Did You Know There’s Such a Thing as “The Jewish Cardinal”?

Jewish Cardinal_hiHaving grown up with beloved Messianic Jews, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine such a thing as a Jewish cardinal, but I still found this movie fascinating. Pope_John_Paul_II_in_Bosnia_1997g The Jewish Cardinal  (2014) is an inspirational portrayal of Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger’s life. Lustiger (1926-2007) was the son of Polish Jews who became a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Visiting where his mother died  As Rachel Saltz from the New York Times says, “It holds your interest, even if Jean-Marie remains what he must be to Mr. Cohen: an enticing puzzlement, his faith a mystery.” 2014-01-22-16.42.46Although Aaron Lustiger grew up in an orthodox Jewish community, he found and fell in love with a Protestant Bible, converting to Christianity at the age of 13. 140103_JCC-Rockville-Banner_v21-960x391He considered Christianity to be God’s gracious fulfillment of Judaism and the New Testament to be the logical continuation and completion of the Old Testament (see Le Choix de Dieu [The Choice of God, 1987]). The-Jewish-Cardinal-MAIN-e1383127993992 Even though Lustiger became a Catholic priest, he always described himself as a “fulfilled Jew” and remained proud of his Jewish roots despite the criticism his stand brought from many in both the Jewish and Catholic communities.

Aaron Jean-Marie  was so outspoken against liberal theology, racism, and anti-Semitism that he earned the nickname “Bulldozer,” but he was also very warm and popular, using TV and radio programming to encourage faith, the jewish cardianl and he was deeply loved, particularly by the French youth. (In 1997, he organized a World Youth Day in Paris that was attended by more than a million people!)  website3As a stalwart conservative voice in the Catholic church, he rose quickly within the ranks, becoming the Archbishop of Paris at 55 and a Cardinal at only 57. 144                           On becoming Archbishop of Paris, Lustiger said:

“I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.” Aaron Jean Marie LustigerHis epitaph, which he wrote himself in 2004, can be seen in the crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and translates into English as follows:

“I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.”

—Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris 20070806lustiger_0“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13, ESV…a modern version of the Protestant Bible he loved so well, although the verses are very much the same in Catholic Bibles.)

Fantastically Creative Sculptures: Whimsical to Profound

We have many eye-catching sculptures in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but last weekend while visiting in Portland, Oregon, I became aware that “there are sculptures, and then there are sculptures! (see below), so I decided to share a few truly unusual pieces of artwork from around the world:

Salmon Through WAll Salmon Sculpture, Portland, Oregon
Image credits: Ava Hirschsohn
Tripping Policeman“De Vaartkapoen,” Brussels, Belgium
Image credits: panoramio.com

Museum  “Sinking Building,” Melbourne, Australia
Image credits: Anonymous Panda

Pigs at the mall “Pigs at the Rundle Mall,” Adelaide, Australia
Image credits: peterclayton.com.au

MetamorphosisMetamorphosis, by David Černý Charlotte, North Carolina Children jumping into water “People of the River” by Chong Fah Cheong, Singapore
Image credits: gaartu.livejournal.comHippos in concrete “Hippos,” from Taipei, Taiwan
Image credits: Patche99z

People coming out of sidewalk “The Monument of An Anyonymous Passerby,” Wroclaw, Poland
Image credits: Anonymous PandaBlockhead politician  “The Unknown Official,” Reykjavik, Iceland
Image credits: geoffdeburca

Mustangs running  “Mustangs” Las Colinas, Texas
Image credits: mustangsoflascolinas.comWorld Traveler “Les Voyageurs,” in Marseilles, France
Image credits: Bruno Catalano

Shark crashing through roof  “The Shark,” Oxford, UK
Image credits: artmoscow.wordpress.com
Texas Catle Drive “Cattle Drive,” Dallas, Texas (USA)
Image credits: theworldofgord.com
Shoes along  “Shoes on the Danube Bank,” Can Togay and Gyula Pauer, Budapest
Image credits: Nikodem Nijaki

Man climbing out of manhole“Man at Work,” Bratislava, Slovakia
Image credits: Lukas Jaborka

Aren’t these marvelously creative? Some made me laugh, some made me stand in awe, and some were so evocative that I felt compelled to research them and learn more about the back story…and that sent me on a quest to study the sculptors and search for other unusual works of art. The question that came sifting back through my mind was this: What type of a piece of work am I? What if I could be anything…what would I want to be? Have you ever thought about this? Is it possible to be so striking that people wonder where we came from and get curious enough to do research into just Who made us and why?

