The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

The most beautiful prayer I’ve ever read concerning peace came from the pen of St. Francis of Assisi, who is one of the Church’s most revered saints, even though he lived over 800 years ago and died when he was only 44. St. Francis truly tried to life his life in imitation of Christ!

Painting of St. Francis in the Louvre Museum, Paris

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is Hatred, let me sow Love.
Where there is Injury, Pardon.
Where there is Doubt, Faith.
Where there is Despair, Hope.
Where there is Darkness, Light, and
Where there is Sadness, Joy.

“O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”

Stained glass windows in Notre Dame, Paris
(tragically destroyed by fire last year)

The most profound explanation of how to be an instrument of peace comes from the heart of my Lord, Jesus Christ, who taught us: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:9,43-45).

Sunshine streaming down on a bouquet at Chateau De Villandry, France

Prayer Cooking

Last weekend, our deep freezer died, leaving me a small inheritance of quickly thawing, once-frozen berries which couldn’t be crammed into my refrigerator’s freezer because I’d already stuffed every inch of available space with frozen meats and veggies. Besides that, I had most of a flat of fresh blackberries that were dead ripe and needed to be eaten or frozen. The only obvious solution was to process my motley assortment of orphaned berries into a large batch of cooked, mixed berry jam.

Sadly, I had no pectin for cooked jam. Our family favorite is freezer jam, so I only keep a stash of freezer jam pectin available for that once-in-a-year special when strawberries are less than a dollar per quart. However, without fresh berries and freezer space, freezer jam would be out of the question this spring.

The other problem was that I wanted to use all the berries, not just X cups according to some recipe . . . even if I could I find one (which I doubted). For instance, how do you suppose Google would respond to “recipe for approximately 5 quarts of mixed berries, some mushy and defrosted but others firm and fresh”? It is possible to make jam simply by boiling down your fruit with or without sugar until it’s approximately thick enough to make jam, and that was my first thought, so after dinner I processed the fresh berries, added the defrosted berries, and set the kettle on to boil while I washed up the dinner dishes. What’s that about the watched pot never boiling? I left the kettle a little too long and it boiled over. 😦

 “Drat!” I thought. “Okay, Lord, I have no option here of simply using my head. It’s too late to go to the store (and I’ve been avoiding stores anyway because of COVID concerns). I need your Spirit to guide this process.” Frankly, I pray every morning for the Holy Spirit to lead me into the ways of truth and righteousness. I pray for wisdom and grace and sensitivity to the Lord’s leading. I try to walk by faith and practice the presence of God. I talk to him while I work. At that moment, I recalled the passage I’d been memorizing from Psalm 119:57 -58, “Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words. I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.” 

“Lord, will you be merciful unto me according to THIS very word? Will you help me make jam that isn’t too runny and isn’t too firm? I can’t wing this one. This is something new. I have no experience in this type of jam making and know I don’t have the right supplies for any recipe. I need to clean up this sticky mess and get the jam finished so I don’t waste the good food you’ve blessed us with. Will you guide me?”

After cleaning up the jam that had overflowed onto the stove, I returned to my project, brought the fruit to a boil again, dumped in about half of a 4-pound bag of sugar, and entire bottle of freezer jam pectin, a large packet of strawberry jello powder, and 3 individual packets of gelatin into my goopy kettle, stirred until it was all smooth and abubble, then turned off the heat and ladled it out into all the glass jam jars I had on hand. It made just a little over a gallon of jam. I wiped off the bottles and screwed the lids on tightly. (No, I didn’t have proper canning supplies either, having given away most all my canning jars after our kids grew up.) Some of the jars eventually self-sealed as they cooled, but I stored them all in the refrigerator that night just before I went to bed.

Some of the jars of Mixed Berry Jam

There’s an old saying about throwing bad money after good, and so I wondered if I was wasting my pectin, gelatin, and sugar in an effort to save all the berries, but I was comforted by the next two verses of Psalm 119:59,60: “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”  I went to bed, thankful to have felt God’s guiding hand and feeling like I’d done the best I knew how to do . . . and willing to accept whatever verdict the Lord would pronounce over my prayer-cooked jam. “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee, because of thy righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:62).

