Invitation to Make America’s National Day of Prayer into an International Day of Prayer

In America, people will be gathering from one end of the country to the other by twos and thousands today crying out to God for the 331+ million people who live in our country to find and share the love of God with one another. If you live in Southwest Michigan, please consider joining us at Crossroads Bible Church tonight. Wherever you live, there is most likely some group in your area (maybe in one of our country’s 350,000 churches) that will praying together today, and hopefully you can find the times and places online.

But, what about the rest of the 7,678,174,656+ people on our planet? No matter what country you’re from, if you’re reading this, will you join me in praying, not only for our nation, but for every person living around the world today? Can you imagine how the world would change if everyone really believed and practiced what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40? “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When my children were young, I taught them this concept as a jingle:

“Love the Lord above all else,
And love your neighbor as yourself.”

So easy to say, but so hard to do! I have found this to be the greatest challenge of my entire life, and yet, it would transform our world as no other single law could! No wonder it is called the “Royal Law” in James 2:8, “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.”

Are you with me? Will you pray with me?

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (—Jesus, as recorded in John 13:34-35).


Scallops, Scallops Everywhere!

Do you love scallops?  I do, although they’re so expensive I rarely ever eat them.  I had some last fall at Judson’s Steakhouse in the BOB (here in Grand Rapids, MI) when my son Joel took me out for a special birthday treat!Alan and I also ordered some “Scallops Florentine” for an appetizer at Charlie’s Crab, where we went to celebrate our 46th anniversary last month.Over the years, I’ve enjoyed them on various special occasions, and particularly last summer on our cruise of the North Sea aboard the Celebrity Summit, where scallops were often part of the offerings, not only as a main course, but as a possibility for adding to gourmet spaghetti, as an appetizer (here mixed with avocado, tomatoes, and seasonings), as part of a fresh salad (with lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, green beans, apple chunks, and olives in a light vinaigrette dressing),deep-fried as kabobs with seasoned fries and a sriracha/mayonnaise dip, or as part of a seafood platter extravaganza. Scallops are so special to me that I decided to make some for our annual high tea, where we three Birthday Clubbers invite our guys to join us for an evening of fellowship and unusual taste treats. Here’s a simple but delicious recipe:

Sizzling, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
(Makes 6)

1. Fry six slices of bacon until nearly done but still flexible. 2. Wrap a strip of bacon around each scallop and secure with a toothpick. (When you shop, make sure the scallops are very firm and fresh; they should not smell fishy! 😦  )3. Season by sprinkling with seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s), dried, crushed garlic, onion powder, basil, and pepper, then fry for 3 minutes at medium-high heat on each side. Serve immediately or cover until ready to serve and then heat quickly to full temperature. (Best if eaten piping hot right away so they don’t get overcooked and mushy.)

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” (Psalm 65:11)

When the Lights Go Out

This past week many Michiganders (and others) endured yet another big power outage this winter. A friend who lives in the country had power out for 5 days straight and subsisted on canned food heated on a one-burner propane camp stove. He didn’t dare go anywhere because he had to keep stoking his fire so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. Area schools were closed—one system for 11 days straight!  Alan and I missed the first two rounds of blizzards and ice storms while on our Southern Caribbean cruise, but we experienced this last one in all its unglory! 😦  Living in the country on well water and a septic tank has its advantages (mostly good well water), but it’s distinkyly a disadvantage when there’s no electricity! We bundled up, hunkered down, and praised God for workplaces that had showers and were gracious about taking in refugees (like me) during the day. Since most of us can’t just fly down to the tropics to avoid cold weather, I asked several of my friends what they’d learned from their experiences and if they had tips to share about how to prepare for the likely event of another outage. One friend, Connie Sikma, wrote such a charming response that I want to share it:

                           “When the Lights Went Out in West Michigan. . .” When I think about the electricity going out, I get a tingle of excitement. I can actually try to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder. The videos won’t work, so we can read, have conversations, and even play games by lantern. It is all sounds so cozy and nostalgic.

The week of February 7 of 2019, I got to experience that reality. It will be long remembered by the people of West Michigan when over 150,000 people were without power. Some lost power for a few hours and others for several days.  For us—my husband, teenage son and myself—the three days were not so difficult because we are healthy, have city water, a wood stove, and an ample supply of wood. However, we discovered our limits and learned a few lessons.

