Category Archives: Relationships

Hope for All Seasons; Friends for All Time

Is it fair to have a three-point “message” this morning? I probably shouldn’t,
but there are three ideas burning a hole in my brain: 1. Please extend yourself in love to widows and widowers
(who are often more lonely than widows, since men sometimes aren’t quite as connected to their kids and grandchildren). 2. There’s a new book that just came out, Hope for All Seasons,
and I’d like to recommend it. 3. I never cease to marvel at how connected we all really are,
although most of the time we probably have no clue!

              Okay, for any of you who have time to hear the longer version… #1. Since coming to our new church, we’ve made a lot of new friends. One teaches our Sunday school class sometimes, and not only do we appreciate his excellent teaching, he lost his wife to breast cancer a couple of years ago (just after we started going to our Sunday school class), so we’ve had a special heart to pray for him and invite him over a bit. (We have several close friends who live far away and have lost their mate, and we know how deeply lonely they are!) #2. At any rate, over the course of getting to know Jay, we realized that his wife was Julie Ackerman Link, who wrote for Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional ministry that has been a part of my life for 50 years (and where several of our kids worked during summers). Posthumously, Discovery House has just released a book of 150 of her devotionals called, Hope for All Seasons, which is now available online and through Christian bookstores. I’ve ordered a copy and am really looking forward to reading it, because I love her writing and heart. She was also the person who started the writers’ group I attend, although (sadly) I joined after she was gone. #3. Last time Jay was over for dinner, we realized we also had a college connection. Bob Jones University was our alma mater! Jay is enough younger than I am so that we weren’t students at the same time, but he mentioned having an older sister my age, and once he told me her name, I realized we’d actually been very good friends! In fact, we were “society sisters!” (At B.J.U. “societies” were comparable to sororities and fraternities.) Sadly, his sister recently passed away with cancer, so I won’t be able to renew that friendship here on earth, but she was a real “kindred spirit” 45 years ago, and it was such a revelation to realize our interconnectedness. I’m guessing that for all of us—if we only knew—we’d discover multiple connections with friends and family members within a 30-mile radius of our home. We probably pass people on the street or in stores who are actually friends with whom we’ve lost contact, or distant relatives, or related to people we know and love. I suppose in this life, we’ll never fully know “who’s who,”  but won’t it be a delight in heaven to explore all the relationships we have with one another? And, don’t forget: All believers are brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God. What fun…and what a family reunion there will be someday!

“Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus”

“Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
sing His mercy and His grace;
in the mansions bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place.

“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.”  (—E.E. Hewitt, 1898, public domain)

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

*If you’d like to learn more about Our Daily Bread, you can access it here:
http://bible-guide.org/free.php?seed=our%20daily%20bread

Waiting for Baby

I’m waiting for a baby again,
But it’s not nearly as hard as it was when
I was waiting for my own, because even though I don’t know how long it will take,
I know it’s not exactly my body that’s at stake.
Nevertheless, it is the body of my son’s wife,
And for them…I would give my own life,
So it’s still very stressful, particularly since last time was more nightmarish than dreamy,
And they ended up with a 1.5-pound micro-preemie.
Still, their first baby is now a happy, chappy two-year-old,
Who might sass his mom but so far for me has been good as gold.
However, I get P.T.S.D. at the mere thought of babysitting
And every time I even think about it I break out in a sweat and imagine quitting
Before I even arrive at their door
Which will doubtless happen more and more
Because the more babies you have, the more help you need,
And even though it might be easier to lay down my life than do a good deed,
I’m pretty sure what they’re going to need are more good deeds
Rather than a grandmother  in absentia without any leads.
BTW, am I the only grandmother out there who’s paranoid of crying toddlers?
Are the rest of you seasoned babysitters and able toddler jogglers?
Maybe it comes from being the baby in my family and my dad hiring me to grade college exams for more than people paid babysitters,
Or maybe it comes from never having any time off for thirty years when my own seven kids were wild and woolly little kidders.
Whatever the source of my anxiety, you couldn’t pay me to watch kids for a mountain of cash,
But I’ll do it for love’s sake…though I’d feel more at ease spending an afternoon with Ogden Nash.

