Happy Birthday, Oliver!

One Year Old PartyKatie Crawford sent me this picture a few weeks ago from her baby book…a joyful reminder of the day that she and my daughter Kathy celebrated their first birthdays together back in 1983! (You might have a little  trouble telling the dadsJoyce, Katie, Kathy, and Meor moms or babies apart!  I (Kathi) was 32 and lived in Plymouth. Now, my daughter (Kathy) is 32 and lives in Plymouth! Talk about Déjà vu!  DSC00247 Yesterday we all got together for a very happy birthday party for Kathy and Carl’s charming  little son, Oliver, to celebrate his first birthday! Three Cedars FarmWe joined a lovely group of family and friends at Three Cedars Farm DSC00313for a hayride, picnic lunch, cider and donuts… DSC00255 and—of course—birthday cake! DSC00224_2 Three Cedars is a great venue for small-people birthday parties DSC00292 because they have fascinating farm animals to feed and pet,  DSC00283tractors to ride (by self!) DSC00299  and places to rest when little feet tire!DSC00311Oliver also had a fine time, DSC00257although I don’t think he had any clue that he was the star of the show. DSC00340That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy all the attention…but he gets that anyway! DSC00359He was definitely impressed by all the cool presents. DSC00324and he was definitely curious about his cousins!DSC00329Jonathan organized a “google hangout” for the whole family,DSC00321complete with party hats and favors. Have you ever tried it? We had a riot! 🙂DSC00333Iris got a new Alice in Wonderland dress, so she was in her glory, DSC00370although there was a bit of consternation over sharing all the new toys. DSC00374Thankfully, Oliver got a special hockey set that was just his size… DSC00394&  thus begins a third generation of avid hockey players! Another bit of Déjà vu! Happy 1 Birthday, Kathy!Where did those 32 years go? Boy, it goes fast! Sunset in BlueI hope you treasure every day with your children…and your parents! Time flies.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12 NKJV)

Rise Up, My Love (104): Three Steps to the Top

IMG_5674 copySong of Solomon 4:8 “Look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon…” From the top of which mountains are we to obtain our view? What do these mountains represent? What monolithic ideas will form the massive base upon which we gain Christ’s heavenly perspective?

According to Watchman Nee (who was a spiritual giant of the faith during this past century), Amana means “confirmation” or “truth” and comes from a word related to “amen.” Amana is the modern Jebel Zebedoni and is the source of the Amana River, which has always been noted for its beautifully clear waters (2 Kings 5:12). The first mountain is the sure word of truth, fountainhead of the crystal, pure waters of life. It is the confirmed faith of one who believes completely in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ: the one who declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). It is a simple truth, but it is a mountain, and until one has grasped by faith that monolithic idea and has climbed up to rest securely at the summit, he will not find the source of pure, fresh, living water. At the top of Amana is the “Fountain of Life,” for Jesus has promised, “the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Watchman Nee further states that Shenir means “flexible armor” (although this could not be verified by any other source; most say the meaning is unknown). It is known that Shenir was the Amorite name for Mt. Hermon (which is actually a cluster of mountains with three almost equally high peaks) and was perhaps used to distinguish one of the shorter peaks. If the word Shenir is indeed the ancient Amorite word for “flexible armor,” what is the significance?

Perhaps it stands for the equipping of the saint. Once a believer has learned to trust fully in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as their only means of salvation and way to God, then it is time for that person to become equipped for battle! “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having down all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13). The second mountain to climb is that of spiritual preparedness, and the path to the top is carefully charted in Ephesians 6:11-18. It would be good for all of us who are serious about following our Lord to commit this passage to memory and make a daily practice of putting on God’s armor. If you’ve never memorized these verses, would you consider writing them out and taping them to your bathroom mirror until you have them memorized?

But, back to our verse. If the first mountain is faith, and the second mountain signifies preparation for battle, what might the third mountain represent? The third mountain, Mt. Hermon, is the highest mountain peak of all. At 9,200’, it is snow capped much of the year and has been nicknamed, “mountain of the snow,” or “grey-haired mountain.” Its melting snows provide the principle source for the Jordan River, and although no trees grow above the snow line, its lower sides are fertile and filled with vineyards and forests where “leopards, wolves, and sometimes Syrian bears” roam. “Hermon” means “a consecrated place” or “a sanctuary” (according to Tenny in Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3:125,26).

