Springtime Blossoms at Meijer Gardens

Flowering Almond in Japanese Garden at Meijer GardenSpringtime is in full bloom at Meijer Gardens, Magnolia Blossom at Meijer Gardenand it’s all I can do to keep from running over there every sunny afternoonBlue Hydrengea Meijer Garden 4.23.16 to see what’s new.Japanese Garden Early Spring at Meijer GardenThis is the first year for spring blossoms in the new Japanese Garden,Water and azaleas at Meijer Gardenand they are a delight, Cherry Blossoms Meijer Garden 4.23.16although the trees are young, Cherry Blossoms in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenso they’re like frilly little girls Prayers on Trees during Seoul's Cherry Blossom Festivalcompared to the glory of cherry blossom festivals in Asia. Meijer Garden 4.23.16Still, I think the 158-acre Meijer GardensMejier Garden Foyer Flowers is by far the most colorful and artistic botanical park available in Michigan,Azalea. Purple at Meijer Gardenand I never tire of breathing in all the beauty. Spring Flower Arrangement Meijer Garden 4.23.16We’ve been members since the park opened in 1995, Daffodils and children at Meijer Gardenand by 2005, Wiki rumor has it that The Wall Street Journal wrote, Yellow fringed orchid Meijer Garden 4.23.16“There’s nothing quite like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Long Island Buddha Sculpture in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenthis side of the Kroller-Muller Museum and Sculpture Park in The Netherlands.”DaVinci's Horse Meijer Garden 4.23.16 That seems a bit grandiose, although it may be true. Orange Tulips Meijer Garden 4.23.16Also, since I haven’t been everywhere in the world, Orchids. Purple and white at Meijer GardenI can neither verify nor discredit the claim Bridge in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenthat in 2009 it was listed as one of the top “30 must-see museums in the world.” Spring Flower arrangements at Mejier GardenOn the other hand, Muted Spangle Butterfly Meijer GardenI don’t doubt that it’s one of Michigan’s top tourist attractions, Magnolias blooming in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenor that it hosts more than 650,000 visitors every year. Tulips in the Children's Garden Meijer Garden 4.23.16And, every time I visit Woodland Path decked with spring flowers at Meijer Gardenmy mind is always filled up with new visions of beauty to treasure. Golden Daffodils Meijer Garden 4.23.16The pleasure I find in Meijer GardensHyacinths Pink and Bluereminds me the joy I experience in meditating on the Bible,Tulipa dasystemon Meijer Garden 4.23.16and I just keep running back to see what’s new
(or, at least how the Bible speaks to me in a new way).Orchids dangling at Meijer GardenHowever, I also know that the grandiose claims I make Haiku in Japanese Garden at Meijer Garden 4.23.16about the Bible being God’s Word and 100% true may seem suspect. Yellow Orchid Meijer Garden 4.23.16If you doubt that the Bible contains the words of life,Grecian Windflower at Meijer Garden I encourage you to delve into it for yourself. Swan nesting at Mejier GardenMay you experience the rebirth of your spirit Pink Hydrengea Meijer Garden 4.23.16and find springtime blossoming in your soul.Magnolia Meijer Garden 4.23.16Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital 2016 Gala: Two Kinds of Suffering

