Recipe for No-Sew, Washable, Reusable Face Masks

I’d lost my heart for publishing new recipes after the COVID-19 crisis stopped us all in our tracks. After all, who wants to shop when shopping is somewhat risky, and who wants to spend money not knowing how long they’ll have any income coming in? However, yesterday our governor said that everyone should start wearing a face mask anytime they’re in public. Do you have a face mask? I didn’t think I did, and I’m not a good seamstress, so I was thrilled when my brother sent me a link to how to make an easy, no-sew face mask. NOW, I thought—this is a recipe worth sharing!

One No-Sew, Washable, Reusable Face Mask

Ingredient List:
1 washable cotton handkerchief (other fabrics can work; the tighter the weave, the better)
2 hair ties

Step One: Flip the scarf or square of material over and fold the top quarter over so that it comes to the middle (center) of the cloth.

Step Two: Bring the bottom quarter of the material up so that it meets the top quarter in the middle. You now have a double layer of material.

Step Three: Carefully flip over your scarf so that the folds are on the bottom and the surface facing up is one smooth piece.

Step Four: Repeat the folding process exactly as you did in Step One, folding down the top 1/4 of the material so that it reaches the center line.

Step Five: Fold up the bottom quarter so that it reaches the middle. You should now have four layers of material.

Step Six: TURN THE CLOTH OVER (so that when you’re done, the front has no openings and is one piece with pleats).

Step Seven: Put one of the hair ties over each end of the material, about 1/4 of the way, although you can adjust this as needed to make it larger or smaller, depending on the size of the child or adult you’re trying to fit.

Step Eight: Fold over the left side of the mask toward the middle and smooth it down as much as you can. (It won’t really stay flat unless you have silk or something very thin.)

Step Nine: Fold over the right side of the mask so that they meet approximately in the middle.

Step Ten: TURN THE MASK OVER, so that the front (which you will wear away from your face) has pleats but NO open spaces.

Adjust the mask to your face, using the hair ties to secure it around your ears on both sides. Try to place it as far up on your nose as you can without interfering with your vision, and make sure it’s snuggly under your chin. You may wonder if the mask will slip off. I think this is a possibility with very thin material. The heavy cotton material that I used does not seem to slip at all and stays in place nicely, although it doesn’t really fit tightly around my nose.

Because my husband has asthma, he has to use masks to keep out dust and fumes when he’s doing some types of yard work, and thankfully I found a couple left over from last summer. They aren’t the really good ones (N-95), but they’re better than nothing, and they have a metal strip to pinch around the top of your nose to help keep out dust. I’ve read that you can also use certain types of vacuum cleaner filters that are certified to keep out 99% of dust and are antibacterial. If you have some, you could carefully cut them apart to make an extra insert into your face mask.

We don’t have such. BUT, if you have anything extra as a more protective shield, I would recommend that you use it!

If you have any type of dust/face mask, fit that on UNDER your washable, reusable mask. This will really make a tighter, more protective fit, particularly around your nose.

After fitting any inner mask (if you have one), adjust your reusable mask over it, and you’re good to go. Or at least, as “good” as possible. Obviously, the paper masks or filters are NOT washable. I’m hoping that as long as they don’t get directly exposed, they might be reusable for at least a few shopping trips. So far, we’ve not ventured to a grocery store since lock down, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before we run out of something pretty essential. BTW, some of my kids are going to the grocery store twice a week. If you can, please limit your shopping to once a week or less, and I’ve read that in Asian countries, they’re only allowing one family member to shop at a time.

Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17).

Here is the link where I learned how to make the no-sew mask. It has a video to help you visualize the process: http://blog.japanesecreations.com/no-sew-face-mask-with-handkerchief-and-hair-tie

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

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).

Surviving Covid-19 with Couped Up Kiddos

Are you or your kids bored now that the world is supposed to be practicing social distancing for the next 2-8 weeks? Obviously, enterprising senior citizens can use the time to clean their closets and organize their homes better. But, what about kiddos? I have a young friend in Indiana who said her kids are driving her nuts . . . to the point of making her depressed. I get it! While our Chicago kids were home last week on spring break (before everything shut down), Gerlinde and I put our heads together to come up with some ideas for what to do (especially with little ones) during the interim. So, if your kids are going crazy, consider some of these ideas:

