Highlights of Biking Around Mackinac Island (and Life)

July is the perfect time to visit Mackinac Island!

And, the eight-mile road around the island on Highway M-185 is the perfect venue for taking young kids on a big biking adventure, because it’s the only highway in America where no cars are allowed!

So, a couple of weeks ago we headed north with our two oldest sons and their families on a U.P. “roots” tour, including a trip across the Straits of Mackinac on a Shepler ferry boat to spend a day on Mackinac Island.

Horse and buggy in front of Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island

It was a picture-perfect day, and we were all in very high spirits!

Although the nine grandchildren are living in suburban California and Belgium now (read that, no easy, safe places for long bike adventures), they were all up for the challenge, so the first stop was to get fitted on bikes.

Mike pulled the baby in a Burley, and Grace had a trail-a-bike for their four-year-old. Actually, trailer bikes (which have wheels for pedaling while allowing the parent to control the balance) are recommended for the 4-7 year-old set, but our two seven-year-olds opted to ride their own bikes, which was very brave of them!

A Bicycle Built for Two. Mackinac Island

Alan and I took a little razzing from the attendant for what he must have considered a non-feminist approach to modern cycling, but we opted for a bicycle built for two. After (literally) more than 50 years of riding such bicycles around the island together, we weren’t about to be talked out of our old-fashioned favorite.

Burley and trail-a-bike on Mackinac Island State Park, Michigan

There are many advantages to riding on a bicycle built for two! You’re always together; you can hear, talk, and be super close to each other at all times (very bonding).

Roadsides full of wild, pink roses on Mackinac Island

The other advantage, at least for me, is having total freedom to take photographs of all the gorgeous scenery as we pass by!

Highway M-185 is full of flowers on both sides of the road all through the summer, so all you have to do is avoid horses and other people while soaking in the beauty!

We did take numerous stops along the way to enjoy all the byways, including a little wetland walk, where we learned that there are over 415 varieties of wildflowers on the island!

Monarch caterpillar on a milk weed

We have lots of budding (and grown) botanists in the family, so the kids stopped to check out many of the flowers and captivating critters.

Golden coreopsis and purple harebells on Mackinac Island

I’m not sure if it was the flowers, the the gorgeous water, or too many cousins riding too close together, but one of the seven-year-olds took a bad spill at one point!

I’m sure Judah was in a lot of pain from the bad scrape on one leg, but after taking a breather to regain his shaken confidence, he was willing to take off on his own again. It’s good to be tough!!

Thankfully, it wasn’t too much longer before we reached the halfway point! Whew!

We stopped for lunch at British Landing, where lots of seagulls as well as people hang out.

Just in case you’re wondering, the seagulls are not only beautiful and interested in people, they LOVE good food as much as humans!

Hungry biker eating a Cannonball at British Landing on Mackinac Island

We stopped for hotdogs and hamburgers at the Cannonball snack shop.

Everybody was “starving” by the time we got there, so it was a really welcome break.

(Of course, some of us are still pretty insistent about what we like best for lunch!)

Other highlights of the bike adventure included skipping stones,

riding beneath tree-lined canopies of fragrant cedars,

The Island House, Mackinac Island

enjoying all the spectacular hotels, homes, and gardens that line the island,

and our long-standing tradition of stopping at “The Devil’s Kitchen,” a series of limestone caves. (Can you see the Devil’s eyes and nose?)

When Alan and I were kids in the 60’s, and when Aaron and Mike were kids in the 80’s, we were free to scramble up the rocks, and that’s exactly what kids do if left to their own devices, but today there are signs prohibiting such pleasures. 😦

However, nobody can stop a child
from having fun and being just a little scared!

I think everybody was happy to return victorious from our big ride. (Aaron and his oldest had to go an extra two miles to qualify for a boy scout badge, but they are also extra tough!!)

After returning our bikes, we wandered down Main Street, checking out all the possibilities for an afternoon treat to celebrate conquering the trail.

When our kids were little, I usually made fudge to bring with us (to keep down the expense), but this trip our generous (and rather more affluent than we were) sons bought a little fudge and then let each of their kids pick a treat of their own.

Despite being dead tired, I didn’t hear any complaining as we waited for the ferry!

Waiting for the Shepler Ferry on Mackinac Island

It seemed like the perfect end to a perfect day, although I was a little worried about Judah and wondered if his spill on the bike had traumatized him. So, I asked him what his favorite parts of the day had been.

