Moral Dilemmas: How Do You Discern Good or Evil?

Good or Evil?I noticed this picture on my friend, Gwenneth’s, facebook page. What word you read may say something about your gut response to life (positive or negative), but I think a deeper question is: What does this figure represent? Having just completed Diet’s book, Things We Couldn’t Say, I’ve been really pondering all the moral dilemmas faced by people during World War II. How do you interpret something as simple as the word above? It truly is just black and white, but is it good or evil? Something that looks “GOOD” on the outside but is “evil” on the inside sounds like hypocrisy to me, and therefore evil. But what was the intention of the designer? Much, much harder are all the moral dilemmas surrounding trying to resist evil, such as the citizens of Europe faced during World War II, and frankly—we each face every day. Do you wait until your country is overrun by another government before trying to protect yourselves? Holland’s army rode bicycles! It took one week for Hittler’s mechanized war machine to bulldoze Holland into surrender. Then what? How are we supposed to respond to evil? “Overcome evil with good,” but what does that mean in the context of war? Diet said that Hittler was on the radio promising neutrality to the Dutch while his tanks were rolling in. How do you respond to liars who are out to destroy you? Is it right to lie in order to protect an innocent person? Is it right to steal from illegal oppressors who have taken over your country? What about the Germans? Everything was being done “legally” in Germany, but it was still highly immoral. To the Germans, it looked GOOD on the outside, at least at first. My initial response to the graphic above was to read it as “GOOD,” but after closer examination and thought, I changed my opinion on what I thought it was trying to express. GOOD with an evil heart? That can’t truly be good. I know my gut response to murderous invaders would be to kill them before they killed me or others that I loved or felt were innocent. Would that be GOOD or not? Is it ALWAYS right to keep the Ten Commandments in EVERY situation? We are also told to “answer a fool according to his folly.” Just what does that mean? Christ never lied. King David certainly did, or at least he acted deceptively and pretended to be insane to avoid being killed. Christ never killed. By nature, I think I’m a Peter. I’d start swinging my sword, ready to die in the fight…but not really interested in being a lamb to the slaughter. And yet, we are called to be as harmless as doves (although we’re also warned to be wise as serpents). You know what? I’m glad God gives us his Word as a lamp to our feet and also promises to give wisdom to those who ask moment by moment, because otherwise, there are times it would be nigh unto impossible to know what actions would be truly GOOD.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not, and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

Things We Couldn’t Say, by Diet Eman

DietEman-1Did you there’s a 93-year-old lady living in Grand Rapids today emanfamilywho worked for the Dutch resistance during World War II? 9000914-large I met her at H.I.S., where she’s still doing some volunteer work as a translator. DietDiet (pronounced “Deet”) Eman was just 19 when when World War II broke out. Diet%26Hein1939MyParent%27sGardenShe was carefree…from a devout Christian family and very much in love, jewish-familybut when the Germans overran Holland and begin exporting Jewish families, banner3Diet and her fiance, Hein Sietsma, postponed their dreams and protected jews3hundreds of Jewish people throughout the horrors of Hittler’s reign of terror…51tMYOZbPmL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_but at a dreadful price. DietEmanAlthough I had the great privilege of hearing her story first hand, it was so twccoverlargecompelling that I got a copy of her book, Things We Couldn’t Say, and read itQuotation-Diet-Eman-time-prayer-Meetville-Quotes-2849-1 straight through, almost without stopping. Her account is vividly personal and imagesinterspersed with excerpts from their diaries and letters…a story of love and header-dietemanovercoming faith that gave them the courage to stand against Evil,  even though couple it cost many of the heroic resistance workers their dreams, and their lives. maxresdefaultIf you can’t afford a book you can hear an hour account of Diet’s story on line:

Budapest, Festnahme von JudenI’m glad that Germany is recovering, but my heart aches for the Jewish people, who still struggle to have a secure homeland where they can experience freedom. It is my prayer that we each fight the good fight of liberty and justice for all.holocaust“Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD…you shall know that I am the LORD when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, says the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

(None of the above pictures are mine. All were found by googling Diet’s book, the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews during World War II.)

