Category Archives: Meditations and reflections

Joy to You this Easter Day! He is Risen Indeed!

In honor of its being Resurrection Sunday, I’ve laid aside my usual post on the Song of Solomon and want to share some beautiful poetry written by the daughter of one of my friends. Lynette Garlets is the mother of four and in the midst of moving her family from Michigan to the Southeast. She wrote these poems first in her head while nursing her young children during the midnight hours of last Easter season. I hope you’ll be as enriched as I have been by reflecting on her meditations.

                                                       Mary’s Delivery

She carried a burden for nearly a year.
He carried his for thirty-three clear.

She traveled the days before her time.
His last walk was the Golgotha climb.

She labored for hours with groans and sweat.
His labor made the sky turn black.

She spilled her blood when her baby came.
He spilled it all, his race to reclaim.

She treasured these things and pondered on them.
His treasure was the rescue of men.

The cry, “It is finished, it is done!”
And Mary kissed her sleeping son.  (~Lynette Garlets)

                           Jesus 

His only crown was one of thorns.
His only throne a cross.
His palace–where they laid his bones.
His subjects all, he lost.

His naked body clothed my own.
His wounds healed all of me.
His flowing blood paid all my loan.
He won my loyalty.

So raise your flag of homage now.
Sing his song anew.
Love him and before Him bow.
He loved all of you.  (~Lynette Garlets)

(As it says in the Bible:) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Resurrection

The woolly worm within its casket sleeps–
All dried and hardened, given up for dead;
All crushed and crowded in its narrow bed.
Like death he neither eats nor breathes nor creeps.
A secret there enclosed, its casement keeps,
A mystery so wondrous, it is said,
That in due time this coffin it will shed
To spread its wings of light, to heav’n it sweeps. (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)Can we accept this miracle divine
And justly give the glory to our God?
And then to learn the lesson of the sign–
The metamorphosis of Christ to laud.  If we believe the truth of only one,
Then our own transformation we have none.  (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)

And finally, a beautiful hymn written 150 years ago:Crown Him With Many Crowns

  1. Crown Him with many crowns,
    The Lamb upon His throne;
    Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
    All music but its own!
    Awake, my soul and sing
    Of Him Who died for thee,
    And hail Him as thy matchless King
    Through all eternity.
  2. Crown Him the Lord of love!
    Behold His hands and side—
    Rich wounds, yet visible above,
    In beauty glorified.
    No angel in the sky
    Can fully bear that sight,
    But downward bends His wond’ring eye
    At mysteries so bright.
  3. Crown Him the Lord of life!
    Who triumphed o’er the grave,
    Who rose victorious in the strife
    For those He came to save.
    His glories now we sing,
    Who died, and rose on high,
    Who died eternal life to bring,
    And lives that death may die.
  4. Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
    One with the Father known,
    One with the Spirit through Him giv’n
    From yonder glorious throne,
    To Thee be endless praise,
    For Thou for us hast died;
    Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days
    Adored and magnified.

    (Matthew Bridges, pub.1852
    v. 3 by Godfrey Thring, pub.1874
    copyright status: Public Domain)

The Great Divide on Good Friday

You see the image often this time of year – three crosses in silhouette standing atop a small hill.  It’s a common image representing a most uncommon event and a critical truth.

Three men were crucified that day, two rebels or thieves and Jesus of Nazareth.  The rebels were lawbreakers.  They were convicted and being crucified for their crimes.  They had sinned too many times to count.

Jesus was sinless.  He was being crucified for claiming to be the Messiah and the son of God.

Religious leaders, people in authority, and countless others couldn’t believe it.  They thought the claim was blasphemy. Ignoring the miracles he had performed and despite fervently looking for and impatiently waiting for the promised Messiah who would redeem the Jewish people, most couldn’t or wouldn’t believe Jesus was the one.  If what he claimed couldn’t be true, it had to be blasphemy and he had to be crucified.   So, they nailed him to a cross and crucified him with the two thieves, one on his left, one on his right – a detail important enough to be described by all four writers of the Gospels.