With friends at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 GalaReducing pain and suffering in our children is such a worthy goal
that I felt honored to be among those who gathered to support
the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation’s annual fundraiser. 2016 DeVos Children's Hospital GalaIn fact, a record-breaking 1,720 people attended and raised 1.2 million
for this year’s special project,2016 DeVos Children's Hospital President Bob Connorswhich is focusing on pain relief and palliative care for children. Filet Mignon with Maitake Mushrooms at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 GalaThe food was gourmet, Table Centerpiece at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Galaand the ambience classic, Poster at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Galabut the testimonies of those who had been helped brought tears to my eyes.Micropreemie on thanksgiving-day-2014 I couldn’t help but think back to our own dear grandson, Samuel,
who was in this hospital’s NICU just last year. Father and Son doing spring yardworkHis has been a wonderful story of survival and thrival.Look Mom no hands! (In fact, he’s just become a true walker this week!) Posters from 2016 DeVos Children's HospitalHowever, the pain and suffering he endured now seems as nothing compared to what terminally ill children and their families face for the rest of their lives. Baby in the garden standing by himselfWhat Samuel endured was but for a little while:
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). 2016 DeVos Children's Hospital 3The families of terminally ill children face the grim reality of a life
that often has nothing to look forward to but increasing pain and eventual death.Mike and Sue Jandernoa at DeVos Hospital's 2016 GalaCould there be a verdict any harder to bear? 2016 DeVos Children's Hospital Gala 3I guess only one, and that would be facing death
with no prospects for resurrection life. Richard Breon CEO of Spectrum Hospital in GRI am thankful for every compassionate person
who helps relieve pain and suffering in children, Enjoying dinner at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Galabut I hope the caregivers are also able to offer hope for the life that is to come.Dan Gaydou at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Gala “Suffering” has two meanings: “to experience pain” and “to allow.”
Jesus taught us, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me:
for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Gala 7 I hope we are never guilty of being like the disciples of Christ,
who actually hindered the little children who were trying to come to Jesus.2016 DeVos Children's Hospital Gala 2 As we care for the little ones in our lives, may we be among those who joyfully bring them to Jesus, so that whether healthy or ill,
they will know the blessing of a future bright with the hope of eternal life.

 Children helped throughout world by DeVos Children's HospitalAnd I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

(All of these photos were taken at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital 2016 Gala last weekend, except for the photos of my grandson, which were all taken by my sweet daughter-in-law. Thanks, Brianna!)

Two Dozen Reasons for Believing that Spring’s Coming

Sun reflecting off lakeWhen Alan and I woke up this morning, it was 37° out, Spring Failing to Installand I remembered seeing  this clever Facebook sign a few days ago. Fox SquirrelSo, is spring going to load or not?? Quiet Reflections in a spring swampThankfully, it’s a gorgeous, sunshiny morning, and when I went outside Deer at edge of our woods I found ever so many reasons for believing that spring is on its way. Flowering QuinceFor our mutual encouragement,
I’ve paired some bright thoughts about spring with the photographs:
Mink by our dock“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.”
—Lilly PulitzerGold Finch“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.”—Gustav MahlerTiny Buds opening in rain“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
—Rances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden  Great Blue Heron on our dock“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” —Mark Twain  Racoon on the waterfront“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast   Wild Rose Budding“An optimist is the human personification of spring.”—Susan J. Bissonette  PrimrosesNo winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”—Hal Borland Wisteria Budding“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
—Vladimir Nobokov, MaryLily of the Valley“The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.”
—Emily DickinsonForsythia“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
‘Winter is dead’.”
—A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young  Nectarine Blossoms“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness,
the human soul is apt to revive also.” —Harriet Ann Jacobs  Canada Goose and Great Blue Heron on lake“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.”
—John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
Cherry Tree in Bloom“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
—Kobayashi Issa, Poems  Trillium“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.”—Ellis Peters  Great Blue Heron“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
—Ann Breadstreet, The Works of Anne Bradstreet  Kayak beside lake“I suppose the best kind of spring morning is the best weather God has to offer.” —Dodie Smith, I Capture the CastleRed-winged Blackbird singing in Cherry Tree“Because the birdsong might be pretty,
But it’s not for you they sing,
And if you think my winter is too cold,
You don’t deserve my spring.”
—Erin Hanson   Tom Turkey showing for for the girls“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.” —Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
(This is Tom Turkey showing off for the girls.)
Red-winged Blackbird“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” —Mark Twain  Daffodil“Always it’s Spring and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves.”
—E.E. Cummings, 100 Selected Poems  Canada Geese with Goslings“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”
—Sitting Bull  Wood ducks by dock“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.” —Pablo Neruda  Cherry Blossoms“For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” —Isaiah 61:11  Wild Blackberries Budding“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” —Genesis 8:22Nuthatch on railing




