Category Archives: Adventures

What’s the Cost for An Asian Harvest?

Ready to be blessed and challenged…to have your heart broken but also filled with joy? If your heart bursts with the love of God and you have a passion to share his love with others so that they, too, might experience salvation by faith in Christ, you’ll love this book. Through Paul’s ministry, millions have received Bibles over the past twenty-five years.  Although his story is monumental compared to the quiet, quite insignificant path of my life, I really resonate with his love for Jesus and his desire to share God’s good news, and I’m hoping you will too!

Paul wasn’t just your average kid. He suffered from a loveless home life and was such an underachiever that one of his high school teachers told him his life was “a waste of oxygen.” From his days as a high school dropout in New Zealand and living as a homeless kid hiding out on the top of a public toilet in Australia (in an effort to keep warm and evade vagrancy charges), through his conversion and life of walking by faith, Paul tells his amazing story of grace with humility, candor, humor, and passion.

Some of the low lights include his first job scrubbing toilets, his first “apartment” (chicken coop) with a stench so awful that some of his friends refused to visit, the night he almost died from altitude sickness in the mountains of Nepal, green flies for lunch in Indonesia (and the discovery that mangy dogs served as the family dishwashers by licking the bowls clean), the years of harassment from his exposing a pedophile posing as a minister, and a sudden stroke that left him with only half a brain. Some of the highlights include his challenging romance with the love of his life, all the miraculous ways that God provided for him through the years (despite specific instructions from God that he never ask anyone but God for money), and the great joy of working in his Father’s vineyard so that others may come to know the love of God.

Was it worth the cost? Paul says, “I have been the beneficiary of a completely lopsided exchange. I handed Jesus my futile existence, and in return He gave me a life of purpose and fulfillment…If all the pain and struggles we endured were necessary to open the doors to fruitful service for Jesus, then it was all worthwhile, and those experiences have proven inconsequential compared to the overall plan of God in my life.”

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields;
for they are white already to harvest
” (John 4:35).

 

 

 

Poetry from Job and Vistas of the Grand Canyon

Job is often thought to be the oldest book in the Bible. Have you ever read it? It’s full of flowery speeches about why men suffer, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson called it “the greatest poem of ancient and modern times.” Job is also listed as one of the twenty-five righteous prophets in the Quran, so his fame extends throughout the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds.  What I love best about Job is that we know from the beginning Job’s suffering was not because he was evil. In fact, he was one of the world’s most upright men! Although it’s true we usually think of people as prospering if they are honest and work hard, from Job we learn that this is not always the case, and that some of the finest and best people suffer despite having sterling character.  In the end, God proclaims that He alone is the all-wise, all-knowing One, and Job’s mouth is stopped. But, during his trial,  Job receives a revelation so beautiful that Handel incorporated some of it into his timeless oratorio, Messiah: “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!  That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:23-26).  The Bible advises us to live with compassion and respect toward all men. We have no idea what their lives have been like. Great advice, don’t you think?

Anyway, my son Jon brought home about 2,500 photos from his trip white-water rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and as I was thinking about what he’d learned and the beauty of this unique area, the words of Job 38 came to me. I thought they might be perfect paired with some of God’s creative magnificence and mystery, as recorded by Jon in July:

1Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,  Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?  Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee,  and answer thou me.  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?  declare, if thou hast understanding.  Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?  or who hath stretched the line upon it?  Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?  or who laid the corner stone thereof;  When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  Or who shut up the sea with doors,  when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?  When I made the cloud the garment thereof,  and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,  10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,  11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further:  and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?  12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days;  and caused the dayspring to know his place;  13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,  that the wicked might be shaken out of it?  14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.  15 And from the wicked their light is withholden,  and the high arm shall be broken.  16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?  or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?  17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?  or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?  18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.  19 Where is the way where light dwelleth?  and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,  20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?  21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born?  or because the number of thy days is great?  22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?  or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,  23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
against the day of battle and war?  
24 By what way is the light parted, 
which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? 
25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters,
or a way for the lightning of thunder; 
26 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness,  wherein there is no man;  27 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground;  and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?  28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?  29 Out of whose womb came the ice?  and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?  30 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.  31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?  32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?
or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 
33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?  canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?  34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds,
that abundance of waters may cover thee? 
35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?  36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?
or who hath given understanding to the heart? 
37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,  38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?  39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,  40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?  41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God,  they wander for lack of meat.” 

This eloquent reminder of human limitation goes on for several more chapters, but chapter 42 records Job’s response: “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not…I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

That’s where I’m at. I have surrendered to God’s ineffable wisdom
and acknowledge that even though I don’t understand his ways, I trust Him. As Job said, “Thou he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

(Photo Credits: Images related to Job from Wiki; all other photos were taken by Dr. Jonathan Armstrong in July, 2017, except the winter, aerial views, which I took last January, 2017.)

 

 

The Grand Canyon, Young Earth Creationism, and Answers in Genesis

Guess what percentage of American adults believe the world was created by God in approximately the last ten thousand years? According to a 2012 Gallup survey, 46% (as reported by Wiki, who said that figure had been quite stable since 1982), but in the 2017 poll, it was down to 38%.                                   Does that surprise you? I was very surprised!  Last month, our son Jonathan, along with about 23 other theologians, engaged in a week-long white-water rafting adventure down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He was given a scholarship to participate in this never-to-be-forgotten experience,                complete with no cell service, sleeping under the stars on cots,          and being constantly in awe of the grandeur of God’s creative genius                   (unless his mind was more drawn to bodily safety issues!  🙂 ).  The adventure was led by Dr. Andrew Snelling, a geologist who has come to believe in Young Earth Creationism (that God created the earth thousands rather than billions of years ago).       Dr. Snelling has been studying the rock formations in the Grand Canyon  and has found evidence in the rock layers (at weird angles, which could hardly happen unless the layers were still soft, such as during or following flooding) and fossils (like these sea creatures) that seems better explained by flooding than by other theories. Jon brought home many resources, but so far, I’ve only had time to watch the lecture on the Grand Canyon.                I’ve found their information very compelling, as did Jonathan. Just this past June (2017), Dr. Snelling received permission to do some geological testing in the Grand Canyon.  I wish I were more astute on this subject and could explain things in detail, but if you’re interested, Dr. Snelling is now the director of research for the AIG (Answers in Genesis) organization, which can be accessed here:

https://answersingenesis.org/

For me, the bottom line is always what the Bible proclaims rather than any current information that comes from man’s exploration, and I measure everything by the Word of God rather than the word of man.  However, I believe that ultimately what is revealed in nature is (or will be with more research) consistent with what the Bible teaches. Either way, what we believe about the origin of the world is an act of faith, because even the best “proof” is only rudimentary and incomplete.  Scientific studies are always evolving and improving. As Alan says about the practice of medicine, “It’s both art and science.” Never perfect, and always changing.

I’m banking on the wisdom of God rather than the knowledge of man.  How about you?

With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.  Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.  Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.” (Job 12:12-17)

 

 

Rise Up, My Love (246): Passionate Devotion

Song of Solomon 7:11 “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field: let us lodge in the villages.” As we discovered earlier, “my beloved” is the wife’s favorite term of endearment for her husband. After reflecting on her position in her beloved, the wife now invites her husband to go forth into the fields and villages.

In chapter 2, it was the husband who invited: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Now it is the wife who initiates. She no longer has to wait for an invitation to understand what he needs and desires. His love has produced in her such overwhelming devotion that she has become sensitive to his needs and has learned to anticipate his desires.

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:8). He had taught her, and now she knew him so well that all she had to do was look into his eyes to see what he wanted. Oh, to become a wife who understands and anticipates the needs of my husband so well! Oh, to see so clearly the countenance of my beloved Christ…to be able to see reflected in his eyes the desires of his heart!

There are many wonderful aspects of this courageous suggestion that should be considered. Notice first that intimate, personal love is the great motivation that has aroused the bride to action…a love that recognizes the person of Christ: “My beloved.” The beloved one is not an imaginary hero. This is no Super Man drawn with pen and ink on a comic strip. He is no teen idol adored from the distant corners of darkened auditoriums or admired from airbrushed photographs. He is not even an inspirational leader broadcasted live on worldwide TV or internet and quoted widely in global newspapers.