“Fear not: for I am with thee…even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory. I have formed him; yea, I have made him…Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, and the LORD: and beside me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:5a,7,10-11)

(*Most of these pictures were listed on a site called The Bored Panda:

Rise Up, My Love (95): Lips Like Scarlet

London Beauty ReviewSong of Solomon 4:3 “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely:” Lips like a thread of scarlet—what a beautiful picture and a precious thought. When someone has pale lips, they are either frightened and faint, or else they’re ill. Red lips speak of just the opposite! They are a sign of boldness, strength, and health…and they are very beautiful. Universally, red attracts attention to itself. Red reigns over the rainbow. Stoplights are “arrest me red.” The hummingbirds and butterflies love red flowers best and draw deeply from their nectar. So here, we see the bridegroom attracted to his lover’s beautiful red lips and drawing deeply from her honeyed words: “Thy speech is comely.”

To be beautiful on the outside is one thing, but to be beautiful on the inside is quite another. The bride’s speech—that which comes from within her— is lovely too. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). The bridegroom was not only attracted to her physically, but he was drawn to her inner beauty of character, as expressed by her speech. Physical attraction complemented by genuine respect is the perfect recipe for a satisfying love relationship.

Lips display the emotion and will. How do we first judge if a person is happy or sad? By a smile or a frown. Hannah’s lips were moving as she prayed in the temple, although her anguish of heart was so deep that no words were spoken (I Samuel 1:13). The heart has a language that only God can understand, but even that which cannot be uttered is often seen on the lips.

It has been said that “the will kisses with affection that which it loves.” The will is declared through the speech. Job declared: “My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit” (Job 27:4), but that instead: “My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly” (Job 33:3). May our will be as steadfast to kiss with affection the truth at all times!

God “desires truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6); He also directs, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Listen to the graciousness of our beloved’s lips! Of him it was proclaimed, “Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips” (Psalm 45:2). May grace be poured into our lips as well, so that our hearts overflow with praise of our Beloved! “Because Thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee” (Psalm 63:3).

Of what do you suppose the bride spoke? No word of self, for we have just listened to her speaking. All her thoughts and words were of the one she loved. Her lips praised his grace, beauty, and glorious majesty. Her lips were “like a thread of scarlet” telling a story of her great admiration for her beloved One.

There is a thread of scarlet running all through the Scripture: the theme of redemption through our beloved one, Jesus Christ. Rahab bound a “line of scarlet thread” (Joshua 2:18) from her window, and it was through that thread of scarlet that she and all her household were saved from the destruction of Jericho. From the promise to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) and the blood of Abel’s lamb (Genesis 4:4), to the sacrifices of bulls and rams, to the declaration of John: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), to the Lamb in the midst of the throne in Revelation who “shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters” (Revelation 7:17), the scarlet thread of redemption is the cord that binds all of the Old and New Testament Scriptures together.

“Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet.” Oh, that our lips might like a thread of scarlet, washed in the ruby red blood of the Lamb, bright with boldness to declare the marvelous redemption and beauties of our Lord and Lover! “There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel” (Proverbs 20:15). May it be the prayer of our hearts that our lips are a precious jewel to our heavenly bridegroom!

“Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things” (Proverbs 23:16).

