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).

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).

Disturb Us, Lord, As You Disturbed The Soldier

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; when having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build the new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. Stir us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes, and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope and love. All this we pray through Jesus Christ. Amen” (—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, based on an older prayer that has been attributed to Sir Francis Drake, which I heard last Sunday during my son Stephen’s church service).

Isn’t this a beautiful prayer? By the way, how was your Easter Sunday? Despite my initial disappointment over not being able to attend a live church service and my sorrow over not having nineteen kids and grandchildren over for dinner after church, it was a truly wonderful day! As a result of worshiping virtually on-line, Alan and I ended up “attending” three church services: the first in Detroit where our son-in-law had participated in the production of a marvelous 30-minute movie; the second in Hilton, New York, where one of our sons is the pianist (and where I heard the wonderfully disturbing prayer above!), and the last service here in GR—our home church. We could never have done that in person in real time!!

Our pastor mentioned not long ago that one of his worst fears when he accepted the call to minister at our church was that someday he might be preaching to an empty church. I don’t think he ever dreamed that he’d literally be preaching in a sanctuary with 2,000 empty seats, but he was on Easter Sunday. His comment was that even if our “worst fears” actually occur, they probably won’t be as terrible as we imagine beforehand, because God provides a grace in ways we can’t imagine.

I don’t think one of my worst fears was not being surrounded by family and friends on some holiday, but I will say that Alan and I had a truly happy and very spiritually fulfilling Easter. Not only did we get to attend three services online, we had a family Zoom call with many of our children, and over the course of the day were in contact with all our kids and grand kids.

We walked our lane in the sunshine, listened to a beautiful concert at the Duomo sung by Andrea Bocelli (recommended by our CA family), and watched a fantastic production of the Life of Jesus (filmed live in front of an audience) in the evening. Christians, churches, and Christian organizations around the world were offering all sorts of free opportunities.

What a blessed day it was! The COVID Grinch had no chance to steal Easter, and in some ways, our Easter celebration was even sweeter and more focused on God that it is usually. There was no temptation for me to be a “too busy Martha” caught up with serving others. Very quiet but deeply satisfying to my spirit.

One of the highlights of the day for me personally was watching the service at Northridge, which included a 30-minute film imagining how one of the soldiers who participated in the crucifixion of Jesus might have felt, and how he transitioned from disturbed to finding peace, despite (probably) his worst fear coming true. If you have time to watch this some evening, please do! It’s still available here:

https://www.thesoldierfilm.com/ (click on this link, not the photo below)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Unlike Any Other

This Easter will be unlike any other.

For the first time in 2020 years:

*Believers will not congregate to worship our risen Lord on Easter morning.
*There will be no early morning gatherings for Easter sunrise services.
*There will be no family gatherings around dinner tables after church.
*There will be no Easter egg hunts in the afternoon—at least not in my backyard.
*There will be no corporate vesper services or celebration of communion within the wider body of Christ.

*But, around the world, believers will still worship our risen Lord.
*The sun will still rise, and we will rejoice in the Son of God, our Savior.
*We may be isolated from loved ones, but we can commune with El Shaddai—our all-sufficient God.
*We may not be able to hunt for candy, but we can hunt for better treasures in God’s Word.
*We cannot worship corporately, but we are the corporeal Body of Christ.

This day is unlike any other,

*But our faith and hope are also unlike any other.
*Our Savior is unlike any other.
*Our God and Father is unlike any other.
*Our holy Word is unlike any other.
*Our spiritual unity is unlike any other.

*3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
*4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
*5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
*6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
*7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:3-7).

P.S.—If you don’t already have “just the perfect” opportunities for worship today, I want to share a few that I’ve heard about and am thinking should be excellent:

9:16 am EST (Eastern Standard Time) This is a mega church near Detroit (which is the COVID hot spot in the world today), where our son-in-law works; I am always blessed by the services: https://northridgechurch.com/experience-services-events/watch-live/

10:45 am EST This is our home church, here in Grand Rapids: https://livestream.com/calvarygr

This is the Jesus Film, about the life of Christ: https://watch.tbn.org/sight-sound-theatres-presents-jesus

For children especially:

The Easter story for children: https://www.crossway.org/articles/free-to-stream-the-biggest-story-animated-video/

Animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress: https://www.revelationmedia.com/watchpilgrims/SWNWP1/

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

If you have a fetish for using up leftovers the way I do, then you’re probably always on the lookout for a new idea for how to turn the remains of a big dinner into something a touch more novel than “leftovers for the third night in a row.” This idea struck me during the last Christmas holidays after serving a big ham dinner for our family one night. It turned out well, so I prepared this recipe ahead, thinking some of you might enjoy trying it over the Easter holidays. Little did I know back then that none of us would be having big gatherings over Easter!! However, if you happen to serve a large roast (and that could be lamb, ham, beef, or whatever) for your Easter dinner, you might enjoy trying this recipe when you tire of traditional leftovers.

