Category Archives: Relationships

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).

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.)

What Can You Do When Your Grandkids Visit?

Before Amélie and Sophie came to visit for the month of July, a lady from their church asked what they liked best about visiting their grandmother. Amélie said her favorite thing to do was go for a boat ride with Nana, and Sophie said her favorite thing was eating Nana’s fudge!

Of course, I made sure we did both once I knew, but it also got me to thinking about all the things that seem to make vacations special for little ones, and a lot of the activities are very simple! In no particular order, here is my list:

Picnics in the backyardToasting marshmallows and eating smoresColoring, drawing, and writing love letters Hanging out and talking together Playing in the grass  Picking wildflowers and hunting for frogs Finding tiny grasshoppers by day and chasing tiny fire flies by nightPlaying at the local parks Renewing friendships with the cousins… and meeting new members of the family! Having tea parties Listening to story books  Picking wild berriesHelping Nana cook and set the table Eating lots of yummy food, and helping shop for more when the supplies run low. Having friends over to playPlaying games together and feeling the love! All of those things are part of the richest fabric of life and pretty much free, although there are also some special things available in our area,
such as digging in the sand and swimming in Lake Michigan.If you’re lucky enough to have an Aunt Brianna, that might include cookies!Snuggling with Grandma is free,
and it’s a very special way to get warmed up after a big swim! Snuggling with Grandpa is another winning activity, especially on a windy day!Watching the local fireworks shows is usually free around July 4th. Picking cherries, blueberries, or whatever is ripe at the local orchard is a big hit. And if you have access to a little lake, catching fish is the cat’s meow! Our kids and grand kids all love swimming, so I’m especially thankful that we live on a little lake! Another thing we all love is going to our local zoo, where there’re always something new and exciting happening! Finally, when Nana is all worn out, a special dinner out can be a huge treat! So, these are a few favorite things you can do without feeling pick-pocketed! If you’ve got other bright ideas, please share them, will you?

But whatever we do with our little ones, I think the most important thing is to make sure they feel loved, and for me, that includes making sure they know that God loves them too… more than any of us can ever even imagine!

The grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:17-19).

Rise Up, My Love (244): What’s Hidden Under Your Palate?

Song of Solomon 7:9 “…that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” What in the world (or in heaven!) does this mean? The verb translated “goeth down” is the Hebrew halak, also rendered “flowing, going, or walking” in other passages (Carr, 163). The Hebrew word translated “sweetly” is meshar, more literally translated as “evenness; equity; smoothness; uprightness; righteously.”* It is the same Hebrew word used in 1:4, “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”   I believe there is a key in this repetition from an earlier theme, but let’s come back to it in a few moments. What the KJV renders “cause…to speak” is the Hebrew dabab, and is unknown in Hebrew apart from this use, although the Akkadian dababu “plot; plan” and the Arabic dabub, “talebearer” may be cognates according to Carr (163).** Other translations use such alternate terms as “gliding” or “flowing gently” (although why…I don’t know!). The last two Hebrew words in the passage are sipte (literally rendered “lips”) and yesenim (“sleeping ones”). Perhaps one of the more accurate alternate translation for this portion of the phrase is: “stirring the lips of sleepers”.*** (Gordis, 97).   This seems consistent with both the literal meaning of the Hebrew words and the KJV but does not shed much additional light on what the text means. So, put it all together, and what do we have? First, the subject is “the roof of thy mouth,” i.e. the wife’s palate. Everyone knows what the literal roof of the mouth is, so physically there’s no mystery. It seems most likely that King Solomon was indeed commenting on how much he loved french-kissing his wife (although the pleasure didn’t yet have such a name, since there were no “French” in those days!)   The rest of the verse is still somewhat of a puzzle in the physical realm, although the best explanation I found was this: “…one thing emerges as certain: Shulamith’s kisses have an intoxicating effect on Solomon. However, there were no ill side effects, and Solomon could enjoy this ‘wine’ continually.”* (Patterson, 109).

Spiritually, I would hazard a guess that the palate refers to the highest subject of the wife’s speech…and I can think of no loftier subject than the praises of her Lord and God, which “flow sweetly…uprightly.” Expanding a little on the thoughts of Henry van Dyke, what is a more noble delight than taking the colors and forms of our life’s experience and weaving them into a beautiful garment to clothe our thoughts of God? So, the taste of his wife’s praises are like the “best wine,” i.e. his greatest joy. Perhaps it is the husband’s use of this imagery that reminds the bride of her earlier exclamation: “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (1:4). His love is even more wonderful than her greatest earthly joy, and all those who are “upright” (true believers?) love him too.

