Rise Up, My Love (171): Like a Bed of Spices

Fullness of a beard like spicesSong of Solomon 5:13 “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers:” The cheeks of the bridegroom—doubtless enhanced by a full beard—reminded his wife of a well manicured garden bed, rich with spices and perfumed with flowers. Have you ever enjoyed a spice garden? When our children very young, we lived near a lovely botanical garden. One of my favorite walks meandered along a woodland path, and near the end of the trail…in a tiny, sheltered meadow…was a circular herb garden with a plethora of fragrant spices arranged in neat beds shaped like the spokes of a wheel. The symmetric design was most appealing, and the soft fullness of the greenery made you just want to reach out and touch the plants. But best of all, when you got very near, you could smell the delicate aromas of the spices.

Perhaps it was this type of visual and olfactory imagery that the bride had in mind. The lines of his abundant beard and rich black hair framing his face like a circular garden…the softness of his beard begging to be touched…the delicate aroma of his skin and hair, drawing her ever nearer.

SON OF GOD, Diogo Morgado as Jesus Christ, 2014. ph: Joe Alblas/TM copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved/courtesy Everett Collection

King Solomon’s cheeks were not only dignified by a manly beard, they were fragranced with perfume. Modern men sometimes splash on cologne or after-shave, but ancient men anointed themselves with spiced oils. In Psalm 133, dwelling together in unity is likened to the fragrance of precious ointment anointing the head and flowing down upon a beard…”even the beard of Aaron,” the high priest. Surely this is the picture we see! Our greater than Solomon is also our high priest forever (Hebrews 6:20)…graced with the beard of manhood and fragranced with the oil of the Holy Spirit…making the way for us as his bride to “dwell together in unity” with him! gods-own-hill-station-1aPrecious Messiah, of whom it was prophesied: “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50:6). Dear Jesus, who lived out that awful abuse (Matthew 27). We are told in Isaiah 52:14, “As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” Our precious Lord and Christ was mercilessly abused and tortured for us. In this world, his beard was not well groomed and fragrant. It was pulled out and matted with blood. “Marred more than any man.” My soul groans and wants to turn away from even imagining the one I love more than any other so hideously mistreated. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Those of us who know him—look at him. All that he suffered was out of love for us. If you do not know him—look at him. This is what he did…for you. For me, but also for you and all the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Have you turned to him for forgiveness of sins and salvation? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). It is my prayer that not even one person who reads this book will turn away from Christ, but that all will experience the wonder of his love and forgiveness and grow to see and love him as he is: our glorious bridegroom.

(Picture of the hill of spices from “God’s Own Hill” website):  http://completewellbeing.com/article/gods-own-hill-station/#comment-20289
Picture of Diogo Morgado as Jesus from the net.

Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Baby’s Eleventh Month, Week 46)

Baby Playing with Toes316. The Amazing Gift of Love

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

PRAYER: Father, you are our almighty God…God over all, our Jehovah-Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God who saves us. I can’t fathom that you joy over infinitesimal me with singing…but thank you!! May I always rest in your love and joy over you too!

THOUGHT: My sister lamented that she couldn’t even find time to brush her teeth after her daughter was born. I identify! However, I believe all mothers need, as a bare minimum, at least 20 minutes a day to get cleaned up (providing for your own body), 20 minutes a day to have a quiet devotional time with the Lord (feeding your spirit), and 20 minutes a day for emotional uplift, either by exercising, reading, or pursuing some activity that makes you feel good about yourself and builds you up (feeding your soul). It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in twenty minutes of concentrated effort, and I suspect three 20-minute intervals over the course of the day—particularly during times when Baby is sleeping or has recently awakened and her needs have been met—might work wonders for a mother’s disposition without totally frustrating Baby. Remember, we are to love others “as we love ourselves,” so love yourself and take care of yourself as well as taking care of Baby. If she cries because she can’t have 100% of your attention whenever she’s awake, then she will have to learn a bit about patience, self-control, and sharing!

ACTIVITY: How about singing this precious song to Baby often:

Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in her sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world!”
(Clare Herbert Woolston, 1856-1927)

Merry-go-round24 (9)317. Merry-Go-Round and Get Out Before You Go Crazy!

“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”
Psalm 96:9

PRAYER: Oh, beautiful, holy LORD, I worship you today. May all the earth learn to fear you, love you, and worship you as you deserve. Truly, you are the Ancient of Days, the omnipotent Elohim, Jehovah-Gmolah—the God of judgment and vengeance. You are holy and demand holiness. Help us to worship you in the beauty of holiness.

THOUGHT: My best friend during the days of being “residents’ widows” together (both husbands were medical residents and seemed to be gone more than they were home) used to call me on the phone every once in a while and say, “Mrs. Armstrong, are you going crazy?” My response was generally, “Yes! Are you too?” Her solution was: “Then let’s take the kids and walk the mall!” In Ann Arbor, there was a beautiful mall with a water fountain and a lovely play area for children. I don’t ever remember actually doing any serious shopping on such occasions, but we sure had fun being together, and the kids loved having the freedom to play in a park-like setting even in the winter. I still feel very close to Susie, even though almost 40 years have passed. Take time for friends!

