Meditating on the Commands of Christ (78): Weep Not

Jesus wept, so why did he tell the widow of Nain to “Weep not!”? Was Jesus being unfeeling or unkind? You know—”Keep a stiff upper lip and show no emotion!”? Luke records that “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.” (Luke 7:14). Therefore, Jesus’ response was not rooted in harshness, but in love. He wanted her to feel hope rather than despair, because he was going to restore her son to her!

“Resurrection of the Widow’s son from Nain”
Lucas Cranach the Younger (c. 1569)

There are so many points that could be made about this passage, but there are three I can’t resist making, so please excuse me. First, Jesus was doing something new. This is the first instance in the New Testament of Jesus raising someone from the dead. Those of us who know the Bible well realize that Jesus raised several people from the dead, so we lose the impact of the supernatural nature of this event. It reminds me of a missionary who recounted to me a (true) story of returning from a village deep in the heart of China. When he arrived, one of the Christians told him a member of their church had died but then had been raised from the dead. The missionary exclaimed in amazement, “How did you do that?!” to which the young man responded (with just as much amazement), “What do you mean? You’re the minister! We just prayed like Jesus did. What else?”

“Miracle at Nain” by Mario Minniti (1620)

There is no power outside of Christ that can raise people from the dead. No other great spiritual leader, be it Buddha or Mohamed, or anybody else, has had a ministry of raising people from the dead. (I do know a few Christians who prayed over a dead person who came back to life, but just once in each case, not as a verifiable practice.) The fact that Jesus raised several people from the dead (and rose from the dead himself), sets him apart from any other religious leader in his authority. No one else ever claimed, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). First point? Jesus was unique in his ministry and claims. Either he was a shyster, or he was whom he claimed to be: The “only begotten” Son of God.

The second point I want to make is that “Nain” is a real place. “Nain” means “green pastures” or “lovely,” and is associated with the little village of Nein, still in existence today on the northwestern slope of the Hill of Moreh and overlooking the Plain of Jezreel. Specifically, the GPS is: 32°37’48″N, 35°20’47″E. Up a steep hill, about half a kilometer away, there are tombs cut into the side of the mountain. People can (and do) go to visit the little Franciscan Church there, which is (according to tradition) said to be built on the site of the widow’s home.

So what? So, the Bible is full of exact names and places that can be found in time and space. Christianity is a religion tied firmly to this earth and is unique in this. According to Dr. Barry Beitzel, geographical places are mentioned between 1,100-1,200 times.* Hundreds (though not all) of those places can still be traced today (at least the remains thereof). So, you may not believe the miraculous events recorded in the Bible, but at least appreciate that earnest people saw and recorded actual events in time and space that they believed were true miracles.

Altar in the Church of Nain. Israel

Jesus’ kindness in raising the widow’s son not only occurred at a particular time and place, it happened under the purview of many people, including “many of his disciples went with him, and much people” (Luke 7:12).

This wasn’t done like a magic trick by sleight of hand. All sorts of people knew the widow’s son had died and must have felt such compassion for her that they were attending the procession taking the bier up to the burial site. Nobody was challenging the mother about whether or not her son was really dead! Jesus’ action was so miraculous that “there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (Luke 7:16).

“Widow of Nain” by James Tissot

Third point: If this account happened in a real place, at a real time, observed by many people who responded by glorifying God and understanding that God had raised up a great prophet and was in fact visiting his people . . . wouldn’t you want to know this great prophet, also known as “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23; see also Isaiah 7:14)? Jesus rose from the dead, is alive today, and welcomes you to get to know Him!

Jesus can deliver us from death, through death, or in death, but always with compassion, and if we put our trust in him, he will always bring us safely to heaven! So, like the widow of Nain, let’s learn to “Weep not!” Jesus is able to resurrect us, just like he resurrected the widow’s son! “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:1-6).

Text for this meditation:And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (Luke 7:11-16).

“Christ Raising the Widow’s Son.” Painting in the Franciscan Church at Nein in Israel

Credits: *Dr. Barry Beitzel, ed. The Lexham Geographic Commentary of the Gospels. I learned this from a fascinating interview between Dr. Beitzel and Dr. Armstong:

https://www.aqueductproject.org/unitas-fidei

**Also, I found several of the pictures and the best geographical information on a site called “Seetheholyland.net.” I don’t know anything about their religious views but very much appreciate their carefully detailed information. Thank you!

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).

Peace in Action

Tuesday I paired photos of wildflowers with verses on peace from the Bible, promulgating the biblical claim that peace can come to our hearts if we will open them to God’s Holy Spirit and allow him to quiet us. Quite coincidentally, all that day (Tuesday), our entire Sunday school class had been praying for one of our members—Sam, who had an MRI scheduled and was worried about how he would do because he’s been extremely claustrophobic for years. That evening we received the following update, and it was such a “real life” confirmation of what God says He will do for us that I want to share it with you today, in case you’re frightened about something in your life. This is the response Sam sent via our Sunday school prayer chain:

Praise the Lord for how He used you and your prayers for my good and His Glory.  For me to ask you for this prayer request was humbling. What does it say about a clinical psychologist who is asking for help dealing with a phobia?  I did not have a problem asking the Lord for His help, but it was humbling to share my problem with each of you. My specific request was for God to remove my fear of feeling horizontally trapped in an MRI machine today.

I think it may be helpful to share a little of the history of where
and how my experience with claustrophobia began.  If you are not
familiar with farm machinery you may not know what a combine is.  When
harvesting soybeans in the fall, especially in the evening, the stalks
can get tough and the combine can get plugged up.  Being 12 years of age
and small, I was the one chosen to climb in the back of the combine
(on my stomach) and unplug the piece of machinery. However, I got stuck; I was frozen and could not move forward, backward, up or down. To add to the problem it was getting dark and my uncle had to dismantle part of machine to free me and get me out.  Never will I forget that evening, but after today it has a new meaning. I’m sure it will still affect me, but it will never again control me.

Most of us know that the solution to getting something out of our mind that we don’t want in there is to use addition, not subtraction.  This is where the power of corporate prayer resides.  I knew that Jesus was with me, and my plan today was to quote Scripture the whole time and to block everything else out of my mind. (This is not a bad idea—God tells us to do that, and it’s often the right thing to do.) However, for today (God, not the devil) told me not to use this particular method.

Over and over again, He said, “All I want you to do is: LISTEN TO ME.”
He told me that hundreds of people were praying for me “this very hour,
right now,”  and that all I needed to do was, “Listen to Me.” I found endless
comfort in Exodus 14:14 (“The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace”) and Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth”)!  What an intimate experience I had with Jesus!  Never once did I experience any fear. It was enjoyable, peaceful, and comforting.

Thank you for praying for me today.  Thank you for taking time out of
your day and for listening to God and for praying for me.  I have been
praying that God would bless each one of you, for your service to Him.
Because you prayed, all I did was listen to Jesus. Your prayers today
enabled me to experience the Joy of the Lord in a whole new dimension.

I expect to find out the results of the MRI test in 3–5 days. I will
let you know when I know. My prayer request for this week is for God
to be glorified through whatever the results of the test are. I am
excited about what He has planned for me.  I trust Him.  Because God
is Love, He always wills what is best for me. He is omniscient. He knows what I need, and since He is sovereign He has the power to bring it all together.  I trust Him.

To God be the Glory,

Samuel J. Roth

Reading Sam’s testimony to God’s faithfulness and mercy brought this verse to my mind: “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (Daniel 10:19). And, I know that He is willing to strengthen any of us to cry out to Him for help!

P.S.—Thank you, Sam, for giving me permission to share this wonderful account of God’s deliverance and your peace. God is so good!!

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).

To Open or Not to Open; To Go to the Hospital or Stay at Home . . .

If you were like me, it was a huge disappointment to hear that instead of reopening society (here in Michigan at any rate) on May 1 as hoped, we need to be in lock-down mode until at least Mid-May. This lady explains why:

Actually, this is just for fun, so you can catch her drift in a few seconds. There’s a really important, serious video from an ED doc below that I would love you to take time for . . .