The Romance of Northern Europe (9): Berlin: Bustling and Hopeful

IMG_0496Berlin, Germany,  built along the Spree River, IMG_0652 is the largest city in continental Europe, IMG_0424 and second only to London in the European Union. IMG_0482 During World War II, it was the third most populous city in the entire world, IMG_0359 and still today, its metro area hosts nearly 4.5 million people IMG_0353from 180 nations around the world. Checkpoint Charlie Before Alan and I visited last spring, Checkpoint CharlieI envisioned Berlin as a city still in recovery IMG_0372  from the massive destruction of World War II, IMG_0414 but I was truly delighted with what I saw.IMG_0452 It looks to me like Berlin has overcome Memorial to Murdered Jews —but not forgotten, and I hope will never forget—her past. IMG_0423  I believe Berlin is passionately pursuing the present O2 Worldand working toward a hopeful future. Museum Island The city is full of beautifully restored historic landmarks, IMG_0468 like the Brandenburg Gate IMG_0677 and the Berlin Cathedral (Dom), IMG_0402but the downtown area is filled with dazzling, new architecture, Spree River Downtownand everywhere you look, Berlin is still very much under construction. Banhof Posdamer PlatzIf you ever want to visit Berlin, know that it houses Europe’s largest grade- Train Stationseparated train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which has free internet, luggage Inside Train Stationlockers, some 80 shops, and provides excellent service to around 300,000 IMG_0412passengers every day! Also, if you’re downtown and looking for a good lunch IMG_0305 spot, I can definitely recommend Reinhard’s in the Kempinski Hotel! IMG_0388 Although many things have changed about Germany since World War II, IMG_0389some things haven’t changed…like their scrumptious traditional dishes IMG_0390and their world-famous apple strudel. (Altho, Jon’s Gerlinde makes the best!)IMG_0308Well, there’s no end to the fun things I could share about Berlin, but I want to IMG_0466leave you with a thought shared with us by our charming tour guide. IMG_0511The tallest building in Berlin is the TV tower, the Fernsehturm, which dominatesIMG_0521 the skyline. (Photo bombs in fact…look back at the museum & cathedral pix.) IMG_0621Our tour guide called this “the Christian’s Revenge,” because no matter where Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm)you are, the sunshine reflects so that you see a cross shining over Berlin, Crosses in Windowsrather like the crosses you can see in this hospital window, reminding us that Berliner Domthrough Christ there is forgiveness, healing, and hope for all nations and people.

“And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

What Do We Do With our Gifts?

IMG_1528Our quadrivium of grandchildren born in the spring of 2012 are turning two!IMG_1530 Last Saturday was Amélie’s second birthday, DSCN9916and Sunday we celebrated Iris’s second birthday. DSCN9872 Kathy and Carl went to great lengths to make everything very special for Iris. DSCN9871They invited all her Michigan aunts and uncles. DSCN9901 Even her Great Grandpa Bob was able to come,DSCN9879and her twin cousins, Sophie and Bella. DSCN9869We all had such a good time!DSCN0108Iris had a great time playing with her cousins;DSCN9918the cake was finger-lickin’ good; DSCN0051and she got to open all sorts of wonderful presents. DSCN0001Watching Iris open her presents made me think of how I respond to the presents DSCN9861God provides for me…gifts like Jesus, faith, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life.DSCN0019Sometimes I don’t really understand what they’re all about and ignore them. DSCN0068Other times I just want to keep them all for myself and don’t want to share them!DSCN9951Lots of times I’d rather just grab my gifts & run away so nobody can bother me…DSCN9952hoping I can enjoy them all by myself without any fussing or interruptions! DSCN9883There are times when even the best gifts don’t seem to suit, DSCN9884and my Father has to speak some words of truth into my life…DSCN9885sending the Holy Spirit to make things turn out right in the end. DSCN0079Well, Iris had a wonderful day and went to bed very content. DSCN0085 So did Oliver.                 And…so did I!DSCN0013 May we all remember that God’s gifts are given not only to enjoy but to share.

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ…for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:7,12).

