Monthly Archives: March 2014

Keeping in Touch with our Grand Kids: The Internet and the Spirt

 

DSCN1021While Alan was at a psychiatry conference in Detroit last weekend, DSCN0937 I was able to spend some time with Kathy, Iris, and Oliver. DSCN0943Because they are our only grandchildren within 700 miles, DSCN0941 Alan and I especially delight in opportunities be with these grand kids (in person) and always feel like a million dollars when they are comfortable with us DSCN0942—and even partial to us!!1504053_10151937016696863_1345166224_nI never cease to be grateful for living in the digital age, however, so we can also IMG_6370catch glimpses into the lives of our other grandchildren!

Judah's 2nd birthdayJudah turned two not long ago, and even though his family lives in South Korea,Home schoolingwe get little insights into their daily lives. 983586_10202755791712607_2047371150_nGiles is the last of the Quadrivium to turn two. He still has to wait a month!-1Here’s Sophie, our youngest grand baby.132Seeing pictures of the kids just makes me want to hold them!!! Sigh.Amelie 2

Do you have loved ones far away that you miss too? During these days when our family has to live so far apart, I feel much better being able to keep in touch via the internet: Facebook, Skype, blogs, emails, etc.  Aren’t you thankful for these methods of communicating with loved ones? Are you making an effort to keep up with those near to your heart but far from your home? You probably know this already, but have you thought lately about how much God loves you? How He looks down from heaven and longs to hold you? How he desires communion with you and has provided prayer and God’s Word (the Bible) as a means for keeping in contact?  I like to think of the Holy Spirit as a bit like the internet: It is His ministry that brings us into the presence of God where we can commune with Him. Thank you, Father, for all these wonderful blessings to keep love relationships strong even while we’re so far apart from one another!

Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever[…]the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you” (John 14:16,26).

(I was only able to take the pictures of Kathy’s family myself; the rest were shared by my kids…via the internet, of course! 🙂 )

Rise Up, My Love (78): A Greater Revelation of Christ

lostpedia.wikia.comSong of Solomon 3:6 “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?”

Here is another distinct and unquestionable break…the next “act” if you will. The curtain closed on the last scene with the bride’s reverie as she gazed in rapture on the form of her beloved husband, wrapped in her arms, loved into blissful sleep.  The curtain rises again on a magnificent processional wending its way up the mountainside to the honeymoon residence, coming to receive the bride and bring her to her permanent residence…probably a palace built for her!

“Who is this…” There has been great controversy over “who” the “who” is, since the word is feminine singular in the Hebrew and can be rendered by either “who” or “what.”  Although modern customs showcase the bride at such formal celebrations, and it is thrilling to consider the bride’s privileges and beauties as she entered into the protections and graces provided by her husband (as soon as she joined the processional at his side), I believe deeply that this is a portrait of the bridegroom coming to receive his bride.  If this is true, then the “who”…if not referring directly to the groom, may be speaking of his royal palanquin described in verse two (which is a feminine singular noun), or to the processional itself…and might be rendered “what.”

“What is this?”  It is a glorious cavalcade, a dazzling display of grandeur!  “Who is this?” It is the king in all his regal glory, coming to receive his bride unto himself!

“Cometh” is the Hebrew ‘ola and means literally “ascending” or “coming up.”  The bride, filled with amazement, watches as her beloved returns to her again with his royal train.  So, this is what he’s been up to!  This is the secret that he was keeping from me, that was making me so frightened and insecure!  This is what he was doing all the time! I worried that he didn’t love me…that his affections were wondering…that he had ceased finding pleasure in me.  But, no, he was thinking of me all along, preparing a royal surprise.

“Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?” This time her beloved was not coming to her humbly from the wilderness, like a deer leaping upon the mountains.  Our Lord came to us first as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothing…just a man… “as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Our first experience with the Lord is to be overwhelmed by his love and goodness…his life-giving forgiveness and salvation.  Like the bride, we saw him as a sustaining “apple tree,” and we delighted in him, not because of his beauty, but because of his infinite love and provision.

