Category Archives: Incredible India and Nepal

Rise Up, My Love (281): What Can You Do With a Door?

Song of Solomon 8:9 “And if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” What is a door? A door provides access. Some commentators seem to think that being a door would mean being promiscuous, and that enclosing her would mean shutting her in so that she couldn’t get into trouble. To each his own, I guess, but I see no justification for that in the text. I believe being a wall or a door were both good possibilities…just different! Why? Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).   A door is an opening…a way. Wouldn’t you like to be like Jesus, a door of hope and opportunity, opening the way for others to find salvation and rest in Christ? A door that provides access to the shady green pastures of God’s rest is most blessed! I think of missionaries, evangelists, pastors, and teachers as being like doors of hope! We should all desire to fling ourselves wide open and welcome others in to meet the Savior who resides in our hearts. If our hearts are truly Christ’s home, then they should not have locked doors (although, of course, we’re instructed to keep our hearts “with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23).  Our hearts should be like visitor centers along the highway of life where lost or weary pilgrims can come in for refreshment and direction. So, a door can be a wonderful thing…if it provides access to something good. “God is good” (Psalm 73:1; see also Mark 10:18). May we be like doors through which others may find the true door, the Lord Jesus. And, through our Lord Jesus Christ may all gain access to the one true God! “One door, and only one, and yet the sides are two. I’m on the inside, on which side are you?” goes the old Sunday school song.   A wall is something that goes around an area to protect it, but it needs a door to allow access into the protected area. A door, on the other hand, is something designed to provide access to a protected area, but it needs a wall around it before the door is of any practical value. What is the only reasonable thing to do with a door? Attach it to a wall or enclosure so that it can be used for its intended purpose. “If she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” The husband is saying, “No matter what your little sister is like, we will care for her and provide whatever she lacks to help her fulfill her purpose.”

(P.S.—I am fascinated by doors! All of these photos were taken of doors in Nepal from my trip there last fall.)

An Easter Meditation from Nepal: There is a Sacrifice Better than the Blood of Bulls and Goats

One sunny day in early October last fall, we visited Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a vibrant potpourri of palaces and temples dating back nearly a thousand years.  Nepal is a melting pot of eastern religions, I think not only because it’s a very small country sandwiched between China and India, but also because it has a heritage of religious thinkers, including the original Buddha.  Durbar Square reflects this confluence of eastern spiritual ideas by providing places of worship for many gods and goddesses from various  religions, most prominently Hindu and Buddhist. There is even a Temple for Kumari, home of Nepal’s “living goddess” (a little girl chosen about once a decade who becomes a “goddess” until she hits puberty). There is also a temple to the Hindu god of destruction, and a statue of Hanuman, son of the Hindu wind god, Vayu.  The day we visited was a particularly holy day for the Buddhists, who were  slaughtering 108 bulls and goats as a sacrifice to appease the 108 manifestations of Buddha on earth.  To westerners, it seemed so macabre that many of our group turned their heads and walked away, looking for something less awful to take their attention. However, I was stood mesmerized, contemplating the somber import of this ritual and recalling a verse from the Bible: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). It occurred to me that every religion recognizes the need for us as sinful humans to somehow become reconciled to a holy god, but only in Christianity do we find a high priest who is willing and able to offer the ultimate sacrifice: Himself, unblemished and without sin, to die as a sacrifice for the sins of everyone in the entire world so that any person who is willing can be reconciled to the God who is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward” (Deuteronomy 10:17).  Are you willing to be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus? That’s what Easter is all about—the death and resurrection of Christ. He died for us and rose again to redeem us from our sins and make us into new creations, children of our heavenly Father who will love and serve the living God!  Christ appeared as a high priest… he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11-14, ESV; the entire chapter is excellent reading to understand redemption through the blood of Christ).  Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

(Credits: I took all the photos last fall in Durbar Square, Nepal, except for the depiction of Jesus on the cross, painted by Rembrandt in 1631, and the picture with Psalm 63:2, contributed by my friend, Bob Hardee.)

See It, Touch It, Hold It…Including Snappy the Alligator?!

During the first Christmas my oldest was able to toddle around, he kept asking for permission to “see” then “touch” then “hold” the Christmas ornaments. Unfortunately, he was too young to hold an ornament for very long before it would fall, and if I wasn’t right there to catch the bulb, it would break.