(Picture from London Beauty Review)



The Armstrong Archives (95): The Reason I Live and Love

March 26, 1981 Alan has the older boys out for breakfast at the Big Boy this morning, and Jonathan seems to think the crib is an okay place to play when nobody else is around, so I thought I’d take advantage of the quiet and at least say hello. This week is our annual missionary conference, and the boys and I are leaving in 1.5 hours for a morning “coffee,” and Jon is already calling, “Mama, nana!” (which being interpreted means he wants up), so this will indeed be brief!1981 Jon's 1 BirthdayTomorrow is Jonathan’s first birthday. We are planning to celebrate with a cheesecake—since that has become the national family favorite of all the rest of us—and a picnic at the hospital with Alan. Jon is also getting a motorcycle push toy, which Aaron and Michael have been begging to ride all week. Somehow bikes and hot wheels just aren’t the rage with something new—no matter how small—waiting to be worn out.1981 Terry VisitsLast week Alan’s brother stopped in for a visit. Terry brought some slides of underwater scenery around Roatan that were really beautiful and exciting, and Aaron has told about three different strange (and friendly) ladies about tube worms and queen angel fish. The boys are sure they would love to learn to scuba dive some time. Of course, Alan and I thought it looked pretty spectacular too. A whole other world. There are so many worlds in our world; most of us are able to see only two or three dimensions.

…back from the conference, full of exciting tales of peace and freedom from far off Japan and nearby Cleveland, Ohio. A personal God, one who can be found, and the challenge—do we value what we have enough to share it with others? I do! My problem is loving others enough to take the rejection. Most of you have been extremely gracious in allowing me to bubble over about what I think is the most marvelous thing in all the universe: salvation through faith in Christ, even if you don’t share similar beliefs. For that I’m most grateful. Thank you. If there’s one thing I don’t appreciate, it’s being coerced to do something against my will (i.e. high-pressure sales). In fact, “salesmanship” ranked last in my career profile at a big 3%. However, it is absolutely impossible for me to ignore the influence of Christ in my life. In Our Daily Bread Alan read an article to us the other day about John W. Peterson, who early in his composing career was advised to leave out the name of Christ and sing more about heaven in order to be more successful. His response was, “I have no song to sing, but that of Christ my King…” As Alan says, telling a Christian not to talk about Christ is like telling a dog not to bark. He can stop barking, but then he doesn’t really have anything else to say! In a psychotherapy class at Central I was told, “It’s great to act like a Christian, just don’t talk like one.” Do you know what I discovered? Outside of my motivation to love people in response to God’s love for me, I had no real motive for loving anyone! I don’t mean that I stopped liking people, or appreciating their kindnesses to me, but I mean loving somebody without any selfish motive, loving them without expecting or wanting anything in return. I can’t forget, delete, and omit the core of my reason for continuing to exist and have much worthwhile left to share with anyone else! Now I do attempt to be sensitive to the desires of those I love, and I do not wish to offend anyone. I am truly sorry for offending any of you in the past, and if my letters drive you to distraction, PLEASE tell me! I don’t send them for my own pleasure, so if they bring you pain, I’m wasting my time. Right?! That goes for future reference too. I tend to be fairly blunt and personal (which I come by honestly), but many people are not personal and don’t appreciate it in others. I can understand that, and I can “handle” that too. However, I find myself withdrawing from everyone, including many who may not mind reading ridiculously impersonally Xeroxed personal letters. So, rather than dropping out completely, I would like the privilege of being myself, but only to those who are interested in knowing our family through my eyes. So, please inform me and I’ll stop writing if you find yourself on my verbal abuse list too often!


More Silly Bloopers for Friday Fun

Sign outside a secondhand shop:


Seen during a conference:


Notice in a farmer’s field:


Message on a leaflet:


In a Laundromat:


In a London department store:


In an office:


Spotted in a safari park:


On a repair shop door:


In a newspaper:

(After someone called the editor to point out the error, i
t took two or three readings before he realized that what he was reading was impossible! They put in a correction the next day.)

And, how about these headlines:

Now that’s taking things a bit far!

        …Do they taste like chicken?

…Ya think?

…Really? Those no-good-for-nothing’ lazy so-and-so’s!

See if that works any better than a fair trial!

I can see where it might have that effect!

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

Wonders never cease!

Elementary, my dear Watson!

You mean there’s something stronger than duct tape?

And the winner is….

Did I read that right? Maybe in Cairo, but—are there ever typhoons in Cairo?

God always loves us(I think this one was intentional, but isn’t it cute…and true?)

