Category Archives: Meditations and reflections

St. Joseph’s: A Beautiful Surprise!

There are small two towns just off I-96 between our home and Chicago, and we’ve driven by the exit sign probably more than a hundred times over the past 25 years. One is St. Joseph, and the other is Benton Harbor.  They are known as “The Twin Cities” and are only separated by the St. Joseph River, so in my mind, I always thought of them as basically the same town. In fact, because of their proximity, I confused their reputations.  Sadly, Benton Harbor has the lowest per capita income of any town in the state, with over 40% of the population being below the poverty level. The town also has a reputation for being crime-ridden and a place to avoid…rather like the south side of Chicago: Don’t venture in unless you’re prepared for the possibility of being mugged or shot.  However, not long ago, Joel showed us a photo of a beach in St. Joseph that looked so appealing Alan and I decided to do something we’ve never done before: We stopped by to check out St. Joseph on our way home from Warren Dunes.

We were amazed…and delighted! St. Joseph is a beautiful little resort town.  Last Saturday, they were having an auto show with a parade of old cars.  How fun!  They also had a great farmers’ market  loaded with everything  that makes an open-air market mouth-watering  and delicious.  They have a downtown area lined with restaurants and shops  as cute as that in Holland, Michigan.  They have their own neighborhood of classic old homes  that looks like Heritage Hill here in Grand Rapids.  They have a free splash pad at their ” Whirlpool Centennial Park,”   and a gorgeous waterfront at Silver Beach Park  that rivals that of our all-time favorite getaway, Grand Haven.  In fact, the parking lot at the beach was full,  and we had to park some blocks away down a quiet side street.  However, that worked out just fine, because it gave us a good chance  to have our own walking tour of the downtown area and waterfront,  and Alan’s nose tracked down a delightful roof-top cafe  for some fresh perch fish’n’chips.

  All told, we had an A+ experience and marveled that in all these years we’d totally overlooked this little gem of a beachfront resort because of their “twin” city’s reputation. Now the harder question is: Why is one city thriving while the other is failing?, and I don’t know the answer to that. They’re both too far from home for me to try to get involved in solving that problem. (And, we have plenty of poverty and crime right here in GR.)  But, the easier question is this: What or who else am I avoiding because of an undeserved bad reputation? Am I missing out on getting to know someone just because they are related to someone with a bad reputation?  May I (we) learn to be more discerning, evaluating each potential friend according to their own character, not the character of their “family.”  The Bible sets the right example: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20).  Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:8-9).

When God’s Messiah Going to Come to Earth?

A gentleman was discussing my thoughts on taking Genesis 1 literally and said that I’d best be careful, or pretty soon I’d be trying to figure out on what day the Lord is going to return. Obviously, the Bible says that no will know the exact time, but another friend sent me this fascinating video. It’s only 11 minutes long. I’d love to have you watch it and let me know what you think! Thanks.  🙂

 “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour
wherein the Son of man cometh
” (Matthew 25:13).

I’m the Daughter of Adam: Are You Surprised?!

Although compiling a family genealogy (or “family history,” as it’s more popularly called in Europe) has been going on for all of recorded history, tracing your own family tree is a pretty daunting task. In the U.S., most of us were too proletarian to pursue genealogical connections until Alex Haley’s 1976 novel, Roots, took America by storm. Today, it’s all the buzz! I read in one source that up to 42% of leisure research on the internet today is related to genealogy (don’t know if that’s correct). To be sure, it’s become very popular, particularly since 1999, when internet resources made researching so much easier.  The largest resource for genealogical research in the world is free and is called FamilySearch:   https://familysearch.org/ It was started back in 1894. They have over 3.3 billion records and 12+billion names from over 100 countries, with over 150 million users. This is the resource I’ve been using, although there are several others out there.  My journey took me back through many lines. Some trailed off almost immediately, and some lasted hundreds of years before disappearing.

Other lines were more promising. Following various trails, I appear (perhaps)  to have descended from King Arthur,  Constantine the Great,  Joseph of Arimathea,  Hyrancus II,  Cleopatra,the Caesars,   Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt (BC 210-181…the Rosetta stone describes his coronation),  Pharoah Psamteck I of Egypt,  and even back to Helen of Troy and Paris.