Gary Smalley, in his wonderful series, Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships, points out that men need to feel “adequate.” Let’s add that to our list of “A” words: assure him that he’s more than adequate! Adulate him, even as our Lord loves adulation and praise! Could it have been such a thought that caused her to join him at this point and add, “for my beloved!” Her praises are all for him! There is no one else—there is nothing else—that causes her lips to overflow with such joyous speech. Her praises flow “sweetly” and “smoothly,” in righteousness and uprightness. There is nothing rough or sullied or impure about the praises or the one being praised; all is holy and beautiful…as is our Lord!    “Causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” After a month of asking everyone wise friend I knew, even “men in high places”…although no one spontaneously interpreted the passage the same way I did, no one refuted my interpretation either. Could it be that the “sleeping ones” are those who are “sleeping” in sin, i.e. the unbelievers, or at the least those who because of sin have become insensible to spiritual things?  It is the bride who is speaking. She is speaking in praise of her bridegroom husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. She is extolling his wonders. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the highest thoughts of her heart—her adulation of her wonderful savior and king—will be so irresistibly sweet that it will arouse those who have been stupefied into lethargy by their sinful lives to speak…to “plot,” to “plan” to “tell tales”…to ask questions…to be aroused into dissatisfaction with their existential lives and search for this marvelous love and lover? Oh, Lord, may our speech be as sweet to you! May our praises cause even the lips of those who are sleeping yet in their sins to speak of you and search for you!

(All photos taken a few days ago at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.)

*Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 108-109.

** G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 163.

*** R. Gordis, The Song of Songs and Lamentations, (KTAV, 1974), 97.

Out of Joint

There’s no end of excitement when you have little ones running about, and this week has been no exception…except it was unique in that poor Sophie (age three) ended up with a dislocated elbow! My first experience was forty-one years ago when Alan was playing with our first-born son and made the mistake of trying to lift him off the floor by his hands. Aaron screamed in pain, and we had no idea what was wrong, but we quickly learned (at the emergency room) that children (probably of all ages) should be lifted under their arms with a firm hold on their chests, since all their joints are weak and shouldn’t be stressed by pulling.

Gerlinde and I guessed what was wrong, but even though Alan talked us through what to do (he was at work) and we watched a youtube video on how to pop the joint back into place, we couldn’t seem to do the trick. After two unsuccessful attempts, we flew off to the closest emergency room. There an understanding pediatrician deftly popped it back into place in about five seconds, leaving Sophie all smiles again through her tears. WHEW!!

Scary times! Even as adults, sometimes something happens—and it can be an accidental injury—yet we’re so out of joint that we’re debilitated by the pain. Even if we know what we’re “supposed” to do, there are times when we can’t seem to fix the problem. Ever happen to you? I’m thankful for a merciful heavenly Father, to whom I can run with my pain. He can straighten things out (at least in my attitudes, if not in my circumstances) and pop me back into shape in the twinkling of an eye if I’ll let him. It’s all in the know-how, and He knows how!

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
(Psalm 25:17-18)

Have You Ever Experienced a Season of Heartbreak?

I suppose there’s no one alive who hasn’t experienced a season of heartbreak at some point. Isn’t it a universal part of each human tapestry? Every person who has loved deeply has had to cope with loss. It might not be as traumatic as losing a child or experiencing divorce. It could be something as natural as losing an aged parent or parting with your adult children when they move out of your home for the joy of marriage, or to transfer locations in order to further their career.

Although Mark Karris’s book focuses mainly on the issues facing those who’ve experienced the heartache of a major breakup, the strategies for grieving well and overcoming heartache are helpful for anyone who’s feeling the pain of loss—or even for those of us trying to prepare for the inevitable future as we see loved ones (and ourselves!) aging. Mark’s objective was to “provide a powerful, life-giving resource that will help you not only survive your season of grief but also thrive and be transformed.” That, I thought, was a very lofty goal, and personally I felt he succeeded, at least in how his book impacted my life.

But, Mark was even more ambitious that that! He also aspired to finding “powerful practices to help me embrace grieving as a liberating spiritual discipline.” Wow! Come again? Is that possible? Actually, by the time I finished the book, I understood what he meant. I can’t say that I’m free from heartache as a result of being liberated by developing appropriate spiritual disciplines to deal with grief, but I can say that I understand the many principles and practices he taught, and it’s helped me explore areas of grief that were hidden in the crevices of my heart, forgotten but unhealed because I never knew what to do with them!

I intend to keep my copy of Season of Heartbreak as a reference book, knowing that in the years ahead I will inevitably experience my own intense seasons of grief, either as I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or as I watch loved ones passing on from this life to the next. However, I’m willing to lend you my copy if you’ll promise to return it! Otherwise, it’s available on Amazon, although if you’re willing to buy it from Kregel Publishers directly, then they don’t have to pay a commission to Amazon. The link is:

http://kregel.christianbook.com/season-heartbreak-healing-heart-brain-soul/mark-karris/9780825444715/pd/44471X

If you’ve experienced heartache and never really addressed it, or if you’re still actively feeling the sting of pain from the loss of love, please consider reading Mark’s book. As a family advocacy and support specialist for the United States Navy as well as an ordained pastor and licensed marriage and family therapist, Mark Karris has a wealth of experience in identifying the issues, and he’s done a masterful job of teaching strategies for coping and overcoming. He has insightful chapters with provocative titles like “In Need of Story Catchers,” “Forgive to Live,” “Holy Huddle,” and “A Theology of Suffering.” And…about a dozen more!

In ostensible theory, I chose this book because I have over a thousand young adults who follow my blog, and I thought it might be helpful for them. In experiential reality, the book opened my heart to some buried, unhealed griefs and helped me in my own spiritual journey. If you have a heart that’s still beating, it’s a worthy read!

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).