ACTIVITY: Outings are such fun. Of course the great out of doors and a public park may be the best place for an outing, but when the weather is inclement, consider taking your little one to a mall or museum to explore. If you have a close friend to share the experience with, that’s double the fun! Don’t be afraid to reach out. Your friends are probably “going crazy” too and would love a break! If you’re really feeling rich, go to some inexpensive lunch spot with a play area for babies as well as some tables where you and your friend can sip lattes and relax together. Take time to enjoy life. It travels fast!

Standing318. Communing and Climbing

“O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs,
let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice,
and thy countenance is comely.” Song of Solomon 2:14

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, I know Isaiah prophesied that Jesus was not compellingly handsome physically when he was on earth, but I believe with all my heart that there will never be a voice any more dear, nor a countenance any more appealing than that of my dear Savior. Please bless us, Lord. May we hear your voice and behold your beautiful glory. May we learn to commune with you in the secret places of the stairs.

THOUGHT: Do you have sweet communion with Baby every day, even if just for a few moments? Although both intimacy and efficiency are necessary for a smooth existence, value intimacy even more highly than efficiency!

ACTIVITY: Once Baby gets good at climbing, she might enjoy a series of “Climbing Traps” as I used to call them. Get some free boxes from a local grocery store (if you call ahead, they will usually save you some when they restock at night) and set them in various places around the house, secured to the floor with some books or a few bricks (whatever you have lying around that’s heavy and unbreakable). The ideal size is really not very big…maybe a foot high and 20” length and depth (give or take a few inches.) These boxes will provide lots of interest and challenge for Baby. They will serve as a maze when she’s crawling and a slalom course when she’s walking; they provide lots of convenient places to climb up and re-launch when she’s learning to walk; and if they’re sturdy enough (flaps interlaced and securely taped to make sure she doesn’t fall through and hit her face on a brick), she may even attempt to climb on them.

Bible Story Book Reading to Baby319. Treasuring the B-I-B-L-E

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua 1:8

PRAYER: Oh, Father, you are the wisdom of the ages. Thank you for giving us the Bible to teach us all your laws and ways. I know you have given us your word as a guidebook because you love us and want us to experience true joy and success. Please bless Baby and me with willing hearts to understand and obey you. Please help us to meditate day and night on your word, the Bible, and I pray that you would make our ways prosperous and very successful. May our lives bring glory to you and blessing to all around us.

THOUGHT: Make God’s Word your moral compass, and it will point you to the Truth.

Guitar. Finger picking..12.12.15.ACTIVITY: If you’ve got a piano or guitar and a music lover baby, try your little student with a first music lesson! How about putting Baby on your lap and teaching him how to use one chubby finger to press one key and make one note? If he can’t be talked out of simply banging with both hands, then it’s probably not time quite yet. But, if he likes the game of touching one key with one finger and making a sound, you can very quickly give him the idea that simple songs can be played on the piano. At a very early age (2-3), most of our kids enjoyed having me move their hands to the right spot to clunk out “Jesus Loves Me,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and other simple tunes.

The B-I-B-L-E
“Oh! The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes that’s the book for me.
I stand alone on the word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E!” (Author Unknown)

Baby wrapped in bath towel320. A Bushel and a Peck of Kisses

“I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”
Proverbs 8:17

PRAYER: Oh Father, thank you for loving me when there was no reason. I was hopelessly selfish and blind to your love. I didn’t honor you or even know you, and yet you knew me and gave me the greatest honor: you sent your Son to die for me so that I might live for love of you! Thank you for transforming my heart. Please keep transforming my heart, and please transform Baby’s heart too. May we live to love you!

THOUGHT: If you are affectionate and warm, it usually doesn’t take many months before Baby will be attempting to return the favor by hugging and kissing you too!

ACTIVITY: Have you tried to teach Baby to give you kisses yet? If not, try this: Get right in front of Baby’s face (just a foot or two away, or possibly holding her in your arms if she likes being held) where she can see you, and then purse your lips and make smacking sounds, like you’re kissing her, but don’t actually kiss her. Next, actually kiss her cheek, making the same smacking sound. Then, announce, “Mama kiss Baby!” and kiss her again. Finally, ask, “Baby kiss Mama?” and put your cheek against her mouth, making the same smacking sounds. See if you can get her to give you a kiss!

I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

I love you a bu              shel and a peck,
a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap,
A barrel and a heap and I’m talking in my sleep about you,
About you, ’cause I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck though you make my heart a wreck.
Make my heart a wreck and you make my life a mess!
Make my life a mess, yes a mess of happiness,
‘Cause I love you a bushel and a peck
You bet your purdy neck I do!
(—Frank Loesser)

Kathi and Samuel321.Chastening out of Love

“The Lord will not cast off for ever; but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33

PRAYER: Oh, precious Father, thank you for the times when you chasten me. I just hate, hate, hate the pain of your rod, but I know by faith that you chasten me because you love me and want me to walk in purity and holiness. Please search my heart, show me my sins, help me to acknowledge them, repent, and try to make things right with those I’ve hurt, and then help me to heal up and recover from the pain. Please help me to be a faithful mother to Baby too, so that I’m willing to chasten him when he rebels, not out of anger because he’s at fault, but out of love, so that he will grow up to be wise and good.