Seriously, as hard as it is to keep socially distancing ourselves from everybody we love as well as everybody we don’t even know, it’s probably critically important to be very careful with this deadly, highly contagious disease. Grand Rapids has now been caught in the cross-currents between Detroit and Chicago and is experiencing record numbers of new cases daily. Statisticians are now thinking that Grand Rapids might not peak until September, but the even sadder news is that the world will likely be fighting COVID-19 for at least the next year or two (or longer) depending on how soon a vaccine is developed and whether or not 8 billion people can be vaccinated in a timely manner. 😦

Also, as EDs (Emergency Departments) and ICUs (Intensive Care Units) get more experience, they’ve learned some lessons about the nature and course of COVID. According to Dr. Richard Levitan—who’s spent 30 years as an ED doctor specializing in airways and recently volunteered at Bellevue Hospital in NYC—people who are contracting COVID are waiting too long to go to the hospital. Rather than wait until they’re having breathing difficulties, they need to go in as soon as their oxygen levels start to drop. If you don’t have a pulse oximeter (and right now you can buy one of Amazon for $30) to monitor your own oxygen levels, then if you’re symptomatic, you would be wise to go directly to a medical center where they can measure and monitor your oxygen levels. Those who get treated for COVID before they need a ventilator are much more likely to survive. Please take time to watch this PBS presentation, where Dr. Levitan explains the very compelling reasoning behind this advice. It’s well worth the 17-minute investment and might save your life or that of one of your loved ones:

Click on the link below this photo—

https://www.pbssocal.org/programs/amanpour-co/why-covid-19-patients-should-be-going-hospitals-sooner-2a6jq/

Thanks for listening! Stay safe!

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 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. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46).

Understanding Stress and Stress-Relieving Strategies

This world-wide COVID pandemic has increased humanity’s stress load beyond anything most of us have personally experienced. First, I want to point out that stress is a fact of life and actually improves performance up to a point (see chart above), but it must be managed or we’ll be overwhelmed. So, let’s take on the challenge, identify the pressures, prepare as best we can, and repair what’s already broken.

The first step is assessing the situation. A sense of having no control fuels stress in crises, so we need to control what we can to maintain as much good health as possible. As a wise pastor explained to me: “You may not be able to control your circumstances, and you shouldn’t try to control others, but you can and should control your attitudes and actions.” Not dealing with stress now can result in PTSD or other long-term psychological and physical problems, so it’s important to recognize and respond well to stress with appropriate self care. Assess these areas of your life:

  1. Sleep: Are you getting adequate rest? Are you sleeping enough but not too much? If you’re having trouble sleeping, the best way to improve sleep habits is to set an alarm to get up at a reasonable hour and train yourself to wake up and get up at the same time each morning.
  2. Exercise: Regular, daily exercise is critical to good health. If you can, get outside and walk! Use this time to relax. Intentionally use your five senses to increase your pleasure! Listen to the birds, feel the warmth of the sun (or rain!) on your face, smell the freshness of spring. Breathe deeply (but not as your neighbors pass by 🙂 ) and appreciate the break from being inside in quarantine for most of your time.
  3. Diet: Not going on a diet, but eating well. This is not the time to try to lose weight (which increases stress), but it’s important to eat healthy, nourishing, regular meals. If you can’t enjoy your normal supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, consider using a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Alan and I have never been fans of supplements, but a supplement is better than becoming malnourished. On the other hand, this is a critical time for disciplining yourself against binge eating, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, or eating foods that are bad for you due to medical conditions. I’ve been making one dessert per week as a special treat, but this would not be a good way to improve “self care” for those who have diabetes (for example). Find ways of relieving stress that are within the parameters of your health needs!
  4. Medical/Emotional Needs: Continue to care for your medical conditions, including emotional and spiritual needs. Don’t ignore them just because you’re afraid to go to a clinic or hospital! Contact your physician, therapist, or minister as needed for advice and counsel.
  5. Spiritual Needs: As a Christian, I find my daily “quiet time” critical for my sense of peace and well being. Studies show that people of all faiths (or no faith) profit from 20 minutes (or so) of quiet meditation each day. I meditate on the Bible and pray, and I recommend this 100%. In my personal appraisal of stress, my devotional time comes second only to my sleep in effecting my overall sense of well being. (I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never suffered food or shelter deprivation, but I’m sure that would severely effect my sense of well being too!) Don’t underestimate the importance of getting in touch with your spiritual side—and the God who created you!
  6. Social Needs: The sense of isolation that results from being quarantined tends to amplify tension and stress, so find ways to spend time with loved ones, even if it means communicating through Skype, WhatsApp, Signal, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. There are many ways to keep up with family and friends besides being physically present together (which is everybody’s favorite way). Be creative. I had to learn how to use WhatsApp and Signal, but I now have more active communication with some of my nieces and nephews than I did before COVID hit! My monthly prayer time with my two prayer partners has moved to a Zoom Room. I’d way rather have my kids and grand kids visit than all this virtual stuff, but—praise God for virtual connections! Let’s be glad for what we have during times when we can’t have everything we want and think we need!

