Joel was born in Marquette (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), so it was just natural that he had a hankering for one last trip north before leaving for Boston this fall. Alan drove through the night while Stephen, Joel, and I slept peacefully in the motor home, and by the time we awoke, the sun was just rising behind Picnic Rocks. We knew that trying to stuff all our favorite things into one day was going to be challenging, but we started with breakfast at the Big Boy. (I worked many a summer at a Big Boy in the Soo during high school and college.) Having fortified ourselves for adventures, we climbed straight to the top of Sugar Loaf Mt. (which I noticed is rated #1 of 12 attractions in Marquette, both by Trip Advisor and by us). The views were spectacular! We watched the morning sun splashing silver all across the vast Lake Superior coastline. It was a perfect summer day, and we all relished drinking in the vistas. To the west of Sugar Loaf stands Hogback Mountain, the highest peak in the area and a serious hiking adventure the kids have enjoyed since earliest childhood. If we’d had another day, we’d have climbed, but with only one day to savor, we decided to hit the beach just below us at Wetmore Landing instead. Before heading down, however, we stopped to pick some “Sugar Plums” (also known as Service berries, but we prefer the more romantic title). Stephen and Joel headed down the fast and furious way, scrambling over rocks, but Alan and I took the tried and true path using (many) handy-dandy staircases. By the time we hit the beach, the guys were definitely ready for a stroll and a good swim, but Alan and I had countless memories of hiking the North Country Trail here, so we left our guys jumping off the rocks and headed into the woods, as we’ve done so many times before. The path wends its way through sun-dappled woodlands along the coast… through glorious stands of fragrant red pines and beautiful white paper birches. The water is cold but crystal clear.There are many quiet coves for picnicking, and the thimble berries were just ripening, so there were lots of free snacks! Of course, you’d better know what you’re doing before you pick wild berries. Blue-bead lilies look tempting, but they’re poisonous…and what about these beauties? Know what these are? The fact is, there are all sorts of edible and inedible plants around, and as I mentioned yesterday, some are life-giving…but others are deadly! Happily, we didn’t eat anything poisonous…’cause if we don’t know for a fact it’s safe, we just don’t even try! Also, we didn’t get lost on our trip because the North Country Trail is an old, well-marked path that we’ve traveled many times.Our guys had lots of safe fun too, because they were careful about where they jumped (although I had a friend who was killed in high school when he dove into Lake Superior head first). In all, it was a glorious morning on our “roots” tour…but then, it was time for lunch, and it’s time for me to make dinner, so I’ll have to tell you about our afternoon adventures “next time!”
The Pacific Northwest is a magnificent region of America, but I hadn’t realized that Oregon is such a popular tourist destination until I wrote about our reunion. One friend wrote immediately to tell me that her brother lives in Bend, and they visit annually because there’s no end of recreational possibilities. I have an in-law niece whose family is going to Bend next summer for a reunion. A week after we returned, I discovered that a cousin’s family had just celebrated with her family at a reunion in Oregon. (In this picture, they’re at Crater Lake.) The following week I saw pictures on Facebook of friends who’d been white water rafting on Oregon’s Rogue River! All this to say, what was yesteryear’s disaster can become tomorrow’s delight! The Newberry Volcano that erupted thousands of years ago extinguished every trace of life under an avalanche of lava and ash. When my sister moved from Oregon’s fertile coast land to Bend, she exchanged her beloved bed of roses for a rock garden, lamenting that earth encrusted with glass-like lava precludes the possibility of maintaining lush greenery. And, this proved true as we wound our way through Lava Lands Visitor Center and drove to the top of Lava Butte. However, the children kept noticing that here and there amidst the barrenness there were bushes full of translucent red berries that looked like currants. Some flower charts along the trail confirmed our hopes. The berries were not only edible, they’d been an important ingredient in making pemmican, which helped pioneers survive as they toiled along the Oregon Trail during the westward expansion of America during the 1800s. (Come to think of it, Oregon has been a popular “tourist” destination ever since explorers and trappers discovered it centuries ago! 🙂 )At any rate, it thrilled me to discover that God used this desolate wilderness to help support life. (Even Reid liked the berries.)I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some volcanic eruptions in my life that left me so devastated I didn’t know if I’d ever survive or recover. Nevertheless, like this tenacious old pine, God can bring us through and cause us to bloom again. We might never be a world-class rose garden… but God can bring beauty and help support life from the ashes if we’ll let Him.
