An Answer of Peace

What’s the solution to racial injustice? The root problems are pride, hatred, and fear, and I don’t see an end to these evils until people—one by one—have a true change of heart about what’s good and what’s evil. God gave us each the color of the skin we wear, and it’s all beautiful, unique, and made out of the same stuff for the same purposes . . . just like the hides of cows!

Skin color is no different from flower color, and I’m sure some people prefer pink over red, but personal preference has nothing to do with intrinsic value, and in people, our preferences should have nothing to do with how we respect or treat anybody! We’re all made by God and in His image. There is no difference in our basic nature or in our human rights and responsibilities. “For he [Jesus] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14).

Can we claim anything that makes us “better” than anyone else? Unique and diverse? Yes! “Better than?” NO! According to the Bible, none of us is morally perfect and without sin, nor do we seek God without his Spirit drawing us: “There is none righteous, no not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11). Likewise, every external gift we possess—be it beauty, strength, intelligence, natural talent, or charismatic personality . . . whatever we value about ourselves or admire in others is a gift from God! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

There is nothing innately “good” within or without us that is not a gift from God, which should be accepted with grateful appreciation and used for His glory, not as a point of pride. BTW, skin color is a gift too, and there’s no such thing as a bad gift from our gracious Father, who declared everything in his creation good and intends every circumstance to be for our good: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Black is every bit as valuable as white or brown or yellow or purple. If you don’t think so, take your prejudice to the feet of our heavenly Father and ask Him to help you see others from His eyes. Every person is precious in His sight!

And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me:
God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16).

COVID Cake

But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna . . . and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil” (Numbers 11:6,8 NASB). This is just like the coronavirus pandemic! We have nothing to do but stay at home. Yet, isn’t that what people normally long for? Who doesn’t like cake? Who doesn’t long to go home after work and rest? Just like the children of Israel spending 40 years in the wilderness with nothing to do but be together and follow the Lord, we’ve been handed an extended “shelter-at-home” mandate by our government, for our own protection, and for many that even includes some financial support from the government.

The Israelites had been slaving away in Egypt, but God delivered them and moved them back to Israel, even supernaturally providing food for them on their journey. I admit to chaffing a little like the Israelites, who remembered the fish, the cucumbers and melons, the onions and garlic. Manna tasted like the best of the best—the perfect food, yet the children of Israel got bored with the best! I remember the restaurants we used to attend, and the places we used to visit, and I miss the freedom to go here and there at will. Yes, sometimes I’m tempted to get a little bored with the best too.

However, what a blessed time this has been for Alan and me! True enough, we miss our children and grandchildren severely. We miss visiting with our friends and worshiping corporately with our church community . . . all provisions the Israelites were allowed during their wilderness wanderings. Still, we have had more time to work on our home and yard than we’ve had in (literally) years. We’ve been enjoying leisurely devotional times together and morning walks before breakfast. Instead of spending two weeks in Belgium visiting some of our kids, we’ve been spending hours and hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, and redeeming our basement after 27 years of neglect. We’ve been chopping down weedy trees and rooting out the poison ivy that’s been over running the flowers along our fence line. We’ve been working until we’re so sore we can hardly move or think anymore and then enjoying movies together in the evenings. What’s not to love about that? Shouldn’t we be delighted to be able to be at home with our family and relishing the “manna” of more free time to cherish one another?

Dear Father, I know that many, many people are suffering from COVID. Over 100,000 have died here in America, and most all of us are experiencing economic and social losses. However, there are still over 330,000,000 of us who have not gotten COVID. Thank you! For those of us who have not contracted COVID and are alive and well, help us to use this time to concentrate on learning more about loving You and loving one another. Help us appreciate the “manna” of time . . . the “sabbath rest” of being home. There are so many silver linings in this storm. Help us to look up and see them!

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.’ Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it” (Numbers 11:4-9, NASB).

A Memorial Day Tribute

For anyone who’s feeling sad to miss being able to celebrate with friends and family this Memorial Day Weekend, I would like to remind us ( because I’m among this group) that Memorial Day was established as a day to mourn for and honor the valiant soldiers who have given their lives to keep our country free for the past 150+ years!

