Monet’s Glorious Giverny in Spring

Gorgeous colors at Giverny. France. 05.09.16Kathy asked yesterday which site in France was our favorite. Kaleidoscope of Colors at Giverny. France. 05.09.16Wow! That’s a hard one! Mt. Saint Michel 05.13.16Alan said Mont St. Michel, and there’s definitely something to that!Monet's Home at Giverny. France. 05.09.16 I feel like we came home with a lifetime of unforgettable memories, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16and that narrowing it down to one favorite is nigh unto impossible Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 1given the uniqueness of the various scenic places. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 20However, for an over-the-top sensory experience in color, texture, fragrance— Bird at Giverny. France. 05.09.16even sound…Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 9in fact, pure, unmitigated beauty everywhere I turned, Kathi at GivernyI would vote for Giverny, Artful Abandon at Giverny. France. 05.09.16 the sublimely riotous gardens so artistically designed by Claude Monet.Claude Monet. Wiki public domainMonet (1840-1926) was the great father of Monet. Painting of his lily pond—and most prolific contributor to—French impressionistic painting.  Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 7Ten years ago, Alan and I visited the fantastic gardens of GivernySpring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 14 with two of our kids (Kathy and Jonathan), Givernyand we were enthralled. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 21Five years ago, I reflected on those visions of glorySpring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 17 while visiting Manito Park in Spokane, Washington with Jon’s family  Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 19( flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 24This May, Alan and I visited again, this time with our two youngest, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 13Stephen and Joel, and I have to say that if anything, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 23Giverny is even more than ever an unforgettable kaleidoscope of color Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 8and perfumes! Japanese Bridge lush with wisteria at Giverny. France. 05.09.16The Japanese bridge over Monet’s lily pond Lily pond by Claude Monet at Giverny. France. 05.09.16(basis for his most famous paintings) Wisteria at Giverny. France. 05.09.16was bursting with exuberant wisteria, Tulips and Forget-me-nots at Giverny. France. 05.09.16and cheerful beds of tulips interlaced with forget-me-nots Columbine and forget-me-nots at Giverny. France. 05.09.16and a profusion of other spring-blooming plants Paths beside the lily pong at Giverny. France. 05.09.16were joyfully overflowing their bounds along every path. Sitting on bench at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 14We could have sat transfixed for hours at any resting place Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 2without ever taking in all the intricacies right before my eyes. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 5Even if I possessed all the money in the world, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 29I couldn’t imagine or produce such a magnificent display of brilliant color. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 11The impact was so overwhelming that I just found myself laughing Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 27and blinking my eyes, Kathi on bridge at Giverny. France. 05.09.16like I’d walked into a Thomas Kinkade painting of heaven! Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 12In fact, it did make me think of heaven, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 6which will be more glorious Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 26and exotic Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 10and dazzlingly beautiful Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 4than we can imagine. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 16Are you ready? Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 30Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Giverny. France. 05.09.16Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:1-16)Tulips Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16.(Yes, all these photos are from Giverny, taken a couple of weeks ago [except for the photo of Claude Monet from Wiki, and Mont St. Michel, taken a few days later]. May is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit!)

Memorial Day: Remembering D-Day; Can We Save Private Ryan?

American Cemetery. Cimetière Américain de Colleville-sur-mer 3Just back from visiting the American Cemetery in France (Cimetière Américain de Colleville-sur-mer), where 9,387 American soldiers are buried American Cemetery. Cimetière Américain de Colleville-sur-mer(which is only a fraction of the 200,000 Allied casualties,
including 50,000 killed during the D-day attack), American Cemetery for those killed during D-Day in NormandyAlan and I have been feeling very sober this weekend. In America it’s our “Memorial Day” to commemorate those who’ve died to serve our country. American Cemetery. Cimetière Américain de Colleville-sur-mer 5The sacrifice of so many valiant soldiers to keep our world from being dominated by Hitler during World War 2 in particular is something that will always command my deepest respect and appreciation. Normandy BeachWe spent several days on our recent trip to France visiting the sites and reading the stories and memorials in Normandy, and the more I studied, the more deeply I felt a hatred for war and all the devastation that evil men bring upon mankind.Etretat church de Notre Dame with cemetery in the backyard, Seine-Maritime, Normandy, FranceIt was in this frame of mind that Alan and I watched
Saving Private Ryan last night. Saving Private Ryan DVDThe movie is carefully researched historical fiction, based only loosely on the story of the four American Niland brothers who all fought in World War 2. Saving Private RyanAlthough it came out 18 years ago, we previously avoided it because of its R-rating (for terrible violence and language),
and I can’t say that I would recommend it even now (for those reasons),

