COVID Cake

But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna . . . and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil” (Numbers 11:6,8 NASB). This is just like the coronavirus pandemic! We have nothing to do but stay at home. Yet, isn’t that what people normally long for? Who doesn’t like cake? Who doesn’t long to go home after work and rest? Just like the children of Israel spending 40 years in the wilderness with nothing to do but be together and follow the Lord, we’ve been handed an extended “shelter-at-home” mandate by our government, for our own protection, and for many that even includes some financial support from the government.

The Israelites had been slaving away in Egypt, but God delivered them and moved them back to Israel, even supernaturally providing food for them on their journey. I admit to chaffing a little like the Israelites, who remembered the fish, the cucumbers and melons, the onions and garlic. Manna tasted like the best of the best—the perfect food, yet the children of Israel got bored with the best! I remember the restaurants we used to attend, and the places we used to visit, and I miss the freedom to go here and there at will. Yes, sometimes I’m tempted to get a little bored with the best too.

However, what a blessed time this has been for Alan and me! True enough, we miss our children and grandchildren severely. We miss visiting with our friends and worshiping corporately with our church community . . . all provisions the Israelites were allowed during their wilderness wanderings. Still, we have had more time to work on our home and yard than we’ve had in (literally) years. We’ve been enjoying leisurely devotional times together and morning walks before breakfast. Instead of spending two weeks in Belgium visiting some of our kids, we’ve been spending hours and hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, and redeeming our basement after 27 years of neglect. We’ve been chopping down weedy trees and rooting out the poison ivy that’s been over running the flowers along our fence line. We’ve been working until we’re so sore we can hardly move or think anymore and then enjoying movies together in the evenings. What’s not to love about that? Shouldn’t we be delighted to be able to be at home with our family and relishing the “manna” of more free time to cherish one another?

Dear Father, I know that many, many people are suffering from COVID. Over 100,000 have died here in America, and most all of us are experiencing economic and social losses. However, there are still over 330,000,000 of us who have not gotten COVID. Thank you! For those of us who have not contracted COVID and are alive and well, help us to use this time to concentrate on learning more about loving You and loving one another. Help us appreciate the “manna” of time . . . the “sabbath rest” of being home. There are so many silver linings in this storm. Help us to look up and see them!

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.’ Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it” (Numbers 11:4-9, NASB).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (77): Finding Rest in the Yoke

In India, I learned some striking lessons about being under the yoke! “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Although I’d memorized those verses years ago, I must have stopped at the “and I will give you rest” without paying attention to the rest of what Jesus directs us to do. This isn’t just an offer for a life of ease!!

Riding on an ox cart in Lumbini, India

Jesus does offer us rest, but he’s not promising us a life of rest per se (i.e.—freedom from labor). He is challenging us to find rest for our souls while laboring with Him (rather than without Him). A yoke is not a pillow! It’s a wooden bar laid over the neck of beasts of burden so that they can pull together and share the load.

Most all of us labor “and are heavy laden,” although if we try to carry all our burdens alone, it can be unbearably grueling at times.

Sometimes, we are tempted to make our burdens lighter by teaming up with those who do not share our faith, but we are warned against this: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The offer Jesus gives us is to partner with Him! He is the Light of the world, and when we walk with Him, we will always know where to go! “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). I’ve found that Jesus often carries me altogether, but even during the hardest times when I feel like I can hardly keep going, I know He is with me, also bearing my load and walking beside me.

Although we may find it initially hard to surrender to being “under the yoke” with Jesus (and indeed—a yoke is a sign of surrender to someone else’s authority), the best news is that by partnering with Christ, we have a new master! We’re no longer bond slaves to sin, but rather we become spiritually free! God becomes our Father— the one to whom we are ultimately surrendered . . . and who provides lovingly for us!

In India, the ox cart driver guides his team by putting pressure on their tails. This makes me think of our sweet Holy Spirit, who also puts pressure on us. We may resist at times, but ultimately his promptings help us know which way to go, and because we know He loves us, we can trust his counsel.

Once we surrender to Him, he sets us to work caring for others and bearing one another’s burdens: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We might be tempted to fuss and fume—or rebel altogether and run away, but the beauty of living with Jesus is that we eventually begin to love others supernaturally, so helping them becomes a burden we want to bear: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). In fact, we discover that it actually makes us happy to help others! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Haven’t you noticed that?

