Thanksgiving, Thanksgetting, or Both? (With Illustrations from India and Nepal to Give Perspective)

I have four of the world’s best daughter-in-laws, and my one and only son-in-law is right up there with the best of them too! He is warm, quiet, affectionate, generous, always helpful, devout, ingenious, artistic, and usually has a bit of a smirk on his face, which I presume is his creative imagination kicking in to add a bit of humorous (albeit silent) commentary to life.    I wouldn’t trade him for a barrel of monkeys or anything else you might offer!  All this intro is so you don’t misinterpret his wry pseudonym for Thanksgiving, which is (as you’ve probably guessed) “Thanksgetting.”   So, what are you doing for Thanksgetting tomorrow? Lord willing, we’ll do what we most often do: Gather with those of our family who are able to come and share a Thanksgiving “feast,” and then we’ll sit in a circle around a candle-lit coffee table in our living room and play “The Thankful Game.” Do you ever play that game? It’s a time of reflecting on all the blessings we’ve received over the past year from God, and we go around the circle sharing one by one, round and round until we all seem content that we’ve remembered to give thanks to God for all the most important things we’ve gotten from him. It’s really an opportunity to recognize God’s goodness in our lives and a great way to worship Him, whether you’re alone for Thanksgiving or in a big group.
However you celebrate, I hope you focus on what you’ve gotten rather than what you’ve given this year, and if it’s been a terrible year where you’ve suffered great loss, perhaps you can think about what you still have.  I have a number of friends who’ve had serious physical problems this year, and some who have lost someone precious to them, and my heart grieves for them.  Still, after visiting India and Nepal recently, I am reminded of how “good” most of us have it in America.  King David suffered terrible losses in his life, and yet he wrote beautiful psalms of praise to God for His goodness and graces.  I pray that whatever your circumstances, you’ll be able to say with David: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116 :17, emphasis mine; notice that sometimes it is actually an act of sacrifice to believe in God, surrender to him, and find reasons to give him thanks in the midst of anguish). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).   And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).   “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

What About Dead Parking Meters and No Outlets? Is There No Hope?

Have you ever gone up to put money in a parking meter only to discover that it’s dEAd? Today is my son Daniel’s thirty-second birthday, and when I asked him what he wanted for a gift, he said a little wistfully, “You know, I think time is about the most precious gift.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to buy him time, but after reflecting on it a little, it did occur to me that I could offer him a little of my time to babysit their two little ones so he could take his wife out on a date!

It also occurred to me that their toddler, Samuel, likes donuts, so I decided to stop at Van’s Pastry (which has some of the best donuts in town) and pick up some donuts to make his day a bit brighter.  Can you believe this parking meter? In all my years, I’ve never seen this before, but it did make me think about what it means to be “dEAd.” On the way to their home, I also pass a cemetery, and I’m always taken with this sign: “NO OUTLET.”                                Once you’re dEAd, is there really “no outlet?” Over the weekend, Alan and I watched two movies, both based on true events, that dealt with life and death issues. In one movie (A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on the youth of Amos Oz, who lived through the terrible years of Israel going from a British Mandate to an independent state), one of the main characters became terminally depressed and looks at Death (personified) as a comforting protector. The other story, The Unmiracle, is  about two brothers (one an ex-marine) trying to cope with the tragedies of life, although in their situation, they began to see a glimmer of hope even in the midst of all the darkness. Quite a few years ago, I bought three cups and let my two sons (who were living with us at the time) each choose which cup they wanted. They chose “Love” and “Faith,” leaving me with “Hope.” At the time, I don’t think I completely appreciated the value of “hope.” I knew that God is love (1 John 4:16), and that to love God above all else and our neighbor as I love myself is God’s highest command (Mark 12:29-31). I also knew that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and through faith we’re justified and have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2). But, I didn’t appreciate the role of hope in life. Hope is what gives us joy and makes us happy (Psalm 146:5). It’s what gives us the courage to go on. I read about a study on what helped people survive during World War 2. It wasn’t physical strength and health (although I’m sure that gave people more of a possibility of surviving). The strongest factor was the will to live, and that was usually based on the person having a sense of hope.

