Rise Up, My Love (305): Pictures of Jesus as a Deer

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart…” What are the roe and the young hart like? The NIV translates these animals as “deer and gazelle.” Earlier in this book we discussed the Middle Eastern cousins to the North American members of the deer family with which we are so familiar. What are their outstanding characteristics?

These two animals are only mentioned a half a dozen times outside of The Song of Solomon, but in each instance the context offers valuable insight. In Deuteronomy 12 we learn that the Israelites loved the delicious meat of the hart and roe, and two chapters later we learn that these prized creatures were among the clean animals that could be eaten. In 2 Samuel 2:18 we learn that the wild roe was “light of foot”—a fast and graceful runner, and in Proverbs 6:5 we learn that the roe was quick to deliver itself “from the hand of the hunter.” Psalm 42:1 reveals that one whose heart is like God’s own heart will pant after God “as the hart panteth after the water brooks.” Isaiah 35:6 describes the lame man who is healed as leaping for joy “as an hart.”

What can we learn from these word pictures that will help us understand the bride’s request? She longs for Christ to be quick and fleet-footed like the roe in escaping the hunter and coming to her. Although this book was written a thousand years before Christ came to earth, we can now see that he did indeed escape from the hand of the evil one who hunted his soul. Jesus rose victoriously over the grave and is now sitting at the Father’s right hand in heaven, awaiting the Father’s bidding to make haste and come again to gather us unto himself!

Jesus proved that his soul exceeded the hart’s passion for water when he suffered the agonies of death and hell for love of us, his bride. Near the beginning of the Song of Solomon the bride says that her husband is indeed “like a roe or a young hart” (2:9). “Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (2:8). What beautiful pictures the Scripture paints of the husband returning brilliantly, passionately, and joyfully to join his wife again!  All this, and yet there is more to be learned about Christ in the bride’s simile about the deer. It is hunting season in Michigan today (or at least it was when I wrote this years ago!). There is no more prized game in this state than the wonderful taste of flash-fried, fresh venison. (No, you don’t have to simmer it for hours to make it tender; overcooking is what makes it tough in the first place.)  One of the men in our “care group” (a group of families from our assembly who met weekly for Bible study, prayer, support, and accountability when I was writing this) shot an eleven-point buck while bow hunting. This friend is in the ministry overseeing a Christian “growth center” for young people who have finished a rehabilitation program and are now trying to find jobs and reintegrate into society, so you can bet that deer will be a great blessing to the folks struggling to make ends meet there. (By the way, I was later treated to some venison stew for my birthday…so I was one of the beneficiaries as well!)  “Be thou like to a roe…” Picture Christ as that great eleven-point stag…whose life was forfeited so that others could be sustained. Surely the bride did not have in mind that her husband would give his life for her, but he did. Jesus fulfilled her request in a most unexpected way. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Like the desirable “clean,” innocent deer, our Lord Jesus Christ gave up his life so that spiritually we could “take, eat; this is my body..this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). Jesus sacrificed himself so that he could impart to us his own eternal life and through a great divine mystery make us “bone of his bones and flesh of His flesh.”

As the Deer
(—Martin J. Nystrom, 1984)

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longs after You
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

I want you more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

You’re my friend and You’re my brother
Even though you are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

(The first and last photos of deer are from my home, but the middle three are used by permission by my friends Dennis and Frances and their son Amos. Thank you, dear friends, for being willing to share!!)

Over the Rainbow Pan-Fried Trout

We used to live in Marquette, Michigan, on forty acres in the woods, where you could pull a rainbow or brown trout out of our pond for dinner (if you knew what you were doing, which we didn’t, but our friend, George Sokoly, did).  Michigan has 12,000 miles of trout stream along approximately 1,400 trout streams, and 190 of them are open year around, so trout season never ends here! The Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Muskegon Rivers—all fabled for great trout fishing— are within a few hours of our home even here in Grand Rapids, although we also live on a little spring-fed lake that theoretically has trout. (For the record, we’ve never caught one here either! 😦 ) However, even though we’re terrible fishermen (“God made fishies to live!” was Alan’s wail as a small boy observing fishing near his Upper Peninsula home),  we do love to eat fish, and trout is one of the sweetest-tasting, most delicate and delicious fish you’ll ever eat, so when it’s offered on a menu, we often order it.  Alan said his rainbow trout from the mountain streams of Nepal last fall was his favorite dinner from that entire trip. On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had some excellent trout dishes, including rainbow trout in Reykjavik, Iceland that was so fresh it must have been in school earlier that morning! So, I decided to write about trout today, even though for those of you who are old hands at fishing, I know you’ll say, “I already knew that!”

