Meditating on the Commands of Christ (37): Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Excuse this offensive expression, but today’s passage is actually all about offenses: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:30). The expression “going to hell in a handbasket” is American slang for someone deteriorating morally without resisting sin, the way a handbasket is carried along without any protest (by the handbasket). Looking deeper into the expression’s murky past, it conjures up images from the days of the French Revolution, when there were mass executions using guillotines and the heads were hauled off in baskets. We also use the word picture “sliding down the slippery slope” to give a graphic description of a similar state, where someone is falling quickly into ruin and self-destruction. Hard question, but does this describe you or someone you love?

Cutting to the heart, Jesus’ command is about purity. Jesus says it is better to cut off our hand if it causes us to offend rather than to be cast into hell. What does he mean? To “offend” (according to Merriam-Webster) means “To transgress the moral or divine law: Sin.” It can also mean “to violate a law or rule: do wrong;” “to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury;” or “to cause dislike, anger, or vexation.” I think all of these definitions will come into play as we study this passage.

Interestingly enough, Christians don’t chop off anyone’s hand if they break the law, and we feel horrified (and offended in the sense of causing “dislike, anger, or vexation”) when we read reports of other religious groups using this form of punishment for failing to keep their moral codes. As we discussed last Sunday, Jesus was speaking spiritually, not physically. Like our eyes, our hands are physical, morally neutral, instruments that we (as moral souls) use to perform our wills. The problem is not with our hands, but our hearts: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

So, our hand . . . or our heart? If we’re going to do any chopping, it needs to be chopping out our hearts, not our hands! Thankfully, God has made a provision for us if we will sanctify him in our lives (understand that He is holy and live accordingly): “I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:23-28).

So, we have the potential solution to our quandary, if (and this is a BIG “IF”) we are willing to accept it. Jesus warns us to stop sinning, to “cut off our hand” if we are using it to perpetrate sinful behavior. If we will allow God to search our hearts, he will reveal our sins to us: “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:20-21).

The trick is, once we’re enslaved to a particular sin, we don’t really want to acknowledge it as sinful, because we don’t want to have to stop. So, rather than “sanctifying” the Lord in our eyes—acknowledging His holiness, His person, and His Word as the only true purity—we go about trying to justify our actions as “okay too.” I’m okay, and you’re okay. Everybody has the right to do whatever seems right to them. Don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you. Quit being such a legalistic pharisee! The Old Testament law is no longer in effect, and the New Testament commands and observances were for a 2,000-year-old culture that are no longer applicable today. Just love everybody and don’t try to tell me what’s right.

Sound familiar? I think Jesus was addressing those who feel this way. To those who think they can go about establishing their own righteousness, Jesus gives this oh, so unpopular warning! But many people are unwilling to acknowledge that their actions are sinful and offensive. Instead, they find this command from Jesus offensive! Many hide behind the currently popular deception that since Jesus died to make salvation available to “whosoever will,” then everybody “will” be saved regardless of what they believe or do!

Be careful, my friends! Jesus gave us some very severe warnings! Jesus taught, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). How did the people respond? “And they were offended in him” (Matthew 13:57).

Do you find yourself offended by what I’ve written? You can take issue with anything I say, and I invite you to respond, but please don’t be offended by the words of Jesus. “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (spoken by Jesus in Matthew 11:6). When Jesus taught the parable about the sower (speaking of those who share the word of God), he warned about those who “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:21). There is offense in the Gospel, and that comes from God being righteous and our being sinful, and in need of a Savior who will change us and conform us to true holiness and righteousness. Please don’t be offended by the gospel. Rather: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If you need a transplant, let God give you a new heart. Don’t take the risk of being cast into hell because you refuse to sanctify God in your heart or cut off your sinful actions! Ultimately, it’s a choice between being offended with Jesus or offended with our own offenses.

Text for today: Matthew 5:27-30 “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Fabulous Whitefish Tacos

Fresh Whitefish Tacos.