How perfect is every word of the Lord! First faith, then preparation, and finally: consecration. To climb to the top of a snow-capped mountain is a skill developed by very few. No one would survive without proper equipment—and after much practice at lower elevations in less rigorous circumstances! To scale Mt. Hermon would be a challenge for only the bravest of the brave and the strongest of the strong. Could Solomon’s spouse possibly have been up to such a task?

Perhaps in the summer, after the snows were gone (and that would be consistent with the text), such a climb would be possible. However, it would have been an amazing feat, and perhaps it was only meant figuratively. However it was meant, the king’s wife apparently satisfied his expectations, because Solomon declares in the next verse: “Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes.” Only a woman whose heart burned with passion would attempt and succeed at such a climb—literal or figurative—and her love and devotion earned her the respect and awe of her so-greatly-honored husband!




The Armstrong Archives (104): What? No T.V.?

Mel and Linda with kidsOctober, 1981  You may want to throw this letter right in the trash, especially if you love T.V., but I feel so enthusiastic that I just had to write. I just got a letter from a girl friend whose T.V. broke. Her husband decided not to replace it, and they’re glad but a little lost for how to use all their extra time. Alan and I are so THRILLED not to have a T.V. that I can’t begin to tell you, but there have been moments when I’m trying to cook dinner with Jon at one elbow, Michael at the other, something spilled on the floor, and Aaron at the table saying, “What does this say?” when I say to myself, “Now if the boys were all watching Sesame Street…” Here are a few thoughts I have on “Why not have T.V.” and ‘What in the world can you do without a T.V.?”  Big Wheel FunAaron’s teacher remarked to me the other day, “I can tell which children haven’t had a T.V. in just a day or two. They’re so much more creative and know how to use their own time.” If I can find the article again, I’ll enclose a summary of some research done on the influence of T.V. on children put out by the National Teachers’ Association. It was plugging good reading and included an extensive bibliography of literature for children. Alan with boys readingProbably anybody, whether or not they like T.V., can think of 101 reasons for not using it too extensively. The real problem is time. When the child isn’t watching T.V., he is generally requiring supervision. Same for us. It’s easy to feel, “I’m just too tired to think; I just want to sit down and be entertained.” So, the first trick is being committed to the idea that the extra effort is worthwhile. That’s a personal choice and requires a great deal of strength—or for the weak (as in my case), a great deal of prayer!

So what do we do? Go crazy! Sometimes! Most of the time not. During the day, Michael and Jonathan generally play together with toys, have friends over, or assist me. Jon sits barefoot by the sink and helps me cook dinner almost every day. Michael knows how to peel potatoes and make tossed salad. He can use knives and electric mixers, or stir soup at the stove because he’s seen me do it a thousand times and knows the dangers. Jon regularly helps me unload the dishwasher and hold the dustpan when I sweep up the crumbs. Michael can sort laundry or vacuum the floor, scour the sink and brush out the toilet. I think Aaron could just about run the house if he needed to. That’s during the day. The boys learn to work. The hard part is that it makes housework take longer (although it won’t in a few years), and the boys talk constantly, asking questions or wanting me to play little games and tell them stories. There is no time for thinking a private thought.

That’s why we have rest time! (Which is what we’re doing right now!) Jonathan naps, Michael has to entertain himself with only minimal help from me to get him organized, and I spend an hour or so thinking adult thoughts.

