Contrasting Two Groups of Rebels

Last weekend—perhaps because we unconsciously had Memorial Day, war, and death on our hearts—we watched two movies that, as it turned out, had more in common than I ever could have imagined! Both are based on true events, both involved teams of men who believed they were being heroes, and both groups were on highly illegal missions. However, the outcomes of their actions were as different as night and day!

If you’re like me, you probably have vivid memories of the second event (which occurred just 18 years ago and has changed our country forever), but you’ve probably never even heard of the other (which occurred secretly in 1948). A Wing and a Prayer is a 2015 documentary making public the rogue heroism of a team of ex-World War 2 vets who risked (some gave) their lives to prevent a second holocaust from occurring in Israel when the Brits left the freshly-minted Jewish nation without any weapons to defend their new-found freedom from the planned attacks of neighboring nations.

In contrast, United 93 is a 2006 portrayal of what happened on September 11, 2001, when 13 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jets, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and causing some $10 billion in damages. It will always be remembered as “9-11.”

Three of the aircraft reached their targets that fateful morning: Two crashing into the heart of the World Trade Center and a third dive-bombing the Pentagon, but because of the heroism of the passengers aboard United 93, that flight never reached its target.

Instead, United’s flight 93 plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, where all the passengers were killed instantly.

Think of the contrasts between these two events! In A Wing and a Prayer, about 13 men (many of whom were not even Jewish but were motivated by compassion) acted in opposition to the law in order to protect the lives of a beleaguered people still grieving the terrible exterminations and terrors they experienced during World War 2.

These young pilots weren’t terrorists, they were trying to protect foreign people from being terrorized. Many of them were not particularly religious; this was not a “holy war.” However, the men took a moral stand against the American government, who was refusing to aid the Israelis for fear of alienating Middle Eastern leaders with whom we were involved in commercial (oil) enterprise. Their punishment: $10,000 in fines per person and the loss of their civil rights.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture. Wiki. Public Domain

In contrast, the 13 al-Qaeda terrorists were on a mission, not to protect foreigners but to terrorize them. Not to preserve but to destroy. They were not taking a moral stand against wrong; they thought murder and terror was “right!” Their hope of reward? Suicidal death leading to immediate transportation to paradise. No fines, no imprisonment, no punishment, no loss of privileges. But, tragically, the loss of their lives along with those of thousands of others.

I highly recommend your watching the one-hour documentary on A Wing and a Prayer. However, I confused United 93 with Flight 93, which I saw 13 years ago and definitely prefer. Flight 93 has a PG-13 rating and tells much the same story without the terrible language or quite as much blood. So, I guess that’s yet another contrast between two movies!

Last thought, but I’d also like to contrast the Christian and Muslim views on heaven and how to get there. Muslims believe in a sensual paradise filled with pure rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine, where men can take pleasure in beautiful women every day (among other things). Christians believe in a physical paradise but with a spiritual purpose: Worship and fellowship with God and fellow human beings. Jesus taught that in paradise people would not marry but would be like the angels in heaven. The emphasis is not on personal sensual gratification, but on love in its highest and most transcendent forms.

What about how to get to heaven? Muslims believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by dying for Allah. Christians believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by believing in Jesus, the God who died for us! Muslims hope to get to paradise by being good. Christians know they’ll never be “good enough” to get to heaven, but they trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and who died for each and every one of us, so that we can be reconciled to God by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Want to be assured of heaven when you die? You don’t need to become a suicidal terrorist! Believe in Jesus, and embrace him as your Savior!

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

“His D Card Got Spidered”

Memorial Day Weekend wasn’t as much fun for one of our sons as he’d expected! His older brother bought him tickets to visit their family in Europe, but when my son got to the ticket counter, they turned him away. Why? Well, as my grandson Paly reported when asked, “‘Cause his D card got spidered.”

Chicago, here we come . . . or not! 😦

Sad, but true (sort of). Belgium has a law that you cannot enter their country unless your passport is good for 3 months after your return date. So, his uncle’s I.D. card (passport) was going to get spidered (expire) in June . . . after the trip, but not long enough after the trip that he could get through Belgian security. Thankfully, a merciful United Airlines supervisor took my son’s plight to heart and allowed him to exchange his ticket for passage at the end of summer, after he’ll have a chance to renew his passport. That was very gracious of them, because the airline was in no way at fault, and his ticket was non-refundable. Thank you, United Airlines!

Just a question, but do you have a valid passport? If you’re going to travel anytime, please make sure your passport will be valid long enough after the trip so that you won’t get stopped at the ticket counter. (For instance, for my upcoming trip, my passport has to be valid for six months after my return date.)

(Okay, so maybe we’re not really dead in this photo,
but i-phones have lots of tricks!)

Just another question, but do you think you have a valid passport for heaven? Most people imagine they’ll go to heaven after they die if their good works outweigh their bad works, and (of course) most of us think since we’ve always tried to be good (at least, most of the time), our good works will (hopefully) outweigh our bad works. However, like my son’s present passport, good works (valid passport that makes passage in this life seem fine) won’t work for heaven. God has a requirement that we need to heed, lest we get turned away at the ticket counter (death)!

The good news is that anybody can get a valid passport simply by asking! Jesus died in our place so that we can have forgiveness for our sins. All we have to do is humble ourselves, admit that we sin, and ask God to forgive us based on Jesus’ s sacrificial death for us. This “transaction” (also known as “salvation” or “rebirth”) with the government of heaven (so to speak), will give us a valid stamp on our passport. We become permanent “citizens of heaven” with no need for a foreign passport. In effect, we are saved by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit for safe transmission to heaven. If we had a passport, it would read something like this: “All sins are covered by the blood of Christ. This passport is good forever. No expiration date!”

Please don’t think you’re okay because you’re as innocent as a babe. I mean, really? Anybody who has a baby knows they are only angelic while they’re sleeping. Lovable? Absolutely! Sinless? Not by any stretch of the imagination, and I’ve never been accused of being perfect, either. Have you?

So, unless you’re okay with missing out on all the action (be it over Memorial Day, or all the joys of heaven that could be yours), please believe Jesus when he taught that He alone can promise us eternal life. Sign up with God today for your free Passport for Life!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). ” I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

In Memorial: Lest We Forget

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” —G.K. Chesterton

“Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.”—Mary Roach

Normandy Beach

 “On Memorial Day, I don’t want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live.” —Eric Burdon

 “Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.”—James Bryce

“137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed-it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy.” —Doc Hastings

 “Over all our happy country—over all our Nation spread,
Is a band of noble heroes—is our Army of the Dead.” —Will Carleton

“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust,
their courage nerves a thousand living men.”—Minot J. Savage

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy
forget in time that men have died to win them.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt

“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom
unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”—General Douglas MacArthur

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.” —John F. Kennedy

 “There is nothing wrong with America
that cannot be cured with what is right in America.” —William J. Clinton

“Veterans are a symbol of what makes our nation great, and we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom.”—Rodney Frelinghuysen

“May we never forget freedom isn’t free.”—Unknown

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being.
With freedom comes responsibility.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends
(—Jesus, in the Bible, John 15:13).

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
(—Joseph M. Scriven, 1855, Public Domain)

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.
  4. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
    Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing
    All to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
    There will be no need for prayer—
    Rapture, praise, and endless worship
    Will be our sweet portion there.

(I took all the photos in May of 2016 during a trip to Normandy, France.)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (32): Let Your Light Shine

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ). In this passage, Jesus tells us that we are both salt and light. Salt flavors and heals. Light helps us see. Salt is a hard mineral—tiny bits of rock with sharp edges; it can cause a lot of pain if it gets in our eyes. Light seems almost metaphysical (although it isn’t); without light, we can’t see anything, but too much light can blind us. Salt makes our food taste better; light makes our world look better. Too much salt makes our food inedible. Too much light makes it impossible to see anything. How can we be salt and light in a way that brings healing without the hurt and light without the blindness?

Presque Isle Lighthouse in Marquette, Michigan

For one thing, Jesus wants us to shine like a lantern, or like the lamp in a lighthouse—not brash and in your face, but clean-burning, steady, and dependably good. While visiting Big Sable Point Lighthouse a few days ago, we heard about the huge fresnel lenses from years ago that had to be continually polished inside and out to keep them clear.

Second-generation fresnel lens from Stannard Rock Lighthouse, now in Marquette, MI

The one at Ludington had a light that would extend 18 miles across the water by using a spherical reflector with the filament of the lamp placed exactly at the focus point of the reflector. Ah, being focused is so important! It’s not just living in a whirl of activity, but living in such a way that we are truly radiating God’s goodness.

I’ve also been thinking about the hard lives of the lighthouse keepers . . . the isolation, the constant need to refuel the lights night and day, severe weather, dangerous work of going outside to polish the lenses, and the need for the lens to be perfectly focused in order to send the beam out so far that it actually reached to the point where the curvature of the earth made it impossible to see the light any more, no matter how bright the light was.

Light in Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Today, modern technology and electricity have revolutionized lighting, and a very “wimpy-looking” lantern can emit enough light to reach 15 miles. Christ followers in America have it very easy compared to those in most nations around the world. We don’t have to suffer great hardships and live in constant danger, isolation, and deprivation. I feel like a wimpy little light. HOWEVER, God still calls us to be lights, and keeping spiritually clean, pure, and in good spiritual working order is absolutely as essential in America as in the darkest corner of the earth. (In fact, America seems to becoming more and more one of those dark corners of the earth!) No matter where we live, let’s continue to obey Jesus and let our lights shine out by faithfully doing good works. Why? Not so we look good, but so people will see the Light of Life—God himself—shining out through us and glorify Him.