Simply the Best Rainbow Trout

Are you ready for this? The fact of the matter is that the best fish are the freshest fish, flash-fried in hot butter on a griddle or in cast-iron skillet (or over a fire!).Wash the fillets, brush a light coating of flour on both sides, and fry them skin-side up for 3 minutes in hot butter (browned but not burned). Flip them over (carefully, so they don’t break apart), and cook them for three more minutes, sprinkling them with salt, butter, and seasoning salt to taste. (I use Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, but whatever you like works). If you’ve not overcooked your trout, it will be tender, flaky, and moist. Serve it up immediately with some fruits and veggies. If you like tartar sauce and lemon, that’s fine, but if your fish is really fresh, it can stand alone on its own fins!

P.S.—Have you noticed that in life (like cooking), many things are complicated, but sometimes the best way is to apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? In most of the scriptures, “simple” is equated with “ignorant” and given a negative connotation, but there is one verse that tells us to be “simple,” and in this case, it’s a good thing: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). When it comes to exploring evil, God actually wants us to avoid learning about it. Do friends tease you because you’re so “naive” or inexperienced? I used to get teased a lot. One girl friend alleged that on my honeymoon I’d probably make chocolate fudge because I wouldn’t know what else to do. Keep life pure..and “simple.”

Have You Heard The Music of Silence?

“In my opinion, the only way forward in this world is with faith, which not only explains the reason for life but also fills it with joy and hope. Faith transforms what would be a tragedy into a marvelous story with a happy ending. If all of this is reflected in my singing, how happy that would make me.” —Andrea Bocelli Do you have a favorite singer? My mother requested that Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” would be played at her funeral, and ever since I’ve thought they have the most hauntingly beautiful voices in the world. So, I was delighted to discover that a movie has been made about this amazing Italian singer’s life. It’s an extremely emotional but inspirational story.  I always wondered how Andrea Bocelli happened to have a voice so full of passion and warmth but for some reason had never realized that he was blind…or that his faith in God had helped him overcome his blindness. His parents were advised to abort Bocelli before he was even born, warning that he was likely to have multiple birth defects. However, his parents disregarded the surgeon’s advice. He was born with congenital glaucoma and became blind at twelve, yet today he’s one of the world’s greatest opera singers and has sold over 80 million records!  The Music of Silence tells the story of his birth to his incredible rise to fame by 2000 (although he’s still actively singing in the present). It’s a beautiful story of faith and love. I was a little sorry I did research, because his life from 2000 to the present is not as lovely, but I suspect he feels the same way, because the movie ends very happily around the turn of the century.  As the mother of a musician, I was especially intrigued by the title, The Music of Silence, and what that meant. Bocelli’s maestro explained how music can be found in silence this way:  “You [speaking to his blind protégé, Bocelli] have a great advantage, you’re already familiar with sounds. They guide your steps through life. But the music of silence will be your guide through the interior of yourself. And that, which you discover, you will express through the beautiful perfection of song.”  And that he does! I smiled when Celine Dion was quoted as saying, “If God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” I have definitely thought that if the Lord would give me any voice when I get to heaven, I would like to sound like Andrea Bocelli! (Or, maybe Sarah Brightman if I’m supposed to sound like a woman. 🙂  ) Even if you’re not a big fan of opera, I’ll bet you find yourself inspired and encouraged by watching The Music of Silence, the story of how one young man overcame one of the world’s most difficult challenges and became one of the world’s greatest singers!  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). If you want to hear Andrea Bocelli singing “Time to Say Goodbye with Sarah Brightman,” it can be found here:  https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_maps&hsimp=yhs-pty_maps&hspart=pty&p=sarah+brightman+singing#id=1&vid=68f961961443db9fb4c62c25d24f8778&action=click