Are you lacking hope today? Do you feel dEAd and like there’s no outlet? Please, please, please turn to Jesus and cry out to him for help and hope. Trust him. Call on him. Let him help you! Truly, He will!

*Here are a few readings from the Bible to get you started if you’re wanting more hope:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these Mark 11:29-31.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:1 6).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Psalm 78:6-8).

Rise Up, My Love (261): Supernatural Love

Song of Solomon 8:3 “His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.” Let’s think more about how to develop the type of desire for your mate that the bride expresses here. If your natural first response is to blame your spouse, then join the huge club of people (myself included) who like to deny our own faults.  “Well, if he were more —————(fill in the blank with whatever he’s lacking), I would be more drawn to him.” I’ve used the same excuse.  But, let’s stop ourselves right there. None of us is perfect, and most of us are far from it. As certain as the day is long, King Solomon—like every other person living on the face of the earth—was not a perfect man. This bride didn’t simply love Solomon because he was perfect, and even if we study the story with Solomon as a type of Christ—who was perfect—we see that the wife did not always have such a passion for her husband. Remember? She was the one in chapter 5 who couldn’t be bothered to get up and open the door for him!  No, if we want to grow to really love our spouses with passion, we must come from another perspective. Rather than asking God to change our mates into such attractive people that we can’t help but have a passionate desire for them, we need to ask God to change our hearts so that we truly have a pure and fervent passion for our spouse today and every day, not based on our spouse’s perfection, but based on God’s miraculous love.  How does that occur? Well, first, I’m not suggesting that every woman should (or that it’s even possible to) feel ravenous sexual passion toward her husband every moment of her life. As humans, we have natural rhythms of emotion and sexual desire. But, I am suggesting that passion can be both a natural and a supernatural response. There have been many times in marriage when my passion was a natural response, but there have also been many times when my passion was a supernatural response in order to enable me to meet the needs of my husband.  Where did it come from? It was the direct result of prayer. Have you ever prayed or sung the song, “Give me a passion for souls, dear Lord…” In the same way, we can pray for a passion for our mate. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” In Colossians 4:12 we see the example of Epaphras, who was “always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  If Epaphras could pray fervently for the Colossians to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God,” then certainly we can labor fervently in prayers so that we might love our spouses fervently, which is also the known will of God for us! Isn’t that true? I am not suggesting that husbands use this as a club to hang over their wives’ heads: “If you’d just pray hard enough, God would make you amorous tonight!” The Bible is clear that the husband is to love the wife and live with her “according to knowledge,” (and I presume that means a knowledge of her needs, capacities, and natural desires as well: Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19; I Peter 3:7). But, I am suggesting that the wife, out of a desire to love her husband, can utilize the resource of prayer and may discover (as I have on many an occasion) that God will supernaturally grant her a passion that is not naturally within her.  It is an amazing experience to feel the miraculous filling of the Lord to become a conduit of his love. What is the spiritual application? Know and rejoice in the fact that what you have done for “the least of these my brethren” you have done unto Christ. Do you love Christ? Then you have every reason to love your spouse, regardless of the limitations in your relationship. You can love him as a way of living out your love for Christ and mirroring to the world the love of the church bride for her heavenly husband. (PS—I hope these photos made you smile, but I didn’t intend for them to in any way be demeaning of men!  Most of the images—including the mastodon—are from the Rochester Museum and Science Center in New York, taken during a recent trip to visit our son Stephen, who’s at Eastman School of Music [hence, the bust of Beethoven].  There is also one of our son Michael, who was [at the same time] visiting Martin Luther’s home in Germany and posed behind one of Martin’s robes. The stained glass of Jesus and the Lamb is from Stephen’s church, where he serves as pianist.)

