Category Archives: Friendship

Lenten Specials

Do you observe Lent by giving up something you normally love? This year, I gave up coffee, and my son Joel has given up meat. Actually, Joel and I both find the challenge and discipline good for us, because every time we miss these staples of our lives, it reminds us of all that Jesus gave up throughout his life! And, it makes us appreciate the amazing bounty that we usually enjoy.

Joel’s fast from meat for these few weeks before Lent also reminded me of when we were in India last fall. There were several occasions when beef was listed on the menu, but when I’d order it, the waiter would always come back and politely say that they had no beef that day. Our guide eventually explained that it was illegal to serve beef in India because cows are sacred, and so I soon resigned myself to enjoying chicken and pork for the duration…and a few unusual meats, like water buffalo (which tastes like very tough beef).

Therefore, it was with special joy that my eyes lit on a distant McDonald’s while we were at the airport in New Delhi waiting for our flight to Nepal. We scurried right up the stairs and to the far end of the waiting area, anticipating a Big Mac. Alas, even at McDonald’s there were no burgers to be had. They only served various sandwiches made from chicken or fish. We had to laugh…mostly at ourselves!

Why is it so hard to give up certain privileges and freedoms…even for a few weeks? It made me feel ashamed of myself for thinking I might “get away with” a juicy steak or burger while visiting a country where cows are considered holy. I don’t believe cows are sacred, but they do. Shouldn’t I be more than willing to curb my own appetites and pleasures for their sake? I think so!

 “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:8-13, emphasis mine).

The Scripture teaches us this about Jesus Christ: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

If You’re Ever Feeling Alone, Remember They Were Single Too

Happy Valentines’ Day, or as my son Jonathan used to lament when he was single, “Happy Singles Awareness Day.” I hope if you’re single, you’re not lonely, but I think loneliness is something all of us either experience or dread. Despite Alan’s pronouncement that my sister and I were a “far-out pair of old maids” when I turned twenty-one, Alan and I got married when we were twenty-two, so I never really worried much about being a career single. However, as Alan and I approach the magic “three score and ten,” there’s a sinister dread of becoming a widow that lurks like a dark cloud at the edges of my peripheral vision.

It’s hard to live without somebody special in your life, isn’t it? When you’re young, it’s scary to go off to college alone, start a new job alone, or try to find an apartment or church in a new city alone. Let’s face it, being single and alone is probably one of the biggest challenges we face in life, and if we’re now married and not feeling lonely at the moment, there’s nearly a 100% chance that either we or our beloved mates are going to end up single and alone at some point in the future, because few couples die at the same time. Right?   They Were Single Too is a really encouraging look into singleness based on the lives of eight single men and women in the Bible who had unique ministries that have blessed every succeeding generation since…but could never have happened were they happily married and busy rearing families. Along the way, author David M. Hoffeditz also shares insights from his own years as a single man who ardently wished for a wife but learned to wait patiently on the Lord. One of my favorites (among his insights) concerned the story of Martha and Mary. I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha, slaving away while her sister was enjoying Jesus’ undistracted fellowship. But, listen to this! “Her perspective was skewed as she lost sight of who was in her midst. Martha’s comments are almost humorous. She was concerned about feeding fewer than two dozen, whereas Jesus had fed five thousand!” Why haven’t I ever thought of that? Martha could have sat at Jesus’ feet too, because Jesus would have fed everybody! How often do I fret and fuss when I should be resting in Jesus and asking his help?!!

Hoffeditz also shares a host of timeless quotes written by wise men and women who were single. One that captivated me in particular was this one by Mary Slessor, a single missionary: “Eternal life comprises everything the heart can yearn after.” Mixed in with all the encouraging wisdom and insights are a few moments of Hoffeditz humor: “The Lord allows all of us to experience a time of singleness. As Paul clearly indicates, our response to this gift is our decision. Many are ready to take their gift to the local pawnshop or throw it unopened in to the closet in hopes that it’ll be forgotten.”

If you’re feeling lonely, or find yourself dreading the prospect of future loneliness, this book can help you find the silver lining in the clouds. And, for anyone who reads this, I hope your Valentines’ Day is blessed, beautiful, and not lonely!! Hugs!And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary” (John 20:13-16). As St. Augustine pointed out, “There’s a God-sized hole in every heart.” Let God fill it!

