and receive my own spiritual smack-down in several areas, but then Paul writes these beautiful words of encouragement:

"And such were some of you."

Paul reminds Christians that we have been washed of all our filthiness, we have been declared holy, our relationship with God has been made right, all because of the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the "bookends of the Christian life," as Jerry Bridges refers to them. We will continue to battle temptations to sin, they are literally all around and in us, but as we remind ourselves of the gospel, that we were bought with a price, that we are no longer our own possession (I Corinthian 6:20), we will yield to the power of the Holy Spirit to do his perfecting work in our lives for his glory.    

We simply can't go back to a life of cheap grace, if we truly understand the gospel.  

Friday, January 17, 2014


"God is so far from being pleased either with those who are ambitious of popular praise, or with hearts full of pride and presumption, that he plainly tells 'they have their reward' in this world, and that (repentant) harlots and publicans are nearer to the kingdom of heaven than such persons.  

There is no end and no limit to the obstacles of the man who wants to pursue what is right and at the same time shrinks back from self-denial. It is an ancient and true observation that there is a world of vices hidden in the soul of man, but Christian self-denial is the remedy for them all. There is deliverance in store only for the man who gives up his selfishness, and whose sole aim is to please the Lord and to do what is right in his sight." ~ John Calvin 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Stack

It seems as though every new January comes with a new intentionality. I reflect
on ways that I can prioritize different areas of my life, and one of those areas is reading. Last week I went to our bookshelves and pulled this stack of books that I intend to read during the next twelve months. However, being a woman, I reserve the right to change my mind. Since I already have a new book on order, that is a real likelihood. And if you'll look closely, you will notice several of the books have bookmarks protruding, indicating that my prior intentionality didn't quite pan out. That's why I avoid the word resolution.  ;)

Here's the line-up:

Fiction selections:

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers, one of her Lord Peter Wimsey murder mysteries. Why? Ashlea recently named her new kitty after Sayers' mystery sleuth, title and all. Weird reason, maybe, but perhaps not any more unusual than naming a cat after a fictional detective. Unusualness seems to run in the family.  

The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse.  I have never read anything by Wodehouse, so it's about time!

1984 by George Orwell.  Why?  I'm making up for my poor high school education.  I graduated in the '70s. . .need I say more?   

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Getting through this classic has become a life goal, and this will be my third attempt. I am determined to make the third time the "charm." Better start on this one soon!

Joel and I are also reading through the Lord of the Rings trilogy together; it's probably the only way I would make it through those books.

Theology/Christian selections:  

Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson. Admittedly, I need some encouragement when it comes to loving and forgiving those who have hurt or disappointed me.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. After reading the excellent biography of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, I want to meditate more on the difference between "cheap grace" and "costly grace" from the writings of one who lived the latter.  

Pillars of Grace:  A Long Line of Godly Men (A.D. 100 - 1564) by Steven Lawson - a survey of church history. I've often heard the names, so it's time I read about the church fathers who held fast to the doctrines of grace through the centuries.

What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper - my book club read for this year. Piper reflects on fifty of the commands of Christ in connection with his person and work.  

Other selections:

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose - the adventures of Lewis and Clark and the opening of the American West. Historical reads are always fascinating to me.  

The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek.  My political/economic fix for the year, and a timely look at the relation between individual liberty and government control. I hope I have the brain power to process this one.  

The Consequences of Ideas by R. C. Sproul.  An overview of the concepts that have shaped our world - my dabble in philosophy.  

Tesla, Margaret Cheney's look at one of the twentieth centuries' greatest scientists and inventors.  Now I'm wondering why I selected this book since I'm not science-oriented, other than it's a biography. . .oh, and Tesla was a character in one of my favorite movies, The Prestige. ;)

And last but by no means least, Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols.  I'm continually grateful to my friend Roxie for introducing me to the works of this delightful author. I read several of his books last year as he recounted the refurbishing of his English manor Merry Hall and its gardens. And I am currently working through one of his books on cats.  It's truly a shame that Nichols' prolific writings have fallen off the reading landscape. I'm sure I'll being adding more Nichols' books to the list.

Reading Regret:  I read all of Erik Larson's (link) books over the course of the last year or so, and how I wish there was one to add to this year's list!  His book In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin is being made into a movie and will be released sometime this year; though I already know it won't measure up to the book.  

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

God's Great Love and Our Great Misery

"So great was our misery, that no less remedy would suffice, and so great
God's mercy that He withheld Him [Jesus] not
from us." ~ Puritan Thomas Manton

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (ESV), the one verse that we all know so well and, therefore, too often gloss over the profound truths contained within. It really is astonishing that God would love the world. Consider how often we, as sinful creatures, are disgusted and repulsed by the vileness and depravity of mankind that comes across our news media or is within our limited social sphere.  Then consider that our Holy God, who knows no sin, has witnessed every sin in thought, word, and deed of every human since time began. Truly the misery of the world is beyond our comprehension. 

And yet God loved the world.

He saw us in all our misery and was willing to provide the only remedy for our sinful condition - his Son.  God's love was so great that he not only would not withhold his Son, he could not withhold his Son. It was a promise of love the Godhead made before time began, and Jesus was the only one who would and could bear the load.

How should meditating on this marvelous love of God change me? It is my prayer that this year I will truly value what Christ has done in my life, that he will become more precious to me than anything this world has to offer, that I will more readily yield to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and that I will more faithfully serve him. 

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." II Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV