If you’re ever looking for a concise commentary on the life of Christ, I’d like to recommend Jesus the King, which is a powerful exposition on the Gospel of Mark written by Timothy Keller. He divides the book into two sections. Chapters 1-8 authenticate the life of Jesus as the promised Messiah and the King of Israel, and chapters 9-16 explain the death of Christ—what happened and why.
If you’re from a tradition that doesn’t teach much about the life of Christ, or even if you’re like me and just love learning more about Jesus and the Bible, then this is an excellent way of discovering more of the reasons why nearly one-third of the world’s population (some 2.6 billion people) believe that Jesus really is the Son of God and the King of the entire universe!
“And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).
This was a playful photo was taken when our Birthday Club visited the Michigan History Museum in Lansing. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I have since! My petty personal problem (currently having a little finger still sporting external pins) pales in the light of the tribulations many people are enduring. Harder still are this world’s global concerns. I’ve recently finished Elie Weisel’s touching book, Open Heart . . . the reflections of an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and a Nobel Laureate. He thought that after World War II, people would learn from the devastation, and that oppression would cease, but this has not happened. The fight for right over wrong, good over evil, and life over death will go on as long as man lives on earth. Our job is to keep fighting and never give up!
Whatever our challenges, God is there and wants to help us. We are encouraged in the New Testament: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Some members of my family will be participating in an all-night prayer vigil at Moody in Chicago tonight. Come join in if you have time! God hears and responds to our earnest cries for help, and we citizens of earth need HELP!
Psalm 18, written by King David after he’d been delivered from his enemies, is (to me) the perfect example of how God wants us to approach Him for deliverance from troubles!
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord
is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in
whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.
19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
24 Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
28 For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
31 For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?
32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath
holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.
42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made
me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve
44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
46 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those
that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
Did you watch the 2019 Academy Awards Sunday night? (I didn’t; we were out of power . . . again!) Anywho, out of the 37 movies nominated for prizes, I’ve really only seen a handful, but I now have a list of about 15 more possibilities to try. Among those seen thus far, the courage and perseverance of RBG are truly inspirational, and the playful visual effects in Christopher Robin are innovative, but my first choice for an excellent, worthwhile film is First Man. Everything about the movie is stellar. To begin with, First Man is based on a biography by James. R. Hansen and runs very close to the true story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Academy Award Winner, Damien Chazelle, directs the movie, and film legend, Steven Spielberg, is the executive producer. Ryan Gosling does a great job of portraying the quiet, humble but determined Neil Armstrong who was absolutely driven to give everything he had for space exploration. Claire Foy (Emmy for her fantastic work in The Crown) also does a really credible job of making the viewer feel the gut-wrenching pain of a wife trying to stand by her husband and provide for her children while living with perpetual anxiety over the probability of her husband getting killed at any time. (Roger Chaffee, from Grand Rapids, was one of the many who did tragically die.) First Man tells the dramatic story of the years of training leading up to their historic trip to the moon, when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off in the Apollo 11 spacecraft (which was launched by Saturn V) and landed safely on the moon on July 20, 1969. Alan and I both remember the feelings of terrified awe as we watched everything live on T.V. The next day, July 21, 1969—which will be 50 years ago this summer—Neil became the first man to walk on the moon, pronouncing to the world: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”I totally believed what I was seeing on T.V., although I’ve since heard many rumors questioning the veracity of the events. One of the most convincing arguments to me was hearing that the flag was blowing in the “breeze” (which couldn’t happen since there’s no real atmosphere on the moon). However, I also heard the explanation that they inserted a rod along the top of the flag to hold it out, and it moved some simply from the impact of its being planted and arranged. To me, the arguments for real landings are more compelling than arguments of the “conspiracy theorists,” who say it was all made up. For one thing, some 400,000 people over the past 50 years would have to have continued supporting the deception, and I can’t help but think that somewhere along the line, somebody would have exposed “the lie.” Nevertheless, I could be wrong, although whether it actually happened or was all a hoax doesn’t impact my day-to-day life too much. On the other hand, there is another event from history that many people also dismiss as a hoax: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again, opening the way for each of us be reconciled to God through faith in Christ, and to be resurrected to eternal life after we die. Although I don’t spend much time worrying about what my distant cousin (?) did fifty years ago, I have staked my life on believing in Jesus, and that effects what I think and do every day or my life! Without Christ, I would be “of all men most miserable,” as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 15:19, but with him, I am full of hope and joy! I never feel alone or abandoned, and I am 100% convinced that Christ can truly lead me safely home—not to earth—but to our Father, who is in heaven!
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Last night, Alan and I celebrated our 46th anniversary! Such a joy!! This morning, as I was reflecting back over our marriage, it occurred to me that when I prepared my last blog (on how Christ can heal us), I hadn’t really made any particular connection to the every day struggles we all face, but I listened to two messages Sunday night that were so good, and so appropriate, that I want to share the gist of them with you. Throughout the course of my life, the two hardest conscious struggles (probably more significant unconscious challenges) relate to self control in what I eat and what I think about. I’ve always felt very “normal” (if such a thing exists), so my guess is that these almost come as standard weaknesses on most human models coming off the assembly line. Can you identify?
A.J. Sherrill (a local pastor) taught a two-part series called “The Soul of Sexuality.” I’ll put links at the end and highly recommend them as healthy soul food to help you manage your appetites (maybe not as much for food, however). In turn, A. J. gives much of the credit for his teaching to Richard Rohr, a little monk from Albuquerque, with whom he spent a week some years ago, trying to understand life. You may think a monk wouldn’t be the best resource for understanding how to cope with our innate sex drive, but think again. Any monk who has actually been able to keep his vow of celibacy has spent his entire adult life trying to figure out how to handle his own drives.
Even as a married woman, dealing with sexual impulses has been challenging! I remember when I was mid-forties, asking my spiritual mentor (who was about 80), when men stopped making passes at women. She nodded thoughtfully and replied, “Oh, maybe sometime between 75 and 80.” I was shocked and felt doomed! Would I never be free from unwanted male advances? Men I love, just like I love women. But, men challenging my commitment to my marriage, I do not appreciate. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun. Worst case scenario, it can actually be tempting, which was terrifying when I was 40 and my husband was way too busy to pay attention to me.
So, I used to complain to the Lord, “Why did you make us sexual beings, anyway? Why couldn’t you have made us without sexual passion???” One of the most helpful resources I found was Living with Your Passions, by Erwin W. Lutzer. (It came out in 1983 but is still available on Amazon.) After reading Lutzer’s book, I came to a somewhat grumbly surrender to the thought that God must have known what he was doing and determined to learn how to live a moral life despite my immoral heart, but I wasn’t thrilled about the challenge.
After studying the Song of Solomon for ten years, I decided that God intends our chief love to be spiritual, and that as we’re drawn into a love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we find joy and strength that surpasses human love . . . an energy and beauty that causes those around to marvel: “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13: the dance between our soul and the Trinity [my interpretation]).
A.J. took it a step further, and I love what he had to say. The “why” of sexuality is about “beauty, mystery, and meaning . . . Your sexuality is an echo of a larger cosmic mystery unfolding, which is the story of Christ and the Church.” “God is not a stoic force; he’s a passionate lover.” (I’m putting everything in quotation marks but they may not be perfect; I was typing as fast as I could!) God is Israel’s husband (Isaiah 34; Jeremiah 31) and in the New Testament, we learn that we, the Church, are the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5). From John 7 and 15, we can infer that our marriage to Christ is designed to flow into the stream of life and bear spiritual children and spiritual fruit. In John 14 we are offered the Kiddushim—the covenant of love—and now we’re just waiting for the Huppah, when Jesus comes back to receive his bride (us!).
“Information in the head is not the same as intimacy in the heart. We were made for intimacy.” “Ya had” means to throw out your hands. Let go! Let God dwell in us so much that through us He will produce fruit! Hebrews 12—throw off all false lovers and fix our eyes on our true lover, Jesus. When we celebrate communion, we are celebrating our love covenant with Christ. He wants us to understand how much we’re loved and feast with him. He has never forgotten us or forsaken us, even though we have failed him and had other lovers and idols. Come and feast with him. Let him heal you!
The first message dealt with vertical love; the second message with horizontal. A.J. offered three scripts for how sex is handled in our culture: Erotic play, Intimate connection, and Covenental Promise. He offered some excellent quotes thinking through the value and power of sexual energy (a couple of which I’ll write out for you below), and he ended with an invitation to reach a “higher altitude” for viewing. “Sexuality is the best instrument for learning self-control There are times when offering yourself is a gift and when withholding yourself is a gift.” If you’re in a relationship right now, he suggested that you “Talk with your partner about what you want without finger pointing, but by offering your longings, not your complaints. Complaints create emotional distance, but longings are redemptive. You’ve trusted God with your soul. Will you trust him with your body?”