D-Day Attackbut after studying hundreds of photographs and descriptions of what really happened during the Normandy Beachhead and in the days following, I believe the movie gives a pretty clear picture of the unspeakable awfulness of war. D-Day Quote by RangerSaving Private Ryan tells the story of 8 rangers who help with the first successful breakthrough during the Normandy Beachhead and are then sent on an expedition to find Private Ryan and return him home, since all three of his brothers have been killed already.American Cemetery. Cimetière Américain de Colleville-sur-mer Statistics of deathsThe movie was so accurate in its graphic depictions that some war vets had PTSD symptoms from watching it. The horrors of war and the traumatic memories of those who fought are burdens they will carry throughout their lifetimes, and I’m sure that is true of every person who’s been involved in war. Cemetery at Notre Dame in EtratatI know we can’t do anything about the past, but can we commit ourselves from this day forward to attempting to save all the “Private Ryans” in our world by doing everything in our power to avoid evil and war?Memorial near Notre Dame Church in EtratatI believe that if people would take to heart and follow the advice on this memorial perched just outside the Notre Dame Church in Etretat, there would be an end to war: “Love God and follow his ways.”

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).  Pine trees weeping at American Cemetery in Normandy France(The photos [except for the two posters for Saving Private Ryan] were all taken in France a couple of weeks ago. It was rainy, and it seemed to me that the whole world is still weeping over this tragic war.)

Rise Up, My Love (188): When Your Beloved Leaves

Full Moon Seen through bramblesSong of Solomon 6:1 “Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.” “Whither is thy beloved gone?” That is a logical question. If he means so much to you, you must know where he went. How could you have lost track of him completely? Has this ever happened before? Where does your husband usually go when he leaves? Have you ever lost track of your husband at night? One such experience stands out vividly in my memory. It was early into the beginning of my husband’s solo medical practice. He only had one support person, who served as secretary, receptionist, nurse, and accountant, and between the two of them, they had to do everything that there was to do at his office. So, Alan was left at night to do all the clean up and paper work, and his last duty was to drop off any money that came in at the bank’s night deposit box. I always felt a little uncomfortable with his stopping at the bank each night, fearing that someone might notice and try to rob him. One night Alan called to say that he had to go to a meeting at the hospital and would be late. That was not uncommon, so I was disappointed but not unduly worried until after I’d put our four young children to bed for the night and found it was 11:00 p.m. and he still wasn’t home. I called his office, but there was no response. I tried to page him at the hospital, but he didn’t respond there either. By 11:30 p.m. I was fearing the worst, but I couldn’t leave the children alone. Finally, near tears, I called our next-door neighbors, who were old enough to be our parents and had become good friends. The husband asked me all the right questions…has this ever happened before? No! Where does he usually go? We discussed Alan’s normal patterns, and then my neighbor took off in his car to try to track Alan down. I waited on pins and needles. My neighbor was gone for an hour but could find no trace of him. I was about ready to call the police when Alan showed up…just fine and wondering why I wasn’t sound asleep. As it turned out, he’d returned to the office to do paper work after the meeting at the hospital and then had been called back to the hospital for an emergency admission for one of his patients. He hadn’t called to tell me because he was afraid I’d already be asleep and didn’t want to wake me.

He had no idea of the anxiety he’d caused! Thankfully, that was the first and last time he stayed out into the middle of the night without calling to let me know what had happened! Solomon probably could not have guessed the anguish in his wife’s heart as she searched for him. She had been lazy and careless…so slow to answer that he’d left without ever knowing she was even going to bother to get up and let him in. Where would he go? How could she guess? Where would your husband go if you locked him out? Where would you go if your husband refused to let you in the house at night?

I shudder to think of the foolish rebellion and sin that many fall into because their spouses refuse to forgive and forget…to go the extra mile…to give and receive love even when there’s stress and tension in the relationship. Where would you go? Where should you go? There’s only one right answer, and that’s to the arms of Jesus, the lover of our souls. No matter how we long to run to the arms of another human being, we must learn to run first— always and only—to the arms of God.

We are first and foremost his children and his bride. In an ultimate sense, we belong to no other. No matter who fails us, or how they fail us, we have no right to run to the arms of some other sympathetic person, no matter how wonderful or how understanding that person might be. So many of life’s tragedies could be avoided if we human beings would learn to run to the right arms. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee” (Deuteronomy 33:27). May we memorize that verse until it burns into our hearts. The next time sorrow rips through your soul like a jagged streak of lightning, visualize yourself running to the arms of Jesus, comforted and secure in his embrace.