Charles Schulz’s Philosophy

Have you seen this already? It came to me as an email forward, and I think it’s definitely worth considering as we end our year!

The  following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the  creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip.

You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder on them:

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the  world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.

4  Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade’s worth of  World Series winners.

How did you do?

 The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.

 These are no second-rate achievers.

 They are the best in their fields.

 But the applause dies..

 Awards tarnish..

 Achievements are forgotten.

 Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

 1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

 2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

 3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

 4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

 5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?   The lesson:

The people you remember are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money…or the most awards.  They’re simply the ones who’ve loved you and made a difference in your life because they cared.Pass this on to those people who have either made a difference in your life, or whom you keep close in your heart!

“Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor”
(Romans 12:10, ESV).

 ”Be Yourself. No One Else Is Qualified!”

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold
” (Proverbs 22:1).

Learning to Accept~This is Where I Leave You

(-By guest author, Jane Anderson)

It’s been a while now, but I still remember the effect. My breath caught as I heard the title of a new movie showing in theaters. This Is Where I Leave You.

How often has my mind wandered the void of an empty room, sensed the hollow feeling trailing a wave, felt the finality of a closed door? Have you ever spent time with someone you love, seizing every moment before their journey takes them one direction while yours takes another?  You knew the words were coming but couldn’t bear to hear them, “This is where I leave you.”

If you’re breathing, you know the hopeless feeling of saying goodbye, or maybe you avoid the goodbye, choosing instead the softer, “See ya later.” I recently talked to a friend whose youngest child went off to college leaving her with nobody to drop off or pick up at school, no sporting events claiming every weekday evening and a pretty lonely dinner table. There will be holidays and long weekends, but this season has brought new colors to the landscape – not the colors she is ready for.

Four years ago when my grandson joined the Marines we said goodbye to him as he left for 13 weeks of Basic Training. He insisted on no tears and we bravely complied … up until he said, “Well, this is where I leave you.” There are too many events in our life where the only option demands a deep breath and courageous goodbye. Our lives occur in such a blur that looking back we see short vignettes of what used to be. We preserve snatches of remembrances as a salve to soothe our aching hearts in moments when we feel regrettable loss. Life happens when we aren’t looking and we call it memory. We would be wise to honor our present moments and continually ask ourselves, “How do I want to remember this moment?”  Sometimes it isn’t goodbye that rocks our world, but it’s our habits, lifestyle, and what we are accustomed to. Change is inevitable, isn’t it? Just when we feel comfortable, when we seem to be on the right track, at the time we’re most confident and we’ve achieved consistency in our routines – something changes! We can dread change. We can even be afraid of change because we know how it feels. Routine is comfortable, it means stability.  God gives us some insight into how futile it is to dwell on fear of change. One observation is shared in Lamentations 3:19, “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable.” You know? Life is filled with ups and downs, good and bad, gain and loss. Yes, there is also the dreaded goodbyes. But we choose our attitudes. We can be miserable or we can choose to believe what God said in 1 Samuel 12:22, “The Lord has chosen you to be his own people. He will always take care of you so that everyone will know how great he is.”   We all know someone who has been through change after change in their life yet their faith has not faltered. We admire people who have suffered through fire and emerge with their joy intact. Faced with changes and an uncertain future, what separates the joyful from the joyless? Maybe it starts with believing that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. Then deepen your faith and believe that God keeps his promises. Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Life is a contact sport and sometimes we really get beat up. Sometimes tightly gripping what we had in the past only creates defeat in our present and trouble in our future. We need to let go – to relinquish what was. We need to say, “This is where I leave you.” Believe the words of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

New perspectives don’t magically materialize, nor do problems evaporate. There will always be changes we disagree with, challenges we can’t wish away.  Our tender hearts will be broken by the dreaded goodbye; we will lose parts of us we know we can’t live without, but in these times we must trust in the God that is bigger than all our terrifying problems and wider than the hollow left vacant by changes we didn’t want.  I’ve heard that the Bible commands 365 times to “Fear not.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. We know from 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God didn’t give us a fear of failing, or fear of change, or fear of loss. Be courageous. Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

 So this is where I leave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11, “Good-by, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other. Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you” (Contemporary English Version).

