The Voice of John

If you’re a woman, what would you do if someone raped and impregnated you? As a girl growing up, I found some security in the thought if I were ever so attacked, I could get an abortion. If you’re a man and wonder how women feel about pregnancy, consider watching this documentary. Really, if you live in a country where abortion is legal and you are exposed to sexual encounters, please watch this movie!

The Voice of John comes from the heart of Maryann Lawhon, who as a young nurse came across a newborn dying in a dirty utility room. In a panic, she ran for help but was told that the baby had been intentionally aborted and that it was all legal. (This occurred just after Roe vs. Wade in 1977, America). Let me quote from the makers of the movie, River-Song Productions: “After being reprimanded for bringing this revelation to staff’s attention, and against instruction to ‘do nothing’, she held the infant, baptized him and declared ‘I name you John. I will tell the world what I saw here today. I will be your voice.’” Maryann held the baby until he died, and now—thirty-six years later—she has now fulfilled her promise.

The Voice of John “presents a forensic examination into the Pro-Life movement since 1973. It exposes the truth behind abortion and euthanasia from the perspectives of the doctors, nurses, clergy and politicians who are responsible for it as well those who oppose it.”

Testimony of a young female survivor of an attempted saline-injection abortion
She’s beautiful and completely normal today!

Much of the movie follows the stories of four women facing challenging pregnancies and how they dealt with them:

*A young woman who was raped
*A young woman who inadvertently got pregnant as a result of casual sex
*The sixteen-year-old (Julia Holcomb), live-in girlfriend of Stephen Tyler (had to look this guy up, as I’d never heard of him, but he’s a 72-year-old rock star also known as “The Demon of Screamin'”)
*An older couple, who were advised to abort their child because he would likely be born with multiple birth defects

The movie was deeply disturbing but also most inspiring . . . like the best of medicine. I should explain to you that after Alan and I were married and I expressed my opinion (that I’d have an abortion if I were ever raped as an option going forward), he very soberly told me that if I ever got raped and became pregnant, he would want me to keep the baby. I was shocked, but it was the beginning of a change in my opinion about abortion.

Alan’s conviction (and mine) only became deeper when he had to observe an abortion as part of his medical school training in 1979. If you think about it, a baby is not “just a part” of the mother (like an organ or a limb); the baby is a completely different person who has been planted within the mother. The baby has different DNA, may have different gender, is a different age, and will have an entirely unique set of characteristics and personality traits, gifts, abilities, and brain. Mothers are asked to share their lives with infants until those offspring are nurished and able to continue growing outside the protection of the womb. But, from the time of conception, each child is a distinct being entirely separate from the mother, even though they cannot survive without their mother.

After Alan graduated from medical school and started practicing medicine, he came home one day feeling very distraught. One of his new patients was an elderly woman who was struggling with depression and remorse over having had an abortion some 60+ years before. There may be a few women out there who never look back, but my guess is that aborting a child leaves most women with a permanent wound in her heart.

If you are a young woman considering having an abortion to make your life simpler and easier, please consider watching The Voice of John before making your decision. (Another excellent movie on the subject is UnPlanned. The link to my review can be found here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/unplanned/).

My youngest grandchild, just born last month.
Her mama is almost 45, and it was NOT an easy pregnancy,
but she turned out just perfect! Thank you, Lord!!

If you’ve had an abortion and are feeling regrets, The Voice of John is also a voice of comfort to all who may be mourning. Jesus died for our sins—all of them, no matter what they are—and He will forgive us for anything if we repent and entrust our lives to Him! It’s never too late to allow his grace to regenerate us and fill us with joy and peace!

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John . . . the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord‘” (John 1:6,23).

If you’re not familiar with John the Baptist or Jesus, here is a wonderful introduction to both from the Bible: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (John 1:6-23).

The Hiding Place: Thirty-Two of Corrie ten Boom’s Wisest Sayings

One of the greatest examples of forgiveness in modern times comes from the life of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who worked with her family to rescue Jews during World War 2. Sadly, her entire family was discovered and sent to concentration camps, where most of them died. Perhaps the most difficult part of her incarceration was watching the cruel treatment of her sister Betsie (who was frail) by SS officers.

I suspect one of the hardest “victories” in Corrie’s life was returning to Germany after the war was over and extending forgiveness to two of the officers who had been responsible for so much of her suffering at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.