His response was unequivocal: “The trip to the candy store . . . and the bike ride!”

That made me super happy, but it also made me think about my own life. I’ve been on a journey. Most of it has been really great, but like Judah—I had one bad fall near the beginning and got pretty scraped up! However, wouldn’t it be sad if we let our hurts and pains and accidents make us too skiddish to keep trying? And, isn’t it wonderful that we have a Father who watches over us, encouraging us along, and who promises to reward us at the end?! Do you know Him? Are you trusting in Him? God is good. Life is good. It’s not all picnics and vacation days, but it’s all good for us when we let God be our Father and never stop trying!

Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast” (Psalm 36:5-6).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (41): Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You

I don’t know if you’re like me, but this directive seems a lot easier to me than some of them. For instance, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (from Matthew 22:39) seems impossibly hard unless I put it in the context of Luke 6:31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

Do you feel a difference? Here’s what happens in me. I am most aware of my own needs and spend most of my life providing for the needs and comfort of myself and my own family and friends. On the other hand, I try to treat all people with whom I interact with respect and fairness, and that is what I hope for from others toward me. I don’t expect others to meet my needs; I do expect that others will not thwart my honest efforts to meet my own needs. That is the essence of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” isn’t it?

So, I think of this command as the “Golden Rule,” sort of “Human Decency 101.” In the book of James we get another look at this command, where it is called the “royal law:” “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9). In this passage, we get another clue about what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like: No prejudice! No picking favorites when it comes to being kind and doing good. Be fair with everyone!

Being fair is the first step toward love, but probably not the last step. As we learn of Jesus, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This goes way beyond being fair and giving everyone an equal chance to work for their own “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t know about you, but I am willing (and on occasions eager) to sacrifice myself to ease the burdens of those I love, but I don’t have a lot of natural compassion for strangers, at least for those who have no visible signs of disability or neediness. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that if I saw someone dying by the side of the road, I would go to a lot of trouble to try to rescue them (although I stand in awe of the good Samaritan, who provided so fully for the wounded man’s care). Wouldn’t you?

I bet most people would go to the aid of someone in dire need unless they were afraid for their own life. This might be considered “Human Kindness 101,” which makes me think of the passage in 2 Peter, where we are told to grow one step deeper, from “brotherly kindness” to “charity.” This gets tougher! Many mature people have a heart for compassion and “brotherly kindness,” but few attain true “charity,” or the ability to love others (particularly “neighbors” when you define them as anybody in need) sacrificially. And, what about the beggars by the wayside? In America, we never used to see people begging anywhere, but now it’s not uncommon to see someone with a sign up and a hand out. When Alan and I visited Singapore, we learned that begging was an offense that could land you in jail, so there are very few beggars there. (There are those who peddle goods, however.)

To give, or not to give? That’s a complex question. Most of the research I’ve read suggests that beggars need to be steered toward agencies that can access their true needs and assist them in getting the care they need (which might be emotional as well as physical) before helping them learn how to help themselves. In Grand Rapids, we have several ministries, such as Mel Trotter, that will provide food, shelter, and support (including vocational training) for those who are destitute. Pine Rest Christian Ministries reaches out to those with true mental illness. Exalta Health is another ministry downtown that provides for medical, emotional, and spiritual needs at greatly reduced prices. If you have a heart to give, you might consider giving to a local ministry you personally trust to provide for the true needs of the poor. Internationally, there is a “Comcare Hotline” that can help people. Many communities have some type of church-related or government-based help for the poor. It would be worth our while to know what’s out there so we can at least make sure panhandlers know about these options. Beyond that, we have the resource of the Holy Spirit to guide us individually as we seek to love others in a way that is actually “loving” them rather than supporting possibly lazy or dysfunctional lifestyles.

Whatever we do, it’s good to keep in the forefront of our thinking the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This may not be the ultimate act of sacrificial love, but it sure is a good beginning! May we love others as we love ourselves, using the same standards of expectation and mercy. May we expect from others what we expect from ourselves. May we have compassion on those in genuine need, as we would want others to have compassion on us in our times of need. May we be fair. May we be merciful. May we pray without ceasing, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into Love as we interact with all those around us.

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:2-9).