When Aaron comes home, we all work on his Wonder Book. He carries an empty notebook to school, and whenever he has a question that he can’t find the answer to, such as, “Where do gypsies come from?” or, “How long do tarantulas live?” he writes it down in picture form, and we look up the answers when he gets home. Then, while I get dinner, the boys either help me or play. When the weather’s at all nice, they play with the neighbor boys outside. In bad weather, they color, paint, draw, play with play dough or in the sandbox, build tents, work on workbooks, etc. (Just ask me for a list of 1,000 ideas, and I’ll send it.) [I’m not sure that offer still stands today into the 21st century, but I could try!] Very often Aaron is tired and will just sit on the couch and listen to a record. We have invested heavily in Christian records (it’s cheaper than a T.V.), and we go at least weekly to the public library where we are allowed to check out four records, six books, and two pictures per person. Alan reading to MikeWe have also begun an extensive tape library. I tape most of the children’s classics as I read them to the boys so that they (and later Jonathan or others) can hear them over and over again. Aaron has listened to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, When We Were Very Young, and others numerous times. I also tape our nightly Magic Mattress stories, which include a portion of Scripture and a “you were there” type of story about the boys visiting the characters of Bible times. Michael is especially fond of these and thereby is repeatedly exposed to the Word. Carefully selected tapes and records are great for those tired times. Rub a dub dub. Three boys in a tubAfter supper there’s always a good, long time of playing in the tub (which might not be so appealing if you didn’t have two playmates to enjoy it with) and then some reading. On quiet nights I try to read an hour, divided equally among books that are educational, entertaining, and edifying. Right now we’re reading Winnie the Pooh (again, but this time we’re taping it), the Childcraft Bug Book, and Bible stories. Sometimes Michael is asleep by the time I’m finished. Sometimes when Alan’s home, the boys would rather build with legos, tinker toys, etc. At any rate, we’ve begun ending the night with singing a few songs while we rock the boys, and prayers. (Jonny goes to sleep right after his bath.) Sometimes Aaron makes a picture with his new Lite Brite set and has us turn out the lights and watch it glowing in the dark while we sing, or we’ve even tried light a candle since we don’t have a fireplace. We usually tumble into bed soon after the boys and feel totally exhausted…but happy.

This is our alternative to T.V. Maybe it sounds dreadful or like too much work, but still I’d like to recommend it to you, at least while you’re getting your T.V. repaired! If you have favorite family fun things to do at your house, I’d also love to hear what you do, so we can try it. We’re always in the market for new ideas. Thanks!

[Written on the backside of the above letter] Wednesday, October 14, 1981 Dear Mom and Dad, Just so you know,  I didn’t send this to any of my sibs but Ann (lest you think I’m terrorizing my elders!).

When are you coming to see us? Whenever you know which days, I’ll get an appointment for our family portraits. Mom and Dad                                            (My parents, Louis and Betty Ward)


Cape Cod: Seabreezes and Sunshine

Cape CodCape Cod is one of those watercolors where the sea, sand, and sky run together…Cape Cod Shorelinewhere the sky is huge and the dunes seem endless. Roses along Cape Cod National SeashoreMounds of wild roses crown the dunes, Lonely gull along Cape Cod Shorelineand seagulls fly above the cresting waves. Hiking the beach along Cape Cod National Shoreline They say the Pilgrims landed here in 1620 before continuing across the bay to Plymouth Rock, the official “birthplace” of America…Cape Cod Sunset over Atlanticand yet, this is the same spot about which Henry David Thoreau wrote:
“A man may stand there and put all America behind him.” Kathi and Joel at Cape CodFor this reason, it seemed the perfect place to take Joel for a little retreat! DSCN8507Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center for a pass  and to learn more about thisCape Cod National Seashore 63 sq. mile national park paradise with its gorgeous, 40-mile shoreline. Showings at Cape Cod Visitor CenterWe were there in time to see a film on Cape Cod’s maritime history, Cape Cod Visitor Ceneterbut I would love to go camping here sometime for days and soak in everything!  Cape Cod National Seashore WalkwayAs it was, we contented ourselves with a long stroll down the beach, Little Fish along ocean shorea little beach combing, Seagulls along Cape Cod National Seashoreand basking in the endless rush of sunshine and salt air.   🙂   Nauset LighthouseWell past lunch time, we enjoyed picturesque Nauset Lighthouse Provincetown, MA  before driving to the end of Cape Cod into the quaint village of Provincetown. Lobster at the Lobster Pot, MA Here we waited patiently for the unquestionably best lunch in town, Ocean side view of Lobster Pot with the unquestionably best view in town.  Lobster PotTo us, nothing is more delicious than “lobster pots” at the Lobster Pot, Fresh lobsters at Lobster Potright at the end of the pier where fresh lobsters are caught and hauled in daily! Touring ProvincetownAfter lunch we took a stroll through town to take in the sights. Lilac House in ProvincetownAlthough Provincetown is a small community with only 3,000 residents, Frog holding flowersit caters to a summer population of 60,000. DSCN8692It’s one of those places where anything goes, Bright hair!I think in the name of freedom and artistic flair. Wedding in ProvincetownI’m personally all for being unconventional and having fun, DSCN8701but I also believe that true freedom is found in following God’s commandments. Provincetown PierGod offers us a safe way to walk on the water without fear of drowning, Heading out to Sea and his commands were given to us for our own good because he loves us! Sailing Ship For instance, you might feel that skydiving with a parachute on your back or heading out to sea with a bunch of sails on your ship is too restrictive. 05You might not like the heavy weight of a parachute and think it’s too burdensome. But, the “freedom” to free fall to your death isn’t a good freedom!Hoisting up the sails What about sails? They’re heavy to hoist & take a lot of practice to use properly,DSCN8653 but they can also help you get to your destination. DSCN8661 The same is true of God’s Word. DSCN8667When you open up the parachute at the right moment, 14 it keeps you from dying, DSCN8668and when you use the sails on a sailing ship, they’ll speed you on your way. Watching the Ships heading out to sea in ProvincetownI’m thankful that Joel is working hard at learning how to handle his craft, Sailing Ship leaving Provincetownand it’s reassuring to see him heading out to sea with his sails hoisted high! Cape Cod SunriseHappy sailing! May we all remember that God’s way is the best way.

