Rise Up, My Love (100): For Better and Worse, in Suffering and Joy

Rainbowed Mountains copySong of Solomon 4:6 “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.” All through the night, while sprightly shadows dance with joy in the moonlight, the bridegroom will delight in the pleasures of his wife. All through the night, until the sun rises in burning glory, driving away the blissful shadows of restful communion and calling all men and women of earth to rise up and work…until then the bridegroom will be like a deer upon the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.

But, what are the mountain of myrrh and hill of frankincense? Myrrh speaks of grief and mourning; frankincense speaks of joy and praise. Is Solomon truly declaring that he will spend the night making a pilgrimage away from his beloved to seek some special mountain top experience—perhaps Mt. Moriah—as some suggest?

In the context, to suppose King Solomon is speaking of a literal mountain seems ludicrous. Do scholars become so literal in their thinking that they miss the most obvious metaphors? In chapter one, the bride declares her husband to be like a “bundle of myrrh” to “lie betwixt her breasts all night” (1:13). In chapter two, the bridegroom declares his wife to be a “lily among thorns” (2:2), and in verse sixteen we find him “feeding among the lilies,” invited by his wife to be like a young stag upon the mountains “until the day break, and the shadows flee away” (3:17). Can we ignore all this beautifully delicate imagery of union and communion to suppose in chapter four that the husband is leaving his bride to seek myrrh and frankincense on some far distant mountain?

What a great tragedy it would be to misunderstand our Lord’s declaration in this verse. Our King Solomon—the Lord Jesus Christ—after praising the graces he finds in us—makes a declaration of his love and desire for nuptial communion with us throughout the long night ahead! He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He will not travel to a distant Mt. Moriah to worship God alone. He is God! He is the one who comes perfumed with clouds of myrrh and frankincense (3:6), and he has made us to be his mountain of myrrh. We are the mountain of his suffering, grief, and death. We—his people who sing his praises—are his hill of   frankincense, the joy and rejoicing of his heart. He chose us as his bride. His death claimed us as his mountain of suffering and death; his resurrection transformed us into his hill of life and joy. Holding us in his embrace has perfumed us with the incense of heaven! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Oh blissful thought of heavenly love; oh, precious joy of living hearts and wondrous example of the mystery of love. How should a man love his wife? As Christ loved the church, bearing the weight of her sins on his shoulders as his mountain of suffering and death. Accepting her joy and praise as his hill of rejoicing and life. Taking pleasure in her, body, soul, and spirit…her mountains and hills…her fragrant incense…all through the night, until the shadows flee before the sun and it is time to rise up and work again. A man so occupied at night will be a man refreshed and prepared to meet the battles of the new day!


The Armstrong Archives (100): New Neighbors from Palestine

“There has never been a sunset that was not followed by a dawn.” Daytona Evening10 pm, Tuesday, July 21, 1981 Hi! Alan’s working late tonight, which always has its bright side…I get more done! Tonight the boys helped me bake a great big cookie sheet cake decorated with flowers and “Welcome! We’re Glad You’re Here” for some new neighbors. Do you remember the day Aaron went to watch cartoons at “Jeff’s house” but it turned out to be a total stranger? [Talk about dumb on my part…and scary; I thought Jeff was a neighbor child!] Well, Jeff is a Palestinian Arab. Last night his six daughters and their families arrived—about eighteen people, most of whom speak no English. I offered bed space, blankets, towels, or whatever, but I think they have everything pretty much under control. Looking for peace, I suppose. War is so awful. I have no clue where they’ll all sleep! 1981 Kids on Big wheelsAlan and I are contacting realtors and Burns Clinic, so next Thursday and Friday we can really get as good an idea as possible of what life in Petoskey would be like. The boys and I are going to check out churches, schools, parks, library, and cultural/family type things, etc. Alan’s going to get the details on Burns, and we both want to get a general idea of the housing market and prices, etc. Sunday we may possibly try to go to church in Petoskey if we find something really interesting; otherwise, we’ll go to church in the Soo. Thanks so much for being willing to keep us!

