Birthday Jokes and Joys

“Old age is like a plane flying through a storm.
Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do” (Golda Meir).

Throughout the year, I collect a few choice jokes about aging,
because—in fact—I am definitely aging!! Last week we celebrated my 69th birthday, which is getting dangerously close to the big 7-0, and I think I’ll be on the visiting team on that scoreboard! 😦

Yes! I remember being three and getting three cents each week for my allowance . . . which I always spent on penny candy from the corner store!

Along with millions of my Baby Boomer age mates, I’m quickly passing from “getting older” to just plain being old! Yikes! Where has the time gone?

Losing hair may not be your problem, but if you’re over sixty, you might identify with something on this list:

Alan and I definitely complain of having “goldfish” brains
and depend on one another to double-check our thinking.

Along with the funny cartoons that keep us laughing lest we cry, I occasionally find some really valuable advice, and here are a few of my favorites:

“When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old with grace is a choice. Growing older with grace is possible for all who will set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ” (—Billy Graham).

Those that are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be vigorous and flourishing to show that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (Psalm 92:13-15, Jubilee Bible 2000).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (48): The Quiet Do-Gooder

Do you get overwhelmed by all the appeals for help you receive from organizations? How about the folks at the markets with placards asking for spare change? Fall is “the season” for fundraisers in Grand Rapids, and this past week, one of my friends experienced one company’s latest bright idea for pressuring people into donating: “Just text in your donation right now while you’re sitting at the table, and we’ll flash your name and amount up on the big screen!” Woah! Is this meant to create competition, extra glory for the donor, or shame for those who won’t or can’t give more (beyond the extremely expensive ticket price for the dinner)?

I would like to say, “Wait! We’re getting this all wrong!” I’ve been to fundraisers that are almost like auctions: “Who will give us $100? Just raise your hands! Now, who will give us $1,000? Who will give us $5,000?” I think the last bid was for $25,000 that night. We didn’t participate in the bidding war, but I did go home feeling a little shell-shocked.

Jesus taught us the “right” way to give: “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4).

Giving to the poor is commendable, but let’s give out of hearts that overflow with compassion, not to avoid the social stigma of feeling uncharitable! Giving can fill us with joy when done out of a pure heart for the right reasons, but otherwise, it just makes us resentful or proud. Dear Lord, don’t let our acts of charity go to the loudest, highest bidders or be governed by our desire for the praise of men, but rather let us give prayerfully, in response to the quiet promptings of your Holy Spirit. So simple. So obvious from scripture. So contrary to the way our world works!

Text for this meditation: Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

This Fall, Let’s Be Real But Stay Positive

As the new fall semester begins, I wonder if it’s time to rethink our social network strategy. I wonder if we’re being a bit jaundiced to complain about Face Book and Instagram (Twitter, etc—fill in the many blanks here) being platforms for attempting to make our friends think we’re perfect. Really? Sure, we see photos of holidays and happy anniversaries and trips and amazing birthday cakes (and huge donuts 🙂 ), but we also hear about tragic losses, upcoming surgeries, and requests for prayer support during difficult challenges. There may be a few of our friends who appear to be budding Martha Stewarts (for better or worse); some may need a little affirmation that they’re doing well, but isn’t that okay . . . and what friends are for? Can we take joy in the happiness of others and find pleasure in the good things of life they enjoy and want to share with us without feeling bad about our own lives? I hope so!

What about the “bad” stuff that gets shared? The emotional drama you wish they’d share with their BFFs only? The negative side of lives and loves? I’ve heard people complain that Face Book is used to denigrate others, relieve volcanic social pressure, go on the rampage about politics, or otherwise splatter venom on innocent bystanders.

Hollyhocks on Mackinac Island, Michigan

What’s the purpose of social media? How do we manage our online networks and resources without getting so frustrated we just quit? Here are a handful of suggestions to help keep our attitudes positive and compassionate while still being open and honest about our lives:

Rose of Sharon

*Be prayerful as we read, asking God to bless each person and meet their needs. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:9).

*Pray about what to share with others, and share for the sake of joyfully celebrating life together as well as sharing our burdens. Let’s take responsibility for thoughtful honesty and sincerity. “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).

Female Baltimore Orioles

*Don’t compare ourselves with others and reject any temptation to envy. No matter how good life is for someone, we can know they have their share of heartaches and pain too. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26).

*Reserve our deepest emotional and spiritual pains for our closest friends, and let’s resist sharing these on public media. Once something is written, it can never be completely erased from the memory of those who read it. “Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee” (Proverbs 2:11).

Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird

*Don’t depend on the response of others for our sense of worth. Each of us is loved by God more than we will ever comprehend! He is our maker, our redeemer, our savior, our anchor, and the only “One to watch!” in the sense of needing approval. Let’s keep God as the “apple of our eyes,” the focus of our love, the sunshine that makes our spirits bright! It is only as we center our lives in Him that we will be truly centered and stable. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

*As a young person, I heard that George Washington was taught to “Be kind to all, be friends with few, be intimate with one.” I cannot find the origin of this quote, but I think it’s excellent advice both at home and online! “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).

Honey bee collecting pollen from a budding Rose of Sharon

*Here is another quote by Ben Franklin that I think has merit in guiding social discourse, even though it’s over two centuries old (and I’m not sure how he defines “friend,” but it seems too narrow to be a friend to only one): “Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none” (Benjamin Franklin). “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).

Hope this helps! I am now going to have to make sure I practice what I preach, giving up any sense of being disappointed by who doesn’t respond to my Face Book or blog entries, remembering that each of my friends has many, many friends to keep up with and lots they want to share too! Blessings~

Little Samuel’s Wish Comes True

I’m wondering if our grandson Samuel is a bit of a budding prophet . . . maybe a little like his namesake from the Bible!

Last year, before his mother was pregnant, he asked her if she had a baby boy in her tummy named Alex (with whom Samuel planned to shoot hoops).

Brianna thought Sammy’s question was cute, but she did take note, and when she became pregnant soon afterward, it made us all wonder if the baby was going to be a boy . . . especially since Sammy had informed us all the his first younger sibling was going to be a girl . . . and she was!

Brianna and Daniel like to be surprised so don’t test for gender but rather wait until delivery to learn the good news!

Can you guess?

Samuel was right!

We are now celebrating the birth of our 18th grand child,
a beautiful baby boy.

Vision of Cornelius the Centurion by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout,
1664, Public Domain

Dan and Brianna have named him Cornelius both to honor Brianna’s grandfather and because the Cornelius in the Bible was a very honorable person who sought out God and opened the door to the gospel in Caesarea, where he became the first gentile convert to Christ.

However, Cornelius is going to go by the nickname “Neil”
(rather than “Cory” or whatever).

The New Neil Armstrong

We are all overjoyed with Baby Neil Armstrong and hope he lives up to the virtuous examples of those brave and godly men who’ve come before him.

Oh, and for the record, his mom and daddy blessed him with the middle name of “Alexander,” which means “Defender of the People,” so Sammy can call him “Alex” any time he wants!

We are all in love with our new grand child/son/nephew/cousin/little person!

May he grow up to be a man of great faith and courage, one who is full of good works and prayers and loves God and man.

May he walk in the Truth, defend the just, and live a long, fruitful life!

Baptism of Cornelius

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway . . . Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee . . .

34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (The entire story can be found in Acts 10.)

God bless you, Baby Cornelius!

Grace’s Wish for a Super Power

Did I ever mention that I have the world’s best in-law kids? They are each so special and “just perfect” for my kids! What gifts from the Lord!

This summer has been a whirlwind of festivities with our children and their children. From near the end of June and still ongoing (although soon to be over), we’ve been blessed by visits from all 30 of our kids and grand kids with many weeks of overlapping fun! Frankly, I’ve been delighted with how happily all the cousins have played and am a totally typical grandma in that I’d love to bore you with details about how sweet and clever they are.

However, I will readily admit that “kids will be kids,” and my angelic grandchildren do have their moments! One day as my daughter-in-law Grace and I were washing up the dishes, we were laughing about one of the videos my kids made when they teenagers. Her husband (my son Michael) made a movie called Quality Man about a guy whose super power was to SLOW DOWN in order to do all things well.

“If I had one super power, do you know what it would be?” Grace asked. I thought about it but was clueless, so she answered, “It would be to return good for evil.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that so like Christ (and Grace really is)?!

As I was reflecting back on her thought this morning, it occurred to me that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about in the Beatitudes when he said to “Bless them that curse you” (Matthew 5:44). The ability to return good for evil, love for hate, and blessing for cursing is way above and beyond our frail humanity to achieve. Such love and goodness is not within us. It would be super human! Super natural! Even more miraculous than being able to transform our bodies! Iron Man is cool, but what about Pure Gold Grace? Even better? I think so!! Do you?!

Only God, through grace, can transform us from selfish creatures into people who love others enough to return good for evil, but that’s exactly what God’s Holy Spirit offers us if we’ll yield our lives to Him. Ready to possess a super power? Just think— We can if we will!

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him” (Made famous by Dwight Moody, but learned from British revivalist, Henry Varley).

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

“O To Be Like Thee”
(—Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897, Public Domain)

1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Refrain:
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.

3. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.

4. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

5. Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

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).

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!!