“What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, ESV, emphasis mine…it’s for our good!)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (15): Made of Goldfinch

Male GoldfinchEverybody who enjoys birds loves the little goldfinches with their bright liquid thrills and sunny dispositions! Goldfinch Blends in with leaves They love to ride the wind like a roller coaster, giving them the appearance of being very cheerful birds. Goldfinch 6.6.14 Add the fact that males are a brilliant lemon yellow and sport striking black caps matched by wing capes frilled in black and white, and you have a winning breed for the runway! IMG_1162 In addition, they have a long concert season, since mating doesn’t generally occur until July, which has earned them the title “wild canary.” Gold Finch. Female Females are more subdued in color and have olive-drab heads and backs. Goldfinches live year-round in Michigan and other of the more temperate *Goldfinch in cherry treenorthern states, and interestingly enough, male Goldfinches are one of the few species who molt twice a year: in spring (to become glamorous for courting) Finch. Gold 3 and in the fall (to become less attractive to hawks and other predators during the winter season). Goldfinch Feet and Claws I will say, molting and juvenile goldfinches look very untidy for a couple of weeks until they get all their new feathers grown out, but it’s worth the bother, Gold finch feathers  because sadly, on a morning walk last fall, I found the remains of one handsome fellow who’d been all dressed up in his Sunday best. Red-tailed Hawk  copy 😦   We do have very attentive hawks patrolling our lane! Goldfinch in Oak TreeFor years I would see a pair of goldfinches bobbing and darting through the air in our field, but it’s only been in the past year that they’ve finally found their way Goldfinch. Clear Profilepast our woods to discover the bird feeder, and it’s only been in the last few weeks that they’ve made their peace with me and allowed any photography!  Gold Finch ChickThey may have been so skittish about movement because they’re one of the smallest song birds: Goldfinch next to cardinal American goldfinches weigh little more than half an ounce and are only about 5″ long, which is an inch shorter than even the humble sparrow! (This one is next to a female cardinal.) Goldfinch. Clear front shot However, in our case, I really think it’s been this batch of chicks, who are much more interested in eating than being afraid of people. Pair of Goldfinches The parents noticed that I didn’t hurt the babies, and now even they have become rather tame. Goldfinch eating seed  The goldfinches’ favorite foods are Niger (black thistle seed) and sunflower seeds. In fact, they’re so partial to thistles that they generally wait until August to build their nests, using the soft, down from thistles. Goldfinch. Female The female lays about 5 bluish-white eggs and sits on them faithfully for a couple of weeks, although her devoted husband brings her tasty meals of insects and seeds to sustain her. Goldfinches. Rear View After the nestlings are hatched, Father continues feeding both Mother and children until the chicks are ready to fly, and then both parents work diligently for a couple of weeks teaching the chicks how to fly and find food. Male goldfinch+ 2 juveniles Our pair is rearing at least 3 juveniles right this minute, and several are at the feeder or under the feeder many times each day! Goldfinch juveniles Since they love mosquitoes and other harmful insects, I am even more delighted to have them patrolling our yard, and I hope they stay through the winter, which would be a first for us. Finch. Gold 2Did you catch the fact that goldfinches  weigh just 0.4-0.7 oz? Half an ounce, and yet they’re close to 5″ (12cm) long and have a wingspan of 7.5-8.5″? Feather. Close up It’s inconceivable to me how something that big can weigh that little! The density of pure gold is 19.282 g/cm3, so if a goldfinch were made out of gold, he’d weigh approximately 30 oz or  850 grams. Hawk, red-tailed At the current value of gold, that baby would be worth $36,652. He’d have a lot more than hawks and owls chasing him! 2 Goldfinches with CardinalThe Bible tells us that there’s something worth even more than gold! Do you know what? “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (Psalm 19:7-10). Goldfinch 5.8.14 In spiritual terms, something made of physical gold is as light as a goldfinch. What is truly precious is the weight of glory, which comes from chasing God, not gold. I want to be chasing that which has the greatest value. How about you? *Goldfinch Juvenile