The second step is to try to prepare going forward by building some stress-relieving activities into your schedule. During times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to be intentional about self-care and care for others. Get together with those in your sheltering-at-home unit and open up with one another about your needs. Solve problems as a family. Plan “alone” time for each of you into your day to replenish your energy for being together. Parents and elders need to lead well by slowing down, being intentional about earning trust and respect by making wise decisions, asking for forgiveness when they fail, and being “servant leaders” without being overly self-critical or perfectionistic in their expectations either for themselves or those in their care. Be honest, transparent, and timely in communicating the changing circumstances. Don’t try to hide the facts to protect your spouse or kids. They’ll know something is amiss and become uneasy, feeling “betrayed” when the truth comes out later. Keep communication open and flowing. When communication stops, people tend to imagine the worst! Be a good role model. People are eager for good leadership during crises, and your family will be very likely to follow your leadership if they trust and respect your judgment.

How to relieve stress? Here are some ideas:

  1. Plan breaks for relaxation: This may mean some down time for reading a book, playing music or watching a video. For children, it might be some free time to play games; for adults, it might include time for a leisurely hot shower or a soak in the tub. I realize with small children, these might seem close to impossible luxuries, but maybe you can take turns giving your spouse a little time off for a quiet breather!
  2. Be grateful and thankful: Look for the good and focus on that. Be appreciative. Try to compliment others and become an encourager. I remember during one particularly difficult time in our marriage, we were both advised to try to find at least one thing each day to appreciate and thank our spouse for doing or being. I’ve heard that a really good relationship will have about seven times as many compliments and expressions of appreciation as bits of correction or critique.
  3. Look for the silver linings and humor: Laughter is good medicine and a great stress reliever (as long as you’re laughing with and not at someone). Think positive! I remember reading about someone incarcerated (unjustly) who found delight in an ant racing across the floor of the prison. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, read the biography of Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic as a teenager after a diving accident. I recently listened through her incredible story, The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus. After reading this book, I feel like I’ll never have anything to complain about again!
  4. Take time to learn something new: In a way, I feel like the COVID pandemic has enforced a bit of “sabbath rest” on everyone (at least those of us who are older), because we can’t go anywhere and are so limited in our options. This is the “perfect” time to pick up that hobby you’ve always wanted to try. If you have internet access, there are tutorials on just about every subject under the sun, so now’s your golden opportunity to become proficient on the guitar, painting, star gazing, needlework, language, and on and on! If you have kids, possibly you can involve them too! I think most of us totally underestimate how much our children can understand and enjoy things that interest adults too.
Ken and Joni (Eareckson) Tadi—
and she’s still glowing after more than 50 years as a quadriplegic!

So, if we’ve assessed our situations and taken some positive measures to prepare for less stress going forward, the last thing on our “to do” list is to get rid of the things that impact our family negatively. Here are some important stressors to avoid:

  1. Too much media, including T.V. radio, phones, social media: Use only sources you trust and limit your exposure so that you’re only learning what you need to know in order to protect yourself and live a healthy life. More news than you need will only promote anxiety: “While anger can lower one’s perception of risk, fear ratchets it up” (Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 15, No. 6, 2006). Reduce stress by reducing fear.
  2. Faulty coping techniques: Humans tend to have three responses to fear: flight, fight, or freeze. Faulty “flights” (escapes to avoid dealing with reality) are theoretically “stress relievers” but actually add to stress. These include such things as giving in to addictions like alcohol, drugs, porn, playing video games, binge eating or over sleeping, etc. Faulty “fights” include taking your stress out on others instead of taking responsibility for yourself in your situation and learning how to handle the problems appropriately. Becoming verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive solves nothing and does great damage to those around you. Take a break. Count to ten (or 10,000 if need be). Get down on your knees and pray, asking God for help to control your anger. Go for a walk, but don’t hurt the ones who love you the most! Finally, faulty “freeze” responses include things like isolating or withdrawing socially even beyond what is necessary, becoming vegatative or dysfunctional, hiding in your room or refusing to talk to anybody. Short term you may think this is easier than meeting the challenges head on, but like the rafter heading into the white water, if you don’t lean into the waves, you’ll get washed overboard out the back.

