Meditating on the Commands of Christ (48): The Quiet Do-Gooder

Do you get overwhelmed by all the appeals for help you receive from organizations? How about the folks at the markets with placards asking for spare change? Fall is “the season” for fundraisers in Grand Rapids, and this past week, one of my friends experienced one company’s latest bright idea for pressuring people into donating: “Just text in your donation right now while you’re sitting at the table, and we’ll flash your name and amount up on the big screen!” Woah! Is this meant to create competition, extra glory for the donor, or shame for those who won’t or can’t give more (beyond the extremely expensive ticket price for the dinner)?

I would like to say, “Wait! We’re getting this all wrong!” I’ve been to fundraisers that are almost like auctions: “Who will give us $100? Just raise your hands! Now, who will give us $1,000? Who will give us $5,000?” I think the last bid was for $25,000 that night. We didn’t participate in the bidding war, but I did go home feeling a little shell-shocked.

Jesus taught us the “right” way to give: “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4).

Giving to the poor is commendable, but let’s give out of hearts that overflow with compassion, not to avoid the social stigma of feeling uncharitable! Giving can fill us with joy when done out of a pure heart for the right reasons, but otherwise, it just makes us resentful or proud. Dear Lord, don’t let our acts of charity go to the loudest, highest bidders or be governed by our desire for the praise of men, but rather let us give prayerfully, in response to the quiet promptings of your Holy Spirit. So simple. So obvious from scripture. So contrary to the way our world works!

Text for this meditation: Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

unPlanned

Two days ago I had the pleasure of an unplanned visit with the gaffer for the newly released movie, Unplanned. (John is my son Dan’s brother-in-law.) Have you seen it?

It’s the gripping true story of the experience of Abby Johnson, who personally had two abortions and then became an activist for Planned Parenthood . . . until she actually witnessed an abortion. Until. What about you? Do you have any opinion about whether or not abortion is a reasonably good option for ending an unwanted pregnancy? If you think abortion might be the best and easiest option, please PLEASE watch Unplanned.

It’s rated R, probably for blood visuals related to some abortion problems, but I think it is valuable for anyone who is exposed to sexual contact . . . or for sure by high school age. Does it make sense that any girl—who is under 18 can have sex, get pregnant, and have an abortion without parental consent—should be restricted from seeing a movie that discusses the issues surrounding abortion? I’d say “NO!”

I grew up in a liberal home and didn’t blink an eye at over the issue. I figured that if anybody ever raped me, I’d have an abortion. However, my husband, Alan (who was usually more liberal than I was on “political issues”), said he thought it was wrong and that if I was ever raped and impregnated, he would prefer that I kept the baby rather than getting an abortion. I was totally shocked, but it also made me rethink my position. During medical school, as part of his training, Alan observed an abortion. His response was similar to that of Abby Johnson’s. He was horrified and sickened. He never wanted to be witness to an abortion again, and he felt that he had watched the undeniable killing of a helpless infant that resisted with all its tiny being having its life snuffed out.

After Alan began practice, he discovered that he had patients who even into their eighties were still haunted by their experience of having aborted a baby early in life. The regret and shame seemed never ending. He has been a strong proponent for being pro-life ever since, and so am I.

But, what about the millions of women who have aborted babies? Is there no relief for them from having an aching heart and a bad conscience?

Yes! There is no sin outside the grace of God, nor are any of us without sin, we just sin in different ways. In fact, the Bible is clear that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That’s why Jesus died: to provide a way to be forgiven for our sins: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17, ESV).

If you have had an abortion, are considering having an abortion, or know someone who is struggling with abortion issues, please consider watching Unplanned. It will make you sad, but it also offers hope and healing! God is here, and He loves us!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV).

Becoming The Best of Enemies

“Change is Worth Fighting For”—The Best of Enemies

Jesus talked a lot about loving our enemies, which includes praying for them and allowing good to overcome evil in our lives . . . and hopefully—eventually—in their lives as well. One beautiful example of this is played out in the movie, The Best of Enemies. I absolutely LOVE this story and hope you all take the time to watch it!