Marquette Lighthouse in Michigan

Let the Lower Lights Be Burning
(-Philip P. Bliss, 1871, Public Domain)

  1. Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
    From His lighthouse evermore,
    But to us He gives the keeping
    Of the lights along the shore.
    • Refrain:
      Let the lower lights be burning!
      Send a gleam across the wave!
      Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
      You may rescue, you may save.
  2. Dark the night of sin has settled,
    Loud the angry billows roar;
    Eager eyes are watching, longing,
    For the lights along the shore.
  3. Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
    Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
    Trying now to make the harbor,
    In the darkness may be lost.

Text for this meditation: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16).

*Painting of Jesus with the lamb is by Yongsung Kim and used by his permission, website: Havenlight.com The rest are mine (as always unless otherwise noted), taken this past year in Ludington and Marquette, Michigan.

Orange-glazed, Chocolate Chip Scones

Here is a drool-worthy recipe that Joel makes, inspired by the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking with just a very few personal touches (to up the flavors). It’s perfect for tea time, breakfast, or . . .really anytime you want a scrumptious dessert!

Orange-glazed, Chocolate Chip Scones

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together thoroughly (by hand) in a mixing bowl:

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar (or just 1/3 cup if you plan to eat it with jam or don’t want it very sweet)

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Next, add:

6 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into chunks

Blend with a pastry blender (or a big fork) until the chunks are no more than pea-sized, but take care not to let the butter melt. It needs to be a little chunky still.

Finally, add 1 cup chocolate chips and stir until evenly mixed throughout

In a separate bowl, stir together:

1 large egg

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon grated zest from an orange

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir just enough to moisten.

Gather into a bowl and knead gently against the sides of the bowl until most all of the flour has been incorporated into the ball and the bowl is fairly clean. (This shouldn’t take more than 5-6 times; don’t overwork!) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8” round (which should be about ¾ inches thick).

Cut into 8 wedges (or up to 12 small ones, depending on how many people you want to serve). Bigger ones are moister, and they’re so good even children can usually happily eat a large one. Place at least a half an inch apart on a cookie sheet.

Brush the tops with cream (or milk).

Bake in the preheated over for 12-15 minutes, until starting to turn a golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool down to warm.

While still warm, frost with a glaze made from:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon softened butter

2 tablespoons orange zest plus enough juice to make a thick frosting. (If you make it too thin, it will all drip off. The cooler the scones, the thinner you can make the frosting.)

Serve warm. They really don’t need butter, clotted cream (whipped cream), or jam, but suit yourself!

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart:
so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).

Spring Beauty All Around!

This is the time of year when everything bursts
into glorious song and bloom!

Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.

The rebirth of life in springtime is both
majestic and mysterious!

It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently
for water to open up.

And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings
coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!

Robins are busy rearing their broods,

and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak)
come to our feeder every day!

This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined
to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!

Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.

This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!

Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests
dotted with tiny woodland anemones

and later covered with bright bluebells!

Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills
covered with bright orange poppies,

and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!

Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!

How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
(—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Refrain:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]

(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)

The Birthday Club Goes Ludington

When we planned our trip to Ludington State Park for Susan’s birthday outing (months ago), I had visions of bright blue skies and balmy weather, but the weather—like all of life—is totally unpredictable, isn’t it?!

Instead of sunshine, there was a misty rain. Instead of being 80° (which it had been one day last week), it was 52° with a stiff wind.

We debated whether or not we should even try the four-mile hike to the lighthouse because, despite bundling, we knew we’d be uncomfortably cold by the time we climbed to the top of the Big Sable Lighthouse.

However, it seemed like the right thing to do, so we persevered.

It was indeed windy and bone-chillingly cold at the top!

But then, as if by magic, when we descended and started our trek back to the car, a streak of blue appeared along the horizon!

In less than an hour, the dark storm clouds blew away, and soon we were immersed in a world of bright blue skies and—well, maybe not balmy, but certainly lovely—springtime weather!

We recovered with a very late and very yummy lunch at the House of Flavors, where we celebrated Susan’s birthday with gifts and happy conversation. Our Birthday Club isn’t just dedicated to honoring the birthday girl, it’s a time to celebrate the blessings of God and the encouragement of friendship, so there is often a theme and some thoughtful sharing of comforting verses as well as communal prayer on the way home.

This year, Cindi had found a 100+year-old book of poetry from an antique shop (Souvenir Rhymes by James Hamilton) and read some to us. My favorite concerned the preciousness of faithful friends who administer mercy and grace to one another, which I’ll include at the end.

There is something very nurturing about true friends who inspire one another to persevere, not only through gloomy weather but also through gloomy circumstances. I thank God for every treasured friend of mine, and for every person who is willing to be a friend to someone else.

Are you feeling discouraged and sad? We all need companions to journey with us, not only through the bright and balmy times of life, but when the wind is in our faces and we’re not prepared for the unexpected and sometimes very miserable changes in our situations. We need one another to help us push on until the rain passes by and the sun starts shining again!

Have you got a friend? Be a friend! Reach out. We need each other! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrew 10:23-25, ESV).

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV).