If you are in the military, have a loved one in the military, or would like to get a little better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges facing those who are giving their lives to protect our safety, then I want to encourage you to watch Indivisible. (By the way, I’m guessing the pressures and problems would be very similar for any military personnel from a democratic nation.)
Indivisible (2018) is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, fresh out of seminary and basic training.
This left his wife, Heather, alone at Fort Stewart to care for their three young children among the community of other women whose husbands were also deployed.
Every deployment is dangerous and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but Darren ended up supporting the Special Forces, which was sort of the hardest of the hard!
I have a son in the military who was deployed to Iraq, and I can vouch for the constant strain and fear that I battled as a mother, who spent many hours on her knees while he was gone.
Indivisible does a masterful job of relating the terrors and traumas of war. Will our loved one survive? Will he be injured? Will he recover?
Even if he survives, will he be able to overcome all the horrors of death and destruction that he’s experienced?
What about the wives who’ve been left behind, who are constantly plagued by an emotional roller coaster of worry while trying to be emotionally stable for their children?
For many families, life is never quite the same after living through a deployment, and trying to rebuild a strong marriage bond is more of a challenge than some marriages can handle.
The lessons that Darren and Heather learned (and have been willing to share) are critical for young couples who are serving in the military. I wish every person in the service or who has a loved one in military service would see this movie!
It’s raw. It’s real. It’s sad, but there’s also a message of hope for a light at the end of the tunnel of PTSD and broken hearts.
God made a way for Darren, Heather, and a bunch of brave young soldiers and their wives, and He can do the same for you.
“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NABRE).
Over the years, I’ve felt led by the verse, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8) when it comes to blogging and sharing photos, so whenever someone has asked my permission to use a picture, I’ve always given permission without charge. Of course, I appreciate it when they credit me (and give a link back to my blog if appropriate), but as long as they aren’t selling my work per se, I’m happy to share the gifts that God has given me—in this case the privilege and leisure to observe and record glimpses into God’s magnificent creation.
Over time, my photos have shown up in dozens of diverse venues. To name a few: posters for national parks, a book on Central Park, advertisements for state fairs and tourist sites, a video for carpet cleaner, the front cover for an Episcopalian magazine, a tee-shirt design, as part of a composer’s music video, to enlarge and print for use in various people’s private homes, as subject matter for a young artist’s painting, many times to illustrate the blogs of fellow writers, and most recently, to be used in a large-format sepia drawing to be displayed in a public building. I’ve even noticed (a bit to my dismay) that sometimes my photos are used without my permission. In particular, two have showed up as wall paper designs for sale in Greece! 🙂
I have also had many friends and family members who have allowed me to use their photos and other creative work on my blogs, and I am deeply grateful for each of these dear friends! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! However, I have recently been amazed and blessed by a gift from an extremely talented Korean artist, Yongsung Kim.
It all happened as I began diligently searching the internet for free images of the life of Christ to illustrate my new series (“Meditating on the Commands of Christ”) since I cannot go anywhere to take photographs of Jesus at this point and have no talent as an illustrator. I can find wonderful classical paintings of Jesus, but I was longing for some fresh, modern interpretations that might be more appealing to today’s generation and kept coming across paintings by Yongsung Kim that were so original and evocative that they’d take my breath away.
I found Yongsung Kim’s website but was reluctant to ask if I could use his pictures because his artistry is his living, but I also knew that I could never afford to pay him for the value of using of his paintings, since I am not generating any income.
However, I also knew that I have been happy to share what God has given me as a free blessing to others, and so I thought it might be worth asking him! Amazingly, he has given me permission to use his paintings on my blog as long as I credit him and don’t use them for commercial purposes.
Last Sunday our church commissioned a young female surgeon who is heading off the Africa as a missionary. To me, that’s nothing short of asking her to walk on water, and yet I know it’s possible that she will do just fine, since during the Ebola epidemic a few years back, another young female surgeon with tremendous courage left the safety of Grand Rapids to help out with the epidemic in Africa . . . and lived to tell about it.