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

Cubed ham (whatever you have leftover and haven’t frozen in bags for breakfast later)
All the gelatin left in the bottom of your roaster after baking the ham (fat skimmed off)
All the leftover mashed potatoes, or even cubed roasted potatoes, or scalloped potatoes
1 finely chopped onion (optional, be we love onions in everything; if you go this route, saute the onion for about 5 minutes in a little butter before adding all the other ingredients)
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1/2 cup flour (I add this after mixing it in a shaker with the water so it’s not lumpy)
Pepper to taste (you can also add parsley or other seasonings to taste, but beware of adding any more salt, because the ham and gelatin are both very salty. Test it first!)
Heat on the stove top until piping hot, about 10-15 minutes, stirring often so nothing sticks on the bottom. If you’ve used a lot of ham and potatoes, add more water as needed to make the soup a pleasing consistency, although it can be anywhere from pretty thin to almost stew-like.

Serve piping hot in bowls with grated cheddar cheese on top and maybe a side of garlic bread. Next time, I’m going to add a little sour cream on top too. Hope you enjoy!!

(As I said, this recipe was written up BEFORE COVID hit. It could be made with any type of roast with leftover juice and potatoes. If you’re out of fresh milk but have a little powdered milk, that can work too! If you’re out of onions but have onion powder, that works fine! Right about now, I haven’t been shopping in a month, and if that’s your situation as well, then forget the fresh garlic bread, cheese and sour cream! We don’t have an Easter egg or chocolate bunny in our house—first time in 70 years as far as I can remember. But, it brings us back to the basics: “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith be content” [1 Timothy 6:8].)

Good Friday Reflection: How the COVID Grinch Hopes to Steal Easter

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been so focused on the COVID crisis that I haven’t really been meditating on the passion of Christ—his last week of life here on earth—the way I usually do. With church services being cancelled, commuted, or online, and all hope for family gatherings gone, somehow I’d been unconsciously allowing the COVID Grinch to steal Passion Week. However, I was deeply moved by reading Amy Carmichael’s thoughts on the last act of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Do you know the last thing Jesus did before his hands were tied? He healed: “And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:50-51). “Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him” (John 18:12).

Isn’t that incredible? If I were about to be murdered by a band of outlaws, I’m pretty sure my mind would be focused on how to escape, not on healing one of the men set on killing me . . . and in the chaos of someone having his ear sliced off, I’m afraid my gut reaction would be to try to make a run for it—like you see the “good guys” do in the movies. Instead, Jesus was totally at peace and resolved to do his Father’s will, which was to suffer crucifixion. He didn’t run for it. He asked the soldiers to let his companions (disciples) go free and willingly surrendered himself to the will of these merciless men—because he knew that this was all a part of God’s plan for him. Instead of protecting himself, he healed someone who was hurting.

As we ponder Good Friday and head into this weekend, let’s make sure we don’t allow the COVID crisis to absorb all our attention. I need to refocus on my precious Lord! My guess is that the lion’s share of our concern over COVID is “What if I get sick and die?” Well, Jesus knew he was about to die, but it didn’t distract him from continuing to live exactly as he always had—obediently loving God and caring for others! Listen to these encouraging words from Amy Carmichael: “Our Lord Jesus spent much time in healing sick people, and in the natural course of events, it happened that the last thing He did with His kind hands was to heal a bad cut. (I wonder how they could have the heart to bind His hands after that.) In this, as in everything, He left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). Do the thing that this next minute, this next hour brings you—faithfully and lovingly and patiently: and then the last thing you do, before power to do is taken from you (if that should be), will be only the continuation of all that went before” (—from Amy Carmichael’s devotional book, Edges of His Ways, for April 7th).

Let’s not let the COVID Grinch steal our Easter! We may have to hold hands “virtually” and call on the phone or email our friends to say, “He is risen!” “He is risen indeed,” but may the world join together in singing and praising God for resurrecting our Lord Jesus Christ! Yes, Jesus died on the cross for us, but God raised him from the dead, and now Christ “is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Peter 3:22).

Do we need to fear what may happen to us and our loved ones during the COVID crisis? Not if we belong to Jesus: “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” (Psalm 46:7-9). No, we don’t have to fear: “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” (Psalm 46:1-2). God is with us, as he was with Jesus, who told the thief on the cross, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). If we have believed in Jesus, the “worst” thing COVID can do is kill our body, which will release our spirit to be forever with God. What’s to fear in that?!