Monthly Archives: April 2017

Rise Up, My Love (232): Mysterious Unity

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.” Before un-entwining “purple” hair, let’s consider one more aspect of the bride’s head being like Carmel— which stands “with regal splendor even above the grandeur of the sea.” Here is where spiritual mystery leaves us grasping to feel with our hearts what our minds cannot adequately process. The Scripture repeatedly reminds us that the man is the head of his wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, which is his bride, the body of Christ: “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3). “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). “And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church…that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). “And ye are complete in him (Christ), which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). In Colossians 2:19, the Christians were warned about false mystics who were “not holding the Head (Christ), from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”

Although the term “head” is used as an office of leadership, it is also—particularly in this last passage—speaking of the church…the bride of Christ…as also being the body of Christ in an organic sense. This is a spiritual mystery. How can Christ at the same time be both a literal God-man with a physical body and—in an organic sense—also the head of “the body of Christ” which is His church…called to become His bride? How can the church be at the same time both the bride of Christ and the body of Christ? The bridegroom marries a bride that is a separate person. How does it work?

Indeed, it is a great mystery…one of those things that we look into now but can see only “through a glass, darkly” knowing just in part what we shall know fully through glorious experience when we see Him face to face! Now we know only that the marriage between a man and a woman foreshadows what it will be like.

In our most intimate human relationships, we begin to experience the merging of two souls and the unifying of two spirits. We sense the opening of our inmost being to receive the intercourse of love from heart to heart and the communion of soul to soul. In marriage, we can experience the fullest culmination of union in the merging of two bodies as well as souls and spirits. As Christ prayed for us, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23).

What an incredible prayer! That we may all be one. That every man, woman, and child who belongs to Jesus by faith in his sacrificial death for our sins would become one entity…cells working together in one body which is both the beloved bride of Christ and in some great spiritual mystery the real, physical, living, eternal body of Christ. Bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, having partaken of his blood and flesh, having become one in him. I stand in awe, silenced by my inability to comprehend the workings of such a mystery and the love that would allow me such privilege.

The Father loves us like he loves the Son? It’s true! The Bible teaches us this concept, and it is ours to believe by faith. The Father—who can do anything he wants—conceived a plan which will make us not only sons of God but a part of his organic body…even as the Father and the Son are one! Forever and for eternity we will be not only indwelt by the Spirit, but joined to Christ…and through Christ to God the Father as well! God in us and us in God…united and one in some inconceivably wonderful and mysterious way. And can it be?? Yes! Praise God, it can.

Lasagna Florentine: Classic Spinach Lasagna

Much as we  love meat and traditional lasagna, spinach lasagna has become a classic in our family, so I want to share our family’s secret recipe, created generations ago by our Italian forefathers. (Just kidding; I don’t know if I have a drop of Italian blood, although we’re getting our DNA tested, so maybe…Alan is quite sure he has an Italian stomach.) At any rate, here’s the recipe I’ve developed through experimenting after taste-testing many a great dish.

Classic Spinach Lasagna

Prepare 12 lasagna noodles by simmering in boiling, salted water until starting to become tender (about 5 minutes; don’t over cook. If you work fast, you can boil the noodles while you’re preparing the sauce, but otherwise, prepare the sauce first.)

Sauce:
1.  Sauté in a big skillet with 1/4 cup melted butter:
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh garlic
1 chopped red pepper
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
10 oz. spinach (add at the end until just barely wilted)

2. Add to sauce:
8 oz. softened cream cheese (stir until blended)
16 oz. cottage cheese (or Ricotta, which is more expensive but traditional)
1 cup sour cream. Heat everything in skillet until blended.

3. Layer in a 13″ by 9″ pan:
3 pasta noodles and 1/4 of the sauce spread over them evenly
Repeat until all the pasta noodles and sauce are in the pan
Smother with 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

4. Bake for 45 minutes covered with foil in oven at 350.° (Make sure the foil isn’t touching the cheese, or the cheese will all melt and stick to it.) Remove foil and continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. (Check a couple of times.) Let it cool for 10+ minutes before serving.

“Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.” (Daniel 1:12-16)

Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

Not Shock, but Cultural Surprises in Asia via Haiku

Alan and I had a lot of wonderful experiences in Asia, many of which were surprisingly pleasant (such as green tea ice cream),a few that we pretty much all disliked (such as silkworms), and many that were very different but turned out well even though they weren’t at all what we were expecting!I was constantly struck by the beauty of South Korea and the immaculately manicured cities in Japan. Just for fun, I wrote a few haikus commemorating some of the cultural surprises.

On Asian Restrooms   (Yes, this is a bathroom…in the Seoul Tower) Such fancy bathrooms!  Soap on bars and heated seats, But—don’t stand on them!
(In some rural areas, you squat over a hole in the floor. Twenty-two years ago,
I rode a train where the toilet was a hole in the floor emptying onto the track! Times have really changed since then! Now some restrooms are ultra modern, with music, heated seats, and several types of special wash and dry options!!)

On Asian Cuisine  The food looked so strange  I was afraid I would not  Like it, but I did!

On Asia’s Beautiful Flowers  Flowers overhead,  Underfoot and all around.  Asian majesty.

On Pets  Everywhere you go There are pampered pets in tow Like happy children.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34; may we embrace each other all over the world, even in areas where others seem strange!).

Beauty in our Backyard: Amen to Aman Park!

We moved from Michigan’s northern peninsula about 24 years ago, and one of the lingering memories I’ve cherished
is that of northern spring woods carpeted with trillium and wildflowers. Actually, we have a sprinkling of trillium in my backyard, but nothing like the gauze of white that drapes the hillsides near Fayette in the Upper Peninsula, so I’ve harbored a pensive ambition to return some spring just to feast my eyes on the wildflowers that bloom there. Therefore, I could hardly believe my eyes after church last Sunday when some friends showed me photos of the woods filled with trillium at Aman Park, which is just off Lake Michigan Dr. only about 10 miles east of downtown GR.In all the years we’ve lived here, I’d never stopped by to check out this park!  Talk about a deplorable lack of curiosity! (Well, I’d been curious a few times, but never enough to do anything about it!) Susan and I decided to go hiking there.It was S.O. beautiful! The little ridges of the woods seemed sprinkled with frost. Not only are the trillium in bloom, there are wonderful patches of Virginia bluebells and delicate hepatica, wild phlox, vinca minor, and violets. If you live in the area, love wildflowers, and have a couple of hours free in the next few days, consider visiting. It’s free. 🙂But, take a photo of the map on your cell phone for reference, because the trails are very poorly marked. The red (“Interpretative Trail” aka “B”) is only 1.5 miles long but gives you a wonderful experience  of peaceful trails through mazes of flowers.  I laughed with joy, but I also laughed at myself. In 24 years, I’d longed to drive hundreds of miles north (which I never did) rather than figuring out if there were any woods filled with trillium right here! I wonder, is there anything you’re missing and wishing for from days gone by? You might not be able to find exactly the same thing where you are,
but how about doing a little research? Perhaps like me, you’ll find some unexpected and wonderful opportunities
very close to home. In fact, it may be that heaven is closer than you think.Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee
” (Psalm 73:25).

(All these photos were taken on April 24, 2017 at Aman Park. If you miss it this year but want to try next year, they seem to bloom about the time the daffodils have peaked and the tulips are starting to bloom, which I’m guessing would be true anywhere trillium grows. Look online…you might have woodlands filled with wildflowers wherever you are!)

If I’m Absent in Body for Awhile…

Well, joy of joys, another baby has been born into this world, and happily this one is mine…or at least the daughter of my son and his wife!       Elanor has come to stay with Dan, Brianna, and Sameul. She looks a lot like Daniel did when he was a newborn; dark hair and C.U.T.E.! She’s our sixteenth grandbaby! If I don’t post as regularly for the next few weeks, know that even though I may be absent in body, I will continue to pray for you, as I hope you do for me.