“As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
But as for the rest of us…not so much! 🙂


Unseen Growth Part 2: The Story of Jongi

FireplaceWhen Jon and Gerlinde were first married, they lived with us for awhile, and during that time they bought a little philodendron. When the moved to Washington State, they bequeathed the plant to me, and as I am a plant lover and dreadfully sentimental, I named the plant “Jongi” (for “Jon”+ “Gi,” because Jonathan sometimes calls Gerlinde “Gigi” for short). Jongi sits atop the fireplace in our bedroom and has grown into a veritable jungle of lush, sprawling vines.

Philodendron shootAbout a week ago I noticed something really strange. Can you see it? -5From the woodwork above the window ledge, a delicate leaf was forming…DSCN5115and before long, it began to unfurl!Philodendron growing through crackI  guessed that the vine had wedged itself along the top of the window frame DSCN5125 and was an offshoot from highest vine, even though I couldn’t see it. DSCN5119But, I was wrong! There was no trace of a vine growing along the top board. DSCN5123Where in the world had that leaf come from? Ahh…I finally found a tiny vineDSCN5124that had worked its way under the boards & traveled a good 3 feet in the dark! DSCN5126

Do you ever feel like you’re in the dark and not sure what you’re doing, even though you’re doing everything you know how to do? I sure do! Lord, if we’re doing the right thing even during times when we’re afraid we may have lost our way, would You please remind us of this little philodendron tendril and   encourage us to “keep on keepin’ on,” knowing that someday, if You’re willing, we’ll find the light and come out right-side-up on top again? Thank You! Ivy Growing“For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

(Don’t know how long I’ll be without my photo library, but it may be a week! Meanwhile, the post on bluejays is half done, awaiting renewed ability to download the rest of the pictures. 🙂 My normal blogging pattern will resume when time and photos meet again, but know that I am praying daily for you.)

“Song for Marion”…or Marion’s “Unfinished Song”

unfinished+songAlan and I were both very moved by this touching story of an elderly couple dealing with the ravages of cancer and the inevitable loss of their lifelong marriage…and their very lives.unfinished_song_final Unfinished Song—or, as it was called when released last fall in the U.S. (2013)— Song for Marion3630_Unfinished415658gives a bird’s-eye view into the lives of an effervescent cancer patient (“Marion,” splendidly portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave),1005-M-Song-for-Marion and her old, curmudgeon husband, Arthur Harris, as the couple faces the tragedy of cancer and the triumph of a life lived with zest and courage.song-for-marion03 The contrast between the characters, the way they deal with emotional pain, and their frustrations in the context of their enduring love song-for-marion-2is both comical and inspiring. UNFINISHED-SONG-pic-2_3The bitterness that Arthur feels over the threat of losing Marion is eventually overcome by his great love for her and his desire to please her… unfinishedeccleston500and the ending, though sad, is full of hope…even for the recovery of Arthur’s relationship with his estranged son. unfinished-song-1024x525If you’re aware that you’re growing old—either alone or with your mate—or if your parents are growing old…or even if you have a grouchy, old grandpa you’d like to understand a little better…you might enjoy this sweet story!

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Unseen Growth: The Story of Frank

Cactus“Frank” was a tiny cactus that Joel purchased from Frank’s Nursery at least 10 years ago, and it stayed tiny for many years in a small pot under teenage management. Over the years, Frank got accidentally knocked over and repotted several times, but he always seemed to survive. When Joel began graduate school, he left Frank under my care, so I transferred him to a bigger pot and set him on a sunny window sill, where I watered him faithfully but didn’t pay much attention to him otherwise until the day I found him on the floor. Someone had accidentally knocked him off the window sill without even realizing it, breaking him into several pieces. I felt really bad—like a careless surrogate mother! 😦Garden RoomI picked up all the pieces, replanted them, watered the pot carefully and paid extra attention to him…for awhile. Before long, it appeared that he was going to survive this, and in fact, all the little broken sections had taken root and were growing again, better than ever. Amazing! Cacti are so resilient!  At any rate, before long I was back to watering Frank faithfully but not really paying much attention to him, since he was tucked away in our garden room  behind other plants where he wouldn’t be so likely to get knocked over again. Long arm on cactusA couple of weeks ago, as Joel was packing to leave for his new home in Boston, I thought I should ask if he wanted to take Frank with him (although I knew it would be very hard to transfer a cactus on an airplane). But, when I went to check Frank out and assess the likelihood of his surviving such a transfer, here is what I found! Frank had wedged himself happily in the window sill and—without any of us realizing it— had grown like crazy! It’s amazing what can happen when one gets enough water, sunshine, peace, and quiet!