When the power went out Thursday morning, it was just before breakfast. School and various other things had been cancelled because of the bad weather. Power outages were predicted because of the ice, but we knew we would keep warm because of our wood stove. We thought we were ready. Lots of wood. I had the lanterns, flashlights, batteries, and matches placed in a central, easy-to-find place. I had candles in the dark bathrooms ready to go. As I mentioned, we have a small wood stove in the walkout basement. We initially installed it as a romantic, “just-for-fun” alternative, but we have since come to treasure it as one of sweetest assets in our home! It warms the basement whenever our gas heater fails, lowers our gas bill, and provides us all with some therapeutic activity while we keep it going. When the power went out, it also became our cook stove.

I did not realize how a warm breakfast and coffee on a cold day adds to the ambiance. I did not take into account that one cannot cook eggs on an electric stove when the power is out, nor did I consider how my drip coffee maker might respond. It simply stood silent, empty and cold before me. This is when my husband’s incredible skills of resourcefulness kicked in. While I stood there immobilized by my caffeine-starved brain, he went to work with more cheer than was necessary. He became a surgeon ordering the tools he would need, while I ran up and down the stairs delivering them, meanwhile bemoaning the fact that it was going to take another hour to taste the coffee I needed.

He put a pot of water to boil on the top of the wood stove. We got out a Melita filter and ran the coffee through like the pour-over one gets in a fancy coffee shop. We did find out though: One still needs filtered water or the coffee tastes excessively salty.

As for the eggs, we just took our usual pan and fried a few eggs on the stove. It really worked and was fun. For dinner, we got some hamburgers to grill on the outdoor grill with coals from our wood stove.

The first day the power was out, I decided to run errands. The bank was open but would only dispense up to $50. My usual grocery store was closed, but I found another franchise that was open a few miles away. Many restaurants were closed and so was the library. I noticed a few gas stations were closed too. Our car still ran and a bookstore was open, so my son and I spent the second day there. That was fun, although the drive through the bad weather was scary. But, we had all day, and we got there and home safely. One night we took the cold ham I’d prepared for dinner over to my mother-in-law, who lives a half an hour away. We spent a little extra time with her, and she had power so that was a nice break for all of us. We didn’t stay overnight, though, because my husband was concerned about our pipes freezing if we didn’t keep the fire going at home.

The sun sets at six, and nights can get so long and dark. By the second night it was very cold. Our son slept downstairs to keep the fire going. We went upstairs, but I did not sleep very well even though I had layers on. By morning on the third day (after a sleepless night), the cold and dark were beginning to wear us down. We had used up the hot water in the water tank, so no hot showers. The scented candles were starting to get to be too much; the house was getting messy and needed a good vacuuming.  We went out to eat for breakfast but even that was not as comfortable as being in a warm house cooking over an electric stove. Everything took a little extra effort because it was not part of our routine.

It was a good experience. I learned that we should be a little more prepared. I went out and bought some unscented candles. I also got some cash from the bank and will save it for real emergencies – when it is not possible to get money.  I thought an extra lantern would be handy as well. I realized that my world got very small in survival mode. It was an effort to think of others. I hope that this experience will teach me to be more empathetic to those in need.

I was reminded not to take all my blessings for granted. We have so much in this country, with its strong infrastructure, but all the good things I enjoy are really gifts of God’s goodness. I see that much more of my discretionary time and energy could be used to serve Him, and I don’t want to become complacent in my comfort.  If I practice using my time, talent and treasure well in the good times, I hope that I can be more useful in the hard times. To be prepared in the full times enables us to be equipped to share with others in the lean times.

Connie’s story made me think of what Joseph did in Genesis: “And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.48 And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities . . .53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. (Genesis 41:47-48 and 53-54). May we prepare in good times so we can provide for ourselves and others in bad times!

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).

(P.S.—Some years ago, our family invested in a battery-started, propane fireplace because my husband is asthmatic and can’t handle wood smoke. It was a real lifesaver for us and kept our pipes from freezing.)

 

Free Dental Day Coming Up Tomorrow (February 8, 2019): Need Help? Want to Volunteer?

Tooth pain hurts!  That’s why our son, Daniel
(who’s the dental director at Exalta Health here in Grand Rapids),  has been facilitating free dental days several times a year for the past few years. Each Free Dental Day, there’s been a wonderful group of very capable volunteers
who donate their time and expertise, which is good, because there’s also a long line of patients waiting outside
well before it’s light in order to get dental care that day.

