Rise Up, My Love (72): Blind Watchmen

Sun setting over Israel copySong of Solomon 3:3 “The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” Who were these watchmen that were traveling around the city?  They were the guards who were hired to keep the city safe by night, probably the city of Jerusalem. However, they had not seen the king and had no knowledge of his whereabouts; they were of no help to the young queen. I used to marvel that they did not respond to her.  There was no effort to help her in her search, nor was there any offer to escort her safely home.  What kind of watchmen were they, anyway, to find a young woman apparently delirious with distress without any attempt to come to her aid?

I will tell you what the Scriptures say of the watchmen.  “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.  Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter” (Isaiah 56:10-11).night-watchmanNo wonder they did not help her! They were the blind hired to help the blind, but unwilling and uncaring. Isn’t this the picture of a large number of the religious leaders of this world? (Luke 6:39). Even those who are hired by the world to keep it safe are corrupt!  They do not know the King of Kings, and they have no knowledge of his whereabouts. When asked if they have seen him, they are silent… “they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark!”  They know nothing and can say nothing.

How many times a poor lost soul, delirious with suffering, has approached the religious leaders of this world seeking relief, only to find that they are false teachers, ignorant of the truth.  Instead of bringing the water of life to the thirsty lips of the dying soul, these apostate churchmen are “wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever” (2 Peter 2:17).

Dear, hungering soul, if you have impulsively strayed into the spiritual darkness of this world’s religious ways and broad roads in pursuit of the One your spirit longs to find, do not ask help from the world’s watchmen! They cannot help you! They are “shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain…” (Isaiah 56:11). They will not come to your aid.  They will not help you look, nor will they protect you from harm. What does Jesus say of the watchmen, the false religious shepherds, the hirelings of this world? “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers…he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:8,12-13).

If you are longing for more of Jesus, there is only one way to find him, and that is to be found by him.  We think we are pursuing him, but truly He is drawing us. “Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21), was the cry of the Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship at the feast.  But, though they sought him, truly it was He who made himself known to them, as it was recorded just a few verses later: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).

“Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?”  No, the world has not seen or known him who has washed us in his own blood and loves us with everlasting love.  Do not ask the watchmen of this world.  They are blind and mute.  Go your way, blinded by your own tears, but knowing that “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5).  “And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Wiki Cole_Thomas_The_Return_1837

The Armstrong Archives (72): Panacea for Morning Sickness

Monday, July 23, 1979 I just finished reading the best book, Me? Obey Him?, which was so inspirational that I passed it on. Three of Aaron’s neighbor friends come from homes without dads, and there seems to be such a tremendous lack of security and sense of assurance or love. If those moms had worked as hard at pleasing their husbands as they now have to work at providing a living, I can’t help but think everyone would be happier. Of course, the kids get hurt the worst if there’s disharmony in the home. We have children on our doorstep even before breakfast looking for a little love and attention.

Saturday Alan took us on an all day canoe trip down the shallow, peaceful Huron River. We pretended to be Indians, told stories of Lewis and Clark, and enjoyed the absolutely perfect weather. It was just fantastic—an experience we’ll probably all treasure for years to come.

August 22, 1979  It seems we’ve hit the jackpot lately for company. Last week Frank [our brother-in-law] and two friends stopped by overnight en route from New Jersey to Sunol, CA. Frank was flying home a new plane he just bought. Darby and Jerry Gwisdala (my closest friend in Mt. Pleasant) stopped by one night—celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary! They were married very young, but that still took my breath away, since Alan and I have only been married six and a half years.

Keith and Marji Van Oosterhout came for the weekend. Keith’s doing a Family Practice residency in Flint and is really tired! Tomorrow Larry and Kari Hembroff and their two kids are coming for five days. Needless to say I’ve been busy washing, shopping, cooking, and cleaning, but am very happy for the privilege of seeing so many of our friends!!MichaelWe got out extra chairs for some company, and Michael [above] said excitedly, “Grandma’s chair!” I think he thought you two were coming to visit again.

We’re all doing just fine (except Alan’s always tired and I’m sicker than a dog, but what’s new?)!! [I was newly pregnant with Jonathan and throwing up a lot. It was during this pregnancy I learned that if I ate crackers constantly, it would lessen my nausea.] Thursday it was a perfect day, and I took the boys out to pick a bushel of peaches and to the Huron River Park. Aaron worked diligently the whole time, and Mikey was a good helper too after we trained him to pick only peaches from the tree and not throw in rotten ones from the ground! (He only snuck one in on us undetected.) He had a ball. The boys have been so good lately I can hardly believe it!

