Category Archives: Holidays

The Great Divide on Good Friday

You see the image often this time of year – three crosses in silhouette standing atop a small hill.  It’s a common image representing a most uncommon event and a critical truth.

Three men were crucified that day, two rebels or thieves and Jesus of Nazareth.  The rebels were lawbreakers.  They were convicted and being crucified for their crimes.  They had sinned too many times to count.

Jesus was sinless.  He was being crucified for claiming to be the Messiah and the son of God.

Religious leaders, people in authority, and countless others couldn’t believe it.  They thought the claim was blasphemy. Ignoring the miracles he had performed and despite fervently looking for and impatiently waiting for the promised Messiah who would redeem the Jewish people, most couldn’t or wouldn’t believe Jesus was the one.  If what he claimed couldn’t be true, it had to be blasphemy and he had to be crucified.   So, they nailed him to a cross and crucified him with the two thieves, one on his left, one on his right – a detail important enough to be described by all four writers of the Gospels.

Many in the crowd of onlookers shouted insults at Jesus and mocked him.  Even the two thieves taunted him.  In the midst of their own dying, they belittled the only one who could save them.

Then something happened.  One of the thieves noticed something.   There was something different about this Jesus dying next to him. He didn’t “take it like a man.”  He took it differently than the two thieves, differently from how you’d expect a normal human to take it.  He took it differently than the others who had been crucified — the soldiers noticed this.  One of them even said so. Despite being savagely flogged, torturously nailed to a cross, and struggling just to breathe – he still didn’t lash out.  He didn’t curse the soldiers or the crowd that mocked him. He didn’t respond insult for insult. He did something no one else did. He prayed for them — for their forgiveness. And he asked a friend standing nearby to take care of his mother. At a time when others being crucified would weep in sorrow or call out in defiance to the end, Jesus looked to the needs of others.

And it finally clicked – at least for one of the two thieves and one of the soldiers.  Maybe this Jesus really was different.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Maybe he was who he claimed to be.

When the one thief sarcastically taunted Jesus again saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us.”

The thief who now recognized something unique in Jesus rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Calling him by name he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then Jesus, through all the pain and anguish he was suffering for the sins of others chose to look out for the needs of one more. He saved the thief also, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

With that, Jesus forgave that thief of his sins, all his crimes, all his past as well.

The thief had finally recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was who he claimed — that he was Lord and God.

Jesus saved the thief.

Dying on a cross beside Jesus, legs and hands nailed to the tree, this thief couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t run to the temple, couldn’t sacrifice a lamb or a dove, couldn’t help care for the sick or the poor, couldn’t help little old ladies across the street. Literally and figuratively, he couldn’t lift a single finger to save himself or earn his salvation. Jesus saved him all the same.  Mercifully saved him by grace.

The other thief – bitter, defiant and spiritually blind — died a thief and a sinner.

Three crosses on a hill.  The sinner thief on one side, the saved thief on the other, and Jesus in between separating the two.  Fitting and profound.  As clear an image as you can imagine.  Jesus is the great divide. Graphically and spiritually, Jesus separates the saved from the lost.  His grace is sufficient.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15: 39).

He then brought them [Paul and Silas] out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16: 30-31).

(This post was written by Dr. Larry Hembroff, a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers’ Group as well as a lifelong friend. Thank you, Larry!)

A Poem for Maundy Thursday: “Be Still”

As we grow older, it’s easy to become discouraged over unmet goals and broken dreams. Where did the time go? How is it that our sand castles washed away? What really matters to us during our life on earth? What will happen to us after we die? What will remain of the legacy we hoped to pass on? Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter Sunday…a special time to reflect on the ways we have failed in the past year—often despite our best intentions—and our need for restoration and renewal. In many churches, it is a time for practicing foot washing, following the example of Christ, who washed the dust off his disciples’ feet. Today, I hope you take time to reflect on your year and find contentment both in knowing that God will be exalted in the earth and that believers will remain.

Be still: “Be content.” Be still: “Continue to be.”

“Be Still”

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth”
(Psalm 46:10).

Earth.
Time.
Life.
Me.

Earth spins.
Times fly.
Grass greens.
I try.

New earth quakes,
Time to mourn.
Springtime buds,
I’m reborn.

Now earth shakes
Time brings change.
Grass grows tall,
I arrange.

The world turns,
As time goes by;
The flowers bloom,
And so do I.

The world slows,
And seasons change.
The flowers fade.
I rearrange.

The earth stands still;
But seasons pass.
Though life distills,
My heart is glass.

The earth grows old.
This too shall pass.
Dreams drop like rain
On dying grass.

Still earth remains,
Though time stands still.
The grass is gone,
But I am still.