The next morning for breakfast, I served bowls of fresh blackberries with cream and English muffins with our new jam. Both my husband and youngest son (who still lives with us) said the flavor and texture of the jam were excellent, so I breathed a great sigh of relief, thanked the Lord for his mercy, and sent one jar off to work with my son to give his girlfriend. Thank you, Lord! “The earth, O LORD, if full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119:64).

COVID Cake

But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna . . . and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil” (Numbers 11:6,8 NASB). This is just like the coronavirus pandemic! We have nothing to do but stay at home. Yet, isn’t that what people normally long for? Who doesn’t like cake? Who doesn’t long to go home after work and rest? Just like the children of Israel spending 40 years in the wilderness with nothing to do but be together and follow the Lord, we’ve been handed an extended “shelter-at-home” mandate by our government, for our own protection, and for many that even includes some financial support from the government.

The Israelites had been slaving away in Egypt, but God delivered them and moved them back to Israel, even supernaturally providing food for them on their journey. I admit to chaffing a little like the Israelites, who remembered the fish, the cucumbers and melons, the onions and garlic. Manna tasted like the best of the best—the perfect food, yet the children of Israel got bored with the best! I remember the restaurants we used to attend, and the places we used to visit, and I miss the freedom to go here and there at will. Yes, sometimes I’m tempted to get a little bored with the best too.

However, what a blessed time this has been for Alan and me! True enough, we miss our children and grandchildren severely. We miss visiting with our friends and worshiping corporately with our church community . . . all provisions the Israelites were allowed during their wilderness wanderings. Still, we have had more time to work on our home and yard than we’ve had in (literally) years. We’ve been enjoying leisurely devotional times together and morning walks before breakfast. Instead of spending two weeks in Belgium visiting some of our kids, we’ve been spending hours and hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, and redeeming our basement after 27 years of neglect. We’ve been chopping down weedy trees and rooting out the poison ivy that’s been over running the flowers along our fence line. We’ve been working until we’re so sore we can hardly move or think anymore and then enjoying movies together in the evenings. What’s not to love about that? Shouldn’t we be delighted to be able to be at home with our family and relishing the “manna” of more free time to cherish one another?

Dear Father, I know that many, many people are suffering from COVID. Over 100,000 have died here in America, and most all of us are experiencing economic and social losses. However, there are still over 330,000,000 of us who have not gotten COVID. Thank you! For those of us who have not contracted COVID and are alive and well, help us to use this time to concentrate on learning more about loving You and loving one another. Help us appreciate the “manna” of time . . . the “sabbath rest” of being home. There are so many silver linings in this storm. Help us to look up and see them!

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.’ Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it” (Numbers 11:4-9, NASB).

Peace in Action

Tuesday I paired photos of wildflowers with verses on peace from the Bible, promulgating the biblical claim that peace can come to our hearts if we will open them to God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to quiet us. Quite coincidentally, all that day (Tuesday), our entire Sunday school class had been praying for one of our members—Sam, who had an MRI scheduled and was worried about how he would do because he’s been extremely claustrophobic for years. That evening we received the following update, and it was such a “real life” confirmation of what God says He will do for us that I want to share it with you today, in case you’re frightened about something in your life. This is the response Sam sent via our Sunday school prayer chain:

Praise the Lord for how He used you and your prayers for my good and His Glory.  For me to ask you for this prayer request was humbling. What does it say about a clinical psychologist who is asking for help dealing with a phobia?  I did not have a problem asking the Lord for His help, but it was humbling to share my problem with each of you. My specific request was for God to remove my fear of feeling horizontally trapped in an MRI machine today.