THOUGHT: God communicates with us both in simple, obvious ways, and in mysterious ways that we have to ponder and sometimes grow into understanding.

ACTIVITY: This isn’t exactly a game to play for five minutes, but it’s something to think about and perhaps try to do especially today, and then to continue practicing whenever you have the time and energy in the future. It is the concept of using Double Speech. Now that Baby is beginning to understand language, it is important to communicate both with simple language that he may readily understand, and with more complete explanations that he may only understand in bits and pieces. For example, you might say, “Mommy and Baby go!” But, as you’re helping Baby get dressed and ready, you might explain, “We’re getting all ready to go out for a walk around the block!” (Or to church, a friend’s home, or whatever.)

Baby Peeking Through Door322. Seeking and Finding

“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:40

PRAYER: Oh Holy Spirit, fill our lives and turn our hearts to God today and every day!

THOUGHT: It is our responsibility to seek the Lord, although God promises to make himself known to us if we will search for him with all our hearts. May we continue day by day to “draw near to God,” knowing that he will then draw near to us.

ACTIVITY: Here’s another version of Hide and Seek. Start with Baby on your lap. Have Daddy come and kiss Baby, then disappear somewhere out of sight. Put Baby down on the floor and let him search for Daddy (or help him look if he doesn’t understand). If he can’t find Daddy right away, let Daddy know, so he can call to Baby from his hiding spot. If Daddy’s not available, you can try the game yourself, just by setting Baby down on the floor, giving him a kiss, and running quickly away, saying, “Come find me!” playfully. If Baby just cries and doesn’t understand that it’s a game, then don’t frighten him by repeating the game until you have a third person who can help him learn how to play.

There are several songs about seeking the Lord that are simple and beautiful. Two of my favorites are “Seek Ye the Lord,” by Karen Lafferty, and “You Are my Hiding Place” by Michael James Ledner. Another lovely children’s chorus is this:

Seek Ye The Lord While He May Be Found

Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near.
Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near.
Then shall the righteousness; then shall the righteousness; then shall the righteousness
And the glory of the Lord (Glory of the Lord)
And the glory of the Lord (Glory of the Lord)
And the glory of the Lord (Glory of the Lord)
Be everywhere
The glory of the Lord shall be everywhere; the glory of the Lord shall be everywhere.
(—Cameroonian Kids Song)

Visions of Life from Hiking in the French Alps

Wild roses in French AlpsAs I reflect on our trip to France last summer,
it occurs to me that life for most of us is very much like mountain climbing. Lupines. French AlpsUsing a wondrous afternoon of hiking in the Alps for inspiration and examples, may I share a few of the ideas that occurred to me during that climb? Paul's Hiking in French Alps. Starting the hike#1. I realized that, as much as possible, I (we) need to hike in company with others who share similar values & purposes if we really want to reach our goals. Magnificent French AlpsWhere is it we’re going? What is it that we want to accomplish? Photographing Wild lilies in the French Alps#2. We need to choose friends who share our vision…Hot and Sweaty after our climb in the Alpswho will climb and sweat with us, Hiking in the Alps. Zach had my back!watch our backs, Beautiful views in the French Alpsand rejoice with us when we succeed.Wild boar droppings#3. Keep close. There is safety in numbers (from wild boars, for example) Wild boar crossing #4. Listen to those who are wiser and more experienced and learn from them. Hiking up the path toward the trailhead. French Alps#5. We’re much more likely to have problems if we lag behind. Blue Flax in French AlpsI slightly twisted my ankle near the beginning of our trip
(taking photos, of course), Muddy going past waterfalls in the Alpsand had it not been for Fearless Leader’s shepherd heart,
I might have really injured myself on the rocky terrain and muddy paths! Hiking in the Alps#6. Stay on the path! Wandering off or falling off could be deadly. Hiking in the French Alps#7. Don’t walk too fast! Take time to look up and savor the grandeur,Purple Coumbine. French Alpsand take time to notice the joyful beauty dancing beside us. White wildflowers in French Alps#8. Look down too, lest we carelessly trample the tiny treasures at our feet.Roman Road pass#9. Keep in mind that others have traveled the path before us, Roman Road cuttingsand take time to honor them for the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made. Roman Road cutting through AlpsIt’s so easy to be critical of our forebearers, but we couldn’t do what we do todayPicture of Alps above Mantel without the undying resolve and accomplishments of those who’ve gone before.Lake in French Alps at Twilight#10. At the end of the day, allow ourselves to (or make ourselves) stop and rest!Alpine Village in French Alps#11. Come to peace with our bodies’ needs for food & sleep so we don’t burn out. The Old Rugged Cross above Des 2 Alpes#12. Best of all, come to peace with the knowledge that life, health,
and this beautiful world are all gifts from God, so let’s take time to worship Him.  Cross in French Alps“The Old Rugged Cross”
(by George Bennard, 1913)

“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

“Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.”