(Kathryn W. Armstrong, April 07, 2017)

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

(P.S.—If you’d like to attend a Maundy Thursday service and live near Grand Rapids, we’re having one at Calvary Church (on the Beltline) at 7:00 pm.)

 

Pączki and a Recipe for Cookie Monsters: Dealing with Holidays

paczki-4-packDid you celebrate Fat Tuesday? I’m not sure why, but in Grand Rapids (which has Dutch roots), the traditional special treat are pączki (pronounced “punch key”). My guess is that this yummy tradition has drifted west from Detroit’s once large Polish community, Hamtramck. fat-tuesday-breakfastThis year for the first time, we enjoyed pączki for breakfast on Fat Tuesday.  Pączki are amazingly delicious, deep-fried doughnuts filled with fruit or custard. malasadas-in-kauai-hawaiiPączki have been a Polish delicacy since the Middle Ages, and they are similar to American bismarcks, German berliners, or my much loved Portuguese treat (which we’ve found only in Hawaii): Malasadas. paczkisHowever, pączki may be even richer; they often contain eggs, sugar, yeast, milk, fats, a touch of alcohol and are glazed or sprinkled with sugar. One theory on the development of this tradition was that the Christians were using up their stores of special ingredients before beginning the Lenten fast.

Which brings me to Ash Wednesday. Did you celebrate Ash Wednesday?  I think Ash Wednesday has some similarities to the Jewish Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement.” Both holy days focus on personal reflection, repentance, and the need for atonement through the sacrificial blood of a lamb (the Lamb, for Christians).  Recently I noticed afresh what the signs of true repentance are while reading the New International Version of 2 Corinthians 7:10-11: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.That’s a weighty list, and I’ve been continuing to examine myself so that I might experience more true repentance over sin.  brothers-and-sonDoes true repentance mean that I am in a constant state of mourning and can never enjoy life? Not at all! Many Christians observe a 40-day “Lenten Season” in which we fast from something we normally enjoy in order to focus more on God and identify in some small way with the sufferings of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we fast forever or never celebrate holidays! Thankfully, the Lenten fast culminates in remembering the death of Christ on Good Friday and ends on Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).party-time-for-small-boy I hope you’re able to observe times of fasting as well as times of feasting, because God condones both.small-boy-opening-cardOn Saturdays, I’ve been sharing recipes, and this week I want to share a recipe for one of our favorite treats, although I have to admit I served it before Lent started and won’t be serving it again until after Lent is over!cookie-monsters-for-dessert                                             Chocolate Chip Cookie Monsters

Bake big chocolate chip cookies (your favorite recipe) and place in individual bowls.

Add a scoop of your favorite ice cream

Top with hot fudge sauce. If you don’t have any on hand, here’s a great recipe:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (oleo works but doesn’t taste as good)
1/3 cup milk (you can use cream, but milk works fine)
2 T. (tablespoons) dark cocoa powder
Pinch of salt (optional)

Throw all the ingredients for the hot fudge sauce in a pan and cook until the soft ball stage, stirring faithfully so nothing sticks on the bottom. Allow it to cool slightly so it’s good and thick, serve it up with your favorite ice cream, and be sure to put plenty of whipping cream on top (plus a cherry or whatever your kids love). Enjoy, but don’t overeat!  🙂  chocolate-chip-cookie-monstersCharge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

When Do You Know If It’s Your Last Holiday?

happy-anniversary-card-for-spouseToday is Presidents’ Day…a special holiday set aside to honor all the amazing men who’ve shaped our country. I really want to share some thought-provoking quotations on time today rather than discussing the attributes and weaknesses of our various presidents (although I will confess to having done more than my fair share of complaining over the years and felt admonished by reading in Acts 23:5 last week, where Paul said, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people”). card-for-appreciating-spouseLast Tuesday was Valentines Day, and last weekend Alan and I celebrated our 44th anniversary. As we are now 66, that means we’ve now lived two-thirds of our lives together! That’s almost hard to imagine, even for us!!  🙂

I’ve really been thinking a lot about the privilege of still having a mate with whom to share holidays in the light of an increasing number of friends who’ve lost their mates in the past 10 years. In Sunday school, one of those friends, Jay Link, passed along some good food for thought on the topic of time, and I’d like to share a few of his quotes with you today:

“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Theophrastus

“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” C.S. Lewis

“Time is what we want most, but…what we use worst.” William Penn

“We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.” John F. Kennedy

“Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.” Thomas Hardy

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” Tennessee Williams

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.” William Shakespeare

“Time = life; therefore, waste you time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” Alan Lakein