I think it may be helpful to share a little of the history of where
and how my experience with claustrophobia began.  If you are not
familiar with farm machinery you may not know what a combine is.  When
harvesting soybeans in the fall, especially in the evening, the stalks
can get tough and the combine can get plugged up.  Being 12 years of age
and small, I was the one chosen to climb in the back of the combine
(on my stomach) and unplug the piece of machinery. However, I got stuck; I was frozen and could not move forward, backward, up or down. To add to the problem it was getting dark and my uncle had to dismantle part of machine to free me and get me out.  Never will I forget that evening, but after today it has a new meaning. I’m sure it will still affect me, but it will never again control me.

Most of us know that the solution to getting something out of our mind that we don’t want in there is to use addition, not subtraction.  This is where the power of corporate prayer resides.  I knew that Jesus was with me, and my plan today was to quote Scripture the whole time and to block everything else out of my mind. (This is not a bad idea—God tells us to do that, and it’s often the right thing to do.) However, for today (God, not the devil) told me not to use this particular method.

Over and over again, He said, “All I want you to do is: LISTEN TO ME.”
He told me that hundreds of people were praying for me “this very hour,
right now,”  and that all I needed to do was, “Listen to Me.” I found endless
comfort in Exodus 14:14 (“The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace”) and Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth”)!  What an intimate experience I had with Jesus!  Never once did I experience any fear. It was enjoyable, peaceful, and comforting.

Thank you for praying for me today.  Thank you for taking time out of
your day and for listening to God and for praying for me.  I have been
praying that God would bless each one of you, for your service to Him.
Because you prayed, all I did was listen to Jesus. Your prayers today
enabled me to experience the Joy of the Lord in a whole new dimension.

I expect to find out the results of the MRI test in 3–5 days. I will
let you know when I know. My prayer request for this week is for God
to be glorified through whatever the results of the test are. I am
excited about what He has planned for me.  I trust Him.  Because God
is Love, He always wills what is best for me. He is omniscient. He knows what I need, and since He is sovereign He has the power to bring it all together.  I trust Him.

To God be the Glory,

Samuel J. Roth

Reading Sam’s testimony to God’s faithfulness and mercy brought this verse to my mind: “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (Daniel 10:19). And, I know that He is willing to strengthen any of us to cry out to Him for help!

P.S.—Thank you, Sam, for giving me permission to share this wonderful account of God’s deliverance and your peace. God is so good!!

Contagious Contagions

They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In Chile, where one of my sister-in-laws was born and reared, they’ve started issuing certificates to those who have survived COVID on the assumption that these people are now healthy and should be free from vulnerability to COVID contagion as well as no longer being contagious themselves. This is—as you might suspect—somewhat controversial, since the disease is so new that there aren’t any peer-reviewed studies proving this theory, although it’s pretty widely accepted as mostly true concerning many viral illnesses.

The whole issue of contagions and being contagious made me consider what I would like to be able to pass along to others. Actually, we are all “carriers” of certain contagions, right? I saw a YouTube of a Belgian man who (as an advertising gimmick for Coca-cola) started laughing on a train. It was like magic! After some initial facials expressing questioning curiosity, soon everybody was laughing or smiling. I couldn’t watch it without laughing myself! Laughter really is contagious, isn’t it?! (If you’ve got an extra 1:28 seconds, here it is: )

And so, as an exercise in aspiration, I made a list of some of the things I would love to be a infected with and pass along to others:

Keukenhof Flower Gardens in the Netherlands

*Peace like a river
*Joy like a fountain
*Love like an ocean
*Faith like a child
*Hope like a mountain
*Patience like a golden ring
*Radiance like an angel
*Cheerfulness like a song bird
*Wisdom like a sage . . . like Solomon
*Meekness like Moses
*Righteousness like Daniel
*Zeal like Paul
*Goodness and Holiness like Jesus, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). In Jesus, all the virtues of God were displayed in human form! I want to be like Jesus!