This in itself was more than enough, but this wasn’t all!  First we knew him as the humble, earnest lover of our souls, who came to us, leaping across the mountains of adversity and wooing us to himself.  But, after our souls have grown to seek him and thirst for his love more than for our own comforts…yea, at the risk of losing our very lives in order to embrace him fully…after that time, he comes to us again.  He comes to us not in quiet simplicity, but in the full revelation of his person and office as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Who is this who is coming to me?  It is indeed “him whom my soul loveth,” but it is more! He is not coming alone; he is coming with a heavenly train attending him!  Who is this “man,” this bleeding Savior who knocked so gently at the door of my heart…whom I have grown to love so passionately, and whom I have brought into the most intimate chambers of my being?  He is not just my husband, and the lover of my soul.  He is the king.  He is my king!  May I bow in reverential awe before his feet and worship him! wordsofreason.wordpress.com

(Picture #1 from lostpedia.wikia.com; picture #2 wordsofreason.wordpress.com)

Puppy Tips and Tales

Days until ChristmasI say, is it still cold and snowy at your house? It was 8° here Wednesday!IMG_3864This is what my front yard looked like, and that was actually an improvement,IMG_3846because Thursday it started snowing again! 😦 -12 I thought we all might need a little inspiration -11 to keep us going until the weather breaks, -9 and so I’d like to share a few puppy tips and tales you brighter your day: -1Here’s one that fits perfectly with yesterday’s blog post on the God First Life.-6-7-5-8-2-4-10Despite my teasing, snow=water=life and is a great blessing. I hope we’re praying for those who are experiencing drought and fires in the western U.S. and other areas around the world. I, for one, am grateful for the blessing of water, even if it is in the form of snow right now. 🙂

“For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please wand will prosper in what I send it to do” ( Isaiah 55:10).

*These cartoons were forwarded to me on the internet, and I’m sorry to say I do not know who the original artist is. If anyone does know, please let me know so I can credit them. Thanks! 🙂

The God First Life, by Stovall Weems

The God First LifeYesterday I promised to offer you my best counter to Walt Disney’s quote from Saving Mr. Banks that “imagination restores order and inspires hope again and again.” I also promised a free copy of the book containing the answer to the first person who asks me. So, if you’d like a copy, respond first and read this second!

Author Stovall Weems is pastor of Celebration Church is Jacksonville, Florida, a ministry  that Weems began in 1998 and God has multiplied in 15 years to nearly 12,000 members. I believe this tremendous growth is largely due to Weems following the simple principle of this book: Put God first in your life, and everything else will fall into place.

I was hooked by his first sentence: “My favorite thing in the world is introducing people to my favorite person in the world—Jesus.” Amen! Me too. (Ah, a kindred spirit!) Weems then explained why: “Jesus shows us a new and better way to be human.” Never thought of it quite like that, but it’s certainly true in my life, so—Amen again. Finally: “Most of our problems come from disorder.” Hmmm. Not so sure…but I was ready to hear him out.

Weems does a masterful job of keying in on my son Michael’s life verse: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). (Michael, BTW, is one of the happiest people I know!!) With clear thinking and memorable illustrations, Weems helps us explore the simplicity and beauty of making God our first priority in life, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness and letting God take care of all the rest. Why? Lots of reasons: “We don’t have to carry the weight of our life alone.” “God’s way for your life is the best possible way you can live.” “We all want a satisfying and productive life…financial security, meaningful relationships with friends and family, freedom from worry and fear, and some kind of legacy to leave behind. Most of all, perhaps, we want love…In your search for happiness, God is your greatest ally.” “A life of anxiety is never an issue of unmet need but always an issue of disordered priorities…When order is restored, blessing is released.”

Weems also has some very practical ways of fleshing out what Matthew 6:33 means. How do we seek His kingdom? By “playing our role in God’s family,” which is the Church. He points out the difference between our “position” in the family of God (which is secure: once born into God’s family, He will never leave us or forsake us) and our “function” in the family. Just as you can be a member of the team but sit on the bench, so you can be a member of the Church and do nothing, but all the growth, excitement, and blessing flow from the interchange and love that comes from church community. Find one, and get involved! This spoke to my heart, because Alan and I have become much less active in church recently. We need to be serving, not just soaking!