  • Organize. First and foremost, we need to become unified under God within our individual home units. Children thrive on order and routine, and regularity makes them feel secure. What about starting with a family-wide prayer meeting, asking God for direction, help, and wisdom?
  • Call a family meeting. Explain what’s going on as best you can. So often children are left out of the loop on the theory that this will relieve their anxieties, but in fact, nothing relieves anxiety like honest, open communication. Hardship can either drive a family closer together or further apart, depending on whether or not you get everybody to sign on to working together to overcome the challenges.
  • Allow your kids to express the way they feel without criticism. Let them voice their disappointments and insecurities. Reassure them where you honestly can; sympathize with their losses and frustrations; encourage them to be patient and hopeful while we all wait to see how this crisis is going to play out. Keep calm and prayerful.
  • Brainstorm as a family: Create a few guidelines and goals that everybody can sign on to together. Ask each person what they need to feel loved and secure during this time. What can each person do that will help contribute to the harmony and health of the family community? What would people like to do for fun? Perhaps older children could help younger children learn their lessons, babysit, or help with routine housework. You may know this already, but many young children can be very helpful in the kitchen, and most kids respond well to working with a beloved parent. Do you have a fun-loving child? Maybe they could be in charge of organizing games or evening fun times. I had one enterprising 6-year-old who was happy to be paid $1 per hour to babysit his younger sibs (with the understanding that his 12-year-old brother would be available in case of trouble).
  • Here are a few ideas from Gerlinde:
Free virtual museum tours

https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html?fbclid=IwAR1WxQBjFf-BeMjg21BYNmiZ4d3haFD-aRpFhGYue32YdL5KTPoLBGFX9nU

I’ll try to come up with more ideas soon, and please feel free to add links to educational resources that you find in the comment box below if you can. Thanks!

Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Classic Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is another family favorite, particularly for Alan.

He rarely misses an opportunity to try a slice wherever it’s served,

whether at home, or abroad,

or anywhere at sea!

Carrot cake was made especially famous after our grandson, Samuel, started requesting his mother’s amazing carrot cakes (along with bowling parties) for his birthdays!

You know a cake is extra special when a youngster asks for it starting at age two (decorated like a ball, of course) and keeps wanting it again and again!

Absolutely everybody looks forward to Brianna’s carrot cakes (and Samuel’s birthday parties). However, with the corona virus crushing cruises and vacations, I’ve developed such a hankering for a carrot cake lately that I decided to learn how to bake my own!

I consulted with Brianna but made up my own rendition, which passed muster with Sammy (and his grandpa) last weekend, so I’ll pass it along to you today, just in case you—too—have a penchant for this rich, moist, vegetable . . . I mean cake! 🙂

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Grate 2-3 large carrots (enough to make 4 cups)
Pulverize 2 cup walnuts or pecans (depending on which you like better)

In a mixing bowl, combine:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup softened butter, and whip until airy and smooth, then add:
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until well blended.

Next, add:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice and whip in mixer until completely smooth.

Then add:
4 cups fresh, grated carrots
1 cup crushed nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts are also classic; use 1 cup in the batter, and the other cup goes on top of the frosting later)

Divide evenly into two 10-inch well greased and floured cake pans.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350°F. or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set on the counter and allow them to cool, loosening the edges with a knife after about 10 minutes to help keep the sides from sticking.

Cream Cheese Frosting for Carrot Cake

While the cakes are cooling (or while they’re baking), make the frosting:
In your mixer, add:
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz) softened butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light cream (or milk)
Whip until completely smooth and a bit airy.

Turn the first cake upside down on a platter and frost.

Add the second cake upside down on top of the first and frost.

Next, completely cover the tops and sides.

Press the last cup of crushed nuts around the edges, and whatever falls off, sprinkle on top at the end.

Voilà! A rich, super moist carrot cake fit for a king or a prince and versatile enough to be popular on cruise ships and bowling parties!

Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:20, spoken by Jacob while blessing his children before he died. Oh, that everyone in our world were able to enjoy “royal dainties”! I believe that someday, when the Messiah returns to rule the earth in righteousness and peace, there will be no more corona virus or other plagues, and there will be plenty for all. I wish He would come today! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!)


Coronavirus: Are You Prepared?

Are you ready for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that’s sweeping the world? Instead of enjoying a trip to San Antonio this morning for a medical meeting (which got canceled), my husband—as the chief medical officer of a local hospital— is acutely involved in preparing to meet the crisis which has come to Michigan. Two days ago (March 10, 2020) there were no confirmed cases in Michigan, although there were 760 cases confirmed in U.S. However, by 6:33 am on March 11, there were 1,039 confirmed cases throughout America and 119,476 world wide with 4,291 deaths. As of today, March 12th, there are 1,323 confirmed cases throughout America and 127,863 worldwide with 4,718 deaths. If you do the math, it’s shocking how fast this is traveling.

