The Second Presidential Debate

Did you watch the second round of presidential debates last night? First, I want to say that I’m glad we live in a nation where citizens have the freedom to vote for their leader, and where the candidates compete by debating, not dueling.If you wonder where Romney stands, please, please read his book, No Apology. He’s been standing firm for years. You may not like what he stands for, but I hope you can at least admire his record as a business man and as governor of Massachusetts, where during his term he accomplished some amazingly good things: 1. MA schools brought up to the ranking of #1 in the country 2. Romney was identified as the governor with the highest percentage of women selected for key roles in his government 3. Health care issues were resolved with support from both the Republicans and the Democrats in such a way that all children are now covered and 98% of adults (without being mandated by the government). 4. Gun control laws are in place that satisfy both sides. 5. Romney has an amazing record of charitable giving: He had $13.71 million income in 2011, paid $1.94 million in income taxes and gave $4.01 million to charity. His charitable giving and income taxes paid equaled 43.45 percent of that income. He understands how to build business, but he’s also ethical and charitable. I believe he’s a true statesman with an honest desire to steer our country and the world in a positive direction, based on his faith in God and his understanding of God’s desire for us to love God and love one another. I believe he can get America back to work.I think Obama has not been an effective leader and is failing our country. The list is great, but even the national debt going from 10 trillion (over our entire history) to 16 trillion during his four-year term should be enough for Americans to stop him before he makes recovery impossible. The spending was NOT “all Bush’s fault.” Obama had the full support of a heavily democratic congress his first two years in office but did not use it well. I think we would be very unwise to trust him with another four years “just because.” He hasn’t come through for us, so we need to try someone with different values and ideals. If you have 2 minutes, check out the following campaign ad (listed below), comparing Obama’s campaign speeches from 2008 and 2012. Nothing’s changed, at least not for the better. More people are out of work, the average income is down, medical costs, food, and gas are sharply up, and raising the taxes on the 5% who are already bearing the weight of providing 60% of our country’s tax revenues (I’m not in that lucky bracket, so I can speak for them) doesn’t seem like a wise solution. know you’re not supposed to talk about religion, politics, or sex in public, but I really do think this election DOES matter. I want a leader who can bring us forward, not backward. One who will stand up for us and fight against evil and terrorism…not against the world, but for the world.

Castle Howard’s Gorgeous Grounds

 Last Tuesday we explored Castle Howard’s magnificent 145-room inside, but today I want to share the estate’s magnificent 1,000 acre outside!But first, maybe I should share what we had for lunch at their wonderful and very moderately priced garden tea room, since Castle Howard truly deserves so much time that you’ll end up hungry and it’s nice to know that the food is great.Just as the Howards (who have 10-year-old twin daughters) allow you to roamfreely through most of their home, they also give visitors great freedom to walkalong the many peaceful pathways surrounding their estate.There is a lake on either side of Castle Howard, andan expansive English landscape parkfilled with giant rhododendronsand brilliant azaleas in the spring.When we visited in May, the arboretum, known as Ray Wood, was filled with delicate blue bells and lacy wildflowers beckoning us on in our search for the elusive Mausoleum that can be seen near the end of the park from the castle.At the very end of the more formal gardens is the gracious “Temple of the Four Winds,” built by Vanbrugh in 1724 for “reading and refreshment.” Can’t you just  imagine how refreshing it would be to take a meditative stroll to that gazebo,  chewing on the cud of our lives like the cows in the meadow? Also, there is a beautiful walled garden full of roses (not in bloom yet when wewere there), neatly landscaped borders, colorful displays of flowers—all bright and beautiful—and reflecting pools filled with gold fishthat beg you to stop and reflect a while before your eyes are drawn upward to explore other horizons.If you ever find yourself feeling like Atlas, bowed down with the weight of the world on your shoulders, I hope you recall some of these pictures and rememberthe promise from Scripture: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