It seems like a lot of innovative new menu items come via Asia and the West Coast— or via Europe and the East Coast— moving slowly into the middle of the country where I live. Therefore, I often notice something yummy and new in the context of traveling. Fish tacos have been popular in California for at least 10 years, but they’ve finally made it to Middle America. I resisted for a long time, but I’ve become a loyal fan and now actually prefer them to the traditional beef or chicken tacos! Fish tacos make a perfect dinner entree for a warm evening.

Joel tried a few traditional recipes, using deep-fried cod, but over time we’ve decided that the best of the best starts with pan-fried whitefish.

Pan-fried, Whitefish Tacos

Here’s what we do: Fry up one 2-4-oz. hunk of whitefish for each taco. I bread them lightly with flour and then add a dash each of: seasoning salt, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Fry them in hot butter, just until they are cooked through but still moist and flaky. Turn only once and cook on each side for just a couple of minutes. Let them cool, and then peel off the skin.

Whitefish Taco Sauce

The real secret is in the taco sauce. Try this for an eye-widening treat:
In a bowl, mix:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Per taco, lay one warm flour tortilla on your plate, add a hunk of fried, skinned fish, top with about 1/2 cup coleslaw mix (or finely chopped cabbage and carrots), lavish liberally with fish taco sauce, and sprinkle fresh, chopped cilantro on top.

I always fold mine up on the bottom so the juice and sauce don’t drip out, but I still call it a “taco.” If it’s really a “burrito” by definition at this point, those of you who have Hispanic heritage, let me know, and I’ll label it accordingly! Meanwhile, we like to serve them up with chips and fresh guacamole for a flavor-filled, mouth-watering dinner! If you’ve got a heavier appetite, you could add some Spanish rice and re-fried beans (which they always seem to serve at restaurants). I’m forever trying to get fat a little more slowly, so I try to keep carbs to a minimum . . . but suit yourself! If you try it and like it, let me know what you think, will you?

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (John 21:9. This was what Jesus served his disciples to encourage them after he had risen from the dead! Fresh fish is both nourishing and delicious . . . always a healthy choice for fine dining—seaside or in the middle of nowhere! 🙂 )

Septic and Water Problems, Poverty and Wealth

Have you ever experienced first hand that “when it rains, it pours”? Among other complications with trying to build a new addition, our well shut down and had to be replaced, and the entire sewer line from our house to our septic system had to be dug up and the path restructured as well as the line replaced, since apparently the line was never set properly when our home was built 30 years ago. Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching, and ouch, ouch ouch!

Now, I find myself tempted to complain, but the fact is: We have a well, and we have a sewer line and a septic system, which is not true for hundreds of millions of people around the world. For example, at the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in Uganda, there are 270,000 people trying to eek out an existence without a good water system, and I’ve heard that this camp—which was the world’s largest in 2018—has now been surpassed by an ever larger refugee camp in Bangladesh. While visiting the “City of the Dead” in Cairo, Egypt, we learned that up to two million people are making their homes among the vast network of tombs along a four-mile stretch of cemetery, the majority of which have very few amenities.

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Many “poor” people in North America and Europe are “richer” than the “richest” folks in some parts of the world. At least, in some ways! In other ways, maybe not so much! I have a friend whose family invited over some friends from Africa one night. Later that week, their 3-year-old daughter asked when the “rich” people were coming over again. After a lot of confusion, the mother realized that the little girl was thinking about the “rich” color of their African friends’ skin! Her parents would talk about how “rich” a dessert was when it was made with dark chocolate, and the little girl (wisely) made the connection to people with rich, dark skin as being “rich” too!

Although people who struggle financially may not be wealthy as the world counts wealth, I believe they can be rich in love and wisdom and grace. Often, poverty helps us focus on what really matters in life, and there are things which are much more important than having flushing toilets or running water in our homes!