“A healthy sexuality is the single most powerful vehicle there is to lead us to selflessness and joy, just as unhealthy sexuality helps constellate selfishness and unhappiness as does nothing else . . . Sex is responsible for most of the ecstasies that occur on the planet, but is also responsible for lots of murders and suicides. It is the most powerful of all fires, the best of all fires, the most dangerous of all fires, and the fire which, ultimately, lies at the base of everything, including the spiritual life.” —Ronald Rolheiser
“The fire of sex is so powerful, so precious, so close to the heart and soul of a person, and so godly, that it either gives life or it takes it away. Despite our culture’s protests, it is not casual and can never be casual.” —Rolheiser
So, in light of Jesus healing the lame man—and offering to heal us too!— if you’re restless or unhappy with your sex life (or lack thereof), this is a great time to let Jesus heal your wounded heart! Consider watching the two messages (which together are shorter than a movie!):
Do you (like me) find yourself wondering what you did wrong when you hear what one or another of your adult children is thinking or doing? As would be obvious to all who are living through the honor of interacting with adult children (but perhaps not a no-brainer to young people): It’s actually a lot harder than it looks to be good parents to grown offspring, even really, really admirable grown offspring, like mine. Alan’s being the medical director of maybe the world’s largest Christian psychiatric hospital hasn’t really made us professionals either.
However, as we’ve been floundering our way through this stage of life, we came across a great resource that has significantly encouraged us, so I want to recommend it to you! We read it to each other while on our Southern Caribbean cruise these past two weeks, celebrating our 46th anniversary. Ever since, we’ve been ending our daily prayers for our kids with this mantra: “God, we release our children to your loving care and tender mercies” (from page 115).
Doing Life with Your Adult Children walks readers through the various cultural mindsets of the different generations (all five of them) sharing Planet Earth at this time, reminding us that “our job as parents is not to agree with all the values of our children’s culture but to have a greater understanding of how culture influences the way they think and act.” This has been a game changer for us. Up until now, we’ve wondered why our kids didn’t just naturally take on our values. Surprise! Faith in the Bible, love of country and family . . . even gender identity based on DNA is no longer the norm. Of kids brought up in church, some 60% will drift away in college, making lifestyle choices that would curl the hair of our parents and make our grandparents roll over in their graves.
Not to fear! Hold on. Keep being faithful to what you believe is right and good. More than half of our wandering children will come back to their roots and faith. Meanwhile, author Jim Burns offers all sorts of helpful insights into what’s going on, what the culture is teaching, and how to love your kids and grand kids in ways they can actually feel no matter what they believe. One of many principles (similar to Dr. Gary Smalley’s advice on how to treasure your spouse) is to treat your children and grandchildren with AWE: affection, warmth, and encouragement. Amen? No matter what your young adult is thinking or doing, every “child” (grown ones too) needs big doses of real, genuine, open-hearted love, the way our heavenly Father lavishes his love on us.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t set boundaries or allow our kids to struggle with the consequences of their choices. The book also gives some helpful suggestions for how to engage your “failure to launch” young adults and help them mature into responsible, independent adults. There are also tips on how to become better in-laws (such as “wear beige” . . . “keep your mouth shut and the welcome mat out”) and how to interact with your grandchildren in ways that will leave a legacy of love for them.
From the very beginning—which describes a scenario I’ll bet every couple has experienced—to Chapter 1: “You’re Fired!” (PRINCIPLE 1: YOUR ROLE AS THE PARENT MUST CHANGE) to the very end, laced with ideas for how to party down with your grand kids, the book kept us engaged and learning!
Interested? I actually had an advance copy, but the book is coming out March 26, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Zondervan or Amazon online. If you buy it, I hope you appreciate it as much as we have! Parenting parents is a tough job! 🙂
“Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been so popular that people have been trying to figure out how to make potato peel pies. In reality, of course, they were fit only for the palates of those who were on the edge of starvation, but it did pique my interest. What were they made from, and could I make a version that would actually taste good? I looked online and learned that they were made from potatoes, a bit of beet, and a bit of milk, but the only actual recipe I could find called for frozen, shredded potatoes and no potato peels. That didn’t satisfy. Allrecipes.com sponsors recipes for sweet potato pies, but not potato peel pies. Therefore, I took up the challenge, and as it passed muster for my personal Bake Off judges (my husband and son), I’ll pass it along to you:
Perfectly Delicious Potato Peel Pie
(the way they might have made it if they’d had the ingredients)
Ingredients: 3 large potatoes 3 beets: tops chopped and boiled for 2 minutes in lightly salted water 1/2 pound bacon fried with one chopped onion 4 eggs whisked with: 2 teaspoons fresh garlic 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
How to make: #1.Preheat oven to 350°F.