Well, it’s 11:15 pm and still no sight of Alan. Think I’ll go to bed anyway with company coming tomorrow. I’ve just about learned how to play “Largo” on the piano for Alan now!

[Alan bought himself a little yellow Porsche and he bought me a piano with some of his parents’ inheritance money. The piano was intended to provide something for me to do late in the evenings while waiting for Alan to return from the hospital. Unfortunately, any time Aaron would hear me play, he’d be right down on my lap wanting to play too, so I really couldn’t play it in the evenings after the kids went to bed, and until they were in bed, I was totally engaged in trying to take care of them and get them ready for bed, read stories, etc. Well, as I’m transcribing this (35 years later), Stephen is practicing for his M.A. piano recital, so it’s been a great blessing over the years and gotten tons of use, even if I never did become a virtuoso!!]

My Valentine Wishes for You

Darth George TakeiMay your Valentine’s Day be happy, and may nobody un-friend you! FGJL62aTSZMgPxMcnIcgGezovgAUaviuo-cgc3HY3eyucdx7F9OTBpnmms9rvafXui87om8m_bxOaydDbBzofcr-ZGF0e_laEQASUI-00qjFS_3c3wiSpWU=s0-d-e1-ft May you take time to laugh at silly jokes (like these from Ranger Rick). -1May you have no desire to run away…and may you remember why!Rebel Circus, Shared by Amanda Ralston Underwood   May your Valentine’s Day be a blast, and may you know that you are passionately loved!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Aunt Catfish and Ponce Inlet

Aunt CatfishIf you’re headed to Daytona Beach for spring break and looking for a great place to eat, consider Aunt Catfish’s on the River in Port Orange, just off A1A and DSCN9413Dunlawton Ave. before taking the Port Orange Causeway to the beach! Alan’s uncanny ability to ferret out “the real thing” led us there, but after returning DSCN9402home I noticed that it’s ranked #1 of 139 restaurants in Port Orange according to Trip Advisor, and a Yelp reviewer said, “This is a pig out palace extraordinare!” DSCN9405Their menu lists such treats as fried “Green Tomatoes, Alligator, Calamari, Cajun Shark Bites, and (yes, fried) Dill Pickles, plus Maryland Style Crab Cakes, etc. DSCN9417We just happened upon their truly amazing Sunday brunch ($15.99 adult and $7.99 child), which sounds like a lot, but not considering the local competition &  DSCN9410 AC’s wonderful variety of breakfast entrees plus salads, soups, main dishes (fried catfish is a specialty), and fab desserts. Save room for the desserts if you can!DSCN9409They have a chocolate fountain with fresh fruits to dip and cinnamon rolls DSCN9401that melt in your mouth, ETC! If you don’t want to wait for an hour or more, call DSCN9395ahead and ask for priority seating. Or, (as we did), offer to sit outside. While you’re waiting, you can walk out on the pier to view the Halifax River. DSCN9404Now, as much as we like a crowded lunch spot (taking it as a sign of great food for a good price), we don’t really enjoy the crowded, party atmosphere of DSCN9468Daytona Beach during spring break, so we’ve discovered that if you just head south on Atlantic Ave., a few miles past Daytona Beach Shores you’ll find a DSCN9433nature reserve where no cars are allowed on the  beach and  the only crowds are birds. DSCN9423Our favorite refuge is Ponce Inlet, where every few miles there’s a place to park, restrooms, and lovely boardwalks out to the beach. Perfect for quiet strolling! DSCN9466The only suspicious character we met was this dude wearing skinny jeans, DSCN9476but most of the residents are retired folks (like we should be) and very friendly.DSCN9426  I love the ocean shoreline because there’s always something new to see DSCN9449as well as the ageless rhythm of every day beauty and life. DSCN9443This particular afternoon, we enjoyed watching some residents sharing lunch DSCN9457 with the seagulls. If I could live anywhere in the world, I think it would be along an ocean shoreline, but Alan assures me that will never happen in this life, DSCN9461because it costs way too much! Still, what a joy it was! “A taste is as good as a feast!”  It was too cold to swim, but we walked for miles, and I like to think it wasDSCN9431 the sea breeze that cured my lingering bronchitis from Christmas. I don’t know if you’re dreaming about spring break yet, but it’s getting to be that time. DSCN9347 I heard yesterday that Grand Rapids has been the third snowiest city in the country this year! If you can get away for a break soon, I hope you do, but if you’re stuck in the snow…may your holidays be bright with joy at home!

