When the Lights Go Out

This past week many Michiganders (and others) endured yet another big power outage this winter. A friend who lives in the country had power out for 5 days straight and subsisted on canned food heated on a one-burner propane camp stove. He didn’t dare go anywhere because he had to keep stoking his fire so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. Area schools were closed—one system for 11 days straight!  Alan and I missed the first two rounds of blizzards and ice storms while on our Southern Caribbean cruise, but we experienced this last one in all its unglory! 😦  Living in the country on well water and a septic tank has its advantages (mostly good well water), but it’s distinkyly a disadvantage when there’s no electricity! We bundled up, hunkered down, and praised God for workplaces that had showers and were gracious about taking in refugees (like me) during the day. Since most of us can’t just fly down to the tropics to avoid cold weather, I asked several of my friends what they’d learned from their experiences and if they had tips to share about how to prepare for the likely event of another outage. One friend, Connie Sikma, wrote such a charming response that I want to share it:

                           “When the Lights Went Out in West Michigan. . .” When I think about the electricity going out, I get a tingle of excitement. I can actually try to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder. The videos won’t work, so we can read, have conversations, and even play games by lantern. It is all sounds so cozy and nostalgic.

The week of February 7 of 2019, I got to experience that reality. It will be long remembered by the people of West Michigan when over 150,000 people were without power. Some lost power for a few hours and others for several days.  For us—my husband, teenage son and myself—the three days were not so difficult because we are healthy, have city water, a wood stove, and an ample supply of wood. However, we discovered our limits and learned a few lessons.

When the power went out Thursday morning, it was just before breakfast. School and various other things had been cancelled because of the bad weather. Power outages were predicted because of the ice, but we knew we would keep warm because of our wood stove. We thought we were ready. Lots of wood. I had the lanterns, flashlights, batteries, and matches placed in a central, easy-to-find place. I had candles in the dark bathrooms ready to go. As I mentioned, we have a small wood stove in the walkout basement. We initially installed it as a romantic, “just-for-fun” alternative, but we have since come to treasure it as one of sweetest assets in our home! It warms the basement whenever our gas heater fails, lowers our gas bill, and provides us all with some therapeutic activity while we keep it going. When the power went out, it also became our cook stove.

I did not realize how a warm breakfast and coffee on a cold day adds to the ambiance. I did not take into account that one cannot cook eggs on an electric stove when the power is out, nor did I consider how my drip coffee maker might respond. It simply stood silent, empty and cold before me. This is when my husband’s incredible skills of resourcefulness kicked in. While I stood there immobilized by my caffeine-starved brain, he went to work with more cheer than was necessary. He became a surgeon ordering the tools he would need, while I ran up and down the stairs delivering them, meanwhile bemoaning the fact that it was going to take another hour to taste the coffee I needed.

He put a pot of water to boil on the top of the wood stove. We got out a Melita filter and ran the coffee through like the pour-over one gets in a fancy coffee shop. We did find out though: One still needs filtered water or the coffee tastes excessively salty.

As for the eggs, we just took our usual pan and fried a few eggs on the stove. It really worked and was fun. For dinner, we got some hamburgers to grill on the outdoor grill with coals from our wood stove.

The first day the power was out, I decided to run errands. The bank was open but would only dispense up to $50. My usual grocery store was closed, but I found another franchise that was open a few miles away. Many restaurants were closed and so was the library. I noticed a few gas stations were closed too. Our car still ran and a bookstore was open, so my son and I spent the second day there. That was fun, although the drive through the bad weather was scary. But, we had all day, and we got there and home safely. One night we took the cold ham I’d prepared for dinner over to my mother-in-law, who lives a half an hour away. We spent a little extra time with her, and she had power so that was a nice break for all of us. We didn’t stay overnight, though, because my husband was concerned about our pipes freezing if we didn’t keep the fire going at home.

The sun sets at six, and nights can get so long and dark. By the second night it was very cold. Our son slept downstairs to keep the fire going. We went upstairs, but I did not sleep very well even though I had layers on. By morning on the third day (after a sleepless night), the cold and dark were beginning to wear us down. We had used up the hot water in the water tank, so no hot showers. The scented candles were starting to get to be too much; the house was getting messy and needed a good vacuuming.  We went out to eat for breakfast but even that was not as comfortable as being in a warm house cooking over an electric stove. Everything took a little extra effort because it was not part of our routine.