Memoirs of Omaha Beach Landing—so worth watching
for those of us who never lived through the horrors of World War 2.
Lord, deliver us from repeating our world’s past mistakes!

While exploring France a few years ago, we traveled to Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Lower Normandy, France so we could visit the Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie . . . the museum and monuments commemorating the battles of Normandy during World War 2.

I was born just five years after the war ended in Europe, but in America, nobody was really talking about the war. People were intent on trying to forget and rebuild their lives.

I think this was actually impossible, but because the war was mostly fought on foreign soil, and our guys were mostly buried overseas, the terrible scars and unending need for rebuilding was not as obvious.

Therefore, it meant all the more to me to be able to visit the Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie, with its vast storehouse of information about D-Day and the war to free Normandy, France from the Nazis.

The day we visited was immensely foggy and dreary . . . it couldn’t have been more somber or fitting.

Omaha Beach Memorial

If ever you’re tempted to start a war (even with your beloved family members), please stop and do a little research into the horrible effects and unforgettable sorrows you will inflict—not only on others, but also on yourself. There are ultimately NO winners in a war.

There will be the victors and the heroes . . . we actually got to meet one the day we visited. But, I feel certain that had I asked him, he would have wished the world had been able to contain and overcome the threat of world dictatorship without the terrible personal, national, and international losses.

However, I would also guess that until God causes wars to cease, people and nations will continue being willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for the freedoms they believe to be their God-given rights. It’s the ultimately difficult job, but I am grateful for every person who serves in our military—and for every military that protects the rights of their people to live peaceable, quiet, godly lives. Thank you, soldiers, and “Hats Off!” to my son and his family (serving in the military) as well. May God bless and protect you all.

Barbed wire still in place along Normandy Coast of France. Omaha Beach Landing

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:8-10). Oh Lord, we wait on you to bring an end to wars forever! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

After War Comes Peace

May 8, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe—a national holiday in France. Last week I shared with you a little bit about Jérôme, the french catechist who loves Jesus. In corresponding about VE-Day celebrations, Jérôme reminded me that “after war comes peace.”

What a comforting reminder for each of us during this season of world-wide unrest and “war” on COVID! Someday—we don’t know when—there will be peace again.

Rubble left from D-Day attack along the coast of Normandy, France
now adorned with gorse bushes

During our trip to France, I was touched over and over again by seeing this lived out in nature. All along the Normandy Coast, wildflowers and soothing fields of green grasses and moss were softening the terrain . . . overcoming destruction with beauty.

Violets and moss flourish atop an old stone wall. Mont Saint-Michel, France.

Did you know that “peace” is mentioned 420 times in the Bible? Something about the quiet glory of wildflowers taking root in rubble and along the rugged cliff sides made me think of peace.

Land scarred by bomb craters now jeweled with flowers

Peace can come to our hearts if we will open them to God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to quiet us. In this light, please let me share a few wildflowers from France and a handful of my favorite verses on peace from the Bible:

Honeybee on Forget-me-not

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace
(Ecclesiastes 3:1,8).

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).

Salvia and sea pinks stand like sentinels of peace along the cliffs of Étretat France.

Great peace have they which love thy law:
and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

Lichens and violets climb the walls of Mont Saint-Michel in France

But the meek shall inherit the earth;
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright:
for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:37).

Stinging Nettles

He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me:
for there were many with me” (Psalm 55:18).

Kidney Vetch on slopes at Cliffs of Etretat, France.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Columbine near Mont Saint-Michel in France.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Highbush Cranberry

Love the truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

Cabbage White Butterfly on Common Winter-cress

Mercy and truth are met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).

Mounds of wild roses transform the once Nazi-occupied Normandy Coast

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness
quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Honey bee on Gorse Bush. Étretat, France.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

Sea Pinks along cliffs of Étretat, France.

In his days shall the righteous flourish;
and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth” (Psalm 72:7).

Nature softens an abandoned bunker at Pointe du Hoc, France

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Trying to Keep Perspective

Have you seen this reminder of what life was like in America a hundred years ago? Yesterday, our governor announced that Michigan is going to be in lock-down for another two weeks, until May 28th. With most of the world, I was feeling a bit discouraged over being cooped up and distressed by the disruption of society as we’ve known and treasured it! Someone came up with this cogent reminder (below the cartoon), which I thought might be helpful to all of us as we struggle to keep biding our time:

“It’s a mess out there now . . . hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic and hysteria. For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.