True riches come from being able to drink from the pure, clean fountain of life: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). True riches come from knowing and loving God: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). True riches are found in loving others and being loved by them! “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches” (Proverbs 13:7).

True riches are knowing that we have a home prepared for us in heaven because we have recognized our spiritual poverty and have asked God to forgive us for our sins and Jesus Christ to become our Lord and Savior. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

As unpleasant as water and sewage problems are, spiritual thirst and having our lives fouled by sin are much deeper problems. Thankfully, we have a Savior who promises to be with us through the trials of life, both spiritual and physical. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). He cares for us.

The B.I.B.L.E . . .What is That?

Did you know that “Bible” simply means “book” in both Greek (Byblos) and Latin (Biblia)? It’s THE book. It is the best book in the world, and it’s also the best-selling book in the world. If you haven’t read it yet, then may I invite you to try reading just one chapter today? Granted, there are many passages in the Bible that are not easy to understand, but the Bible does come with the promise that it will speak to you if you listen. If you find the Bible puzzling or confusing, try this method of Bible meditation, which was recommended by my pastor this past Sunday in church:

  1. Pick a passage. Any passage. We were studying Isaiah 55 in church, which is so beautiful that I memorized it as a girl. That would be one good option. Or, you could just open your Bible and read whatever chapter comes up, or you could try one of the traditional “favorites,” such as Psalm 1, John 14, Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. Sit down and pray before you start reading, asking God to speak to you through the passage. If you don’t believe in God, ask God to reveal himself to you if he is real . . . to give you a sense of his presence and his love for you. Listen for a still, small voice in your heart! Quiet yourself and clear your mind. If you are aware of any sin or rebellion in your heart against God—anything that makes you angry so that you really don’t even WANT to believe in God, even if he does exist—confess it to God. If you want to get to know God, you have to be “real” with him, too! Ask him to give you a desire to know him, to forgive you for any way in which you’ve been resisting him or deceiving yourself, and to cleanse your heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
  3. Read the passage thoughtfully, noticing anything that stands out to you. Is there anything at all that strikes you as true, or strange, or mysterious, or wise? Find something to “meditate” on . . . to chew on, like a cow chewing on her cud. Ponder its meaning.
  4. Think through how this passage or verse might apply to you today. Is there a good example to follow? A bad example to avoid? A bit of wisdom to remember? Something that might: impact a relationship? help with making a decision? prompt you to an action, change your direction in some area of your life? Find one nugget of thought to take away from your study, and ask God for the grace to allow this insight to impact your life in a positive way.
  5. Share what you’ve been thinking about with a friend. Also, this type of meditative study of the Bible can be done in community. You could read a passage with someone you love and work together on thinking through what the passage might mean. For many years, we were part of a small group that worked together, chapter by chapter, week by week, through many books in the Bible, doing just this! The more you study, the more you can test your thoughts against other passages from the Bible to make sure your thinking is clear and correct, good and true!
  6. Trust God to produce good spiritual fruit in your life from this practice. Meditation is like watering your soul. It might not change your life in a day, but it will change your life for good over time. That’s why it’s called “spiritual life” and “spiritual growth.” It’s not magic, but it’s even better! It’s transformation: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

The Bible, God’s Word, is alive in a way that no other book is. It’s a light to guide us, a sword to help us discern good and evil. It’s sweeter than honey, pure, and true. It’s like a hammer to convict us and help us change where we need it. Through studying the Bible, we find wisdom, understanding, and eternal life. If you’ve read it once or twice, don’t quit! I think I’m on about my 50+ time of meditating my way through its pages, and I keep finding new insights and understand more passages that seemed esoteric before. Become a life-long spiritual learner! If you want to get to know God, or know him better, there is no better way! Besides, the Bible comes with this guarantee: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want success? Try meditating daily on the Bible for one month, and see if it doesn’t make a positive difference in your life.

(Just to get you started if you can’t think of a passage you want to read! Here is Isaiah 55.)

