Enchanted May in Michigan

Italian LandscapeDo you ever find yourself pining for someplace you aren’t, Italian Villaor longing to roll in that luscious green grass on the other side of the hedge? Visiting Fam in ItalyIt was a little sad to leave our kids in Italy, Geraniiums in front of Clock Towerespecially knowing that Michael would return in a couple of days
and that both Stephen and Joel were staying on for a couple of weeks more. Italian CountrysideVacation is a lot more pleasurable than work, isn’t it? Wisteria on wooded lane*However, there’s no place like home, even if I did need to pull weeds
and Alan had to cut the grass so it wasn’t too long to roll in! Grace and fam in ItalyWe left 3 of our 7 family “units” in Italy, Alan with Sammybut we’ve already been able to reconnect with our GR familyAlan with Dan's family…and what a blessing it is to have Daniel’s family close! Lilacs by Tanglewood CottageOur house may be a “Tanglewood Cottage” rather than an Italian villa,
but it’s home sweet home, and I love it! Wisteria and forget-me-notsWe don’t have roses blooming yet,
but we had all the wisteria and sunshine one could hope for,Lily of the Valley. and Honeysucklejpg and even if our windows aren’t framed with jasmine, our lane is heavy with the scents of honeysuckle, lilacs, autumn olive blossoms, and lilies of the valley. Female Red-winged blackbird fliriting 5.26.16We don’t hear the sweet sound of the cuckoos in the woods, Blackbird singing out my windowbut we do hear the red-winged blackbirds calling loud and sweet.  Mother Duck and 3 ducklings by dock+10 5.26.16Mama Duck has hatched six fine ducklings, Robin's nest by tea roomand a robin is nesting right outside our tearoom! Muskrat carrying leaves and grass 5.26.16I heard a theologian reminding us yesterday that God has given us this world Lilac with honeybeeto tend as his garden in anticipation of “coming attractions!”Autumn Olive blossoms I loved that. Flowering CherryBrianna told me that the boyfriend of one of her sisters
is hiking part of the Pacific Northwest Trail this summer, Flowering Cherry blossoms on groundand he always takes trash bags to clean up as he goes. Sweet rocket in woodsIsn’t that awesome? Sweet rocket by swampI hope wherever we live, we find joy in our surroundings
and are willing to work hard to make them more beautiful, Violetsso that life seems “enchanted” no matter where we live.  Elaeagnue umbellatat (Autumn Olive)“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15, and I don’t think His intention has changed).

LilacsFor the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. Isaiah 51:2-4

Enchanted April in May: The Fairy Tale Continues

Reading in the living roomSome lucky souls seem to live under a constant sprinkling of fairy dust, Italian Villa 4and Michael and Grace are definitely two of them. Italian VillaFor instance, they’re now living in an Italian villaItalian Villa that’s owned by a count and countess, Italian Villa 4replete with murals painted on the ceilings Italian Villa 3and statuary in the living room. Italian Villa CaveThe have their own private cave for playing pirates, Italian Villa 2and there’s a secret passageway leading to the count’s villa.Flower gardens There are gardens lush with flowers Windows edged with Jasmine in Italyand windows encircled by jasmines.Enjoying the Terrace There are balconies and terraces… Byways of Italian Villaand winding paths. BallroomThe villa was built into the side of a mountain over 400 years ago, Beautiful Views of Italyand you can have tea on top of their villa if you’d like! Going shopping in the villageIn such an idyllic setting, going down to the local patisserie Italian Village Marketfor bread and pastries is nothing short of enchanting. Lunch outsideLunch outside Dinner Timeand dinner ’round their warm dining table Swinging in the treesmake a simple life nothing short of magical. Italian Countryside 2If you’ve ever watched Enchanted April (which is one of our family favorites), Italian Villa 5you’ll know exactly what I mean. Children climbing stepsAlthough we visited in May, Geraniums near the wallItaly was even more romantic and amazing than we’d imagined, Italian Countryside 3and it was one of those “pinch me” experiences. Drawing in the libraryYou mean some people really live like this? Roses in ItalyOf course, life isn’t all roses! Bible, map, and coloring basketMichael had to be in the U.S. for a board exam
at exactly the time we’d made reservations to visit, Child with mask over his headso we never got to see him, Italian Countrysideand I know his work is very challenging. Children playing on stepsTheir four little ones, albeit totally charming, are little ones, which means that Grace is on the run 24/7 with hardly time to catch her breath. Can you "roll" your tongue?But for Alan, Stephen, Joel, and me on vacation,Playing on stepsit seemed like paradise on earth! Home sweet villa!So, their fairy tale lives continue,
but I want to tell you that it isn’t really a fairy tale, it’s a God tale! Statue of a saint in ItalyMichael’s life verse since he was very young has always been:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33. Climbing Hill on Old Roman Road in ItalyI know that many people live exceedingly difficult lives, Italian Pastryand I’m not suggesting that everyone who puts God first will live a luxurious life,John 3.16 but I do want to attest to the fact that Michael and Grace have always sought
to love the Lord with all their heart and soul, Shopping in Italian Villageand He has again blessed them with more than we could think or ask for them. Pixie dust? Well, not really. Luck? No, but blessed for sure!!
 Gardening suppliesThe blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22

