Category Archives: Relationships

Don’t Forget (to) Breathe

If you want to be inspired by an incredible story of love overcoming all, be sure to watch the 2017 account of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an amazing love story recounted by their son as a tribute to their unfailing love for one another through devastating illness.  The acting is excellent.  (The heroine, Claire Foy, totally charmed us in her role as Elizabeth in The Crown, a fascinating look into the reign of England’s longest [and still] reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth.) I don’t want to tell you too much of the story lest I ruin it,  but it is a beautiful example of love and faithfulness  despite overwhelming challenges. As a result of their unbounded devotion to one another —and to making life worth living—their work has resulted in helping thousands of severely disabled persons! Ready to be inspired? Then it might be time to watch Breathe!For in him [the Lord] we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Filling Cindarella’s Slippers

Wednesday Alan and I headed up “home” to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the funeral of a beloved friend’s mother…perhaps the last of the older generation who has been a mentor and inspiration to me. When my family moved to Michigan from the west 57 years ago, I had 27 cousins, almost all of whom lived in Colorado where both my parents grew up. Within a few years, I had latched on to the family of my closest girlfriend, Brenda, and the family of one of my dearest guy friends, Larry, who was like a brother to me. Larry’s parents became “Aunt Faye” and “Uncle Milt,” helping ease my sense of loss over being so far from extended family. Milt and Faye were the type of people who had their arms open wide for anybody and everybody, so they never batted an eye!

Although I didn’t really see a lot of them over the years, I was definitely impressed by Faye’s gracious heart and sweet spirit. She was one of those very rare “virtuous women” eulogized in Proverbs 31. Faye had four sons, who all turned out great. I had six sons, who are still in the process of turning out, but I hope they end up as well as hers have! Her sons and their wives sang “Blessed Assurance” at the funeral, and I told Alan that I would like our seven (I also have one daughter!) and their spouses to sing “Blessed Assurance” at my funeral too! I love that song! It was the first song I ever sang as “special music” at our little church in the Soo after I became a Christian, and it reflects not only Faye’s life story, but mine as well!   Faye was 90 and in the midst of enjoying her 72nd year of marriage to Milt. No one is ever ready to lose their mom, but Faye was ready to join her Savior in heaven…along with her sister—as her oldest grandson surmised—so they could get busy making heaven even cleaner.  Her grandson made everybody laugh and cry more than I’ve ever seen at a funeral, and there was standing room only at the back of Hovie’s overflowing chapel. Even two of her caregivers came (which Alan says he’s never seen before), and the place was jammed. How often does that happen for somebody who’s 90?!! Anyway, it was very sad to lose her, but it was also a celebration of a beautiful life beautifully lived, and I left so inspired that I’ve got my funeral all planned out now! You think I’m kidding? I am not!  At any rate, I hope you are ready to die, and when I die, I hope people celebrate my life with the sense of peace and joy that undergirded all the sorrow flowing Wednesday. I would love to be remembered the way Faye was. One daughter-in-law mentioned how she made each of her sons feel special and loved. Another daughter-in-law mentioned how Faye made each of her daughter-in-laws feel totally loved and accepted. None of her sons could speak…which also speaks volumes to me about how much they loved her, because they are usually full of life and tales. 🙂  Isn’t that sweet? I guess if I want to die like Faye, I’d better work hard at living like Faye. She has beautiful, transparent slippers to fill!

        Blessed Assurance
(—Fanny Crosby, 1873)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

 

Even If You Can’t Dance, You Can Zumba!

By the time I was five, I was trying to imitate my swingin’ teenaged brothers as they danced to hot new songs like “The Terror of Highway 101.” By six, I was learning to “Rock Around the Clock,” and by seven, I was practicing Elvis the Pelvis’s swinging hips from songs like “I ain’t nothing but a hound dog.” By twelve, I was practicing the Peppermint Twist with my girlfriends at slumber parties. And then, I surrendered my life to Jesus, and the dancing stopped. It wasn’t just that I started attending a very conservative church where they considered dancing the “vertical expression of horizontal thoughts,” I was beginning to think there might be something even more exciting in the world of guys than being nicknamed “Buckwheat” and allowed to play first base on their ball team!