It was a good experience. I learned that we should be a little more prepared. I went out and bought some unscented candles. I also got some cash from the bank and will save it for real emergencies – when it is not possible to get money.  I thought an extra lantern would be handy as well. I realized that my world got very small in survival mode. It was an effort to think of others. I hope that this experience will teach me to be more empathetic to those in need.

I was reminded not to take all my blessings for granted. We have so much in this country, with its strong infrastructure, but all the good things I enjoy are really gifts of God’s goodness. I see that much more of my discretionary time and energy could be used to serve Him, and I don’t want to become complacent in my comfort.  If I practice using my time, talent and treasure well in the good times, I hope that I can be more useful in the hard times. To be prepared in the full times enables us to be equipped to share with others in the lean times.

Connie’s story made me think of what Joseph did in Genesis: “And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.48 And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities . . .53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. (Genesis 41:47-48 and 53-54). May we prepare in good times so we can provide for ourselves and others in bad times!

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).

(P.S.—Some years ago, our family invested in a battery-started, propane fireplace because my husband is asthmatic and can’t handle wood smoke. It was a real lifesaver for us and kept our pipes from freezing.)


Meditating on the Commands of Christ (18): Go thy way; thy son liveth!

Have  you ever had a child who was so sick you didn’t know if he’d live or die? I have not, although we almost lost one son when he tunneled into a steep, Michigan shoreline sand dune. The whole thing collapsed on top of him, and he was nearly suffocated before my husband could dig him out. That was terrifying! I was digging furiously too, but it was Alan who really saved his life. Our daughter almost drowned once at a park. Had it not been for the heroics of our oldest, she might not be here today! My oldest brother wrote me recently, “You haven’t lived until you stand on top of a properly loaded closed garbage can and have it explode, lifting you into the air.” Probably anybody who was a normally curious, crazy kid (or reared one), can identify with my appraisal of childhood: It’s a miracle that any child reaches adulthood in one piece!However, short-lived terrors are nothing compared to having a desperately ill child that you fear will die. This was the situation we read about in John 4. John makes a point of identifying this man as a nobleman. Rich and politically prominent, he would have had the means for accessing the best medical care available in Israel, but it was not enough. He realized that his son was on the verge of dying, and there was nothing he could do to keep him alive.

Have you ever been in that situation? (Well, forget being rich and famous, but what about a deathly ill child who seems to have no hope?) I had several sons who had intense asthma attacks that frightened me, but in each case, we were able to rush the child to the hospital and get medical intervention. We think our daughter had epiglottitis as a toddler (bacterial swelling that can cause suffocation in a matter of hours/minutes), although she recovered before she was intubated. But again, these were acute illnesses that (very thankfully) came and went in a matter of hours and could be cured by medical help. How would you feel if your child was dying of an unstoppable terminal illness, like cancer?

I have not experienced such a trauma, but I believe there’s probably no sorrow greater than that of a parent who cannot rescue their dying child, and I have friends who are going through that agonizing experience. You may be too.What can you do? Well, the nobleman did the only thing left to do: He took a chance. He ran straight to Jesus and asked him to come heal his son. This doubtless took a lot of faith, humility, and courage, because Jesus had no government position or church-sanctioned authority to do anything for anybody. Still, rumor had it that Jesus had been healing people, and the nobleman had heard the rumonr. Maybe Jesus could heal his son too. I’ve heard that when you’re falling or drowning, you’ll grab anything, almost as an instinctive reaction. Whether or not what you grasp actually saves you doesn’t depend on how certain your faith is; it depends on how able the object of your faith is. Jesus is completely able to save us!

Jesus’s response tested the man’s faith, though. Instead of going with him, Jesus accused the father of being unable to believe in miracles: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). The nobleman seemed to have no clue how to respond. (I don’t think I would have, either.) He didn’t have the insight of the centurion (who approached Jesus at a later time and knew Jesus didn’t have to be present in order to heal his servant). All this rich ruler knew was that he believed Jesus could help, and so he repeated his request: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” (Actually, this sounds like a “command,” doesn’t it?)Jesus didn’t do what the nobleman wanted him to do, but Jesus gave the nobleman what he wanted. In fact, they both got what they wanted! Jesus wanted to nobleman to believe in him and obey him. The nobleman wanted his child healed but was willing to believe Christ’s word and obey him without any physical proof that his prayers were answered.

I wonder, are we willing to humble ourselves and ask Jesus for what we perceive as the deepest need of our hearts? Are we able to commit our needs to Christ and then “go on our way,” in faith and obedience? It wasn’t until later that the nobleman had confirmation that his son was healed, and after that, not only the man but his entire household believed in Christ. The nobleman received healing, not only for his son, but for himself and everyone in his home, all because he was willing to humble himself and ask Christ for help. Is it possible that our own desperation could end in the salvation of our entire household if we’re willing to believe and “go on our way”?

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

Text for this meditation:So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee” (John 4:46-54).

Apples, Apples, Apples: Sauced, Stewed, and Baked

During autumn and winter, at least in Michigan, we have three staple fruits that aren’t usually too costly: bananas, oranges, and apples. In honor of Alan’s being a doctor (and absolutely loving apples), I’ve changed that old adage about “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” to “an apple a day keeps sickness at bay.” That might be a slight exaggeration, but fresh apples are definitely a family favorite for lunch and snacks, and if I’m looking for a healthy dessert, some form of apple something often makes the dinner menu. Today I decided to share three similar but very simple ways to prepare apples that never fail to please: apple sauce, fried apples, and baked apples. I’ll start with baked apples (the very simplest for small numbers) but touch on all three. All of them have lots of pluses: They are even easier than pie to make, not to mention having only half the calories and all the best (gooey, fruity) stuff!

Baked Apples Ala Mode
(one apple per serving)

Core one apple for each servingPlace each apple  in a dish and top with:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or less if you want)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a few good shakes of your spice bottle)
1 teaspoon water

Microwave for 10 minutes if you’re in a hurry. If you have your oven going anyway and have time, add 2 teaspoons water, cover them loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F. for 30 minutes or until completely tender. Serve warm with ice cream (and/or whipping cream on top)!

Stewed Apples (aka “Fried Apples”)

Do exactly the same thing as above for baked apples, except place all the apples plus the 2 teaspoons water per apple in a frying pan and cook on medium-high heat until the apples are tender and somewhat caramelized. I have no clue what the real recipe is at Cracker Barrel (where they serve  yummy fried apples), but I was inspired by this restaurant, and “frying” apples this way provides a pretty close replication. (I think Cracker Barrel removes the skins, and you can do that. There are health [and financial] advantages to using the skins. The peels have fiber and vitamins. If you’re one of the many people who are concerned about pesticides on the skins, consider  buying organic, and then you won’t have to worry about the skins being contaminated.)


Last, but not least, is homemade apple sauce. This is pretty close to divine as far as I can tell. It’s basically pie filling without the crust. For apple sauce, I generally peel the apples and cut them into smaller chunks, but otherwise use exactly the same proportions of apples, butter, sugar, water, and cinnamon. Cook them over medium heat in a covered sauce pan, stirring often to ensure they don’t burn on the bottom. For applesauce, you can also use granulated white sugar instead of brown sugar. Either works fine, but brown sugar (pictured above) comes out a darker, richer color. Some apples, like Macintosh, break down and become mushy more easily. Honey crisps taste great but hold their shape more, so if you prefer smoother to chunkier sauce, you may want to use Macintosh, or a combination of honeys and macs. Frankly, I’ve made applesauce out of any and every kind of apples out of my refrigerator, and I’ve yet to get any serious complaints from the peanut gallery. Also, some cooks like to make their applesauce smooth by running it through a food processor, but I don’t like to take the time and think “chunky” seems more authentic for some reason (like real bits of potatoes in mashed potatoes). One of my mantras is: Fuss less; savor more! I hope you savor lots of apples and apple concoctions this winter! Keep those illnesses at bay!  🙂

For I will restore health unto thee,
and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord
” (Jeremiah 30:17).