I think if we can only keep practicing these verses—learning to come to Jesus and find our rest in Him—then we will discover what it means to want to partner with him . . . to become “meek and lowly in heart”. . . to find rest for our souls . . . to share His yoke . . . to accept the burdens He gives us and experience them as “light” because He is pulling with us.

Text for this meditation: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). However, to understand the context more fully, here is the entire passage: “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:20-30).

Two Brahman Bulls Yoked Together

(*A special thank you to Yongsung Kim for permission to use these two wonderful portraits of Jesus. http://Havenlight.com )

Impressions of Étretat . . . and of Life

Images of Étretat, France have been playing in my brain for 38 years—this image in particular! Do you recognize it? It’s from Epcot’s utterly captivating Impressions de France movie, which began playing on opening day back in 1982 (when our family was young) and now holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest running daily screening of a film in the same theater.” There was always something wistfully romantic about this elderly couple meandering along the cliffs beneath a stormy sky . . . the spire of an old stone church above them and the immortal beauty of Monet’s chalky cliffs below. It made me think of my parents, who were about that age, and conjured up images of peace and endurance . . . God, man, and nature in harmony despite the looming clouds and darkness coming on.

L’Aiguille (The Needle) and Porte d’Aval Arch. Cliffs of Étretat France

So, when we toured France with our two youngest sons a few years ago, Étretat made it into the list of “must sees”. . . and has remained in my heart as one of our “best sees!”

Étretat is a tiny “commune” (French, but we’d call it a village in English) of fewer than 1,300 people.

Étretat is best known for the 300-foot chalk cliffs, graceful arches, and magnificent hiking path. The area was made especially famous by Claude Monet (and other prominent french painters and authors) and retains the atmosphere of a quaint beach resort.

Le monument Nungesser et Coli (Monument to The White Bird)

Étretat’s other claim to fame is as the last place in France where “The White Bird” (a 1927 biplane) was last seen. Two World War I war heroes were attempting the first ever non-stop from Paris to New York City, but the plane disappeared over the Atlantic and was never recovered—continuing as one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Étretat with Chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde (Stone Church) and the Monument to The White Bird atop the far distant hill above the village


The morning we arrived was as overcast and grey as the evening scene in The Impressions of France.

The cliffs were enshrouded with low-hanging clouds of mist.

We explored the beaches and walkways above and through the cliffs.

Remains from World War II German Occupation

Although we knew that the coast of Normandy had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II, I hadn’t realized that their fortifications extended to Étretat.

How many of their sons lost their lives during the raging wars?

I couldn’t help but consider that the elderly couple in The Impressions de France movie would most likely have lived through both World War I and World War II, just like my own parents.

Our sons coming to meet us at the top of Étretat.
They were able to hike faster and longer than we could!

Although our sons kindly refused to acknowledge that Alan and I have become that elderly couple in The Impressions de France, I couldn’t help but sense that in 38 years, we’ve gone from being a young couple in the midst of having children . . . to an elderly couple on the verge of retirement! We haven’t had to live through nearly as much heartache and world destruction as our parents did, but we are heading into a storm during the twilight years of our life— a world war of disease. As of this morning, there are 4,387,438 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 298,392 deaths, and I think before the year is out, these numbers may seem insignificantly small.

Still, my hope and prayer is that our beautiful world will come through the storms intact. May the Lord have mercy on us and heal us. May we find peace to endure and harmony with God and nature as we pilgrim on. May our heavenly father cause his son’s shine to burn off the misty shrouds of death! And, for those who can’t walk along the mountain top but are forced to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, may the Lord cast long golden beams of light to brighten your way.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (75): Go and Show

Have you ever found yourself doubting whether or not Jesus really was the Son of God? Let’s face it—maybe you’re among the many who even doubt whether or not Jesus really lived. Do you relegate him to the status of myth? Did you know that there are more extant written records concerning Jesus existing as a real, historical person than there are for King Tut . . . or probably any other famous person from antiquity? If you accept that Buddha, Julius Caesar, Muhammad, and Genghis Khan were real people, then you should not doubt that Jesus Christ was a real person who lived and died in space and time here on earth. He was legendary but not a legend.

But, who was Jesus? Was he really the Son of God as the Bible claims, or was he simply a good man who went about miraculously healing people and speaking words of wisdom? Even his cousin, John the Baptist, began to experience doubts about Jesus while sitting confined in prison. John became so discouraged that he sent two of his followers to ask Jesus, and I just love the answer Jesus gave them: “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:4-6).