SOS Concerning ISIS

Sunlight in St. Peter's copy 2 Have you been feeling a sense of almost overwhelming discouragement over the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Israel? I have. I believe what’s happening in the Middle East is of global concern, not only for Christians, but for all who suffer oppression under ungodly leadership. As I’ve been praying and anguishing over the plight of the Northern Iraqis under ISIS terrorism, I was encouraged by this message preached by my spiritual brother, Bill Rudd, on “Body Building” (building up the Body of Christ).  If you have time for a spiritual body building message, you can hear it here:  http://www.calvarymuskegon.com/media/

If not, let me give you a quick overview. The text is from Ephesians 1, and the setting is Paul sitting in a Roman prison, waiting to see whether or not he will be freed or beheaded. (He was beheaded, as is happening in the Middle East.) Even in such dire circumstances, Paul wasn’t praying like mad that he’d be freed. He was praying for believers to grow in their faith! Why? Because he wasn’t afraid to die and knew there is something even more important than life on this earth.

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus was three-fold: 1. That they would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God better, both about him and by being in a relationship with him 2. That they would know the richness of the hope that is ours in Christ. In this world of terrible suffering, it’s only “Friday” (so to speak), but Sunday is coming! 3. That they would understand the immeasurable power of God to work good on behalf of those who trust in him. What is the ultimate power? Our promised resurrection. What kind of power can raise someone from the dead? Only something greater than any power on earth. No power of evil, no government, no terrorist group, no power of nature or man or can raise someone from the dead. Only God has the power to raise someone from the dead, and he promised to raise us from the dead, just as he did Jesus! Death is awful, but it’s not the end, and we should not fear death.

Bill read this beautiful closing paragraph of the last chapter of the last book in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia: “But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is not the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All of their life in this world, and all of their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. We’re still awaiting the beginning of  chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

When our hearts are overwhelmed by the plight of those suffering around the world, our single greatest resource is petitioning God for help. Will you join me in praying?

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,  what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:16-20).

Update on Joel: Impressions of Boston

Boston. Aerial viewBoston is one of the oldest and largest cities in America, Granery Burial Ground 1660 but it’s not because it was founded in 1630 Aerial View of Boston or because it has a commuting region of 6.7 million people that gives it gravitas.  Manhattan from the air copyNY’s Big Apple may be the financial and cultural center of the U.S., Harvard Medical School but Boston is the undisputed academic nerve-center of our country and really has been ever since the founding of Harvard (our first and still most revered institution of higher learning) in 1636.MA College of Design Today, there are 60 institutions of higher learning in metropolitan Boston Quincy Market enrolling nearly a quarter of a million students! Joel and Alan Just recently, our youngest son, Joel, swelled that number by one. Northeastern He’s beginning a 5-year PhD program in literature at Northeastern University, Bedroom and so Alan and I went out to visit for a few days. Writing Center Although Joel is studying and teaching at Northeastern, Longwood Medical Area he lives in a Christian community that’s part of the Longwood Medical Area. Backyard He shares a home with 6 other young adults who are all in the medical field. CourtyardAs a mother, I’d been praying for a safe environment with good fellowship for my youngest, Kitchen and you can’t imagine my delight to know that Joel now sits down to dinner on Sunday evenings in a “family” of 7 siblings, of whom he is the youngest Dining Room (as he was in our home as the youngest of 7 siblings). NEU Marino Center While we were in Boston, Joel not only showed us all around his campus, Boston LIbrary he also took us to visit the  Boston Public Library, which is the second- largest Boston Public Librarylibrary in the country (behind only the Library of Congress). Boston Library Study Area The Boston Public Library is one of Joel’s favorite places to write,Boston Library Courtyard and I can see why! MFA During our stay, we also spent an evening in the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts), DSCN7638walked the Freedom Trail, Massachusetts State House toured the Massachusetts State House, Cape Cod with Joel spent a day relaxing in Cape Cod, Boston Commons accidentally happened upon the “M” Fest (“Marijuana”) at the Boston Commons Sunday after church,Emerald Necklace and even discovered Boston’s Emerald Necklace. (Have you ever heard of that?) Northeastern Campus We had so much fun that it might keep me busy for a few weeks telling you all about it, and I’m going to make a new category for my posts Old South Meeting House called “Boston Adventures,” since I’m guessing that over the next 5 years  Alan will be doubly interested in checking out Boston medical meetings! Alan and Joel strolling on Freedom Trail  May the Lord bless and keep Joel—and the millions of young men and women who are away from home studying. If you are away from home in school, or have a beloved young person away from home, or know that before long your son or daughter will be needing to leave home for further training or employment, Strolling Harvard Med School Campus may I encourage you with Boston’s motto? Sicut patribus sit Deus nobis (Latin): “As God was with our fathers, so may He be with us.” DSCN8915 God is able; it’s our responsibility to trust and pray!Harvard Med School Campus“Preserve me, O God; for in thee do I put my trust…The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage…I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved…Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:1,5-6,8,11).