Pad Thai

Pad Thai with Chicken and Pineapple

I’ve been a fan of Pad Thai (made with rice noodles, veggies, and meat) ever since visiting Thailand, but I never learned how to make it until Joel got interested. He’s developed a family favorite inspired by a recipe he found on allrecipes.com (excellent source of new recipes) but so much changed that it merits its own recipe. It’s a light, stove-top, meal-in-one that’s great for warm summer nights! He’s what he does:

Make a sauce with:
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons white sugar
A sprinkling of red pepper to taste
2 limes, juiced

Prepare vegetables and set aside:
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
1 bunch green onions, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a separate bowl, mix together with a fork: 4 eggs
Cut into bite-sized chunks: 1 pound de-boned, tenderized chicken thighs
Skin 4 cloves garlic

*Preheat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok.
*Crush the garlic into the oil and cook at a low heat to release the garlic goodness.
*Turn heat to as high as possible and cook chicken until just done. The chicken will continue to cook after set aside. On our hottest burner, cooking the chicken only takes 2.5 minutes. Set the chicken aside in a bowl.
*In the same wok, add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. Once oil is heated, add the eggs. Like scrambled eggs, keep the eggs moving constantly until just cooked. Add back in chicken, vegetables, and sauce.
*While all of this is happening in the wok, water should be boiled for the rice noodles (12–14 ounces). Rice noodles only take about ten minutes to cook. NOTE: usually when cooking rice noodles, you turn off the heat right after putting the noodles in the boiling water. Ideally, the noodles finish cooking about the time that the eggs are done cooking. Add noodles to the eggs/chicken/vegetables/sauce.

This dish is bright and zesty (due to the lime juice, garlic, and pepper), and it can “stand on its own” as a meal-in-one, although if you have a fresh pineapple on hand, that can provide a touch of sweetness that will make you feel like you’ve had a light dessert too!

He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame” (Proverbs 10:5).

Tips on Being In and Out of Jams

I’ve been thinking a lot about the give and take of living with and loving other people, and although it’s obvious that children are more often on the receiving end of life, I want to point out that children can be extremely giving.

For instance, last week we went cherry picking at Robinettes. The kids were so industrious and diligent that we came home with many buckets of cherries—so many, in fact, that I wasn’t at all sure we’d be able to use them before they spoiled. NOT TO WORRY! Not only did some of my kids come to the rescue, some of my granddaughters worked tirelessly to pit literally gallons of sweet, black cherries so we could make pies and jam.

I made two pies, and then I had to run to the grocery store for more supplies, so while I was gone, my daughter-in-law Gerlinde and the girls did a splendid job of finishing up with the jam. Gerlinde (who grew up in Africa on the mission field) even taught me two new tricks. I usually just count on the heat from the jam to self-seal most of the jars and then eat the rest fresh or freeze them. (See recipes here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/making-jams-fun-for-profit/)

However, Gerlinde shared that if you boil the lids first to make them super hot, and then close the lids tightly on nearly full jars of jam and turn the jars upside down, this ups the number of jars that will self-seal to almost 100%. (They didn’t have canning equipment in Tanzania.) She also pointed out that if you’re unsure about whether or not the jam is done, just dip your spoon into the pot and let the jam on the spoon cool on the counter for a minute or two. Once it’s cool, you can tell if it’s firm enough to suit your taste. Good tricks from an expert jam maker! Thanks, Linda! 🙂

In preparation for our reunion, I had also made about 10 quarts of freezer jam (only a few jars of which are pictured here), because “bread and jam, jam and bread” (and toast and jam) are one of the family’s favorite snack-time treats. (I can’t get away with serving too many cookies, as that’s not considered very healthy by the younger generation of parents!)

You can never have too much jam, so my grandchildren decided to gift us all with a treat of their own! They went out and worked for a long time gathering wild black raspberries from our woods. Rather then eating them all fresh, they saved them ALL so we could make some black raspberry jam! I was deeply touched by their generosity and desire to gift us all with more wonderful jams!

Giving and receiving gifts is really a way of giving and receiving love, and the young can be just as generous and eager as any of us to express love.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus taught that it’s more blessed to give than to receive? I used to think it was perhaps because only the rich have the resources to give to the poor, but I’ve learned over the years that this is completely wrong, because many of the most giving people I know share out of their poverty rather than their wealth. Here’s what I think: Giving brings us joy, because ultimately we are giving love, and there is no greater joy in this world than giving and receiving love.