Exploring a Quintessential French Village: Annecy

Tunnel under Thiou River Annecy FranceThe day before leaving France, we were treated to a tour of Annecy, Annecy Francean incredibly beautiful Alpine commune in Haute Savoie (southeastern France)Annecy. Venice of the Alps known as “The Venice of France,” a title well deserved, Thiou River in Annecy, Francebecause the town is laced with canals from the Thiou River.Thiou River in Annecy, France 3Annecy is also adorned with colorful flower boxes, Thiou River in Annecy, France 2lined with pastel boutiques and cafes, Fabulous French Pasteries in Annecy Franceand alive with the tantalizing aromas Chocolate Shop in Annecythat have made the French famous for their cuisine. French Alps around Annecy Annecy is surrounded by mountains, Lake Annecy Jardins de l'Europe and the village grew up beside Lake Annecy some 3,100 BC, At The Palais de l'Isle and Thiou river. Annecy Francejpgalthough the present centerpiece of Old Town is the Palais de l’Isle, Palais de l'Isle on Thiou river in Annecy Francethe former residence of Annecy’s lords that dates back to the twelfth century. Shannon enjoying one of the world's best chocolate croissants at Aux Cygnes Gourmands. Annecy FranceOur tour began with a breakfast of possibly the most buttery,
flaky chocolate croissants in the world.Croissants at Aux Cygnes Gourmands. Annecy France (Mason, whom I affectionately dubbed “Fearless Leader,” adores them!) Annecy Streets lined with shops and cafesFrom there we spent the morning meandering along the streets, Dress Shop in Annecy Francetaking in the ambiance and enjoying the sights and culture of Alpine France, Medieval Shops in Annecy Francealthough we did do a little souvenir and gift shopping, Souvenir Shoppingespecially Zach, who was trying to find a French key chain for his girlfriend. City Jail in AnnecyWe also saw some of the best known sites, like the city jail Interior of church in Annecy Franceand several beautiful churches.Annecy Cathedral Not all of them were open that day, but the Annecy Cathedral was.Sanctuary of Annecy Cathedral I love how many of the historic Christian churches are open to the public.  Altar in Annecy CathedralWhat a sanctuary from the heat and bustle of the day…
the perfect spot to come apart for a few minutes of prayer and meditation. Sweet and savory crepes for sale Annecy FranceNeither Fearless Leader nor our host thought our Tour de France Menu of Crêperie Annecy Francewould be complete without trying one of France’s famous sweet or savory crêpes. Nutella. A crepe staple! Annecy France(If you’ve never had hazelnut/chocolate “Nutella”…try it sometime!) Happy Crêpe AquisitionsWe each got a “to die for it’s so good” crêpe Parc Charles Busson Annecy Franceand headed for Parc (“Park”) Charles Busson to relax and enjoy our picnic lunch.Picture of a Panoramic Photo of AnnecyThe park borders Lake Annecy, which is the 3rd largest lake in France.* Lake AnnecyFed by glacial river runoff into the lake and water bubbling up via the Boubioz
(which is 82-meters below the surface), it’s considered Europe’s cleanest lake. Water Sports on Lake AnnecyLake Annecy is a popular tourist destination for water sports and swimming. Pont des AmoursAfter our picnic, we meandered across the Pont des Amours (Bridge of Love), Pont des Amours from Thiou River Canalstopped to enjoy a free concert in the park, and strolled along the Thiou Canal. Lake Annecy Italian GelatoBy late afternoon it was really hot out, and we had a long drive ahead,Sharing Pastries so we stopped for a smackeral of something to sustain us until home and supper.Windowboxes in AnnecyWhat an incredible contrast to the squalor and poverty endured by the refugees.Canal through Annecy FranceI think we all struggled with “survivor guilt.” (I know Zach and I did.) Canals in Annecy. The Venice of FranceIs it “okay” to be so happy when millions—billions—of people aren’t???
Perhaps the answer is to be charitable but also enjoy the life God’s given you:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
(Micah 6:8)

By the end of our trip, we felt bonded—a bit like soldiers coming home from war— and I thought, “Yes, because we are soldiers, but for the Prince of Peace.”

“Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follow’r of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?

“Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

“Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.”
(—Isaac Watts, 1721)

(*All the pictures are mine, although the panorama of Lake Annecy in the winter is a photo I took of a picture outside one of the shops.)


Who Would Have Thought that Scrubbing Toilets Would be my Favorite Day in France?