(You guessed it, I wrote this while my daughter-in-law was in labor on April 18, 2017. On the bright side, I won the family guessing game concerning what day the baby would be born!  🙂  )

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).

(P.S.—Actually, Sammy’s being a doll for me, and we’re doing just fine!)

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

The Horrible Truth about Deep Water Horizon and Deep Waters

Seven years ago, on April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded into a firestorm that could be seen for 40 miles, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig that had successfully drilled the deepest oil well in history (over 10,000 ft. deep) in the Gulf of Mexico just a few months earlier, and           on April 20th, the crew of 126 were hard at work testing the new well               at Macondo Prospect, forty-one miles off the coast of Louisiana. Deepwater Horizon cost almost a million dollars per day to operate with equipment and crew, and although there were issues with safety, the project was over a month behind schedule and overdue at a new site, so the decision makers decided to test the well before they were sure all the work was properly completed and all the concrete had time to cure.  The movie dramatizing this disaster is excellent and rated PG-13, but it is so graphic (and bad language) that I recommend it with caution. As one who’s inexperienced with the technical side of oil drilling, it was somewhat hard to follow what was happening, but the message was crystal clear: Often those who take the risks and make the decisions are not those who suffer the greatest consequences for their greed and irresponsible selfishness. Eleven men died, scores of men suffered, and the responsible companies ended up spending not millions —but billions—of dollars trying to recover and compensate for the damages. As we make important decisions, let’s remember that if we choose selfishly and unwisely, we’re not just going to hurt ourselves, we’re likely to do more damage than we could ever possibly imagine.  But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! (Psalm 81:11-13)

Get Me to the Church On Time…or On Line!

I have devout friends who never travel on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy and make sure they’re worshiping with their congregation at the appointed hour. I admire that, although Alan and I do not have such a firm conviction in that area. However, I strongly believe in “a day of rest” and the principle of consistency in corporate worship, so we often visit new churches wherever we are on Sunday. In Kauai, we enjoyed a church recommended to us by a friend who’d spent a summer there. It’s always enriching and a joy to share in new (and old) worship music, hear fresh perspectives on the scripture, and fellowship with believers we’ve never met before.* In South Africa, Alan and I had no clue where a good church might be, and so (thanks to the internet) we tuned in to our own church service at  http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/livestream-current-service/ . It’s not quite the same as singing along with thousands of other believers, but it’s still a great blessing! Last week was spring break, and we enjoyed some vacation time together combined with a medical meeting for Alan and a little family visiting time for me.  Our flight home was Sunday morning, but the timing worked out so that we could share a set of headphones at the airport and hear the best message I can ever remember on Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Pastor Jim told us that we have a moral obligation to bear patiently with the failings of those who are weak in faith and the sins they commit which cause us pain. Strong words and very challenging! I needed to hear that message.  So, may I share a simple encouragement? Whenever you’re on vacation (or at home!), don’t miss the opportunity for corporate worship, spiritual growth and communion with other believers. People need people! If you can’t make it to a church for some reason, try participating with some faithful church online. If your church doesn’t provide online services, I can heartily recommend ours—not as a “perfect” church, but as a church that does try to stay true to the teachings found in the Bible.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

(*I didn’t take any photos at the church in Kauai, but this is a photo of flowers and the handmade leis they gave us [and all visitors]!)

Rise Up, My Love (226): Some Keys for Living in Harmony with Your Spouse

toby-mac-practice-the-pauseSong of Solomon 7:3 Two last thoughts before leaving this very sensitive, but critical subject. First, what if you are trying your hardest to do everything right, but your spouse is unresponsive or adversarial? The first and last step—as in all things—is to prayerfully look to the Lord for help and guidance. Some relationships are so damaged…some individuals are so emotionally disabled…that the marriage may need serious help from the outside—from trusted and respected counsel. But, sometimes the problems can be remedied by prayerfully studying some of the many marriage resources available.