I called Dr. Fredricks today. He’s always really encouraging, and I feel much more at ease after talking to him a few times about my thesis. After researching some 300 articles and books, I’m beginning to have a good grip on my tiny area, and this week I’m writing my first brief, 2-page “rationale and topic area” paper. 1981 Playing on bedWell, the boys are all finally asleep! Last weekend we took them to “Crossroads Village” near Flint, where we rode on an 1860’s railroad, had strawberry sundaes at an old fashioned ice cream social, tried our hands (and feet) at walking on stilts and rolling hoops, enjoyed a band concert, watched 1800’s printing, lumbering, etc. It was really fun. Nycteris' Fingerpainting 2012[Enclosed was a very busy, colorful crayon drawing by Michael with this note:] This is Mikey’s response to “what he’s been doing lately”! I didn’t dare to ask him what he had been doing, but what I most love about his artwork (if you can call it that) is the richness and variety of color. He has your mountain lion stamp taped to the chest of drawers, and the robin and scene from Wind in the Willows are both on their mirror. Aaron is too busy playing to be caught coloring these beautiful days, but he is also very eager to see you both. They have gotten to be lots of fun…I hope it keeps up at least two more weeks! [I can’t find the original, but I do have this one made by Michael’s daughter, Nycteris, when she was also 3. 🙂 ]

012 Sunset on Lake Superior


Have You Ever Asked Yourself…Why??

Fun Facts and Curious Questions…

-4Why do men’s clothing have buttons on the right while women’s clothes have buttons on the left?
BECAUSE: when buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed,
it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left.  Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid’s right!

-2Why do ships and aircraft use ‘mayday’ as their call for help?
BECAUSE: they originally used the French word m’aidez —meaning ‘help me’—
and it’s pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’

-1Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’?
BECAUSE: in France, where tennis became popular, the round zero on the
scoreboard looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf,’ which is French for ‘the egg.’ When tennis was introduced in the US, Americans mispronounced it ‘love.’

-5Why do X’s at the end of a letter signify kisses?
BECAUSE: in the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous. -7 Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called ‘passing the buck’?
BECAUSE: in card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal.If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would ‘pass the buck’ to the next player.-6Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
BECAUSE: in earlier times it used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would only touch or clink the host’s glass with his own.

-8Why are people in the public eye said to be ‘in the limelight’?
BECAUSE: limelight, invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and theaters by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theater, a performer ‘in the limelight’ was the center of attention. Clouds from the airWhy is someone who is feeling great ‘on cloud nine’?
BECAUSE: types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating above worldly cares. -9Why do people used the word “caddie” in golf?
BECAUSE: when Mary Queen of Scots went to France as a young girl, Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scots game ‘golf.‘ He had the first course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. When Mary returned home, she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced ‘ca-day’ but the Scots changed it into caddie.-11
Why are many coin collection jar banks shaped like pigs?
BECAUSE: long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of dense orange clay called ‘pygg’. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as ‘pygg banks.’ When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig. And it caught on.

-3Here are some fun questions to ponder:

Why do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke?

Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters?

Why does the sun lighten our hair, but darken our skin?

Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavoring, and dish washing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?

If flying is so safe,why do they call the airport the terminal?

Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes? -10And, for the 64 million dollar question: Why does God love us?
Because…I don’t know the answer to that one! I think it’s a mystery, but I know it’s true because Jesus tells us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting light. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him, might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

[Almost all the pictures and clever questions were forwarded to me  at one time or another via the internet, so I can’t honor the authors personally, but if you know where they originated, I would appreciate the information so I could give proper credit. The picture of the clouds, and the last question, are mine.]






A Few of my Favorite Birds (11): The Neighbor Hoods, to be continued…

Grackle. The neighbor "hood"I’ve spent many hours searching through my photo library for “just the right” pictures of grackles to tell you about the hoods of our neighborhood. Doesn’t this guy look mean? Our neighbor bully could have been the understudy for Maleficent’s evil crow…the one who snooped on Sleeping Beauty…

However, just as I was preparing to write,  Kathy called and wants to meet me at the zoo in an hour. So, of course…off I go for a morning of fun with her family! Have to keep my priorities straight in life, right? I never want to miss an opportunity to love my family when they’re right in front of me in an effort to love someone who’s far away! As my pastor always says, “Wherever you all, be all there!” Okay, family, here I come!

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).