This person was a real, living man she knew with great intimacy…someone with whom she could walk and talk; someone upon whose shoulder she could lean; someone who loved her and had taken her for his own, forever. This is the love of Christ for us. If you have never looked into his eyes and felt his arms around you, open your spiritual heart and allow yourself to know him in this way! Christ is alive. He is a real person who can be spiritually discerned and known. Take upon yourself the challenge that God gave King Solomon in I Chronicles 28:9: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”

What a command, and what an awesome responsibility! But, I believe by faith we can grasp this promise for ourselves even today. To do so, we must learn to understand and abide in his love. It is this passionate love that will cause us to say, “Come, my beloved, let us go forth.” This is the explosive love, the “dynamite” power that Paul spoke of in Romans 1:16 when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power (dynamite) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” This is the “perfect love” that “casts out fear” (I John 4:18)—fear of anything that man might do to harm us—fear of ever being separated from our beloved again.

It is a passion so hot that it will melt our hearts into his and weld us together in true unity of purpose. We need never fear separation, because we will always want to be at his side, and he has promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Notice also that true love cannot be rushed or forced. The husband invited but never forced. He waited until his bride was ready. When she was not willing, he left until she sought him out. But, when she found him, he received her immediately to himself, not rebuking her, but rather encouraging her with lavish praise (chapter 5). His amazing love reaped great rewards, because it generated passionate and permanent devotion in his wife.

Finally, we see that it is this type of love—intimate, passionate, carefully nurtured but freely developed—which leads the bride to go afield for her husband: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.” Husbands: If you want a wife who fully supports you in your work…try loving her with this type of love and see how the Lord blesses! (Obviously, not all women will respond with such enthusiasm, but God still wants us to imitate him: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” [Romans 2:4].)

“Let us!” The bride is now eager to leave the comforts of home to further her husband’s interests because she senses the stirring within his heart to go afield, and she wants nothing more than to be with him no matter where he goes. She will not be going alone; she will be going with him! My mother used to always say, “Home is where the heart is.” The bride’s heart was with her husband-king, and so home had become wherever his heart was…be it the palace or the villages. She no longer cares if she sleeps behind the curtains of Solomon or in the tents of Kedar… so long as she sleeps with her beloved!

I wonder, is it the burning passion of our hearts to go afield with Christ? Am I prepared to leave home for the discomfort of sleeping in the “villages?” Are you? If you are, then why not invite the Lord to take you, just as the bride enjoined her husband: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages…”

The Mayflower and Other Ships: Are You Aboard?