Probably more often than not, people are lured over their heads by temptation rather than calling, but I know God loves us and is willing to help us regardless. Whether we break through the ice accidentally, like John Smith, or we’re drawn to some addictive idol and find ourselves drowning, or we’re called to walk through oceans of difficulty with Jesus, He will rescue us if we’re willing to turn to him for help.
“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” ( Isaiah 43:1-3).
“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” (by Hillsong United)
You call me out upon the waters The great unknown where feet may fail And there I find You in the mystery In oceans deep My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise My soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters Your sovereign hand Will be my guide Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise My soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine And You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Saviour
Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!
I will call upon Your name Keep my eyes above the waves My soul will rest in Your embrace I am Yours and You are mine
Among the earliest trees to flower are the magnolias, whose extravagant magenta blossoms always take my breath away and leave me with a sense of joy. I would love to be like a magnolia—blossoming in bright beauty as a harbinger of better things to come, even when the world around us seems diseased and decaying.
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:22-29)
To me, this is one of the most provocative recordings of Jesus healing someone, and the fact that three of the gospel writers included it makes me think they found it astonishing too. First, if you take time to read the three stories (listed at the end of this post), you’ll notice a perfect example of why the first three books—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are called the “Synoptic Gospels,” which means basically that the material in all three books is generally consistent and given from a similar viewpoint. These three books focus more on the public ministry of Christ, whereas the gospel of John focuses more on the heart of Christ and his spiritual ministry.
Today’s account describes a time when Jesus healed a man, not based on his faith, but based on the extraordinary faith and determined love of the man’s friends!
Jesus had returned to his hometown, Capernaum, and I believe this event actually took place in his own home, because it says in Mark 2 that “it was noised that he was in the house.” (Who else’s home would be described as “the house?”) The news of Jesus’ supernatural ability to heal had made him famous throughout Israel, so people came from everywhere, crowding around to see him: “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them” (Luke 5:17).
Now, here’s the most exciting part of the story to me! A sick man had four friends who loved him so much that nothing was going to stop them from getting the man to Jesus. Since nobody would move aside so the men could carry their stretcher through the door, they somehow managed to climb up on the roof.
Once on the roof, they pulled aside the thatch and broke up the roof so they could lower the palsied man down, right in front of Jesus!
Can you imagine the crowd’s reaction? “What will Jesus do? Will he get mad at the men for breaking up the roof of his house? Will he ask the sick man if he has the faith to be healed? Will he perform a great miracle? I hope so! That’s what I came all the way to see!” I can just hear the whispering, and then the hush . . .
Nobody expected Jesus to respond the way he did. Instead of healing the man with palsy, we’re told that “Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2). “What? Why did he say that? Anybody can say that, but only God can really forgive sins. We’ve been duped! We came all this way to see a miracle, and instead this shyster is acting like he has the power to forgive sins and isn’t really going to heal the man at all.”
Imagine everyone’s surprise when Jesus knew what they were thinking and answered: “Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house” (Mark 2:8-11).
Which is, in fact, exactly what the palsied man did! “And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day” (Luke 5:25-26). I’ll say they did! Can you imagine a sick man being so miraculously recovered that he could not only stand up, he could pick up his bed (which would have been just a mat, but still, that’s very impressive) and carry it into his own home?
Beyond the most notable lesson from this story, which is that Jesus proved his deity and his authority over both sin and sickness, isn’t it thrilling to realize that Jesus won’t get angry at us for persistence? Got any loved ones who don’t even believe in Christ but need healing? We can carry them on a stretcher, and even if it means blowing the roof off of God’s house (which might be our church), we can bring them in for help. Jesus will respond to our faith.
Of course, in the final analysis, the sick man himself had to have enough faith believe he was healed. He had to stand up, walk, and take up his own bed. He had to believe, but he might not have believed if his four friends hadn’t gone to so much trouble and risk to bring him to Jesus. “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (Romans 3:3). How deep is our faith? How deep is our love for others?