Applying for ArtPrize (AGAIN!) and the Venues of Life

MuralIt’s time to apply for an ArtPrize 2016 venue. Unfortunately (for me, fortunate for most), Grand Rapid’s international ArtPrize competition has zoomed to popularity and in just 8 years has become “the most attended public art event on the planet” (according to The Art Newspaper). It’s also featured by the New York Times in their article on “52 Places to Go in 2016,” where Grand Rapids is listed as #20. Why so popular? For one thing, ArtPrize offers the planet’s largest cash prizes: $500,000, and that in itself attracts about as many attendees along with thousands of applicants. For another thing (and I quote the ArtPrize homepage), “It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.” Sigh. Given its popularity and the competition, will I find any venue that will be willing to host my collage, unknown and unproven as I am? Last year, in my naivety, I thought all you had to do was apply and you’d get in. Since I knew exactly where I wanted to be, I only applied there and then promptly left for a “Grand Southeastern Asia” cruise. Big mistake! The unwatched pot did not boil.  😦   I am really hoping this second time will be the charm, but I’m also more humble and a lot less picky now and have applied to half a dozen venues…actually, almost every venue I think might have a space large enough to handle a mural thirty-three feet long and almost seven feet high.Quirky People. EpcotThe struggle to find a venue at ArtPrize for my oversized mural gives me empathy for all the valiant young men out there who are trying to woo and win a bride…or don’t people even do that anymore? It’s hard to be vulnerable, isn’t it? And, if we’re honest, most of us are very unique and quirky, so it’s hard to find a good fit…not only for artwork, but for marriage work, for work work, and for home work. It’s so hard to give it everything we’ve got and fail, isn’t it? And yet, if I’m honest, I pretty much do that everyday. How many days do I fulfill even the small, simple goals that I set for myself, like eating and exercising properly? It reminds me of the scripture from Matthew 25:21, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Perhaps I should work harder at the little things in my life, which I can and should control, and prayerfully leave the big circumstances—which are beyond my control—to the loving discretion of God.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5).

Do You Wish You Could Believe in God?

Sunrise over BostonWhen my firstborn interviewed for his first real job (read that: related to his career) after finishing grad school at the University of Michigan fifteen+ years ago, I drove out to Boston with him just for fun (and moral support for both of us, since it’s very hard to have your firstborn move so far from home). We couldn’t check into a hotel room at 9:00 am, so I sat in the office lobby while he interviewed. The CEO of this new computer company was a Russian scientist who apparently noticed my in the waiting room, because after he finished interviewing Aaron, he came out and said he wanted to interview me too! I was a bit dumbfounded, because that’s never the way it’s done in America (so far as I know). He asked, “And, what do you want for your son?” Thankfully, I knew the answer to that question! “I want him to be good, and I want him to do good.” Anatoli smiled. “If he works for me, he’ll be good, and he’ll do good!” He poured me a glass of cold, sweet tea…and we talked for nearly an hour. He had come to the U.S. after the cold war ended in 1990. He told me that when he was a young man, he’d spent an entire year’s savings (I believe he meant beyond what it cost him to live) to buy a Bible on the black market, but he couldn’t understand it. I explained the gospel to him, and he smiled quietly but shook his head. “You can’t imagine how hard it is to believe after you’ve been taught all your life that there is no god. You are the luckiest woman in the world if you can believe, because I have nowhere to go with my sin. If there’s no god, then there’s no forgiveness. I just have to do the best I can and try never to fail, but I can’t be perfect all the time. I wish I could believe.”

Heartbreaking words, and I didn’t know what to say to him. It wasn’t until yesterday morning, listening to Jim Samra’s message here at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, MI, that I heard an answer that made perfect sense to me. The message was from Romans 2:1-11, but let me just key in on this phrase, “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life…” (NIV). Our pastor brought out this thrilling hope: Those who persist in doing good are already demonstrating faith. There is hope for all who believe enough to wish they could believe, because they are demonstrating by their life a desire for what is good. They are seeking for glory, honor, and immortality. That isn’t enough to save anyone, because salvation is a gift and immortality is found only in Jesus Christ: “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). However, if anyone wishes to believe and persists in good works, then according to Romans, God will give (as a gift) his Son, Jesus Christ, who is eternal life.

Do you believe? Would you like to believe? Pray with the anguished father in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” God is able. Are you willing?