I was feeling a little dubious about the whole Trojan War thing (although history suggests such a battle may have occurred), but when I got to generation 80, which said I was the daughter of Zeus, and that was the end of the line…well, I disbelieved the last bit for sure. I’m not sure who was the father, but I don’t believe it was a god!  Another line from Greece back to Turkey ended after 97 generations with Simeois the River God of Acadia ben Oceanus… “son of Oceanus,” another mythological God. Hmmm.  One line from William the Conqueror went back to Halfdan the Old of Norway (whose relatives also populated Iceland). My Norwegian line goes back 52 generations to “Vifil” the Sea King and ends up after 60+ generations suggesting that I’m the offspring of Thor. Not.  My Irish line ended up being the most promising. Although it’s commonly taught that St. Patrick brought writing to the Irish in the fifth century, they apparently had a rich oral tradition of genealogies, which were recorded by professional families of historians known as senchaidh. I’m guessing it was through this source (although I’m not sure) that my lineage went back through the centuries, sometimes with only names listed, way back to the eighth century BC, where after 92 generations the record says that Princess of Judah, Tamar, Tephi ha-David Bat Josiah, was born in Jerusalem but married Eochaidh Buadhach mac Duach, the King of Ireland around 736 BC, and died in Obhdah, Meath, Ireland. Fascinating! The English do have ancient legends about “the lost tribe of Judah” and their ties to the Jewish people. Once on a London bus taking a tour of London, they played a ballad telling all about it, but it never made the least bit of sense to me until I saw this entry in the genealogical records.  As a believer, I would love to think I have some Jewish roots. That line took me back through the kings of Judah to Adam and Eve after 141 generations. The genealogy was biblically accurate, although they had left out 4 names, which would bring the total to 145 generations.  Through another line, my lineage went back to Moses and Aaron. Of course, all these lines merged at Noah and then went back through the patriarchs eventually to Adam and Eve.  Fascinating? To me, yes!! Fun? Absolutely!! How likely? Well, I absolutely believe in the validity of the biblical genealogies, and so I do believe we’re all descendants of Adam and Eve, but I reject the theory that I’m an offspring of Thor or Zeus.  🙂  I also noticed that the sources suggesting that humans sprang from gods (rather than being created by God) trailed off much earlier than the Jewish record. The Jewish narrative is by far the longest, and goes back to roughly BC 4000. This is consistent with the calculations of James Ussher…but that may have to wait until next week!

What do you think? Do you have any opinion about “In the beginning…”?

If you’ve never heard the biblical account, this is how it starts: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (Genesis 1:1-5).

 

DNA: Do You Know Where You Come From? …A Nation of Kings and Priests…

Have you ever gotten your DNA tested or done genealogical research? Alan and I never seemed to have time or enough interest to pursue such until our kids got interested, so we figured if we had our DNA tested, our seven kids would know without having to pay. As far as either Alan or I knew, we were 100% British Isles, with Alan mostly Scottish and I mostly English. Our DNA tests mostly confirmed that, although we both had a couple of surprises. I am 100% European, and the largest single percent is from the British Isles, although I had a significant amount of Norwegian in me. (Oops, I thought…some Viking must have come ashore and caused trouble.) The other surprise was that I was nearly 50% “Western European,” although on consideration, the circle included lower England, which was in fact the area where I had been told my family originally lived. All well and good. Case closed.

…Until my daughter-in-law came to visit a few weeks ago! Carleen has done a lot of research, and she’d traced our family line back way back! She showed me how to search on line…and I was hooked. Through following genealogical pathways, Carleen pointed out that I wasn’t always English!  Well, I was related to King James (no wonder I’ve always clung to 1611 “Authorized” version of the King James Version of the Bible!),  but further into the past, I discovered that 21 generations ago I was the offspring of John Plantagenet (whose mother was from Belgium) as well as 22 generations ago from Edward III of England. (The plot thickens.)                   I was also related to Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland,             and William the Conqueror (King of England, but from France). Twenty-five generations back I descended from Carlo II, King of Naples, Italy, and Princess Maria from Budapest, Hungary.  I also descended from Ivar, son of Halfdan and Harold the Redbeard from Norway, Olaff II from Denmark, King Dag of Vestmarar, King Eystein from Sweden, King Waldemar from Russia, Robert Capet I, King of the Franks, Duchess Théodrade Svatana Duc de Saxe (born CAROLINGIEN) from Germany,          Roi Vandalar d’Ostrogothie from Romania, and 40 generations ago:                                                                       Charlemagne!
I also have lots of Irish and Welsh blood, and even strains from Spain and Portugal, Austria and Prussia! As Americas often say, I’m one of the “Heinz 57” varieties (origins from everywhere)! (I took notes but failed to take photos of everything, because—fascinating as this is, it’s also pretty time consuming!)