Creed of Gold

Creed of Gold logo

Which do you value more highly: Personal integrity or professional performance? How would you rather use your time: Edification or entertainment? Would you rather invest your time or spend it? Which attracts you more:  High ethics or high excitement? Which would you rather expose your family to: Good role modeling or glamorous models? Which would you rather support: Those attempting to promote godly values or those effectively promoting ungodly values? CreedofGold_PosterIf you actually preferred the first option to the above questions, I think you’d enjoy Creed of Gold, a family-friendly thriller about three college kids who take on the world of financial corruption to save the world from financial disaster. Creed-of-Gold-2A poor but honest Russian immigrant, a geeky but loveable computer genius, and a shallow but lovely rich kid team up at their university when they accidentally discover a plot by corrupt members of the Federal Reserve to…maxresdefaultWell, I don’t want to ruin the suspense, so I won’t tell you the story, but it’s fun. And predictable. Frankly, it reminded me of a modern version of the crazy Disney films like The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes that were the bread and butter entertainment for our kids when they were little. Only, this film was more serious, and its message was more serious, although the acting was more amateur than say, Dean Jones or the inimatable Sir Peter Ustinov. Dean Jones was a reasonably ethical role model for kids, and I will say Peter Ustinov did a masterful job as Frederick the Wise in the 2003 film, Luther, but in Blackbeard’s Ghost…well, Jones and Ustinov were superb actors who made us laugh, but I wouldn’t have wanted my kids to use them for inspiration on how to win a race!CreedofGold_1Sht_01All this is to say: If you believe that truth is priceless and want to support Christian video production as much as I do, then think about seeing this one! creed-of-goldYes, as a genre, the field of Christian video is in its infancy and (for obvious reasons) not up to the polished standards of Hollywood’s mature industry, but I am willing to give up world-class acting to avoid worldly values. Are you? 10156106_644284005620110_1107092761_nCreed of Gold was just released on August 12, 2014. I heard about it from a friend as was able to pre-order a copy through Amazon, although they are now already sold out. However, you can order a copy for $12.99 here if you’re interested:


COG-AwardsCreed of Gold  won a Redemptive Storyteller Award at the Redemptive Film Festival, which is held in Virginia Beach each year, and it’s received some international recognition too: It was nominated for an Adam Award for best feature drama at the Sabaoth International Film Festival in Milan, Italy. Film-FestivalsMy prayer is that the quality of Christians films will continue to improve in all areas, and meanwhile, I appreciate being able to enjoy a movie untainted by bad language, inappropriate sexual content, or graphic violence. That means a lot to me! I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is and support this budding industry.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).”




Sam I Am Visits The High Desert Museum

Porcupine eating carrotHave you ever watched a porcupine eat a carrot? Skunk Walked right up to a skunk? Chipmunk holding finger copy Held hands with a chipmunk? Badger Watched a badger trot along beside someone as if he were their pet poodle?  Grandparents playing with baby Well, me either…until just last month! The HIgh Desert Museum My sister kept urging us to go to the High Desert Museum, Lynx Sleeping but frankly, a museum just didn’t sound interesting HIgh Desert Museum 2 on a trip out west  where the skies were not cloudy all day. Owl 2 I mean, really…whooo’d want to be in a stuffy old museum Bobcat when they could be out exploring in a natural wonderland? Looking into pool Still, like Dr. Seuss’s Sam I Am, and just to make my sister happy, we went.Rainbow Trout We were totally delighted with what we found! Beaver The museum has an extensive collection of fascinating exhibits Look! both indoors and outdoors.High Desert Museum 3  The day we were there, Listening to lecture they had 10 special programs that were very educational Feeding Porcupine as well as entertaining Golden Eagle  on such diverse subjects as “Desert Dwellers Show,” Bald Eagle 7.31.14 “Raptors of the Desert Sky,” Otter 7.31.14 “Otter Talk,” IMG_0507 and a “Spirit of the West Exhibit Tour.” 1904 Miller Family Ranch At the “1904 Miller Family Ranch and Sawmill” Ame sweeping we felt like true wild west pioneers settling into a genuine log cabinInterpreter in period costume and enjoyed interacting with a living history interpreter in period costume IMG_0450 who was a charming hostess and very knowledgeable about Authentic Log Cabin life out west at the turn of the century. Covered Wagon My sister had warned us  to take a picnic lunch because it would take a long time  Child peering into streamto see everything, IMG_0466 but Sam I Am (that’s me) assured her that nobody would last more than 3 hours Teepee at a museum. Chipmunk 7.31.14 However, as per usual, my big sister was right Lizard and I was wrong! Tent for soldiersPlan for a long stay if you get a chance to explore The High Desert Museum, IMG_0533 and bring lots of provisions, Indian mocassins’cause ya just might decide ta take yer moccasins off Indian Teepeeand make yerselves at home fer awhile. Saying about HomeHowever, if you do forget to pack a picnic from home, Eating at Rimrock Cafethey sell green eggs and ham at the Rimrock Cafe (well… at least  green burritos),Silver Stage Trading Store and if you’re looking for a little something special, the Silver Sage Trading Store Scorpion Suckerssells mighty fine scorpion suckers. (For real, but they promise they’re non-toxic.)IMG_0471Well, I could go on all day telling you about how much fun we had, Porcupine 7.31.14but I bet you’ve already gotten my point.IMG_0461By the way, do you have anyone in your life (besides me) urging you
to reach out by faith and try Jesus? Are you still not sure? IMG_0462I hope that—like Sam I Am and me (and Baby Sophie)—you’ll give God a try. IMG_0463I believe you’ll be just as thrilled as we are! IMG_0464“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