If you are not sure whether or not Jesus really is the Son of God, then I would like to encourage you to make a scientific study of the evidence. I’m just finishing an excellent book called Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for Christianity, by J. Warner Wallace. Detective Wallace mentions one mysterious case where a woman disappeared and became a “cold case” until he picked it up years later. He gathered so much evidence that he was able to convict the true killer—who turned out to be the woman’s husband—even though the family could not believe the husband was capable of killing his wife. At the sentencing, the husband finally confessed to killing his wife, even telling the court where her remains could be found!

The remains of Jesus will never be found, because he rose again from the dead, but that’s not my real point. My real point is that there is so much evidence pointing to the reality of Jesus’ life of miraculous healings, his death by crucifixion, and his resurrection that I think an honest study would bring most people to believe there is enough evidence to “convict” Jesus of being whom he said he was: the Son of God. In the book of John, we read this discussion about the person of Christ, “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).

What do you think? Have you met anyone who could actually restore sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, heal the lame and lepers, raise the dead, and preach the gospel? IF someone really did this, wouldn’t you tend to want to follow him . . . to figure out who he was and how he got his power? Wouldn’t you be likely to believe him when he said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:9-11).

If you’re feeling confined at home during this COVID-19 pandemic (maybe just a little like John the Baptist was 2,000 years ago), this might be the perfect time to investigate the claims of Christianity and make sure of your faith! Several of J. Warner Wallace’s books are available on Amazon, or if you have Scribd, you can listen to them as audio books. I would like to recommend these three:

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe

Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for Christianity

Once you’ve confirmed your faith, then you’ll be in a position to follow Jesus’s admonition: “Go and show!”

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 11:2-6 “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. ” Also from Luke 7:18-23 (although I’ll only quote verse 22 here): “Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

*Photo credit: The beautiful painting by Yongsung Kim is used by permission of Haven Light Ministries:

https://www.foundationarts.com/yongsung-kim

Different But Beautiful

Ready to enjoy the beauty of Macedonia and some reflections on how change can still be good, even though we feel loss and don’t like “different”? Here is an encouragement for us as we wrestle with all the changes and loss caused by COVID, written by my dear friend, Lisa Walkendorf:

We traveled to Macedonia on a trip to visit friends to help with a summer camp on beautiful Lake Ohrid.

Our family enjoyed the people and the beauty of the country.

Lisa (left) with her husband, Mark, and her daughter, Laura

One day, we spent some free time in the shops of Ohrid and stopped in a handmade jewelry store.

We were attracted by the bright colors in the window.

We learned that Susan Sju made this stunning jewelry from polymer clay.
She had pendants,

an assortment of earrings in vibrant colors . . .

and matching sets, each handmade and unique!

We were enthralled with the beauty of her designs!

As a birthday gift, my husband bought me a pair of earrings. They weren’t overly expensive and served as a lovely and meaningful memory from our trip. I wore them frequently after we returned home until . . . I lost one!

The sentimental value drove me to research on Facebook to find the store owner and, with the help of Google Translate, I asked, “Do you have this same earring? I lost one and would like to buy another pair.” She answered in English, “Similar, not same.” Also I discovered that she does not ship internationally.

So I also reached out to our friends to ask for help since they lived in the country, although in Skopje, not in Ohrid. I explained the situation and sent the picture of the earring. She responded, “Let me see what I can do.”

She gave money to some teenaged girls who were going to that shop, and shared my request. When she came back to the US for furlough, she handed me a box. I opened it to see a new pair of earrings – and at first felt thankful that my face was turned down toward them, because, for that brief moment, I felt very disappointed. Why? The earrings were different . . . and I longed for the same.

Why that response over a seemingly small thing? At that time, I had experienced a major job change which drastically affected my lifestyle, and I felt like everything was changing. The earring represented for me what “was” that was lost.

However, within that quick moment, I was able to look up with sincere gratitude and thank her for all the effort, and repaid the monetary cost. As I reflected later in prayer, God reminded me that the new earrings were really beautiful, just different. And although my life looked a lot different, He could still make it beautiful.

I kept the single earring and put it on a chain to wear as a necklace often with the new earrings to remind me “different . . . but beautiful.” Now, each time I put them on, I am encouraged to trust God anew for grace in my daily journey and to look for beauty while seeking new rhythms as I walk with Him.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work that God has done from beginning to end” ( Ecclesiastes 3:11; BSB).