Also, I’ve not really gone to heaven (may feel a little like it…), but I’m probably smiling broadly, rocking a baby or humming in the kitchen whilst preparing a meal (or snack). It’s a great joy to be a grandma…and so much easier than being the mama!  Now that Brianna’s back home, if Sammy needs a little firm love, I’ll have a backup! (Takes all the pain out of parenting. 🙂  )A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).

 

Rise Up, My Love (231): Beautiful Mt. Carmel—Yesterday and Today جبل مار إلياس הַר הַכַּרְמֶל

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.” At last Solomon completes his song of delight. He has praised each aspect of his wife’s precious body from toe to tip, and as his eyes feast on the sight of her blessed head crowned by billows of flowing black hair, he stands transfixed.   His heart has found its resting place in the regal beauty of her face! “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel.” Carmel, from the Hebrew karmel meaning “God’s vineyard,” is an area of lush vegetation “always considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Palestine, rich with verdant growth and beautiful from every direction. As Solomon viewed the head of his beloved, he saw the beauty and uniqueness of Carmel.”* Carmel is not only impressive because of its lush vegetation, it is important because of its location. Carmel is a limestone mountain range that extends like a spine from the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast for about thirteen miles, dividing the Palestinian coastal plain into the plains of Accho, Sharon, and Philistia. At their peak, the mountains attain a height of 1,791 feet, but according to Merrill Tenny, the most spectacular area is the northwest promontory, which stands 470’ above the Mediterranean Sea.**            Today, the modern city of Haifa has grown up the slopes of Carmel.   But three thousand years ago, when the Song of Solomon was written, it was on the slopes of these lush mountains that Nabal grazed his immense herds of three thousand sheep and one thousand goats (I Samuel 25:2). Nabal’s widow Abigail married David, who was (of course) Solomon’s father, so David would have become the owner of these vast possessions, and Solomon would have developed a special appreciation for the grandeur of this fertile area. (In fact, they may have become his personal possession at some point, because in I Chronicles 26:10 it mentions that King Uzziah had husbandmen and vine dressers in Carmel.)   The top of Carmel’s magnificent promontory jutted out over the Mediterranean Sea, and it was from this vantage point that the prophet Elijah sent his servant to “Go up now, look toward the sea” (I Kings 18:43) while he was waiting for the Lord to send rain to the famished land of Israel. It was on the top of this mountain that Elijah held his contest with Ahab and the four hundred prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:19). Carmel was famous throughout Palestine for its lush fertility and beauty, and it was used repeatedly by the prophets as a symbol of Israel’s best, which would wither in judgment (Isaiah 33:9, Amos 1:2; 9:3) but would blossom again during the millennial reign of Christ (Isaiah 35:2; Jeremiah 50:19).   Twice Carmel is touchingly referred to as the Lord’s personal possession—“his Carmel”— which the Lord would defend from enemy attacks (2 Kings 19:23; Isaiah 37:24). In Jeremiah 46:18, it was foretold that Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest over Egypt would be as glorious and prominent as Carmel’s impressive promontory over the Mediterranean Sea. With these rich threads of historical background in mind, it is easy to understand what an expansive compliment Solomon wove into his tapestry of praise.   “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple,” is a simile that said to the ancient world, “Your head crowns your body like the glorious cliffs of Carmel which stand with regal splendor even above the grandeur of the sea. Your hair—so full and free— cascades down from your head like the verdant lushness that flows from the most fertile mountainsides in our country. Your head stands like Carmel—dwelling place of prophets…showcase for God’s victory over false idols…symbol of all that is fertile and pure and lovely. Your head is like Carmel—(spiritually: fertile with his Word!)… a showcase for his victories…regal with his grace.  Oh precious Savior, we pray that you would make these visions of your Bride a reality in our individual hearts and lives. How wonderful it is to know that someday we will be presented to you, without spot or wrinkle, as your glorious Bride!

* Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon ( Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 106.
** Merrill C. Tenny, ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corp., 1977), Vol.1, 755.

(I took all these photos on a birthday trip to Israel several years ago, except the one of me, of course! My husband took the last one.  🙂  )