Enchanted May in Michigan

Italian LandscapeDo you ever find yourself pining for someplace you aren’t, Italian Villaor longing to roll in that luscious green grass on the other side of the hedge? Visiting Fam in ItalyIt was a little sad to leave our kids in Italy, Geraniiums in front of Clock Towerespecially knowing that Michael would return in a couple of days
and that both Stephen and Joel were staying on for a couple of weeks more. Italian CountrysideVacation is a lot more pleasurable than work, isn’t it? Wisteria on wooded lane*However, there’s no place like home, even if I did need to pull weeds
and Alan had to cut the grass so it wasn’t too long to roll in! Grace and fam in ItalyWe left 3 of our 7 family “units” in Italy, Alan with Sammybut we’ve already been able to reconnect with our GR familyAlan with Dan's family…and what a blessing it is to have Daniel’s family close! Lilacs by Tanglewood CottageOur house may be a “Tanglewood Cottage” rather than an Italian villa,
but it’s home sweet home, and I love it! Wisteria and forget-me-notsWe don’t have roses blooming yet,
but we had all the wisteria and sunshine one could hope for,Lily of the Valley. and Honeysucklejpg and even if our windows aren’t framed with jasmine, our lane is heavy with the scents of honeysuckle, lilacs, autumn olive blossoms, and lilies of the valley. Female Red-winged blackbird fliriting 5.26.16We don’t hear the sweet sound of the cuckoos in the woods, Blackbird singing out my windowbut we do hear the red-winged blackbirds calling loud and sweet.  Mother Duck and 3 ducklings by dock+10 5.26.16Mama Duck has hatched six fine ducklings, Robin's nest by tea roomand a robin is nesting right outside our tearoom! Muskrat carrying leaves and grass 5.26.16I heard a theologian reminding us yesterday that God has given us this world Lilac with honeybeeto tend as his garden in anticipation of “coming attractions!”Autumn Olive blossoms I loved that. Flowering CherryBrianna told me that the boyfriend of one of her sisters
is hiking part of the Pacific Northwest Trail this summer, Flowering Cherry blossoms on groundand he always takes trash bags to clean up as he goes. Sweet rocket in woodsIsn’t that awesome? Sweet rocket by swampI hope wherever we live, we find joy in our surroundings
and are willing to work hard to make them more beautiful, Violetsso that life seems “enchanted” no matter where we live.  Elaeagnue umbellatat (Autumn Olive)“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15, and I don’t think His intention has changed).

LilacsFor the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. Isaiah 51:2-4

David’s House Ministries: A Moving Example of Compassion

Paul at David's House MinistriesPerhaps many of you know the biblical story of Mephibosheth. He was the son of Prince Jonathan, who was King David’s brother-in-law and dearest friend. During the civil upheaval resulting from King Saul’s jealousy of David, Mephibosheth (who was only five) was accidentally dropped by his nurse during a flight and became lame on both his feet.

Mephibosheth Before David II Samuel 9:3-6
Mephibosheth Before David II Samuel 9:3-6

Later, after both King Saul and Prince Jonathan were killed in a war against the Philistines, David became the king of Israel, but rather than killing Mephibosheth (who could have been a contender for the throne), David took him in and provided for him for the rest of his life, declaring, “he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons” (2 Samuel 9:11). David shows kindness to Methibosheth via www.freebibleimages.orgThis beautiful (true) story sets an inspiring example for us in reaching out to care for those who are disabled, and David’s House Ministries here in GR has brought this story to life in our present day.

Drawings by a resident at David's HouseStarted in 1987 by a retired minister and his wife, whose son
was developmentally disabled and would need care beyond their lifetime, Bedroom of one resident at David's HouseDavid’s House now is the permanent “home” (not just residence)Quilt on wall at David's House Ministiresfor 37 developmentally disabled men and women.Director of David's House Ministries (This sweet lady is the founders’ daughter and present director.)Plans for expansion of David's houseThey are in the process of trying to double this numberClearing Ground for David's House Ministriesto accommodate some of the 72 people on their waiting list.

Paul WiersmaYesterday I visited David’s House, where my friend Paul serves as a fund-raiser. Paul fell through the bleachers at a ball game when he was three and suffered a closed-head injury that left him disabled by seizures for years. Eventually, a surgery totally alleviated his problems and restored him to a full and joyful life. Conference Room Table at David's House MinistriesHe was working as an accountant at a bank until last year when he found out about David’s House and felt called to help with their mission, feeling a special compassion for the residents, as he might have suffered a similar fate were it not for his miraculous recovery.