“And he entered into a ship, and passed
over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they
brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their
faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be
forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes
said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 4 And
Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or
to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the
Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of
the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And
he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the
multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such
power unto men.” (Matthew 9:1-8)
“And again he entered into Capernaum after
some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And
straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to
receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto
them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the
palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could
not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and
when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy
lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick
of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But
there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive
sins but God only? 8 And immediately when Jesus
perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto
them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether
is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to
say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that
ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith
to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise,
and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And
immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch
that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this
fashion.” (Mark 2:1-12)
“And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? 22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. 25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.” (Luke 5:17-26)
The most disturbing but worthwhile film from 2018 that I watched was Operation Finale, based on the memoirs of Israeli officer Peter Malkin, concerning the capture and testimony in court of Adolph Eichmann, the “Architect of the Holocaust.” Ben Kingsley did a masterful job portraying Eichmann, and Oscar Isaac was absolutely brilliant as the cunning but compassionate Israeli intelligence operative who was able to form a positive emotional bond with the man who had been responsible for the murder of his (Malkin’s) sister and her children, along with six million Jews and six million people of other nationalities, including 1.5 million children.Is the movie accurate? Overwhelmingly. According to Director Christ Weitz,“For example, there was a girl in Argentina who was tortured by authorities and had a Swastika carved into her chest. We moved it forward to up the suspense, but we didn’t change any outcome. The majority of the film is accurate to the history.” In an interview, Weitz pointed out that he actually moved his family to Argentina so he could film on location . . . even using the same movie theater to shoot the scene where Eichmann’s son takes an interest in a beautiful young woman (who turns out to be Jewish). So, touches of extra romance (the expedition’s physician was really a man) and suspense (the timing of the plane’s departure), but otherwise distressingly factual.If I were still teaching history, I would definitely have my kids watch this movie, because the issues are (sadly) current within the Neo-Nazi movement today.I have no Jewish blood, so I can say (without feeling biased) that I stood in awe of the compassion and self-control Malkin exhibited. He said he thought Eichmann would be a monster, but when he spent time with him, Malkin realized that Eichmann seemed very human in person. In his memoirs, Malkin wrote, “A monster can be excused for his behaviour . . . The problem is not how a monster could do it, but how a human being did it.” -Peter Malkin ObituaryI also marveled at how humane the 11 operatives were who were involved in the case. They didn’t torture Eichmann or brutalize him. He was fed kosher food and allowed to sleep in a regular bed. All this for the man who had been responsible for executing “The Final Solution” (extermination) for over 12 million people.Operation Finale tells the story of Eichmann’s escape from Germany to Argentina, how he was discovered fifteen years later, and how he was eventually brought to trial. This was the statement he was persuaded (without violence) to sign:
I, the undersigned, Adolf Eichmann, hereby declare of my own free will that, since my true identity has become known, I realize the futility of trying to continue to flee justice. I declare myself ready to travel to Israel and to stand trial before a competent court. It is clearly understood that I shall be provided with legal counsel, and I myself will endeavor to clarify the facts of my years of service in Germany so that future generations may receive a true picture of those events. I am making this statement of my own free will. I have been promised nothing and no threats have been made against me. I desire at long last to find repose for my soul.As the head of the Jewish department, Eichmann had been responsible for orchestrating the deportation of millions of Jews, but he never admitted any guilt: “As far as this question is concerned, I can only say that I’ve never killed anyone . . . I had to obey orders. I had to do it.” “So, it looks like, in those days, behind a desk, you could kill much more than with a pistol, and that’s what he had done. He’d just send them to the camps.” Peter Malkin-Charney ReportThe terrifying question that we all have to answer is: For what are we willing to die? Would we kill others to avoid being killed ourselves, or are we strong enough morally to choose what is right, even when it means resisting evil and most likely being killed as a result? I’m sure (I hope) that all of us believe we should and would stand up against evil and take the consequences, but in reality, martyrs for the sake of truth and righteousness are few and far between. Jesus is the only man I know who willingly subjected himself to death—and the horribly cruel death of crucifixion—for the sake of overcoming evil with good. He knew the night before his capture that he was going to be arrested and killed, and he forewarned his disciples of this. Jesus could easily have slipped away in the night and left the area. No one would ever have found him. Why didn’t he?