Strangely, that little plant and its quiet growth reminds me of Joel. I know he’ll be able to transition to Boston, even though he’ll get accidentally injured sometimes and it won’t be easy. But, my prayer is for Joel—and for each of us—that we’ll be resilient, recover from injuries, and…by leaning into the One who can support us…grow into something really quite amazing!

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).


(My entire photo library of almost 100,000 pictures has gone down, so I’ve had to take my computer in for repairs. Meanwhile, I don’t have much access to my pictures, so my posts may be short, sweet, and without many photos!)

“Classical Mystery Tour” Gives a Tribute to the Beatles

Picnic PopsDo you like the Beatles? I think their music is here to stay. One night a few years ago, while visiting in Vienna, Austria, I was determined to find some gorgeous open-air concert in the park. The only gig going was a tribute to the Beatles. Alan and the kids loved it, but it wasn’t at all what I’d had in mind!  😦  The Picnic Pops. Cannonsburg       Last Friday Alan and I  joined some friends for an evening at the Picnic
Pops…and guess what? The "Beatles" It was a tribute to the Beatles as a joint venture between the Grand Rapids Symphony and a group called “Classical Mystery Tour,” composed of four guys who dress, act, and sing “just like the Beatles” (or so I was told by Alan, who would know). DSCN4930 I mostly ignored the Beatles as a teenager (which was 1963-1970…and exactly their hay day), but this time ’round I was genuinely trying to understand their messages, since they’d had a tremendous influence on Alan. Mystery TourHowever, try as I might, I couldn’t figure out half of what they were singing, and of the lyrics my ears could decipher, I couldn’t understand half of what the Beatles meant!  Is it just me, or did other people have a bit of trouble understanding what the Beatles said and what they meant? Or, as the Beatles put it, were they just trying to say “Give peace a chance,” “Let It Be,” and “All you need is love.”? DSCN5043Despite my personal best effort to ignore the Beatles’ influence in my teen years, their music was everywhere, and I remember people using “Strawberry Fields Forever” almost as a mantra that meant???”Do whatever you want because nothing matters anyway.” Is that what they were saying? ” Got any thoughts?Poppies in Sunset

“Always, no sometimes, think it’s me
But you know I know when it’s a dream
I think I know I mean a ‘Yes’ but it’s all wrong
That is I think I disagree
Let me take you down, cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever.”

I heard “Hey Jude” about a zillion times but always thought it was about a girl (“Judy?”) and only knew the line: “Take a sad song and make it better.” Just looking up the lyrics for the first time this morning, I did think there’s something to these lines:

Listening to Music“And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder.”

Too true. Pretending not to care only makes things worse.

And, how about “The Long And Winding Road”? Alan and I had a really rocky relationship (as epitomized by our polar-opposite musical tastes). Still, the words of this song would come to me time and time again as we trudged our way through trying to develop a good relationship:

Candles in sky“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door.”

AlanWhen Alan turned 64 last month, his brother reminded him of the Beatles’ song, “When I’m Sixty Four.” I’d never even heard of that song before, but it definitely reminded me of my relationship with Alan, which never would have gone anywhere were it not for Alan’s persistence. I wonder if he was influenced by this song:

DSCN5074“Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?”Band shell at nightYes, I still need Alan, and I still feed Alan now that he’s 64! BobAfter the performance, one of the “Beatles” threw his pick into the audience. Bob, who’s much younger but a great friend to Alan, disappeared into the dark and returned triumphant! He not only found the pick, he presented it to Alan. What a guy! And, I am glad to have the pick. You know what it says? Live and Let Die

“When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live…
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry, Say live and let die.”

Dear friends who read this, if you’ve been influenced by the depressing philosophy of our culture’s music, can I encourage you? If you’re thinking that all you need is love—but you can’t find anyone who truly loves you—then look up! There is a God who loves us. All we need is His love. If you—like me—look around at the violence in our world today and feel discouraged, please know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and it’s only through Him that peace has a chance. Don’t just “let it be.” Entrust it to God. And please, please don’t just live and let die. Please live and help others live…lives that are abundant and blessed by God!

