Category Archives: Holidays

Keeping It Down to a Dull Roar

I am the youngest in a family of five children, and when we were growing up—in the spirit of Cheaper By the Dozen—my father used to remind us fairly often that we needed to “keep it down to a dull roar.” If he can see what’s going on down here from his heavenly porch swing, I suspect he’s shaking his head every once in a while, wondering what all the hubbub’s about around our house.Elanor is the youngest of our 16 grand children, and things can get very chaotic when we have a quorum together for the holidays! However, I’ve noticed that when she’s sitting on her mother’s lap, staring into her mother’s eyes, she is usually the picture of contentment!

Oh, to be like that with my heavenly Father—oblivious of everything around me and able to take delight in Him, simply resting in His love and care!

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child (Psalm 131:1-2).

These Colors Don’t Run

Happy Fourth of July to all Americans everywhere, and if you’re not an American, I hope you are living in a country where you are happy enough to want to celebrate, and that you’re able to enjoy safety and freedom. My little grand daughter Amélie was helping me arrange this bouquet, and when we got finished, she sighed happily. “At least we won’t have to water the flag!”  My sister heard this sentiment: “Red, White, and Blue. These colors don’t run.”

I am glad to be an American, just like I hope you’re glad to be a citizen of your country, but even more precious to me than my citizenship in America is my citizenship in heaven…where the color red most often refers to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, the color white speaks of purity, and the color blue is known as “the heavenly color,” pointing us heavenward. What keeps me from running—from being afraid—is that I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, can daily experience cleansing by the water of the Word of God, and am filled with eternal life through faith in Christ.

Today, I want to praise God for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness here in America, and for the even greater spiritual blessings of life, liberty, and love! I hope you’re experiencing the same joys and freedoms wherever you live!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, ESV).

 

Grilled Steak to Die For

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking it might be a good time to discuss grilling meat. We were visiting friends not too long ago when the husband mentioned that for Father’s Day all his kids were coming home, but that he would be manning the grill. “Go figure!” he grinned.

I’m sure he was delighted with the prospect of seeing his kids and grand kids, but it occurred to me that he might have preferred the prospect of sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade and watching his kids grill instead of continuing to be “the man of the hour.” So, if you have a father that you’ll be seeing this weekend at his home, and if you think he (or your mom) might be grilling, how about asking if they’d like a little help? It would be one great way to honor your father on his special day!

If you’ve never grilled steak, it’s really very simple, but there are a few tricks to optimize the flavor:1. Choose a good piece of meat. Frankly, for the first 40 years of our marriage, I felt blessed if we could afford chuck steak. Doubtless the favorite cuts are the most tender, but not everybody can afford a filet mignon or Porterhouse. If you’re a little more budget conscious, rib eyes are amazingly tender, and sirloins are great, but a good chuck steak works just fine. Avoid round steak, which is unbearably tough unless you slow roast it for a million hours.2. Tenderize your steak. I use Adolph’s meat tenderizer, but I’m sure there are other fine brands out there. Sprinkle liberally and then use a hand tenderizer (pictured above and available at kitchen supply stores)      to puncture the steak liberally on both sides. This helps soften the steak                                               and infuse the tenderizer.3. Marinate your steak with some type of oil and your favorite seasonings. The oil helps keep in moisture, and the seasonings (obviously) enhance the flavor. My favorites are Italian Wishbone, minced garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning. (I ran out of the steak seasoning just before needing it for this photo. 😦  Normally, I always keep one of every common cooking item in my storage pantry and buy a new one when I finish the old one so I’m never without, but this requires a little extra investment of cash and keeping close watch on the current shopping list.) 4. Gourmet chefs would doubtless recommend marinating the steak covered in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night, but even 15 minutes (not refrigerated) can make a distinct difference in taste. 5. Make your grill HOT and throw on your steak, searing it on each side for about one minute (to seal in the juices), and then turn the heat down to medium and cook it for another couple of minutes on each side. (Note: my beloved husband just took over as the grill master at our house again after a 40-year hiatus, and he’s lovin’ it! Working together is really fun!) 6. There’s a learning curve to figuring out when your steak is “just right.” If you’re not sure, test it by cutting into it. A medium rare steak is usually safe to eat and most tender, but if you like it more cooked, that’s your choice. Just know that the more cooked, the more dry and less tender.7. Serve it up sizzling hot. If it’s done, you can keep it for a few minutes in an iron skillet in your oven, but the steak will continue cooking even after it’s off the heat. Some people suggest letting the meat rest for a minute or two before cutting, but by the time we’ve thanked the Lord for our food, I figure it’s rested enough! 8. Serve it up with several healthy (yummy) sides, and enjoy!