“O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field” (Joel 1:19).
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me, with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”
“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.”
(Photo Credits: Picture of Crater Lake, by Heather C.; Picture of Rogue River by Andrea L.; painting of the Oregon Trail by Albert Bierstadt; aerial photograph of Lava Butte by Oregon Tour and Travel Alliance; I took the rest.)
Song of Solomon 4:7 “Thou art all fair my love; there is no spot in thee.” Our mortal minds stand amazed in the presence of such a declaration. Humans say that “love is blind,” but no one can level such an accusation at the Lord! He is not blind, so how is it possible that our heavenly lover can see us as completely beautiful and spotless?
Only God can love us with perfect, unconditional love, and only unconditional love could make such a declaration as this! “All fair…not spot…” perfect in beauty; perfect in holiness.
“Oh worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (I Chronicles 16:29). This we do eagerly, for Christ is truly the perfection of beauty and holiness, but how can He declare that we are perfectly beautiful and perfectly pure?
This is another of the mysteries of the ages proclaimed in The Song of Solomon, but it will be the cause of unending joy and praise in heaven. “For he [God] hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Jesus took our sin upon himself and gave us his righteousness. As foreshadowed by Jonathan stripping off his princely robes and exchanging with David, because Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” (I Samuel 18:3-4), so our Lord also “stripped himself of the robe that was upon him…” His robe of righteousness…and gave it to us, “and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”
Jesus gave us his garments: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). The garments that Jesus provided for us were not only the glorious robes of salvation and sanctification, they were his princely robes—glittering symbols of his right to reign—and through them we have been made “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). As King Solomon and his bride stood decked with ornaments and jewels, so we stand (positionally) and will stand (in final reality) as the bride of Christ without spot or wrinkle…holy and unblemished (Ephesians 5:27), not because of our own righteousness, but because we are made righteous by the transmission of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). By this miracle, God can and will declare: “there is no spot in thee.”
Jesus gave us his garments, but from the picture of David and Jonathan, we see reflections of the truths that Jesus also gives us the “sword” of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17), and the “girdle” of truth to strengthen us in standing firm (Ephesians 6:14). He gives us the shield of faith to protect us from all Satan’s lies (Ephesians 6:16); but, does God give us a “bow”?
There is no record in Scripture of the Lord giving us a set of spiritual bows and arrows. In Psalm 44:6, we are told, “I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.” Revelation 6:2 declares, “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” We are not given a bow with arrows because we are specifically told that our protection is in Christ himself, who has a bow and goes forth “conquering and to conquer” for us.
But, there is a sense in which we are given a bow: “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:13). We are not given a bow with arrows so that we may destroy our enemies, but we are given a bow of promise so that we may be saved from our enemies—the rainbow. And someday, when “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John.3:2), we shall be surrounded by radiant colors of light like the rainbow surrounding the throne of God (Revelation 4:3; 10:1)!
“As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28). In Solomon’s supernal love song, the Lord Jesus sees us in him…as we will be reigning with him: our bodies transformed into the likeness of his perfections, burning with the radiant brightness of his glory, robed with the garments of his spotless purity!
May we look with the eye of faith at ourselves even as our heavenly bridegroom looks with the his eternal eye at us. May we breathe in the wonder of its delight. May the marvel of this mystery revealed seep through every fiber of our being until we feel his unconditional love and acceptance flowing through us without obstruction. May we grasp our infinite worth to him because of his infinite love for us!
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?” (American Folk Hymn). Jesus took our sins upon himself and decked us with his spotless robes of righteousness, so that when he sees us, he looks not on our sin, but on his spotlessness! Thank you, Lord, for the perfections of your provisions and your everlasting love.