Team under the cross in French AlpsAs you remember special events in your life, do you find that certain memories stand out as “the best” because they always make you feel warm and fuzzy whenever you recall them? Our family often plays the “Best of” game when we get back together for holidays…lights low, candle glowing in the middle of the room (not much has changed since prehistoric cave times)…sharing the best of what we’ve experienced and learned from the past months. As I reflect back on my experience of working with a team from our church trying to alleviate suffering and share the love of God with hurting refugees, I find that what brings back the deepest joy and warmth are my memories of the day we spent scrubbing. Our host had been praying about ways to help out, and he felt inspired to ask a group of about 80+ young men who’d taken over an abandoned building if they’d like help cleaning, but he was a little concerned that they might be offended. Instead, they were thrilled. These men have pretty much nothing and are looking for work, but they said that they’d just taken up a collection the day before and got enough money for a mop, a bucket, and a bottle of dish soap. Paul and Shannon helping outWe didn’t take pictures inside lest the men feel humiliated, so I can’t share any of those images that would tell more than a thousand words, but you might be able to imagine their excitement when we arrived with all sorts of cleaning supplies and broke into teams to clean up. My partner in grime was Silas, and together we tried to transform the little kitchen area and bathrooms. Another team washed years of dirt off windows to bring the light of day into the dingy building, and another team swept, washed, and cleaned the hallways and other public areas. Cleaning Day FunI don’t understand the social system in France, but there was electricity and water in the building (even though the squatters’-right tenants weren’t paying for it), so we filled the overhead light sockets with bulbs and left lots of toilet paper, soap, cleaning supplies, trash cans, and other items considered bare necessities for those of us in the West. I also want you to know that the guys didn’t just stand around and watch, either! Those who weren’t out looking for work helped out with enthusiasm! After a hard day’s day, our host family provided a really wonderful meal of chicken with rice and broth, salad, soft drinks and water, and even chocolate chip cookies for dessert. (Can you imagine the cost and labor of love it was to prepare for such a feast for about 100 people?) Some asked for bowls to take up to some who were too sick to come down. Everyone was kind and thankful. After the meal, we asked if we could sing a few songs, which they seemed to enjoy…songs like “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow,” etc. We asked if they would like to sing for us, but they didn’t know songs. They are almost exclusively Muslim, and apparently they do chant-like prayers in their mosques but don’t sing hymns and choruses the way Christians do. Joy of servingAt any rate, during and after dinner the men were warm and very open. Most of them knew just enough English to be able to converse with us a little, and I heard many heart-breaking stories about their lives before escaping to France. One man showed me a gash running up his entire arm where a soldier had tried to kill him (and had left him for dead), and there were many horror stories of civil war and murder…of family killed and family still back in various north African countries. Each man had hopes of finding work and eventually being able to bring his family (or what remained of it) to France, where they could be free from terror and annihilation. One man told me he escaped with only 2 things— his father’s Koran and his mother’s Bible. It broke my heart but also filled me with joy to see these guys fighting for life, trying to figure things out, and wanting to make life better. Isn’t that the cry of all our hearts? No wonder if was my favorite day. 🙂Man with burned hands(Note that this young man’s hands were badly burned, but he’s still able to laugh with us. Once the guys noticed that somebody had a cell phone, they actually wanted us to take pictures and had lots of fun looking at them!)

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

“Out in the dark
I’m gonna let it shine.
Out in the dark
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
(—Harry Dixon Loes)

(Many thanks to Paul and Shannon W. for letting me use their pictures, not only today but scattered throughout these posts on our trip. You two are awesome!!)

War Rooms and Prayer Saunas

Lavish dinnerEvery day was a feast in France, and not just because our hosts were good cooks!Discussion Every day was a spiritual feast too. FriendsOur purpose was to aid in work among North African refugees,Sunrise over French Alps around Grenoble but although we served from dawn ’til setting sun, Sunset in Grenoblewe’d come to the end of each day with a feeling of deep joy and thankfulness
for all the blessings we’d experienced as we tried to bless others. Rainbow over GrenobleTruly, you can’t out give God! Friends gatheringAfter a hard day’s work, we’d often have a marvelous evening meeting friends, Table Hockeyhaving fun together, eating, and hearing stories of redemption…Discussing Great Literaturemost often how God has worked to bring good out of tragic circumstances.Dinner PartyIn France, dinner parties last several hours, and it was often 10 pm by the time we’d head out for our return walk to the youth hostel where we stayed. Last rays of sun in French AlpsIn Grenoble, the sun sets about 9:30 in June, so our walk would be through the deepening shadows of twilight, and I’d be ready to hit the hay for sure! Setting SunNot so my cohort! We ended every night in what affectionately became known as the prayer sauna. We’d meet in the hostel’s library for a sweet hour of prayer.Panorama(This attempt at a panorama shot gives you a little feel:
It was stifling hot and humid in there, and we were tired, thirsty, exhausted
…maybe not even quite all there anymore! 🙂   ) LibraryThe amazing thing to me was that even though I’d be so sleepy I’d feel like I was going to pass out or fall asleep some nights (and yes, sometimes I actually did), Prayer Saunaby the time we were finished, I felt a surge of contentment and joy that perked me up until I really could get washed up and crawl into bed! Paul and ShannonAlso, I am convinced that more of the fruit of our labors resulted
from sweating it out in the prayer sauna at night than from working hard all day.Rainbow in FranceAre you flagging and in need of a blessing? Take it to the Lord in prayer!