Weems offers that we “seek God’s righteousness—his right and healthy way of doing things—by reordering our lives around his priorities.””…ordering our lives according to his patterns so that our priorities reflect his priorities.” “God is not working an angle; he just knows what will make us happy and fulfilled.”

The God First Life is full of pithy truths: “The God- first life is not based on something as fickle as a daily choice. It is based on something much more permanent—decisions. Decisions are more final, even once and for all…These one-time decisions are not to be re-decided daily but are to be managed and protected for the rest of our life….Making right decisions will develop healthy practices, which will eventually lead to a new life of joy and blessing.”

One of the most important take-homes for me was his explanation of the role of worship. “Whatever it is that weighs you down, sets you back, or keeps you up at night, set it down and come…I’ve never seen people consumed with worry, anxiety, depression, or despair when they are in the presence of God. All of this grows still before the throne of God…God truly does inhabit the praises of his people…It will just be for that moment, but at that moment, God says, I want to give you a break. You’ve been out there on the battlefield…But when you come into my presence, you’re my son; you’re my daughter. I love you. And at this moment, I want you to get a reprieve. No flesh will be able to stand in my presence. Worship is an at-that-moment experience. It’s a gift from God, and it’s available to every believer.”   Isn’t that beautiful? And, so true?! I need to worship more!

Well, it would take me pages to try to share everything I learned, and this is already too long, but you get the point. This is one book that I appreciated from beginning to end, and I believe Stovall Weems offers the true key to restoring “disorder and inspiring hope again and again.”

“When you choose to live the God-first life, you are making the choice to restore order…As long as you rule your world, the weight of it will fall on your shoulders, but when you step aside and let God step into his rightful place, the weight of your world falls on his shoulders. In the end, he is the only one who is truly able to hold it in place. Everything around us and within us tells us that the secret to happiness is a world where it’s all about me. But Jesus consistently says the opposite. True success is not a world where I am at the center but a world where God is at the center and my life is in proper order. First place belongs to God alone.”

And you know what? Weems is absolutely right! After reading the book, I began noticing areas where I’ve grown careless and done things “my” way instead of asking God what He wants. Thankfully, I’ve also noticed that God is more than willing to help guide me when I ask.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33)

Saving Mr. Banks…but Could Anyone Save P.L. Travers?

 

Saving_Mr_BanksIf you’re a fan of Disney’s classic movie, Mary Poppins, you might enjoy watching Saving Mr. Banks, which was just released to video recently, although Travers’ character was so grating that Alan found the movie tedious and savingmrbanksimpossible to watch. I assumed the whole conflict was fabricated to make Emma Thompson suffer as the protagonist, but after digging into the background, I discovered that the movie is a pretty accurate retelling of Travers’ life story and the 20-year conflict between Walt Disney and the author over rights to turn her book into a movie. In fact, Disney actually gave Saving Mr. Banks one of their typical happy endings, which sadly was not true of the real experience.P.L. Travers“Pamela Lyndon Travers” was born in 1899 as “Helen Lyndon Goff” in Australia to Travers Goff and Margaret Agnes. Margaret’s mother had come from a very influential family and her brother, Boyd Morehead, was the premier of trvgfQueensland at the time of Helen’s birth. Unfortunately, Helen’s father (although very charismatic and close to Helen) really was an alcoholic who get demoted from bank manager to bank clerk. And, he also died tragically when Helen was only 7, although it was from influenza, not liver failure (as you would assume from the movie). mrgffHelen’s mother, totally traumatized by her husband’s death (probably his miserable life too) and consequent plunge into deep poverty with three small girls to rear alone, did attempt suicide, but did not die. In an effort to save the rlntlfamily, their formidable maiden great aunt,  Helen Morehead, came to live with their family and helped restore order and stability through very strict discipline. She was the true inspiration for Mary Poppins (who was much harsher in the books than in the movie), and she really did say, “Spit spot into bed.”pltrvHelen survived her traumatic childhood, although it sounds like she never overcame the scars of abandonment and the severity of a rather graceless, loveless upbringing. She became an actress and eventually held a position as writer in residence at Radcliffe College. After 20 years of unpleasant cajoling and attempted persuasions by Walt Disney (who had indeed made a promise to his daughters to make their favorite story into a movie), Travers acquiesced, selling the movie rights to Disney for a $100,000 advance plus 5% of the royalties, which eventually made her a multi-millionaire. wltdsThe unremitting tension in Saving Mr. Banks was real. Travers was totally opposed to what she considered the unbearable trivialization of Mary Poppin’s personality and cried tears of anger (not tenderhearted emotion) at the premiere, stating, “As chalk is to cheese, so is the film to the book” (The Secret Life of Mary Poppins). She tried to demand that the animation be removed but discovered to her dismay that she had been given script approval but not film-editing rights. (Beware, all would-be novelists; however: please note that Disney’s decisions did produce a world-famous movie and tons of money).rbtshAs one interesting side note, I read that Robert Sherman walked with a limp because he was shot while charging a hill during World War II. (He also won a purple heart for helping liberate the prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp.) (http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/saving-mr-banks.php…which is a great source of information about the true stories behind movies) Travers’ caustic comment to Sherman gives you an accurate feel for her critical, negative nature. Although she lived well into her nineties, she died without ever marrying, with an unfulfilling attempt at adoption, and with this heartbreaking comment in the news: she “died loving no one and with no one loving her” (The New York Times. 5 January 2014).