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:1-11, NIV)


Rise Up, My Love (183): The Significance of Countenance

Sun behind steaming mud potsSong of Solomon 5:15 “His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.” Our English word “countenance” comes from two Latin roots: com, meaning “together,” plus tenere, which means literally “to hold; how one holds oneself together.” It refers to a person’s demeanor, composure, and attitude, particularly as it is reflected in the visage…the expression of one’s eyes and face.* Although the word “countenance” is rarely used in English today, it is doubtless the gauge we all most commonly use in reading people. Every time we look at another person’s face we are consciously or unconsciously studying that person’s countenance. What kind of a person is he? How does she feel about herself? How does he feel about the people around him? Is she happy or sad…friendly or shy…empathetic or angry…understanding or irritable…cloudy or bright…energetic or tired…transparent or opaque? It’s all there for the looking, and people read each other’s countenances a hundred times a day. Blue Sun Behind Clouds in Israel“His countenance is as Lebanon.” At first that seemed enigmatic. What was Lebanon to Israel? I had always thought of Lebanon as an unfriendly, neighboring nation. Did a countenance like Lebanon refer to a high and haughty look? A fierce, threatening look? How could the bridegroom have such a countenance towards the wife of his bosom? Actually, when The Song of Solomon was written, Lebanon was the northern border of Israel, and a part of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4). At the time of Solomon’s reign, Lebanon was part of Solomon’s dominion (2 Chronicles 8:6), although King Hiram ruled there and was paid for providing cedar trees as lumber for the construction of Solomon’s great temple (I Kings 5:10-6:10). Lebanon is referred to sixty-four times in the Old Testament, and seven of those times are in The Song of Solomon…a disproportionate number for such a small book. Why? Because in those days, Lebanon symbolized romance and beauty…not war, but peace!! According to The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, “There are literary motifs based upon the greatness of Lebanon and its cedars, motifs utilizing Lebanon as a romantic symbol, and motifs of prosperity and stability. A single trip into one of the high, rugged valleys of the Lebanon should be sufficient to demonstrate that the Lebanon range is a fitting symbol of rugged grandeur and greatness” (Tenny, Vol. 21, 903). “His countenance is as Lebanon”…His countenance is a “fitting symbol of rugged grandeur and greatness.” Now, that makes perfect sense! Isaiah 35:2 speaks of the “glory of Lebanon,” and in Isaiah 60:13 the Lord declares that “the glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee…to beautify the place of my sanctuary.” The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the “snows of Lebanon” as too wondrous a place to leave (Jeremiah 18:14); the prophet Nahum praised the flowers of Lebanon (Nahum 1:4); and Hosea spoke of the fragrant “smell of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). A countenance like Lebanon is a countenance that is “high and lifted up…exalted” (Isaiah 2:13). As the cedars of Lebanon were tall and stately, transcending all the other trees, so the countenance of our Lord bears witness to the fact that he is indeed “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). Blue Full Sun Seagull When Samson’s mother saw the Lord, she said, “His countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very awesome” (Judges 13:6 NKJV). In John’s vision of the glorified Christ, he saw that “His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:16-17). The sweet psalmist of old prayed, “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us” (Psalm 4:6), and the benediction of Israelite fathers throughout the ages has been, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Green Sun on LaneThe countenance of God upon us…in his look is life and blessing and peace! In his look is gladness and joy: “For Thou hast made him most blessed for ever: Thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance” (Psalm 21:6). In his look is help: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance” (Psalm 42:5). Indeed, the psalmist went on to declare that the countenance of God shining upon us brings health to our countenance: “For I shall yet praise him who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11). Sun over AlaskaDo you know who penned Psalm 42? Solomon! When the bride declares, “His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars,” she was describing the face of her husband, Solomon…but Solomon professed in the Psalms that it was indeed the countenance of God shining down upon him that brought light and grandeur to his own face! “His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars…” His countenance was as magnificent as the towering cedars that were used to build God’s majestic temple in Jerusalem. It was as attractive as the fragrant cedars used to construct Solomon’s home in the Forest of Lebanon (I Kings 7:2)—a fabulous fortress where he kept 300 shields made from 900 pounds of gold, and all the drinking vessels were of gold—a castle where he had a fabulous ivory throne overlaid with pure gold, and where twelve lions guarded the steps (I Kings 10:17-21). His countenance was indeed glorious…as glorious as the radiance of one who reflected the glory of his king. Oh, that our faces might so shine—like Moses after he had been with God…like Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration…like Solomon in all his stately grandeur. Oh, that our faces might shine like King Solomon with a radiance that reflects the glory of the King of Kings!

