Category Archives: Making choices

Ending Well and Getting a Fresh Start

        Our refrigerator has been sort of the epicenter of family and friend lore. If you’ve sent me a photo of your family in the last few years, it’s probably here! It also serves as a bulletin board and place to display the grand kids’ art work,             and when the children visit, they definitely check to see what’s up! Now, I should explain that we bought this refrigerator used 25 years ago when we first moved into Tanglewood Cottage, and it was definitely in need of replacing. Therefore, it was the first thing to be changed out.However, I have a whole section on  my blog dedicated to “The Pictures on my Fridge,” and every picture means a lot to me!  So, before I let them touch my refrigerator, I lovingly peeled off all the photos and placed them into a coffee table photo album to keep the memories alive! The shiny, new refrigerator (my first “new” frig in our 44 years of marriage) has made me stop and think about the coming year. 2018 will be a shiny, new year… full of possibilities, but without any pictures hanging on it yet. What shall we do? First of all, I certainly don’t want to neglect my family and friends, and I want to finish this year well with the loved ones who are depending on me here at home. Sadly (because I’m so limited and our kitchen is an updating disaster area for the time being), that means I won’t be doing much blogging between now and mid January, although I’ll try to keep my recipes and Song of Solomon meditations going (and anything else as time allows).

One of my girlfriends suggested that I re-post some of my earlier blogs that people seemed to enjoy a lot. That didn’t feel quite right to me, although if you’ve got some free time and are interested in any particular topic, everything I’ve written for the past almost 10 years is still recorded, and if you type a subject into the “Search” bar on the top right-hand corner of this blog, it will bring up posts that touch on that subject. I have to admit, though: The fact that I won’t be able to write much frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure! Does that ever happen to you? You have more to do than you think you “should,” so you feel like a flop? Take heart! God’s priorities are different from ours. He makes things much simpler than we do. God doesn’t measure success in productivity, but in living right and loving well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8).

Meanwhile, I pray that God will bless and guide each of you during this holiday season. May you find joy in anticipating the good things God has in store for you this coming year, and may you fill up your days with fruitful service and a host of happy memories from loving well and being loved!

 

 

Rise Up, My Love (263): How to Survive Heartbreak

Song of Solomon 8:5 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” This is a magnificent verse. It is speaking—of course—of the bride. From whence is she coming? The wilderness. How is she coming? Is she alone? No, not at all. She is coming in the company of her beloved, enabled by his support.

This is a verse that gleams like a gem lying openly atop the burning desert sands of life…no digging to understand what’s meant, just scoop it up and it’s yours! Better yet, it’s like the glitter of light reflecting from an artesian well, marking an oasis in the desert of life…no need to dig the well, just draw out the water and be refreshed. You know what the verse is saying…just meditate on it…”chew on it” for a while and allow its truth to become your own experience!

Have you ever been in the wilderness? About fifteen years ago, I lost my mother after ten long years of her suffering with Alzhiemer’s, and shortly thereafter I learned that one of my dearest friends had betrayed me in a most devastating way. I felt desperately lonely and heartbroken…I believe it was the lowest point in my life, and my husband was totally unhelpful. (He is now very supportive, just for the record.)  At any rate, it took me many years, but I learned a very painful lesson. When we’re in the desert, we’re never going to survive unless we start taking one small step at a time…putting one foot in front of the other even if we’d really rather die and go to heaven. Nobody can do this for us. God wants us to lean on our Savior and walk out of the wilderness with him, but there are certain steps we have to take or we’ll never really get out.

*We have to confess our own failures: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

*We have to forgive those who’ve injured us: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

*And then, we have to consciously refuse to think about the past hurt, just as our dear heavenly Father does: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).  *Finally, we have to start walking up and out of the wilderness, like someone who’s trying to recover from a broken leg (or for us older folks—a hip or knee replacement), leaning heavily on our beloved spiritual husband, Jesus Christ, for support. Slowly but surely, without even realizing it, we’ll start to heal and find joy again, but it comes from leaning on Jesus and communing with him with an iron-clad resolution to refuse looking back.

Will you take time to stop for a few minutes and sort through your life relationships? Are there injuries that rumble like thunder through the back of your mind and send a bolt of jagged pain ripping through your heart when you remember them? If so, how about taking a few moments to visualize something with me. Imagine gathering up all these terrible memories one by one as if they are billowing black clouds that you can reach up and pull down into a bundle. Imagine taking the bundle and bringing it to the foot of the cross, giving it entirely to Jesus so that it is no longer yours. Confess and forgive: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:4).