(Many patients are uncomfortable having their pictures taken, so I couldn’t take any photos of the line, and fewer than half the patients in the overflowing waiting room agreed to let me take their picture, so the majority of them were actually behind me in the hallway when I took this photo.)

           Exalta at its heart is motivated by the love of Christ.  It’s a charitable outreach to those who are uninsured
and find it nigh unto impossible to pay for health care. This includes many young adults who no longer have parental support, as well as people of all ages who are out of work, homeless, or have low-paying jobs. Exalta also reaches out to refugees and has a large Hispanic-speaking population. They’ve been blessed by many Hispanic Christians who’ve taken an interest in the work, including this couple, who met at Exalta and are now newly married! This year our volunteer coordinator had the bright idea to do a press release, so a camera man  and a news reporter from Fox News visited  to interview patients and let Grand Rapids know what’s happening here. Not long afterward, Channel 13 News came to interview Daniel,and do a story on Exalta! Of course, the publicity was exciting, but that’s not why anybody helped. We helped because it’s good to help! We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to love others wherever we go. Still, I hope the exposure in the news media will make the public aware of the opportunity both for service and to serve. In addition to care that can be provided by dentists and hygienists, an oral surgeon was available for some of the more challenging work. Exalta has a panoramic X-ray machine to help with diagnostics, and patients can receive free eye screenings or counseling services if wanted.Caring for many patients in a timely manner takes tight coordination, including people who can translate, triage, and guide the patients. Just keeping packets of instruments sterile is a HUGE job
(which I know from trying to do it sometimes). It’s tricky trying to find just what you need when you need it, and faithfully restocking the drawers is a challenging labor of love! As photographer, I got to appreciate first-hand the beehive of activity . . . and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. So, if you need some dental care, or if you have time to volunteer, call Exalta Health in Grand Rapids and get plugged in
for their next free dental day, which is tomorrow, February 8th, 2019. If you can’t help tomorrow but are interested, they need volunteers with or without medical training every week day, so please call!
https://www.exaltahealth.org/

(All photos taken during Exalta’s last free dental day, November 2, 2017.)

Some Tips from Dr. Moyad on “What Works and What’s Worthless” in Medicine

Recently Alan and I enjoyed a really fun and provocative lecture by Dr. Mark Moyad, who is the director of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan. My first clue that he probably knows what he’s talking about is that he says he has no hobbies, which is basically true for Alan and most of the best physicians I know (who seem to have no time for anything beyond practicing their craft). 🙂           Actually, it’s obvious that his hobby is his passion: Medical research                                                         and promoting health. His lecture lasted over an hour and a half, so I’m just going to skim over a few of the high points that were particularly striking to me. He really recommended senior citizens getting vaccines for flu, pneumonia, and even the new SHINGRIX, not only to avoid these infectious diseases, but also for possible benefits to our heart health. He does not accept funding from any companies so feels free to say what he really thinks, and for the most part, he doesn’t think supplemental vitamins and minerals have been proven effective for most conditions and believes that a healthy diet can still provide most (or even more) than what we need. Dr. Moyad recommends weight control and exercise (of course). He is a big fan of fiber and a critic of fruit juices, which are high in calories and sugar with virtually no fiber.  Eat your fruit, don’t drink it!Speaking of fiber, he’s also a big fan of high-fiber diets, exercise, and proper fluid intake to help combat one common problem among older folks: constipation.He personally eats a shot glass full of bran buds daily and was so enthusiastic about the numerous health benefits that Alan and I decided to add it to our diet (on trial). This morning was our first day, though, so I don’t know if it’s going to be a lifelong addition to our menu or not. (Mixed with granola it tasted fine, but I’m not so sure how to incorporate it into bacon and eggs or french toast . . .) Concerning diets, Dr. Moyad (who’s a very engaging speaker) poked a little fun at all the fad diets out there, but he did offer some general guidelines and said that if you’re going to try to lose weight, keep these thoughts in mind:

Five parameters for dieting:
*Calories matter: No weight-loss diet is a good diet unless you lose weight
*3 B’s: blood pressure, body mass, and blood sugar should all go down
*Brain health: make sure your diet doesn’t make you grouchy or depressed. A good diet should make you feel positive about yourself and the world around you