(*This initial information about the definition of “countenance” comes from Webster’s Dictionary.)

Ann Bjorlie’s Story: Miracles are Still Happening

Ann BjorlieDo you believe in miracles? Do you believe God answers prayer? I do, and yesterday as Ann (a spunky friend I’ve known for over 20 years) sat across from me in our tea room recounting what had happened to her recently, I knew it was a message that I wanted to share with you ASAP…like today! What happened? Well, her aorta burst, she bled out and was without oxygen for 15 minutes. Ann Recovered!And yet, she’s alive and well today!  The doctor told her that she was “one in a million,” but I think she was more than that, because no one at the hospital had ever known someone to survive this particular medical disaster. I believe it is an undeniable miracle!  There were a series of conditions that were unique and could have been circumstance, such as her surgeon being outside her room when she started throwing up blood, one of his colleagues who’d read all her charts was still in hospital (later evening), an anesthesiologist who worked with their team “just happened” to be at the hospital too, and an operating room “just happened” to be open and clean at that moment. But, the surgeon performed a surgery that had never been performed in that situation at that hospital before, with an outcome that not one person believed was possible (including my medical doctor husband). That’s a miracle in my book!Ann at HospitalThat’s the short of it; if you still have doubts and time to read the long of it, I think the details are well worth sharing. Ann was born with a congenital heart defect, but it wasn’t until January of 2015 that the problem became so severe she needed her aortic valve replaced. Ann recovered quickly, and we were all hopeful that she’d do just fine, but then, ten months later, she started having problems with being out of breath, feeling weak and losing blood. Her husband took her into the ER at Spectrum Hospital (here in GR), where they kept her overnight. I’ll let her pick up the story in her own words here:
     “Wednesday morning [December 2] began a battery of tests. I actually do not remember much from that day except having a CT scan. In the afternoon I encouraged John to go to prayer meeting for supper. He went and stayed for the meeting as well. Just as he got back, Dr. Fanning came and began to tell us I had a fistula that was touching my esophagus and dripping blood into my throat, which is why I was having black stools. Then he proceeded to tell us that they do not do surgery to repair this in Spectrum, so I’d have to go to Cleveland Clinic! He had talked with his colleagues and they simply would not assist him in such a risky surgery that had never been done at this hospital. He was obviously disturbed and was trying to let us know how serious this was. He told us that recovery in Cleveland is a month long, etc. Then, he stepped out with a phone call before we could ask any questions. We hardly knew what to ask as we were shocked at this news. Almost as soon as he left, John said, “Let’s pray.” He asked the Lord to raise me up like He did Dorcas. We cannot remember if I prayed. I think I just said “Amen” to his prayer as I was too emotional to pray. I know exactly what I would have prayed, and that is that they would find a way to do the surgery here [in Grand Rapids]. At any rate, I said to John, “Something’s happening, I think I’m going to throw up.” I began to vomit blood each time my heart beat. John held my shoulders as he sat beside me and color drained from my face.
     “Much of the following is from John’s recollection as I lost consciousness before they even put me on the bed…I’ve been told that the surgery began around 9:30 pm and lasted until around 4:30 am. I’ve read the doctor’s report of my surgery, and he says that when I entered the operating room, my pulse was barely there and thready, I had no blood pressure, blood was squirting out my mouth and coming out my rectum, they gave me multiple blood products, as I had bled out! With so little hope I am amazed at the determination of this surgeon and his medical team. I’ve since heard that not one person expected me to recover. Not one. And then, even if I did survive, they wondered if I’d have my mind, due to lack of oxygen during my bleed and before I was intubated. Would my kidneys function? Many questions surrounded my whole recovery as this hospital had never before done this surgery. Not one medical person had ever seen someone survive this rupture.
     “We thank God that we went to the ER when we did. It was a Tuesday late afternoon. All our friends, Facebook friends, and family soon became aware I had been hospitalized. What do Christians do for friends when there is a need? They pray. So by Wednesday night at prayer meetings all over the world people began to pray for my health, even though we had no idea what was wrong and how very seriously my life was endangered. I had one friend tell me via Facebook that she was praying likely at the time of my rupture. She is an hour earlier and had read I was in the hospital on FB. Do I believe in God? You had better believe I do. Does God answer prayer? Yes, He does.
     “One scripture given to me twice while in the hospital was Psalm 118:17-18, ” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” This was read to me when Mike and Nona visited. He read the entire Psalm. Then a young man sent this same verse to me via Facebook. It was after I was released and at home that I began to realize the significance of the verse. God help me to be faithful.”
     If you’ve got even more time to hear her story, an 11-minute version from a radio broadcast is here:
Ann Bjorlie at our Kitchen Table



A Tale of Three Marathoners…from Chicago to Boston…and Back to Home!