Homes at David's House Ministries As we strolled through the beautiful homes and grounds,
I was struck by seeing God’s hand prints everywhere. Van for David's House MinistriesPaul told story after story of people from near and far who’ve been moved by God to contribute in various ways—not only their treasure, Kitchen at David's House Ministriesbut their talents and time,State-of-the-art equipment at David's House Ministries and the result is a sparkling, state-of-the-art community of homes Screenhouse at David's House Ministiresthat radiate peace and rest…a place where people are treated with respect and compassion…truly like “the King’s sons,” which they are!Preparing to build at David's House MinistriesIf you’re interested in learning more, there will be a ground breaking/prayer blessing on Thursday, June 16, 2016 from 12:00-1:00 pm One dining room at David's Houseat David’s House Ministries, with a light lunch following. Banner over door in one patient's room at David's HouseYou’re all invited! Just RSVP to Tiffany at: 616-284-4385 if you’d like to come!

Prep table given to David House MinistriesAlso, if you’re interested in finding out more, either about how you might be involved in this ministry or if you have someone who needs care, you can contact Paul at PWIERSMA@DAVIDSHOUSEMINISTRIES.ORG or enjoy pictures and information on their Facebook page: “David’s House Ministries.” Blessings!

Sparrows. Picture on wall of David's House MinistriesLift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way;
but let it rather be healed
” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

Design on wall at David's House Ministries(All photos were taken yesterday at David’s House Ministries.
The two drawings of Mephibosheth were from: #1.

“Spotlight”: Does God Ask Anyone to be Celibate?

SpotlightI shied away from Spotlight because of its  “R” rating, but my daughter challenged me on that one, accusing me of refusing to look at the ugliness of sin, and pointing out that part of the problem with societal evils is that people refuse to acknowledge or investigate. So, on our flight home from Venice last weekend,Spotlight 2 I watched Spotlight. I think movies are edited for flights (due to youngsters being on board), but the version I saw was not defiling, although it left me grieving deeply for the state of Christianity throughout the world. Spotlight 3Spotlight is based on the investigation by the Boston Globe into Catholic priests sexually abusing children, and the movie has won 2 Oscars along with 108 other wins and 123 other nominations for their compelling unveiling of the massive evil covered up by the Catholic church. Spotlight 4The statistics are staggering: As a result of the investigations, 249 priests were charged in Boston, and over 1,000 survivors gave testimony. Spotlight 5Cardinal Law resigned in 2002, and since that time hundreds of major scandals have been uncovered in the Roman Catholic Church around the world, including both Detroit and Grand Rapids here in Michigan.  Spotlight 1Molesting children is a horrible evil. In Matthew 18:6, Jesus gave this scathing rebuke: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Molesting children goes even beyond physical abuse because it causes great emotional and spiritual damage too. Notre Dam Cathedral. Paris 5.8.16The Sunday we spent in Paris, we attended the service at Notre Dam, and I noticed that there were no altar boys in attendance. I wondered it that was a change due to a desire to reform and give no appearance of evil, but I don’t know. Interior of Notre Dam Cathedral. 5.8.16However, for me, the deepest question is: “Why?” and I think the real answer is that God created us as sexual beings who are meant to marry and find fulfillment in a sacred partnership. God never asks anybody to be celibate in the scripture. It’s contrary to the way He created us and contrary to his intention for us. Requiring celibacy is a human law that is really inhumane. Let the priests and nuns marry! “Let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:9).

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

EgyptAir Crash on May 19, 2016…The Day We Left Paris!

EgyptAir Flight leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport on 05.19.16EgyptAir flight MS 804 with 56 passengers and 10 crew members left
Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris last week on an airbus A320 headed for Cairo  Vueling Airbus A320just a few hours before Alan and I, with our two youngest sons,
were to leave Paris on a Vueling Airbus A320 headed for Venice. Airplane disappearing from sight after leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport on May 19. 2016EgyptAir’s flight MS 804 disappeared on its way to Cairo.
That was May 19,  and as of today, it’s thought that all persons aboard have died, although investigations are ongoing.

