Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

Did You Know There’s an Underground Railroad TODAY?!

Yes, former CIA member, Tim Ballard, has founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat the fastest growing “enterprise” (criminal business) in the world: human trafficking. There are about 30 million people being trafficked worldwide in 2020, 8 million of whom are children, largely used for the sex industry or for harvesting organs. Tim’s voice message to the world? “There’s slavery, and it’s alive. It’s terrifying to talk about this. It takes guts to listen to this interview [link below] and guts to engage. You think you would have been an abolitionist. Now is your chance! There are more people enslaved today than ever before.”

Once I started listening to the interview on the Candace Owens Show, I couldn’t stop! I’m going to share a few of his most cogent points, but if you think slavery is wrong and should be eradicated, please take time to listen to the discussion. A few “must knows;”

*The U.S. is the greatest problem, because our nation is the world’s largest consumer of trafficking services. This is shocking and horrifying. No wonder we are accused by some as being “the Great Satan.” We need to repent as a nation and pray for an end to this grotesque immorality.

*There’s been a 5000% increase in child rape videos in the past few years [we’re talking 5-7 year-olds, not teens].

*Should we legalize prostitution? According to Ballard, no, but we should not be prosecuting prostitutes. Rather, we should be prosecuting pimps. If we legalize prostitution, children will be even more terribly abused. We must protect children. (Listen to his explanation; it makes sense.)

*Should there be a “wall” of protection between Mexico and the U.S. “YES!” Ballard cited the case of one young woman they rescued who was kidnapped and taken through the dessert of Mexico into the U.S. She estimated that she had been raped 60,000 times before being freed and said if there had been any opportunity at a border, she would have cried out for help. (Editorial note from me: Victims are frightened for their lives in most cases if they’re not too drugged.)

*What can we do? In Michigan, there is MAP (“Michigan Abolition Project”). If you want to learn more or help support those who are on the front lines, I can now recommend two international organizations:

Operation Underground Railroad is working in 25 states within America and in 22 countries around the world. Their website is:

http://ourrescue.org/

The Nazarene Fund, which also works alongside OUR, can be accessed here: https://thenazarenefund.org/

If you have time to listen to the interview between Candace Owens and Tim Ballard, it can be found here:

https://www.prageru.com/video/the-candace-owens-show-tim-ballard/?fbclid=IwAR3PYQ9ZumPpsvmRJycZxw6IdptvhZftZTLPquXxoImHWSzbspXqhvpbAnQ

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23).

Harriet and Slavery . . . Past and Present

It’s terrifying to face the evils of society. Incredibly painful. Gut-wrenching. We’d rather not even think about it.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman

However, the battle between good and evil rages whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it or engage in the battle.

Leslie Odom Jr. as Abolitionist William Still

Blind eyes and hard hearts allowed the horrors of the death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated during World War 2. Deaf ears and love of comfort allowed the terrors of black slavery that existed before the Civil War in the U.S.

Harriet was helped by Quakers

We like to think that we’d all be abolitionists if we’d lived during the 1800’s . . . but would we?

Harriet is a powerful look into the lives and times of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and I wish everyone would take the time to watch it, even if it makes us wince and lose some sleep.

Harriet Tubman’s Last Words

Harriet recounts the true story of one of America’s bravest women: Harriet Tubman. She was born around 1822 as a slave; she died in 1913 at about age 91 and was an amazing example of courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and compassion.

As a small child, Harriet was beaten every time the white baby she was tending would cry. She recalled being beaten 5 times before breakfast one morning!

Photo of the notice run in the newspaper offering a $100 reward for the capture of “Minty” (Harriet) and her brothers after they escaped in 1849. (Wiki)

Much of her life as portrayed in the 2019 story is consistent with history (with the usual literary license and compacting of some historical events).

It is true that Harriet rescued 70 slaves in 13 expeditions and advised many more.

She usually left on Saturday evenings during winter to avoid detection, because notices about runaway slaves wouldn’t be printed until Monday, and plantation owners didn’t like going outside in the cold to search for themselves.

Harriet experienced visions directing her, which she attributed to God. She was deeply Christian. She really did pray for God to kill her evil master, who died suddenly a week later! (She later expressed ambivalence about her prayer after her cruel master died.)

Nicknamed “Moses” for her God-inspired ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet never lost a single soul: “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” (Wiki).

During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and made pies and rootbeer in the evenings to sell so she could support herself.

She also worked as a spy and map maker, and she was one of few women in American history to ever lead an armed assault during war—along the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were freed.