In reality, Saving Mr. Banks was about imagineering a happy ending to the tragic tales of Travers Goff, P.L. Travers, Mr. Banks, and all failed lives. In the movie, Walt Disney says, “Imagination restores disorder and inspires hope again and again.” I am a firm believer in the role of imagination. Yesterday I listened to one of my sons’ GodTalks, and in an interview with Allister McGrath, McGrath commented that  “reason and imagination” were key to C.S. Lewis’ brilliant defenses of orthodox Christian faith (http://aqueductproject.org/alister-mcgrath-c-s-lewis-a-life/).

Imagination is a good thing, and it may help us envision how to create a better future, but I personally don’t think imagination is truly the key to restoring disorder and inspiring hope.

However, tomorrow I’m going to post on a book that was just released by Zondervan yesterday, and I believe this book does give us the key. It’s a great read, and if you want a free copy, just be the first one to ask for it after I publish my blog tomorrow! Hope to see you then…

“He [Jesus] is always able to save those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25, HSCB).

The Romance of Northern Europe (10): Exploring Tallinn, Estonia

IMG_1137Although Tallinn is the birthplace of Skype, one of the world’s top ten digital IMG_1060cities, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back 5,000 years, has a population Tallin Old Town Wikiof 430,000,* and is the capital and largest city in Estonia, I had virtually never IMG_1044heard of it until we went on our Northern European Cruise last spring. We came IMG_1155into the city via the Tallinn Passenger Port, which is one of the busiest cruise Toompea Castledestinations in the Baltic Sea. We docked very close to Toompea Castle, part of Shipthe fortification system for “Old Town,” the ancient city center, IMG_1089and commenced with a delightful walking tour of the city. St. Olaf's ChurchSt. Olaf’s church (far right) was the tallest building in the world IMG_0907 from 1549 to 1625 and is still an impressive landmark today, IMG_0921although there are many beautiful churches! (Lutheran, St. Mary’s Cathedral)Alexander Nevsky Cathedral(Russian Orthodox, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) IMG_0936(St. Nicolas Church, was dedicated to the patron of fishermen and sailors in 1275, but today it’s a concert hall and houses a museum of ecclesiastical art.) St. Catherines PassageIn many ways, Tallinn has never lost its Medieval look and charm, IMG_1099 although now everything has a touch of modern class added! IMG_0929Ancient walls are adorned with modern art for sale, IMG_0941and the town center is flanked with inviting open air cafes,IMG_0961some with snuggly sheep skins adorning the chairs. Talk about warm and plush!IMG_1093We visited in May—a great time to travel!—and there were flowers blooming IMG_1018everywhere. IMG_1141The markets were also bursting with colorful bouquets for sale. Town Hall Square Raekoja platsThe Town Hall Square (aka “Raekoja plats”) is home to “Raeapteek,” founded Raeapteek Pharmacy  in 1422 and one of the world’s oldest continuously operating pharmacies! IMG_0951Of course, not all the attractions on the square are quite so ancient. 🙂 IMG_0985After a long morning of trekking all over Old Town IMG_0959 learning about Tallinn’s heritage IMG_0960and taking in the sites, IMG_0966 we were treated to a traditional tea IMG_0967 featuring both savory and sweet, stuffed croissants IMG_0969 in a historic restaurant. (This fresco was painted on the ladies’ bathroom door!)IMG_0963I mean, this was a seriously, authentically ancient building! IMG_0989After a chance to rest and relax, IMG_1016we made our way past some lovely lassies in traditional garb Fat Margaret Towerto the “Fat Margaret” Tower and city gate, IMG_1071 which now houses a fascinating little “Estonian Maritime Museum.”IMG_0906There’s also an excellent open air museum in Tallinn, which we didn’t see, IMG_0890because we just didn’t have time to see it all, hear it, taste it, or experience it all.IMG_0938But, I think that’s just the way it is! My dad used to always paraphrase Huckleberry Finn: “You pays your nickel, and you takes your choice.” IMG_1154No matter how hard we try, we’re only going to experience bits and pieces of life. IMG_0925We’ll notice certain things, but we may never really understand them. Ship LightWe’ll figure out some things…but there will be all sorts of things we miss. IMG_1162      That’s why I’ve chosen to put my trust in God, who alone is omniscient! On this wonderful “cruise” called life, we’ll never get it all figured out, but God knows and understands everything, and He can lead us into the ways of peace.1 Cor 13 We See Through a Glass Darkly“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(*The above aerial view of Tallinn was taken from Wiki Commons)