Castles in the Clouds and A Castle in a Cave

When you were young, did you imagine meandering into castles built amongst billowing cumulus clouds in the sky?  I did.  When our children were very little, one of their favorite books was named
From Castles in the Clouds,  and when I visited Michael and Grace last summer, I couldn’t help but think of  how their home reminded me of a magical castle floating on a cloud,  although it’s really a villa built into a mountainside in Italy.  I’m not exactly sure how they found this enchanted villa,  but I am sure it was in answer to our prayers for “just the perfect” place to live.  It was constructed in 1690, is on the national register of historic places,  and the count who owns it had three requirements if they wanted to rent:  They had to be rich,  they had to be romantic,  and they had to be strong. (There are 51 steps from the kitchen to the garage!)  I’m not sure if an army dentist qualifies as rich,  but they are certainly romantic and strong. . . and the count must have liked them,  because he came down in price so they could afford it. Although it’s really just a villa set near vineyards where Galileo used to star gaze, there’s such a grandeur about it that it really does remind me of a little castle! Every door has bolts and locks to secure it like a fortress. There are aged lamps with cobwebs way high up that remind me
of Disney’s Haunted Mansion! There are trap doors  and secret passageways,  and even one room that conjures up images of serving as a dungeon at one time. The ceiling in the ballroom is painted with ethereal frescoes, and some of the doors and walls are adorned with colorful murals
painted by the count’s wife, who is an artist. There are beautiful woodland gardens and pathways, and lots of little castley touches, like gargoyles under the roof tops.Nevertheless, if it’s a “castle,” it’s not a castle built on the clouds.
It’s a castle carved into a mountain and rooted firmly to the earth. In fact, this villa has its very own secret cave for playing and getting cool.
(Its was 98°F. some days!)Everywhere I could see evidences of just how difficult it must have been to carve this castle out of rock. As children, we dream and imagine, but building a good life takes a lifetime of hard work,and it’s a never-ending process. I don’t think any of us will ever live in a castle built in the clouds, But by God’s grace, if “every man’s home is his castle,” then each of us has the potential to live in a little castle here on earth, built into the side of a mountain. (And, to me that Mountain is God, our heavenly Father)! We may not get everything we imagine,
but we often get so much more than we need! Michael and Grace’s castle in a cave has been “just perfect” for them these past three years, but yesterday they moved out…off on a new assignment! How about you and me? Have you built a little castle in a cave dug into the side of the Mountain? I have. Are you ready for a new assignment?  I’m very content, but just like Michael and Grace, I want to be ready to ship out and move on whenever my Lord calls, to wherever my Lord leads!  Because, thankfully, this world is not our final resting place! Someday, if we are saved by faith in Christ,
we’ll be called from this life to the next,not to live in a castle in the clouds, but to our Father’s home in heaven.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).When Michael was little, his favorite song was “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” I taught it to his kids, and we sang it every night when I was taking care of them, so  I thought it would make the perfect ending (for a new beginning):

  1. When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
    And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
    When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

    • Refrain:
      When the roll is called up yonder,
      When the roll is called up yonder,
      When the roll is called up yonder,
      When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
  2. On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
    And the glory of His resurrection share;
    When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
  3. Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
    Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
    Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
    (—James M. Black, 1893, Public Domain)  God bless my kids, and may God bless us all as we adventure forth!

 

Rise Up, My Love (304): Being Occupied ‘Til He Comes

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart…” Have you digested the past few weeks’ sampling of the wonderful names for our beloved One? There is a lifetime of food for the soul in the verses on which we just meditated. Wouldn’t those verses make a great list to commit to memory? Every year during our homeschooling years, my children and I tried to memorize a verse each day from the Bible as part of our home school program. Some times we memorized passages, or favored verses from each book, or choice verses from each chapter of a book, but more often than not it was a compilation of verses on a subject, such as the “I ams” or the “I wills” of God. One of the best concerned the names of God!  Do you have a memory program for learning Scripture? It is a wonderful way to hide God’s Word in your heart in order to avoid sin and please him (Psalm 119:11). It was my hope that during this study we would memorize the words of the Song of Solomon without much effort simply by meditating on them day by day, but I see that—at least for me—I do not completely memorize without conscious effort and oral recitative practice.  How about you? If you have no consistent memory program, won’t you consider beginning one, perhaps even by using the lists of verses given over the past couple of weeks as a start? There are fewer than sixty verses…hardly more than one a week. Will you try? Feel free to photocopy the pages with these verses and tape them to your mirror or keep them with your Bible so you can memorize them more easily. As we appeal to the Lord to make haste and return to us, so he appeals to us to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13)! I can think of no better way to be “occupied” with Scripture than to memorize it and then put it into practice. May we always be occupied with our Savior and his Word!