MSU’s Golden Gala: Happy Endings


Wharton Center, E. Lansing. MSULast weekend Alan and I went to the Wharton Center in East Lansing Playbill to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of MSU’s School of Human Medicine. Aerial view of the MSU Marching Band.When I was little, my dad taught at Michigan State,  and we lived right across the street from the main entrance to the campus. My brother, sister, and I used to play at the construction site where they were expanding the Spartan Stadium. (Don’t tell; I think it might have been off-limits, but my sister and I pretty much followed Wolle anywhere on a hike or adventure when we were young.) DSC00020 I could not have imagined that nearly 60 years later I’d be married to an associate professor at MSU… or that the Spartans would become the 2014 Rose Bowl champs the year one of our sons earned 2 M.A. degrees there, or that
MSU would grow to be the nation’s seventh largest university… Sparty with a Stethoscope…or that in 1964 they’d start a school of Human Medicine and I’d be invited to their Golden Gala celebration 50 years later! Lou Anna Simon Both MSU’s President Simon Marsha Rappley

and the medical school’s Dean Rappley mentioned how the university had been “blessed” over the years, and I appreciated their emphasis on using the gifts we’ve been given to serve and care for others. Amen! A happy ending, indeed, although it’s really just the ending of the first chapter in an exciting story that I hope will have many more chapters with happy endings.

Strolling Dinner Beyond the fun of a strolling dinner with an incredibly large selection One Menu of truly memorable foods, Evening Agenda the special entertainment was provided by Broadway’s Tony-Award-Winning Sutton Fostersinger and actress, Sutton Foster, who came on stage wearing Sutton Foster in a Medical Lab Coat a white medical lab coat and spent an hour charming us with a concert of powerful, poignant, and playful love songs. DSC00031We were totally enchanted, but I also found myself feeling the highs and lows of human love relationships. Sutton Foster in Concert

Have you ever appreciated the fact that worship songs are always totally uplifting? They always make me feel happy and high! God loves us forever. God never walks off and leaves us, or cheats on us, or teases us, or breaks our hearts. We fail Him, and we can sometimes turn our backs on Him or walk off and leave Him. We may cheat or be unfaithful, but He never is. He may be angry with us when we sin, but he is compassionate and forgiving when we repent. Loving God and trusting Him is the one love story that always has a happy ending, because when we come to Him by faith and entrust our lives to Him, He promises that some day He will take us home to be with him and all our troubles and tribulations will be over. In the end, everything will be more than worth it all— everything will be unbelievably wonderful! Praise God for happy endings!

“In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.”
(Isaiah 54:8)
[Aerial view of the Spartan Stadium from Wikipedia]

Rise Up, My Love (103): Jehovah-Jireh

Grand Tetons  copySong of Solomon 4:8 “Look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon…” Where does our heavenly husband want us to go with him? From the fragrant forests nestled in the bosom of this earth to a mountain top experience with him. It is a call to spiritual elevation, to the heavenly perspective. He calls us to climb up, up, up with him until we can see what he sees. He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

Why should he want us to leave the security and pleasure of the scented cedars of Lebanon? Have you ever walked through a cedar forest? The closest thing we have in America are the great sequoia trees in California, and anyone who has spent time meandering through John Muir Woods or Sequoia National Park knows the marvel of their majesty. It is perhaps my husband’s favorite place to visit…so restful…so meditative. There is an indescribable sense of serenity and peace that comes when you are lulled to sleep at night by the wind whispering through these primeval giants, some 2,000 or more years old.