One such book is Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, which identifies some important ways of communicating love that people most appreciate. Whether it’s by kind words or deeds, the book guides you in finding out how to speak your spouse’s “love language” so that he/she will recognize and respond to your attempts to truly love in tangible ways. Learning to love in the ways your mate wants to be loved does not usually come naturally.

My husband likened marriage to inheriting a 747 jet without having taken pilot’s training. In the light of the 911 tragedy, we now also recognize that we need complete training…not just in how to take off and fly, but how to land without disaster. Believe me, today is better than never to try getting that training!

Love is a lifetime quest. A very wise and elderly pastor once said that he thought learning to love was like learning to paint, and that his life of loving his wife was like a long mural. At the beginning the strokes were clumsy and awkward, and it was hard to recognize what he was even trying to portray, but the more he practiced, the better the painting became. Isn’t that beautiful? And, isn’t that true?

Second, what if both partners are doing everything right to the best of their ability but there is still deep, unresolved tension? That may be the time to employ the advice Paul gave in I Corinthians 7:5, “Defraud ye not one another, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” There may be rare times when your difficulties are so great that rather than joining physically, you should temporarily set aside normal physical needs (including eating!) and give yourselves wholly to prayer and fasting until God gives you the wisdom and peace you both need for the problem resolution process. Think of how quickly people would focus on solving their problems if they stopped eating food until they came to an agreement!

By the way, this is never an excuse for one partner to start sleeping on the couch, because they are supposed to be engaged together in fervent prayer. Also, the resolution never includes the option of permanent separation. Notice the last portion of the verse: “and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” If you are going to deprive your spouse of sex, consider depriving yourself of food (or at least some food you love, like desserts or salty snacks) at the same time. That will give both partners a small reminder of how serious a matter sex is!

Do you have seemingly insurmountable disagreements? Just a few years ago, my husband and I did. We spent the first almost two decades of our marriage with my husband generally making decisions that I often sharply disagreed with and deeply resented. Instead of resolving problems, we just tried to bury them and “get over” it. As the wife, I was somehow expected to always cheerfully submit to and approve of his plans…but I didn’t! He ended up with a volcano on his hands…so touchy that every time the simplest problem arose, I blew up, because it reminded me of not only the insignificant conflict at hand, but of twenty or more past conflicts where I felt I had been treated unfairly. My trust and confidence in his leadership was down to just about “0.”

Because we didn’t really pray together over problems until we both felt peaceful that we had found God’s solution, I constantly felt that my husband was basing decisions on his own judgment and will, not God’s, and I became bitter over what I believed was intense selfishness on his part. I became so unhappy that I gladly would have left the marriage did I not have the firm conviction that God commands us to remain married…happy or miserable.

Somewhere during that time, the Lord opened my husband’s eyes to my misery and softened his heart, so that he truly did have a deep desire to try to make the marriage work. When we began trying to sort through all the problems that we’d buried, it looked like…not just a mountain…but a volcano. Some nights we stayed awake all night talking. We talked for hours…days…over a year. In fact, it took about two years to work through all the past hurts and find forgiveness and healing. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but it was worth all the pain. Of course, that wasn’t the end of our struggles. We’ve gone through deep valleys since that time too. At one point our problems were so severe we needed outside help for resolution and employed Christian counseling. Today, we have a very positive relationship, and instead of longing to be free, I feel like we must be some of the world’s “luckiest” (most blessed) people!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any trials. Alan says we’re living in the “suburbs” of heaven…the closest thing to heaven on earth. Sometimes it seems almost like heaven, and sometimes a new problem will set us back to struggling again, but now at least we know that true problem resolution comes only through praying together until God brings both partners to peace. There is great strength in unity and harmony. “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). In such a state, the wife’s body will be open to her husband’s touch…as long as he remembers to treat her with the same gentleness he would accord a newborn fawn!  🙂

Rise Up, My Love (224): Twin Fawns in Fields of Lilies

112-newborn-fawn  Song of Solomon 7:3 The praise given in this verse is a beautiful metaphor repeated from the husband’s earlier description of his bride, where he speaks of twin fawns feeding among a field of lilies. Can’t you just imagine such a wonderful scene from nature as if you were a hiker who had the privilege of being at just the right place at just the right moment? You are out walking in the woods on a sunny spring day. You’ve been following a gurgling stream lined with azure-blue forget-me-nots and wild purple irises, and suddenly you come out into a meadow where an open, breezy hill rises in front of you. The hill is covered—not with “a host, a crowd of golden daffodils”— but with the breathtaking splendor of huge, white-throated lilies, and high on the crest of the hill you see a fawn, up to its neck in flowers, with only its head peeking out as it grazes silently.