Then, may we also view our spouses as he does, so that we are able to say with him, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”
Sunday, August 7, ’81 It’s one of those beautiful August days out, and would you believe we’re all inside? Jacque is sleeping, Michael’s in the sandbox beside me, Aaron’s listening to the Nutcracker Suite (which is quite a story as well as quite a musical masterpiece), and Alan is taking a Sunday afternoon nap (which is an almost unheard of treat). Jonathan and Michael were a little sick this morning, so I babysat them while Aaron and Alan went to church and made rounds at the hospital. I think Aaron watched cartoons during part of Alan’s rounding. He has been very interested in becoming a T.V. cartoonist lately and spends hours drawing backgrounds for his productions (which are usually puppet shows for the neighbors). His rationale for becoming a cartoonist is that “then you and Dad will have to buy us a T.V. because cartoons will be so good you won’t be able to stand it!” Maybe so, but I’ve noticed an increasing number of our friends who are getting rid of theirs. [We never had a T.V. I remember watching one of our neighbors heave theirs into the dumpster!] Aaron has also been spurred on to great artistic ambitions because he got an “honorable mention” for his drawing of Kermit the Frog at a local McDonald’s coloring contest. I think the judges gave out lots of honorable mentions and can’t imagine ever having an artistically gifted child since I’m just about a flat zero when it comes to art. Alan claims to be no better (although he is); he also says he can’t sing, and he sings just fine. Anyway, I’m doing everything I can think of to encourage the boys because I am a great admirer of such skills and hope that they don’t get discouraged. My “campus brother” in college was marvelous, and he said it was strictly practice. He began drawing at three and just kept on working until he figured out how to make things look right. I suppose it’s some combination of gift and grit.
Meanwhile, I’m gritting it out on my thesis and loving every minute of it. It couldn’t have come at a better time because I’m not only interested and enjoying it, it’s down right fun for me! As is always the case, it’s turning out to be a great deal of work, but as long as no one puts too much pressure on me, it gives me a worthwhile occupation during Jon’s nap time—in between reading of Pooh Bear and Charlotte’s Web, games of hide and seek, and other such adventures, of course! My thesis committee chairman is very supportive and helpful, and I feel extremely blessed to have ended up with him.
Last weekend we went up to Petoskey, Michigan, to interview and look around. Alan is very interested in working there. It is a super clinic and a beautiful area. However, in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine, he noticed that they were advertising, so there will doubtless be many applicants for the job. Last time they looked for an internist, 140 doctors applied. At present, the only thing he’s even more interested in is staying right in Ann Arbor and joining a local internist who has invited Alan to join him. There are lots of advantages in either situation, and it would be hard to make a choice. Perhaps the choice will be made for us. A verse that has been helpful to me is Proverbs 24:27, “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.” To me that meant, “Let Alan find the best working situation, and everything else will fall into place…or I should say, everything else can be put into place.” Aaron and I went to interview at Faithway Christian Academy last week. [What I didn’t share in this family letter was that our old car had a bad carburetor and wouldn’t start without pouring gas on it. I kept a can of gas in the trunk for such purposes. However, the day of Aaron’s interview, the car wouldn’t start at all! Fortunately for us, one of Alan’s friends (who was the resident chief of staff) came by in an SUV and rescued us, pushing the car until I could get it to start! We weren’t even late for the interview, much to my great relief! Thank you, Dave Scrase, and Praise the Lord!] It’s hard to believe he’s going to be in kindergarten in just one month. Michael will be awfully lonesome, but he’s transitioning into my chief chef’s helper and family sugar. He is so affectionate and loyal, to all of us, and Jonathan continues to keep us entertained. Well, I’m out of room, and I wanted to tell you about getting to see my “bestest buddy” from high school, Brenda, and Tom and four kids. Wish I could see everybody!
I forgot to mention how much we all loved your peas and beans! That was so sweet of you to share them with us! We never got a single meal of peas out of our garden because they were all eaten “on the hoof.” We only had one row of beans and served them for company, and I served our broccoli last weekend while the Benedicts were here. We have surpluses of peppers and zucchini, so I’m going to freeze some today. Wish we could feed you two some of our garden goodies! Things seem miserably busy around here. Alan’s been working almost every night. Michael, JJ, and I have the summer flu (mild) this week. I’ll be glad for vacation next week! Aaron told me this morning “we should send for Grandma—she’d rescue us!” Actually, we’ll survive, but I told him if we were living in Petoskey we just might be able to sometime. (I wouldn’t want you around us when we’re sick!)
Wednesday, August 19, 1981
[This was a letter dictated by Aaron (on Lowly Worm stationery) to Grandma and Grandpa. It also had AARON printed on it and a crayon drawing of a castle.]