The cedars of Lebanon were very similar, only fragrant as well as magnificent! The cedars grew to be 120’ tall and as much as 30-40’ in girth. About ten feet from the ground, the sweetly scented branches spread out and formed a thick canopy, making a welcome shade from the hot sun of the Middle East. To have lodged in the magnificent forests of Lebanon would have been delightful indeed!

What would ever motivate someone to leave such a lovely spot? This: Solomon was not just a rich man, free to pursue the pleasures of this life. Solomon was the king, and his wife now had the calling of reigning at his side. She had to know more than the pleasant beauties of this earth—she had to see the length and breadth and depth of her calling. She had to see the vastness of the kingdom and understand her responsibilities. Similarly, the Lord calls us away from a life of ease and pleasure to go up the mountainside so that we may sense the vastness of our calling and responsibility. We need a higher perspective than that which is possible from our comfortable homes and lives resting securely in the bosom of this world…the “forest floor.” As Abraham learned through the terrifying obedience of offering his one and only son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah: “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14). It is only as we’re willing to give up everything to obey God—even our most cherished possession—that we climb with him up the mountain side and begin to see life from God’s perspective. Can we refuse such a call? Do you want to see the world from God’s viewpoint? If so, let’s keep climbing with Him, our Jehovah-jireh: “In the mount of the Lord, it shall be seen!”


The Armstrong Archives (103): Fun for Kindergarten and Triple Birthdays

1981 Aaron + MikeWednesday, September 30, 1981 Well, we’ve finally conquered yet another round of colds, ear infections, and croup. It seems someone is always sick! You’d think we don’t live right, but I don’t know what to do differently to get the kids any more germ-resistant.

School’s going just fine for Aaron. He now has an extended repertoire of songs and poems, etc. to tell Jon (and Mike) as he drifts off to sleep. Tonight he was even telling Jon the Pledge of Allegiance.

Did I tell you about Aaron’s Wonder Book? I got him a notebook when he started school for questions and ideas. He draws pictures to remind himself, and then after school we look up the answers to his questions—so far mostly from the encyclopedias. It is a great tradition…our “homework” [It was just my idea, not really from the school], and even Michael enjoys it. You’ll have to look at it when you come. I’m learning fully as much as the boys. It’s very exciting! Legos. Little Giant JonIt’s been cold and rainy here—but little do we care since we’ve just been sitting inside playing legos and listening to stories. I’ve been busy taping stories. The boys are hot to have all the Pooh Bear stories taped. Right now we’re doing some simple ones: Dr. Seuss, Curious George, and Babar…which may not have even been popular when you were reading to small boys. I’ve also solicited for some help from Boris Karloff and have a couple of records of him reading Kipling’s Just So Stories. The boys have gotten into poetry a little lately too. They just loved Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six, so I’m going to try them on Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses tomorrow. We went to both the Main Library and our Loving Branch today, and I had just gone a couple of days ago. Aaron has scheduled “a walk in the woods, legos, and a lot of reading” for his birthday, so I wanted to BE PREPARED! Aaron's 6th BirthdaySaturday we’re going to have a birthday party for both boys, and Saturday night Alan is going to take me out for dinner for my birthday. Aaron requested that we all go to the Ponderosa Friday night and have cheesecake for his birthday. (I could hardly have thought of a better plan myself!) Alan agreed to take us, so I lucked out! Nice to have a son with similar tastes. [Aaron and I share a birthday, so it’s been fun over the years to celebrate almost all our birthdays together!]Aaron's Birthday 1981Michael wants a chocolate cake with flowers and rocket ships. He’s really growing! Jacques was an awful crab last week with his cold. He’s developing quite a spicy personality and becomes more of a ham every day. He’s so lovable though, that we all forgive him his antics. [As I’m transcribing this bit of info, I have on my computer desktop a wild picture of about a 27-year-old Jon with a dew rag on his head and his Saturday night live crazy stance! Some things never change!] I’ll call when I know what we’re doing. MIke's 4th Birthday