“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.” (Proverbs 16:8).

Paddy Possum’s Pilgrimage

IMG_2880 (1)Theoretically, I’d be reflecting on adventures to far away places for Travel Tues- day, but Stephen’s using my travel computer while he’s waiting for his car to be -1repaired, so I can’t tell you about Aunt Catfish until Thursday…which is the day I usually try to write kid-friendly nature stories. So, I’ve decided to swap around   IMG_1881my stories today & tell you about  Paddy Possum’s pilgrimage. Although I’ve seen pictures of opossums since I was a girl, the only real live possum I’d ever seen IMG_2890outside a zoo (before a few days ago) was a real dead possum by the side of the road. Which is to say, possums are nocturnal…IMG_2011and…being a bird may be tough, but I think being a possum may be tougher. For instance, have you seen your friendly neighborhood possum any time IMG_1944recently? If you live near any wooded area in temperate U.S. or parts south, you very likely do have opossum neighbors, but they’re not the least bit sociable and Wiki Commonsavoid public appearances. If you try to be friendly with them, they’ll hiss at you,* and if that doesn’t drive you away, they’ll faint on the spot.Wiki Commons They are drama queens extraordinaire!*IMG_1901At any rate, the other day I saw this brave little fellow trying to decide whether or IMG_1930not to go from wooded shore to wooded shore across a very intimidating stretch  IMG_1947of waterfront. It’s bad enough to be nocturnal and hate the lime light, but all the IMG_1948animals in our neighborhood have heard rumors of an evil German shepherd who lurks inside a giant doghouse…and eats little possum pilgrims for lunch. IMG_1908On this particular morning, Paddy Possum decided to make a run for it! IMG_1952So, out he came from his snug burrow under the woodpile and into the open!IMG_1879It was really slow going because the snow was so deep, so instead of running, IMG_1942 he had to jump, hop and flop as his paws would sink deep into the snow. IMG_1925Even though he was wading and waddling as fast as his little legs could go, IMG_1928it took him an excruciatingly long time, and he had to pass by many dangers! IMG_1884At long last he made it to the edge of the woods, dragging his cold tail behind! IMG_1934What a scary adventure that must have been for a timid little possum! IMG_1981There were some beautiful bluebirds flitting about the bird feeder that same IMG_1974morning, and I couldn’t help but think about the ease with which they fly across IMG_1992our snowy stretch of waterfront. I wonder if Paddy Possum ever wishes he could IMG_1898 be a bluebird soaring through the air instead of a cat-sized critter working so  IMG_1909hard to make his pilgrimage from thicket to thicket, traveling on stubby legs… IMG_1918 just barely able to keep his little pink nose above snow level. IMG_1940I know there have been plenty of times when I’ve floundered thru deep snows IMG_1973and wished I could soar above it all like a bluebird singing in the treetops. IMG_1943Thankfully, whether we’re up to our neck in trouble and scared to deathIMG_2027or having a relatively easy time of it, we can know that God is with us. IMG_1919He sees us, knows us, understands, and guides us on our pilgrimage thru life. IMG_1922He will keep us thru all the possumbilities and will lead us to a joyful end.

“O LORD, thou has searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downstitting and my uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways…If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me…Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

(Psalm 139:1-3,8-10,23-24).

(* These two pictures, the one with the young possum hissing the other of the possum playing dead, are from Wiki Commons.)

Happy News and Sad News

"Just Feelin' Good"How was your weekend? We had a wonderful time! IMG_2940 Kathy and Carl brought their kids to visit so we could babysit and give K+C a IMG_2960little break, plus we wanted to have a birthday party for Carl.IMG_2950  Five years ago, three of our kids married within six months, and as a funny little IMG_2945coincidence, all three of our new in-law kids had birthdays during their IMG_2944honeymoons! So now, it’s time for a round of celebrating 5th anniversaries as 601606_267991439989775_1774930681_nwell as birthdays. The kids grow up so fast! Where does the time go?Gaining Age but Losing MindAnyway, all our Michigan kids could make it, and we had such a happy time! IMG_2955

However, not all the kids made it back to their respective homes without trouble. Stephen’s car died and had to be towed back to GR, where it’s awaiting diagnostics. Last night was miserably cold and snowy, and I’m sure he was chilled to the bone before he got home, but we are grateful that he survived and didn’t get hit during the long wait on the interstate for a tow truck. His tow got delayed because of more disastrous accidents that took precedence. I just got off the phone from talking to the friend of a 22-year-old young woman who was killed in a car accident last night. She was very sad but had this to say, “I know it’s really okay, though, because I she’s in a better place.”