Long story short, I decided that dancing was way too provocative and romantic to be a part of my life if I wanted to make it to adulthood keeping my name in tact. (Kathryn means “pure.”) Marriage didn’t exactly stop all attractions to the opposite sex either, and so it seemed wise to continue a hands-off, no-dance policy indefinitely.  However, 45 years into marriage and finding myself pretty stable emotionally, Alan and I both noticed that we were becoming the least bit unstable physically. One bit of advice we’ve heard repeatedly about aging well is to participate in new physical activities that stress grace and balance, such as dancing. So, we decided that it’s time to start dancing again…together…in our basement…with our video Zumba instructor, Beto Perez, the Colombian dancer and choreographer who developed a fitness program called Zumba in the 1990’s. Zumba combines dance steps with various martial arts moves and is the perfect combination of fun and aerobic exercise. It really took off in 2006, and today there are more than 14 million people who participate in some 160,000 classes in 185 countries…and counting! At 14, Beto was working 3 jobs to support his single mother and their family in Columbia. Today?! Talk about the American Dream come true!! The wife of one of our psychiatrists sponsors a Zumba class on Tuesday afternoons where Alan works, but we are a little too old (or self-conscious) to join that group. However, for $7.99 we got Zumba 101: Can’t Dance? from Amazon, and we’ve been working out ever since! At first, we could hardly make it through the first two songs without needing a rest, but now we can dance through the entire hour session and are ready for something more. The funny thing is, it’s just as appealing to our grandchildren, and when they come to visit, the kids beg to work out with us! It’s just SO. MUCH. FUN!

So, if you’re looking for a way of exercising that doesn’t bore you to tears and makes you feel happy, consider giving Zumba a try…maybe even in the privacy of your own basement! Alan is still struggling to swing his hips, but…I’m back to my roots! 🙂

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. . .a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4; this is our time to dance~).

Song of Solomon (283): What Would You Like Your Husband to Love About You?

Song of Solomon 8:10 “…then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” I believe this verse is best considered in its entirety, first on the physical level, but then—for our encouragement and comfort—on the spiritual level (because it seems to me that our physical bodies are often even more difficult to significantly improve than our spiritual lives).

Two things are very striking to me about the verse. First, the bride’s self esteem and unusual self assessment, and second, the bride’s confidence that her body is what gained her favor with her husband: “then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” There may be women who read this verse and identify with the bride’s assessment of herself in a positive way (e.g.: “Oh, yes, that is true of me! I have a gorgeous body and that’s why my husband fell in love with me!”).

If you did, you can skip the next few paragraphs! However, I’ve heard that even Hollywood’s lineup of beautiful movie stars, when surveyed, reported they would like to change some things about their appearance if they could. So, I suspect almost every woman grew up the way I did: not perfectly content with her physical appearance. For me, the bride’s declaration seems surprisingly vain on the one hand and discouraging on the other. It seems vain for anyone to think so highly of herself; but if her assessment was correct, then it is discouraging to think that someone could truly have such an amazing figure.

I grew up feeling pretty, but I would never have thought of myself as being as strong and statuesque as a wall, nor would I have described my breasts as towers! (The earlier description of sleeping fawns could compute in my brain.) Is such high regard simply recognizing the truth, or is it pride? Certainly, this woman was one of a kind in Solomon’s estimation, so perhaps she was the “Miss Universe” of her time and had gained the king’s favor strictly because of her beauty.

Something inside me resists that with all my being. I prefer the story of Esther, who was winsome because she was beautiful both inside and out. My husband once intimated that what attracted him to me was my body when we were first married, and I just about hit him over the head with a baseball bat! (Well, maybe not really.) I didn’t want him to love me for my looks. Outward beauty is ephemeral and often misused by the world. I wanted him to love me for my spirit…my character…maybe even my brain…anything but my looks, because I felt that surface appearances truly were just “skin deep,” and that the real and lasting beauty I should be concentrating on was the unfading inner beauty of a Christlike spirit.