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

It’s a Wonderful Life for Tony and Shellie

It’s a Wonderful Life is still a beloved classic more than 75 years after its release, and I think this is because it honors the life experience of those noble “unsung heroes” who sacrificed their personal ambitions for the sake of love and family, and today I want to share the true story of a couple who’ve lived out the best of It’s a Wonderful Life right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan! (We share grandchildren! 🙂 )

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), IMDb 8.6 rating after 358,517 reviews!

For those of you who are under 50 or didn’t grow up in America, in a nutshell, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of a young man who had dreams of travel, adventure, and seeking his fortune far away from his home town!

However, as life would have it, he ended up returning home, marrying a wonderful woman, rearing a family, and being an honorable and caring member of his community despite the fact that he never became rich or famous.

He was the epitome of the All-American Boy that everybody wants to be, although most Americans suffer under the delusion that there might be something more out there and struggle to find contentment with their normal, happy lives.

Except for that last part (about struggling to find contentment), Tony and Shellie’s story is very much the same. Tony was drafted as soon as he graduated from college. He ranked #2 out of 1,000 young men in boot camp and was offered a position at West Point, but he turned it down so that he would only have to serve two (rather than four) years in the army.

So, instead of pursuing a bright career in the military, he became an X-ray tech, (although during his service at Fort Sam Houston, he X-rayed Lyndon B. Johnson, so he had some pretty interesting opportunities at any rate! 🙂 ).

After his stint in the military, he began pursuing graduate school and won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Austria. However, just when he was supposed to leave, his mother needed major gall bladder surgery. Because Tony’s father had passed away when Tony was only nine, he felt a special responsibility for his mother, so he sacrificed his prestigious and exciting opportunity abroad in order to return home and care for her during her long, difficult recovery.

Tony had trained to be a teacher, but there were no teaching jobs available in Grand Rapids at that time, so he found a job as an X-ray tech at the local hospital where he could earn money to care for his mother. This month, he retired after over 50 years as an X-ray tech, and during those years, he took X-rays on more than 250,000 patients!

Tony married a wonderful girl and settled down in a lovely little house, where they have lived for their entire marriage. They both wanted a large family, and Tony wanted lively conversations around the table.

Family Christmas Photo 2017

They have ten beautiful sons and daughters, and all but four of them are married so far. They have over a dozen grandchildren with several more on the way. Shellie’s mother had 12 children and 71 grand children (36 of whom were adopted). I can imagine that Tony and Shellie may have a similar number some day!! 🙂

And yes, they have very lively conversations around the their table!

However, there’s one huge difference between their story and that of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life! Whereas George became suicidal on Christmas Eve because he felt like his life hadn’t made enough of a difference in this world, Tony and Shellie have the sweet presence of Jesus in their lives, filling them with faith, hope, peace, and joy.

Tony became an ordained minister, and they have served the Lord together for many years. Among other things, both of them teach Sunday school, and Tony is on the elder board. All their children love the Lord and walk with Him.

They may not be rich and famous in the eyes of the world, but they are incredibly blessed, and they know it!

They don’t need a vision from an angel to teach them about true values! Tony’s favorite song is “Be Thou My Vision,” and Shellie’s is “Give Me Jesus.”

Family Christmas Photo 2019

If you’re struggling to find meaning and purpose in life, sure—watch It’s a Wonderful Life. According to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the greatest movies of all time,” is considered “one of the best American films ever made,” and is listed as #1 on “the most inspirational American films of all time.”

But the real secret to contentment is to give your life to Jesus and live your life for Jesus. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

“Give Me Jesus”
(—Jeremy Camp)

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die, give me Jesus

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (36): Blinding Ourselves

One of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible (at least to me) is found in Matthew 5:29 (ESV), “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” I take everything very literally and seriously, so for years I wrestled with these haunting questions: “Does God really want each of us to blind ourselves so that we aren’t tempted to sin? If so, does he really want everyone in the entire world to go around blind? How would we survive???”