(I did not take the amazing photo of Keukenhof Flower Gardens and do not know who did, as I received it as a forward, but isn’t it fabulous? If you are the photographer, please let me know your name so I can credit you, or let me know if you don’t want to give me permission and I’ll take it down. Thank you! Same for the photos of the dogs, which were from FB.)

When to Wed?? Unasked-for Advice from a Busy Body

A few weeks ago one of our young friends married his beloved bride in his living room with family and friends watching online . . . formal reception to follow . . . whenever we get through the COVID crisis!

We have another young friend who’s paid for deposits for their planned June 13 wedding, and now she’s anguishing over what to do. Should they wait and hope it all works out, or cut their losses now and just get married with the reception to follow?!?

If you’re thinking about getting married but wondering how and when, I’d like to recommend a really cute “feel good” movie called Winter Wedding (the 2017 version also called Wedding Wonderland). It’s about a young couple trying to figure out if they should wait for summer and her “dream” wedding venue or get married in the winter. Of course, there are all the issues of trying to please everybody else, but in the final analysis, the message was: “Do what you two (the couple) really want to do!”

This, I think, is sterling advice for any of you thinking about marriage sometime in the not-to-distant future! Of course, I’d better think so, ’cause that’s just what Alan and I did 47 years ago when our dream plans for an April Easter wedding (back in 1973) were falling through! If you’re interested in the details (which you probably aren’t), they are here:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-armstrong-archives-1-wedding-in-just-one-day/

Suffice it to say, we had a “Winter Wedding” (or a “Wonderland Wedding”) in just one day. It wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the wedding in the movie, but neither of us have ever been sorry we didn’t wait those extra two months. The plot of this film may seem ludicrous for some of you, but Alan and I just smiled at each other and held hands!

I will say, if you’re asking for my advice (which I know you’re not), “Ask God! Pray about it! He’ll know how to make your wedding just perfect!!” And, one other bit of unwanted advice from the Peanut Gallery that I’ve learned over the years: “Orchestrating your wedding truly is a challenge…but it seems like nothing compared to conducting the rest of your life! (if I may say so myself).” 🙂

His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent” (Isaiah 28:26&29 NIV).

Thorny Crowns

The crown of thorns they placed on Jesus’ head
Adorned the king of kings with unjust shame.
It was for us his precious blood was shed;
He bore our weight of punishment and blame.

“Corona” is the “crown” of viral ill.
Contagious as the curse of sin and death.
Invisibly infecting whom it will
Through sharing touch or just the kiss of breath.

Do we deserve to die because we live?
Can we escape this cursed crown of pain?
Can we accept the crown of thorns and give
The blessed hope of life to those once slain?

When Christ was resurrected from the tomb
It proved not only that he was the King,
But also that a kingly crown has room
For thorns and sickness both within its ring.

We are your willing servants, Lord of Love,
So we will bear our crowns of shame and grief,
Until we meet you face to face above
And spring at last from suff’ring to relief.

In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory,
and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people” (Isaiah 28:5).

I wrote this poem after reflecting on a comment from one of my blog followers, who pointed out that “corona” means “crown,” and that the coronavirus is—in a way—the “crowning virus.” In this world we will experience both abundance and lack, joy and pain, goodness and evil. God calls us to believe, to love, to be faithful, to trust and obey. The rest is up to Him.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

The Benefit of Humor in Coping with COVID-19

Despite the great sorrow surrounding this horrible COVID plague, I think it’s always good to keep our sense of humor if possible. I remember when my mother—freshly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—lived with us for a few months. We had seven children, one an infant, and Alan was gone such long hours that one night our dog tried to attack him as an intruder when he arrived home! Mom was up during the nights imagining that it was time to pack for a trip to Columbia or prepare for a PTA meeting, ripping off her diapers and generally tearing apart her room. I was more than exhausted and felt like crying most of the time over the tragedy of my mother’s mental losses and my inability to meet the needs of our family.