So, whether we’re old or young, rich or poor, in a jam or not, it’s good to give to others—not by compulsion, but as a free-will offering of love! It brings joy to our hearts and helps those around us. Life is always richer (and sweeter!) when it’s shared!

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Thoughts on the Value of Giving

Having just spent four beautiful weeks enjoying our children and grandchildren (including our youngest grand child’s first birthday, which was yesterday), I want to add just a few more miscellaneous thoughts on the joy of giving and the rewards that come to us for sharing what we have with others:

“Those who are happiest and those who do the most for others” (Booker T. Washington).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill).

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

“It is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi).

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” (Albert Einstein)

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give” (Ben Carson).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank).

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” (Charles Dickens).

“If we want to know our God-given gits, we must know the giver” (Eric Samuel Timm).

“You can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts, so I want to celebrate Jesus” (Lecrae).

“Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” (Joyce Meyer).

Giving isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege!

The greatest joy in life is finding God’s love and sharing it with others!

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (Good News Translation of the Bible).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (40): Be a Giver, not a Taker!

Of course, we all start out as receivers and takers; from the inception of life (which is a gift in itself), even an embryo is entirely dependent on its mother for nourishment and the continuation of its tiny existence, and really, that pattern continues through birth and well into childhood. But, God doesn’t intend for us to continue being “on the take” for our entire lives!

It’s not just that some of us are “givers” by nature and others are “takers.” Those who are mature give; those who are immature take. God wants us to become mature, which is why Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:42: “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” In Luke 6:30, the command is even more emphatic: “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” Wow! Really?

Why does Jesus ask us to do such impossible things? Is he really just out to make us feel like failures? I don’t think so. I think he knows something that we have trouble understanding: True love gives, and loving truly makes us happy! What do you think? Do you think that’s right or wrong?

I think Jesus was right (as always), even though I struggle to be like Jesus. But, notice his example: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). So, Jesus came to earth and made himself of “no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7) for our sakes, so that we could become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) and someday “reign for ever and ever” with him (Revelation 22:5). In order to do all this, he had to die on the cross—the ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours. The ultimate gift given by the ultimate Giver! Do you suppose this made Jesus sad, or happy? He didn’t do it begrudgingly, because there was no other way. He did it “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Yes, he sweat great drops of blood and would have taken some other way had there been one, but Jesus surrendered fully to God’s will, even to the point of death, in order to give the gift of eternal life to all of us who put our hope and faith in him. He is our example, and he did it for JOY. God wants us to give for the joy of it, because we love, and not simply out of a sense of duty. This is what Jesus wants us to understand. Everything he teaches us is for our good, so that we might experience the abundant life that God intends for us!

I’ve been meditating on Psalm 41:1, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor” and love this story, told by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) in his book, Italy (recorded by Spurgeon in his inimitable Treasury of David): In Turin, Samuel Rogers met a Piedmontese nobleman who told him that he’d been on the verge of committing suicide in a river when a little boy tugged at his cloak and begged the man to help his family of six children who were starving to death. The nobleman followed the child to his home and was so overwhelmed by the poverty and squalor that he gave them his entire purse. They burst into such joyous gratitude that he said, “It filled my eyes, it went as a cordial to my heart. ‘I will call again tomorrow’ I cried. ‘Fool that I was to think of leaving a world where such pleasure was to be had, and so cheaply!’”

Here are more awesome thoughts on giving to the poor from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David: “How foolish are they that fear to lose their wealth by giving it, and fear not to lose themselves by keeping it? He that lays up his gold may be a good jailer, but he that lays it out is a good steward . . . Thou hast riches here, and here be objects that need thy riches—the poor; in heaven there are riches enough but no poor, therefore, by faith in Christ make over to them thy moneys in the world, that by bill of exchange thou mayest receive it in the world to come; that only you carry with you which you send before you.”—Francis Raworth, Teacher to the Church at Shoreditch, in a Funereal Sermon, 1656.

Texts for the Meditation: Matthew 5:42, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Luke 6:30, “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

Remember: Giving isn’t simply a duty; it’s a great privilege!