So, in our home, the line went, “See it? Hold it? Touch it? Break it!”
But, don’t we all love to get our hands on things we’re curious about?I think we all have a fascination with holding things that fill us with awe—whether it’s a shiny Christmas ornament or an exotic living creature. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what can be touched and what to avoid! In Tunisia, the zookeeper seemed fearless and knew just how to hold a scorpion while the scorpion held on tight to a pack of cigarettes, but none of us dared try! He also knew how to handle a deadly sidewinder… but nobody wanted to try that one, either! Of course, some critters seem more cuddly,
and those we’d like to touch as well as see. In fact, when it comes to camels, I like to ride them too! A well trained camel can take you for a pleasant ride down the streets in India. A well-trained elephant will let you pet him in the jungles of Nepal, or let you go for a ride (only with his mahout aboard, however!) Baby elephants are something else, though!  They’re 250-pound characters who love to push you around if they can!!I only dared touch this little playmate while he was distracted by someone else! Many creatures look almost irresistibly cuddly, like these monkeys,  but monkeys are pickpockets with nasty bites, so I’ve been trained to keep my distance lest I lose my camera…or worse! Over the years, I’ve been able to see and hold many different creatures,  but on our trip through the Panama Canal,
I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy.  Snappy has been handled by this park ranger since his birth,
and he’s quite friendly…as long as you don’t put your face next to his mouth.

Alligators have a brain about as big as a pea, so most of what they do is instinctive. Nevertheless, we were back in America, so I figured they wouldn’t let us hold him unless it was relatively safe, and when they asked who would like to hold Snappy, I volunteered. Yes, being in America, they made it quite safe! Although the ranger hadn’t forewarned us, he put a big strap around Snappy’s mouth to keep him quiet. He was totally docile and let me hold him by his soft underbelly. Holding living creatures touches something deep inside me…a trust given to me to hold without hurting…not to break…and hopefully not to get hurt either. As we go through life, I hope we continue learning what is safe and what is not…       and just how close we can get to others without asking for trouble!    But I hope we keep exploring and trying to connect,  not only with critters,  but with people! There’s a huge world out there full of people who’ve never heard the good news that Jesus came to set us free from sin and give us eternal life!                       Can we hold them so gently that we don’t hurt them?

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).

Joel’s Incredible Indian Curry

I realize that American attempts at foreign dishes usually fall short, and that what we think is wonderful in the U.S. may seem rather dreadful to the originators of various world-famous dishes, but Alan and I actually prefer our son Joel’s chicken curry to any chicken curry we ate in India last fall. Here’s how he does it:

Joel’s Incredible Indian Chicken Curry
(feeds 4-6)

Sauté in a large frying pan:
1/4 cup butter
4 large boneless chicken thighs, cubed  1 chopped onion
1/2  sliced red pepper
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 sliced carrots 2 chopped fresh tomatoes
5 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons garam masala
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1.5 teaspoons crushed mint leaves   When the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender, add:
1 can of coconut milk  the juice from one squeezed lemon
1/2 cup yogurt
2 chopped tomatoes
3 teaspoons curry powder (can use all of one type or half red curry and half madras curry, which is what Joel did; the red curry powder is hotter)   Simmer for 10-15 minutes more to let the flavors blend. Can be served immediately or allowed to sit covered for a while, but be sure to turn the heat back on so it’s piping hot when you serve it.  Typically, Joel serves the curry with rice, sour cream, and hot naan bread              and fresh, chopped mango for dessert. Way to go, Joel!!  🙂

Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (Psalm 147:1-5, ESV)

Lenten Specials

Do you observe Lent by giving up something you normally love? This year, I gave up coffee, and my son Joel has given up meat. Actually, Joel and I both find the challenge and discipline good for us, because every time we miss these staples of our lives, it reminds us of all that Jesus gave up throughout his life! And, it makes us appreciate the amazing bounty that we usually enjoy.

Joel’s fast from meat for these few weeks before Lent also reminded me of when we were in India last fall. There were several occasions when beef was listed on the menu, but when I’d order it, the waiter would always come back and politely say that they had no beef that day. Our guide eventually explained that it was illegal to serve beef in India because cows are sacred, and so I soon resigned myself to enjoying chicken and pork for the duration…and a few unusual meats, like water buffalo (which tastes like very tough beef).

Therefore, it was with special joy that my eyes lit on a distant McDonald’s while we were at the airport in New Delhi waiting for our flight to Nepal. We scurried right up the stairs and to the far end of the waiting area, anticipating a Big Mac. Alas, even at McDonald’s there were no burgers to be had. They only served various sandwiches made from chicken or fish. We had to laugh…mostly at ourselves!

Why is it so hard to give up certain privileges and freedoms…even for a few weeks? It made me feel ashamed of myself for thinking I might “get away with” a juicy steak or burger while visiting a country where cows are considered holy. I don’t believe cows are sacred, but they do. Shouldn’t I be more than willing to curb my own appetites and pleasures for their sake? I think so!

 “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:8-13, emphasis mine).

The Scripture teaches us this about Jesus Christ: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Thanksgiving, Thanksgetting, or Both? (With Illustrations from India and Nepal to Give Perspective)

I have four of the world’s best daughter-in-laws, and my one and only son-in-law is right up there with the best of them too! He is warm, quiet, affectionate, generous, always helpful, devout, ingenious, artistic, and usually has a bit of a smirk on his face, which I presume is his creative imagination kicking in to add a bit of humorous (albeit silent) commentary to life.    I wouldn’t trade him for a barrel of monkeys or anything else you might offer!  All this intro is so you don’t misinterpret his wry pseudonym for Thanksgiving, which is (as you’ve probably guessed) “Thanksgetting.”   So, what are you doing for Thanksgetting tomorrow? Lord willing, we’ll do what we most often do: Gather with those of our family who are able to come and share a Thanksgiving “feast,” and then we’ll sit in a circle around a candle-lit coffee table in our living room and play “The Thankful Game.” Do you ever play that game? It’s a time of reflecting on all the blessings we’ve received over the past year from God, and we go around the circle sharing one by one, round and round until we all seem content that we’ve remembered to give thanks to God for all the most important things we’ve gotten from him. It’s really an opportunity to recognize God’s goodness in our lives and a great way to worship Him, whether you’re alone for Thanksgiving or in a big group.
However you celebrate, I hope you focus on what you’ve gotten rather than what you’ve given this year, and if it’s been a terrible year where you’ve suffered great loss, perhaps you can think about what you still have.  I have a number of friends who’ve had serious physical problems this year, and some who have lost someone precious to them, and my heart grieves for them.  Still, after visiting India and Nepal recently, I am reminded of how “good” most of us have it in America.  King David suffered terrible losses in his life, and yet he wrote beautiful psalms of praise to God for His goodness and graces.  I pray that whatever your circumstances, you’ll be able to say with David: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116 :17, emphasis mine; notice that sometimes it is actually an act of sacrifice to believe in God, surrender to him, and find reasons to give him thanks in the midst of anguish). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).   And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).   “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

What Kind of Schmuck Are You?!

Yesterday, I got a call from a carpenter who’s going to be updating our 30-year-old kitchen, and when he accidentally called me “Karen,” he apologized by saying, “I’m sorry! I’m really a schmuck!” I didn’t mind his forgetting my name (he hasn’t even started working for us yet), but I did find myself reactive to the idea that he made it sound like a “schmuck” is a bad thing, because I have a young friend whom I greatly admire whose last name is Schmuck. This Schmuck wants to become a minister, and he’s working his way through college by serving as a member of the maintenance department at our church. We’ve been involved in ministry together, and he is an all-around all-star guy. He also has a great sense of humor, and I’ve heard they advertised the youth group by saying, “Come, and don’t worry, because you’ll never be the only schmuck here!”  So, while we were in Nepal, I couldn’t help but notice the sign on the bathroom door where we had our much-longed-for rest stop on the Prithivi Highway. I took a photo with my cell phone to send to Zach, but then I thought better of it, just in case it might hurt his feelings. However, just a few days later, we visited the International Mountain Museum, and I noticed that there was a famous mountain climber by the name of Marcus Schmuck who led the first successful assent of Mt. Broad Peak back in 1957. It was a very difficult and lofty achievement, indeed, and one that has only been repeated a scant handful of times since.Broad Peak is the twelfth highest mountain in the world, very dangerous, and in such a remote area of Pakistan’s Karakoram Range that no one in the western world even knew it existed until 1892!So, I want to defend the name “Schmuck” and say that there are some mighty fine schmucks out there! Last summer, my young friend got married, and I know that even though he’s had to scrub a lot of toilets while working his way through college (which is not what he’s doing here; he and his wife had a foot-washing ceremony during their wedding [which is very biblical, by the way]), this young man is a true mountain climber, and I know he will also achieve some lofty goals for our Lord over the course of his lifetime.   Jesus taught: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Jesus also set the example for us: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-10).