“Unidentified photographer, A large albumen photograph of Harriet Tubman by Tabby Studios in Auburn, NY. Enlarged from an older print.” Public Domain (Wiki)

As an elderly woman, Harriet needed surgery to relieve pain from the childhood head injury she had received, but instead of using anesthesia, she chose to bite down on a bullet, as she’d seen Civil War soldiers do while having their limbs amputated! She was one tough lady!

In honoring Harriet Tubman when her biography was written, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wrote this: “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

If you watch Harriet and lose sleep the way I have, I would like to encourage you to start praying about what you might be able to do to help stop slavery, because slavery is not just an artifact of history. Slavery is very much an alive and evil ongoing issue. In fact, human trafficking is the fastest growing “enterprise” in the world today. Thursday I want to share some information about present day slavery and one avenue for helping fight it.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Traveling with Togo

Want to snuggle up and watch a heart-warming true story about an incredible dog who was named the most heroic dog in history by Time magazine in 2011? This cold winter weather is perfect for staying inside and being glad we’re not actually out in the blizzards of Alaska back in the winter of 1925, when the event actually occurred.

Togo was released at the end of 2019 and has all the dog prints of a true Disney classic: a PG rating, 8.2 on IMDb, great acting, stunning cinematography from Alaska, and full of suspense, courage, and love.

It’s a remarkable story about Togo, a sickly, undersized husky pup with an oversized ability to get into mischief, the heart of a true survivor, and a passion for his master. Willem Dafoe does a masterful job portraying Leonhard Seppala, the stubborn Norwegian who had to balance love for his wife with his professional wisdom as a musher, where wrong decisions can end in death for both the master and his dogs.

The challenge? To bring serum from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska during the worst winter in twenty years during weather too dangerous for flights. Why? Because a diphtheria epidemic was threatening to wipe out most of the area’s people.

Leonard Seppela and his team of huskies crossing Norton Sound of the Bering Sea

Nome, Alaska, is just 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle and is located on the southern coast of Seward Peninsula at Norton Sound along the Bering Sea. Today, there are fewer than 4,000 living in Nome, but due to people lingering after the gold rush at the turn of the century, in 1925 the little outpost of Nome was the largest town in Northern Alaska.

In order to carry the serum across 674 miles from Nenana (where the serum had been transported via train from Anchorage) to Nome, more than twenty teams using over 100 huskies were organized, and the event was widely broadcast as the “Great Race of Mercy.”

Many of us have watched the movie Balto. This movie immortalized the lead dog who ran the last 31 miles to bring the serum into Nome, but Leonhard (which means “lion-heart”) Seppala and his faithful dog Togo ran the penultimate race: 264 miles, sometimes enduring temperatures of —30°F. with wind chills making it feel like —85°F.!! Until this movie came out, Leonhard and Togo were pretty much the unsung and forgotten heroes.

Julianne Nicholson as Constance Seppela in Togo

The race was not for glory, it was for good, and the most magnificent message for me was watching the love, resolve, and reward for the couple who risked everything to save their community. It was unbelievable to me that they didn’t get the praise and glory they deserved, but I think that is more often true in this life than we will ever know. I am reminded of Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes 9:11, where he laments: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

In our personal pilgrimages through life, few of us are asked to do terribly dangerous and risky things, but all of us are asked to run our race faithfully, for good, and not for glory! But, there is a promise in the example of Jesus, who ran the race before us for joy and for love of God.

May we run our races as doggedly as Togo . . . and like Togo, to please the One we love!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

(Disney’s version of the story runs very close to the reality, although they had a somewhat abbreviated, “happily-ever-after” style ending. If you want to read more of the thrilling [scary] details, there’s an excellent Wikipedia article listed below.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonhard_Seppala

Storms and Sand

Ever hear the story of the schooner Ben Flint? Well, it’s just one of many inspiring tales of heroism and heartache recounted in the Trumans’ book about the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, not too far from where we live. I’ll share the story of the Ben Flint, and if you’re interested in curling up on a cold winter’s night to read more remarkable accounts of bravery and self-sacrifice, details are at the end. Here’s their first tale:

Back in the autumn of 1870, the two-masted ship Ben Flint left Manistee, Michigan, bound for Chicago, fully loaded with lumber.  Ten miles off shore, the Ben Flint was caught in a gale and started taking on water.  Around ten p.m. the schooner filled with water and rolled over on its side. As the vessel went over, a passenger, Patrick McCuin, fell overboard and drowned.  Captain Thomas Roberts and his crew of eight clung desperately to the portion of the rigging above water.