“The key is not in spending time, but in investing it.” Stephen R. Covey

“Mind the moments because they become your memories.” Jane Anderson 🙂

valentine-for-wifeJay’s thoughts: Allot time to each season of life with care and intention, learning to grow in wisdom as we go. Each season of life is new to us, and it represents a path we haven’t traveled before. If it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become proficient at something, that’s about as long as many of the stages of life we pass through. I don’t know who said it, but Jay mentioned that in a car, the front windshield is larger than the rear-view mirror, because what’s in our future needs more of our attention than what’s already behind us.happy-anniversary-cardAnd, here’s my humble thought from becoming increasingly appreciative of every day Alan and I still have together: You never really know when it’s your last holiday, so “Savor each holiday as if it might be your last, because it might.”

heart-shaped-valentineSo teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

 

Chocolate-on-the-Face Mousse…Guaranteed to Please

chocolate-on-the-faceWhen our kids were little, we had a secret password. Whenever someone knocked on our bedroom door, Alan would call out, “What’s the password?” If the child answered, “Chocolate on the face,” Alan would tell them they could come in, on the theory that any kid with chocolate on his (or her) face probably belonged to us.enjoying-chocolate-mousse                     Now we’re on to our next generation of chocolate lovers! baby-eating-chocolate-mousseI know I should be passing along healthy recipes for  things that are super nutritious, but given that last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day and today is Alan and my 44th anniversary, I thought it might not be too off side to share my favorite recipe for chocolate mousse, which is actually fairly healthy as far as desserts go, not to mention so elegant that people think it’s difficult to make (although it’s not, at least not the way I do it), and so delicious that kids will definitely end up with chocolate on their faces!

creamy-chocolate-mousseChocolate-on-the-Face Mousse

Boil 1/4 cup white sugar in 1/2 cup water until sugar has dissolved into syrup

Add 18 oz. chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate, but dark works well too),
1 stick of butter
, and a pinch of salt. Heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Beat 4 eggs (yes, I use the whites and the yolks) with an electric mixer until frothy, then add  1 cup heavy whipping cream and whip until soft peaks form.

Slowly add the hot chocolate syrup in a small stream to the whipped mixture, continuing to whip everything together until it’s of one gloriously frothy, consistent texture. Immediately spoon into individual serving dishes and chill thoroughly. You can garnish with more whipping cream and shaved chocolate or fruit, but it’s pretty yummy just by itself! Also, this can be divided into 6-8 servings, depending on how much room you think people will have for dessert.

Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
(Psalm 145:16, speaking of God)

In the Spirit of the Ides of February

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Maureen Churabrutus-and-the-ghost-of-caesar-public-domain-wikiMost people know about the Ides of March, March 15, which was made infamous by the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and continued in infamy by Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, written some 1643 years later.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

However, did you know that February 15 also has special significance historically? February 15 was the date of an ancient ritual of purification, particularly washing with water, to purify people and their city from any evil spirits, which would allow the blessings of health and fertility to flourish as the citizens prepared for spring. februar_leandro_bassano-public-domainI don’t know about you, but I find all the dissension in America deeply disturbing, and I’m wondering if we might honor today as a day of personal purification coupled with earnest prayers for the healing of ourselves and our nation. It’s so easy to be critical of others…to make ourselves and our own values  into a gold standard for the way things should be. Can we instead humble ourselves and ask God to purify our hearts and straighten our thinking, so that we can see clearly and become a positive influence for good instead of adding to the cacophony of discord? There’s an old saying that “Charity starts at home,” and I think it’s just as true that “Purity starts with me.” Are we casting stones because we’re perfect and angry, or are we throwing mud because we’re frustrated that life is unfair and things aren’t going the way we think they should? Instead of adding to the problem, let’s pray that God will make us part of the solution by purifying our hearts and the hearts of our people. We can’t change others, but by God’s grace we can change ourselves. Then, I do believe God himself will rise up and move to work all things together for good…something no amount of fighting and anger will accomplish.mourning_mingrelians_pranishnikoff_1884“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” (James 4:7-9)

Groundhog Day Giddies

ground-hog-dayIn honor of Groundhog Day and the prospects of 6 more weeks of winter, getting-to-know-youI thought a few good jokes might brighten our scans! marajuanaEvery once in a while I get cartoons passed along that make me laugh, the-children-of-israel-with-cell-phonesand I just need to share them!  birds-need-potty-breaks-tooToday is one of those days. o-c-d Hope you enjoy!  biscuits-and-gravyHere’s lookin’ at you, Rick,tire-pressure-tool and here’s one for your sweet wife, Cheryl (or me). bearsHere’s one for my dear friend Sarah up in Alaska, whose husband actually saved a man’s life by shooting the bear who attacked him.  smart-car-and-a-smart-aleckAnd here’s one for my son Michael and all lovers of especially small cars.
(Some of these jokes are only funny if you don’t think about them too hard.) trying-to-pound-sense-into-someoneSome jokes are funny but make a serious point & could be used against any of us. greatest-accomplishmentAnd, some cartoons are pretty much right on for all of us! 🙂

“Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise:
and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding”

(Proverbs 17:28).