On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and it doesn’t end until your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the same year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million. 
 
On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. This era of economic ruin lasts until you are 33. America nearly collapses . . . along with the rest of the world.
 
When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war. 
 
Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40’s, as it killed 300 million people during your lifetime.  
 
When you are 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. From your birth until you’re 55, you have to deal with the fear of polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and/or dying.  
 
At 55, the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict. During the Cold War, you live each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. On your 62nd birthday you experience the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War, when life on our planet—as we know it—almost ended. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they endure all of that? When you were a kid in 1985, you didn’t think your 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was, or how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art, refined and enlightening as time goes on. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Your parents and/or grandparents were called to endure all of the above—you are called to stay home and sit on your  couch—probably worried about how to survive on a reduced income and how to get your unemployment check.”

(I don’t know the author, but I appreciated the straight talk! The cartoon was posted on Sarah Jaeschke’s Face Time Line—thanks for the laugh, Sarah. 🙂 Let’s endure patiently, and if we still have food and shelter, we have great cause for being thankful!)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:18-21).

I Do

“How beautiful the sorrow
How exquisite all the pain
Without these tools of mercy
I could not have known your name

“For in my senseless journey
Strong needs were driving me
Each path I chose brought heartache
And still…I couldn’t see

“Your higher purpose for my life
The plans you had in mind
You saw the things that I would see
When I became un-blind

“Relentless love…O violent grace
Sweet heart of love so true
My tears were merely stones that
Paved the pathway back to you

“Royal groom…your very blood
Bought back your faithless bride
A marriage contract sealed the day
That you were crucified

“Thank you for our pain Lord
That betrothed my soul to you
I LOVE you Jesus … Savior. … God
I do . . . I do . . . I do !!!”  

—Composed and shared by a blog follower and sister in the Lord, Carol Simpkins Floyd, while reflecting on Hosea 2 and Revelation 21:9. Copyright 2011.

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9).      

And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:19-20 and 23).

Thorny Crowns

The crown of thorns they placed on Jesus’ head
Adorned the king of kings with unjust shame.
It was for us his precious blood was shed;
He bore our weight of punishment and blame.

“Corona” is the “crown” of viral ill.
Contagious as the curse of sin and death.
Invisibly infecting whom it will
Through sharing touch or just the kiss of breath.

Do we deserve to die because we live?
Can we escape this cursed crown of pain?
Can we accept the crown of thorns and give
The blessed hope of life to those once slain?

When Christ was resurrected from the tomb
It proved not only that he was the King,
But also that a kingly crown has room
For thorns and sickness both within its ring.

We are your willing servants, Lord of Love,
So we will bear our crowns of shame and grief,
Until we meet you face to face above
And spring at last from suff’ring to relief.

In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory,
and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people” (Isaiah 28:5).

I wrote this poem after reflecting on a comment from one of my blog followers, who pointed out that “corona” means “crown,” and that the coronavirus is—in a way—the “crowning virus.” In this world we will experience both abundance and lack, joy and pain, goodness and evil. God calls us to believe, to love, to be faithful, to trust and obey. The rest is up to Him.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

Fostering Hope: “You Can’t Scare Me with Heaven!”

Last month, a new baby was born into my world of joys, and her parents named her “Hope.” Don’t you love it?! When was the last time you met someone with such an uplifting name? I think we’re living in a world that’s in desperate need of hope. Yesterday I hoped to sit with two different friends (coincidentally at the same hospital and close in time!) while their spouses had surgery to have tumors removed. (Although, I couldn’t find one of them! 😦 ) One is about my age, so in a sense having a tumor isn’t out of the range of normal possibilities (albeit still frightening), but the other person is a young woman who is like a spiritual daughter to me . . . so “way too young” (at least in my mind) to be going through what might be a life-threatening medical issue.

Last Sunday Alan and I went Northridge Church with our daughter Kathy and her family. As always, we heard an excellent message from their lead pastor, Brad Powell. Their current series is about going back to Square One in our lives, and this week’s topic was “Hope.”