The ship drifted until about one a.m., when the vessel ran aground approximately four miles north of Grande Pointe au Sable Lighthouse.  As the Ben Flint struck the lake bottom, it righted, but split open.  All of the men then tried to make themselves secure in the rigging, but they remained exposed to the bitterly cold wind and frigid drenching of the waves.  At the beginning of the storm, Captain Roberts had thrown off his coat in order to work more easily, and he died from hypothermia at daylight.

When the Grande Pointe au Sable lighthouse keeper, Alonzo W. Hyde, spotted the wreck from the tower, he recognized the dire need.  In their frozen and exhausted state, the crew could not survive a swim to shore through the tumultuous waves.  The telephone had not yet been invented, and going for help would take too long.  Keeper Hyde knew that he and the assistant light-keeper, his wife Elsa, were the only hope of rescue for the Ben Flint’s crew.  They quickly loaded the lighthouse’s small boat onto a wagon, along with blankets and other supplies, and set off up the beach.  Upon reaching the site of the wreck, the two of them launched their boat and managed to reach the stranded schooner.  After multiple trips, they succeeded in bringing all of the men safely to shore.

The crew reached Manistee by wagon that evening.  The account of the disaster in the Manistee Times said, “All unite in praise of the kindness and heroism of the lighthouse keeper and his lady.  But for their efforts, others and perhaps all would have perished.”

(My friend Grace Truman serves as president of S.O.S. Vermilion, a nonprofit organization working to preserve an 1876 U.S. Life-Saving Service station on Lake Superior near Whitefish Point.  If you are interested in what they’re doing, the website is sosvermilion.org. Grace, her husband, and their son also wrote the book Storms and Sand: A Story of Shipwrecks and the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station.  It tells the true stories of rescues made by the men of the U.S. Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard at the Big Sable Point station near Ludington. If anyone wants to order a copy, email info@pinewoodspress.com.  The list price is $29.95, but you can get a special price of $20.00 with free shipping and tax included, if you mention “Summer Setting.” Thank you, Grace, for sharing this record of courage and valor! May we be inspired to respond as bravely in emergencies should the need arise, and may we be quick to share with others that Jesus can save!)

Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:13).

The Lighthouse
(—Ronny and Kenny Hinson, 1970)

There’s a lighthouse on a hillside
That overlooks life’s sea
When I’m tossed, it sends out
A light that I might see
And the light that shines in darkness now
Will safely lead me thru the night
If it wasn’t for The Lighthouse
My ship would sail no more.

Chorus: And I thank God for The Lighthouse
Well, I owe my life to Him
For Jesus is The Lighthouse
And from the rocks I’ve seen
He has shown a light all around me
That I might clearly see
If it wasn’t for The Lighthouse
Tell me where would this ship be.

Ev’rybody that lives about me
They said tear that lighthouse down
‘Cause the big ships they don’t sail this way anymore
There’s no use of it standing ’round
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night
When just in time, I saw that light
Yes that light from that old lighthouse
That stands up there on the hill.


2020 Vision

“Twenty-twenty” vision means our eyes can perceive what a person with normal, healthy vision can also see from twenty feet away. I don’t know about you, but it’s been years since I’ve had perfect vision, although thinking about tomorrow being the first day of “2020” makes me wish I could somehow have perfect vision again. If you’ve lost your 20/20 vision, wouldn’t you like that too?!

Okay, so maybe that’s not going to happen for us in this life here on earth, but aren’t you glad we have glasses to correct our vision? I used to think Ben Franklin invented glasses back in 1784, but then I learned Salvino D’Armante made the first pair of glasses 500 years earlier, back in 1284. However, glass has been intentionally produced for more than 3,600 years, and where there is glass, there is likely to be magnification used to enhance eyesight, so I’m not sure if we will ever really know who first used glasses to improve vision. I even heard years ago that a pair of glasses was found next to the imprint of a dinosaur track, although I can’t find any photos to corroborate this claim, so it may be bogus!

Photo taken via Hubble Telescope of Star Cluster Pismis 24 with Nebula

Still, it is certainly true that our human vision is limited but can be improved by magnification. For instance, the Hubble telescope can magnify objects 4,700X, so we can see images of the heavens like this. The universe appears to be perhaps infinitely huge, so we’ll never fully understand it, but it would be impossible for us even to begin exploring outer space without the help of such telescopes.

Fluorescent Endothelial Cells

Similarly, electron microscopes can magnify up to 10,000,000X, allowing us to see images of incredibly small “inner spaces” such as the cells within our bodies. Without the help of microscopes, our understanding of life and how even our own bodies work would be extremely limited.

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles-by Valentin de Boulogne. 1618-1620 AD.