(I took all the pictures during our day at The High Desert Museum.)

Time to Go Back to School

Apples in a BasketIt’s the first day of school here…and I know also in Boston where Joel is attending as well as in Maryland and Indiana where friends are involved in campus ministries. Are you going back to school this year? Any of your friends? Kids? Grand kids? Just a week ago, Alan and I had two of our longest-standing friends and their spouses over for dinner. Brenda and Tom's family I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when Brenda joined my junior high class!  I’d just become a believer, and she was the first person I met who shared a similar understanding of salvation by faith alone apart from working one’s way to heaven by good deeds. Larry, Kari, Jess, Emily Alan can’t ever remember not knowing Larry, who attended Alan’s first birthday party!  Both couples were so weary that it didn’t occur to me to take pictures, though, so I’m sharing a few pictures of their growing families through the years.  Larry is retiring from a long career as the developer and director of MSU’s Office for Survey Research at the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. He’s also been serving as the president of a national organization, the Association of Academic Survey Research Organizations, which leads the “support and promotion of excellence in the survey research conducted in colleges and universities.” So, you can imagine the emotional challenges ahead for him related to his retiring! Larry and Kari's older kids His wife, Kari, is an OB/GYN who’s  just recovered from extensive treatment for an aggressive uterine cancer. Last week they put their home on the market (where they reared their family) and are relocating to GR in order to be closer to their daughter’s family. Benedict Family copyCoincidentally (and simultaneously), Brenda and Tom just sold their cottage…a cottage with roots older than Brenda, because it had originally been her grandparents’ home. I remember as a girl (newly saved) spending the night at “Ma” and “Pa’s” cabin along the St. Mary’s River. My favorite memory is waking up in the morning to see Pa bent over his Bible in the kitchen, reading. He’d been a part of Al Capone’s gang back in the day but came to Christ, and by the time I knew him, he was as kind and peaceful a lamb of God as one could ever imagine. At a time when my own father was still a fire-breathing atheist who thought only idiots and simple-minded men ever believed in God, it was a huge encouragement to have “Pa” in my life! As you might imagine, Brenda is in deep mourning over the loss of their cottage, but it had just become too much work to care for two places 300 miles apart. Brenda's Kids It was great fun sharing the joys of marriage and expanding families. That’s so much more exciting than sharing the traumas of aging, contraction and illness. But, what a comfort to be able to commiserate with one another and know that we are truly loved and understood! Grilling Dinner Also, one of my nearest and dearest friends here just married off her daughter last week, so last Saturday night, Cindi and Rex had us (and our GR kids) over for a celebratory dinner and a song fest afterward.