Clouds on flight from Paris to Venice.According to data collected from a black box which Egyptian sources retrieved, it appears that a bomb was planted and exploded on the right front side of the plane. Investigators also uncovered the gruesome fact that vandals had painted graffiti on the aircraft two years earlier threatening: “We will bring this plane down.” The grief is deep, and my heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones, including 3 young orphans whose parents were just returning to Cairo after receiving cancer treatment in France. Air Traffic Control Tower at Charles de Gaulle Airport 05.19.16When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle early on the morning of May 19, we heard that EgyptAir flight MS804 had disappeared, and we also heard rumors that the air traffic controllers were going to strike that day, so we waited somewhat restlessly to see if our flight would even go. Charles de Gaulle Airport 05.19.16Although the atmosphere was relatively calm externally, there was electricity in the air, and it was obvious that everyone was anxious. Concord. Charles de Gaulle Airport May 19.2016Detectives have been hard at work trying to track down suspects, but there are some 85,000 people who have “red badge” security clearance and access to restricted areas…a huge pool, particularly when no terrorist group has boasted responsibility for the explosion.

EgyptAir flight leaving CDG airport May 19 2016Our flight was delayed, but we did finally take off
(followed by an EgyptianAir craft!) Dinner with Grace and kidsand made it safely to Venice and the warm welcome of our son Michael’s family. A walk in ItalyWe had a short but happy visit with our “Italian” family, Being carried on someone's shouldersdropped off Stephen and Joel (who are staying another few weeks)
and have now made it safely back to GR.  Vueling Delayed Flight from Paris to Venice on May 19. 2016However, Alan and I are definitely noticing that travel is becoming less reliable and more dangerous. Our world is full of insecurity and danger. Charles de Gaulle AirportAs Christians, how should we respond? Jets lined up at Charles de Gaulle AirportShould we restrict our activities and batten down the hatches against attack? Jet leaving de GaulleWe are certainly called to prayerfully seek and do God’s will,
but if we believe we’re following God,
then there is a comforting verse that often comes to my mind: Memorial Tower in ParisAnd when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). Sunset over Coast of NormandyGod is coming back to make things right some day,Waiting to board at Charles de Gaulle Airport May 19.16but until then, it’s probably appropriate to “Keep calm and carry on.”

(All these photos were taken on our recent trip to France and Italy. I hope to share more of what we saw and learned over the next few weeks.)

Rise Up, My Love (187): The Great Lover of our Souls, or our Judge?

Lily. Red 6.18.2012Song of Solomon 5:16 “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely.” The third striking contrast is our bridegroom’s mouth. To us, his lips are “like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh,” and “his mouth is most sweet.” How totally opposite this is from the appearance of our Christ as conquering King: “Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 1:16). Again, the real difference is in the perspective! As they say: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” We often see what we’re looking for and interpret data according to our expectations and experience. The mouth of the Logos…the living Word of God, speaks forth words of life and truth…and to the believer, how precious are those words! “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). He whispers to us the comforts of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and everlasting love. He kisses us with the kisses of kindness and time stops. We breathe his breath…the breath of heaven’s Holy Spirit…and feel our soul filling up with the breath of life. We feel that nothing could draw us from his side or ever make us want to leave the security of his arms. And, when we’re busy during the heat of the day, we always long to be back within the timeless ecstasy of his embrace, nuzzling and listening and kissing him again. This is communion, and this is the honeyed mouth of our Beloved. But, now behold those who know him not!…those who “speak great swelling words of vanity” (2 Peter 2:18); who “are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts” (Jude 1:16); who “are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). To these, Jesus will come as a judge out of whose mouth will come the Word of God which “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). To the murderers and adulterers and all unrepentant sinners Christ will come with flaming eyes to lay open all hidden sin, and with words of judgment and justice to slay the souls of the wicked. The sword of the Spirit…the Bible…is honey to the hearts of those who have taken in God’s love and forgiveness and felt the healing balm of its comforting words…but a fearsome sword that hardhearted unbelievers will dread on Judgment Day. Sword on velvet setteeThere is a story told of a young ship’s captain who took his new bride to sea with him so that she could understand his life and work. One day there was a fierce electrical storm, and the young wife was terribly frightened. In response, her husband, who was a valiant soldier, drew his sharp cutlass out of his sheath and asked her how she felt when she saw its gleaming edge. “Does it frighten you?” he asked. “Oh, no!” she responded. “It makes me feel secure, because I know you love me and would fight to the death to protect me with that sword!” Ship at Sea in storm“So it is with this storm at sea my love,” smiled her courageous husband. “When you see the lightening streak through the sky, think of it as a flashing sword from the hand of God, who stands ready to protect you, and when you hear the mighty boom of his voice in the thunder, know that it is the one who loves you even more dearly than I do. Do not be frightened. All this marvelous display of his power should only remind us that we are safe in his love.” Yes, the mighty power of God—his flaming eyes and razor-edged words are for our blessing and protection. For those of us who are his, may we always see within his flaming eyes the passion of a love that has totally melted his heart, and may we always find within the words of his mouth—the pages of his Book—a dripping myrrh that is sweeter than honey to our soul! This is our beloved, and this is our friend, O dear believers!