We’re Never Too Old To Fly

So, I just have to tell you this story! Earl is 95. Have you heard the theory that if we improve with age, then the very elderly are magnificent? Well, Earl is living magnificence! For his 95th birthday, he decided that what he really wanted to do was go sky diving…so that’s just what he did! I’m going to tell you a little more about Earl while you watch his sky diving adventure. I mean, Michael took Grace skydiving before he proposed to her on the theory that if they were brave enough to dive into the skies, then they’d probably be brave enough to dive into marriage…but Mike and Grace were in their mid-twenties, not 95, for Pete’s sake!When Alan and I dove into marriage, we bailed out of the U.P. and went downstate to start graduate school in clinical psychology. That’s where we met Earl.His wife, Zelma, was dying of cancer. He loved her so much! When she died, Earl was only 53, but he acted like his life was over. In fact, I really think he felt likehis life was over. (In this shot, there is another guy free-falling in the distance.)Earl invited Alan and me to live with him free of rent for awhile. He had lots of room, and he didn’t know much about cooking. We were happy to save money, and we all enjoyed the sweet fellowship and seemingly endless supply of fresh tomatoes, asparagus, and other treasures in his ample garden! When the time  “was right,” we moved back into campus housing, and Earl’s family encouraged him to look up Eileen, the lovely widow of their former pastor (who’d also died).Sure enough, Eileen remembered him, and in about a year, they married. Believe it or not, they enjoyed more than 25 years of joyful life and were very active in church and later mission work after Earl retired. The blossom of their marriage and their long, productive lives have always been a source of inspiration to me!I hope their story encourages you, too! No matter how old we are, we’re not too old to keep dreaming, keep doing, and keep taking joy in life! “It ain’t over ’til it’sover!” So… let’s keep on trying, and let’s keep flyin’ high!

“And even to your old age I am he, and even to white hair will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Rise Up, My Love (2): Introduction

The Song of Solomon is not a simple drama, like Job, nor is it a series of disconnected lyric poems, like the Psalms. Rather, God’s song, written with the pen of Solomon, is a cluster of interrelated poetic songs all on the grandest theme in earth and heaven: love. It is a lyric ballad, much like the operas and musicals of today. Although this timeless masterpiece does not follow the typical three act, several scene format of modern plays, nor does it provide prescriptive explanations for settings, these breaks and differing settings exist and need to be carefully discerned in order to fully appreciate the truth about God’s transcendent love song.

Great minds throughout the centuries have debated and disagreed on almost every major topic in The Song of Solomon, even over who is speaking!  Certain lines could have been spoken by the bride, or the groom, or some other group, such as the daughters of Jerusalem. Some scholars believe that the term my love indicates the husband speaking to the wife, while beloved is the address of the wife for her husband. Others think just the opposite. Indeed, no book of the Bible has fewer commentaries or more controversies over interpretation. The Holy Spirit alone can illuminate the text, and perhaps it has been written in such an enigmatic fashion so that at different times and in diverse circumstances it can indeed be rendered differently with perfect appropriateness to accommodate the breadth of human experience and need.

Mine is only one interpretation, written day by day as God ministered to my heart. I have studied many of the works of the great writers who have also meditated through these passages—across the centuries, across the sexes, across the Testaments, across divergent circumstances—from preachers to prisoners, from missionaries to mystics, from Jews to Christians, from ages past to the present. However, this study is really the recording of my spiritual journey, led by my teacher, guide, and comforter (who is the only true and universal interpreter of Scriptures for each of us, the Holy Spirit). I pored over The Song of Solomon for over ten years; however, if I were to write a fresh reflection ten years from now, it would certainly be deeper and somewhat changed, just as any musician might interpret a composition differently at a later stage of life.

Please consider my meditations with patience, reassured by knowing that I am acutely aware of my own inadequacies as a student of the Word and ever humbled by the brilliance and complexity of the Scriptures, which alone are perfect and true.  All that has ever been written about the Bible is at best flawed and faulty. It is my prayer that you will take pleasure in whatever nourishes your spirit and graciously overlook what doesn’t. Where you find errors or strong disagreement, please, please respond to me with your thoughts. That will not only help me but also everyone else who reads this. My goal is that together we will all draw closer to God as we learn more about His great love for us.If you enjoy these reflections, please think of them as a little bag of the gems that I found and am sharing with the hope of enriching you and encouraging your pursuit of God. May Rise Up, My Love inspire you to dig further into the unsearchable riches of God’s Word. May our treasure troves overflow with fresh discoveries that transform our lives.These meditations were written during my morning devotional times, and so they are in many little sections, like so many intricate variations on the theme of love. Above all else, I hope that as you meditate, you allow yourself to be energized and transformed by experiencing God’s love flowing all around and through you.

Armstrong Archives: 2. And so, We Did!