Why did Jesus tell Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:37)? Why did Jesus go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he knew Judas Iscariot would betray him? Why didn’t he defend himself when he went to trial? All he would have had to do was deny that he was God, and he could have gone free! Why didn’t he? Why didn’t he call down 10,000 angels to save him?
“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:6-7).
Ten Thousand Angels
They bound the hands of Jesus
In the garden where He prayed
They led Him through the streets in shame
They spat upon the Saviour
So pure and free from sin
They said, “Crucify Him He’s to blame”
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me
Upon His precious head
They placed a crown of thorns
They laughed and said, “Behold the King”
They struck Him and they cursed Him
And mocked His holy name
All alone He suffered everything
When they nailed Him to the cross
His mother stood nearby
He said “Woman, behold thy son”
He cried, “I thirst for water”
But they gave Him none to drink
Then the sinful work of man was done
To the howling mob he yielded
He did not for mercy cry
The cross of shame He took alone
And when He cried, “It’s finished”
He gave Himself to die
Salvation’s wondrous plan was done
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me
Tooth pain hurts! That’s why our son, Daniel
(who’s the dental director at Exalta Health here in Grand Rapids), has been facilitating free dental days several times a year for the past few years. Each Free Dental Day, there’s been a wonderful group of very capable volunteers
who donate their time and expertise, which is good, because there’s also a long line of patients waiting outside
well before it’s light in order to get dental care that day.
(Many patients are uncomfortable having their pictures taken, so I couldn’t take any photos of the line, and fewer than half the patients in the overflowing waiting room agreed to let me take their picture, so the majority of them were actually behind me in the hallway when I took this photo.)
Exalta at its heart is motivated by the love of Christ. It’s a charitable outreach to those who are uninsured
and find it nigh unto impossible to pay for health care. This includes many young adults who no longer have parental support, as well as people of all ages who are out of work, homeless, or have low-paying jobs. Exalta also reaches out to refugees and has a large Hispanic-speaking population. They’ve been blessed by many Hispanic Christians who’ve taken an interest in the work, including this couple, who met at Exalta and are now newly married! This year our volunteer coordinator had the bright idea to do a press release, so a camera man and a news reporter from Fox News visited to interview patients and let Grand Rapids know what’s happening here. Not long afterward, Channel 13 News came to interview Daniel,and do a story on Exalta! Of course, the publicity was exciting, but that’s not why anybody helped. We helped because it’s good to help! We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to love others wherever we go. Still, I hope the exposure in the news media will make the public aware of the opportunity both for service and to serve. In addition to care that can be provided by dentists and hygienists, an oral surgeon was available for some of the more challenging work. Exalta has a panoramic X-ray machine to help with diagnostics, and patients can receive free eye screenings or counseling services if wanted.Caring for many patients in a timely manner takes tight coordination, including people who can translate, triage, and guide the patients. Just keeping packets of instruments sterile is a HUGE job
(which I know from trying to do it sometimes). It’s tricky trying to find just what you need when you need it, and faithfully restocking the drawers is a challenging labor of love! As photographer, I got to appreciate first-hand the beehive of activity . . . and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. So, if you need some dental care, or if you have time to volunteer, call Exalta Health in Grand Rapids and get plugged in
for their next free dental day, which is tomorrow, February 8th, 2019. If you can’t help tomorrow but are interested, they need volunteers with or without medical training every week day, so please call! https://www.exaltahealth.org/
(All photos taken during Exalta’s last free dental day, November 2, 2017.)