Grand Plans and Grand Anse

Now that we’re approaching 70 in the next couple of years, Alan has started daydreaming about retirement possibilities. In particular, he developed a cherished fantasy about living in a little shack on a beach somewhere on a Southern Caribbean island during our first winter of “freedom.” That would suit me just fine, because I love to write and can keep myself occupied endlessly, but I had trouble picturing Alan content just puttering around a straw hut, hiking the shoreline, and chasing sea gulls for three months (without getting bored), so I thought it would be worth checking out prospects. About that time, I found an incredible deal for an inside cabin on the 5-star ship, Celebrity Summit, heading to the Southern Caribbean for 12 days, stopping at 11 ports, for only $579, which is $48 a day. (Okay, so add $15 per day for tips, but that’s still only $63 per day for room, transportation, and all you care to eat, which seems like a phenomenal deal for a vacation no matter how you cut it!) It was just what the doctor needed, so it’s just what the doctor’s wife ordered, and away we went!Our plan was to hop off the ship at each port and wander about, checking out the ambience, finding a close beach, and swimming all afternoon. In the process, I thought we’d get a good rest and give Alan a chance to find “the perfect island” for a three-month venture.Our dreams were fulfilled! Every day was gloriously warm, as was the water, and  every island had beaches every bit as beautiful as the ads! We were 100% happy! However, I also hadn’t been wrong about Alan’s capacity for rest. After a couple of days, he decided maybe two months would be enough on a Caribbean Island. After a couple more days, he thought probably one month would be long enough. And, about halfway through our trip, he thought a couple of weeks would do. By then, we had arrived at Grenada and discovered Grand Anse Beach, a two-mile stretch of silky sand and turquoise waters. (Since returning home, I learned that this beach was voted the Caribbean’s #1 beach by USA Today, 2018.)  We were so enthralled that I stopped at one of the hotels to find out how much it would cost for a room for a couple of weeks. $1,000 per day. No kidding! 😦  We started considering. The only real grass huts were in folk parks, not on beaches, and the mosquitoes would be an issue even if we could find one to rent. The food on the ship had been first class! We enjoyed open-air, gourmet breakfasts with beautiful ocean views each day.Each evening for dinner, attentive waiters doted on us, making sure we had everything we wanted from the menu, and that each dish was “just right!” The food alone would have cost us more than what we paid for our entire cruise, and it was always such a treat! As Alan’s mother used to say, “If I don’t have to cook it, and I don’t have to clean it up, I’m going to enjoy it!” In fact, life on a cruise ship is extremely cushy! After considering our options, Alan and I decided that maybe two weeks on a cruise each winter would be just about perfect! Our cruise ship could deliver us to fantastic ports, provide for our meals (so I would never have to cook), ensure us clean, freshly made up rooms each day (our cabin steward was a joy),and if we ever got tired of relaxing, reading, and enjoying the ship’s amenities, we could always hop off the ship and go exploring. Considering that we aren’t big on night life, and most Caribbean Islands aren’t big on day life (Culture? Yes, but not like Europe or Asia), island hopping affords ample opportunities to enjoy unique experiences and enjoy each country’s natural beauty without ever getting “island fever” (aka bored). Sound like a plan? We think so! By the way, are you dreaming about your sunset years yet? Do you have big plans or dreams? What do you think would be “just perfect”? May I encourage you to test out your theories a little before making any big decisions? It’s possible that what we think is going to be the greatest and best won’t turn out to be as good as something else . . . possibly something we already have! In my life, the very greatest and best is knowing and loving God, and I can do that at home or abroad. I don’t have to travel anywhere to know that being his child and experiencing an intimate relationship with Jesus as my Lord and Savior is better than anything else the world has to offer. Hands down!Jesus is the true gateway to every joy in life, not only while we’re young, but when we retire, and even—and especially—after we die! Have you got plans for your post-retirement years? If not, please explore life with Jesus. I think you’ll discover that it beats all the other options!!!

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

(All photos taken in the Southern Caribbean on our trip a couple of weeks ago, February, 2019.)



Sacred Fire (inspired by A.J. Sherrill)

Last night, Alan and I celebrated our 46th anniversary! Such a joy!! This morning, as I was reflecting back over our marriage, it occurred to me that when I prepared my last blog (on how Christ can heal us), I hadn’t really made any particular connection to the every day struggles we all face, but I listened to two messages Sunday night that were so good, and so appropriate, that I want to share the gist of them with you. Throughout the course of my life, the two hardest conscious struggles (probably more significant unconscious challenges) relate to self control in what I eat and what I think about. I’ve always felt very “normal” (if such a thing exists), so my guess is that these almost come as standard weaknesses on most human models coming off the assembly line. Can you identify?