Have you given your burden to the Lord? If so, it is his. You don’t own it any more. Don’t try to take it back; don’t open the bag; don’t try to sort through the memories anymore. They belong to Jesus, and he wants you to choose to “remember them no more.” That chapter is finished. Over. Done. Look forward.

One night while our family was leading worship at our local rescue mission, a big, handsome, fierce-looking African-American man with dread locks came to the front of the room at an altar call carrying a long knife, which he lifted over his head, holding one end with each of his hands. For a moment we all held our breath, not perfectly sure what he intended, because carrying concealed weapons was strictly forbidden at the mission, and no one had known that he was armed with such a deadly knife.

However, when the man reached the front where my husband was standing, he kneeled down and laid his weapon on the floor. This is just what we need to do with those killer thoughts that we’ve kept hidden within us! Lift that lethal bundle over your head, come straight to the cross, and lay it at the feet of Jesus.

“This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isaiah 28:12). “Casting all your care upon him: for He careth for you” (I Peter 5:7).

Dedicating Babies

Yesterday we had the privilege of participating in the dedication of our youngest grand daughter. I know many Christian traditions baptize infants, but we practice “believer’s” baptism instead, which means a person is baptized only after they make a personal commitment to Christ as their Lord and Savior. (The closest thing I can think of—although it’s actually different—is “confirmation” in churches that do practice infant baptism.) In many countries (not only through the centuries but still today), people are not considered true believers (or persecuted as such in hostile countries) until they are baptized, but that is not why we defer baptism. We believe that baptism (and communion) do not have saving value in themselves (“sacraments” which confer saving grace on a person). We believe people are saved by faith alone—their own faith, not their parents—and that baptism is an outward witness to an inner conversion experience that happened instantaneously when the person believed in Christ and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.However, we do strongly believe in committing ourselves to bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (teaching them about God and his ways), and to this much-prayed-and-hoped-for end—that our children will believe in God and choose Christ for themselves—we dedicate our children to the Lord, committing ourselves as a spiritual community to praying for and participating in the love and training of our children. So, yesterday several babies were dedicated, and among them, not only our grand daughter, but our daughter-in-law’s sister’s baby too! What a very special day of solemnities and joy! Brianna comes from such a big family that we ended up celebrating in two homes afterward, so Elanor got her own cake. Being just six months old, she’d never had cake before but was bound and determined she wanted to try it…and…why not? It met with complete approval, and I hope and pray that as she learns more about the ineffable mysteries and goodness of God, she will be even more delighted and pleased!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
(Psalm 34:8).

Brain Research and Brain Dialysis

(By guest writer, Jane Anderson)

A few years ago, then President Obama approved $100M to start an initiative for study of the human brain. “There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked,” Obama says.  No doubt! I, too, have been fascinated by the way my brain works [or doesn’t]. In fact, I’m often baffled by how people think. And just so you don’t get the wrong impression, I fit into that classification of people with sensible thoughts one moment and totally illogical thoughts the next. Try mind mapping that!

I’m not slamming the research project. I understand the mission behind it, which according to the White House “aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.” I get that. However, there’s a much more significant brain research project available that’s 100% free and has eternal benefits, except it’s a do-it-youself project that no one else can do for you, and it starts with this observation: What we think actually affects the health (or illness) of our brain! In a very real way, we become what we think about. Every act started as a thought – in the brain. “Right thinking leads to right doing.” No amount of brain research is going to alter that truth.

There is a map in our brains, and all paths stem from the initial thought. To act right, thoughts must be right. But, how can we clean up our map of wrong thoughts and get on the path of right thinking? How often do we get onto a path of wrong thinking—worry, pessimism, negativity—and then wonder why we can’t shake the despair?

Have you ever wished there was such a thing as dialysis for the mind?  I sure have.  I have a friend who has dialysis on a regular basis. I have zero medical expertise, but I know that in that process her dirty blood is drawn through a machine that cleanses it and puts it back. It’s a fascinating process. In dialysis, man-made equipment and procedures perform the life-preserving act.

However, when it comes to our minds, it’s all up to us! We have to take responsibility for cleaning up our minds (although we can have access to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us, of course).  Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is the ultimate dialysis for our minds! Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but instead be transformed by renewing your mind. It’s not easy, but renewing our minds is the only way to think rightly.