We also now have confirmed cases in Michigan. The schools have shut down in Grand Rapids, as they are where my kids live in California, Chicago, and New York. Belgium (where one of my sons lives) was leading the pack for new cases in Europe yesterday. I am amazed to read of people not taking this seriously. Come on, guys! Where’s your Boy Scout spirit? Semper paratus. Better safe than sorry! Don’t panic, but don’t ignore taking wise precautions, either, please!

Coronavirus is everywhere in the news, so this post may be too late to be particularly helpful, but just in case you haven’t done a lot of research yet, here’s the best up-to-the-moment coverage I have gleaned:

What are the symptoms of a COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection? Most commonly, it presents like flu and can include fever, tiredness and a dry cough, although other symptoms, such as achiness, pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea are all possible. According to Dr. Martha Blum, MD PhD: “The most common presentation was one week prodrome of myaglias, malaise, cough, low grade fevers gradually leading to more severe trouble breathing in the second week of illness. It is an average of 8 days to development of dyspnea and average 9 days to onset of pneumonia/pneumonitis. It is not like Influenza, which has a classically sudden onset. Fever was not very prominent in several cases.”

How long does it take to determine if someone has COVID-19? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “symptoms may appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure, with the average patient seeing onset at around five days.”

What should you do if you suspect you may be developing a COVID-19 infection ? Call (don’t visit) your doctor or your local health department. They can ask appropriate questions to determine whether on not you need to be tested. Obviously, you should not GO to the doctor’s office or health department directly, lest you expose others, but these health care locations can tell you where you would need to go for testing.

What can we do to prepare? Make sure all your immunizations are up to date. It’s still not too late to get your flu shot or a pneumonia vaccine if you are in the right age and risk group. Check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for specific guidelines (and other pertinent information concerning COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/

Beyond being properly immunized, all the sites I’ve studied say the #1. best advice is easy: limit your exposure as best you can and wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds often and specifically after you’ve had contact with people in public places. Do NOT touch your face with your hands until after you’ve washed your hands carefully. If you have hand sanitizer as a second step (AFTER washing), that’s a plus, but most stores are out of hand sanitizer. You can also use rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant. I was able to find some this morning. Have a 14-30-day supply of food and medications on hand. I liked this list from USA Today (March 10, 2020 issue, and I quote):

Food. Fresh fruits and vegetables will likely spoil over 14 days, so canned foods that have a long storage life and need little or no cooking are recommended. Meat products, fish or beans, soups, broths and stews, fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, canned (or powdered) milk, are among good supply choices recommended by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Disaster Education Network.

Frozen foods are an option, too. Other recommended foods are peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, granola bars, bouillon cubes, and staples like sugar, salt, pepper. (Keep in mind you may need to include some special foods for babies and family members on special diets, as well as pet foods.)

Water and liquids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you have plenty of fluids on hand, such as bottled water and supply of fluids with electrolytes, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade. cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/drinking/creating-storing-emergency-water-supply.html(opens in a new tab)

Medicine. You will want to have a 14-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. You may also want over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Supplies. Many homes already have a 14-day supply of most daily items on hand. But make sure you have toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine supplies, diapers, laundry detergent and disinfectant.

Other items. Perhaps have some board games, cards, toys books, magazines and other fun items to keep the family occupied.

Okay, back to my editorializing: To keep abreast of what’s happening minute by minute around the world and in the U.S., you can access the Johns Hopkin Dashboard here:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

To track what’s happening in Michigan, here’s a link:

https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/

In case you think everybody’s overreacting, here’s a link that explains the importance of insulating ourselves and our communities as well as we possibly can. It can make a huge difference in the number of cases and the outcomes:

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Below is a potpourri of various recommendations for immunizations, graphs and charts, a brief history of coronavirus, and other pertinent information that I’ve copy-and-pasted from websites, mostly the CDC.

When you are 65 years old, please get the PCV-13 first. Then you should get the Pneumovax 6-12 months afterwards. But if you’ve already had your Pneumovax, then get your PCV-13 one year later. If you are younger than 65, you might need a pneumonia vaccine if you have special conditions. Read more at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/public/index.html for more information

Shingles: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/vaccination.html “Two shingles vaccines are licensed and recommended in the United States. Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been used since 2006, and recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been used since 2017, and is recommended as the preferred shingles vaccine.” My vaccine made both my sister and me quite ill briefly, and it does have transiet flu-like side effects for more than half the population, so choose a day when you don’t have much scheduled. We chose a Friday afternoon with a clear weekend.

Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this virus and the outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action.

For historical perspective from the CDC: “An outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, and has spread throughout China and to 31 other countries and territories, including the United States (1). As of February 23, 2020, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China (1). There have been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide; no deaths have been reported in the United States. Fourteen cases have been diagnosed in the United States, and an additional 39 cases have occurred among repatriated persons from high-risk settings, for a current total of 53 cases within the United States. This report summarizes the aggressive measures (2,3) that CDC, state and local health departments, multiple other federal agencies, and other partners are implementing to slow and try to contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. These measures require the identification of cases and contacts of persons with COVID-19 in the United States and the recommended assessment, monitoring, and care of travelers arriving from areas with substantial COVID-19 transmission. Although these measures might not prevent widespread transmission of the virus in the United States, they are being implemented to 1) slow the spread of illness; 2) provide time to better prepare state and local health departments, health care systems, businesses, educational organizations, and the general public in the event that widespread transmission occurs; and 3) better characterize COVID-19 to guide public health recommendations and the development and deployment of medical countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. U.S. public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely, and CDC is coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global partners. Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this novel virus and this outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action by CDC, state and local health departments, health care providers, and communities.

“Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly by respiratory transmission. How easily the virus is transmitted between persons is currently unclear. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath (4). Based on the incubation period of illness for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses, as well as observational data from reports of travel-related COVID-19, CDC estimates that symptoms of COVID-19 occur within 2–14 days after exposure. Preliminary data suggest that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus (5).

Information for travelers: CDC.gov/Travel

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

“There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

“There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.”

Why is it so much more dangerous for elderly people? According to Bruce Aylward (who leads the World Health Organization’s infectious disease response team), “These people are dying of an inflammatory process in their lungs. It’s not an infectious process, like a bacterial or viral infection. It’s inflammatory, like we see with SARS. We’re not sure of the mechanism. We do know the proportion of people who die who had cancer was half compared to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is a little bit lower than those two, and cancer lower again.

Italy is currently locked down. In China, the cases are diminishing. In America, the confirmed cases are growing rapidly!

After all is said and done, I would like to remind people to prepare, but not panic! Prepare, watch, and pray: “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord ” (Proverbs 21:31). Our world, our times, and our lives are ultimately in the hands of the One who has created us. As Solomon taught, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). I am totally convinced that this current plague is intended by God for our good, to bring us all to the foot of the cross, where we can find rest and peace for our souls—and eternal life through faith in Christ—despite the present crisis. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).

Please feel free to write a response, ask any questions, or request me to pray for you specifically.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (72): Finding the Strait Gate

I cannot read Jesus’ admonition to enter the “strait gate” without thinking of “every man” from Pilgrim’s Progress.

This man was so burdened by what he’d read in the Book that he left his hometown in search of the Celestial City.

However, he quickly discovered that he had to enter through a special gate before he could find the narrow path that would actually lead him to the great city.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus explained it this way, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Have you found and entered the Strait Gate that leads to heaven?

In Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Evangelist points “every man” to the gate where he can be relieved from his burden.

But, it’s a difficult climb to get to the gate, and along the way, he meets a man named Obstinate, who refuses to make the climb, choosing rather to attempt reaching the Celestial City by traveling one of the many easier, wider, less restrictive paths.

This part of the story is very sad, of course, because no one can actually get to the Celestial City unless they are willing to pass through the Strait Gate first. It’s not that the gate is hard to find, or that people won’t be allowed in after they find it. All they have to do is knock, and the gate door will be opened, but most people are too proud to ask, and so they wander off trying to find some other way across the chasm of death to everlasting life.

My father became a believer shortly before he died, but for most of his life, he preferred quoting this poem:

Invictus
—William Ernest Henley, 1875

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

“In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

“Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

It is with great relief and joy I can share with you that just a few years before he died, my father decided to enter in through the Strait Gate, drop his burden of sin at the foot of the cross, and begin his journey to the Celestial City. As his youngest daughter, and the one who had the privilege of pilgriming beside him during those last years, I observed that he was a much more peaceful, pleasant companion after he gave up trying to be the captain of his own soul.

Is your head still “bloody, but unbowed”? If so, will you bow your head today and let Jesus forgive your sins and heal your heart? Will you join with the millions of us who are pilgrims on the narrow road that leads to life everlasting? Don’t be angry with God! He loves us. He provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the blood of Christ. He offers eternal life for “whosoever will” believe. Will you take him at his word and begin your journey through the Strait Gate to the Celestial City?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Text for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.