Category Archives: Inspiration

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

God’s Compass: Have You Found True North?

God’s Compass, a 2016 release from Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts program, is truly outstanding. To my mind, it’s one of the best yet in the Christian film industry, particularly in the areas of acting, pacing, and script. Had I been an actress, it’s a movie I would have been honored to have been in! In fact, it even got a 7.2 rating from IMBd.  The story follows the life of a retiring high school principal, Suzanne Waters, who goes immediately from celebrating her retirement to coping with a series of crises surrounding the birth of her first grandchild, trying to help a juvenile delinquent (and her overly busy surgeon son), solving a mystery, and processing the recent death of her beloved husband.  There is definitely some suspense, and there’s a humorous plot twist,
but there’s also a great lesson to be learned.  By faith, Suzanne perseveres in in making godly, gracious decisions (which appear absurd by human reasoning), and there’s a warm and wonderful happily-ever-after ending
that made me sigh contentedly and lifted my spirit. God’s Compass: Finding Your True North,
affirms the rightness of following God through dark and difficult circumstances and sacrificing for the sake of others, only to find that joy awaits
those who are willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own. And, isn’t that the Truth? It’s certainly been true in my life. Besides all that, there’s no sex, no violence, and no profanity!   🙂I just loved it, and I’m already looking forward to their next release, Extraordinary. Way to go, Stephan Schultze and the Christian film industry!!!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Oh! What a Crowd!!”

Have you ever been at the bedside of someone you loved when they passed from this earth to the next? I heard a wonderful story recently about the last words of a dear friend’s father. Sue shared this account while we were grieving the fresh loss of her father-in-law, who was also every bit a father to her. Sue’s father-in-law was very elderly and infirm by the time I knew him, so it was a special treat to hear stories from his life at his recent memorial service. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a veteran, a hunter, and a stellar fisherman. Best of all, he was a man of faith and grace. It was fun to watch the slide show of his life and realize how much my friend’s husband looked like his father…and was like his father in many ways. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bob without receiving a big, warm bear hug. He always has a mischievous grin too…like he’s just dreaming up how to tease Alan. Bob always makes you laugh!For example, Bob’s father graduated to glory just a few days before their family was scheduled to leave on a two-week vacation to the Caribbean, and one of his last jokes with his dad before he passed was that after all the years of Bob’s giving his father grief, his dad was going to get him back by dying at the wrong time and ruining Bob’s long-awaited family vacation. (He didn’t, BTW; he died at “the perfect” time!) If you are aghast by that kind of humor, know that this was not malicious teasing, this is a beautiful indication of how at peace Bob and his dad were with each other, and how deep and sure his father’s faith was that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (gleaned but not quoted from 2 Corinthians 5:8). Bob and his dad had a rare and wonderful relationship! But, the story that has stayed with me the longest was Sue’s account of her father’s last words. He was also a man of deep faith in Christ, and Sue was with him when he passed into eternity. Here is her account: “My dad said (I’ll never forget it) ‘Oh!  What a crowd!’  He was not only smiling but also had a look of awe, and his voice had the sound of awe (something else I will never forget)!  I think it’s the awe that really hit me, like something I can’t even begin to imagine as hard as I try – but I know it’s good because it was said with awe and a smile!” “He didn’t pass away until the next day but was not responsive before or after he said those words.  A few minutes before he passed he suddenly opened his eyes (which hadn’t been open for a day and a half) and looked beyond me toward the wall. He moved his mouth like he was trying to say something, but of course, no sound came out as he was too weak.  Then he was gone.” Sue says that now heaven is more than a hope for her; heaven has become an exciting reality that she’s looking forward to, where she’ll be reunited with loved ones and home with Jesus forever!  How about you? Are you ready to meet Jesus in heaven?!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)

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:
for I am God, and there is none else”
(Isaiah 45:22).

Saturday Recipe for Lent: How to Satisfy Your Hunger Cravings

mushrooms-onions-and-peppersUsually on Saturday I’ve been sharing recipes for food, but today I thought I’d rather share a recipe for satisfying hunger generally, which came to me from reflecting on a recent message referred to as “A Theology of Food.” sauteeing-veggiesThat sounded like a crazy title to me, but by the end of the message, I understood what our pastor meant. “Pastor Jim” is working his way through the book of Romans, and we’re on Romans 14 now, where the Apostle Paul discusses eating. basket-of-fruitIt had never occurred to me that man’s first prohibition concerned food, and that both Adam’s and Christ’s first temptations had to do with food. cauliflower-fresh-headAlthough Jesus taught in Matthew 15 that it’s not what goes into our mouth but out of our mouth that can defile us, still, eating food can be sinful if it’s done to please ourselves without respect to what God wants for us. chopping-up-cauliflowerGod intended food to be a blessing and to enable us to enjoy fellowship with one another and with Him, but we can make food into an idol when we allow eating to become an end in itself and use it for personal pleasure rather than for health and fellowship. spinach-salad-with-strawberries-and-pecansI am not making the ascetic suggestion that we shouldn’t enjoy food, or that we should only eat as little as necessary to survive, or that we should never enjoy the abundant array of foods that are available to us, but (as our pastor reminded us), overeating as a form of therapy or as a fattening reward we don’t need is just plain wrong. All too often (and I’m totally guilty of this), we eat because we’re bored or lonely or tired, or feel overworked or underappreciated, or because our friends are eating…the list goes on. steamed-cauliflowerWe train our brain to get an immediately gratifying buzz from the pleasurable sensations of hot chocolate or popcorn (or whatever), and we feel a little perk from the sugar or fat, with the net effect of feeling better in the moment but fatter in the morning…which is no different from any other addictive process! frying-steak-and-veggiesWhat we really need to do is train our brain to acknowledge need when we sense it, but to take that need straight to God, asking him to fill it with Himself or show us what He wants us to do to fill it. apple-pearInvite Him into the conversation: Why do I feel this way? What is it that I really need? What should I do? apple-pear-slicedI think if we all employed that strategy, and really listened for the still, small voice within our heart (God’s Holy Spirit), we’d quickly learn to let God fill us with just what we need…and probably most of the time (unless it’s actually meal time), it would not be more food!