(Rereading this some 15+ years since I wrote it, I’m concerned that the wording of the story about the ship captain may not be my own, although I no longer know where I first heard the story. If you know the source, would you please let me know in the comment box so I can give credit where credit is due? Thanks so much! Also, the picture of the ship at sea is one I took while watching a trailer for In the Heart of the Sea. I hope they don’t mind!)

Wise Words from Mother Teresa

Baby helping with Spring CleanupMother Teresa wrote hundreds of wise sayings, but I want to share just a few of my favorite this morning. Each is like a little jewel worth treasuring!

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep,  for every dream precedes the goal.

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love. 

I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.

Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depth of our hearts.

If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight; build it anyway.

I’m just a little pencil in the hand of a writing God sending a love letter to the world.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Prize, they asked her, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family.”

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

Peace begins with a smile.

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

Live simply so others may simply live.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.”
(Ecclesiastes 12:11, ESV)

(Thank you to my daughter-in-law, Brianna, for the picture of Samuel helping his daddy with spring clean up.)

The Letters of Mother Teresa

letters“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus” (Mother Teresa). Even though it didn’t receive much critical acclaim, I found watching The Letters of Mother Teresa intriguing. The Letters is a very sensitive and kind biographical interpretation of Mother Teresa’s life based on letters she’d written to her spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem, over some fifty years.MotherTeresa 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-CommonsDo you know her story? Although my mother was an agnostic, she was about the same age as Mother Teresa and a great admirer of her humanitarian work, so I grew up equating the name “Mother Teresa” with selfless compassion for the poor. Born in Skopje, Macedonia (1910) as Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, “Mother Teresa” was thrilled with stories of missionaries working in India even as a child and went to Ireland at 18 to prepare for mission work by learning English and joining the Sisters of Loreto. For over 20 years she taught school in India, taking on the name “Teresa” in honor of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. The Letters Slums of CalcuttaNear the end of those years, she felt a “call within a call” to live and work among the poorest of the poor, and thereafter dedicated her life to serving the needs of those who were destitute and abandoned, most of whom were dying alone on the streets of Calcutta. Missionaries of Charity by Fennec. Wiki Public DomainEventually Mother Teresa started a congregation known as the Missionaries of Charity, which today numbers 4,500 nuns—all of whom have taken vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”The Letters Missionaries of Charity These women are serving in hundreds of settings around the world to meet the needs of societies’ castoffs. The Letters Mother Teresa received Nobel Peace Prize 1979For her efforts, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and since her death, she’s been canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.MotherTeresa by Turelio The great controversy is in trying to understand why someone so dedicated to God should have experienced such a sense of being abandoned by God. Was it like St. John of the Cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul” or that brief period of abandonment that Jesus experienced on the cross when he bore our sins and the Father turned his face away? Or, as Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk wrote, could it have been some paradox: “for her to be a light, she was to be in darkness”?  I cannot begin to understand or explain her years of feeling empty and dark, although I’ve known people with similar agonies. In my life, darkness has only come when I’ve started to doubt God’s goodness or been tempted to disobey my sense of what God wants from me, plain and simple. The Letters Hospice Center of Mother TeresaBut, I’ve never carried the weight of constant pain and suffering as Mother Teresa did. Did she begin to doubt his goodness and love? I have no insight into why she suffered, but I do know for certain that God is, and He can be trusted. The Letters Discussing Mother TeresaThis life is full of mysteries, but like Abraham of old, I also believe, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  (Genesis 18:25). Meanwhile, if you find life unbearably depressing, you might want to make sure you don’t have a medical problem, like low thyroid. (I’m totally serious!) If you’re physically healthy and balanced but still feeling filled with darkness, I’m wondering if you need hope.If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). Christ died for us and rose again, so that if we repent of our sins and believe in him, we will find that after we die, we will also rise again and be with him forever.

“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).

(Photo credits: #1 Movie poster. #2,7 by Turelio, made available through Wiki Commons. #4 Public Domain in Wiki. The rest I took while viewing the movie.)