Now, forty-five years later, I know my husband loves me for something deeper than outer beauty, because he still says he thinks I’m beautiful, even though I no longer have my youthful figure and face. I appreciatively accept his assessment as one who is blinded by love. In other words, I don’t think I’m beautiful, but when my husband tells me that I am, my brain relays this message: “Your husband really loves you!” A man who thinks a woman is beautiful will either love her for it (in the sense of being drawn to her), or because he loves her, he will think she’s lovely. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts!

(P.S.—I used a photo of Elizabeth Taylor as my graphic for this article because when I was little, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Despite her beauty, fame, and fortune, I would not have traded places with her. Would you?)

I’d Rather Have Jesus
(-Rhea F. Miller, 1922)

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sins dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame.
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs.
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sins dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

 

An Inspiration for All Saints

Ready to be inspired by a (dramatized) true story? All Saints recounts the tale of Michael Spurlock, who—as a young seminary graduate—was sent to close down a dwindling church but got sidetracked by trying to help a group of Karen refugees from Burma who came to him seeking spiritual and physical aid. A tense but heart-warming 2017 movie, All Saints relates what happened back in 2007. It’s PG, has a 94% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and is a wonderful story for young and old alike…and every age and ethnicity in between!  🙂 John Corbett plays the role of Michael Spurlock, the Anglican minister who’s trying to figure out how to help the faltering little country congregation.  Although the key actors are professionals (and the movie is very well done), many of the Karen refugees play themselves! How fun is that?! I have a dear friend who has been working among the Karen refugees in Thailand for the last 20 years. Did you know there are over half a million Karen people who have been displaced by ethnic cleansing in Myanmar?Are you aware that there are over 65.5 million displaced people in the world today and 12 million refugees (up from less than 3 million refugees in the mid-1970s)? America has historically been a global leader in resettling refugees, and we also take in about a million legal immigrants annually (who are not fleeing persecution and war). If you are an American, this means that there are probably foreigners who live close to you and need help in understanding the language, etc. I know our church hosts a weekly “Language Cafe” to help with this problem (if you’re looking for a place to help), and there are a lot of programs to come along side refugees in Grand Rapids. My son has helped a young man from the Congo for two years now, and I greatly admire his dedication, as well as the young man’s progress!One of the most exciting things about All Saints, to me, is bringing the problems of refugees into the public eye and reminding people that God still works miracles today. In an article interviewing Rev. Michael Spurlock for Christian Cinema News, Jacob Sahms reflects: “That in itself is the beauty of All Saints, that God would use an ordinary man, flaws and all, strengths and weakness, to work a miracle, to bring people together, to build the Kingdom of God upon the earth.”

If you’d like to read this wonderful interview in full, it can be found here: https://www.christiancinema.com/news/rev-michael-spurlock-tells-the-story-behind-all-saints-in-theaters-friday

As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

Rise Up, My Love (280): Silver Palaces

Happy Easter! He is Risen! He is risen indeed! But, what about her???Song of Solomon 8:9 “If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver.” Once the wall of a city was built, then watch towers, the palace, and homes could be added. The grandest building in any city was the palace: the home of the ruling monarch. If the foundation of the wall was sure, it could bear the weight of great structures. Even so, if we are resting on the sure foundation of Christ, we can bear the weight of glory that will be ours as the Holy Spirit—our resident monarch— indwells our “palace of silver.”

And, just how does this “palace of silver” come about? Does it say that if this young girl is firm and strong, if she has learned to keep the Lord around her as a wall of fire to protect her from sin, if she is morally upright, straight, and true, then “we will build upon her a palace of silver”? Well, it would be lovely if the little sister were such a grand wall, but the only true requirement was being a wall…being a work in progress. Silver in Scripture speaks of redemption, which is a great comfort to us, because it reminds us that even the weakest child of God will forever be a monument to his redeeming love and grace.