Many in the crowd of onlookers shouted insults at Jesus and mocked him.  Even the two thieves taunted him.  In the midst of their own dying, they belittled the only one who could save them.

Then something happened.  One of the thieves noticed something.   There was something different about this Jesus dying next to him. He didn’t “take it like a man.”  He took it differently than the two thieves, differently from how you’d expect a normal human to take it.  He took it differently than the others who had been crucified — the soldiers noticed this.  One of them even said so. Despite being savagely flogged, torturously nailed to a cross, and struggling just to breathe – he still didn’t lash out.  He didn’t curse the soldiers or the crowd that mocked him. He didn’t respond insult for insult. He did something no one else did. He prayed for them — for their forgiveness. And he asked a friend standing nearby to take care of his mother. At a time when others being crucified would weep in sorrow or call out in defiance to the end, Jesus looked to the needs of others.

And it finally clicked – at least for one of the two thieves and one of the soldiers.  Maybe this Jesus really was different.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Maybe he was who he claimed to be.

When the one thief sarcastically taunted Jesus again saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us.”

The thief who now recognized something unique in Jesus rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Calling him by name he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then Jesus, through all the pain and anguish he was suffering for the sins of others chose to look out for the needs of one more. He saved the thief also, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

With that, Jesus forgave that thief of his sins, all his crimes, all his past as well.

The thief had finally recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was who he claimed — that he was Lord and God.

Jesus saved the thief.

Dying on a cross beside Jesus, legs and hands nailed to the tree, this thief couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t run to the temple, couldn’t sacrifice a lamb or a dove, couldn’t help care for the sick or the poor, couldn’t help little old ladies across the street. Literally and figuratively, he couldn’t lift a single finger to save himself or earn his salvation. Jesus saved him all the same.  Mercifully saved him by grace.

The other thief – bitter, defiant and spiritually blind — died a thief and a sinner.

Three crosses on a hill.  The sinner thief on one side, the saved thief on the other, and Jesus in between separating the two.  Fitting and profound.  As clear an image as you can imagine.  Jesus is the great divide. Graphically and spiritually, Jesus separates the saved from the lost.  His grace is sufficient.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15: 39).

He then brought them [Paul and Silas] out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16: 30-31).

(This post was written by Dr. Larry Hembroff, a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers’ Group as well as a lifelong friend. Thank you, Larry!)

A Poem for Maundy Thursday: “Be Still”

As we grow older, it’s easy to become discouraged over unmet goals and broken dreams. Where did the time go? How is it that our sand castles washed away? What really matters to us during our life on earth? What will happen to us after we die? What will remain of the legacy we hoped to pass on? Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter Sunday…a special time to reflect on the ways we have failed in the past year—often despite our best intentions—and our need for restoration and renewal. In many churches, it is a time for practicing foot washing, following the example of Christ, who washed the dust off his disciples’ feet. Today, I hope you take time to reflect on your year and find contentment both in knowing that God will be exalted in the earth and that believers will remain.

Be still: “Be content.” Be still: “Continue to be.”

“Be Still”

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth”
(Psalm 46:10).

Earth.
Time.
Life.
Me.

Earth spins.
Times fly.
Grass greens.
I try.

New earth quakes,
Time to mourn.
Springtime buds,
I’m reborn.

Now earth shakes
Time brings change.
Grass grows tall,
I arrange.

The world turns,
As time goes by;
The flowers bloom,
And so do I.

The world slows,
And seasons change.
The flowers fade.
I rearrange.

The earth stands still;
But seasons pass.
Though life distills,
My heart is glass.

The earth grows old.
This too shall pass.
Dreams drop like rain
On dying grass.

Still earth remains,
Though time stands still.
The grass is gone,
But I am still.