Tragedies and heartaches abound. If you should die tonight, do you know where you’ll go? Will you be going to a better place? God has provided a way for each of us to inherit eternal life so that even when our bodies die, our souls will arise to be with Him in heaven. We can never be sure of our future circumstances, but we can be sure of our eternal destiny!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).

“These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

The Song of Solomon (71): Is There Help After Falling Off the Cliff?

Song of Solomon 3:2 “…in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.”  She had no chance of finding him there.  She was looking in the wrong places.  Our spiritual satisfaction is never found in the streets of Vanity Fair.  Our Lord is not there.  Nor will he be found along the broad way that leads to destruction.  He is on the narrow way “which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). Beware of the way that seems right to the flesh but does not have the stamp of God’s peace.  “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Dearly loved of God, are you out searching for him whom your soul loves along the city streets and in the broad ways?  Turn back!  You will never find him there!  “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not” (Isaiah 30:15).  Don’t be like the rebellious wife of Jehovah, who refused to return and rest in her beloved husband.  Return home, and wait for your beloved to come to you there. Jesus Reaching out for LambSome of you may have become so entangled with the world that you have completely lost your way.  Perhaps you’ve married an unbeliever, or divorced your spouse, or are living in an immoral situation even now.  “How can I go back home?” you ask in despair.  “Where is ‘home’ and how do I get there?  I can never undo the damage I’ve done.  Can I ever really get back on the ‘narrow road’ that leads to life?” Sheep Being rescuedOh, yes you can! Hear the gracious words of life from the heart of our beloved to us: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). What are his words of mercy to us? If we will trust him and obey him, seeking in everything to honor him, he will lead us back to the path of life.  We may have fallen down a very steep cliff and be terribly battered and broken…we may have strayed into an an almost irresistibly beautiful byway with nothing but a quiet, gnawing spiritual emptiness to motivate us to go back to trudging the difficult narrow road. Whatever our situation, his promise is sure to us.  If we will trust him with all our hearts, if we will fear him and depart from what we know deep down in our hearts is evil, he will direct our way into the path of life. Jesus Carrying Lamb

The Armstrong Archives (71): Settling into Residency

IMG_2926Monday, July 9, 1979  Hi! The boys [ages 3.5 and 18 months] are both in their cribs trying to go to sleep. I’m playing policeman—not allowing them to talk or get up. This after two hours of trying to get them to go to sleep on their own. Now you may say they must be getting enough sleep without naps—but I can’t believe eight to nine hours is enough, and they’re crabby and act sleepy. They just egg each other on. This has only been going on for a few days, so I presume a little extra discipline will quell the unrest in a few more.

We’re living at the University Townhouses and really enjoying it. It is a little rough playmate wise, and our next-door-neighbor tells me not to leave the doors unlocked because the area has lots of burglary, but I’ve felt quite safe and happy here. The basement is full of boxes to be unpacked and rearranged, but we’re pretty well moved in so that the upstairs is livable and our guest room is all ready for company!IMG_2927Alan has been very happy at St. Joseph’s Hospital; about six of the thirty house staff in his department are Christians, including the chief-of-staff, so it has been much less pressure since they share common perspectives, attitudes, vocabularies, interests, etc. He’s also in his easiest month of the year now too, so he doesn’t have to be there until 8:00 pm and gets home as early as 6:30 pm some days (instead of the usual 7:30-8:00). Plus he’ll get two weekends off so we’re plotting how to spend them. Next weekend (the 14th) we’re going to Ted Hembroff’s wedding in Grand Rapids and to visit friends. I think the next weekend Alan and I are going to go somewhere if “Aunt” Mary Sokoly can baby sit. Meanwhile, we’re having Vacation Bible School this week. I teach nine/ten-year-olds. Lots of fun!

Wednesday, July 18, 1979 Thanks for the cheerful trip report. You are always so positive and informative! It sounded like an absolutely wonderful trip, and I’m so glad you aren’t putting off until “tomorrow” the good things you can enjoy together today.

Aaron and I went to the dentist today. He didn’t have any cavities, so he has a renewed interest in NO GUM! I lost a filling last week plus I had a small cavity in the adjacent tooth. Our bill was $129.00 I about choked. It’s been a long time since I had a tooth filled, and my last checkup from Dr. McMasters [family dentist in the Soo] was $17.00 I think. Times are certainly changing!