Scooping Ice Cream  What a joy and comfort to share the ups and downs of life with loved ones! Playing the piano As our children begin school this fall and our nests empty out, it occurred to me that those of us who remain behind and are growing older also need to be “going back to school!” This isn’t just a time of endings; it’s a time of new beginnings.Steaming Dinner! Until we graduate to glory, we need to continue being “tutored” and “governed” by the Holy Spirit…if we’ll meditate on his Word and listen to his voice.Leaving Home So, as my son took off for school this morning, it occurred to me that I need to go back to school today too! No reason to be a drop out just because I’m getting old.Canning Peaches There will doubtless be a lot of big challenges ahead for Alan and me,
and I need to be prepared! Old dogs do need to learn new tricks!Sceny Wildlife Refuge“Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

Rise Up, My Love (99): Protecting Love

Twin FawnsSong of Solomon 4:5 “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.” The breasts speak of comfort. They cover and protect the heart, which is the seat of our emotions; they cushion our embraces; they are a pillow for the head of our beloved; and, they are a source of nourishment for our infant children. Somewhere deep in the programming of many a man’s brain—so deep that it is a mystery known only to God—there is an irresistible attraction to a woman’s breasts. Psychiatrists ponder the possibility of the desire to return to the comfort and contentment found in the intimacy of infancy. Certainly there is no physical intimacy between mother and child that exceeds the tenderness of nursing—where the mother literally pours her life and love into her child’s eager mouth to nourish and sustain him.

In the marriage union, there is probably nothing so deeply satisfying to the husband as the free enjoyment of his wife’s body, and certainly the softness of her breasts is one of his greatest delights. There is an “other worldliness” about the experience of human intimacy and two bodies becoming one—something that pushes aside every other thought and care until nothing matters but union and communion. Newborn FawnThis, I believe, is what Solomon contemplates here. Her two breasts—the feminine essence of grace and beauty— are like two young roes—symbols the world over of grace and beauty. What is a fawn like? We came upon a newborn fawn once in the woods. The tiny creature was hardly noticeable as it slept, and my son almost stepped on it before realizing what it was…just a little heap of silky, soft fur heaving gently as it breathed. When the fawn opened its huge, chocolate eyes, it didn’t seem the least bit frightened. The fawn had doubtless never seen a human before, and it had no instinct to run…only to lie very still and watch. A newborn fawn is the picture of innocence and openness; it is irresistibly attractive and inviting. We did resist the desire to touch the fawn, but only because we knew that the mother might reject the fawn if she smelled human scent on it when she returned.

This is the picture the bridegroom paints for us. The bride’s breasts were like twin fawns—perfectly matched—perfectly irresistible, well concealed under her silky, soft dress, but heaving slightly as she breathed out her heart of love for him. (Remember, these first verses from chapter four are probably the husband’s description of his wife dressed in regal apparel on their way to the new royal residence.) Her breasts, like her heart, were completely abandoned to him. Her heart was open and inviting; she would not run away…only watch him with innocent and adoring eyes. Oh, that our hearts might be so toward our Lord!

The bride, like a newborn fawn, is the picture of innocence—untouched by human hands. Woe to the man who would ravish the breasts of any woman not his wife! To touch her is to hurt her, no matter how much he longs for her. Just as an innocent fawn may be rejected by its mother if the scent of man is found on her, so a young girl may be rejected by the man who might properly love and care for her if she has been violated by another. To take what is not yours is to mar forever the innocence and trust of a woman. Wait! Wait until she is yours before God and man. Wait, or you will lose what you long for—which is all of her—not only her body, but her heart, soul, and spirit.

“Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.” Lilies are snow white, and speak of purity. A woman’s breast—her heart and the seat of her emotions—should always feed among the lilies of purity and holiness. May her thoughts be ever bounded by “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

A woman has a responsibility to keep her breasts as quiet and unnoticeable as sleeping fawns, and to keep her mind and heart pure, chaste, and modest, so that she does not unduly tempt men to violate her. A man has the responsibility not to take that which is not his, despite any deep, biological urges to the contrary. The desire God plants in a man’s heart for the comfort of the breasts is his way of driving a man to marriage and the establishment of a home and family. For a man to recklessly pursue his own pleasure without accepting the responsibility to love and care for the woman he desires will lead to moral ruin and ultimate misery. God’s way is the only real way to happiness, peace, joy, and true love.

The Armstrong Archives (99): Oodles of Friends and Fellowship!

Children looking mirror Summer, 1981 Jonathan’s napping, and it’s an absolutely spectacular day: a cloudless sky and only about 75°, which is a welcome relief after a long spell of humid days in the 90°s. Aaron and Michael are playing on the front steps with eight other children. A couple of days ago fifteen kids tried to swim in our wading pool. It was hard to see the water between the kids, but they had a ball and kept reasonably cool. It is also the season for kids’ programs—swimming lessons, Safety Town, Vacation Bible School, you name it! Taking the advice of my dearly beloved Sunday school teacher, I am assiduously avoiding the programmed, community approach to childrearing and have opted to attempt a more family-centered concept. So, we’re teaching the boys about safety and swimming ourselves.