 “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!”
(William W. Walford, 1845)

Food for Thought: Good-Reminder One-liners

Steve Toasting Marshmallow copyForbidden fruits create many jams.
God grades on the cross, not the curve.
It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
God loves everyone…
but probably prefers ‘fruits of the spirit’ over ‘religious nuts!’
The best mathematical equation I have ever seen:
1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.
He who angers you, controls you!
Peace starts with a smile.
If God is your Co-pilot, swap seats!
Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.
The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose…
but mosquitoes come close.
Don’t let your worries get the best of you…
remember, Moses started out as a basket case. 🙂
When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.
We don’t change the message; the message changes us.
Be ye fishers of men. You catch ’em – He’ll clean ’em.
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
The best place on earth:
in someone’s heart and prayers, and in the hand of God.

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
(John 10:28-29)

Rise Up, My Love (170): Eternal Depth Perfection

FamilySong of Solomon 5:12 (his eyes are) “…washed with milk and fitly set.” What did the bride see in her lover’s eyes? She saw his passion, his peace, his purity…and now: his perfection. Yoav Dothan. Wall of Millo. City of David. WikiJPG “Fitly set” comes from the Hebrew word millet translated “sitting upon the fullness” and according to one commentator refers to the intricate beauty of a filled in section of the terraced wall of Millo (which still exists to this day…so you can bet it was “fitly set” 3,000 years ago!). The New International Version (NIV) renders this text: “mounted like jewels;” the Jerusalem Bible reads, “at rest on a pool.” The verbal root means “to fill or make full.” Clearly the idea is one of fullness or completion. The bridegroom’s eyes were large, full, sparkling, and round; they were well proportioned and set perfectly into his face. This matchless one had eyes that were perfect in beauty…and function: because they were “fitly set:” he could see with proper depth perception and perfect perspective! Little Boy EyesHave you ever had an eye injury? Once as a young mother I was conducting a children’s Bible club for the youngsters in our apartment building. After the class was over, one of the children, who’d just won a balsam wood glider, sent it sailing into the air—and wouldn’t you know, it accidentally hit me right in the eye! (But not really this little guy; he’s my grandson.) I had to have emergency treatment by an ophthalmologist and wore a patch over one eye for several days. Thankfully, my vision wasn’t permanently damaged, but during the time the patch was over my eye, I developed a whole new appreciation for the tremendous value of having two eyes. Without the use of two eyes, there is no accurate way to access depth, and you’d be amazed at how many things are affected by proper depth perception! A Man's EyesOur Lord’s eyes were “fitly set.” He had (has!) perfect perspective and perfect depth perception—physically and spiritually. His eyes were perfectly—“fitly”—set for beauty and clarity of vision. Oh, the wonder of his eyes of love! Wouldn’t you love to have perfect perception too? It’s not humanly possible, but inasmuch as we have the mind of Christ, we will have the right perspectives and depth perception that penetrates right into the heart of eternity!

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?
but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
(Philippians 2:5-8).


Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Baby’s Eleventh Month, Week 45)

Games with Dad309.Holding Baby Up

“They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:12

PRAYER: Ah, dear Father, thank you for being a mighty rock behind whom we can take refuge and find relief. May we sit down “under your shadow with great delight” as the bride did in the Song of Solomon. Thank you for defending us and protecting us! Thank you for Jesus, the “living stone.” Thank you that he is our cornerstone and not a stone of stumbling or a rock of offense to us. Please bless us, dear Lord, hold us up, and keep us from stumbling.

THOUGHT: Isn’t it amazing that we have a heavenly protector who will stand like a rock between us and our enemies, and who will hold us up to keep us from falling? May we be such “rocks” and supports for our children!

ACTIVITY: Do you know the children’s game “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”? It’s a game you and Baby can play together while he’s learning to walk. Hold Baby’s hands and walk slowly around in a circle, singing:

“Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush, so early in the morning.”
(Then stop walking, drop hands, and sing while pretending to kneed dough.)
“This is the way we bake our bread, bake our bread, bake our bread,
This is the way we bake our bread, so early in the morning.”
(Then, hold hands again and do the chorus again.)

 You can make up all the verses you can dream up. Some I remember are:

“This is the way we make our beds” (pretending to smooth out covers)

“This is the way we wash our clothes” (pretending to scrub on a washboard, which wouldn’t make any sense to a toddler. Maybe a better way for today is to pretend to be bundling clothes into a washing machine…)

“This is the way we dry our clothes” (Hanging on a clothesline or throwing into a dryer)

“This is the way we iron our clothes…scrub our dishes, water our plants, pull our weeds, bake our bread…the list of house hold chores is nearly infinite, Amen?!

Happy little girl310. Sweet Peace, Sweet Peas

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD;
and great shall be the peace of thy children.” Isaiah. 54:13

PRAYER: Precious LORD, may we always experience the great peace you have for us, as you explain in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

We marvel at your kindness and your omniscient wisdom! Teach us how to walk in your Spirit, avoid pitfalls, and experience your peace. Help me to be a wise teacher for Baby too, so that she will also learn to walk securely, avoid falls, and enjoy your wonderful peace!