A.J. Sherrill (a local pastor) taught a two-part series called “The Soul of Sexuality.” I’ll put links at the end and highly recommend them as healthy soul food to help you manage your appetites (maybe not as much for food, however).  In turn, A. J. gives much of the credit for his teaching to Richard Rohr, a little monk from Albuquerque, with whom he spent a week some years ago, trying to understand life. You may think a monk wouldn’t be the best resource for understanding how to cope with our innate sex drive, but think again. Any monk who has actually been able to keep his vow of celibacy has spent his entire adult life trying to figure out how to handle his own drives.

Even as a married woman, dealing with sexual impulses has been challenging! I remember when I was mid-forties, asking my spiritual mentor (who was about 80), when men stopped making passes at women. She nodded thoughtfully and replied, “Oh, maybe sometime between 75 and 80.” I was shocked and felt doomed! Would I never be free from unwanted male advances? Men I love, just like I love women. But, men challenging my commitment to my marriage, I do not appreciate. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun. Worst case scenario, it can actually be tempting, which was terrifying when I was 40 and my husband was way too busy to pay attention to me.

So, I used to complain to the Lord, “Why did you make us sexual beings, anyway? Why couldn’t you have made us without sexual passion???” One of the most helpful resources I found was Living with Your Passions, by Erwin W. Lutzer. (It came out in 1983 but is still available on Amazon.) After reading Lutzer’s book, I came to a somewhat grumbly surrender to the thought that God must have known what he was doing and determined to learn how to live a moral life despite my immoral heart, but I wasn’t thrilled about the challenge.

After studying the Song of Solomon for ten years, I decided that God intends our chief love to be spiritual, and that as we’re drawn into a love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we find joy and strength that surpasses human love . . . an energy and beauty that causes those around to marvel: “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13: the dance between our soul and the Trinity [my interpretation]).

A.J. took it a step further, and I love what he had to say. The “why” of sexuality is about “beauty, mystery, and meaning . . . Your sexuality is an echo of a larger cosmic mystery unfolding, which is the story of Christ and the Church.” “God is not a stoic force; he’s a passionate lover.” (I’m putting everything in quotation marks but they may not be perfect; I was typing as fast as I could!) God is Israel’s husband (Isaiah 34; Jeremiah 31) and in the New Testament, we learn that we, the Church, are the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5). From John 7 and 15, we can infer that our marriage to Christ is designed to flow into the stream of life and bear spiritual children and spiritual fruit. In John 14 we are offered the Kiddushim—the covenant of love—and now we’re just waiting for the Huppah, when Jesus comes back to receive his bride (us!).

“Information in the head is not the same as intimacy in the heart. We were made for intimacy.” “Ya had” means to throw out your hands. Let go! Let God dwell in us so much that through us He will produce fruit! Hebrews 12—throw off all false lovers and fix our eyes on our true lover, Jesus. When we celebrate communion, we are celebrating our love covenant with Christ. He wants us to understand how much we’re loved and feast with him. He has never forgotten us or forsaken us, even though we have failed him and had other lovers and idols. Come and feast with him. Let him heal you!

The first message dealt with vertical love; the second message with horizontal.  A.J. offered three scripts for how sex is handled in our culture: Erotic play, Intimate connection, and Covenental Promise. He offered some excellent quotes thinking through the value and power of sexual energy (a couple of which I’ll write out for  you below), and he ended with an invitation to reach a “higher altitude” for viewing. “Sexuality is the best instrument for learning self-control There are times when offering yourself is a gift and when withholding yourself is a gift.” If you’re in a relationship right now, he suggested that you “Talk with your partner about what you want without finger pointing, but by offering your longings, not your complaints. Complaints create emotional distance, but longings are redemptive. You’ve trusted God with your soul. Will you trust him with your body?”