“Empower Aging” and Marie’s Legacy

DSCN0851Last week Alan went to a conference entitled “Empower Aging” and last weekend we attended a funeral honoring the life and death of Marie H., the mother and grandmother of dear friends. It was the first funeral where I identified more closely with the deceased’s role as “grandma” then any of their other relationships. Her young adult grandchildren spoke with impassioned tenderness and tears. I’ve seen this before, but it never hit me quite so hard or left such a lasting impression. Marie loved her grand kids, and they all knew it! She was “there for them,” taking an interest in everything they did (even their crazy music, no matter what taste), always trying to help, giving gifts, and affirming them. I knew Marie, because she used to visit our chapel’s “Second Sunday”  programs to hear her grand kids back in the days when Alan and I helped sponsor our youth group. She was some grandma!!!

Concerning the seminar on “empower aging,” I think we all know the drill: eat right; exercise; get your rest; stay connected and social; read and exercise your brain; volunteer in meaningful ways to help others, be under the care of a good physician and seek medical attention as needed…

Be good and do good…and keep on keepin’ on! I can do that. Or—at least—I am trying to do that! Yesterday we had our three youngest sons (and Daniel’s bride, Brianna) over for dinner. Dan asked Alan and me what we wanted as a legacy if/when we should happen to die. Great question! DSCN0852I had been asking myself the same question! When I pass from this life to the next, what do I hope to leave behind? If I were looking down from heaven on my own funeral, what would I hope to hear? Do you know the answer to those questions for yourself? Do you know where you’ll be going after you die?IMG_3839The answers for me are pretty simple. I’ll be going to heaven, not because I’ve “earned” anything, but because Jesus died for my sins and has given me his eternal life as a free gift, which I’ve gratefully accepted. As for legacy:  I don’t care about monuments…or even tombstones, really! I’d love to be known for having loved my husband and children…and for being a great grandma like Marie. But most of all, what I’d like to leave behind is the beauty of Jesus engraved on the faces of my spiritual offspring (which I saw at the funeral) and the fragrance of Christ, which is always around us, recognized by more people for what it is. I would like to have lived in such a way that more people see God when they look up and understand that it is His Holy Spirit when they sense a presence stirring deep within their hearts. I would like more people to hear that God loves them with everlasting love, and I would like to know that there are more children within the family of God because I was standing by when they were given rebirth.

“Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance” (Numbers 18:20).

“After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying,     Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”            (Genesis 15:1)