(Amen, and thank you, Jane!)

Even in Crisis

(Used by permission of a young friend awaiting her wedding day, Debbie R.)

I’ve been wanting to write down some of my thoughts from these past couple weeks, but I’ve always found writing to be a difficult thing for me. For anyone who knows me, I’m not a writer, I’m a… yeah, that’s right, a talker. Been teased about that my whole life, but here I go…

Since my surgeries two weeks ago I’ve had a hymn from childhood and a few verses continually on my mind.
“The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell…

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.”

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35‭, ‬37‭-‬39 ESV

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8‭-‬11 ESV

Life certainly took a turn a few weeks ago when I got sick. There I was just six weeks from getting married and so excited to get all the final pieces together and just finally marry my love, mi vida, the man who is God’s best for me.

And then it happened; the realization that I had to go in to emergency because something was terribly wrong. After a couple days of tests and switching hospitals, we heard some of the hardest words to hear a doctor say, “We have to do surgery.” At this point I hadn’t eaten in days and had gone below 100 pounds. I looked completely out of it, but I still remember so much of what was going on around me. I remember starting to think about the fact that I was really, truly going to go through surgery again. After ten years, it was happening again. While my very first surgery was also an emergency, this one was different. The surgeon didn’t know what he would find when he opened me up. “What is gonna happen? I’m in a different country; I don’t have my doctor here.” I had this feeling of, “I really might not make it. Surgery is surgery after all.” And then a sense of overwhelming peace came over me. God makes no mistakes. His word will accomplish it’s purpose. If I went to sleep in surgery and woke up in the presence of my Creator, that would be in His plan. And I would be glad. But God, in His mercy guided the surgeons hands in painstakingly untwisting the tangled intestine they found. And when I woke up I was instead in recovery and shortly later saw the faces of those I love. God’s purpose for me here is not finished yet. And I am glad.

Recovery in the hospital after the surgeries wasn’t easy. There were ups and downs. The biggest low was hearing the surgeon say that an October 7 wedding was too soon. But I was fine. I talked with Wilmer and we decided to postpone it for December 2. Emotionally I was handling everything incredibly well. What happened to the extremely passionate person who overreacts to literally everything? Well, let me tell you something. These past few months have been difficult for me. Little things with health and wedding plans and legal paperwork for getting married in Colombia had been hitting me left and right. I would get so frustrated and at times even mad at God for how things were going. And yet, with everything God had it in His control and proved His faithfulness to me in these smaller things one after the other. He was preparing me for what was coming next. And because He did, I could trust Him and I knew of His love for me. I could only be grateful that He spared my life.

My uncle just wrote me very encouraging words this morning, “Nothing is wasted nothing is by accident all by His design to draw your real heart into His … run for Him and never stop.” Are you running for Him? Are you drawing close to Him? Are you living every single day of your life for Him? Please don’t wait for a crisis to happen to realize what is important in life. God has you here for a purpose. Share the love of God to those around you. Don’t waste your life. And ultimately, God’s purpose for you is to conform you into the image of Christ. Let Him do it; don’t resist it. The road can be tough at times, but it is so SO worth it. He will never leave your nor forsake you. He who promised is faithful.

I hope you have been encouraged by these words. I write them with love for all of you in my life. Thank you so much for the prayers, the encouragement and the visits. Thank you to my fiance, who though hasn’t said any vows to me yet has proved to be there “in sickness and in health.” A huge thank you to my parents who have always been there for me, took turns spending the nights with me in the hospital, asked questions and made sure they knew everything that was going on, and who have loved me more than words can express. Thank you to my brother, Mark, for also taking turns being with me and spending some nights in the hospital. Thanks also to my boss, Shawna, who spent one night with me to give my parents a break. And lastly, to the surgeons, doctors and staff at Hospital Universitario Nacional de Colombia for their expertise and care. (Thank you, Debbie, for letting me share your story! May the Lord bless you two with a long and fruitful marriage…soon!!! 🙂 )

Reflections on the Eclipse: To Celebrate, To Share, and To Remember

Did you get to see the eclipse yesterday?  Three of my friends joined me for lunch  and a wonderful afternoon of attempting to take photos of the eclipse.  We tried a bunch of different options,  and I used three different cameras,  but I was very disappointed with what I got!  😦   Between the clouds and the power of the sun,  which overpowered my camera’s ability to shut out the light properly (and I hadn’t thought ahead enough to buy a good filter),  I had no really clear closeup of the event.