It’s 10:30 pm and still no sign of Alan. In Detroit I’d be worried, but it has been wonderful to feel so free here. The boys are old enough to take anywhere now, and Aaron even wanted to sit with me (instead of going to the nursery) at prayer meeting tonight! It just seems like Aaron’s growing up so fast now. He’s always out riding his “big wheel” with the neighbors or having little friends over. Michael usually plays around them but doesn’t enter in too actively yet.

Michael wants to be potty trained badly and tries so hard, but he can’t relax enough and figure out how to do everything. I put him in training pants for a day but he can’t hold himself, so I think I’ll wait for a while more.

We’ve been going to a ladies’ Bible study Tuesday mornings with about 6-10 other doctors’ wives who also have small children. The first time was a total disaster, but my guys are learning to play quietly for one and a half hours and Aaron sits on my lap and listens in some too. This week we all brought picnic lunches and ate together afterward. It was really fun. IMG_2930We picked two gallons of cherries last week. Aaron even climbed to the top of the ladder and never dropped a cherry. There’s lots of good fruit in Lower Michigan! We joined a “U-pick” club because the boys and I had such fun.

GR’s Auto Show: Hot New Cars for 2014

DSCN9668If you could have a car—any car—what would you choose? Mazda 3The 2014 Mazda 3 is getting rave reviews as possibly the “best” compact car: Mazda 3 StatsGreat price, excellent fuel economy and fun to drive…definitely the one to watch! DSCN9689But, you can let your imagination run wild at the auto show, because nearly 40 DSCN9672manufacturers have brought in 300 cars on their “million dollar motorway” DSCN9705 to expand your knowledge base, DSCN9673fire your imagination, give you a feel for what’s out there, DSCN9714and blow your mind (and your money if you don’t watch out)!DSCN9713 The Grand Rapids Auto Show is a car lover’s paradise! Rolls-Royce WraithEven I can recognize a really classy, DSCN9712 expensive car,  but I am all about economy and not a bit of a car snob. DSCN9710However, Alan is a true aficionado and knows which cars are fun to drive DSCN9709and most loved by connoisseurs. DSCN9659 Together, we had lots of fun picking out our list of favorites! DSCN9708If money were no issue (but of course it is), Alan would choose a Ferrari CaliforniaFerrari California convertible…but mere mortals can’t even sit in one of these!2014 Corvette StingrayHe’d also be happy with a corvette stingray like his brother-in-law owns (and as it looks like almost everybody else would love to own too). Miata MX-5However, the 2014 Miata MX5 wins Alan’s vote as best bang for the buck! Great drive, rock solid, and within the stratosphere for most middle class Americans.2014 PriusMy first choice would be a 2014  Toyota Prius: Prius StatsBest mileage in the house and at a very affordable price (relatively speaking)! DSCN9681Alan says the Ford Focus (compact) and Fusion (mid-size) are also top choices, DSCN9682depending on your needs and budget, and he was really interested in VW’s new Jetta GTI, although they’re still in production so there were none on the floor. DSCN9721There were dozens of fascinating, unique cars. Here are a few of our favorites:StirlingFirst prize for the most expensive car goes to Mercedes’ Stirling Moss Roadster,DSCN9723which sells for a cool 1.1 million (USD). Mercedes McLarenRunner up is Mercedes’ McLaren 722 GTDSCN9729which could be yours for only one million dollars even! 🙂 Dune BuggyTop prize for creativity: Joey Ruiter’s Reboot Buggy (Dune and Road). DSCN9715My all around favorite is this priceless 1938 Mercedes with a story worth readingDSCN9716(hope you can read this). It’s 65 years older than my Merc, but all I can say is DSCN9718WOW!!! If you’re in the GR area, you might enjoy checking out the auto show BMWthis weekend! However, after Alan had checked out the new BMWs, DSCN9690he concluded that he’s perfectly happy with his 6-year-0ld ultimate driving machine (which this is not; it’s a new Jaguar like my sister-in-law drives), and I DSCN9748don’t think anybody could sweet talk me out of my 11-year-old Merc either! DSCN9699As far as I’m concerned, a car in the garage is worth two on the showroom floor, DSCN9717and I feel the same about my husband. We might be “old,” but he’s priceless! (And, I hope if you have a hubby, you feel just the same. 🙂 )

“Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith” (Proverbs 15:16).