“A healthy sexuality is the single most powerful vehicle there is to lead us to  selflessness and joy, just as unhealthy sexuality helps constellate selfishness and unhappiness as does nothing else . . . Sex is responsible for most of the ecstasies that occur on the planet, but is also responsible for lots of murders and suicides. It is the most powerful of all fires, the best of all fires, the most dangerous of all fires, and the fire which, ultimately, lies at the base of everything, including the spiritual life.” —Ronald Rolheiser

“The fire of sex is so powerful, so precious, so close to the heart and soul of a person, and so godly, that it either gives life or it takes it away. Despite our culture’s protests, it is not casual and can never be casual.” —Rolheiser

So, in light of Jesus healing the lame man—and offering to heal us too!— if you’re restless or unhappy with your sex life (or lack thereof), this is a great time to let Jesus heal your wounded heart! Consider watching the two messages (which together are shorter than a movie!):



I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (19): Rise and Walk/aka Get Up and Get Going!

If there was ever a command I’m guessing someone would love to hear, it would be “Rise . . . and walk.” Or not. Those of us who can rise up and walk whenever we feel like it may not appreciate anybody else telling us to get up and get going. But, what if we hadn’t been able to walk for thirty-eight years? In John 5, we learn about a man who lived in Jerusalem and had been so ill for the past thirty-eight years that he wasn’t able to walk. There was no hospital in Jerusalem, and no physician had been able to heal him, so he spent his days lying by the pool of Bethesda. “Bethesda” means “house of mercy,” and surrounding this pool were five porches where multitudes of desperately ill people spent their miserable days. I suppose if misery loves company, then they probably found some small comfort in being miserable together, but can you imagine what it must have been like trying to subsist in a hot, crowded area (next to the noisy, dirty sheep market no less) where some couldn’t see where they were going and others couldn’t go where they were seeing? How did they eat? How did they handle sanitation issues?But, every day they came because they felt their own helplessness and had heard there was something miraculous about this particular pool. It was purported (and some knew it to be true from witnessing the miracles) that every once in a while an angel came down and stirred up the waters. Whoever first entered the pool after the waters were stirred was healed of whatever illness they had.Now, it just so happened (by divine appointment) that Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate a feast, and while he was in town, he noticed the lame man. Knowing the man had been in this sorry state for thirty-eight years (which was even longer than Jesus had been alive), he asked, “Would you like to be healed?” Simple question, and one you’d assume had a simple answer, but the man didn’t say, “You bet! Yes, please!”

Because he didn’t recognize who Jesus was and didn’t understand that Jesus had the power to heal him, the lame man just explained the painfully obvious: “I’ll never get healed, because I’m too slow. I can’t walk, so every time the angel comes, somebody always gets to the water first.”

That’s when Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” (In those days, as in modern days in many countries, people slept on mats on the ground they could roll up and store during the day while they didn’t need them.) But, Jesus wasn’t asking this man to do the impossible. Jesus also healed the man so he actually had the ability to rise up and walk if he wanted to.

What do you think? Did he rise up and walk? You bet! Yes!! Jesus healed him, and he joyfully obeyed Jesus’s command to get up and get going! The Pool of Bethesda is in ruins today, but the power of Jesus to heal hasn’t lessened one iota in the past 2,000 years ago. I wonder, is there any area in my life or yours where we’ve felt “lame”—unable to fulfill what we believe to be our God-given purpose? Our impotence may be the result of a physical infirmity, and Jesus can heal “whatsoever disease” we may have (although in the story, notice that only one man out of the multitudes was physically healed). If we want physical healing, Jesus does invite us to ask, and He may heal us, but more often he is likely to give us the same answer he gave the Apostle Paul, who testified: “He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So: Physical healing? Yes, but rarely. (I personally know of several accounts where people were raised from the dead or healed of terminal diseases, and I’ve read several others in the past few years.) However, Jesus does bear all our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sins, and he himself absorbed our infirmaties (Matthew 8:17). Therefore, He has already completed all that is necessary for our spiritual healing. There is not a soul alive who can not “rise and walk” in the newness of life that Jesus has provided for and offers us!

What keeps us from accepting the resurrection power of Jesus? From studying the scriptures, I believe it must be a lack of faith. By, why? All too often, we’re more like the dumb sheep ambling into the market next to the pool of Bethesda: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6). Let’s acknowledge our need, like the lame man, but let’s not just sit around, waiting for somebody to rescue us from the morass of our weaknesses. Let’s obey Jesus and have the good sense to get up and get going!

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:1-9).