Frosty Strawberry Cream Pie

Frosty Strawberry Cream Pie with a Cookie Crust

One of my husband’s favorite treats in summer is a thick strawberry milkshake, and this pie is sort of like a frozen milkshake, so he’s dubbed it “Strawberry Milkshake Pie.” It’s the only pie I make with a cookie crust, so I tend to think of it as a “Strawberry Shortcake Pie.” Whatever the name, I found the recipe more than 60 years ago, I’m not sure where . . . possibly through scouring the stack of Gourmet Magazines that kept me occupied while waiting for my piano lessons at Mrs. Dyke’s house when I was a teen. I can’t remember the source, and I think the ingredients have morphed a little over the years, but I remember the name was “Frosty Strawberry Cream Pie,” so that’s what I’ll call it. It’s a great make-ahead pie and stores well in the freezer for a week or two. Here’s how:

Sugar Cookie Dough Crust

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine in a mixer:
1.25 cups flour
1 stick softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Mix in mixer just until it starts to stick together and form a soft ball.

Press gently into the bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle with flour as needed to be able to work the dough into a tradition pie crust shape.

My family is not big on a lot of fancy pie crust, so I often tend to make the shell just big enough to hold the filling without a lot of fluting, but suit yourself. You can always make the crust a little thinner so your edge is prettier, but on this particular pie shell, that’s a little hard to do without adding a lot more flour and rolling it out (which you can do if you want; it’s just not as thick and cookie-like). Bake for 10 minutes at 350°F. or until turning a light, golden brown, at least on the edges.

Cool completely on counter.

In a mixing bowl, add:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar, and whip until stiff peaks form, then fold in
4 cups mashed strawberries
1 cup fresh or defrosted strawberry freezer jam (Probably any good strawberry jam would work, but there’s nothing that compares to fresh freezer jam for quality and flavor.)

Stir gently until completely blended, pour into the cookie crust pie shell, and pop into the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Defrost just before you serve for at least a half an hour. The flavor comes out better if it’s almost defrosted, but it needs a little freezing to make it sufficiently stiff. If you can cut it easily, it’s just about perfect for eating too!

I have been known to microwave it for a few seconds if it’s too solid, which doesn’t look as pretty but brings out all the best flavor! That makes it somewhere between premium strawberry ice cream on a cookie and heaven.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Subscribing to Scribd

If you love books and have a bit of a budget for continuing education, then you might appreciate Scribd. Have you heard of it? It’s been dubbed the “Netflix for e-books.” Although there have been some serious accusations of copyright infringements since its inception in 2007 (by then Harvard student, Trip Adler), it is my understanding that at this point, Scribd has a clean bill of health and you can become a member without any concern that you’re doing anything shady. I joined last fall and have become a fan. For $8.99 per month, you can listen to as many audio books as you like, choosing from their vast collection of over a million titles and growing. Let me share just a bit of my own experience.

I love reading but all too often “don’t have time” for the pleasure of sitting and learning via the written word. To compensate, I discovered LibriVox (actually, my book-loving editor son told me about it), which self-identifies as “Accoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” This is a marvelous service, and you can access over 12,000 books that have no copyright issues. It’s completely free, closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg (another wonderful volunteer organization that has been digitizing culturally significant books in the public domain), and is always looking for volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and voice to adding to LibrVox’s listings with high quality books. Over the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed a number of LibriVox’s audio books, and if you have no money for continuing education but have time and the means for listening to audio books, this is an excellent way to go!

And then, last year, I began hearing about more recent books that I really wanted to read but were (are) still under copyright. Again, my son came to my rescue, as did several friends, particularly one friend who travels by car extensively for her work. Scribd will let you have one month as a free trial, and within one month, I was hooked. (Also, if you’re a student and too busy during the year, you could still sign up just for the summer. 🙂 )

There is a seemingly endless array of possibilities out there, but I will tell you that I mostly read non-fiction Christian books, so not everything I want to read is available on Scribd, which is probably good. I love to underline, go back and rethink, and study the books I really love, so it’s good for me to OWN books. However, Scribd opens the door for learning at times that I just can’t read, like when I’m driving, folding laundry, or washing dishes. I hope nothing ever ends our desire to possess paper copies of precious books (the Bible most of all), but every avenue for growth and learning about God and good seems like a blessing to me.

Here are a few of my favorite books from those I’ve enjoyed since last fall (all of which could also be purchased, but I’m just giving you a sampling of what’s out there that I really appreciated):

*King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Timothy Keller (excellent study on the life of Christ from the book of Mark, for both seekers and those who have found!)

*Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Ravi Zacharias (so helpful for gaining perspective on why a “good” God might allow suffering in this life)

*Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer (highly technical but excellent information for those with scientific minds, providing solid philosophical and scientific arguments for the probability of intelligent design rather than random chance in the creation of the universe)

*Earth Psalms, by Francine Rivers (short, happy devotional thoughts about nature and God; easy listening for tired ears)

*A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Suffering, by Jerry Sittser (learning to accept and grow through tragedy)

*America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, by Grant Wacker (fascinating, technical biography about one of our world’s most influential religious leaders)

*The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (“The #1 New York Times bestseller about the Greatest Generation freshly adapted for the next generation” [that’s me]; wonderful account of a motley crew of young men who worked tireless to fulfill their dream of rowing their way to an Olympic Gold Metal back in 1936)

*The Classic Hundred Poems: All-Time Favorites, by William Harmon. The commentary on the poems alone was worth the listen; I felt like I’d taken a crash course in English poetry, and since I love to write poems, it seemed worthwhile to hear what the world loves best.

And more, although I won’t bore you. The point is, if you’re looking for a good resource for spirit and brain food, there are ways to promote learning and growth even during times when your hands are occupied with daily duties. Of course, nothing is as sweet and good as prayer and meditation, but if you have time for some audio books and $9 a month, you might also enjoy this avenue for expansion!

May Jesus bless you this summer as you pursue Him!

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:12-13). “Let no man despise thy youth” . . . or thy old age! Let’s be lifelong learners!!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (39): To Resist or Not to Resist

The real problem with meditating on the commands of Christ is that many of them seem (and are) totally contrary to our human nature and therefore very confusing. It’s as if we’re on a hurdles course, and each new hurdle is higher or harder than the last in some respect. Last week, we learned about the need for a heart transplant, but at least we can rest in the knowledge that God, as our Great Physician, is standing by, ready to perform the surgery that only He can perform: Birthing within us a new spiritual heart that lives and breathes the pure, eternal life of Christ.

That is mystery and miracle enough, but what about today’s texts?!:

*Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

*Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Wait a minute! This makes no sense at all, and I can prove it with a lot of other texts:

*James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

*1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

*Hebrews 12:3-4 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Well, these verses clearly teach us to resist the Evil One and sin, but I guess they don’t really tell us to resist any and everybody who might be trying to take advantage of us. In fact, the New Testament teaches, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Some scholars believe that Jesus’ commands to withstand the abuses mentioned regard submitting to unjust authorities, since it was possible for a Roman soldier to demand a civilian to give the soldier his coat or carry the soldier’s burdens for a mile (or so I’ve heard).

As unpleasant and unpopular as it is, God wants us to submit to those who are over us in authority, such as wives to husbands (Oh, no!!! Oh, yes: Colossians 3:18), those who are younger to their elders (1 Peter 5:5), servants to their masters (and not just those employers who are kind and fair, 1 Peter 2:18: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward“), all of us to the man-made ordinances of government (1 Peter 2:13), and all of us out of deferential love for one another “in the fear of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21).

Wow! That’s a long list of high hurdles God expects us to jump! I understand that God will take care of those who rest in Him when we are obedient but cornered: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day” (Exodus 14:13), but are their limits to how much abuse we’re supposed to take, and are we just supposed to become “doormats” for evil people to walk all over?

And, what about in the Old Testament? What about Joshua and David, and all the kings of Israel who fought against the surrounding tribes and conquered Canaan? Is it wrong to go to war against evil and oppression? Some people quote Romans 13:3-5 to say NO:For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” So, it appears to be reasonable, under the authority of your country, to defend “liberty and justice for all.”

I think the bottom line of Jesus’ command for us to “resist not evil” refers not to random acts of violence, but to authorized acts of unfairness . . . even EVIL ones, like the government “smiting us on the mouth” through an unjust ruling in court or demanding more of our money in taxes than we deem fair. Even on the personal level, we are told, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This is a little easier to understand and work out, because it gives us an action point: Overcome evil with good. Seems a little easier than to “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). However, both are implicit in Jesus’ teaching. Sometimes we have to “take it” and sometimes we’re asked to “give it,” but always to give back good, even if we’ve been given evil.

Truly, I don’t think this is possible apart from the grace of God! In my flesh, I resist evil—especially directed against me—with every fiber of my being. But, there are times when God wants us to submit rather than resist, and I think only his Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom to know when to submit and when to resist, and then to provide the grace to do so.