Hope this helps a little! We can’t control COVID, but we really need to control ourselves, and by learning to control ourselves, we will lessen our own stress and help alleviate the stress in those around us. I realize that controlling our own fear sometimes seems completely beyond us. If you are feeling overwhelmed and like you’ve already been washed out the back end of your rescue raft, then I pray you will meditate on these verses and ask the LORD to help you find peace in your soul:

Let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4).

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” (Judges 6:23).

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Psalm 56:4).

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

If you don’t find any of these verse consoling, then perhaps you don’t know the Lord Jesus as your savior. In that case, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7)! If you want help in knowing God and being able to “depart from evil,” then please click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this post and read about how you can find peace with God.

(Credit for the first chart and much of the inspiration for this post was found on the website for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, where my husband serves as the Chief Medical Officer. This site has a host of valuable resources related to mental health issues. I’ve added the link below just in case you have other questions on your heart too.)

Domestic Violence During COVID

This is a tough subject, but one that needs addressing! I was out walking our lane last week and a young woman was trespassing, although when I stopped to talk to her, I discovered that she was either mentally ill or being abused, or most likely some of both. In the process of trying to help her, I’ve been digging into research and discovered that domestic abuse and violence is becoming distressingly higher during the world’s COVID lock down. Hospitals that are not overflowing with COVID patients are actually significantly down in their censuses. Our psychiatric hospital’s census has been down, and I naively imagined it was because families were home together and better able to attend the needs of their mentally ill family members. I don’t know the “true” truth, but it appears that people are avoiding hospitals for fear of contracting COVID, but this does not mean that the mentally ill are being graciously and patiently cared for by loving family members. In fact, alcoholism, drug use, and abuse are sky rocketing, and in the areas where reporting of abuse has gone down, the fear is that this is only because it’s become harder to get the privacy to make calls for help without being detected.

If you or anyone you know or love is being abused, there is a Hotline for National Domestic Violence in America: 1-800-799-7233. I haven’t actually tested this number, but if you call and find it unhelpful, there probably is a number in your city or country where you can call for help. In America, you can always call “911” and they can direct you. For most people, the danger of coronavirus, though real, may not be as potentially lethal as a violent spouse. For instance, an article in the New York Times on April 17, 2020 reported that “according to various unofficial Covid-19 trackers that calculate the death rate by dividing total deaths by the number of known cases, about 6.4 percent of people infected with the virus have now died worldwide.” This same article went on to say that the death rate “in the United States, [is] around 4.3 percent, according to the latest figures on known cases and deaths.” According to other sources, at this point 80% of those dying are over 65 or have an underlying medical condition. So, if you are under 65 and otherwise in good health, your chance of sustaining a serious or life-threatening injury from a violent partner is greater than your risk of death from COVID, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

Last night Alan and I watched the 2019 adaptation of John Bunyan’s immortal tale, Pilgrim’s Progress (animated version). We both loved it, and I want to recommend it. But beyond thinking it was a well done retelling of one of the world’s greatest classics, one the most significant points of the movie is that if we call out to God for HELP, He will help us. This is not just fairy-tale romance, this is true! God will reveal himself to those who seek him sincerely: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God is alive and well, and He is able to help you. I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do if you’re in distress, but I can promise you that if you sincerely repent and surrender your heart to God, He will save you and show you the right path to take. He can do for each of us what no human being can do, and He will if we ask.

My (new) young friend at first could not believe that God loved her, as her father had never claimed her and her mother had died in January. She said she wanted to kill herself because God—if he did exist—did not love her and wouldn’t want her or help her. Thankfully, she did listen to God’s Word and did believe! “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If you will reach out and ask God for help, he will help you too! Please reach out!

(Please don’t think I’m taking this problem lightly in any way by using graphics from the animated version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but (of course) I can not use real photographs of real people for this terribly difficult subject. God knows what you need. He can help you!)

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).