Mini Hotdogs with Sauerkraut and Slaw

Here’s an easy recipe for a big crowd, either for home and family, or to take to a potluck. Great flavor and can be served up as a hot appetizer or main course!

  Mini Hotdogs with Sauerkraut and Slaw

In a crock pot (or a regular stove-top, deep saucepan with a lid), combine: Two 14-oz. packages of “Li’l Smokies” (mini hotdogs; you could also slice up 2 pounds of regular hotdogs, although the mini hotdogs look cuter)
1 quart sauerkraut
1 small, diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic (fresh or dried; I used dried)
1/2 cup mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional; leave out if you don’t like them) Simmer for at least one hour in a crock pot or cook on your stove top for at least a half an hour on medium heat until everything is thoroughly cooked and the vegetables are tender. If you cook on the stove top, you may need to add another 1/2 cup water (just enough to keep it from burning).  About a half an hour before you’re ready to serve it, add:
1 and 1/2 cups cold slaw mix (without dressing; just the shredded green and red cabbage with carrots). If you time it just right, the cold slaw absorbs the juices and cooks without losing it’s color. It can be cooked indefinitely, or reheated for another meal, and it doesn’t really effect the flavor, but it will lose it’s color, and it’s definitely most appealing when it has the green, purple, and orange-colored veggies mixed throughout!Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted” (Isaiah 49:13).

Some Timely Tips for Doing Life with Your Adult Children

Do you (like me) find yourself wondering what you did wrong when you hear what one or another of  your adult children is thinking or doing? As would be obvious to all who are living through the honor of interacting with adult children (but perhaps not a no-brainer to young people): It’s actually a lot harder than it looks to be good parents to grown offspring, even really, really admirable grown offspring, like mine. Alan’s being the medical director of maybe the world’s largest Christian psychiatric hospital hasn’t really made us professionals either.

However, as we’ve been floundering our way through this stage of life, we came across a great resource that has significantly encouraged us, so I want to recommend it to you! We read it to each other while on our Southern Caribbean cruise these past two weeks, celebrating our 46th anniversary. Ever since, we’ve been ending our daily prayers for our kids with this mantra: “God, we release our children to your loving care and tender mercies” (from page 115).

Doing Life with Your Adult Children walks readers through the various cultural mindsets of the different generations (all five of them) sharing Planet Earth at this time, reminding us that “our job as parents is not to agree with all the values of our children’s culture but to have a greater understanding of how culture influences the way they think and act.” This has been a game changer for us. Up until now, we’ve wondered why our kids didn’t just naturally take on our values. Surprise! Faith in the Bible, love of country and family . . . even gender identity based on DNA is no longer the norm. Of kids brought up in church, some 60% will drift away in college, making lifestyle choices that would curl the hair of our parents and make our grandparents roll over in their graves.

Not to fear! Hold on. Keep being faithful to what you believe is right and good. More than half of our wandering children will come back to their roots and faith. Meanwhile, author Jim Burns offers all sorts of helpful insights into what’s going on, what the culture is teaching, and how to love your kids and grand kids in ways they can actually feel no matter what they believe. One of many principles (similar to Dr. Gary Smalley’s advice on how to treasure your spouse) is to treat your children and grandchildren with AWE: affection, warmth, and encouragement. Amen? No matter what your young adult is thinking or doing, every “child” (grown ones too) needs big doses of real, genuine, open-hearted love, the way our heavenly Father lavishes his love on us.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t set boundaries or allow our kids to struggle with the consequences of their choices. The book also gives some helpful suggestions for how to engage your “failure to launch” young adults and help them mature into responsible, independent adults. There are also tips on how to become better in-laws (such as “wear beige” . . . “keep your mouth shut and the welcome mat out”) and how to interact with your grandchildren in ways that will leave a legacy of love for them.

From the very beginning—which describes a scenario I’ll bet every couple has experienced—to Chapter 1: “You’re Fired!” (PRINCIPLE 1: YOUR ROLE AS THE PARENT MUST CHANGE) to the very end, laced with ideas for how to party down with your grand kids, the book kept us engaged and learning!