Now, I’m not sure how accurate all the history is, but I did remember studying about the kings and queens of various European countries and how they often had arranged marriages for political reasons. After tracing my lineage, I realized that sooner or later over the millennium, my blood line had been transfused with blood from almost all the Western European nations.

So what? Really, nothing. Genealogy studies are fun, but they’re only about our physical heritage. Did you know that we can have a spiritual lineage as well, which is eternal? God created each of us in his likeness and to be an image-bearer of his character. He invites us to be his children through faith in his Son, Jesus. Speaking of Jesus, John taught us: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 14:11-13). Through faith in Christ, God makes us a part of his universal kingdom, and not simply as servants, but as an entire nation of kings and priests. Talk about a wonderful lineage! That exceeds any heritage of any person on earth, even the Queen of England today!!  🙂

Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:4-6, KJV, emphasis mine)

(Besides the photos of my family tree, the first photo is from a book by Captain John Smith published in 1624, and the last is a coin with the imprint of Charlemange, both from Wiki.)

Coffee, the World, and Jesus, But Not Necessarily In That Order

It’s such a catchy title that I couldn’t improve on it for my post, and frankly, Ron DeMiglio’s entire book continues to live up to expectation! It’s easy to read and hard to put down, makes you laugh and makes you think. What’s not to love?

Ron spent twenty-five years traveling the world selling coffee for a living but following Jesus for a life. His book,  Coffee, the World, and Jesus, But Not Necessarily In That Order, is a collection of 28 loosely spun tales with clever titles like “The Hypocrite Oath,” “A Tale of Two Pities,” “His Grapes, My Wrath,”  and “An Affinity for Salinity.” Ron not only has a way with words, he can spin gold from coffee grounds!

Each reflection starts with a title geared to pique your curiosity and then lists a location (which pretty much includes every continent but penguin territory) and the purpose for his trip. With that fabric, he weaves tapestries from around the world (super fun for me as a travelogian), explaining what he learned with insightful charm and light-hearted transparency. Every story made me smile; every object lesson made me ponder; every chapter ended with this mantra: “Shun Common!”

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur (or church planter or missionary), I’ll share one particularly helpful bit of wisdom from the book to whet your appetite. In the context of explaining how businesses are unpredictable and don’t all succeed despite outward expectations, he mentions what makes for a prime location: “High visibility, easy access, ample exterior signage, adequate parking, great foot and drive-by traffic, a high per capita income, and good mix of residential and retail, low crime, some form of mass transit nearby, and a favorable lease rate.” Obviously, if you have ministry instead of money in mind, then your CEO is the Holy Spirit, and He might direct slightly otherwise in some areas, but even thriving ministries have to be financially sustained somehow, so I think this list is worth considering no matter what your objective.

Last, but not least, a few quotable quotes. I hope you read the book (if you’re local, you can borrow mine), but if you don’t, I know Ron has a heart to share the abundance God has given him, so here are a few samples from his espresso bean:

“Spotting the Savior’s hand in the obscure and trivial makes me feel uncommonly loved.” (And, I hope it does that for you too!)

“Correction without a Holy Spirit-led concern for the individual is as useful as barbed-wire dental floss.”

“The history of a person has absolutely no bearing on the authenticity of their salvation. If they have truly repented and taken and passed the Jesus-acceptance exam, they are clean and right before God.”

“Life and joy are in the obedience, not the outcome.”

“I don’t feel intellectually inferior for recognizing the divine. I refuse to cower to fiction dolled up as logic.”

“Only the ethically blind can’t recognize and acknowledge their own duplicity.”

“But grace isn’t an excuse for me to bleed my casual sin all over those around me. Based on my acknowledgment of the monumental sacrifice that was made on my behalf, grace should be the tourniquet that stems the flow of my unholy activity.”

One last pearl of wisdom, not from Ron’s coffee table but from our Father: Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established
(Proverbs 4:26).