steak-dinner-with-vegetables-and-fruits-2I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

 

Before Black History Month Ends: Take Time to be Charmed by the Queen of Katwe

queen-of-katwe Have you seen Disney’s Queen of Katwe?
It’s a perfect movie for celebrating Black History Month! queen-of-katwe-enjoying-her-first-snowQueen of Katwe is a glowing tribute to the brilliance and beauty
of African people, as well as their capacity for integrity and perseverance.

queen-of-katwe-accepting-recognitionWhen I first started preparing for this post, I was tempted to complain that the shortest, darkest month has become Black History Month, and that if I were running the country I’d choose March or May—long beautiful months…until I read the reason why. carter_g_woodson_portraitDr. Carter G. Woodson (African American with a PhD from Harvard who is known as the Father of Black History) chose the second week of February as “Negro History Week” because two men who were very influential in elevating African Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, were born then.

lupita-nyongo-as-nakku-harriet-in-queen-of-katwe Do you get frustrated by my rabbit trails? I hope not. phiona-mutesi-in-queen-of-katweAt any rate, Queen of Katwe tells the true story
of a young girl named Phiona Mutesi, kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katwewho grew up in “Katwe,” a slum of Kampala, Uganda. harriet-in-queen-of-katweHer father had died, and Phiona’s mother, Harriet,
fiercely defended the children, vegetable-market-in-queen-of-katweworking constantly in a street market selling vegetables so they could survive. phiona-at-mission-school-in-queen-of-katwePhiona and her little brother, hungry,
wandered into a mission school, where they were fed. missionary-with-child-in-queen-of-katweWhile there, they also met Robert Katende, a young missionary  robert-katende-praying-with-children-in-queen-of-katwewho coached soccer  chess-game-in-queen-of-katweand taught the children chess with the hope of helping them learn skills benjamin-in-queen-of-katwethat would enable them succeed in life generally. phiona-mutesi-and-madina-nalwanga-in-queen-of-katweThe rest is history
(current history:Phiona is only 21 today and still going strong!), returning-to-school-on-mission-bus-in-queen-of-katwebut I don’t want to say too much so you can fully enjoy the movie. receiving-prize-in-queen-of-katweAnd, if you have any school-aged children in your life, it would make a wonderfully inspirational movie to share with them too. Disney does it so well!

slum-of-katwe-in-kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katweBear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:2-10)

(I took all the photos while watching the movie, except for the first [publicity poster] and the B&W of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, which is public domain, from Wiki.)

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

Loving: More than a Just a Name

loving-movie-posterMuch more than just a name, Loving is “an absorbing, beautiful piece of American cinema” (Paul Heath, The Hollywood News) based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. marriage-of-richard-and-mildred-loving-from-loving-movieLoving is a PG-13, 2016 movie recently released to video that has been highly rated. It’s already won 19 awards and has been nominated for 82 more, including an Academy Award nomination for Ruth Negga in her leading role as Mildred Loving. February is Black History Month. If you haven’t watched this moving film yet, February would be a great time to see Loving and start putting love into action by understanding and loving our dark-skinned citizens more.   🙂  ruth-negga-as-mildred-in-the-movie-lovingAlthough I sat through the entire movie feeling petrified that something terrible would happen to this young couple—and they did suffer many hardships for their interracial marriage (which was still against the law in Virginia back in 1958), I was able to sigh happily at the end. Their case, trying to legitimize interracial marriages throughout America, went to the Supreme Court in 1967.   richard-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you’re a white supremacist, I beg you to look deep into your heart and try to figure out why. What makes you think white is superior to any other skin color?  I promise you that, apart from skin tissue, we’re all the same colors underneath.  richard-and-mildred-loving-with-lawyer-from-loving-movieCaucasians, Mongoloids, and Negroids are all similar in what’s inside our bodies, brains, and hearts. When I look into my heart, I find that I’m a sinner, just like everybody else. I find that I’m imperfect. I find that very, very little of what makes me “good” has anything to do with me. Some of it has to do with how I was created in the womb, who my parents were, and all the advantages I had as a child growing up. The rest is attributable to God’s redemption through Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. The only thing I can claim is believing and surrendering my life to Christ, and even that I know is a gift of God for which I can only thank Him.   mildred-and-their-first-child-in-the-movie-lovingIf you think whites are in any way superior to any other race, on what do you base that? Certainly not the Scriptures, which teach that God created all of us in His image, that we are all marred by sin and in need of a Savior, and that the death of Christ occurred to break down the walls between us and unify us into one glorious body, the Church of Jesus Christ, the bride of Christ. mildred-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you separate yourself from your brothers and sisters based on race, you’re separating yourself from the body of Christ and the love of Christ. God calls us to love and humility. Will you answer that call?the-lawyer-who-helped-in-the-movie-lovingBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
(Ephesians 1:13-22, ESV)the-movie-loving-mildred-feeding-their-baby