Can you imagine living in a world where none of us could see anything? What if we all really did poke out our eyes? What if the sun set and never rose again in our vision? What if we had to live in a world that was completely devoid of light and sight?

I don’t intentionally seek out at evil images, but over the course of my life, I have certainly seen things that triggered offensive thoughts. “Well” (I reasoned within myself), “Jesus didn’t say to pluck out both our eyes, just our right eye, so maybe we’d all have one eye left.” But if you’ve ever injured one eye (as I have), you’ll know that without two eyes, we don’t have depth perception, which is crucial for driving and really essential for many types of work (power equipment; even threading a sewing needle) and play (catching a ball, etc.)

God created us with eyes to see, both for our protection and for our pleasure, but I think Jesus was absolutely sincere when he said that it would be better for us to lose something essential for optimal well being in the present in order to preserve ourselves from future disaster. Would you agree with that? That much definitely makes sense to me.

Here’s what I think Jesus was actually teaching us: “Do whatever you need to do in the way of restricting yourself in order to keep from tempting yourself with evil.”

If you think about it logically, our eyes are organs in our body which are not moral agents. The eye does not literally “cause us to sin.” The eye opens and shuts either as a reflex or in response to our brain sending the message to our eye. The eye is a servant to our mind and will. As Jesus taught in Mark 7:20-22, “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” So, it’s not literally our eyes that cause us to sin. Evil doesn’t start with the eye. Sin doesn’t originate in our literal, physical eye, nor can you eradicate sin by destroying your physical eyes. Temptation and sin come from deep within our heads and hearts.

Does that let us off the hook? Well, it keeps us from needing to literally gouge out our eye if we sin, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of what Jesus is teaching in any way. Allowing ourselves to look at (consider) anything that tempts us to sin is like gouging out our spiritual eyes! Sin will blind us and make it impossible to see truth. We will be stumbling around in the dark spiritually.

Slieve League: One of the Highest Sea Cliffs in Europe

This is far more deadly than stumbling around in the dark physically. So, we can either gouge out our eyes metaphorically by restricting ourselves from temptation, or (in effect) gouge out our spiritual eyes so that we are blind to sin and truth. If we choose the second option, Jesus warns that our whole body might be cast into hell! If you are indulging in evil, know that you are like a blind person walking toward the edge of a precipice with no wall to stop you (such as is true at Slieve League in Ireland). Even worse, spiritual blindness leads to the danger of being thrown into hell, which is infinitely worse than being physically blind and falling off a cliff.

Sweet ‘n’ Salty Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is one of those desserts that’s the perfect cross between candy and nuts . . .the perfect blend of sweet and salty. It’s sure to please, but don’t serve too much, because it’s so rich a little slice goes a long way! It needs to be eaten with care, savoring each bite slowly. I usually think of pecan pie as a Southern favorite any time of the year, or as a Northern pie to be made in winter, when the body needs more fuel to keep burning warmly, or during the holidays! My son has a friend who grew up in the South, and her grandma had a deal with her grandchildren: She’d bake all the pecans pie they wanted, as long as they picked and shelled the nuts for her from her pecan tree! Wow! I would have loved that deal as a kid, wouldn’t you?!

However, despite how fabulous pecan pies taste, this past winter I failed to make even one, so Alan requested pecan pie for Father’s Day. In case you’ve not fallen in love with this perennial Southern favorite yet, here’s my recipe to get you started!

Sweet and Salty Pecan Pie
(Serves about 10)
Fluted 11″ pie crust

Make 1 crust for an 11″ pie (but don’t bake it yet):

In a mixing bowl, combine:
1.75 cups flour
2/3 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water.
3. Mix in your blender just until a ball form. Roll out after sprinkling a little flour on top so it won’t stick to the rolling pin. I always roll the crust out on top of some saran wrap so I can get it off the counter and into the pie plate in one piece, but you have to flip the crust over so the saran ends up on top and can be pulled off. Also, if the saran slides around, put a few drops of water on the counter underneath the wrap to make it stay in place.
4. Arrange the crust in the pan, flute the edges, and prick some holes in the bottom with a fork
Spread 1/2 cups of salted, crushed pecans on top of the crust at the bottom of the pie plate
Preheat the oven to 350°F.