David’s House Ministries: A Moving Example of Compassion

Paul at David's House MinistriesPerhaps many of you know the biblical story of Mephibosheth. He was the son of Prince Jonathan, who was King David’s brother-in-law and dearest friend. During the civil upheaval resulting from King Saul’s jealousy of David, Mephibosheth (who was only five) was accidentally dropped by his nurse during a flight and became lame on both his feet.

Mephibosheth Before David II Samuel 9:3-6

Mephibosheth Before David II Samuel 9:3-6

Later, after both King Saul and Prince Jonathan were killed in a war against the Philistines, David became the king of Israel, but rather than killing Mephibosheth (who could have been a contender for the throne), David took him in and provided for him for the rest of his life, declaring, “he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons” (2 Samuel 9:11). David shows kindness to Methibosheth via www.freebibleimages.orgThis beautiful (true) story sets an inspiring example for us in reaching out to care for those who are disabled, and David’s House Ministries here in GR has brought this story to life in our present day.

Drawings by a resident at David's HouseStarted in 1987 by a retired minister and his wife, whose son
was developmentally disabled and would need care beyond their lifetime, Bedroom of one resident at David's HouseDavid’s House now is the permanent “home” (not just residence)Quilt on wall at David's House Ministiresfor 37 developmentally disabled men and women.Director of David's House Ministries (This sweet lady is the founders’ daughter and present director.)Plans for expansion of David's houseThey are in the process of trying to double this numberClearing Ground for David's House Ministriesto accommodate some of the 72 people on their waiting list.

Paul WiersmaYesterday I visited David’s House, where my friend Paul serves as a fund-raiser. Paul fell through the bleachers at a ball game when he was three and suffered a closed-head injury that left him disabled by seizures for years. Eventually, a surgery totally alleviated his problems and restored him to a full and joyful life. Conference Room Table at David's House MinistriesHe was working as an accountant at a bank until last year when he found out about David’s House and felt called to help with their mission, feeling a special compassion for the residents, as he might have suffered a similar fate were it not for his miraculous recovery.

Homes at David's House Ministries As we strolled through the beautiful homes and grounds,
I was struck by seeing God’s hand prints everywhere. Van for David's House MinistriesPaul told story after story of people from near and far who’ve been moved by God to contribute in various ways—not only their treasure, Kitchen at David's House Ministriesbut their talents and time,State-of-the-art equipment at David's House Ministries and the result is a sparkling, state-of-the-art community of homes Screenhouse at David's House Ministiresthat radiate peace and rest…a place where people are treated with respect and compassion…truly like “the King’s sons,” which they are!Preparing to build at David's House MinistriesIf you’re interested in learning more, there will be a ground breaking/prayer blessing on Thursday, June 16, 2016 from 12:00-1:00 pm One dining room at David's Houseat David’s House Ministries, with a light lunch following. Banner over door in one patient's room at David's HouseYou’re all invited! Just RSVP to Tiffany at: 616-284-4385 if you’d like to come!

Prep table given to David House MinistriesAlso, if you’re interested in finding out more, either about how you might be involved in this ministry or if you have someone who needs care, you can contact Paul at PWIERSMA@DAVIDSHOUSEMINISTRIES.ORG or enjoy pictures and information on their Facebook page: “David’s House Ministries.” Blessings!

Sparrows. Picture on wall of David's House MinistriesLift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way;
but let it rather be healed
” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

Design on wall at David's House Ministries(All photos were taken yesterday at David’s House Ministries.
The two drawings of Mephibosheth were from: #1.  www.omhksea.org
#2.  www.freebibleimages.org)

“Spotlight”: Does God Ask Anyone to be Celibate?