Rise Up, My Love (73): Keep Hanging in There…

catSong of Solomon 3:4 “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him…” When we search for our beloved, it seems like an eternity before we find him…both in our physical marriage with our spouse and in our spiritual union with Christ.  As a young wife, married to an overworked medical student, I remember seeing a poster of a kitten hanging on for dear life by just two paws to a window ledge.  The poster said, “Hang in there,” and I felt very acutely the message for both my husband and myself.  Residency and two babies later, things were only worse.  Starting out a medical practice and two more babies later, things were even worse. A second medical practice and three more babies put a critical edge on life.  I felt like I had hung on for all I was worth for twenty years! Was this the way life really had to be…forever?  I wanted a husband, not a doctor.  I wanted someone to talk with, to think with, to laugh and cry with, to solve problems with, to live with…not just in the same home, but deep down in our spirits and hearts.  I wanted to know and be known, to possess and be possessed…totally, openly, completely.  It seemed like forever before my husband even understood that there was more to life than diagnosing and treating other people’s illnesses.article-2513342-19A31C7800000578-617_634x362-1For most women, that is a pretty typical experience.  The wife waits a seemingly endless amount of time for her husband to “wake up” emotionally and spiritually.  But, somehow, sometime, some way, he finally does, and when he does, they find each other again. (If, by God’s grace and protection, they have “hung in there!”)

With our Lord, it is we who are blind to our own need until he withdraws from us, and then we finally wake up and pursue him passionately, because we can be satisfied with nothing less.  During the time of our struggles, it seems like an eternity before we find him again.  David describes it so beautifully in Psalm 42:1-3: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?”

“It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth…”  It seemed like an eternity during the process, but in retrospect, it was but a little.  As we struggle through this life, obstacles seem so impossible and every deferred hope “maketh the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).  But, as we travel on, we find that each trial didn’t come to stay, it “came to pass.” We discover that the tribulations are indeed working patience in our hearts and slowly bringing about the quiet fruits of righteousness and love (Hebrews 12:11).  We find that His promises are faithful and true.  We experience “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4).  We find again the One our souls love.  We know him in a deeper sense and love him with a purer love.  We find in him, not only the door to eternal life, but a door of hope (Hosea 2:15), and we learn to “through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Galatians 5:5).

Driven by our passion for Christ, we learn to walk in the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit…to pass away from all those empty avenues where He is not and all those blind leaders who know him not…to go without the city and without the camp.  It is “but a little” after we have left all the vanity of the world behind us that we find him in whom our soul delights.  And, in the joy of our reunion, all the fears and cares of the night are left behind!  It is then we understand his perspective: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).  Dear, weary pilgrim, as your wait seems unbearably long, remember, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Are you waiting to feel God’s presence again?  Take heart.  Are you waiting for a beloved spouse to overcome some seemingly impossible problem that keeps you from knowing them in a more intimate way?  Keep praying.  Are you waiting for the Lord to give you a spouse?  Keep waiting.  Look to Christ to satisfy your needs.  Truly, He is the one, and the only one, who can fully meet our deepest longings for intimacy and love.  Search for him. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  When you find your beloved, you will be fully satisfied, and you will say, “It was worth it all!”  “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found Him whom my soul loveth.” 51iCml3oMhL

(Picture of cat hanging from rope found on Photobucket;  the cat  on hangers found at:, and the picture with the quote by FDR on Amazon.)

The Armstrong Archives (73): Skewed Ideas about Time

Monday, August 6, 1979 Thanks very much for the letters and the gift check for the piano light!!! Alan is starting to tease about Mom’s envelopes because she always writes to MDr. and Mrs. Alan Armstrong. A six-year habit is hard to break, isn’t it?!!

Someone asked how Alan was doing and I said, “Fine; he’s working hard but not too hard.” That later stimulated Alan to add up the number of hours he’s worked in the last two weeks: 98 and 103. I could hardly believe it! Last year our relationship would have totally degenerated on so little time together, but somehow we seem to be surviving just fine. I think it is a beautiful example of, “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater…”