  I now understand why genealogical research is so popular…and a bit addictive! It’s like treasure hunting for your family roots! Yesterday’s discovery that I am related to the Puritans was super exciting to me (although you might be glad if you’re not related),  but after poring over my 200+ forebearers who immigrated to this country (about 95% from England during the 16oo’s), I’ve discovered that I’m related to George Washington and Robert E. Lee via Captain Nicolas Mariau (French), who landed at Jamestown in 1620 and became “The Father of Yorktown.”  I’m also related to a lot of people I’d never heard of before, like Captain Gabriel Francis Holland (from England) who came to Jamestown on the ship Supply in 1621 and married Mary Pinke, who was born in James City, Virginia back in 1596 just after her father Henri died. The stories are fascinating! One forebearer, Edward Bosworth, died in 1634 on the voyage over to Boston on the Elizabeth and Dorcas (one of nine ships sailing in that fleet). In 1635, Colonel William Ball immigrated from England to Virginia in the ship Planter. My ancestor John Sutton married Julia Ann Little in England in 1616 but moved to America in 1638 on the ship The Diligent. Captain George Denison I came over to America as a boy but later returned to England, where he married Ann Borodell in 1645 although they both died in America, so they must have returned at some point. My forebearer William Denison came to America on The Lion after his wife, Margaret Chandler died in England in 1645.  But, the most surprising thing to me was the discovery that out of the 101 listed passengers on the Mayflower, I’m related to 11 of them! I was amazed, although I had been told as a little girl that my parents were both from British stock. Just quickly, let me tell you a couple of tales about my relatives on the Mayflower (which might not be too interesting to anybody but my relatives). There were four sets who eventually became intermarried into two related groups. The first group were Francis and John Cooke, a father-son duo who had left the rest of the family behind (although Francis’s wife and the other two younger children did join them in 1623 aboard the ship Anne).  Also aboard was Richard Warren, whose wife Elizabeth, and their five daughters, likewise came over on the supply ship Anne in 1623. In 1634, John Cooke married Richard’s daughter, Sarah, which is good for me, because they are my (many) great grandmother and grandfather.  I’m also descended from John Tilley and Joan (Hurst) Tilley through their daughter Elizabeth, who was about 13 when they climbed aboard the Mayflower with John’s brother Edward, and his wife, Agnes (Cooper) Tilley, who had no children, although they had the care of an infant niece, Humility Cooper, and a young nephew, Henry Samson. Sadly, all four of the parents died shortly after coming ashore in April of 1621, leaving the children as orphans. (Nearly half the pilgrims died during that winter and spring.)  Young Elizabeth married John Howland several years later. John had come as an apprentice to Governor John Carver, but Carver also died during the same epidemic in April 1621. On the way over, John Howland had been swept overboard in a huge storm and only survived by grabbing one of the ship lines so he could be hauled back on board. Lucky for me, or I wouldn’t be here today!   John Howland became an elder in his church and with Elizabeth (Warren)  raised a large family with ten children, all of whom survived and married, so it’s thought that they have more descendants living today than any other Mayflower passengers.  Some of their descendants include Franklin D. Roosevelt, both President Bush’s, Humphrey Bogart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Doctor Benjamin Spock.  In her will, Elizabeth ended with this counsel to her children (and descendants): “It is my will and charge to all my children that they walk in the fear of the Lord and in love and peace toward each other.” Amen to that! Not only do I ascribe to this counsel of my ancient mother, I pray that for my children as well.  And, for all of us! I was thinking about ships and passages. There is only one sure ship that will give us safe passage to heaven, and that is Jesus, but there are also many “fellow ships” on this earth—numberless groups of believers who have joined together for worship and community. It doesn’t matter if we’re on The Diligent or the Mayflower, but we won’t get to heaven without being aboard some ship that belongs to the King! Are you aboard? Are you enjoying fellowship? So many stories. So many journeys! So worth doing!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

(Only the three genealogical images are mine; the rest are all from Wiki or other sources, but I’ve labeled them as best I could.)

Rain, Rumble, Rockin’ the Coast, and Rockin’ the Boat

Usually when Alan and I get up early and read our Bibles together, we can hear birds serenading the rising sun, but a couple of weeks ago, our background melody was the rumble of thunder and the drum of heavy rains. I didn’t think much of it—other than to enjoy it— but when it stopped, I could hear a singular bird caroling again.

Similarly, last weekend Alan and I spent Friday night at Grand Haven State Park, and the next morning as we were strolling along the boardwalk,  we were mesmerized by the deep, throaty roar of engines.   Three fleets of power boats, each led by a flag ship  (red, yellow, and the last green),  came out the channel of the Grand River like an armada off to war.   It touched something deep inside me, and I felt like crying.  It made me think of war, and I remembered Dunkirk.   We had no clue what was going on, but it was obviously a regatta of some kind, because when they got to the end of the Grand River channel,  they opened up their engines and went flying down the coast of Lake Michigan.  Have you seen Dunkirk yet? It’s gotten an 8.6 rating on IMDb,
and I think it must be be a stellar movie.  At least, when we visited the Normandy Coast of France last year,  I was totally overwhelmed by the heroism of the everyday Englishmen
who saved so many of the troops!   At any rate, I took videos of the three fleets as they roared off,  and what I noticed afterward
was the sound of a little cricket chirping in the grass beside me… something I’d been oblivious to while my attention was absorbed by the regatta.  Not long after the boaters were off,
we heard the wail of Coast Guard sirens and saw a helicopter.  One of the couples in the race was badly injured when they hit a big wave
on their way to Holland for what I learned was the “Rock the Coast” race.  I haven’t heard the end of the story,
but I know the wife was airlifted to Spectrum Hospital’s intensive care unit.  Probably very few of us ever enjoy the thrill of racing a power boat, but all of us experience  the race of life and hit heavy seas at times that rock our boats. Although we often fail to hear those quiet sounds until after the rumble of thunder, the roar of our engines, and we’ve gotten knocked around and injured, there is a voice that can be heard if we’re listening… the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, wooing us to Himself…offering to help us figure out our lives.  Are you listening? Are you willing?