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; ESV).

Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25; BSB).

Happy Twelfth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Once a year on the anniversary of my blog, I reminisce about the joy of writing and what’s happened over the past year. Technically, my anniversary was April 8th, but last month—as America lunged into the COVID pandemic—it seemed more appropriate to concentrate on trying to encourage others in the face of trials than to indulge in personal introspection. However, now that it’s May (and Cinco de Mayo to boot!), I would be very grateful if you’ll allow me the liberty of reflecting on my writing adventure, and I hope you will offer me some counsel as I wrestle with what the Lord may have in mind for my future.

One of my (unspoken until today) dreams for blogging has been to write until I have a million views and then perhaps try to write a book of devotionals. This past week, the 750,000-view mark came and went, so . . . three-fourths of the way to fulfilling this particular vision! Should the Lord see fit to bless my writing with readers at the current rate, that would theoretically make me mature enough to attempt a series of daily devotionals by 2023. However, COVID concerns have changed not only the world’s economic landscape, but my personal sense of how the Spirit may be leading me.

Instead of spending my days embroiled in joyful experiences with family and friends, traveling at home and abroad, I am spending my days enjoying a “sabbath rest” from life as usual. Alan is working virtually from home, giving him at least an extra hour (commute time) daily to invest in home projects. Instead of waiting until he retires, we’re starting the huge process of trying to unbury our basement from 27 years of family life here in GR, not to mention 44 years of parenting and 47 years of marriage. It is daunting, but exhilarating!

We are almost finished with four years’ worth of renovating our kitchen and adding an addition to accommodate our burgeoning family. We moved into our beloved but small “Tanglewood Cottage” with a young family of seven children. Today—with our children and grand children— we number thirty-two and counting, so the extra breathing room is a wonderful blessing. Now we have the happy task of expanding into the new space, finding and making accessible what we have, and throwing out the unwanted and unneeded extra “stuff” that’s gotten buried. Just a few “for instances” that might make you laugh or be aghast (depending on how good a housekeeper you are): I found one daughter-in-law’s wedding dress, my daughter’s master’s thesis, one son’s “Bod Book” (names and addresses of everybody at his school . . . from 1994), and THE WINNER: a box labeled “boys clothing.” We haven’t had “boys” small enough to pass down clothing for at least 15 years and probably longer! (To be honest, tied for THE LOSER are dead stink bugs and dust bunnies! 😦 )

All this to say, perhaps it’s time to expand, de-clutter, clean up, and reorganize my writing life as well. Alan and I have been trying to walk three miles each day, but just up and down our lane. Instead of glorious vistas from around the world, I’m drinking in minuscule changes in the flora and fauna! The cherry trees in blossom; the goslings and ducklings coming ashore, the weeds popping out. If the COVID pandemic keeps us all from venturing very far from home this coming year, I’m thinking about the possibility of writing daily devotionals starting January 1, 2021 based on “little things” (and maybe some of the grander graces of nature) that are common place and surround many of us. Would that be interesting to you?

If I head that direction, I would still have the rest of this year to finish my meditations on the commands of Christ, family recipes, world travel (which I hope has not ended forever but may be postponed for a year or so), and actively trying to review favored movies and books. To be transparent with you, these are the posts which to date have been the most read, so it might be a big change, although— as life has it and minds inevitably operate—I’m sure whatever I experience will find its way into my writing. But, what if I spend 2021 with more of a focus on learning spiritual lessons from nature? Would a closer look at the simple and common encourage us during our months of more confined living? I’m thinking about just one photo per day and basically one simple message, so shorter but hopefully not less worthwhile. That is the possibility I’ve been praying about lately, and if you read this blog and have an opinion about what might be most uplifting for you, I’d sincerely appreciate hearing what you think! Thanks!!

Where no counsel is, the people fall:
but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

So Will I

On this last day of April, I would like to share one of my all-time favorite poems/songs. The lyrics and music are beautiful beyond description, like the God about whom it is written, and the visuals on this rendition leave me breathless and overflowing.

So Will I (100 Billion X)
Words and Music by Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin
© 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7084123

VERSE 1
God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

CHORUS 1
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapour of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

VERSE 2
God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

CHORUS 2
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

BRIDGE
If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

VERSE 3
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

CHORUS 3
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

TAG
Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them
by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (Matthew 18:11-12).