The Best of Enemies is a new release (2019) based on the true story of what happened when a school for African American children burned down in Durham, North Carolina, back in 1971.

It’s a PG-13 (which I think it very appropriate), and the language is rough . . . but so was the community.

The confrontation was over integration.

Taraji P. Henson in the role of Ann Atwater

The contestants were Ann Atwater, who was a black civil rights activist,

Sam Rockwell portraying C.P. Ellis

and C. P Ellis, the president of the local Ku Klux Klan.

The venue was a 10-day “charrette,” where the leaders and team members on both sides of the issue were forced to work together to solve the problem through discussion and information gathering in the city.

The prize: Well, to integrate or not to integrate was the question, but the prize was much greater, as we learned from the movie!

If you’re looking for a movie with a happy ending where “love wins,” this is one of those rare and wonderful times when good really did overcome evil! This movie has won all sorts of awards and received twelve Emmy nominations. Even the real families who were involved were happy about the way it turned out, so that makes it a win-win, and if you watch it and find it increases your understanding, empathy, and love for both blacks and whites, then it will be a win-win-win for all of us!

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:13-19).

Sweet and Savory Crepes Like a Pro (Without Being One)

Although Crêpes Suzette were popular in France over 100 years ago (and even 60 years ago when I was a budding wanna be cheffette),

I think in the past 10-15 years crêpes have crept from the Continent (of Europe)—likely aboard luxury cruise liners—across the Atlantic

and are now on trend in American menus!

Crêperie in Annecy, France. Note the HUGE Nutella jars!

In France four years ago, we were delighted to find little storefront crêperies everywhere vending both savory and sweet crêpes as fast food options—both as meals or for snacks.

It was with great relish that our team stopped to test both types, carrying them off to a local park to savor for our picnic lunch.

However, I was more than impressed to see that there are now crêperies springing up in Michigan, not only in Lansing (our capital), but even in our tiny little hometown in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, right across from the Soo Locks!

How fun is that? Of course, we had to stop in for breakfast the next morning after we visited the Soo Locks!

“Nutella and Fruit” Crêpe at Oh Crêpe and Coffee

We sampled everything from their “Farmer” (stuffed with egg, bacon, spinach, tomato, cheddar, and hash browns) to a traditional Nutella and strawberry crêpe . . .

and even their “Birthday Cake” which included cream cheese frosting, waffle bits, and sprinkles.

Now, just for the record, I’ve been making crêpes for years, and they’re not really very hard to make, so I think it’s time to share what I’ve learned over the years!

Sweet and Savory Home-made Crêpes
Early attempt: Too thick and turned out more like a pancake

Crêpe Batter

The hardest part is to make the batter light enough. I’ll give you two recipes. The first is the “legit” way to make them, but I’m usually running behind so usually “cheat” by using pancake mix, which seems to taste and crisp just as well. The traditional method also includes letting the batter rest for a half an hour (or two . . . or even overnight, if you’re really organized and able to run ahead of schedule). If you have time, great! If you don’t have time to let it rest (and how many of us have time even to rest ourselves at such times as we’re likely to go to the fuss of making crêpes?), then you can do what I do and just whip up the batter and spread in on your hot, well buttered pan.

Option One (Traditional)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together:
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons melted butter

Crêpe Batter with bacon bits added

Non-Traditional (but quick and easy) Crêpe Batter


In a mixing bowl, whisk together:
1 cup pancake mix
1.5 cups milk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
(When I make batter for savory crêpes, which is what I posted above, I often substitute 3 tablespoons of bacon drippings for the melted butter and sometimes add bacon bits)

The second hardest part is learning how to spread the batter thin enough and cook them fast enough and hot enough to make them very light and crispy without burning them. Professionals have large, smooth cooking surfaces with no edges, but most of us mortals can’t afford such a luxury. However, having a batter spreader is very crucial to success and a luxury almost any of us can afford.

Using a batter spreader to make the crêpe thinner and more even

“Fearless Leader” (as I affectionately dubbed our church team leader during our trip to France) went to great pains to help me find this simple tool, which was not (at least four years ago) sold commonly in kitchen stores in America but goes for 1E everywhere in France and can be bought very inexpensively from Amazon now as long as you know what search for: “crêpe batter spreader.”

If you have a flat, 9″ cast-iron skillet, that’s ideal, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Start by making sure the entire surface area of the skillet is lavished with butter (that has melted). Over medium heat, pour about 1/4 cup of mix onto the steamy surface, smoothing the batter out as much as possible, and fry the crêpe until it bubbles, which should only take about a minute. If you want your batter a bit thinner (and this one above is pushing the edge of too thick), you can add just a touch of water as needed.

Once the batter bubbles, loosen the edges with a spatula and flip the crêpe over. As you can see, I didn’t do a very professional job of flipping mine, and it didn’t end up centered properly, but in a few seconds you can usually coax it back into a more centered position. Also, make sure your pan is squarely over the heat. The far edge of this one was not equally close to the center of the fire so was underdone.

Making crêpes “hot and now” is really a full-time job, so it’s great if you can pursuade someone into being your sous chef. Thankfully, my son is an excellent cook in his own right and always willing to help, so while I pump out the crêpes, he fills and serves them. If you have to work alone, you can stack them with parchment paper in between and keep them in a warm oven, but I can’t make oodles of these fast enough for a sit-down breakfast so prefer serving them one kid/adult at a time, as they emerge from their sleepy beds. (If it’s just Alan, Joel, and I, we can make enough quickly to sit and eat together.)

Although you need to prepare your fillings first so that all the meats and veggies are fully cooked (just keep the pan covered and warm while you make your crêpes), I’m going to discuss the fillings last, because you fill the crêpe hot off the press if possible. This one has sausage, cheese, red peppers, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes, but the options are legion and depend totally on your taste and what you have on hand.

Just think ahead about what you want to use so that it’s fully cooked or else ready to be added. Any meat, veg, or cheese that you enjoy in an omelet will taste great served in a savory crêpe!

The other super popular types of crêpe are the sweet ones. On cruise ships, you can usually pick your own toppings. The morning I took this photo, I added Nutella (almost a staple in Western Europe), cherries, blueberries, and whipping cream.

I’m a huge van of all things sweet, but if you think you should have some protein, you can always add it as a side (or an under!). 🙂

Or, you can make crêpes as a “part” of a balanced breakfast, along with eggs and bacon (or whatever).

A Traditional Sweet Crêpe: Filled with Nutella and banana slices,
sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar with a side of whipping cream

For sweet crêpes, my grandchildren’s favorite is the one above, but whatever you like on toast can work: not only Nutella but peanut butter and all sorts of jams (or fresh fruit, which will stick nicely in the Nutella or peanut butter).

If you haven’t tried making crêpes yet, I hope this inspires you to try . . .

or at least to look around for a local crêpe shop where you can stop by for a bite!

If this is new to you, start easy, but have lots of fun!

The Doxology
(Written by Thomas Ken in 1674)

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (41): Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You

I don’t know if you’re like me, but this directive seems a lot easier to me than some of them. For instance, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (from Matthew 22:39) seems impossibly hard unless I put it in the context of Luke 6:31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

Do you feel a difference? Here’s what happens in me. I am most aware of my own needs and spend most of my life providing for the needs and comfort of myself and my own family and friends. On the other hand, I try to treat all people with whom I interact with respect and fairness, and that is what I hope for from others toward me. I don’t expect others to meet my needs; I do expect that others will not thwart my honest efforts to meet my own needs. That is the essence of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” isn’t it?

So, I think of this command as the “Golden Rule,” sort of “Human Decency 101.” In the book of James we get another look at this command, where it is called the “royal law:” “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9). In this passage, we get another clue about what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like: No prejudice! No picking favorites when it comes to being kind and doing good. Be fair with everyone!