Ten Shopping Tips for Once-a-Month Shopping

By the time Alan and I had finished our one-hour shopping spree yesterday, I was so hot from my winter coat and double mask that perspiration was dripping down my face into my mouth. “Great!” I despaired. “My mask has become a condenser to allow all the COVID viruses people are coughing my way to trickle straight from my forehead into my throat.” So,

Tip One: Dress lighter than usual. I had on a winter coat, because it’s snowing here, but I didn’t want to take it off lest it pick up COVID-19 viruses, so I kept it on. On one of these shopping marathons, people are stressed and concentrating like runners, so temperatures run higher. Masks also seem to make people a little hotter, too, so dress less.

Tip Two: Clean everything properly as soon as you return home. If you don’t know what that means, one of our neighbors (a doctor whose daughter used to take piano lessons from one of our sons) made an excellent video. Here’s a link for a 1.22 second version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1RSRApcfBg

Here’s the full 8-minute version

Tip Three: AFTER you’ve cleaned everything appropriately, keep your fresh fruits and veggies protected from drying out or wilting by storing them in plastic. I use clean plastic bags and close them with clothes pins. Super simple; super easy access. (Depending on the humidity in your climate, make sure the produce isn’t “sweating.” If moisture accumulates too much inside the plastic bags, wipe everything dry with clean paper towels and try again. Too much moisture will accelerate mold and degeneration. It’s a balance.)

Tip Four: Keep fruits and veggies super chilled but not freezing. If you can’t fit it all in your fridge, find a cold storage area, like an unheated porch or inside the trunk of your car inside your garage (if you live in Michigan, where it’s still cold). All breads freeze well, but if you don’t have freezer space, at least keep them cold if you can. However, for fresh produce, the temperature needs to be between ideally about 34°F.- 41°F. I put all meats, dairy, eggs, and delicate fruits and veggies in my refrigerator, but allow the overflow of vegetables and fruits to go into “cold storage” wherever I think the temperature will be the coldest without freezing. I tuck my bananas in with a blanket at night. Sweet dreams, little fruits! 🙂

Tip Five: This may seem obvious, but buy the firmest, freshest produce you can find. I had some berries that lasted almost three weeks but others that started to mold in under a week. Blackberries need to be totally BLACK when you buy them; any red means they’re already starting to age and are a bit overripe. Peppers with very firm skin (NO wrinkles or softness) can last almost a month. If you have produce that becomes over-ripe or starts to brown before you can use it, you can always process it for freezing. Almost all fresh produce that you freeze will become mushy when you defrost it, but most will still work fine in pasta sauces, soups, and (almost, but not so well) in stir-fry dishes. Apples can be turned into apple sauce and then will freeze well, etc. Berries freeze great and can retain their color and flavor for months, although they do become mushy when thawed.

Tip Six: List of Fresh Fruits and Veggies that can last a month if kept cold without freezing:

Fruits:
*Citrus in particular, anything with a thick skin. If you’ve never been a fan of grapefruits, this might be a good time to make friends with them, as they last well
*Melons, especially if you catch them before they’re super ripe. I had one watermelon that lasted over a month!
*Apples (keep them protected from the air with plastic)
*Bananas. Bananas?? Yes; if you don’t damage them by bruising pressures, they can last almost a month if you keep them cold enough. The skins will turn black, but the bananas will still be reasonably solid. If they get too mushy, you can always make banana bread (or a good smoothie).

Veggies:
*Root vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas, and beets. In the olden days (on the prairies when my mother was a little girl 100 years ago), pioneers kept their apples and root vegetables through the winter by burying them in sand (below the frost line) or stashed in containers in their “root” cellars. The sand kept them from drying out and regulated the humidity. Modern organic gardeners use some of the same principles today.
*Other great veggies for long-term storage: winter squash (hard-shelled types, like butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.) and cabbage (green and red). Cabbage is extremely versatile, low in calories, and packed with vitamins. Think about it!

Tip Seven: Many refrigerated dairy products will last a month (or much longer)
* Yogurts
*Cottage cheese
*Cheese
*Butter: (Butter also freezes fine if you have the space)
*Milk: believe it or not, fresh milk freezes just fine if you have freezer space. A couple of days before you’re ready to use it, let it start defrosting overnight in your kitchen sink (with a pan under it just in case there’s a crack in the container from freezing). Give it another day or so to completely defrost, shaking it often to break apart the crystals. Make sure it always stays icy cold. As soon as it’s mostly defrosted, store it in the refrigerator.
*Half’n’half: look for the “Ultra Pasturized” types. Some stay fresh for over a month!