Stitches, Glue, and Binding – How God Heals

Today I’m losing Jon’s entire family, who are leaving for Germany, as well as my “little sister” Lizzie, who’s also visiting right now, so I suspect the blog I’ve been trying to write won’t actually get finished until tomorrow. Meanwhile, one of my girlfriends just sent me this reflection on her first-ever trip to the hospital for stitches, and I thought you might appreciate it too:

The accident happened in just a moment that I wished I could take back.  While pitting an avocado, the knife slipped and I cut my finger more deeply than I have ever cut myself.  With the initial shock, I did not feel pain nor did the wound bleed – for a moment.  As the shock wore off, the blood poured forth and the pain set in.

I knew the cut looked too deep for a Band-Aid to keep closed so I asked my teenage daughter, “Do you think I need stitches?”  She looked up from doing her homework and saw the paper towel wrapped around my finger to stem the now heavily-bleeding wound, and her face turned pale as the blood drained from it.  She asked, “Do you need me to drive you to Urgent Care?”  Then, “Couldn’t you shriek or something to let me know rather than just appearing with a blood-soaked paper towel around your finger so I’m a little more prepared for the shock?”

Thankfully, a friend was on her way over to visit, so she took me to Urgent Care.  She offered, “I can drive you, talk to you and distract you with funny Face Book videos; I just can’t see blood!” When she found out that I had never had emergency stitches before, she suggested, “You can check this off your bucket list!”  “But it wasn’t on my bucket list,” I replied.  She asked, “Don’t you ever write and add things to lists just to check them off?”  Perhaps with tasks, but not this!

As I folded my hands in prayer a few days later, the wound was sore and tender.  When the stitches were removed after 7-10 days, one end of the cut was not laying flat and healing as well as the other end.  A nurse friend who took out the sutures offered to use skin glue and wrap Steri-strips around to better help hold the cut closed.  She said, “We’ll look next week and see how it’s doing.”

When the next week came, she observed, “It’s getting better; it’s healing from the inside.  But I think we should glue and wrap it again to help close it up more and minimize scarring.”  After one more week, the glue and strips were removed and the cut looked much better and well on the way toward healing, although still tender with likely scarring.  In addition to the physical process, God used the incident as an object lesson of how He heals other wounds.  I reflected on Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Just like my nurse friend described my wound healing from the inside, similarly, God works and heals from the inside.  He does soul work that no one else can do.  Psalm 34:18 – “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  He alone can illumine the darkness within.

I also see how He binds up support from the outside, much like my skin glue and Steri-strips, to help hold us together and protect when we’re wounded.  He gives His Word, friends and family in Christ who aid in support of healing.

Whether the wounds are accidental, self-inflicted, or caused by others, He is able to heal and redeem. Yes, there is still tenderness, scarring, and time needed in the process of healing, “’But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” in Jeremiah 30:17.  And He promises to redeem and heal fully in the future, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Will you ask for His help and trust Him to bring healing to your wounds?  Do you recognize the ways in which He binds up and heals with support of others?

“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise” (Jeremiah 17:14).  —Guest writer: Lisa Walkendorf

(Sorry for your accident, but thank you for sharing, Lisa!)

Fireflies

Our woods and meadow are filled with fireflies right now, much to the delight of our grandchildren (…and children, and myself!). They look a little like “bright, shiny diamonds” as one of our children’s records used to say. Just as twilight makes taking photos difficult, tiny glowing lamps twinkle and beckon us to follow them. Because we have poison ivy around the edges of the wooded areas, we can’t really chase them with abandon, but I’ve been able to detain a few to light up the lives of our little ones, if only for a few seconds. Thankfully, Amélie is extremely gentle, so she doesn’t hurt them, and little Sophie is too timid to hold them, because they tend to crawl up our hands and fly off in the most scary way!  I’ve tried so hard to capture the magic, but my camera can’t translate such low light and tiny twinkles into the fairy dust feeling we experience. So much of life is like that! Tiny moments of joy and light in the twilight…but don’t blink, or you’ll miss the light, and don’t try too hard, or you’ll ruin the gift. Just allow that breathless wonder to create a magical memory in your soul.  It’s like the love of God. We can talk about it, and we can try to explain it to people, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

The Love of God
—Frederick M. Lehman, one hundred years ago, back in 1917!

  1. The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell;
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win;
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin.

    • Refrain:
      Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
      How measureless and strong!
      It shall forevermore endure—
      The saints’ and angels’ song.
  2. When hoary time shall pass away,
    And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
    When men who here refuse to pray,
    On rocks and hills and mountains call,
    God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
    All measureless and strong;
    Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.
  3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade;
    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry;
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.