Interested? I actually had an advance copy, but the book is coming out March 26, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Zondervan or Amazon online. If you buy it, I hope you appreciate it as much as we have! Parenting parents is a tough job!  🙂

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

Adventures Getting To and From Paradise

Back in 2016 I wrote about flying to Hawaii in January during Storm Jonahs’s record-breaking Snowmeggedon. Despite the terrible weather, Alan and I commuted safely from Michigan to Hawaii. In fact, up until this past trip two weeks ago, Alan and I had never been late for embarkation (or even a tea party) on any cruise, and so we cavalierly assumed the best and made our reservations to minimize any loss of work time for Alan.I might have had an inkling of things to come when I finished packing and had a conversation that went something like this:

(Lord): Did you consult me about how to pack?
(Me, sheepishly): No. 😦  That was dumb. How should I have packed?
(Lord): You should have packed in carry-ons only.
(Me, rather reluctantly): Okay! I will. Thanks for letting me know. I pared stuff down to just the basics. We had trouble both getting down to sunny San Juan and getting home, but it wasn’t until our return flights that I understood the real reason why it was important to pack light. We left during the worst weather of this winter, and our United Airline flight from GR to Chicago got cancelled, then rescheduled through Newark, NJ, but at a time too late to make the ship. In a panic, we called our travel agent, who helped us find different flights via Delta that would go through Atlanta and hopefully get us to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in time to board the ship. Gratefully, we clambered aboard the Delta flight. However, the airport didn’t have enough machines to de-ice all the airplanes that needed protection from the severely below zero weather, so by the time our plane was ready to go, we knew we’d never get to Atlanta in time to catch our connecting flight. 😦Our travel agent had gone home by the time we arrived, but a supervisor went to bat for us and found another flight to San Juan, although it didn’t get in until about midnight (four hours after our ship had sailed away that starry night)!Believe it or not, because we’d bought our flights in a package with the cruise, the cruise line (Celebrity) not only paid for our flights but put us up at a hotel during the wee hours so we could get a little sleep before catching an early morning flight to connect with the ship at the next port of call.The flight from San Juan to St. Croix the next morning was beautiful! Alan said it was all worth the bother because it made our trip so memorable! I wasn’t so sure, but hey—doesn’t he have wonderful attitudes?!In retrospect, Alan and I both agreed that this Southern Caribbean cruise was one of the most relaxing vacations we can remember! It was “just what the doctor needed” and a fantastic way to celebrate our 46th anniversary! We slept in every morning, enjoyed delicious breakfasts in the open air on the back deck of the ship, had leisurely devotional times together reading our Bibles, praying, sharing, thinking . . . we even read through an excellent book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children, which gave us a lot of good food for thought.  On top of all that, there was a new jewel of an island to explore every morning (11 ports in 12 days!), and no tenders to contend with (where you have to wait to be ferried to the island), so we could hop off and on the ship whenever we felt like it. The weather was absolutely gorgeous: in the low 80°s every day with a light breeze and warm water. It really did seem like a little taste of paradise, and our only “guilt” was knowing that back home 140,000 friends and relatives in GR were out of power and enduring ice storms and blizzards!  😦               We wished we could transport everyone down to be with us!!  🙂 The return trip home was if anything even more harried, not due to weather, but do to the fact that when we didn’t take our first United flight to Newark, United cancelled ALL our flights, both coming and going. We didn’t know that we should have called to ask them to retain our return trip flights. United had sold our tickets to others and were already overbooked by 5 people! They could get us on standby or at 2:00 am the next morning. Another emergency cry for help went out to our travel agency, who found us 2 seats on a Jet Blue flight that was already in process of boarding. We literally ran from our terminal to theirs in order to make it before they closed the doors. It was too late to check any luggage, BUT, because we had only carry-on luggage, they let us buy tickets and board! Whew!!The rest of the trip was relatively calm, and I had time to reflect on God’s quiet question to me as I packed: “Did you consult me about how to pack?” It was just a still, small voice, the way the Lord usually speaks. Probably if I hadn’t packed so light, I would still have gotten home at some point, but not that day, and not without a lot more hassle! I am so thankful that the Lord invites us to ask Him for wisdom. We have no clue what tomorrow (or even today) will hold, but He does.  If you haven’t invited Him into your thoughts and plans, may I encourage you to pray and ask God to become your God?! There is no One like Him! He knows the end from the beginning, and He is good to those who put their trust in Him. He alone is worthy of being our Savior, our Lord, and our God!

Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me” (Isaiah 45:21).