Being fair is the first step toward love, but probably not the last step. As we learn of Jesus, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This goes way beyond being fair and giving everyone an equal chance to work for their own “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t know about you, but I am willing (and on occasions eager) to sacrifice myself to ease the burdens of those I love, but I don’t have a lot of natural compassion for strangers, at least for those who have no visible signs of disability or neediness. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that if I saw someone dying by the side of the road, I would go to a lot of trouble to try to rescue them (although I stand in awe of the good Samaritan, who provided so fully for the wounded man’s care). Wouldn’t you?

I bet most people would go to the aid of someone in dire need unless they were afraid for their own life. This might be considered “Human Kindness 101,” which makes me think of the passage in 2 Peter, where we are told to grow one step deeper, from “brotherly kindness” to “charity.” This gets tougher! Many mature people have a heart for compassion and “brotherly kindness,” but few attain true “charity,” or the ability to love others (particularly “neighbors” when you define them as anybody in need) sacrificially. And, what about the beggars by the wayside? In America, we never used to see people begging anywhere, but now it’s not uncommon to see someone with a sign up and a hand out. When Alan and I visited Singapore, we learned that begging was an offense that could land you in jail, so there are very few beggars there. (There are those who peddle goods, however.)

To give, or not to give? That’s a complex question. Most of the research I’ve read suggests that beggars need to be steered toward agencies that can access their true needs and assist them in getting the care they need (which might be emotional as well as physical) before helping them learn how to help themselves. In Grand Rapids, we have several ministries, such as Mel Trotter, that will provide food, shelter, and support (including vocational training) for those who are destitute. Pine Rest Christian Ministries reaches out to those with true mental illness. Exalta Health is another ministry downtown that provides for medical, emotional, and spiritual needs at greatly reduced prices. If you have a heart to give, you might consider giving to a local ministry you personally trust to provide for the true needs of the poor. Internationally, there is a “Comcare Hotline” that can help people. Many communities have some type of church-related or government-based help for the poor. It would be worth our while to know what’s out there so we can at least make sure panhandlers know about these options. Beyond that, we have the resource of the Holy Spirit to guide us individually as we seek to love others in a way that is actually “loving” them rather than supporting possibly lazy or dysfunctional lifestyles.

Whatever we do, it’s good to keep in the forefront of our thinking the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This may not be the ultimate act of sacrificial love, but it sure is a good beginning! May we love others as we love ourselves, using the same standards of expectation and mercy. May we expect from others what we expect from ourselves. May we have compassion on those in genuine need, as we would want others to have compassion on us in our times of need. May we be fair. May we be merciful. May we pray without ceasing, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into Love as we interact with all those around us.

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:2-9).

Subscribing to Scribd

If you love books and have a bit of a budget for continuing education, then you might appreciate Scribd. Have you heard of it? It’s been dubbed the “Netflix for e-books.” Although there have been some serious accusations of copyright infringements since its inception in 2007 (by then Harvard student, Trip Adler), it is my understanding that at this point, Scribd has a clean bill of health and you can become a member without any concern that you’re doing anything shady. I joined last fall and have become a fan. For $8.99 per month, you can listen to as many audio books as you like, choosing from their vast collection of over a million titles and growing. Let me share just a bit of my own experience.

I love reading but all too often “don’t have time” for the pleasure of sitting and learning via the written word. To compensate, I discovered LibriVox (actually, my book-loving editor son told me about it), which self-identifies as “Accoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” This is a marvelous service, and you can access over 12,000 books that have no copyright issues. It’s completely free, closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg (another wonderful volunteer organization that has been digitizing culturally significant books in the public domain), and is always looking for volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and voice to adding to LibrVox’s listings with high quality books. Over the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed a number of LibriVox’s audio books, and if you have no money for continuing education but have time and the means for listening to audio books, this is an excellent way to go!