Hi Grandma and Grandpa!
Dad’s gone to work, and we’re almost on vacation, and we have a new robot paper holder that I just made out of pushups. And, we’re just eating lunch, and Michael and I have been playing with our little book with Sergeant Murphy. Jon’s eating cheese, but he’s messy. We got a zucchini and three tomatoes out of our garden, and we’ve had broccoli and corn.
PS—I’m going to school soon!
Kathy called last week to see if we wanted to join her family at the John Ball Zoo. It was a perfect day, & Stephen could come too, so we zipped right off to dah zoo! The kids love watching the animals, but I enjoy watching the kids just as much. And, of course, the animals like watching the all the crazy people too! One of the special delights is watching Iris’s understanding grow and change. This time she understood the shadowy image that was lurking behind the glass. What is he doing? Is he trying to talk like this? Is he a fish like we eat?? Oliver’s almost 1. He doesn’t see the fish, and he has no clue what a fish is,
but he sees his reflection in the glass, and that fascinates him! Oliver sees the budgies, but when they try to eat, he wants to touch them. Iris has it all figured out and knows you have to hold very still to feed a budgie. Being a big girl now (2), she’s even learning how to let them sit right on her stick. Iris has learned that if you’re quiet and gentle, the lambs are safe to pet, but Olie isn’t at all sure what to make of a great big lamb that bellows “Baaaa!”Now, chickens are more Oliver’s speed and a somewhat less intimidating size… but they’re way too cagey and experienced to be apprehended by such a little tyke. Having lost his prey under the table, Oliver decides to climb aboard and see if there might be a little smackerel of something yummy for elevensies. Now Oliver is full again, but he just can’t figure out why everybody is so excited! The otters in this exhibit move so fast he can’t follow their antics… and the turtles in this exhibit virtually never move at all.
So…is there really anything to see? What’s the fascination with the old folks?Iris can’t really pick out the four turtles either, but she likes feeling the mock-up. The most impressive animals this trip are the bears, who are very active. Iris thinks the bears look cuddly and keeps asking if she can ride one. She doesn’t know about long claws and sharp teeth, but it’s okay. She’s safe with her parents, and I’m sure when she’s big enough to understand, they’ll explain! Watching the kids makes me think of how we learn about God in the Bible. At first, nothing much makes sense to us at all! Like a fast chicken, Romans is too hard, and like a slow turtle, books like Leviticus and Numbers…well, what?? As we get a little older, we begin to get curious and want to learn more. We read about captivity and freedom, and lurking danger. We learn about the God of grace and beauty who created the world and loves us, and we long for the quiet rest He promises to those who put their trust in Him. Some passages are almost impenetrable, which is why it’s so important to have spiritual mentors in our lives who love us and will do their best to train us and help us grow up!
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and for ever.”
(2 Peter 3:18)
“Birds of a feather flock together.” Okay, so today I promised to tell you about Grackles, the hoods of our backyard bird population, but it occurred to me that the meaning of the slang term “hood” may have changed somewhat in the 40 years. When I was a girl, the term “hood” was slang for “hoodlum” and roughly synonymous with “ghetto dweller”…the big bullies who were on their way to becoming “gangstas” or “thugs” unless something redirected their path away from poverty and crime to a more life of more virtuous industry. If any of you saw “General Knowledge” at Disney…hoods were the guys who threatened the new girl until a geeky little boy interceded with: “You should think about the negative ramifications of your anti-social behavior” (which, of course, just started a junior-high cafeteria food fight)! Those were the days, but better than the gangs and guns with which this generation has to contend! So, why am I so hard on grackles? They are big, black (with a bluish sheen to their head) and beautiful, but they’re unmannerly and can be downright mean. The females look very similar, only a bit smaller, duller, and with shorter tail feathers. Grackles like to nest in pine trees near water, but they’re very adaptable. They sometimes congregate in vast numbers, even in cities, such as Little Rock, Arkansas, where an estimated 15 million gathered during the Christmas of 1979. They adapt well to urbanization and are unafraid of people, waiting for food to drop and chasing away feathered competitors. Grackles are omnivorous, and in some areas they’re a severe threat to farmers because they love grain. They tend to form gangs and are known to rob other birds rather than searching for food themselves. They love bird feeders but frighten off the other birds. I’ve read reports of grackles killing sparrows apparently for the sheer fun of it, but they’ve also been observed eating small birds and mice, as well as following robins around, stealing the worms the robins dig up. So, what can we learn from the grackles? For one thing, grackles were born the way they are; they’re unlikely to change, so the rest of us birds have to learn how to negotiate their presence and coexist as peacefully as possible. At church last week, our pastor asked a group of about 50 young children what they could do at school to live godly lives. One little fellow piped up, “Try to be kind to the bullies.” Bravo, young man! Any bullies in your life? Doubtless! Like the grackles, they’re everywhere. I’ve heard you can discourage grackles by taking away your bird feeder, but that’s hard on all the birds. Better to be kind to every bird, the way God is, and hope that kindness will lead them to the Kind One. He alone is the miracle worker who can change hearts and renew lives! “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23) “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45) Oh that we could love broken hearts into the Kingdom…