Thankfully, two of my friends made the long trek to Central City, Kentucky and came back with some incredible photos (which they’ve kindly allowed me to post).                      Their story makes me grin, so I want to share it quickly!  Justin calculated the “perfect” location, which had a slightly shorter totality for viewing but also made it possible for them to leave the area sooner and beat the tsunami of traffic heading back north, so they were home by 6:30 pm! Brilliant plan, all the way around, don’t you think? And, aren’t their photos fabulous!

This makes me so happy, because I have etched into my brain a memory of Justin as a seven-year-old, looking rather forlorn as he sat shivering on the steps of our home by the frozen pond where a motley group of hockey enthusiasts (ages 37 to 7, from our church family) were playing hockey. Justin’s lips were a bit blue, so I asked him if he’d like to come in and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.

“No!” he answered resolutely! “I just want the puck!!” Tall order for the youngest kid on the ice!  Yesterday (and doubtless oodles of times in the past 30+ years), Justin got the puck! Way to go, Leah and Justin!!

Well, back to my reflections on the eclipse. I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates us to create images. I think for most of us it’s about “makin’ memories” to celebrate the special times in our lives…to memorialize the events, share them with others, and keep the memories alive. Although some religious groups (both among Muslims and Christians) believe that people should not make any replication of anything lest it be idol worship (which is why ISIL is busy destroying statues), I personally believe God was forbidding only the creation of images for the purpose of worshiping them. Delighting in what is pure and good, and commemorating special occasions with photos, seems like an ideal way to make, share, and remember happy events!

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:1-6).

(Photo credits: A very special thank you to Leah and Justin Hamilton for letting me use their 4 outstanding photos of the eclipse, which they took in Central City, KY yesterday. You guys are awesome! The rest are from my home here in Michigan, where I shared a very happy afternoon with Brenda, Jane, and Bonnie. You guys are awesome too!)

What to Eat When Your Wife is Gone for the Weekend

Okay, so this is going to be a “for fun” recipe (of sorts), but while Lizzie was visiting me not long ago, she shared a great text from her husband picturing what he was eating for dinner, and it was so funny that I asked for permission to share it with you. Maybe I should start with just a tiny introduction about my “baby brother,” Chuck (who is actually 6’6″). I just happened to be visiting my “sister” Liz in Chicago the first night they dated (about 17 years ago). She asked if I wanted to meet him, and I said, “I don’t care! You date so many guys…” I had to eat those words later. Little did I know Chuck was going to be “the one” after Lizzie had waited almost 40 years for the right guy. And, let me tell you, he’s the right guy! He’s not only handsome (as you can see…I can brag about him because he’s my little brother…even if we’re not actually related), he’s loyal, kind, brilliant, tenderhearted, funny, and extremely good to his wife! So, as far as I’m concerned, he can pretty much do no wrong.  🙂

At any rate, before Lizzie came to visit, she made Chuck a big casserole, but by Sunday night, it was all gone, so Chuck started foraging in their refrigerator for something to eat. Want to know what he found?      How do you like it? He said he also had a bunch of fresh veggies and fruit.

Now, you might not think hotdogs with sauerkraut, carrots, and spinach on tortilla shells would be your first pick for dinner, but he said it actually tasted pretty good! And, the thing I especially love is the idea of trying new combinations of things. If you like various foods individually, who’s to say you might not like them together?

So, the next time you’re a little low on food and don’t want to take time to shop, look a little closer at your fridge and cupboards. Maybe you can find a winning combination too! Let me know what you create, will you?!!

(P.S.—I did ask their permission before writing this. They are too fun for words!)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)