Our company’s all gone, and I slept pretty much for two days straight, but I’m beginning to revive. Aaron is the highest strung, least flexible member of our group, and he always gives out. Somehow I can’t meet his tremendous needs for attention and still take care of everybody else. I haven’t figured out how to get him happily involved in giving, sharing, and caring, and being perfect. Like you said, I guess I expect too much from him and forget to give him what he needs. I forget he’s only three.Belle IsleAlan had last weekend off—his first totally free days off in 33 days. Of course, he was up until 4:00 am Friday night/Saturday morning working at the hospital, so he slept quite a bit Saturday, but we still took a run over to Belle Isle and saw the flowers and aquarium. They have a HUGE slide for teenagers that costs $.15. You ride down on gunnysack sleds. We took the boys. Michael grinned the whole time but Aaron looked pretty tense until he (riding on Alan’s lap) got to the bottom. Both of them wanted to go “Again!,” so on the second trip I took Michael on my lap. I didn’t even throw up! HembroffsWe had a good visit with the Hembroffs, although Alan barely got any time with Larry. Kari and I—typically female—talked constantly, which I enjoyed, although I regretted not getting to talk to Larry at all, and my verbose little boy resented not being able to get a word in edgewise! I wonder what motivates us women to talk incessantly? I am going to try to learn the art of being quiet…at least part of the time!

The Ampicillin was for Aaron’s ear, not my nausea. Neither Alan nor I think much of anti-nausea medicines (since they are always coming up with new studies showing them to be potentially harmful), so I just keep eating and feeling sick. However, I console myself that it is for a worthy cause!

Lots of love, Us

[While transcribing these letters the first time (in 2008), Larry and Kari came to visit! Larry has been heading up sociological research at Michigan State University for many years now and Kari is an Ob/Gyn practicing in Battle Creek. They have three children; the oldest two are married, and they have several grandchildren already. Larry and Kari will have been on four medical mission trips to Africa by the end of this year! Friends over many decades are a precious gift indeed.]

Mentoring: Each One Teach One

DSCN9796I’ve started doing a little volunteer work at H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services) where Daniel is now working. Did you know it’s still possible to become a dental DSCN9799assistant via on-the-job training? Daniel has been coaching me, as well as several of the very capable assistants and hygenists who are already working there. DSCN9792Furthermore, “Dr. John,” an extremely gifted dentist who’s a generation older, has taken Daniel under his wing and is doing a wonderful job of mentoring him. 268Dr. John was teaching at U.M. just about the time Daniel was born, and while 245Alan was doing his residency there. Little did I ever guess back in those days that 339 copy20 years later Daniel would be at U.M. himself, hard at work in dental school! 382I have to tell you, it’s been such fun watching Daniel grow up, 360and I’ve been thinking about how “what comes around goes around.”219There’s a world of love and encouragement that goes into bringing up a baby, 348and if they’re lucky enough to have siblings, everybody gets involved! 355There’s so much to learn about, like how to pick flowers without uprooting them,Kids with Baby Bunnies copy& how to be gentle. Those wiser and more experienced make good models for us. Dan climbing up bedDan was always super busy and super curious…and I remember that when he 346was just a tyke he asked for “Oily B and a chopstick” for Christmas (which being interpreted is: a tube of Oral B toothpaste and a chap stick of his very own). Looking back, I realize he had a fascination with oral hygiene even as a tot!264Do you remember when you learned to read? We are often exposed to things 282years before we really understand them, and we learn by countless repetitions. 342 copyNow Daniel is “all grown up” and mentoring me! What a privilege and joy. 🙂 297I am very grateful for the “family” atmosphere at H.I.S. (which is a Christian ministry). Everyone has been so patient, willing to teach, and encouraging!DSCN9152This “each one teach one” system of learning is a good thing!DSCN9794I am so thankful that Daniel invited me to join his work and has been investing in training me. I’m also really appreciative of the H.I.S.staff for all they’re doing. Most of all, I praise our Father, who makes us his children, sets us in families, and delights to watch us grow up to love and serve!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Tea Time and a Better-than-Sacher-Torte Recipe

IMG_3073I know we have no right to complain about the weather given that snow=water and parts of our country are experiencing the worst drought in recorded history, but I will say that Susan, Cindi, and I decided it was high time for a high tea to IMG_3074chase away a bit of the winter blahs and brighten an evening here in the “third snowiest city in the U.S.” right now! Each couple brought a savory appetizer, a petite main entrée, and an incredibly luscious dessert. I thought my tray of IMG_3077handmade chocolates and dipped strawberries would be good, but I think Susan’s flourless chocolate torte served with a raspberry coulis and sweetened whipped cream was even better than the Sachertorte I had at the Sacher Hotel in Salzburg, Austria last fall! (Recipe at the end just in case you’d like to try it…)IMG_3076Well, as always, we had a splendid time and really enjoyed hearing all about IMG_3081everybody’s lives. Cindi and Rex just returned from a mission trip to Honduras, and both couples have daughters who are engaged to be married this summer. IMG_3080Their girls have been super close all these years ( just like the moms), and the weddings will be less than 3 weeks apart. How will we ever handle so much fun?! (My son Joel, who’s about the same age, will be heading off for a PhD program instead of to the altar. Guess we can’t have everything…at least not all at once!)  IMG_3085 In order to survive the next six months of excitement, we three “girls” are  planning a prayer date for next week. What a blessing it is to have friends helping us through all the ups and downs of life!

“Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.”                (Colossians 3:14-15, HCSB)Flourless Chocolate Cake     Flourless Chocolate Cake

(Found on, shared by “Maggie” It makes 1 ten-inch, round cake.)

Ingredients: 1/2 c. water;  1/4 tsp. salt; 3/4 c. white sugar; 18 (1-oz) squares bittersweet chocolate; 1 c. unsalted butter; 6 eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease one 10-inch round cake pan and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
  3. Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven melt the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  6. Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To un-mold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.

My Hope, America, by Billy Graham

4713_BillyGrahamAmerica_lgBilly Graham has preached to over 2.2 billion people in his lifetime and has appeared on Gallup’s List of Most Admired Men and Women 55 times…more than any other person on earth! Young people today may not know much about him, but over 50 years ago, I became a believer largely because I was so impressed by the transformation of my older sister, Annie, after she’d committed her life to Christ in response to hearing Billy Graham preach in Washington D.C. Billy_Graham_008Five years later, in 1967, my husband responded to a gospel message on TV by Billy Graham and became a Christian. So, Billy Graham has meant a lot to us over the years, and we were delighted to discover that last November Billy Graham—now a frail 95-year-old—preached what may be his last public message: My Hope, America. It’s available on Netflix or can viewed free by googling, or online at: are three messages in this mini-series, each only about a half an hour long: “The Cross,” “Lose to Gain,” and “Defining Moments” (which highlights the work of God’s transforming grace and love in the lives of illusionist Jim Munroe, NFL player David Tyree and singer Lacey Sturm). If you’ve ever wondered what it means to be a Christian or how to become one, “The Cross” will explain it all.

41i5pSWWXQL._SX300_“With all my heart, I want to leave you with truth” too!

Like the Aposle Paul, Billy Graham preached to the world, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

The Romance of Northern Europe (8): Berlin Part I: The Berlin Wall

IMG_0729What do you think of when you hear the name “Berlin”?IMG_0709I think of Germany: A country that was dominated by Marxist thinking IMG_0728 and evil rulers who almost destroyed our world, IMG_0730leaving most of their own people wounded, dead or devastated, IMG_0699their cities either totally in ruins or unsafe,IMG_0573and their country divided. IMG_0559Berlin remained in my imagination as a city scarred by the “Death Strip”IMG_0712and still suffering under the burden of existential despair. IMG_0572I am delighted to confess that my impressions are 20 to 70 years outdated! IMG_0549Yes, parts of the 87+ mile-long wall remain, but now it is a memorial IMG_0546to help us remember the way NOT to go! I believe the Berlin WallIMG_0713 is one of the most effective visuals in the world to help us all, as human beings, IMG_0732consider the catastrophic consequences of failing to take a stand against evil. IMG_0718The Berlin Wall’s “East Side Gallery” speaks eloquently of our need to save our IMG_0719earth, & God tells how: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”IMG_0736When Alan and I were in Berlin last summer, it was our privilege to walk along IMG_0720 the Berlin Wall, soberly considering its tales of German despair and hope, IMG_0711and learning more about German valor and courage. IMG_0731I praise God that the wall came down in 1990 and Germany was reunified. IMG_0725The Luisenstadt Canal that had been filled with dirt in 1932 & later razed for theIMG_0723 “Death Strip,” is now a vibrant river, full of cool breezes and lively commerce!IMG_0722As Alan and I strolled along, I couldn’t help but think of how Christ changes us.IMG_0727Despite our best efforts, we can’t restore ourselves or our world to a place of joy. IMG_0721Jesus came to provide a way of escape. He saves us and opens a door of hope.IMG_0716“For he is our peace, who has made both one, IMG_0574 and has broken down  the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14).

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).