I believe with all my heart (and experience) that the Bible corrects my spiritual vision just like glasses help me see more clearly in this physical world. The Bible, like a Hubble Telescope, helps me catch a vision of the magnificence of heaven, even though I can’t perceive it with my limited eye sight. Through meditating on biblical passages, I can learn about the deepest recesses of my heart and mind. Like a fluorescent microscope, the Bible lights up my inmost being and illuminates my spirit.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day . . . the first day of 2020. My vision for 2020 is to develop 2020 vision spiritually . . . to regain clarity, to focus more intently, and to respond in faithful obedience to the spiritual light I receive. I hope to share some of the highlights with you, and I hope you’ll share what you’re learning with me as well! For starters, have you made any New Year’s Resolutions yet? I’m working on mine, and chief among them is to meditate on scripture daily (which I’ve been practicing for many years) and to memorize at least one psalm per month. For many years after being spiritually born again,* I worked on memorizing Bible verses every day, and I suspect I had closer to 2020 vision back then. Sadly, in the past 15 years or so, I stopped memorizing, and I’m sure that’s effected my spiritual vision. I declare 2020 as my year of attaining spiritual 2020 vision! Want to join me?

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” ( Psalm 34:3).

“Be Thou My Vision”
(Ancient Irish song translated by Mary E. Byrne)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

(*If you’re not sure what I mean by the term being “born again,” please click on the “Coming to Christ” link at the very top of this post. Without being born spiritually, no one can even begin to understand the spiritual world and is as blind to spiritual life as a babe still in the womb),

Christmas Cards

A friend from my writing group wrote this a few years ago but shared it with us recently, and she has graciously allowed me to pass it on to you:

It’s snowing on this Sunday afternoon in December as my husband and I enter the double doors of the nursing home where his mother lives. I had called ahead and reserved the “family room” for the three of us so that we would have privacy and space to spread out our project – her Christmas cards. Always one to send hand-written cards with kindly and concerned notes to her long list of friends, Mom is ninety years old and long past being able to “do her cards” on her own. So I’d purchased cards with two of her goals in mind: a Christian message and a rural theme, and one goal of mine: the cards must be pretty.

In our bag as we walk down the hallway is my purchase, a Christian-messaged card celebrating the birth of Christ into the world superimposed on a red barn in the countryside. The entire front of the card is covered in sparkling glitter. Also in the bag is her address book which is now in my care, pens, stamps, and a printed letter supposedly written by her telling her friends how she is – fine – busy with family and friends and grateful for God’s love and salvation. We are ready and we have a job to do!

As we push Mom’s wheelchair down the hall to the family room, we ask her if she’s had a good lunch. “I haven’t had any lunch.”

“No lunch? Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m not hungry.” We look at each other. The entire building is filled with the aromas of Sunday dinner.

We gather around a table in the private room, Rob and his mother side-by-side and facing me. We spread out our things. I open her address book to the first person, addressing and stamping the envelope while Rob opens the first card for her to sign. He leans in close to her, his right arm around the back of her chair, his left hand pointing to where she should sign. He watches her sign, folds her letter inside the card, and seals the envelope. We have begun. Soon we are in a pleasant rhythm. Address, stamp, sign, fold, seal. Sometimes Rob prods her along with, “Now, Mother, this is your nephew, so sign ‘Aunt Eileen,’” and she complies. Sometimes unprodded she writes Love, or I love you, before her name. Working down the list, we come to her college roommate, a “W.” “Oh, yes,” she said. “She married Edwin Wierach and they live in Grand Blanc.”

“Isn’t that the way it is?” I think to myself. “She can’t remember lunch, but she remembers her college roommate and the name of the man she married.”

It takes most of the afternoon to finish her cards. I feel victorious. It’s a precious time of walking down memory lane with our beloved ninety-year-old Mom. I’ve known her for close to 45 years and we have accomplished mountains of projects. Real projects, hard work. Recently, however, our times together usually involve a delivery of some sort or a conversation of superficial pleasantries or a trip to the doctor rather than meaningful labor. But today, this afternoon, our bag is filled with finished Christmas cards ready for the Post Office. Mom’s friends and relatives will once again receive greetings and love from her.

Sitting across from me my husband smiles, glitter flashing on his eyelashes, glitter around his mouth, glitter on his hands. Mom has the happy look of a job well done, glitter in her hair, on her blouse, winking on her cheek.

She is gone in August. This is our final project.

(I am adding this verse, not my friend, but isn’t this story an inspirational account of honoring parents? 🙂 “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” [Ephesians 6:2-3].)