Candle and Cup“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV).




Rise Up, My Love (94): Getting Your Teeth Cleaned and Straightened

Smiling LipsSong of Solomon 4:2 “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.” Teeth speak of maturity…the ability to chew and digest spiritual meat…to meditate on thoughts of the imagination, understanding, and memory. An infant has no teeth and must be fed on the “sincere milk of the Word” (I Peter 2:2)…but the bride has come of age.

“Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep.” Sheep graze; they can often discern what is good for them and choose the tender grass, just as the mature believer can discern that which is good and pure, and has learned to “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

A flock of sheep that are “even shorn, which came up from the washing” have recently been clipped and washed. Shearing and washing removes all the dirty, ragged outer growth, leaving the sheep in fresh, white wool, soft and lovely again. “Wash you, make you clean…though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16,18). Our hearts can be like wool that has been freshly sheared and scrubbed and is as white as snow!

In the Old Testament, wool was symbolic of the natural man, and the priests were not to wear wool in the temple service (Exodus 28). The thought of sheared sheep brings to mind the spiritual analogy of trimming away all natural zeal and the weight of self-life. The ragged coat of the sheep grew in response to the harsh cold of winter, but their thick coats gathered dirt and burrs and became a haven for lice and insect infestation.  How human! Often, in the cold of adversity, we grow protective walls of “self” to keep us from the pain of the world’s buffeting, but those walls weigh us down and become embedded with the barbs of sin and callous indifference. How we need the spring of revival in our souls, when all the ragged wool is sheared away, leaving our hearts tender, vulnerable, and clean once again!

“Whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.” This refers to the beautiful symmetry of his beloved teeth: straight, as perfectly symmetrical as identical twins, with not a single one missing…like a lovely set of matching pearls half hidden in the mouth: even, sparkling, moist, and white. Are our spiritual teeth so lovely for the Lord? Are they straight and strong? Are we able to chew  through the toughest “meat” of the Word and digest it properly? Are our spiritual “teeth” symmetrical? Are we balanced in our understanding of doctrine? Are we able to judge righteously and truly? Are any of our spiritual teeth black? Have we allowed any of our teeth to rot away by indulging in too many sugarcoated bits of vain philosophy…or have we broken any of our teeth on the bones of cleverly devised fables? Are any of our teeth barren…gone… missing altogether because we gradually allowed a blind spot of decay to destroy an entire tooth of discernment?

If our spiritual teeth are crooked, in disrepair, or missing, we should go straight to the Master Dentist and get some repair work done! Have you ever needed braces? I didn’t as a girl, but in my forties, my teeth began to shift, and so I had to wear braces for over a year…and a retainer at night ever afterward! Braces are definitely no fun. Every few weeks, the orthodontist shifts the position of the teeth, and each new tightening puts constant pressure on the teeth to change their position. Doesn’t our dear Lord do that for us…work with us over time to make us change position until we are straight and upright? Isaiah 40:4, “the crooked shall be made straight.” And, then, if we want to keep straight, we always have to keep putting on the retainer of God’s Word…through every trial of night!

But, what a pleasure to have straight teeth! I am so thankful for the privilege of going through the pain to straighten out my teeth. Aren’t you thankful for dentists who care for our teeth…who drill out the cavities in rotting teeth and make crowns for broken teeth? Yes, it hurts, and yes, it costs, but what a blessing to have good teeth! So it is spiritually. We must get those braces of doctrine on to straighten out our teeth! We must stop indulging in a poor spiritual diet that will rot away our teeth of discernment. We need to stop chewing on the bones of the world’s thinking that will chip and break our teeth so that we have no “bite” left to defend ourselves from the spiritual foes who would devour us. And, we should pray that our spiritual dentist will make our teeth beautiful for him, so that when he beholds us, he will say, “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep!” With strong, lovely teeth, we will be able to chew on spiritual things and exclaim, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:34).

(Picture from the  website of Dr. Blum, dentist, found by googling “white-teeth-smile”)