And then, last year, I began hearing about more recent books that I really wanted to read but were (are) still under copyright. Again, my son came to my rescue, as did several friends, particularly one friend who travels by car extensively for her work. Scribd will let you have one month as a free trial, and within one month, I was hooked. (Also, if you’re a student and too busy during the year, you could still sign up just for the summer. 🙂 )

There is a seemingly endless array of possibilities out there, but I will tell you that I mostly read non-fiction Christian books, so not everything I want to read is available on Scribd, which is probably good. I love to underline, go back and rethink, and study the books I really love, so it’s good for me to OWN books. However, Scribd opens the door for learning at times that I just can’t read, like when I’m driving, folding laundry, or washing dishes. I hope nothing ever ends our desire to possess paper copies of precious books (the Bible most of all), but every avenue for growth and learning about God and good seems like a blessing to me.

Here are a few of my favorite books from those I’ve enjoyed since last fall (all of which could also be purchased, but I’m just giving you a sampling of what’s out there that I really appreciated):

*King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Timothy Keller (excellent study on the life of Christ from the book of Mark, for both seekers and those who have found!)

*Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Ravi Zacharias (so helpful for gaining perspective on why a “good” God might allow suffering in this life)

*Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer (highly technical but excellent information for those with scientific minds, providing solid philosophical and scientific arguments for the probability of intelligent design rather than random chance in the creation of the universe)

*Earth Psalms, by Francine Rivers (short, happy devotional thoughts about nature and God; easy listening for tired ears)

*A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Suffering, by Jerry Sittser (learning to accept and grow through tragedy)

*America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, by Grant Wacker (fascinating, technical biography about one of our world’s most influential religious leaders)

*The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (“The #1 New York Times bestseller about the Greatest Generation freshly adapted for the next generation” [that’s me]; wonderful account of a motley crew of young men who worked tireless to fulfill their dream of rowing their way to an Olympic Gold Metal back in 1936)

*The Classic Hundred Poems: All-Time Favorites, by William Harmon. The commentary on the poems alone was worth the listen; I felt like I’d taken a crash course in English poetry, and since I love to write poems, it seemed worthwhile to hear what the world loves best.

And more, although I won’t bore you. The point is, if you’re looking for a good resource for spirit and brain food, there are ways to promote learning and growth even during times when your hands are occupied with daily duties. Of course, nothing is as sweet and good as prayer and meditation, but if you have time for some audio books and $9 a month, you might also enjoy this avenue for expansion!

May Jesus bless you this summer as you pursue Him!

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:12-13). “Let no man despise thy youth” . . . or thy old age! Let’s be lifelong learners!!

Have You Experienced Being Indivisible? How About Iraq?

If you are in the military, have a loved one in the military, or would like to get a little better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges facing those who are giving their lives to protect our safety, then I want to encourage you to watch Indivisible. (By the way, I’m guessing the pressures and problems would be very similar for any military personnel from a democratic nation.)

Indivisible (2018) is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, fresh out of seminary and basic training.

This left his wife, Heather, alone at Fort Stewart to care for their three young children among the community of other women whose husbands were also deployed.

Every deployment is dangerous and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but Darren ended up supporting the Special Forces, which was sort of the hardest of the hard!

I have a son in the military who was deployed to Iraq, and I can vouch for the constant strain and fear that I battled as a mother, who spent many hours on her knees while he was gone.

Indivisible does a masterful job of relating the terrors and traumas of war. Will our loved one survive? Will he be injured? Will he recover?

Even if he survives, will he be able to overcome all the horrors of death and destruction that he’s experienced?

What about the wives who’ve been left behind, who are constantly plagued by an emotional roller coaster of worry while trying to be emotionally stable for their children?

For many families, life is never quite the same after living through a deployment, and trying to rebuild a strong marriage bond is more of a challenge than some marriages can handle.

The lessons that Darren and Heather learned (and have been willing to share) are critical for young couples who are serving in the military. I wish every person in the service or who has a loved one in military service would see this movie!

It’s raw. It’s real. It’s sad, but there’s also a message of hope for a light at the end of the tunnel of PTSD and broken hearts.

God made a way for Darren, Heather, and a bunch of brave young soldiers and their wives, and He can do the same for you.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NABRE).