Jess and Sam after the Boston MarathonDo you like running? Did you catch any of this week’s Boston Marathon? Boston MarathonI knew someone who was running this year, so I had a keen interest in the race, Baby Cheering her Daddy for the Boston Marathonbut it made me think about three other marathoners whom I admire
even though they weren’t running in the Boston Marathon. Baby with a Hat 1The first one is Jess, whose daughter’s cuteness (Sadie)
has adorned some of my Bless Your Baby entries. Marathon running coupleJess is totally delightful! She’s also a marathoner, and the story goes
that she and her husband, Sam, ran a marathon togetherBride and Bridegroom running a Marathon the morning before they got married. Doesn’t that put a big grin on your face? Baby with a Hat 2 Jess has set aside many of her personal ambitions in order to love her family, Baby on a jet planeand this past week she went with her husband and their little girl to Boston, Ready for the Boston Marathonwhere they cheered Sam on in the Boston Marathon. Way to go, Sam and Jess!! Baby with a Hat 3Life is a marathon, and you’re doing great! Luncheon TableLast week while Alan was at a conference in Chicago, Mom and Baby eatingI spent a blissful afternoon with Jess and Sadie, Sistersalong with two other women who are running a great race in life’s marathon.Green Rice with SaffronThe hostess, Marlene, is an Iranian Christian and always makes the most delectable, exotic meals. Baby with a Hat 4I won’t go into details, Iranean Soupbut the transition from Iran (many years ago) was at great cost to her family, and she still cares for an older brother who was never able to recover emotionally. Baby with Great AuntDespite the trials in her life, Marlene radiates a gentle kindness which makes me (and I suspect everybody else in her life space) feel dearly loved. Baby with her Great AuntShe’s the kind of woman I wish lived next door to me, and I envy her neighbors! Definitely one of those blessed, virtuous woman whose worth is far above rubies.

Lunch PartyMarlene’s sister-in-law is another rare gem. Lillian and her husband are caring for both her brother and her mother…and have been for years (in addition to rearing their own brood, a very demanding medical practice, and being very involved in their Messianic Jewish community, etc!). Baby with a Hat 5Their example of working tirelessly and extending grace to others is mind-boggling to me. I don’t think I had the metal to have lived such a rigorous, unselfish life of putting the needs of others ahead of my own. I know God certainly didn’t test me in that way. Baby with a Hat 6 At any rate, I was deeply touched by the experience of sharing an afternoon of life and love with these precious spiritual kin (same Father and all mothered by my spiritual mentor, Mommu). It was super fun, refreshing, and so encouraging!

Baby with a Hat 7Life is a long, hard marathon, isn’t it?  But, like Sadie, let’s just keep trying,
and in the end, everything will turn out right!    🙂   Baby with a Hat 8“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

P.S.—All the pictures of Jess, Sam, and Sadie (except for the pictures taken on the day of our visit last week) were taken and used by permission of Jess, who is very generous besides being so cool! Thank you!