Double that image, and you have the sense of wonder the husband feels when he sees his beloved’s body. It is as if her breasts were hills covered by vast fields of snow white lilies dappled with two young deer—perfectly symmetrical twins, soft and rounded—quietly grazing among the flowers. And, for the wayfaring pilgrim who lingers to meditate thoughtfully on the picture, a message on gentleness appears.

twin-fawns-09-14-04What would be your first reaction to seeing a young fawn? Oh, how soft and lovely! Wouldn’t you love to be able to touch and pet it? to befriend it? to be gentle enough to win its trust? But, what would happen if you rushed up the side of the hill in an attempt to capture the fawn? It would disappear instantly! The analogy is obvious and instructive. Just as a man couldn’t win the trust of a fawn by rushing at it, so he will not be able to win the privilege of “petting” his wife without the long process of building and maintaining trust through love and gentleness…the way one might win the friendship of a fawn.

113-spring-twin-fawnsFor any husband who feels the frustration of not being given enough liberty with his wife’s body…try a new approach. Try thinking of your wife as if she were a fawn…easily startled…reactive to perceived aggression even if no harm is meant…slow to trust if trust has been broken…saddled with an inborn sense of vulnerability and insecurity…quick to flee rather than fight.

No matter how hardened women may appear on the outside, this delicate emotional nature is their almost universal heritage, and—except when they are driven by lust—women will react instinctively to advances not couched in genuine, gentle love! Does your wife brush off your advances? If so, ask yourself, “Do I truly love her…with the sacrificial love of Christ?” Are you thinking about what she needs more than what you need? Perhaps the most common cause of a woman’s rejection is just plain tiredness. Ask yourself, “Is my wife exhausted and in need of my help instead of my indulging my own desire to have my physical needs met?”

I never cease to marvel at how much more energy my husband has than I. He sleeps about an hour or two less most days. At that rate (if we live to 70), I’d have to live eight years longer than he lives just to be awake as many hours. (I wonder if that has anything to do with why women typically live longer!) Did you know the average man’s hemoglobin count is about fourteen…two points higher than the average woman’s? Unfortunately, a woman can’t just take iron pills to put more “iron” in her blood, because her blood won’t assimilate it beyond her genetically determined point.

Men, by the biological giftedness of God, tend to be stronger and have more energy. I have no trouble believing that women are indeed weaker than men, and I am glad for I Peter 3:7 which teaches, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them (wives) according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” If a man sees that his wife is exhausted, the loving thing to do is help her with her work, not add to her load!

Wives, on the other hand, need to understand that their husbands have tremendous physical needs that are the wife’s responsibility and privilege to meet. Yes, of course you’re tired at the end of the day. And yes, you probably aren’t as driven for sex as your husband is (if you’re more in the middle of the bell-shaped curve). Wives generally are more driven emotionally and experience the lion’s share of appetite for emotional intimacy, but husbands typically possess the lion’s share of physical drive. Just as women normally don’t need as much food as their husbands require, neither do they crave as much physical intimacy and release.

If I ate as much as my husband did, I’d be fat in no time, and yet there are plenty of times that I’ll fix him a snack and sip a cup of tea while he eats just to keep him company. As women, we need to be willing to be do the same thing for our husbands sexually. Even if we aren’t “hungry” for love, can’t we at least minister to our husbands’ needs by accepting their love?

My theory is that if “I ain’t dead yet” then I can be a conduit of God’s love by accepting my husband’s love. Sound right? This, I believe, is the sensitively worded meaning of I Corinthians 7:2-5. “…The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other…”