But then one day, after I’d returned from the grocery store for an emergency run, leaving my kids to tend one another and my mother (our oldest was 16 by then), I heard that my mother had angrily taken away the rubber fish (tub-toy) that one of the kids had set in front of the baby to try to entertain him, scolding my son: “Don’t you dare do that! We need this fish for supper!” Michael (who was always the picture of respectfulness), had no idea what to say or do, but he was mortified at being scolded and wasn’t sure how he should react to his beloved grandmother, who had suddenly started acting “crazy!” In fact, she wasn’t acting; she was losing her mind. You can either laugh or cry in such instances, so we started to laugh (NOT in front of my mother, however). Somehow, learning to laugh about the crazy things that were becoming a new part of our daily life really helped soothe the tensions, and we were all better able to cope.

COVID-19 doesn’t have much in common with Alzheimer’s except that both are tragic, one on an individual basis, and one on a global basis. I am not suggesting that we fail to mourn and pray, or stick our heads in the sand and pretend COVID isn’t really deadly. But, I am suggesting that in the midst of deep sorrow and pain we also try to find the bits of silver lining and let laughter shine through when we can.

In that vein, I thought you might enjoy a couple of crazy songs that young people have created to try to help people keep their chins up. (My hearing isn’t perfect, but the second one might have one inappropriate word in it; he sings so fast I couldn’t catch it all . . .)

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

*The first joke was by “Casual Christian Comedy 2” and posted on the Face Book page of my dear friend in Germany, Sarah Jaeschke, as was the last song. Thank you, Sarah, for maintaining your sweet spirit and great sense of humor during this crisis!! BTW, in case people haven’t noticed, Germany has been doing a hero’s job of caring for COVID-19 patients!

More Ideas for Boring Days

Here is a list of ideas that you may have already thought of, but I hope maybe one or two will be novel and helpful for you if you or your family have some extra time on your hands. Many of them would work just as well for adults as for children:

Write stories or poems, keep a journal about this “special” time at home

Coloring, drawing, painting

Origami; all sorts of YouTubes on how to paint, draw, etc.

Free printable coloring pages can be found by googling a subject such as “large format, free printable images of cats” (or whatever else)

YouTubes on animals and plants

Skype with friends and/or cousins

Free online course on typing for children

Organize your very own “homeschool!”

Make a star chart for your kids: make bed, brush teeth, pick up room, memory verse

Subjects each day? Devotions, prayer, and memory work

Memory work: Bible verses, poetry, songs

Games: treasure hunts, variety shows, share memories from years gone by; look at photo albums and tell stories about what you remember from past holidays or family vacations

Read books aloud or to one another (let kids draw while listening)

Check out these sources for reading materials: Revival.com

Hoopla library app

Cooking together; pass along recipes to one another

Nature hunts around yard. Google what you find

Color a picture and then cut it into about 20-30 pieces to make a puzzle

Bird stories (I have written a bunch on Summer Setting under “A Few of My Favorite Birds”)

Make cards or write e-cards to elderly friends and family

Picnic in unusual place around house

Build fort with blankets or sheets

Math practice: use playing cards, dominoes, cooking

 Let kids use exercise machine while watching videos

Air Force Exercises: look online and help kids exercise together as a family

Music class: what have you got? Learn instruments, make up and share songs

Tell stories: Have one person start and go around the room taking turns adding

“Art for Kids Hub”: lots of resources for artwork

Kids’ programs that can be found online:

Adam’s Answers (You Tubes made by a friend from Grand Rapids)

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Sesame Street

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Blessings for St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I prepared this post before Covid-19 took the world by storm and I was thinking I’d be in Texas, so it may seem a little too lighthearted for the mood of our world, but then it occurred to me that we all we could all use a little cheer. Also, I’ve been sick with a wretched cold/flu (thankfully, probably not Covid-19), so I don’t have quite the umph to prepare a serious blog, although my hope is to begin sharing soon some ideas for what to do while we’re all confined. However, today I am praying over each of you who reads this some of these sweet blessings!

lll

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).