(Kathryn W. Armstrong, April 07, 2017)

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

(P.S.—If you’d like to attend a Maundy Thursday service and live near Grand Rapids, we’re having one at Calvary Church (on the Beltline) at 7:00 pm.)

 

Closed Doors

Carri and I used to be in the same small group (years ago), and she’s been writing poetry even longer (since she was twelve)! I hope some day she will publish a book of her poems, but in the meantime, she’s letting me share this evocative  poem about grief with you.


Title:  “Closed Doors”
Author: Carri Casserino
Date: 02/12/16

Grief came and sat next to me a time ago,
The death was hurtful and unexpected.
I sought God’s face in the midst of my pain,
And He looked at me, “Seek my way,” he said.So, I stumble around seeking answers,
And what I see are open doors.
Why? Is it not finished?, What are the reasons?
Will there ever be peace, hope and not war?As time moves along, I find I can close one door,
And then another, as I find an end to the thing
I do for you, my loved one, my heart.
Each closed door is progress to my grief vanishing.
So, as I find ways to say good-bye, I can close a door,
And this closing puts away my pain.
Surely there is peace somewhere, there is purpose,
As I look to God’s face for the end to my heart’s rain.But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

(Carri allowed me to use the photo of herself and the radiant sunset. The rest are pictures I took last spring at Clos Luce Manor [french home of Leonardo da Vinci in his latter years] in the Loire River Valley of France.)

Happy Ninth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPresses’ “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

Now, you may be alarmed that I’d notice or care about “how many” people are interested in my blog, since ultimately whatever we do should be “heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). You are right, and I should not be driven by human approval. However, the reason I’m passing this along to you is because it occurred to me that you might be a lot like me…trying hard in your own way to make a positive impact on your world without getting a lot of obvious response. However, beneath the surface, every good and right thing you do will add value to our world, whether or not anyone recognizes it, and it may be that there are more people who are being positively impacted than you realize. (Which is sadly also true when we make selfish, sinful choices.) Think of us as being blood cells in a body. As individuals, we have a minuscule role, but what we do affects many to most of the other cells in the body.

Feeling discouraged? If you’re a believer, know that Jesus is our “boss,” our Lord and Savior. If He’s smiling, that’s really all that matters. However, if He’s smiling, there are probably others who are feeling warmed by the sunshine as well, whether or not you can see them.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Birthday Club: In Pursuit of Beauty and Light

“We ought to think of our initial encounter with God in terms of beauty, in which God appears to us…He gives himself to us before we even know the right question to ask” (D.C. Schindler).*    It isn’t often you get to visit your daughter’s senior art exhibition. In fact, it’s never happened to me, but for our Birthday Club outing to honor Cindi this year, we took a trip to Spring Arbor to see her daughter’s capstone project, an art exhibition at the Ganton Art Gallery of Spring Arbor University. When we visited, Ilsa and three other graduating seniors had artwork on display.Our Birthday Club usually has some surprises along the way, though, so our first stop was a visit with Cindi’s parents, who are considering a move to GR. This awesome couple sponsored our CMS (Christian Medical Society) group when Alan was in medical school 40 years ago, so it’s been a special joy to get reacquainted with them via my long-term friendship with their daughter. Spring Arbor is a couple of hours east of GR, so had needed a coffee break on our road trip at the “Coffee Barrel” in Holt, Michigan. If you’re a coffee lover and live near or pass through, it’s definitely worth a visit!We met Cindi’s daughter for lunch at Lazeez, where they have excellent Indian cuisine. It was fun to chat with the owner and discover we have mutual friends!  Josh and Amy Gelatt now live in this area, and Josh is the pastor of Cascades Baptist Church in Jackson, MI, but we all attended the same church years ago. It’s such a small world! (These plaques adorn the wall by the register at Lazeez.)We all love savory Indian cuisine, and the ginger chai tea is especially delicious!     After lunch Ilsa gave us a very gracious tour of the gallery and her artwork. I’ve known Ilsa since she was a little girl. She’s always been gifted and artistic. I was very impressed by the variety of her mediums, her creativity, and her skill.       Some of her ideas were absolutely brilliant and worthy of copyrighting.              Many of her pieces had interesting stories and were provocative. Some made really good points…like this one. That’s not chips on her shoulder, it’s a physical representation (if I understood vaguely correctly) of the softness of human beings but the fact that we all have rough edges too.  As we pondered her artwork, I remembered something from a chapel service that one of my sons said recently, “We’re disadvantaged as a community as we head into this brave new world because  we haven’t reflected theologically and systematically as we perhaps should on symbolic reality. Now is our chance to change that. I  invite you and encourage you to explore symbolic reality, symbolic theology” (Dr. Jonathan J. Armstrong, Moody Bible Institute). Jon is a big fan of modern art, although I’ve not been. Maybe I need to visit more art galleries! (BTW, Ilsa’s exhibit is gone, but there are four new exhibits now.) Admission to the Ganton Art Gallery is free, but no matter where you live, you’re probably not too far from some fascinating artwork via student exhibitions, private and public galleries. If you live in Grand Rapids but are broke, there are “Free Meijer Days” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Tuesdays 10-5 and on Thursdays from 5-9 pm.                                            I have to say, many of Ilsa’s pieces were rather unsettling
(which was her intention, I’m sure).        I’m much more drawn to the beauty God paints, so full of color and light!However, I was taken with many of Ilsa’s “Fantastic Fiends,” because I noticed the light emanating from within them and remembered this saying:  “Beautiful light is born of darkness, so the faith that springs from conflict is often the strongest and best.”~R. TurnbullAnd so, I wish light and beauty for all of us, but for those who are struggling to find light in the darkness, I pray that you may find some beautiful light born of darkness, and a deep faith that springs from conflict!But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV).

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jesus speaking in John 12:46, ESV).

(*D.C. Schindler, author of The Catholicity of Reason; Pontifical John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America. Both Dr. Schindler and Dr. Armstrong’s comments are from Jon’s recent chapel address (which is fascinating) and can be found here (although you might need to rewind it to the beginning):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFTTi_7WC_0&feature=youtu.be

The Three Rondavels of Mpumalanga

From the overlook at Blyde River Canyon, there’s a dramatic view of the “Three Rondavels” (named for circular African dwellings with conical thatched roofs). These fascinating rock formations are shaped like round, grass-topped, huts similar to those still in use today among the indigenous people groups of Africa.   Renier, our guide, explained to us that the people believe evil spirits like to hide in dark corners,              so they make their homes (and even hotel and other structures)                     somewhat round to keep away such unwanted intruders. Of course, these massive shale, dolemite, and quartzite “huts” are monumental in size, rising 700 meters from the ground (which is already 1,390 meters above the river floor below). They are utterly spectacular!Traditionally, the three peaks were known as “The Three Sisters” and were named for three troublesome wives of Chief Maripi Mashile, who was the courageous nineteenth-century Pulana chief that defended his people from a Swazi invasion.Legend has it that the three wives were Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto, and the three rondavels are named to commemorate these irksome busybodies! In this photo, you can see the “three sisters,” and to the right is a long, flat-topped mountain known as Mariepskop, named in honor of Chief Maripi, who used the mountain as a stronghold during the invasion.Blyde River Canyon is gorgeous, and the Three Rondavels are definitely worth visiting, but I’d really hate to be commemorated for being a troublesome wife.                                                            Wouldn’t you?   “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 21:1).I’m also glad that the Holy Spirit indwells believers in Christ so that we don’t have to fear evil spirits hiding in the corners of our homes! Instead, God tells us that we’re protected by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12-14), and that we do not need to fear evil spirits: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Later in the same chapter God explains: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).