In a large mixing bowl, add:
3 eggs, and beat them slightly
3/4 cup light corn syrup (I know corn syrup is out of vogue right now, and you can replace it with 3/4 cup brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons water, but it doesn’t turn out with quite the perfectly chewy smooth texture)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend together, then add and gently stir together:
2 cups chopped, salted pecans

Place the filling into the unbaked pie shell, then top with:
1.5 cups halved (or could be chopped, but halved are pretty), salted pecans

Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is firm.

Let it cool for an hour before serving, preferably topped with a little whipping cream or a scoop of ice cream, although it’s mighty good plain too!

Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds” (Genesis 43:11; I know our husbands aren’t exactly kings, but they are the kings of our home castles, and worthy of some special gifts from time to time too! 🙂 ).

Gentle Rains

Another day of gentle rains! I want to publicly thank God for these wonderful rains, because I’ve been praying for them!

In the process of building an addition, our yard became a muddy mess! Alan carefully sowed grass seed everywhere, but every time we turned our backs, the geese would come and gobble up the profits! One of my daily tasks has become chasing the geese away so the grass has a chance to grow. (And then, I have to scatter more seed after they leave.) I feel like Disney’s little cocker spaniel, Lady!

A Tangle of Wild Grapes and Highbush Cranberry Blossoms

Our yard covers more than an acre, and to water the lawn with a hose and sprinkler would take more time, energy, and hose-length than we possess, so I’ve been asking the Lord to bless us with gentle rains to help the grass seed sprout and take root before it all gets washed away or eaten up.

Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa, growing wild along our Michigan woodland lane

God has been answering my prayers! We have had one of the most wonderfully cool springs I can ever remember, with the perfect blend of sunshine and soft showers!

The grass has taken root, and we’ve become hopeful that—short of a disastrous drought—the grass may flourish. Perhaps by next summer we will have enough soft grass to support both the grazing of geese and the romping of grand children!

Wild turkeys grazing in the meadow

Well, and enough for the wild turkeys too . . .

Doe and her young fawn grazing with the geese in our yard

And the deer, especially now that the herd
has a number of new fawns to feed!

Mock orange on a rainy morning

Working hard to plant and protect the grass, and praying for rain and sunshine—which only God can provide—reminds me of a greater task we’ve been given: that of sharing spiritual “seed” (the Word of God) with others. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Dueteronomy 32:2).

Fragrant wild roses perfuming the misty morning air

God has been merciful and kind to me, and he will provide for you too if you’ll surrender your heart and will to Jesus. He calls each of us with a quiet, gentle voice that can only be heard in our hearts. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

White-tailed fawn in our woods

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35).

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“At least I can’t die young anymore! Guess I can scratch that off my bucket list,” Brian grinned just before blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. Not that he really had dying young ON his bucket list, but he IS the oldest known survivor of his type of treatment for his particular type of cancer, which he was diagnosed with when he was only 27. (Very scary to me personally, because my youngest son was 27 yesterday.)

Brian never dreamed he’d make it to his 60th birthday (and frankly, I wasn’t so sure either), so it was with a sense of grateful joy and awe that our Birthday Club treated Brian to a very special birthday party yesterday!

Where to take him? That was easy! The day before he was born, his mother and father were at the John Ball Zoo, and his mom started having contractions, so Brian says he was “almost born at the zoo!”

Brian only visited the zoo once in his life, on his 10th birthday, and he remembered being fascinated by the antics of the otters. Since he hasn’t been back in 50 years, he thought visiting the zoo would be the perfect way to spend his day!