If you’ve never read or watched Corrie’s story, The Hiding Place (1975), I highly recommend it. (It’s PG but I think too harsh for young children.)

After the war, Corrie became a humanitarian worker, author, and world traveler (to 60 countries) teaching about the love of Christ, which makes forgiveness and salvation possible. She is still venerated today for her great wisdom, so I would like to share a few of her most famous (and wisest) sayings:

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (Psalm 119:114).

Greater

Do you know whose claim to fame is being “the greatest walk-on in the history of college football”? True confessions: I’m not a football fan. I didn’t know the answer to this question before watching the movie, Greater. I’m now a fan of Brandon Burlsworth . . . and the movie!

Greater is greater than most of the movies I’ve watched in the past year, but “greater” doesn’t actually refer to the movie, or to Brandon Burlsworth, about whom the movie was made. Released in 2016 (how did I miss noticing it for four years?), this exceptionally transparent look into the heartaches and hassles of becoming a football hero has an IMDb rating of 7.3 and is an “A+” movie to me. Also, according to everything I’ve read, the movie is a faithful portrayal of Brandon’s actual life. No need to twist the plots to make it more interesting!

Here are a few of the feats of this young man, who was lovingly dubbed “Cheesecake” by his older brother for eating too much junk food when he was little:

*His life dream was to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
*He was a chubby tub as a child but was able to make the football team in high school.
*By sheer determination and hard work, he transformed his flabby body into 300 pounds of muscle after he was red-shirted as a walk-on for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
*Jeered at and distained as a “walk-on” who wouldn’t conform to college culture, Burlsworth eventually earned a scholarship, the love and respect of his teammates, and became one of the team captains by his junior year.
*In 1998, he was selected for the College Football All America Team.
* He was the first Razorbacks player to earn both a B.A. and an MBA before playing his final game (1999 Citrus Bowl).

*He gave God the glory every step of the way! From the time he became a believer as a youth, Brandon followed God with his whole heart.

*Brandon died tragically in 1999 just before signing on with the Indianapolis Colts. He was only 22 years old!

*Despite dying at such a young age, Brandon has left an incredible legacy:

Although he only lived twenty-two years, Brandon’s passion for life and faithfulness to his Savior have impacted untold thousands— probably millions—of football fans and regular folks like me! In my heart, he’s a “poster child” example of what Jesus meant when he told us to “let these words sink into your ears.”

God calls us to follow him faithfully, and He promises to bless us if we will. To the world, Brandon’s death was a great loss, but as Brandon knew so well, God is greater! How about you and me? What have we done with our lives so far? I might have twenty-two years left . . . what can I do? How about you?

For one thing, if you get a chance, I know you’ll be blessed by watching this astounding story of faith and determination! Talk about motivating! 🙂

You are from God and have overcome them,
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Palau: The Movie and The Story

What’s the greatest passion of your life? For me, I think it will always be sharing the good news of God’s great love for us and his provision for our redemption through Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel that Jesus told the healed maniac to share with his family—what great things God had done for him—and this is the Good News that so compels those of us who have been washed in the fountain of life.

Some of us (like me) have not had a very wide audience with whom to share our delight in Christ. (But, no matter! Our job is to run deep and pure; God’s job is to decide how wide our scope of influence.) Others, like Billy Graham and Luis Palau, have reached multiple millions.

Luis Palau spoke in Grand Rapids at our city-wide festival last summer (2019), although it was one of his last addresses. Now eighty-five and dealing with stage-4 lung cancer, Luis is retired and living with his family in Oregon, but what an amazing ministry he has had! Over the past 70+ years he has shared the gospel with tens of millions people in over 75 countries.

Last year (2019), Palau the Movie came out, a biographical drama about Palau’s life, starting with his happy childhood in Argentina, where his father was a wealthy builder with a passion for evangelism. I think Kara Weller (whoever she is) wrote a better summary than I could: “Amidst both seemingly insurmountable struggles and remarkable miracles, Luis never lost sight of his calling. Luis Palau’s story demonstrates what God can do with a willing heart. PALAU the Movie will inspire people of faith for generations.” Amen!

What can I say? Please watch this movie if you get a chance! It will make your day and may change your life. It has certainly encouraged my heart!

Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV).