SpotlightI shied away from Spotlight because of its  “R” rating, but my daughter challenged me on that one, accusing me of refusing to look at the ugliness of sin, and pointing out that part of the problem with societal evils is that people refuse to acknowledge or investigate. So, on our flight home from Venice last weekend,Spotlight 2 I watched Spotlight. I think movies are edited for flights (due to youngsters being on board), but the version I saw was not defiling, although it left me grieving deeply for the state of Christianity throughout the world. Spotlight 3Spotlight is based on the investigation by the Boston Globe into Catholic priests sexually abusing children, and the movie has won 2 Oscars along with 108 other wins and 123 other nominations for their compelling unveiling of the massive evil covered up by the Catholic church. Spotlight 4The statistics are staggering: As a result of the investigations, 249 priests were charged in Boston, and over 1,000 survivors gave testimony. Spotlight 5Cardinal Law resigned in 2002, and since that time hundreds of major scandals have been uncovered in the Roman Catholic Church around the world, including both Detroit and Grand Rapids here in Michigan.  Spotlight 1Molesting children is a horrible evil. In Matthew 18:6, Jesus gave this scathing rebuke: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Molesting children goes even beyond physical abuse because it causes great emotional and spiritual damage too. Notre Dam Cathedral. Paris 5.8.16The Sunday we spent in Paris, we attended the service at Notre Dam, and I noticed that there were no altar boys in attendance. I wondered it that was a change due to a desire to reform and give no appearance of evil, but I don’t know. Interior of Notre Dam Cathedral. 5.8.16However, for me, the deepest question is: “Why?” and I think the real answer is that God created us as sexual beings who are meant to marry and find fulfillment in a sacred partnership. God never asks anybody to be celibate in the scripture. It’s contrary to the way He created us and contrary to his intention for us. Requiring celibacy is a human law that is really inhumane. Let the priests and nuns marry! “Let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:9).

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

EgyptAir Crash on May 19, 2016…The Day We Left Paris!

EgyptAir Flight leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport on 05.19.16EgyptAir flight MS 804 with 56 passengers and 10 crew members left
Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris last week on an airbus A320 headed for Cairo  Vueling Airbus A320just a few hours before Alan and I, with our two youngest sons,
were to leave Paris on a Vueling Airbus A320 headed for Venice. Airplane disappearing from sight after leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport on May 19. 2016EgyptAir’s flight MS 804 disappeared on its way to Cairo.
That was May 19,  and as of today, it’s thought that all persons aboard have died, although investigations are ongoing.

Clouds on flight from Paris to Venice.According to data collected from a black box which Egyptian sources retrieved, it appears that a bomb was planted and exploded on the right front side of the plane. Investigators also uncovered the gruesome fact that vandals had painted graffiti on the aircraft two years earlier threatening: “We will bring this plane down.” The grief is deep, and my heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones, including 3 young orphans whose parents were just returning to Cairo after receiving cancer treatment in France. Air Traffic Control Tower at Charles de Gaulle Airport 05.19.16When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle early on the morning of May 19, we heard that EgyptAir flight MS804 had disappeared, and we also heard rumors that the air traffic controllers were going to strike that day, so we waited somewhat restlessly to see if our flight would even go. Charles de Gaulle Airport 05.19.16Although the atmosphere was relatively calm externally, there was electricity in the air, and it was obvious that everyone was anxious. Concord. Charles de Gaulle Airport May 19.2016Detectives have been hard at work trying to track down suspects, but there are some 85,000 people who have “red badge” security clearance and access to restricted areas…a huge pool, particularly when no terrorist group has boasted responsibility for the explosion.

EgyptAir flight leaving CDG airport May 19 2016Our flight was delayed, but we did finally take off
(followed by an EgyptianAir craft!) Dinner with Grace and kidsand made it safely to Venice and the warm welcome of our son Michael’s family. A walk in ItalyWe had a short but happy visit with our “Italian” family, Being carried on someone's shouldersdropped off Stephen and Joel (who are staying another few weeks)
and have now made it safely back to GR.  Vueling Delayed Flight from Paris to Venice on May 19. 2016However, Alan and I are definitely noticing that travel is becoming less reliable and more dangerous. Our world is full of insecurity and danger. Charles de Gaulle AirportAs Christians, how should we respond? Jets lined up at Charles de Gaulle AirportShould we restrict our activities and batten down the hatches against attack? Jet leaving de GaulleWe are certainly called to prayerfully seek and do God’s will,
but if we believe we’re following God,
then there is a comforting verse that often comes to my mind: Memorial Tower in ParisAnd when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). Sunset over Coast of NormandyGod is coming back to make things right some day,Waiting to board at Charles de Gaulle Airport May 19.16but until then, it’s probably appropriate to “Keep calm and carry on.”