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?‘”  (1 Kings 19:11-13, ESV)

(Photo credits: I took the photos of the Rock the Coast Race last weekend in Grand Haven [except for the one of me, which my husband took], but I took the three of the Normandy Coast in the spring of 2016. The B&W photo of Dunkirk is from the Australian War Memorial [Wiki], and the other is a poster for the 2017 movie, Dunkirk, which is showing in theaters right now.)

Coffee, the World, and Jesus, But Not Necessarily In That Order

It’s such a catchy title that I couldn’t improve on it for my post, and frankly, Ron DeMiglio’s entire book continues to live up to expectation! It’s easy to read and hard to put down, makes you laugh and makes you think. What’s not to love?

Ron spent twenty-five years traveling the world selling coffee for a living but following Jesus for a life. His book,  Coffee, the World, and Jesus, But Not Necessarily In That Order, is a collection of 28 loosely spun tales with clever titles like “The Hypocrite Oath,” “A Tale of Two Pities,” “His Grapes, My Wrath,”  and “An Affinity for Salinity.” Ron not only has a way with words, he can spin gold from coffee grounds!

Each reflection starts with a title geared to pique your curiosity and then lists a location (which pretty much includes every continent but penguin territory) and the purpose for his trip. With that fabric, he weaves tapestries from around the world (super fun for me as a travelogian), explaining what he learned with insightful charm and light-hearted transparency. Every story made me smile; every object lesson made me ponder; every chapter ended with this mantra: “Shun Common!”

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur (or church planter or missionary), I’ll share one particularly helpful bit of wisdom from the book to whet your appetite. In the context of explaining how businesses are unpredictable and don’t all succeed despite outward expectations, he mentions what makes for a prime location: “High visibility, easy access, ample exterior signage, adequate parking, great foot and drive-by traffic, a high per capita income, and good mix of residential and retail, low crime, some form of mass transit nearby, and a favorable lease rate.” Obviously, if you have ministry instead of money in mind, then your CEO is the Holy Spirit, and He might direct slightly otherwise in some areas, but even thriving ministries have to be financially sustained somehow, so I think this list is worth considering no matter what your objective.

Last, but not least, a few quotable quotes. I hope you read the book (if you’re local, you can borrow mine), but if you don’t, I know Ron has a heart to share the abundance God has given him, so here are a few samples from his espresso bean:

“Spotting the Savior’s hand in the obscure and trivial makes me feel uncommonly loved.” (And, I hope it does that for you too!)

“Correction without a Holy Spirit-led concern for the individual is as useful as barbed-wire dental floss.”

“The history of a person has absolutely no bearing on the authenticity of their salvation. If they have truly repented and taken and passed the Jesus-acceptance exam, they are clean and right before God.”

“Life and joy are in the obedience, not the outcome.”

“I don’t feel intellectually inferior for recognizing the divine. I refuse to cower to fiction dolled up as logic.”

“Only the ethically blind can’t recognize and acknowledge their own duplicity.”

“But grace isn’t an excuse for me to bleed my casual sin all over those around me. Based on my acknowledgment of the monumental sacrifice that was made on my behalf, grace should be the tourniquet that stems the flow of my unholy activity.”

One last pearl of wisdom, not from Ron’s coffee table but from our Father: Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established
(Proverbs 4:26).