It would be a phenomenal achievement if my brain could be mapped with all the right paths deeply embedded so I don’t fall off the track. It would be so much easier if I could hook my brain up to a machine and have the contents cleaned up and put back while I do nothing but wait. What are your thoughts on that? Well, don’t think too long because that’s not how it works. You know…free will and all. We have work to do in our minds, in our hearts, and in our acts.

If we get the inside right the rest will take care of itself.  How can we focus on the right things, so our acts will be right? We have some clues in the Bible.  2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Let me assure you, if our thoughts are obedient to Christ, the maps in our brains will lead to acts that follow Christ and are good.  1 Peter 1:13-16 from the Message translation reads this way: “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'”

Maybe you have it all figured out, but I don’t! I’m still working on spiritual dialysis and mapping my mind to right actions, and I don’t think this research project will ever be finished until the Lord takes me to heaven one day!

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

(Image of the brain from Wikipedia.)

 

Which School and The School for Scandal

So, this week I have kids and grand kids working hard at schools in Greece, Italy, Germany, California, and Michigan…home schools, public schools and private! And, guess what? Even Alan, Joel and I went to school! That’s right; we attended The School for Scandal in Canada. Sounds rather scandalous, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe I should backtrack a little. Jonathan is teaching in Athens, Mike and Grace are homeschooling in Italy, Jon and Gerlinde’s girls are in public school in Germany, Aaron and Carleen’s boys are involved in a private-homeschooling combination called Classical Conversations in California, and my daughter’s daughter has started school here in Michigan. So far, so good, as far as I know, and I hear they’re all settling in nicely at their very different venues. However, I wasn’t nearly as settled about attending The School for Scandal when Alan, Joel, and I went to Stratford for a weekend of plays. In fact, the name turned me off so much that if we hadn’t made a deal that each of us could choose one play, I would have balked big time.  Alan and I both wanted to attend Twelfth Night for sure, which we’ve seen and enjoyed for many years. It has a clever plot, lots of humorous lines, and a happy ending, where all’s well that ends well.  This year’s Stratford Festival (in Ontario, not England…if you look online for tickets, make sure you buy them for the right country! I almost didn’t!) marked Canada’s 150th anniversary, and according to artistic director, Antoni Cimolino, all the theatrical productions were chosen to explore identity issues…how “we prepare our face to the world, deal with our hidden desires or balance our self interests with the environment around us.”  Without a doubt, the humorous confusions of Shakespeare’s comedic Twelfth Night fit the bill perfectly.  Our second choice was Tartuffe, considered by some to be the French playwright, Molière’s, most brilliant creation. The play was a comedic exposé on hypocrisy, specifically showcasing the evil intentions of a self-effacing Catholic cleric. I’m not french, and I’m no expert in what the original language was, but I was woefully disappointed by the script, which had been translated from seventeenth-century French into contemporary English rhymes. I was sitting next to a young playwright from Toronto, who beamed over the cleverly adept translations, but some of them made me cringe. What I thought was going to be light-hearted humor turned out to be pretty distressing and distasteful. On the other hand, our third play, written by Irish playwright, Sheridan (The School for Scandal), which I was most wary of seeing, turned out to be mostly light-hearted fun but with a powerful lesson for all of us pupils: Stop gossiping and start learning true discernment of character! Great lesson! Long thought process short: It’s nigh unto impossible to know what’s really going on inside the brain and heart of someone else. Similarly, it’s nigh unto impossible to know what decisions someone else should make concerning how to school their children.  It’s more than enough challenge attempting to live transparent and wise lives personally. Let’s pray for others and support them, trusting they will make wise choices for themselves and their families. It’s something I learned (yet again) in a very unlikely place: The School for Scandal!

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
(John 7:24).

Contrasting America and Africa: What Are You Looking For In A School?

A few days ago, I had the privilege of escorting a pair of darling twins home from their first day of school at a lovely, modern facility. I was there early, waiting a little anxiously with all the other parents who were wondering how their cherubs had done. Joshua came bursting out the exit door first, showed me his new lunchbox with its cool, flashing lights, and immediately asked if he could join in with the other children on the playground. Grace took forever. In fact, I had to ask several times where she might be, and eventually a teacher went back inside to find her. She’d gotten lost and wasn’t sure where to go. However, she seemed perfectly unworried and untraumatized (although I was a bit of both), and all the way home (which took close to 45 minutes through construction and rush hour traffic), she kept up a bubbly conversation about her day, what she ate, who she met, what she did, and what she was planning for the next day. Joshua, on the other hand, fell asleep! Their first day appeared to be a success, at least from the outside.