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

If you love punkin’ pie (as we used to call it when I was little) as much as our family does, then you might enjoy this moist, pumpkin pancake recipe. I developed it in honor of Thanksgiving coming up this week. Actually, I was also trying to imitate a favorite autumn breakfast from a nearby restaurant, where they serve “pumpkin pecan pancakes” each fall. Mine turned out a little more like pumpkin pie than regular pancakes, but I think they might also be a little healthier (being half pumpkin and nuts), and the home team gave them two thumbs up, so I want to pass along the recipe and see if you like them as much as we do!

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
(Makes eight, 4-inch pancakes)

1 15-0z. can pumpkin (or two cups of homemade pumpkin puree)
1 cup of your favorite pancake mix
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup roasted, salted pecans (optional, but I think they really add!)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonMix all the ingredients together thoroughly by hand (don’t whip), and fry on a well-buttered griddle at medium heat for about two or three minutes on each side. (This is a lower heat than needed for regular pancakes, but you also have to fry them longer.) Pat them down and make sure they’re cooked through on both sides, crispy and brown but not burned (of course!). Serve them piping hot with butter and syrup…and possibly bacon and/or eggs. I usually eat an egg and a slice of bacon with three pancakes, but pumpkin pie pancakes are more filling, and I was completely full with just two pancakes and one strip of bacon. (Just if you’re estimating how much to make relative to how many regular pancakes you might eat.) Let me know if you try them and like them, will you? Or, please let us know if you experiment and find something you like even better. Thanks!

Psalm 100 (NIV)

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

What Kind of Schmuck Are You?!

Yesterday, I got a call from a carpenter who’s going to be updating our 30-year-old kitchen, and when he accidentally called me “Karen,” he apologized by saying, “I’m sorry! I’m really a schmuck!” I didn’t mind his forgetting my name (he hasn’t even started working for us yet), but I did find myself reactive to the idea that he made it sound like a “schmuck” is a bad thing, because I have a young friend whom I greatly admire whose last name is Schmuck. This Schmuck wants to become a minister, and he’s working his way through college by serving as a member of the maintenance department at our church. We’ve been involved in ministry together, and he is an all-around all-star guy. He also has a great sense of humor, and I’ve heard they advertised the youth group by saying, “Come, and don’t worry, because you’ll never be the only schmuck here!”  So, while we were in Nepal, I couldn’t help but notice the sign on the bathroom door where we had our much-longed-for rest stop on the Prithivi Highway. I took a photo with my cell phone to send to Zach, but then I thought better of it, just in case it might hurt his feelings. However, just a few days later, we visited the International Mountain Museum, and I noticed that there was a famous mountain climber by the name of Marcus Schmuck who led the first successful assent of Mt. Broad Peak back in 1957. It was a very difficult and lofty achievement, indeed, and one that has only been repeated a scant handful of times since.Broad Peak is the twelfth highest mountain in the world, very dangerous, and in such a remote area of Pakistan’s Karakoram Range that no one in the western world even knew it existed until 1892!So, I want to defend the name “Schmuck” and say that there are some mighty fine schmucks out there! Last summer, my young friend got married, and I know that even though he’s had to scrub a lot of toilets while working his way through college (which is not what he’s doing here; he and his wife had a foot-washing ceremony during their wedding [which is very biblical, by the way]), this young man is a true mountain climber, and I know he will also achieve some lofty goals for our Lord over the course of his lifetime.   Jesus taught: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Jesus also set the example for us: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-10).

Prithivi Highway: The Longest (and Most Memorable)110-Mile Bus Trip I’ve Ever Taken