Outcry: Unusual Places and Unusual People

Hillsong Outcry Praising God!Hillsong’s “Outcry” woke up Grand Rapids last night!
Hillsong Outcry Taya SmithHockey games are fun, but nothing to compare to the energy
glowing through the veins Capacity Crowd at Van Andel for Hillsong Outcryof   the 12,000 of us who flooded the Van Andel Arena and pretty much stood on our feet for five hours singing, lifting up the name of Jesus, and celebrating the love of God through Christ.Hillsong Outcry. Van Andel ArenaDo you know Hillsong?Brian Houston preaching at Outcry in GRThirty-two years ago it was a little church planted by a couple, Brian and Bobbie (who’s a lady) Houston, way down under in Sydney, Australia. Hillsong Outcry God's Perfect LoveAfter a month, their congregation had dwindled from about 75 to 45, and Brian figured at that rate, the church would have disintegrated in another month. Hillsong Outcry We lift you higherHowever, the Lord had other plans, and now this church produces music
that is loved and sung around the world.Hillsong Outcry at Van Andel ArenaAlan and I visited Hillsong in Australia 12 years ago,
but it wasn’t until last night that we actually got to hear Brian Houston preach.Hillsong Outcry God never fails It reminded me just a little bit (minus the glitz) of thirty years ago when Alan and I sat transfixed at Pontiac’s Silverdome, listening to a simple gospel message by Billy Graham that resulted in hundreds of people coming to faith in Christ. Hillsong Outcry SingingLast night, Brian Houston used the example of Hillsong to encourage us to let the Lord make something unusual out of us. As Dwight Moody used to preach: “The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.”  Are you ready? I am!!  Hillsong Outcry Lifting Hands to God“Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he [God] may bestow upon you a blessing this day” (Exodus 32:29).  Hillsong Outcry Shining Lights“Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 29:31).

It Was My War I’ll Remember it the Way I Want To!

It Was My WarWith a title like that, you know this book would be a fun read!

Lisa with her grandparentsI got interested because the author, Bill Sefton, just passed on to glory recently and his grand daughter is a dear friend of mine, so when I heard that this 90+year old Grand Rapids advertising maven had written a book about his experiences in World War 2 as a paratroop officer on D-Day, I was ready to read! Bill SeftonBill was just a kid when he joined the army, and he wrote about his experiences with such candor and contagious humor that I kept laughing right up until the war became deadly. Sefton was ever innovative, able to think on the run and land on his feet. Snapping TurtleTwo of my favorite stories were the time he caught and traded a big snapping turtle for some much-needed window bars to secure a jail he was guarding, and the time he convinced a naval supply officer to exchange a hedgehog (which would make such a perfect French mascot) for some crates of canned peaches. Bill and Beth SeftonBill survived the war, married a beautiful army nurse, and eventually settled in Grand Rapids, where he fathered ten children and developed the largest advertising business around. I’ve noticed that his book is now out of print and would cost somewhere between $74 and $200+ to buy, so I’m just going to share a few words of wisdom he learned from surviving the war (and life). I think these are sterling life lessons applicable for all of us. So, if you’ll permit me to quote:

“Morale and esprit de corps in a unit wax or wane in relation to the nature of experiences shared. If training is rigorous and challenging, troops feel good about their accomplishments. If it is undemanding and haphazardly conducted, they lose confidence in leaders, commanders, and themselves.”

“I learned never to underestimate the intelligence of my men. They will see through bluff and bluster, perceive and resent any cavalier attitude. They will respond favorably to discipline they consider consistent, fair, and pertinent. They will respect you in direct ratio to the consideration you exercise on their behalf.”

“The first time in combat is a traumatic experience. People you’ve never met are trying earnestly to kill you. The human tendency is to hug any cover available rather than expose yourself by returning fire. Only the intensity and effectiveness of previous training will modify that impulse.
When attacking enemy positions, audacity may well reduce your casualties. Hesitancy inevitably will increase them.”

“When your attack starts to falter and momentum hangs on your next decision, the only order to give is ‘Follow me!'”

“There is just one effective shield against the mental and emotional stresses of combat. It is the firm conviction that there is a Supreme Being who decides the extent of your survival. So you do your job to the best of your ability and let Him call the shots.”

“Most military principles of leadership applied in business enterprises as well. Maintain a positive attitude, assign attainable objectives and communicate the importance of accomplishing them, specify individual responsibilities and timing of reports on progress, praise successes in public and critique failures in private.”

Finally, Sefton finished with the “two most important lessons learned in combat. One is to thank God for every new day and to squeeze all possible juice out of it. The other is to keep forging ahead. It’s harder to hit a moving target.”Bill SeftonJudging from what I’ve read and heard, I believe Bill Sefton was a man of his word, and despite the tongue-in-cheek title, I think It Was My War I’ll Remember it the way I want to! is a very uplifting and reliable resource for those of us who want to learn more about survival in both war and peace!

“Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:4-6)