Of course, we wanted to see everything (and pretty much did), but—you know—like everybody, we wanted to make sure we saw “the lions,

the (sleeping? oh, no!) tigers
and (SLEEPING!! 😦 ) bears. Oh, no!”

But, there was no shortage of excitement and fun, including a few “firsts” for Brian, such as petting a goat

and taking a ride on a funicular. (Not sure they were on his bucket list as such, but he thoroughly enjoyed the new experiences!)

We also made a new friend: Herbie! Herbie is 34 and one of the oldest Magellanic penguins in captivity in the world. Herbie’s fur is almost all grey, and he seemed content to swim on the surface, but he was still swimming! It was a little hard not to miss some of the similarities between our new and old friends. Very touching.

Oh, but I wanted to tell you about how teamwork makes the dream work! In this photo, you see Susan in a wheel chair! She turned her ankle helping one of her daughters the day before our outing. Thankfully, her beloved husband took a day off work to help us get the dream team around!

An aphorism of their son-in-law, Seth’s (so we call it a Sethism), is that “teamwork makes the dream work.” I don’t know who said it first, so if you know, please let us know, but . . .isn’t this a clever truism?

And, isn’t God good!? Brian was never able to marry or have a family. His father died several years ago, and his mother passed away 23 weeks ago to the day. But, he has us. He has a family of brothers and sisters in Christ to love him and appreciate him. Brian is a real prayer warrior! He can’t travel much, but he never misses a prayer meeting via telephone for the church on Sunday morning, and he’s never missed a single Monday night prayer meeting for my son Jonathan’s ministry.

He’s knitted booties for all our grand kids, always smiles, and always says it’s too early to start complaining (although he could well have started 33 years ago).

I hope his story brightens your day. It certainly brightened ours!

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:6).

“Walt, The Man Behind the Myth”

Family Vacation to Walt Disney’s “EPCOT.”

Trips camping down at Fort Wilderness in Disney World was the stuff of dreams for our kids growing up, so it was with great pleasure that Alan, Joel, and I were able to spend a week down there this spring with our son Jon’s young family, who’d never been there before.

Jon and Linda have three little girls, and everything was new, fun, and fascinating!

Jon is one of the most innovative people I know, and The Magic Kingdom has always been a source of inspiration to him because there’s such strong encouragement for people to pursue those sparks of imagination that come to each of us—if we’ll only stop to pay attention!

Epcot Center: Spring Garden Colors

Every park is creative, clean, and colorful.

Watching “Movies Under the Stars” at Fort Wilderness Campground

No matter where you look, there’s likely to be something delightful—and often surprising—right beside you!

Great White Heron perched on top of a table umbrella

If you’ve been to “the happiest place on earth,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Disney: The Man Behind the Myth

Although Jon is a theologian with a heart for spiritual life more than “fun,” there’s a lot to be learned from the life of Walt Disney.

He was without a doubt one of the world’s most influential innovators of the twentieth century.

If you’re ever looking for some insight into this legendary man, his daughter told Walt’s story in a warm and honoring biographical documentary back in 2001 (although we just watched it recently!).

Walt, the Man Behind the Myth is G-rated, family friendly, and well worth watching!

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned from Disney comes from his
“Five Lessons on staying motivated and bouncing back from failure:”

*Follow your heart
*Be grateful for failure and move forward
*Go all in
*Invest in knowledge
*Embrace self-delusion (because) delusion and extraordinary success go together

As a Christian, I might modify these a little, to say such things as “Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading” and “Embrace your calling,” but the ideas can all find roots in the Bible:

*Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” You have to know what’s in your heart, so don’t ignore it!

*Psalms 32, 51, and 138 (for instance), David praise God for his help to move forward in times of failure and need.

*Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” If that isn’t going “all in” I don’t know what is!

*Proverbs 18:15, “The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.” Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

*Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Are you inspired? I am! 🙂