THOUGHT: One of the greatest joys in life is being able to celebrate milestone events with those we love. After birth, the next “HUGE” step is walking, and if you can’t visit your parents during this critical stage in your baby’s development, be sure to send them a video if that’s an option. Just a couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of being present when our youngest grand son started to crawl. Pretty special! Let your loved ones share in your joys as much as possible.

ACTIVITY: Does Baby have a favorite treat that might be used as an alluring snack to encourage taking steps? Our firstborn loved sweet, green peas picked fresh from the garden and wild blueberries that were sun ripening along the sandy roadsides in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in August. If you can find a healthy snack that you don’t mind Baby enjoying bit by bit, try holding a tiny piece out in the palm of your hand and coax Baby to come from one parent to the other with tasty rewards to encourage her.

Cute lower lip!311. Time Out

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;
but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for being my potter…the one who is forming me. Thank you also for correcting me and defending me from others: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). Help me to correct and defend Baby as well!

THOUGHT: There are times when you’re not sure what went wrong or how to fix it, but you’re sure something’s wrong and something should be done. Once when traveling, we arrived rather late in the evening to our motel, and our two oldest, Aaron and Michael (who were about 3 and 5) immediately began squabbling about something. Alan said in a stern voice, “All right, you two, line up against that wall and just stand there for a few minutes!” Without a word, Aaron and Michael obeyed. Soon Baby Jonathan, who had been preoccupied, looked up in amazement at the quiet and noticed what his big brothers were doing. Not wanting to miss out on anything that looked like a game, Jonathan immediately dropped his toy and went and stood up against the wall next to Michael, just like a little soldier. Of course, that broke the tension and made us all laugh! We let them off in just a few seconds, and we all tumbled happily into bed. But, just that quick minute ended what could have been a very dreary evening of fighting over covers, bed space, bathroom time, or whatever!

ACTIVITY: Sometimes doing nothing is a great activity! I wish I’d used the Time Out more often! Children hate to have to be quiet and have nothing to do but think…and yet a few quiet minutes to think is often just what they need. (*Note: Please don’t ever use a car seat or bed as a “time out” spot. The best would be a playpen that’s not associated with anything else. I just used the above picture because I loved the little fellow’s obvious look of frustration.)

Cracker312.Table Manners

“I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt:
open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10

PRAYER: Ah, Lord God, the Mighty One… “Jehovah-Jireh.” Truly you do provide and you will provide, if we will only let you! Help me to be like a baby bird, opening my mouth wide so you can fill it! Please help Baby to be good, Lord, and to understand that I am trying to help him. Please help him to learn self-control so that he won’t refuse food, push away his cup, or throw things. Help me to be patient, firm, and consistent.

THOUGHT: Once Baby gets to the stage where he is intentionally defiant…at whatever age that begins…then it’s time to begin actively disciplining him. I heard a minister once comment that he only used physical punishment with his children for failures in three categories: disobedience, disrespect, and irresponsibility. That seemed so good to me that I adopted it, and I still think it makes a pretty good guide for assessing problems and understanding the dynamics of what’s going wrong. If our desire is to “train up a child in the way he should go” with the ultimate goal of helping him turn to Christ for salvation and walk in the truth, love, and light of God’s Spirit, then we have to train Baby to be respectful and obedient from earliest days.

ACTIVITY: Here’s a good game to practice with two empty, plastic tea cups. Sing:

“Polly put the kettle on, kettle on, kettle on. Polly put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea,” (Hand Baby and yourself each a cup, pretending to pour tea for both of you to drink, and then daintily pretend to drink it down.)

“Polly take the kettle off, kettle off, kettle off. Polly take the kettle off, we’re all done drinking!” (Put your cup aside, then offer to take Baby’s cup and put it away too. Treat these cups with great care, and it might help Baby learn to treat his own cup more gently.)

Plastic storage containers313. Hot Head or Cold Feet

“I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom,
and the reason of things.” Ecclesiastes 7:25

PRAYER: Dear omniscient Father, please help Baby and me learn the ways of wisdom!

THOUGHT: When Baby misbehaves, the process of thinking through exactly what is wrong with your child’s action and why it is inappropriate will help diffuse your initial reaction and help guide you as you consider what type of discipline is needed. The two natural tendencies are either to get angry and do something too harsh, or to ignore the behavior altogether. John Marshall, who was once chaplain for the U.S. Senate, prayed something like this: “Lord, deliver us from hot heads lest we do anything rash, and from cold feet, lest we fail to do anything at all.” Both responses are wrong. Try your hardest to prayerfully and thoughtfully address each transgression as it occurs and faithfully administer discipline as needed. Too often parents ignore problems until the child is flagrantly hostile and the parent is practically seething with rage. “Nip it in the bud” is such good advice! Deal with problems head on and consistently, but with a gentle grace that leaves your child feeling loved, watched, and firmly but kindly turned around and nudged in the right direction.