Lest we become weary in well doing, God does give some promises along the way to encourage us: “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him . . . Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:3,5). He will hear us. He will rescue us (1 Peter 8:10).

Finally, look back up at the verses listed above (and the passage listed below) on resisting. Each hurdle comes with a promise. If we “resist not evil” but submit first to God and then respond with patience and kindness, we will find that:

*The devil will flee from us.
*God will make us mature, establish, strengthen, and settle us.
*We will become partakers of his holiness and bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Sound like what you’ve always wanted? No? Well, it wasn’t really on my bucket list either, but nobody said being a disciple of Christ would be easy or natural. It’s the way of the cross, but it’s the right way, and God wants us to walk in it! Maybe we can pray for each other as we practice trying to jump these high hurdles! God is watching, cheering us on!!

If you’re interested in the real-life struggles of two missionaries trying to grapple with this command, I highly recommend In The Presence of My Enemies, a heart-rending book about a couple who were abducted in the Philippines. I heard Gracia speak at a ladies’ conference a few years ago . . . amazing story of the power of God to transform us! Our heavenly Father is the Great Physician . . .but he is also the Final Head Master! Yes, the Force of All Good is with God alone, but it’s the greatest Force in the Universe!! May this Force be with us!!

Hebrews 12:3-15 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

Texts for this Meditation: Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Reubens, Rachels, and Californian Reuben Sandwiches

Ever heard of “Rachel” sandwiches? I think they’re so new they haven’t even made it into Allrecipes.com, and I’ve only had them twice—both this spring—once in Florida and once in Chicago. They are like Reuben sandwiches, only with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. Around our house, we sometimes enjoy “taste tests,” so in order to test my hunch on how to make the sandwiches, I prepared three: a traditional Reuben, a “Rachel,” and a Californian Reuben. (Yes, and now they have “Reubens” made with fish instead of corned beef, which are becoming popular in Ohio and Minnesota, so . . . start your own trend if you want, and call it whatever you want!)

Since my taste test was for my husband, my youngest son, and myself, I made 3 sandwiches, and cut each one in three pieces, so we could each try each flavor. I’ll tell you what I did, and I was surprised to find that all three of us preferred the same sandwich, although you might feel differently!

All three sandwiches start out the same way: with pumpernickle bread (or rye bread) and Swiss cheese (although a swirled loaf of dark pumpernickle with light rye is very attractive). If you’re making Reuben or Rachel sandwiches, add several layers of sliced corned beef. If you’re making a Californian Reuben, use smoked turkey instead.

Traditionally, people use Thousand Island dressing or Russian dressing, but I don’t keep either, and I always keep mustard and horseradish, so that’s what I used. Suit yourself, according to what you have on hand and what flavors you enjoy. I like the kick from mustard and horseradish, and there’s mayonnaise in the coleslaw, so I don’t need more calories, but you can make them any way you please, and I’ll bet you’ll like them! For the “Reuben,” top the sandwich with heated, drained sauerkraut. For the “Rachel,” heap on your favorite coleslaw (I have a recipe here if you don’t already have a recipe: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/a-love-affair-with-veggies-cold-slaw/ ). For the Californian, I put coleslaw on the top half and sauerkraut on the bottom, just to see which would be preferred by my family, but suit yourself. Remember the cardinal rules of cooking: have fun and cater to your own tastes! If you like something, others probably will too!

Next, butter the sandwiches well on both the top and bottom, and grill them slowly on low heat (about 325°F. if you have a thermostat, or on low heat if you’re using a frying pan). Grill them until they’re golden brown on one side, and them flip them over carefully (might take a hand and a spatula to flip them without losing too much of the filling) and grill them on the other side.

Grill time shouldn’t take more than 5-6 minutes altogether. (Here I’ve made Californian “Reubens” with crusty Italian bread, turkey, Swiss cheese, and coleslaw. Whatever you’ve got handy will work!)

I tested the “Californian Reubens” on some friends, because that’s where I heard about the “Californian” variety, although since I used coleslaw instead of sauerkraut, I’m not sure if it really qualified as a “Reuben” at all! Things were getting sketchier and sketchier, but everybody was amiable, so I think it passed.

And, what about the taste test with my husband and son? Surprisingly, we all liked the Rachel sandwich best: Pumpernickle, corned beef, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, mustard, and horseradish . . . sweet and sour taste points, sharp and mild flavors. If you try them, let me know which one you prefer, will you?

I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:1-3).