P.S.—If you are not a believer and happen to read this but are left wondering what “the Gospel” is, please click on the “Coming to Christ” icon at the top of this page for a fuller explanation. Thanks! I’m also open to answering questions if you contact me in the comment box, or you can write me at kathrynwarmstrong at gmail.com. I will also pray for you if you send me requests. Blessings~

Just Mercy

Have you been watching more videos
since COVID has most of us sheltering-in-place?

Any favorites?

I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Alan and I have seen more videos this year than at any time in our remembered past, but it’s a real challenge to find excellent movies!

One of my favorites from the past few months is the freshly minted story, Just Mercy.

This beautifully created masterpiece is based on memoirs by the same name, and it traces the courageous true story of Bryan Stevenson, a brilliant young lawyer—fresh out of Harvard law school—with a heart to work for justice and mercy among prisoners in America.

Just Mercy exposes some of the terrible prejudices and injustices that exist in America’s legal system. It’s PG-13 with an IMDb rating of 7.6. In my mind, Just Mercy deserves its high rating. (In fact, I’d rate it even higher!)

Just Mercy isn’t meant as simple entertainment; it’s a message intended to educate us about injustice and inspire us to perseverance in spite of intimidation. It’s also one of those wonderful biographical accounts where good overcomes evil in the end.

Just Mercy is not an easy story to watch, but it’s carefully done with nothing gratuitous about the dark experiences and circumstances that both Stevenson and the (innocent but incarcerated) inmates have to survive.

To me, Just Mercy is a landmark movie with a message we all need to hear. I hope you take time to watch it!

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).

P.S.— When I see a deeply inspiring story, I always wonder what motivates such altruism, and more often than not, I discover a glowing Christian! This was also true as I researched the life of Bryan Stevenson. While speaking at Lambeth Palace at the invitation of the Bishop of Canterbury, Christian Today reported: “Throughout the 45-minute address, he referred frequently to his own Christian faith, and to his belief that the church has a particular imperative to get involved in issues of injustice in the world.” How?

  • “We have to get approximate to the problems we care about.”
  • “We have to change the narrative.”
  • “We have to remain hopeful.”
  • “Sometimes we have to do uncomfortable things.”
Bryan Stevenson at TED2012: Full Spectrum, February 27 – March 2, 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Bryan is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative based in Montgomery, Alabama. Looks like a great organization to me! https://eji.org/

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (88): Let Us Pass Over

Do you ever find yourself thinking you are following God’s leading but end up in a terribly dangerous situation that may cost you your life? Do you ever struggle to figure out what you think God wants you to do? In the midst of peril, do you wonder if it was truly God leading you or if you fell into a snare set by Satan for the purpose of destroying you?

Let’s consider these questions in the light of today’s passage: “And the same day, when the even was come, he [Jesus] saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side” (Mark 4:35,KJV); the same event, as recorded by Luke 8:22 (ESV) adds, “’Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out.

Seems like a simple enough suggestion. “Let us pass over.” Jesus didn’t really command them in the usual sense, although it’s clear from the text that he wanted his disciples to accompany him on his next mission, which happened to be on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Many times, what God wants us to do is not expressed as a command, but rather as a suggestion.

As we read more of the account, we discover that all the disciples did follow Jesus across the lake, but a huge storm blew up and almost sank their boat. I’m sure at the point of panic, some of them were questioning the wisdom of what Jesus had asked them to do.

When one of my sons was a teenager, he used to get frustrated with me when he’d ask for my advice and I’d say, “I’m not sure. Why don’t you pray and ask God to tell you?” This was dissatisfying to him, and he’d complain: “I feel like when I call God on the phone, he doesn’t answer.”

Does that ever happen to you? My son is not the only person I’ve met who’s had trouble connecting with God. For most of my life since becoming a Christian, if I pray and ask God for wisdom, it seems like He will tell me which way to turn, but that is not everyone ‘s experience, and I can not explain why God speaks clearly to some and not to others.

I do know the Bible is God’s Word to all of us, and it is full of guidelines for life, but while it’s crystal clear that loving others, being kind, respectful and merciful are right—and that murder, greed, lust, and lying are wrong, the Bible doesn’t always spell out how principles of moral integrity translate into the wisest option for us in many individual circumstances. This is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit comes in, and this is where some feel like God speaks to them while others have no sense of clear guidance.

The way God leads his children is one of the mysteries of faith. If you do not have a strong conviction about what God wants, then pray for wisdom and guidance: “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5). Don’t be in any hurry to make a decision. “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26, ESV). Ideally, you will have a sense of peace when you come to the right decision:

*Isaiah 27:45, “Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.

*Isaiah 55:12, “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

*Isaiah 32:17, “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

In today’s account, surely all the qualifications for finding God’s perfect will were met! Jesus was on earth and spoke unequivocally: “Let us pass over.” However, in the midst of obeying Jesus, the disciples found themselves in peril of drowning when a sudden squall blew up.

Thunderstorm with lightning above the sea at sunset

So, beyond any doubt, we can be in the middle of God’s perfect will for us and still find ourselves in life-threatening danger. In such times, it would be ideal to focus all our attention and faith on God: Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

I have a girlfriend who feels the Lord is calling her to “pass over” with him halfway across the country to help her daughter with three young children after the husband committed suicide. I am pretty sure she’s making the right decision, but I also suspect there will be storms ahead. I have a young friend who is launching out in the deep to do missionary nursing at a hospital halfway around the world . . . while COVID-19 is raging. Talk about challenges and courage!

Do you sense the Lord calling you to “pass over” from the safety of your present position to someplace foreign and difficult? If so, please rest in the confidence that if God is asking you to accept some challenge, he will go with you: “Let us pass over to the other side.” There may be perilous times ahead, but Jesus will be with you every step of the way! “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV).

Texts for today’s meditation: “And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (Mark 4:35-37). “One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger” (Luke 8:22-23, ESV).

Christ in the Storm, by Rembrandt, 1633 (Public Domain)

Candle In The Dark

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” This was not only William Carey’s message to believers, this described his entire life as the “Father of Modern Missions.”

Our internet was down for several days this past week, and it gave Alan and me some extra time to invest in other forms of evening uplift. I found among my “treasures” a wonderful DVD on the life of William Carey put out by the Christian History Institute.*

Born over 250 years ago (1761), William Carey was from a humble background in England but felt called by God to be a missionary to India, where he served for forty-one years without a single furlough!

During his tenure, he founded more than 100 rural schools, established India’s first degree-awarding university in Serampore, published India’s first newspaper, translated the complete Bible into six languages (and parts of the Bible into 29 other languages), and was a cultural reformer, working with Raja Ram Mohan Roy to obtain a government ban on the practice of “sati” (burning on his funeral pyre the widow of any man who died).

According to Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi, Carey “saw India not as a foreign country to be exploited, but as his heavenly Father’s land to be loved and saved… he believed in understanding and controlling nature instead of fearing, appeasing or worshipping it; in developing one’s intellect instead of killing it as mysticism taught. He emphasized enjoying literature and culture instead of shunning it as maya” (useless illusion).

Beyond all this, Carey founded the Baptist Missionary Society (based in England and still ongoing today), which has sent out hundreds of missionaries since its inception.

William Carey’s incredible resume of achievements didn’t come without great cost! Their two daughters died in infancy before they decided to move to India. William Carey’s wife had a nervous breakdown after the loss of one of their sons to dysentery and never recovered. (In fact, 2 of their five sons died in India.)

William preached for six years before a single Indian came to faith in Christ, and a number of his converts were killed by their own family, who believed converts to Christ were traitors disgracing the family name. (This still happens today in many nations around the world, in case you didn’t know.)

At one point, a fire destroyed their printing press, and Carey lost years’ worth of research and translation work.

William Carey’s Second Marriage, to Charlotte Rhumohr

Over the course of his life, he not only lost several of his children, he lost his first wife . . . and then a second. (I believe his third wife, a widow named Grace Hughes, outlived him).

If you’re looking for some inspiration in life, consider watching Candle in the Dark, a story about one Christian who took seriously Jesus’s challenge: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15, NKJV).

“Carey House” at Serampore University in India

*Candle in the Dark was released in 1998 and is distributed by Vision Video, Box 540, Worcester, PA 19490. http://www.visionvideo.com 1-800-523-0226. You can purchase a copy for only $5!

God’s Not Dead

Speaking of confusing light and darkness:

If you’re struggling over whether or not to believe in God, I’d like to recommend the series of movies God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness.

God’s Not Dead came out in 2014 and got such a poor rating (4.7) that we didn’t watch it, but we watched it this past week and realized that the movie is actually excellent, and I’m convinced the low rating is simply a reflection of Hollywood and movie critics in general disliking Christian themes and material.

The first movie contains some helpful information concerning the origins of Earth and the universe and a clear gospel message.

God’s Not Dead 2 takes us to a courtroom, where a high school teacher is charged for answering a question about Jesus in her AP history class.

In this movie, Lee Strobel and Jim Wallace, both capable defenders of the Christian faith, show up on the witness stand. I’m in the midst of listening my way through Warren’s fascinating series on Christianity, written from his perspective as a cold-case detective on the Los Angeles police force, so I’m doubly a fan.

In both movies, the Newsboys make appearances, sharing faith and singing. If you’re not familiar with the Newsboys, they’re a Christian rock band from Australia that’s released 17 albums, 6 certified gold, and their catchy, clever lyrics have been captivating kids since 1985.

According to Wiki, Michael Tait (who now leads the Newsboys) “expressed excitement about the film to The Global Dispatch during an interview, saying that ‘The movie is powerful because of the whole stance of it…just trying to prove God’s existence…sharing the gospel, living the lifestyle, changing the mindset of people around them in this college, in this university’.”

“Duncan Phillips added in a similar interview that ‘Disney’s Shane Harper plays a college student whose faith is challenged by his professor, played by Kevin Sorbo from Hercules.

Dean Cain from Superman is in it, too. So we got to hang out with a bunch of superheroes. The movie raises a lot of questions and a lot of eyebrows from a culture that questions if there is a God’.”

So, the acting is excellent, the message is great . . . what’s not to love? I guess only the fact that the movies stand up for Christ and the Gospel in the midst of a culture that has become often openly hostile to people expressing their faith in Christ.

In God’s Not Dead 2, the lawyer (played by Jesse Metcalfe) points out that the term “separation of Church and State” is not in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. In fact, it first appears in a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson to a baptist congregation, explaining that they should have no fear of signing America’s formative legal documents because they guarantee religious freedom—which is the right for people to practice their religious faith without persecution. (Many of the first pilgrims came from Europe because they were persecuted for their faith in their European settings.) Somehow, America has inverted freedom OF religion to mean freedom FROM religion by excluding any and all religious expressions (at least Christian religious practices) from public spaces.

Talk about failing to discern right from wrong and good from evil!

God’s Not Dead Composed and Sung by The Newboys

Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Luke 11:35)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (80): Go In Peace

Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:50). To me, this is the most comforting “command” that Jesus ever utters. I don’t think of Jesus as really commanding us to do anything, but he admonished us in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” That’s what this study is all about—understanding what Jesus taught and what we can apply to our own lives today. What are his commandments? Well, this is the 80th time Jesus gives someone an imperative, and it’s wonderful!

Banquet in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese, 1573.
Now in the Accademia, Venice, Italy

Jesus had been invited to dinner at Simon’s home. Simon was a Pharisee—one of the elite religious “right” you might say, who were known for rigorously keeping every detail of the Law of Moses but had somehow become unbalanced. The Pharisees were focused on justice but had become blind to the other half of God’s mandates, including mercy, humility, and kindness.

Mary Magdalene at the door of Simon the Pharisee,
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1853.
Now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England

Common courtesy in those days included washing the feet of guests, but Simon did not honor Jesus in this way. However, there was a disreputable woman who came to the dinner, not as a guest, but with the desire to worship Jesus.

Mary and Christ at Simon the Pharisee’s Home by Peter Paul Rubens, 1620.
Now at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

She washed his feet with her tears and wiped his feet with her hair, then anointed his feet with ointment from a precious alabaster box she had brought. Simon was displeased. (In truth, I might also have been uncomfortable with such a public display of affection had I been there.)

Woman pouring water into a jar by Gerrit Dou in 1640.
Now in the Louvre in Paris, France

Thankfully, Jesus saw past the awkward externals and into her heart. He understood her sorrow over her sins and her desire to be good! So, instead of condemning her inappropriate behavior, he defended her repentance and faith as genuine, rebuked Simon for his lack of graciousness and love, and sent the woman on her way with this benediction: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

If you—like me— have a tendency to be like Simon, may we hear and heed the rebuke. May we learn to be hospitable and kind to everyone, not just those we admire and find fascinating company, but also those who have repented and have hearts full of love for our Savior! If you identify more with the woman (traditionally thought to be Mary Magdalene), pursue Christ whole-heartedly. Don’t worry if you don’t meet all the mores for socially appropriate behavior. Your love for Jesus is fresh, passionate, and beautiful. Don’t worry about what anybody else is thinking. Worship the Lord and sit at his feet!