“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others.” —African Proverb Last Sunday night Alan, Stephen, and I had the rare privilege of attending Hillsong’s No Other Name concert at Resurrection Life Church here in GR. There were long lines and huge, happy crowds waiting for the doors to open, and I’m guessing it was a sold-out program. It was definitely a sold-out group of thousands of Christians, who seemed to know and sing every song with passionate energy. In fact, sound waves were bouncing off the walls and the entire balcony was vibrating under the influence of all that exuberant joy! But, it wasn’t only worship. It was an evangelistic service where the gospel was preached, & it was a time of challenge for those of us who already love the Lord… a challenge to do something about the 27 million people who are now trapped in the human trafficking industry. (This is the second fastest-growing crime in the world, with more slaves on earth today than ever before in the world…Google “help for victims of human trafficking” for more info.) We were also offered an opportunity to help support one of the 153 million (+?) orphans in the world. (Compassion International has an option to adopt a child with your birth date, which I think is especially meaningful.) At any rate, I left with a poignant mixture of heartache and joy similar to the way I feel returning from a mission trip: burdened but full of renewed enthusiasm for sharing the hope of Christ with the world! There’s way too much info to make a coherent post out of all that’s been rumbling ’round in my heart, but let me just pass along this thought from a lecture by Wes Granberg-Michaelson that my son Jonathan orchestrated as part of a series on how to navigate the changes in world Christianity. What is this wonderful gospel that we Christians keep getting so excited about? According to Wes (and I agree): “What do we mean by the transforming power of the gospel in the lives of people and the world? This is a spiritual power embedded in the material world which moves beyond the rational mind and is experienced in the community of believers.” “So the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms one’s individual life, through the Spirit, incorporating him or her into a community that is shaped by the empowering work of the same Spirit, and that community expresses its life through joining in God’s mission, offering the gift of life to all and directed toward the healing of all creation.” “Our theological task is to constantly weave and pull together each part of this transforming work of God.” That’s a mouthful, but I think if we could embrace this mission as a group of believers from every race and nation, we could truly impact our world in a wonderfully positive way. Hillsong came all the way from Australia to light a fire here in the U.S., and I hope we keep it burning! I want to walk far and together. You too?!“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:12, ESV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”(Romans 1:16) “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive…”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-6, ESV) “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Today is just one month from my 64th birthday, and my computer is on the blink. 😦 Therefore, you’re going to get a zany forward that I’d prepared ahead to share this Friday. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!Time for Maxine’s annual Senior Dementia Test. Don’t cheat, follow the instructions, and good luck!
It’s that time of year for us to take our annual senior citizen test. Exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. As we grow older, it’s important to keep mentally alert. If you don’t use it, you lose it! Below is a very private way to gauge how your memory compares to the last test. Some may think it is too easy but the ones with memory problems may have difficulty. Take the test presented here to determine if you’re losing it or not.
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” — Martin Luther King Jr. “Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them.” –Joseph Joubert “Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” –Theodore Roosevelt “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” –Thomas Jefferson “Nothing will work unless you do.” –Maya Angelou “There is no labor a person does that is undignified — if they do it right.”
–Bill Cosby “Find something that you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” –Julia Child “The only place success comes before work is the dictionary.” –Vince Lombardi