Although the “we will build” points to the fact that we will always have an integral part in the work of God here on earth, the “palace of silver” speaks of a habitation made holy by the one who indwells it. We do not have to be perfect in order to invite the king to dwell within our hearts; we only have to be willing. The house doesn’t clean itself; it only exists to provide a dwelling place for the one who will maintain it. The Holy Spirit, when allowed full access, is also our holy housekeeper to cleanse and sanctify our hearts.

“That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, ‘Thou art my refuge’.” —George MacDonald (quoted in March 10, 2004 Our Daily Bread).

“If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver…” We will add to her beauty and usefulness; we will embellish her so that she is more attractive; we will secure her so that she is of greater service to the king. Oh, beloved, don’t you wish to be such a wall? Do you have in your heart the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” desire to love others as yourself? Are you willing to invest in those who are younger than you in the faith? To work hand in hand with the Lord to build up your younger sisters…and younger sister churches?

Think of how the world would stand in awe of Christian love if instead of arguing with and defaming less mature believers (and less mature churches), we came along side and helped build them up in the faith so that they could become more beautiful, more useful, more secure, and more glorious for our king! What a calling, and yet—it is our calling! Like Nehemiah, will you arm yourself with the Sword and a trowel, pick up a brick, and start building on the wall? Will you pray with me? “Lord, I want to be a builder! I want to be a work ‘to the praise of your glory’ like it says in Ephesians 1:12, and I want to help build up others so that they are also ‘to the praise of your glory.’ Here I am; please use me.”

See It, Touch It, Hold It…Including Snappy the Alligator?!

During the first Christmas my oldest was able to toddle around, he kept asking for permission to “see” then “touch” then “hold” the Christmas ornaments. Unfortunately, he was too young to hold an ornament for very long before it would fall, and if I wasn’t right there to catch the bulb, it would break.

So, in our home, the line went, “See it? Hold it? Touch it? Break it!”
But, don’t we all love to get our hands on things we’re curious about?I think we all have a fascination with holding things that fill us with awe—whether it’s a shiny Christmas ornament or an exotic living creature. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what can be touched and what to avoid! In Tunisia, the zookeeper seemed fearless and knew just how to hold a scorpion while the scorpion held on tight to a pack of cigarettes, but none of us dared try! He also knew how to handle a deadly sidewinder… but nobody wanted to try that one, either! Of course, some critters seem more cuddly,
and those we’d like to touch as well as see. In fact, when it comes to camels, I like to ride them too! A well trained camel can take you for a pleasant ride down the streets in India. A well-trained elephant will let you pet him in the jungles of Nepal, or let you go for a ride (only with his mahout aboard, however!) Baby elephants are something else, though!  They’re 250-pound characters who love to push you around if they can!!I only dared touch this little playmate while he was distracted by someone else! Many creatures look almost irresistibly cuddly, like these monkeys,  but monkeys are pickpockets with nasty bites, so I’ve been trained to keep my distance lest I lose my camera…or worse! Over the years, I’ve been able to see and hold many different creatures,  but on our trip through the Panama Canal,
I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy.  Snappy has been handled by this park ranger since his birth,
and he’s quite friendly…as long as you don’t put your face next to his mouth.

Alligators have a brain about as big as a pea, so most of what they do is instinctive. Nevertheless, we were back in America, so I figured they wouldn’t let us hold him unless it was relatively safe, and when they asked who would like to hold Snappy, I volunteered. Yes, being in America, they made it quite safe! Although the ranger hadn’t forewarned us, he put a big strap around Snappy’s mouth to keep him quiet. He was totally docile and let me hold him by his soft underbelly. Holding living creatures touches something deep inside me…a trust given to me to hold without hurting…not to break…and hopefully not to get hurt either. As we go through life, I hope we continue learning what is safe and what is not…       and just how close we can get to others without asking for trouble!    But I hope we keep exploring and trying to connect,  not only with critters,  but with people! There’s a huge world out there full of people who’ve never heard the good news that Jesus came to set us free from sin and give us eternal life!                       Can we hold them so gently that we don’t hurt them?

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).