However, we did enjoy Daily Vacation Bible School. (You guessed it!) The last day we had twelve kids squeezed in the car. It was the best organized, most fun, and probably the most instructive program I’ve ever seen, and the kids loved it. One of the lessons I’ve been learning this year is the powerful and appropriate place of humor. This spring I had to M.C. our church’s annual ladies’ spring banquet. I say “had to” because I don’t think of myself as being the funny type, and I certainly didn’t feel up to trying to humor a couple hundred straight-laced ladies. However, I went to the library and got out a bunch of joke books, and armed with 10 pages of lines, attempted the impossible. I was amazed at the result. Not only did everybody have a good time, the humor relaxed and prepared them to be receptive to the real spiritual meat of the evening. It has changed my whole perspective about the role of the light side of life.

What else have I been learning? Not much, except that I am an awfully impatient person. On one of the kids’ records there is a song by “Herman the Snail” concerning one of the fruits of the Spirit: patience. “Be patient, be patient, don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember, that God is patient too, and think of all the times when others had to wait for you.” The boys and I have many occasions for singing that to each other, and it always seems to help us stretch a little more. Living in a small court with twenty kids, twelve between the ages of Aaron and Michael (actually I meant to type “Jon,” but Michael is talking my ear off right now) does have its moments, but on the whole it is super. As Alan pointed out last night, there is only one right option; keep working on getting along! We have been blessed with exceptionally sweet neighbors, though. There are now five Christian couples with wives who stay at home with their kids all day, and just this week a new couple moved in from our church. There is a lot of community spirit and fellowship, which is simply wonderful.

Alan is doing a cardiology rotation this month and working very hard. He is beginning the process of figuring out the where and what of next July when he finishes his training here. The more local considerations include setting up shop here in Ann Arbor with two fellow internists, working in Petoskey at the Burns Clinic, and a recent possibility—teaching at the medical school at Michigan State University. Further-ranged (and perhaps more far-fetched) possibilities include the Tampa Bay area of Florida, northern California, or Oregon. He’s busily writing and receiving letters, planning interviews, thinking, etc.

Thanks to the inspiration and help of Dad and Mom, I’ve been working on my thesis, since it’s becoming a now-or-never proposition time-wise to get it complete. Mom came and watched the kids for a week while I did some literature reviewing, and now a neighbor girl is watching the kids three mornings a week so I can do research at the U. Michigan library. I absolutely love it! Floating on Huron RiverThe other family love right now is tubing down the Huron River, which is conveniently only about eighteen inches deep in most places. Even Jonathan enjoys riding on my tummy, floating down the river in a little rubber raft. Last weekend we really felt like explorers. We all floated way down the river, then hiked back through the woods, picking wild blackberries and getting mosquito bitten (well, just a couple of times). Now we’re all hot to go camping and start roughing it a little. Maybe in August. Huron River SwampingThe kids are growing so fast! Mikey learned to dog paddle this week (with a life jacket on). Aaron can pop wheelies on his bike and ride with his feet on the handlebars, etc. We clocked him at fifteen mph one day, and we’ve gone on a couple of five-mile family bike hikes. Jonny continues to be the family character and likes to walk around with Michael’s pants on his head just to get a laugh, or bats his eyelashes. 22We are getting another new family in our court, the Sneerlines, who have two boys (five and ten). They have been living in the U. Townhouses for some time but just wanted to move into our court for the company, so that will make ten Christian moms and their twenty-one children in our little cul-de-sac. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?! 23[The first day Linda G. moved in and we discovered that we were both Christians, we started praying for the salvation of our neighbors and for safe children for our kids to play with. The Lord answered “above and beyond”! We began a ladies Bible study, and most of the neighbors who stayed eventually joined our group and became Christians (those who weren’t already), and most of the neighbors who left were replaced by Christian families. It was awesome!! By the time we had to move out, the only family left who wasn’t actively Christian was a new Muslim family from the West Bank of Israel…and their children loved Vacation Bible School so much this summer that they begged to go even when there was a tornado warning!]