ACTIVITY: Learning how to turn over cups and reach into plastic containers are two very useful accomplishments to master. Two other “tricks” that might be fun for Baby to learn are how to take something in and out of a folded sandwich bag and how to open and close a zip-lock baggie. If you put something into the bag that Baby really likes, like bits of cut up grapes for lunch, that will give him lots of incentive to learn!

Sleeping Sweetly314. Seeing and Doing

“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein…this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:23-24

PRAYER: Precious Lord, your word is like a mirror. By looking into it, I can see reflections of my soul and where I need to cleanse, change, and rearrange my life. Please help me to follow through! Please bless Baby, too. May we grow to be sweet, whole, healthy, bright, and lovely inside and out! May I cherish her, groom her with care, and always see her as you do, not looking on the outward appearance, but on her heart.

THOUGHT: One of the many ingenious inventions that didn’t exist when I was rearing children is the mirror system for cars so that Mom can keep occasional eye contact with Baby even while she’s driving in the front and Baby’s sitting securely in her car seat in the back. If you haven’t invested in a baby mirror system, by all means save up your money and get one! With a mirror, you can see if there’s any serious problem going on, if Baby’s content, about ready to erupt, or sound asleep.

ACTIVITY: Have you been taking pictures of Baby all along? If not, how about a picture day? If you don’t have a camera, you can now buy a disposable one for a few dollars at most grocery stores. Be sure to get some portraits of Baby on her own, but also try to get pictures of you and Baby together. If your husband is available during the day or in the evening, ask him to be the photographer for a while, and then return the favor and take some pictures of your husband and Baby together too!

Sunshine in my Soul315. Flourishing Souls

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health,
even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 1:2

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you are the Great Physician and the Chief Shepherd. You are the best of everything good! Please help Baby and me to always put you first in our lives and affections. May our souls and bodies prosper and be in good health!

THOUGHT: Keep sharing happy songs with your children. They’ll never forget them!

ACTIVITY: Here’s a little song you can sing at the doctor’s office or anywhere else when you’re trying to keep that busy little toddler on your lap. Hold Baby on your lap and sing as you wiggle each of his fingers, one at a time. (It’s sung to the tune of “Ten Little Indians,” but Native-Americans may not like being sung about in this way, so I changed the lyrics.)

“One little, two little, three little fingers.
Four little, five little, six little fingers,
Seven little, eight little, nine little fingers,
Ten tiny fingers on your hand!
(Then reverse the fingering…)
Ten little, nine little, eight little fingers.
Seven little, six little, five little fingers,
Four little, three little, two little fingers,
One little finger on your hand.”


Here’s a song that I’ve loved since my earliest days as a believer. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it too and sing it to Baby.

Sunshine in my Soul

“There is sunshine in my soul today, more glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky, for Jesus is my light.
O there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine, while the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face, There is sunshine in my soul.”
—Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920)




Meditation in the Mountains

Chalet in French AlpsAfter slugging it out with rocky ground and hard wood all morning, Road through Camp of the Peaksour team leaders gave us an hour to find a quiet space on our own Mountains near Camp of the Peaksto be alone with God and meditate. Camp des Cimes WaterfallI curled up on a little bridge overlooking a gurgling mountain stream. Wild Geranium in French AlpsWhat precious refreshment, Butterfly and Ivy French Alpsjust reading the scriptures, drinking in the beauty around me, and praying. Wild Orchid in French AlpsDo you take time to get apart with God and meditate on the Bible every day? Harebell in French AlpsFrom the bottom of my heart, I hope so,Spring from mountainside in French Alpsbecause the Bible is the bread of life and the water of life to feed our souls. Tomorrowland_posterIn Tomorrowland (a 2015, PG-rated, imaginative Disney sci-fi mystery adventure that I think would be family-friendly for youngsters), the heroine reminds the hero at various times of the old fable that there are two wolves within us, one light and the other dark. Rock and Fern in French AlpsWhat grows within us depends on which “wolf” we feed. How true!  Alpine Saxifrage in French AlpsJesus taught us: “Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Tiny white succulent in French AlpsThe Word of God—the Bible—is not only the bread of life to teach us about God, Light on yellow wildflowers in French Alpsthe Word of God is “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”
to keep us from stumbling (Psalm 119:105). Profusion of delicate yellow and purple wildflowers in French AlpsSo, if we want to feed the light “wolf,” we need to meditate on The Light!
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”Sun shining into Chalet at Camp des Cimes “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)Quiet path beside Camp of the Peaks CottageIf you don’t have a daily “quiet time” when you meditate on God and His Word and fellowship with Him, please, please start trying to find time and space today, even if it’s just 5 minutes before you hop out of bed or go to sleep at night.Waterfall at Camp des Cimes

  1. “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
    Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
    Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
    Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
  2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
    Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
    By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
    Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
  3. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
    And run not before Him, whatever betide.
    In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
    And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
  4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
    Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
    Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
    Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.”
    (—William D. Longstaff, 1882)

PS. I noticed this quote on a friend’s FB page today and thought it was worth adding! “One has said that while prayer is the day’s best beginning it must not be like the handsome title-page of a worthless book.” ~P. T. Forsyth