As Michigan just passed a bill allowing the use of recreational marijuana, Dr. Moyad had a few cautions about its use: Thoughts on marijuana:
*It’s super expensive (up to $35,000 for a year’s supply of medical marijuana)
*It’s highly unregulated, so most of the time you probably won’t know what you’re getting
*There are many untested substances in marijuana, so how it may interact with other drugs and substances isn’t known yet
*It has a high placebo effect, so how much it actually helps is still in question

He said that personally, he’d like to live in a country where people get up in the morning and drive safely to work. Sounds right to me. Well, there’s just too much to share on one post, but those were some of the highlights, and I thought he made a lot of sense. If you’re interested in reading more, the latest addition of his book on health issues should be coming out about now, so look for a 2018 or 2019 work (which is what I’m doing), but otherwise here’s the link to his old 2014 addition: https://www.amazon.com/Supplement-Handbook-Trusted-Worthless-Conditions/dp/1623360358/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1542038332&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Dr.+Moyad

Dr. Moyad didn’t comment on vegetarian diets, and I’m not a vegetarian, but I definitely think people would be better off eating more vegetables and less meat. This was demonstrated in the biblical literature by Daniel over 2,500 years ago: “Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead” (Daniel 1:11-16).

(P.S.—My apologies to any of you who read the first part of this earlier. I was working on today’s post some time ago and accidentally hit the “publish” rather than the “save draft” button before I’d finished!)

Thanksgiving Through Time

Although we think of Thanksgiving as a day to thank God for life and abundant sustenance, the abundance is only true for some of us, and  what we think of as the first “Thanksgiving,” celebrated by the Pilgrims back in 1621, was actually a very stressful occasion when 90 Indians showed up uninvited to attend the festivities of the 53 surviving Puritans who had managed to last through the first year of life in the new world. The festivities lasted three days and had a frightening impact on the precious stores of corn and staples that the Pilgrims were depending on to help them survive the upcoming winter. Nevertheless, as an act of goodwill and faith, the Pilgrims shared what they had, played games with the Indians, accepted the 5 deer that the Indians brought to add to the feasts, and stopped worrying about survival long enough to embrace the Indians and rejoice together in God’s care. Such was the faith and hospitality of our forefathers, and such was the forbearance and goodwill of the Native Americans, who could easily have killed all the  Pilgrims that day had they wanted to!  My earnest prayer is that every person who reads this has enough to eat today, although I read frightening statistics on those who suffer. In Grand Rapids, anybody can get a good, hot Thanksgiving dinner at Mel Trotter Rescue Mission or Guiding Light Mission down town. I remember about fifteen years ago (when our kids were younger and we had a family band) providing music for Mel Trotter’s free dinner. Over 2,000 turkey dinners were served at the DeVos Convention Center. I’m not sure how many cities are that organized and charitable, but I pray that today people will reach out in faith and hope to embrace those around them who are spiritually and physically needy. God will  provide if we faithfully follow his leading, even during scary times, like the very first Thanksgiving!  By the way, I recently finished listening to a fascinating book by Nathaniel Philbrick called Mayflower, which was among the finalists for a Pulitzer Prize. If you’re interested in American history, this carefully documented account traces the journey of the Puritans, detailing the perils and conflicts that began before their cramped crossing of the Atlantic crammed into the 4-foot-high middle deck of the Mayflower . . . and all the way through the terribly destructive King Philip’s War (1675-1678). Although studying history dispels any illusions of universal peace and goodwill among any nation or tribe, it does have the effect of making me even more appreciative of the relative peace and security in America and around the world today. Despite the terrible accounts of persecution, murder, and war, the entire world is slowly becoming statistically less aggressive and murderous, with fewer violent deaths per capita than earlier times in history (according to the studies of psychologist Steven Pinker). In reflecting on the “why” of this, it occurred to me that it may be the result of the Kingdom of God coming to earth in the person of Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, and the calming effect of true believers (not all those who pose as Christians but are really wolves in sheep’s clothing and destructive) who are “salt and light” in the world. Just one thought, but a happy one! Well, throughout American history—and world history—we have innumerable reasons to be thankful, so I just want to say, “Thank you, Father!”