Tip Eight: Eggs can last much longer than Americans think! In many places (Australia and Asia in particular), eggs aren’t even refrigerated. I was shocked to discover this! Look at the “Best By XXXX” labels on your food. Choose the furthest out date you can find. The rule is that any food should be good for up to a week after the due date (if refrigerated properly), so even if your milk or eggs (etc.) say “Best By XXX” they can be used for up to a week after that date.

Tip Nine: Meats are the only seriously dangerous food and should be handled with great care. (Obviously, there are other ways of getting food poisoning—such as salmonella from unwashed eggs or botulism from poorly canned foods, but I’m talking about fresh foods.) Small packages of sealed pepperoni can stay in the refrigerator for months (look at the date) and make for great pizzas with not much cost or space. Salami freezes well, and a little can go a long way. I may be overly zealous, but my rule is to use any meat that’s been served for dinner within one week, and I usually try to reheat it before serving it again. As soon as your meal is over, place any meat or meat-product dishes straight into the refrigerator. Never leave them lying out!!

Tip Ten: If you have any doubts about the freshness of food but are still needing it (as opposed to starving), then cook it for at least 3 minutes at an internal temperature of 170°F. or so. However, throw out meat or meat dishes that haven’t been properly refrigerated or are too old. The last thing you want is to end up in the hospital because you ate something that was full of bacteria! Many foods won’t “kill you” even if they’re bruised or moldy. Most old breads and cheeses are still edible even if there is mold on them. Just take off the moldy part. Obviously (which you doubtless already know), bruised fruits and veggies are still edible even if wilty or bruised. Remove any dark spots and use normally. This may not sound very appetizing, and hopefully you won’t have to resort to the dregs of food, but it might be worth knowing in a hard pinch!

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:3-5). Think of what a difference it would make if we all tried as hard to have pure hearts as we are trying to have clean hands these days!

COVID Shopping In Style!

Having not been shopping in more than a month, Alan and I weren’t sure what to expect for our “Senior” hour shopping trip from 7:00-8:00 am yesterday. We set the alarm and woke up before dawn, feeling as tense as if we were about to leave for a transcontinental flight! It was snowing lightly, so I bundled up in my winter coat and dawned my handy, dandy double face mask along with a pair of rubber gloves. We were at the store and ready to shop by 6:59 am, and Meijer was ready for us . . . along with a straggley stream of older folks.

We were intent on being in and out before 8:00 am when the general public is welcome to shop, so I divided our carefully organized shopping list in two. Alan’s list included the pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and non-food supplies, and I concentrated on food.

The store was fairly well stocked, although I did overhear one husband complaining to his wife in the baking aisle, “Welcome to the decimation of the cake mixes!” We were allowed only 2 boxes of kleenex and 2 packages of toilet paper.

There was no fels naptha soap to be found (best over-the-counter way to get rid of poison ivy we know) and no tomato soup or frozen grape juice. No rubber gloves or disinfectant wipes, but they did have some toilet bowl cleaner this time . . . and some leftover Easter candy. 🙂

We felt like treasure hunters, and YES! We were back in the car with our treasures loaded by 8:00 am, although it took me the rest of the morning to wash, separate, isolate, store, and wash down every surface of everything we touched from the shopping bags to the frozen foods, door handles, keys, and credit card. Now we have to wait 14 days to see if we’ll catch COVID (again??) or if we’re going to be okay.

Strange times, aren’t they? And this is in Grand Rapids, which so far has not yet been hit by the COVID tidal waves that are moving in from Chicago to our west and Detroit from the east. (Grand Rapids is in the middle between them, where there’s not much action yet.) Will we be hit by terrible cross-currents, or will COVID fly over our heads like a tornado that never really touches down? The prognosticators are saying we should know in a month.

Tomorrow I want to share a few ideas for shopping strategies, and a poem written by my brother, but today I wanted to share photos of fellow shoppers, just in case you’re wondering what’s in vogue for dress while shopping these days. 🙂

The horse is prepared against the day of battle:
but safety is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

Of course, I didn’t really see any of these amazing get-ups at Meijer yesterday. They all came from a forward of a friend on line infinitum, so I have no clue who took them or where they occurred, but I thought we all might benefit from some styling tips! 🙂