Most of the time we flew between destinations on our tour of India and Nepal, but on one occasion we took a scenic bus trip  along the Prithivi Highway through the rugged terrainbetween Chitwan and Pokhara in Nepal.  It was “only” 110 miles, and according to the literature,  we were supposed to enjoy the ride during the morning,  then arrive at our hotel in time for lunch and spend the afternoon touring. NOT!  It took us 8.5 hours to travel the 110 miles with only two brief bathroom breaks. The temperature was approximately a million degrees out,  and between the heavy traffic,  aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2015  and intensive road construction,  the air was so full of dust that trying to make out what was happening outside the windows  took considerable concentration and creative imagination… which was particularly taxing considering the state of our bladders on such a rocky road!   (My friend Deb said the bus ride was so bumpy that her Fitbit recorded her as walking 10,000 steps although she didn’t think she’d really walked even 500!) In fact, Alan had to sit in the front seat and also concentrate on not throwing up, since the 600 hairpin turns we’d traveled on Hawaii’s Heavenly Hana Highway had been but scant practice  for surviving this rollicking ride balancing on the edge of the steep gorge overlooking the Narayani River Basin through the foothills of the Himalayan and Annapurna Mountain Ranges,  which are home to eight of the world’s fourteen highest peaks!  However, this trip was not only memorable for the twists and turns as we progressed at a blistering twelve miles an hour  through unbelievable clouds of dust and dirt,  it was also remarkable for a never-ending stream of gorgeous views  that would have taken our breath away  had we had any (which we didn’t, due to elevation and air pollution).  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the most dangerous road trip I’ve ever taken  —although it possibly was! (Well, maybe my all-time scariest bus ride was in China back in 1995
when our bus’s transmission gave out in high gear)! 😦  And, it might not have been the dustiest ride I’ve ever been on  …although I really can’t think of anything to compete!   On the bright side, we had great air-conditioning, and we were definitely in the mountains much of the time (like, most of the time), which was cooler.  Our driver was amazing, and although he drove as furiously as Jehu, he allowed emergency roadside stops once or twice (but what’s that between friends?). We were also granted two real stops during the 8.5 hours (but what’s that between friends with post-60-year-old bladders full of breakfast coffee?).  Well, we all survived, and as far as I know, nobody threw up or wet their pants. It was also a ride I’ll bet nobody ever, ever forgets  (unless they develop Alzheimer’s).  Would I do it again?  Yes, although with my eyes open and an entirely empty bladder.  Would I recommend it for others? Absolutely!
(Possibly not for those who get motion sick
or have breathing, heart, G.I. or bladder issues.)
Did I learn anything? Yes!  And, if you’re willing, let me share a few of the meditations of my heart  while we bounced along:  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
(Matthew 5:8, it’s hard to see when the windows of our hearts are dirty.)   “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,
and our bodies washed with pure water
” (Hebrews 10:22). I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom  concerning all things that are done under heaven:  this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13)Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness
unto them which are exercised thereby
” (Hebrews 12:11).  (The Prithivi Highway is going to be one of the world’s most beautiful
when it’s finished!)   “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb
” (Revelation 22:1). Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water
springing up into everlasting life
” (John 4:14).  What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” “I have seen the travail,
which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. 
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” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11).

Dedicating Babies

Yesterday we had the privilege of participating in the dedication of our youngest grand daughter. I know many Christian traditions baptize infants, but we practice “believer’s” baptism instead, which means a person is baptized only after they make a personal commitment to Christ as their Lord and Savior. (The closest thing I can think of—although it’s actually different—is “confirmation” in churches that do practice infant baptism.) In many countries (not only through the centuries but still today), people are not considered true believers (or persecuted as such in hostile countries) until they are baptized, but that is not why we defer baptism. We believe that baptism (and communion) do not have saving value in themselves (“sacraments” which confer saving grace on a person). We believe people are saved by faith alone—their own faith, not their parents—and that baptism is an outward witness to an inner conversion experience that happened instantaneously when the person believed in Christ and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.However, we do strongly believe in committing ourselves to bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (teaching them about God and his ways), and to this much-prayed-and-hoped-for end—that our children will believe in God and choose Christ for themselves—we dedicate our children to the Lord, committing ourselves as a spiritual community to praying for and participating in the love and training of our children. So, yesterday several babies were dedicated, and among them, not only our grand daughter, but our daughter-in-law’s sister’s baby too! What a very special day of solemnities and joy! Brianna comes from such a big family that we ended up celebrating in two homes afterward, so Elanor got her own cake. Being just six months old, she’d never had cake before but was bound and determined she wanted to try it…and…why not? It met with complete approval, and I hope and pray that as she learns more about the ineffable mysteries and goodness of God, she will be even more delighted and pleased!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
(Psalm 34:8).