February 18, 1973

And so, we did! Bill Rudd (my spiritual brother) and his wife, Gloria (who’d led me to the Lord 10 years earlier), said, “Sure, come on down!” Gloria’s mom, whom I’d asked to be the organist anyway, just happened to be visiting her kids and played for the wedding. Alan found a suit, and I ran to Woolworth and bought two gold-plated rings for $10 each. We filled out the paper work at the courthouse. My sister Lynn spent the rest of the day making an amazing, 3-tiered

German chocolate wedding cake. Mom started calling family and friends to let them know about the wedding. I bought flowers at a florist just before 5:00 pm,and Alan played in his hockey game that night.He even scored a goal!

We packed…

 The next morning at 4:00 am Alan picked me up at my parents’ home and drove the two of us through a blinding snowstorm to Perry, Michigan. My hair was in rollers, and I was so bleary-eyed that Alan let me sleep for the first few hours. I awoke in a panic! My hair was quite tangled, but I somehow managed to pull all the rollers out and worked furiously on my hair and face. Alan was patient through the clouds of flying pins and spray and wails of displeasure (and my undoing everything), but ever after he declared that he’d like me to keep my            hair long…but straight. No need for rollers!! (I can’t imagine why!) 🙂My sister and her fiance, Ralph, drove up from Grace Seminary in Indiana. Ralph and his best friend, Bob, even provided beautiful music for us all.       Family and friends from northern Michigan and Indiana rose to the  occasion and came to celebrate with us. Our two sets of parents drove down from Sault Ste. Marie together, and by some small miracle, everyone survived the trip. Ann and Lynn looked simply lovely as bride’s maids in the dresses (that Annie and I had worn just weeks before in Marcy and John’s wedding). Two of Alan’s best friends, Larry and Dan, drove up to be groomsmen. Everyone looked appropriately sober but happy, and my dad (in his first experience as father of the bride) walked me down the aisle to the majestic strains of “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Bill preached the most eloquent  ten-minute message I everfailed to concentrate on (funny—I remember almost every other message I ever heard him preach), and Alan and I walked back down down the aisle as man and wife to the wondrous chords of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” resounding through the church. After a happy reception at a local restaurant, we were off in a flurry of good wishes and snowflakes…all in little more than twenty-four hours!  Some might say, “What a way to run a railroad!”
Or, to quote from Disney’s Apple Dumpling Gang, “They’re kind of like whiskey and ice cream, but I guess they’re married, same as other folks.”

            “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”       (Mark 10:9)

P.S.—Last week I started a new series that I’m hoping to share on most Saturdays, called The Armstrong Archives. This is Entry #2, but if you want to see the first entry, type “Armstrong Archives” into the “search” box at the top, right-hand side of this page, and it should bring up the first entry (just so you know if you’re curious).

Who Won the 2012 Vice-Presidential Debate?

I wrote out my thoughts on the debate, but they were not very gracious, and so I decided to share with you a few thoughts from Thomas Jefferson instead, since it’s said that John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time and made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever together at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

And so, perhaps we can all reflect a few minutes on some of this founding father’s wisdom for our nation:

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” ~Thomas Jefferson

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those
who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” 
~Thomas Jefferson

If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.” ~ Thomas Jefferson


Wedding Bouquets, Free for the Picking!

So, have you ever thought about how to have beautiful decorations for your wedding without spending an arm and a leg on flowers?  Garden flowers and wild flowers might work in the summer, but what about in the fall when we sing“Where have all the flowers gone?” “No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, November.”Be of good cheer: the natural look is in! So, now that Susan’s daughter Bethany is getting married this November, Cindi (and others) started picking bundles of graceful grasses that could be used for making corsages, boutineers, pew and other table decorations, and they spent hours preparing birch-bark covered vases to be filled with dried grass and flowers. Saving money usually translatesinto spending time, and the girls started feeling overwhelmed by this work-intensive project, so I said I’d help, even though I’ve never been very crafty. And then, the brainstorm occurred! Let’s have a flower-power (minus the flower)crafting bee in the basement to arrange common weeds into artistic wonders!I think it’s often true that work becomes pleasurable when done with friends, and this occasion was no exception! Not only did we have a great time, it was gratifying to turn roadside “weeds” into unique and beautiful works of art!Furthermore, we saved tons of money by not having to order professionally-designed flower arrangements, and I think ours turned out very well!Here’s one of my “best shots” at trying to be crafty. It may not look professional, but it made me feel like,”Hey, I can do this after all!” So, moral of the story: you don’t have to be rich to have a unique and lovely wedding! Look around at all the beauty God has created free for the picking, and pick some! Even in the winter, there are treasures buried under the snow!I am glad that God picks us, too, and makes flawed people into works of beauty!

“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:8-10)