Last fall, while in Africa,  we visited a school in Swaziland  and brought the children lots of food, toys, and school supplies.  It was in a poor, rural village with a dirt yard  enclosed by barbed wire  and a big room with a concrete floor, which served all the children.  This was not a mission school,  so I was happy for the opportunity to share with the children  but had no particular expectations for what the children would be like  or what they would be learning.  After they excitedly helped unload the bus,  they played with us,  and we enjoyed watching them play.  The teachers had the children form lines,  and we helped pass out the supplies,  which made the children (and us) very happy.  And then, something unexpected happened!  The teachers had prepared the children to give
a little “thank you” performance for us!  The kids sang songs with their teacher in their language,  but they also sang Christian songs, like” Jesus Loves Me,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace” (in English),

and then one of the little girls did a wonderful job of telling the story of Jonah with a clear gospel message. She did such a great job it made me teary-eyed, and I marveled that at this little school deep in the heart of Africa, the gospel was going out to the world who were coming to them!  Isn’t that beautiful?Here in America, we take the knowledge of the gospel for granted, and in the public schools, teaching about God is actually suppressed. How sad! Instead of “freedom of religion” (no state-selected religion so that children of all faiths can practice their religion without being oppressed) it’s become “freedom from religion” (no religion allowed at all). Millions are going to schools where they do not learn about God. As you send your little ones off to school, I hope they will be learning about God and how to share His love with those around them!  In some ways, America may be darker than Africa at this point! If your children are not learning about Christ at school, I hope they’re learning about Him at home, and that you’re teaching them how to share his love with others at school.  As my spiritual big brother used to say, “Wherever you go, you’re either a missionary or a mission field.” What about you and your children? Are you preparing them to be missionaries in the dark and needy nations…everywhere “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

(The first photo is not of “Joshua” from my story, but it’s the son of a dear friend, whose son is also just starting school. I know this little boy will be well taught at home, no matter where he goes to school! Thanks, Amy. 🙂  )

The Life of Bri

Every once in a while I meet someone so special that I just have to share about them. The life of Bri is extremely different from The Life of Pi (even though Bri does love pie), but to me—it’s much more heroic! Brian came into our family’s life when he and my son Daniel sat by each other in a college class; Daniel was the youngest student (14?) and Bri was the oldest (44?).

Since that time, Daniel has become a dentist and Brian earned his PhD in pharmacology, but to this day we’re all still good friends. About 10 years ago, Brian (“Bri”) brought a peach pie to our home for a potluck, and Alan was so delighted with it that Bri started a tradition of bringing us two peach pies every August when the peach crop ripened. And then, about three years ago, he didn’t come. I learned later that his father had passed away, leaving him as the sole care-giver for his very aged mother. He no longer had any time to make pies (or do much of anything fun, for that matter), and so I’ve started making a peach pie for Bri each August!

Yesterday he came over for this year’s edition. His mom (who’s now not only frail and can’t walk but is also becoming demented) was delighted to hear that he was going to visit “Mrs. Peaches” and asked if they could have the pie for supper. You bet!  🙂

The truly touching thing to me is to see Bri’s devotion to his mom. He’s put aside everything that he enjoys and said that his goal is to be successful in taking good care of his mom for as long as he can. This is the polar opposite of The Life of Pi, which was filled with adventures. The Life of Bri is filled with quiet unadventures.

(Maybe I should back up just a bit. Bri had cancer at age twenty-three, and although the radiation treatment cured him, he’s suffered a lot of side effects, like kidney failure, etc. He’s now lived longer than anyone who’s ever had the disease and treatment he underwent, but life is very challenging for him even without the added difficulties of trying to care for his infirm mother!)

I am in awe of those amazing people who give up everything to care for others. Bri is one; Maggie and her daughter Em are another duo, who are giving way above and beyond to keep their husband/father in their home, even though he’s lost virtually all ability to move from his neck down. To a lesser extent, but still heroic, is the devotion of every parent to their children and the devotion of every person who cares for others. Mother Teresa is one supreme example, and to me, Jesus is the ultimate example. He laid down his life so that anyone who believes in him may have forgiveness and eternal life! May God bless and encourage each one of you who is sacrificially loving others for their well-being! It’s a God-work!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).