This is My Father’s World
(—Maltbie Babcock, 1901)

This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres…
This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.
This is my father’s world
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring
God reigns, let the earth be glad.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,’We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign'” (Revelation 11:15-17).

 

Monte Carlo Night: Great Fun for the Holidays…but…No Gambling or Drinking!

Anybody who thinks Sunday school is just for kids has never been to our Sunday school class! In a mega church like Calvary (with about 6000± attendees), it would be easy to get lost in the crowd, so you need to connect with a smaller group of people for friendship and fellowship. Midweek prayer meetings, care groups, life groups, youth groups, music groups…short circles…there are so many ways to engage with other people, but one of our favorites has always been via a Sunday school class. Our class, Heirs Together, has about 120 members and a wide age span, although I think we’re pretty close to the median age with a profile like most of the members, including a similar world view and deep faith although somewhat irregular attendance due to travel, family and health needs. The class has been hanging together for many years, and although the majority have probably been married for 35-50+ years, there is a growing population of singles. (Yes, we’re getting older!)  We have a monthly “event,” and last weekend it was a “Monte Carlo” game night which was super fun and perfect for getting to know people. Therefore, I want to pass it along to you in case you think it also sounds like fun. I’m hoping to try it out over Christmas break when we have many of our kids home, but it could also be used in any group of 8 or more.  I think our Monte Carlo Night was the brainchild of Ed Avink, who’s one of our class leaders and an architect. The only tricky part is that you need groups of 4 people to make it work, and probably at least 8 to make it work well. Here’s how to play: Either number people off into teams of 4 or let them gravitate naturally to a seat at any of the card tables you have set up. We had 17 tables of 4 people, but that’s way more than you need, and actually none of us got to play a hand with everybody.  To prepare, set up a room (or rooms) with one card table, four chairs, 4 score cards, a couple of pens, and a deck of cards on each table. Once people are settled:1. Have somebody at each table shuffle the cards.
2. Everybody takes a cut. The person with the highest card deals. Aces are high. If two people get the same card, then it goes by suit: Spades (highest), hearts, diamonds, and clubs (lowest) 3. Deal out all the cards by going from left to right around the circle. (Should end up with 13 cards per person.) It looks to me like it’s polite to wait until all the cards have been dealt before looking at your hand. 4. Play your hand according to the instructions on the game card. (Obviously, you could make up your own rules and number of hands. Fourteen hands took us close to three hours.) The person to the left of the dealer starts first, but after that, whoever has the highest card wins that “trick” and starts the next round.
5. After all the cards have been played, count your tricks (by team, with your partner being across the table from you) and record your score on your score sheet.  6. The tables are all numbered: 1-??? The two winners move on to the next highest-numbered table and play kitty-corner, so they have new partners for the next hand. The losers stay at the same table they were at but also change positions so that they are sitting kitty-corner and will each have a new partner
7. Play through all the hands.
8. Count up your final points.
9. The winner wins! At our Monte Carlo night, Dean won with some 2,100+ points. The next two tied at 1,900+. Alan and I were in the 1700 range, but some people ended up with 700+, so there’s a huge variation. I’m not sure if anybody needs to know who loses, but there was much admiration for our winner, so that was fun.  Nobody passed out a candy bar or anything as a prize, but everybody brought an appetizer, or a bottle of pop or juice to share, which worked out great, because sometimes you had to wait for the next table to finish before you could play again. Alan and I had several good opportunities for conversations with members of the class that we’d met but didn’t know very well, including one couple that we discovered were married just one month before us (both couples married nearly 46 years now) and had attended the same university, the same year, even living in the same married student housing, although we never met! Best of all, the next morning we learned that one of our newest members, who was widowed last January, shared that the night of our Monte Carlo game night was the night he would have celebrated his 51st anniversary, and he’d been dreading that day for weeks. He said going to the game night and enjoying everybody’s company had turned a terrible night into a blessing for him.  So, if you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate and reach out this holiday season, you might enjoy throwing a Monte Carlo Night! If you do, please let me know how it goes! Or, if you’re lonely and aren’t plugged into a good group for fellowship, let me know, and I’ll invite you to our Carol Sing coming up in December. You are also cordially invited to try out our Sunday school class. Not only is it warm and friendly, the teaching is excellent, and we pray for every request that’s given each week! Let me know, and I’ll tell you when and where . . . and introduce you to everybody! And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).