(All these photos were taken on our recent trip to France and Italy. I hope to share more of what we saw and learned over the next few weeks.)

Rise Up, My Love (187): The Great Lover of our Souls, or our Judge?

Lily. Red 6.18.2012Song of Solomon 5:16 “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely.” The third striking contrast is our bridegroom’s mouth. To us, his lips are “like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh,” and “his mouth is most sweet.” How totally opposite this is from the appearance of our Christ as conquering King: “Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 1:16). Again, the real difference is in the perspective! As they say: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” We often see what we’re looking for and interpret data according to our expectations and experience. The mouth of the Logos…the living Word of God, speaks forth words of life and truth…and to the believer, how precious are those words! “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). He whispers to us the comforts of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and everlasting love. He kisses us with the kisses of kindness and time stops. We breathe his breath…the breath of heaven’s Holy Spirit…and feel our soul filling up with the breath of life. We feel that nothing could draw us from his side or ever make us want to leave the security of his arms. And, when we’re busy during the heat of the day, we always long to be back within the timeless ecstasy of his embrace, nuzzling and listening and kissing him again. This is communion, and this is the honeyed mouth of our Beloved. But, now behold those who know him not!…those who “speak great swelling words of vanity” (2 Peter 2:18); who “are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts” (Jude 1:16); who “are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). To these, Jesus will come as a judge out of whose mouth will come the Word of God which “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). To the murderers and adulterers and all unrepentant sinners Christ will come with flaming eyes to lay open all hidden sin, and with words of judgment and justice to slay the souls of the wicked. The sword of the Spirit…the Bible…is honey to the hearts of those who have taken in God’s love and forgiveness and felt the healing balm of its comforting words…but a fearsome sword that hardhearted unbelievers will dread on Judgment Day. Sword on velvet setteeThere is a story told of a young ship’s captain who took his new bride to sea with him so that she could understand his life and work. One day there was a fierce electrical storm, and the young wife was terribly frightened. In response, her husband, who was a valiant soldier, drew his sharp cutlass out of his sheath and asked her how she felt when she saw its gleaming edge. “Does it frighten you?” he asked. “Oh, no!” she responded. “It makes me feel secure, because I know you love me and would fight to the death to protect me with that sword!” Ship at Sea in storm“So it is with this storm at sea my love,” smiled her courageous husband. “When you see the lightening streak through the sky, think of it as a flashing sword from the hand of God, who stands ready to protect you, and when you hear the mighty boom of his voice in the thunder, know that it is the one who loves you even more dearly than I do. Do not be frightened. All this marvelous display of his power should only remind us that we are safe in his love.” Yes, the mighty power of God—his flaming eyes and razor-edged words are for our blessing and protection. For those of us who are his, may we always see within his flaming eyes the passion of a love that has totally melted his heart, and may we always find within the words of his mouth—the pages of his Book—a dripping myrrh that is sweeter than honey to our soul! This is our beloved, and this is our friend, O dear believers!

(Rereading this some 15+ years since I wrote it, I’m concerned that the wording of the story about the ship captain may not be my own, although I no longer know where I first heard the story. If you know the source, would you please let me know in the comment box so I can give credit where credit is due? Thanks so much! Also, the picture of the ship at sea is one I took while watching a trailer for In the Heart of the Sea. I hope they don’t mind!)

Wise Words from Mother Teresa

Baby helping with Spring CleanupMother Teresa wrote hundreds of wise sayings, but I want to share just a few of my favorite this morning. Each is like a little jewel worth treasuring!

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep,  for every dream precedes the goal.

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love. 

I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.

Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depth of our hearts.

If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight; build it anyway.

I’m just a little pencil in the hand of a writing God sending a love letter to the world.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Prize, they asked her, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family.”

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

Peace begins with a smile.

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

Live simply so others may simply live.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.”
(Ecclesiastes 12:11, ESV)

(Thank you to my daughter-in-law, Brianna, for the picture of Samuel helping his daddy with spring clean up.)