For all women, here is a very sweet two-minute video encouraging us to be like some of the virtuous women in the Bible:

Text for this meditation: “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 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. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

Mary Magdalene 1899. Viktor M. Vasnetsov

Prayer Cooking

Last weekend, our deep freezer died, leaving me a small inheritance of quickly thawing, once-frozen berries which couldn’t be crammed into my refrigerator’s freezer because I’d already stuffed every inch of available space with frozen meats and veggies. Besides that, I had most of a flat of fresh blackberries that were dead ripe and needed to be eaten or frozen. The only obvious solution was to process my motley assortment of orphaned berries into a large batch of cooked, mixed berry jam.

Sadly, I had no pectin for cooked jam. Our family favorite is freezer jam, so I only keep a stash of freezer jam pectin available for that once-in-a-year special when strawberries are less than a dollar per quart. However, without fresh berries and freezer space, freezer jam would be out of the question this spring.

The other problem was that I wanted to use all the berries, not just X cups according to some recipe . . . even if I could I find one (which I doubted). For instance, how do you suppose Google would respond to “recipe for approximately 5 quarts of mixed berries, some mushy and defrosted but others firm and fresh”? It is possible to make jam simply by boiling down your fruit with or without sugar until it’s approximately thick enough to make jam, and that was my first thought, so after dinner I processed the fresh berries, added the defrosted berries, and set the kettle on to boil while I washed up the dinner dishes. What’s that about the watched pot never boiling? I left the kettle a little too long and it boiled over. 😦

 “Drat!” I thought. “Okay, Lord, I have no option here of simply using my head. It’s too late to go to the store (and I’ve been avoiding stores anyway because of COVID concerns). I need your Spirit to guide this process.” Frankly, I pray every morning for the Holy Spirit to lead me into the ways of truth and righteousness. I pray for wisdom and grace and sensitivity to the Lord’s leading. I try to walk by faith and practice the presence of God. I talk to him while I work. At that moment, I recalled the passage I’d been memorizing from Psalm 119:57 -58, “Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words. I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.” 

“Lord, will you be merciful unto me according to THIS very word? Will you help me make jam that isn’t too runny and isn’t too firm? I can’t wing this one. This is something new. I have no experience in this type of jam making and know I don’t have the right supplies for any recipe. I need to clean up this sticky mess and get the jam finished so I don’t waste the good food you’ve blessed us with. Will you guide me?”

After cleaning up the jam that had overflowed onto the stove, I returned to my project, brought the fruit to a boil again, dumped in about half of a 4-pound bag of sugar, and entire bottle of freezer jam pectin, a large packet of strawberry jello powder, and 3 individual packets of gelatin into my goopy kettle, stirred until it was all smooth and abubble, then turned off the heat and ladled it out into all the glass jam jars I had on hand. It made just a little over a gallon of jam. I wiped off the bottles and screwed the lids on tightly. (No, I didn’t have proper canning supplies either, having given away most all my canning jars after our kids grew up.) Some of the jars eventually self-sealed as they cooled, but I stored them all in the refrigerator that night just before I went to bed.

Some of the jars of Mixed Berry Jam

There’s an old saying about throwing bad money after good, and so I wondered if I was wasting my pectin, gelatin, and sugar in an effort to save all the berries, but I was comforted by the next two verses of Psalm 119:59,60: “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”  I went to bed, thankful to have felt God’s guiding hand and feeling like I’d done the best I knew how to do . . . and willing to accept whatever verdict the Lord would pronounce over my prayer-cooked jam. “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee, because of thy righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:62).

The next morning for breakfast, I served bowls of fresh blackberries with cream and English muffins with our new jam. Both my husband and youngest son (who still lives with us) said the flavor and texture of the jam were excellent, so I breathed a great sigh of relief, thanked the Lord for his mercy, and sent one jar off to work with my son to give his girlfriend. Thank you, Lord! “The earth, O LORD, if full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119:64).