(Here’s a playful contribution by Bob Hardee, who has a great sense of humor!)

Memorial Day: Remembering Hacksaw Ridge

Memorial Day began back in 1868 at the end of the Civil War as a special day to remember everyone in the U.S. military who had lost their life in the service of our country. At that time, it was called “Decoration Day,” and grave sites were decorated with flags and flowers. Memorial Day is celebrated as a national holiday on the last Monday in May now, and it also serves as the unofficial beginning of our summer. What I didn’t know before yesterday is that there are only 4 cemeteries in America and one on foreign soil where the flag can always be flown at half mast, and one of them is here in Michigan. Last May Alan and I had the privilege of exploring the Normandy Coast with our two youngest sons, and during that time, we saw many deeply moving (and distressing) museums and memorials to the devastation of World War 2.

The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach is the one foreign cemetery
where the flag may be flown continuously at half mast. Can you guess where the others might be?
*Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.  *The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii *The Gettysburg National Cemetery near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania And last, but not least (because I believe it was the first),
U.S. Post Cemetery on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  On this special day to commemorate those who’ve lost their lives
in the service of our country, I would also like to express my deep gratitude
to those who have served or are serving presently. And, for any of you who have the stomach for a terrifying story of heroism
in war, I’d like to recommend Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge is based on the incredible true story of a young Christian kid named Desmond T.  Doss who joined the army during World War 2. Doss joined as a conscientious objector and became a medic. In one night of amazing heroism during the Battle of Okinawa, Desmond Doss single-handedly saved 75 people  from being butchered by the enemies at the top of Hacksaw Ridge. Later he was honored as the first man in American history
to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot!

Oh, for a world full of men like Desmond T. Doss, who have a heart to protect the freedoms of their country while preserving life rather than destroying it. I know of no one other than Jesus who can inspire such courage and nobility! Jesus gave his life so that everyone in the entire world can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This Memorial Day, would you like to be like Jesus and like Doss?

Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

(*These 3 photos are from Wiki. The seven illustrating Hacksaw Ridge are from the 2016 movie by that name [directed by Mel Gibson], and the rest are mine, one from Fort Mackinac yesterday but the others from the Normandy Coast in France last May.)

Did You Have a Happy Mother’s Day?

One of the saddest notes I read yesterday came from a young man who lost his warm and extremely gifted mother to Mad Cow Disease ten years ago. Mother’s Day was very painful for him. One of my sons (who is a dentist) had a patient this morning who was teary-eyed because she has four grown children, none of whom remembered (or cared enough?) to call her on Mother’s Day.

My heart goes out to everyone who grieves during the holidays because they have lost that for which others are rejoicing. If you do not have a mother, may the Lord comfort you. To the millions who have children who don’t care enough to call, may you know that God loves you even if your children don’t seem to. To all those who’ve longed to be a mother and have never been able to, my heart goes out to you. May God grant you a fruitful life even so.

I wish there were some way of matching up the motherless and those who long for children. I had a wonderful mother, but she didn’t understand the spiritual side of me, and so I developed a mother-in-love relationship with a couple of older women who guided me spiritually (until they left this earth for better things above). Now, I have a couple of spiritual daughters. There is no complete replacement for the “real thing,” but surrogate mothers and children are better than nothing, and frankly, it’s possible to have a wonderful spiritual relationship with someone who isn’t biologically related.

If you were lonely yesterday, please look around you and do a little prayerful thinking: There may be someone who’s just as lonely as you are. Would that person make a good friend? Could be a surrogate mother or son or daughter to them? Maybe by next Mother’s Day, you’ll have a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day again!

“And he [Jesus] answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:33-35).

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.)