#2. Peel potatoes and place peelings in an 9″ pie plate. Arrange.
#3. Slice potatoes into thin chunks and boil in salted water for 1/2 hour (until fork-tender).
#4. Boil the beets (washed but unpeeled) in slightly salted water for 45 minutes.
#5. Fry 1/2 pound of bacon with one medium chopped onion. Don’t drain off fat.
#6. Cook chopped beet greens for just 2 minutes in boiling water. #7. Drain and rinse in a collander to remove juice and stop cooking process.
#8. Whisk together: 4 eggs 2 teaspoons fresh garlic 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper #9. Add cooked greens to egg mixture.
#10. Pour egg mixture and greens into pie pan.
#11. Spoon fried bacon and onions over top, complete with drippings.
#12. Bake uncovered in an oven at 350°F. for 1/2 hour. Remove from oven. If there’s any extra fat or juice, pour it into a small container to save for the beets.
#13. While the pie is baking, and after the potatoes are cooked, mash the potatoes with: 2 tablespoons butter 1/3 cup milk
Whip in a mixing bowl until really fluffy (can add a little more milk if needed)
#14. After the pie has baked for 1/2 hour, remove and cover with mashed potatoes. Return to oven, kick up the heat to “broil” at 450° and bake until the top starts to brown, around 10-15 minutes, but lower your rack so it’s not the closest to the broiler, to keep it from burning (one slot down works best). Keep an eye on your pie, because it will go from not looking brown at all to being very brown in a matter of a few minutes.
#15. If you don’t like beets, then you’re done with your pie, but you need the greens and stems, so you may as well serve the beets while you’re at it! (Low high, high nutritive value!) To finish off the beets, pour out the hot water and rinse them in cold water for about 3-5 minutes until they’re cool enough to handle. By gently rubbing the skins, they will slide right off.
#15. Cut off the ends or any dark patches, and return them to the pan (to keep warm).
#16. Pour the leftover juice from the pie onto the beets to season them. If there wasn’t any grease bubbling around the edges, then you can also just add butter and salt to taste. (Some people like onion and garlic powder and pepper too.)
#17. Serve it up good and hot for dinner! It’s almost a dinner in one, because it has your protein, veggies, and starch, but a few sides make it all the better! Last night I served the pie and beets with a fresh fruit salad and mulled cider. The three of us ate half of it for dinner . . . and the other half this morning for breakfast with hot chocolate, English muffins, and the rest of the fruit salad. Of course, during World War 2, I don’t suppose people had bacon, and the pie could be made without (or with a cup of cubed chicken, ham, pork sausage, or whatever you have on hand and like), but meat definitely adds to the flavor! If you try it, let me know if you like it, will you?
“They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house;
and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures” (Psalm 36:8).
If you like class and charm combined with country girl/city girl complexities and romantic confusion—complete with a cloud of mystery and a climate of World War 2 concerns— you’ll probably be captivated by The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Alan enjoyed the story as a novel when it came out in 2008, but ten years later, it’s become a movie . . . still totally charming, but focused more on the young woman who wrote the book than on the original story itself. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a fictitious name for a group of friends who ended up discussing books during World War 2 as a means of keeping up their spirits. Although the entire story is fictitious, is does give a somewhat lighthearted sense of insight into the courage and daily lives of the people who lived on Guernsey during the Nazis’ occupation in World War 2.Guernsey is a small island in the English Channel off the Normandy Coast, and although it’s technically a part of the Channel Islands rather than the British Isles, the citizens are still very English in their consciousness, considering Queen Elizabeth II their monarch and looking to England for their defense. The story begins in 1946, shortly after the end of World War 2, when a young London writer goes to the island of Guernsey to do research for a writing project. Through fan mail, she discovers that there is a “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” which meets every Friday night. This piques her interest, and she embarks on an adventure to learn more about the society and the island. As in all the best stories, there are ups and down, twists and turns, and subplots of mystery, romance, and drama. There is a city-slicker fiance to consider . . . but also the alluring charm of simple sincerity. Juliet (the heroine) finds herself falling in love with the irrepressible spirits of people and their island home.But, what would a story be without complications? Aren’t the endings happier when there are problems to be solved, troubles to be overcome, and broken hearts to be mended through forgiveness, love, and understanding? After all, isn’t that what life is all about?If you have a couple of free hours some evening and want a movie to warm the cockles of your heart, try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. “And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged” (Luke 7:40-43).