Brad reminded us that Jesus Christ is our only hope, and He alone has the power to forgive and redeem our past, provide eternal purpose and power in the present, and guarantee the promise of resurrection and eternal life after death. If you are not a Christian, then feel free to disagree and tell me if you’ve found something that meets these needs in your life even better . . . but for me, I totally agreed with Brad’s assessment!

Near the end of the message, Brad shared a wonderful story about his father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had survived a lot of hard things in his life, so even though he was given a very poor prognosis, he lived in hope, and he lived much longer than expected! However, eventually it was obvious that he was dying and there was no hope of his surviving much longer. Brad’s father went from active to passive and died within a few days. All hope for his survival was gone, and he had no interest in prolonging his death.

But, not all hope was gone. Brad’s father still retained a bright hope for life after death, and when Brad went to visit, lamenting the fact that his father was dying, his dad was still able to manage a twinkle: “You can’t scare me with heaven!” No, death was not scary to Brad’s father, because he knew that the death of his physical body was just the segue to heaven and being in the presence of Christ forever! “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Are you scared of death? I’m not. (Pain and the process . . . yes, but not my body being dead.) If you believe in Jesus, you needn’t be afraid of dying, and I hope nobody can scare you with the prospects of your going to heaven!!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace” (Romans 15:13).

(P.S.—If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll go to heaven when you die but would like to know, please click on the “Coming to Christ” icon at the top of this page. It will take you to a place that explains how to enter into a covenant with God whereby you can know for sure you will go to heaven when you die.)

Thoughts on Retirement, Hope, Love, and Plucking Thorns

Last Friday was Valentine’s Day, and this week Alan and I are celebrating our 47th anniversary! In addition, we will both be turning 70 this year. Even though we are staring down inevitable retirement before too long, we are both feeling very vivacious and so are full of hope that there will be “life after retirement” and a future that will include all the things my father used to say were the essential ingredients for “the good life of all VIPS” (that’s all of us) . . . that our lives should be Varied, Integrated, Productive, and Social.

My father was not a professing Christian at that point in his life, so if I were making my own personal statement, I would definitely want God in the spotlight, but I do think Dad’s points are well taken. I would love to continue to be able to enjoy variety, integrity/integration, productivity, and social interaction, and in all the research studies, those qualities do come out as critical to emotional well-being and even longevity.

However, I have known more than a few loved ones (Alan’s father being one) who barely survived his retirement before being diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am seeing this more and more often, and it definitely makes me feel like I’m going to be holding my breath very tightly when we jump off the end of the retirement diving board!

One dear friend, whom I admire greatly, is struggling with her own beloved husband, who had a fabulous career and was always a rock in her life . . . but is now showing undeniable symptoms of memory loss just a few years post retirement. As we Boomers begin to time out, we find ourselves grieving losses. Our own. Those of our beloved spouses and friends. 😦 I don’t mean to discourage anyone who’s looking forward to retirement. Alan’s older brother, and my two older brothers have all retired and are aging extremely well, so it can be done! However, I want to share this timely and tender consolation from a devotional my friend shared with me:

A Valentine Devotion on the Cycles of Life
I Corinthians 13:7 NIV
“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

“Years ago I copied this paragraph from George Matheson’s book published in 1909, The Representative Men of the New Testament. He writes that we can see these same cycles in romantic love [as in the cycles of life]. It’s an old book and I loved this paragraph for its poetry and imagery more than for its realism. Today I see its realism. I will read it as my conclusion: ‘What is the common process of love’s enlargement? Take a human love; take what we generally term romantic love. What are the stages through which it is wont to pass? I think there are four. At first it is a hope – something to be realized tomorrow. Then it is a present possession but reserved as yet only for garden hours when we are free from the bustle of the crowd. By and by its range is widened – it becomes a stimulus for the great duties of life; it comes out from the garden into the city; it nerves to do and to bear. At last it reaches its climax – it comes down to trifles. It glorifies the commonplace; it finds sermons in stones and sonnets in the dust. Little things are magnified; unromantic things are glorified. We do prosaic work. We perform menial duties. We go through cheerful drudgery. We pluck thorns.'”