 

Grandma Alma’s Apple Pie

Last weekend we went apple picking at Robinette’s Orchard, and last night we went to Alan’s longest-standing and dearest friend’s home for a dinner party. Alan and Larry grew up across the street from each other, and they both loved Alan’s mother’s apple pies…which were famed throughout their little village. Early into our marriage, I asked my mother-in-law to teach me how to make apple pies. “Sure!” she responded cheerily. However, when I went to watch, I quickly realized that she did everything by look and didn’t measure anything. I practiced quite a bit, and Alan’s older brother was my best critic. “More sugar!” he’d announce.  “More butter!” Eventually, I got the hang of it, but Alma’s pies were magical. It was a sad day for us after she died and we found one last apple pie in the freezer, which we all shared in sober grief mingled with joy (because Alan and I knew she was with Jesus in heaven). From then on, I had to become the family pie lady, and I do still love to make pies, although I’m never quite sure they live up to her immortal gold standard!  To the best of my ability to measure it out, here’s her recipe, now passed on for posterity:

Grandma Alma’s Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare the pastry for two pie crusts:

                                       2 Crusts for 1 Ten-inch Pie:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1/4 pound each, or half a pound altogether) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold (refrigerated) water (more if needed)
Mix in blender until a soft ball forms (but then stop immediately, even if a few crumbs are left; it’s really important not to over-process the mixture). Set in refrigerator while making the filling so that it’s cold when you roll it out.

Apple Pie Filling:

6 large pie apples peeled, cored, and sliced (These are Macintosh, which was Alma’s favorite, although now there are a number of great pie apple varieties.)1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamonMix together until all the apple chunks are well coated.Divide the dough in half, and roll out one half between sheets of plastic wrap.
Peel off the top wrap, place dough in pie plate, and peel off second wrap. (Save plastic for top crust.) Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Don’t worry if it’s really high; be glad!  🙂 Slice up another stick of butter into thin pieces and dot the entire top of the pie.Repeat rolling out the dough with the second half and place over the top.  Seal the edges. If you’ve rolled it out thin enough, you’ll have enough to flute the edges. I didn’t this time. 😦  Sprinkle the top with a light coating of sugar and cinnamon, then bake for 20 minutes at 425°F. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake another 40 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve with vanilla ice cream, preferably while still warm! By the way, I am thankful for every day that I can enjoy such a wonderful feast as we shared last night, but there is a better feast coming in heaven, and as aging mortals, it becomes clearer to me every day that we need to be living with a profound appreciation for life and the gift of eternal life, which is offered to us in Christ. As a youth, I didn’t quite understand this verse: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Now I think I understand. We will all die, so it is better to allow ourselves to mourn over the death of loved ones and turn in faith to God for salvation, then to simply enjoy a feast today with no thought of preparing for the next life.

Photos of Some Awe-inspiring Flight Paths

Flying is one of the most exhilarating experiences on earth, perhaps because it’s something we all imagine from childhood but can’t actually accomplish on our own. Or, as Amelia Earhart explained: “The lure of flying is the lure of beauty.” This summer, I flew from Grand Rapids to Venice via Atlanta, Georgia,  up the eastern seaboard of America past Cape Cod just as the sun was setting… then across a cloud-blanketed Atlantic Ocean for an overnight voyage to Ireland. The sun rose bright and clear above a snowy sea of clouds covering Europe, so I couldn’t see much again until we got close to Venice. What a fascinating world of water ways and colors! I don’t think we have anything quite like Venice in America.  That trip was to help my son Mike’s family during the birth of a new baby boy.  Alan came for just one day to meet the baby,  and then we were off before sunrise for a flight across the Alps  and on to Amsterdam for a three-week cruise of lands around the North Sea.  I have lots of cruise stories to share over the coming weeks
(like the night we attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo), because this adventure was the longest and one of the most relaxing ever. However, today I mostly want to share photos from the flights,  because I think flying is one of the most thrilling rides on earth, and if you haven’t flown across America or the Atlantic,  I thought you might enjoy seeing some aerial views.  So, after our wonderful cruise of the North Sea, including Scotland, Iceland, the Norwegians fjords, and The Netherlands, we flew from Amsterdam back home, following a northern route that passed above the lower tip of Greenland, across northern Canada,  and back to home, sweet home along the Grand River…
known as Grand Rapids to most, but lovingly nicknamed  “Green Rabbits” by our sixth-born son when he was four.
(There were green rabbits on our ship, too!)  I hope you enjoyed this round trip in a minute!

Since returning home, I’ve been thinking about something John Muir, the American naturalist wrote: “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” Indeed, I think that’s true! The only thing more beautiful to me than flying over the earth will be that last great flight to heaven! Are you ready to fly away? I am!

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 9:10).

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Revelation 14:6-7).