In this Dark World, Walk in the Light

Sun filtering through trees on lane 7 “Resentment stems from being unable to control the past, anger from being unable to control the present, and fear from being unable to control the future.” (often heard at AA & NA meetings) Dock in sunriseIt’s hard to feel peaceful and concentrate on doing good when terrorists are exalting brutality and people in the news are choosing random acts of destruction over deeds of kindness, isn’t it? Sun filtering through trees on lane 8 If you—like me—have been horrified and grieved by the avalanche of evil that’s  been inundating the world lately, may I encourage you with some thoughts that came to me while I was out prayer-walking on our lane early this morning? Steamy August Sunrise on Lake The lake was really foggy at sunrise, and after all the rain, the ground steamed in the cool air. I was meditating on a passage from my morning devotional study:Sunrise Walk on Lane “Fret not thyself because of evil men…for there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out. My son, fear thou the LORD and the king” (Proverbs 24:19-21).  Swan on Lake For those of us who are children of the King of Kings, it’s not hard to “fear”
(put our reverential trust in) the LORD, but what about those who haven’t experienced the wonderful grace of Jesus and the ineffable love of God? Sun filtering through trees on lane 17 For anybody who’s struggling with the problem of pain and suffering, may I recommend this excellent message that I heard recently by Andy Stanley?
(click on message #3: “Good God?”) Sun filtering through trees 1 The message is about 34 minutes long (if you start at minute 8), but if you don’t have a half an hour outright, you can always download it and listen while you drive, or listen while you exercise (which is what I do), wash dishes, fold laundry, or whatever! Sun filtering through trees 6 I can’t reproduce for you all the wisdom in what he says, but it’s profoundly reassuring. Sun filtering through trees 4 The gist of his message is something like this: Don’t you just wish you had a can of  “bad” spray so you could get rid of everything evil in the world? Sun filtering through trees on lane 8 If you could, would you eliminate all evil?…even your mom or dad, or any of your other predecessors who might have done something evil? Or, are you glad you exist? Would you be okay with everybody having a can of “bad” spray, or would you be afraid that someone might think you’re bad and spray you?Loose strife What if we just let God hold the can?…or, would that mean that you and I would be eliminated for sure, because we’ve also done some things that were wrong during our lives, and God knows everything about us…both good and bad.Sun filtering through trees on lane 9  Do you think we all have a sense of what “ought” to be, and that the world is not what it “ought” to be? This is one of the reasons C.S. Lewis came to believe in God. Where did the “ought” and “ought not” come from? 14 Sun filtering through trees on lane If we don’t live in a moral universe, then who’s to tell anyone else what they “ought” or “ought not” do? If we do live in a moral universe, who made it a moral universe, and how did the sense of “good” versus “evil” get into our hearts? DSCN6535Suffering isn’t evidence for the absence of God. The fact that there’s no emotionally satisfying answer to the problem of pain and suffering is evidence that there is a God, because we as humans have vestiges of his image that make us dissatisfied with evil. Echinea God has also created us with the great privilege of free choice. We can choose good or evil. The world “ought” to be a place where people freely choose good, but that’s not always happening now. Sun filtering through trees on lane 13 What can change this?  As Christians, we believe that there is a God, but if he removed all evil, he would have to remove us too. Instead of  destroying all evil (and therefore all people) at this time, God is patiently giving us the chance to learn that sin hurts. Hydrenga in rain Like the little girl (Andy Stanley’s daughter) who stuck her finger in a cigarette lighter and was never tempted to burn her finger again, God is allowing each of us to either choose to do good by faith…or learn the hard way to choose good because evil brings destruction and death to the person who does evil. 15 Sun filtering through trees on lane  The hope of believers is that this world, which is so broken by sin, will one day be renewed by God. We believe that rather than killing people instantly when they sin, God loved us so much that he entered the world through the person of Christ, who died for our sins and rose again to provide forgiveness for our sins, a new nature that desires good more than evil, and the Holy Spirit to guide us along the path of life. 16 Sun filtering through trees on laneMeanwhile, what he calls us to do in this dark world is to walk faithfully in the light, continuing to wrestle against sin and evil, and looking forward to the hope of Christ coming again to make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Sun filtering through trees on lane 12“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
(1 John 1:7)