Category Archives: Religious Issues

Lessons from Louise’s Kitchen

In Black Mountain, North Carolina,
there’s a perfectly adorable breakfast spot known as Louise’s Kitchen. It has a lot of things that make it unique: five-inch sections of fettuccine that they use for stirring your coffee…playing cards to designate your order number…inspirational thoughts to brighten your day…a pick-your-own, self-serve beverage counter, and a great menu with great prices for food with flair!  It’s a hit with everybody, and the place was jammed by the time we left.(So come early if you don’t want to have to wait!)  I was luxuriating in the ambience and yummy food,  when I noticed that our waitress looked like she might have a hard life, but she was an absolutely stellar waitress, and her genuine warmth really attracted me.  She was (IS) obviously an over-comer, and it didn’t take long to figure out why! Thank you, dear waitress, for letting your light shine! The world needs you!

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).

“This Little Light of Mine”

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine

Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?”

(All photos from Louise’s Kitchen in Black Mountain, North Carolina)

What Happens After We Die?

Tomorrow morning I will be sitting with a lifelong friend while her husband undergoes surgery for cancer. Hopefully, the surgeons will be able to remove the cancer, and thankfully, her husband is not afraid of death. Tom is a man of great faith who knows that he will go to be with Jesus whenever he dies (and we hope that’s not for many years yet!), but I think his peace and confidence are exceptional, not the rule for people. Do you ever wonder what will happen when you die? A friend sent me the following devotional thought, and I wanted to share it with you this morning, just in case you are facing or fearing death.

~DEATH~
WHAT A WONDERFUL WAY TO EXPLAIN IT .. .

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?  You’re a Christian, and yet you don’t know what’s on the other side?”

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room, leaping on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He didn’t really know what was in this room, but he knew that his master was here, so when the door opened,  he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing…I know my Master is there, and that is enough.” Jesus taught us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29).No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:13-17, ESV)


Rise Up, My Love (232): Mysterious Unity

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.” Before un-entwining “purple” hair, let’s consider one more aspect of the bride’s head being like Carmel— which stands “with regal splendor even above the grandeur of the sea.” Here is where spiritual mystery leaves us grasping to feel with our hearts what our minds cannot adequately process. The Scripture repeatedly reminds us that the man is the head of his wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, which is his bride, the body of Christ: “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3). “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). “And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church…that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). “And ye are complete in him (Christ), which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). In Colossians 2:19, the Christians were warned about false mystics who were “not holding the Head (Christ), from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”

Although the term “head” is used as an office of leadership, it is also—particularly in this last passage—speaking of the church…the bride of Christ…as also being the body of Christ in an organic sense. This is a spiritual mystery. How can Christ at the same time be both a literal God-man with a physical body and—in an organic sense—also the head of “the body of Christ” which is His church…called to become His bride? How can the church be at the same time both the bride of Christ and the body of Christ? The bridegroom marries a bride that is a separate person. How does it work?

Indeed, it is a great mystery…one of those things that we look into now but can see only “through a glass, darkly” knowing just in part what we shall know fully through glorious experience when we see Him face to face! Now we know only that the marriage between a man and a woman foreshadows what it will be like.

In our most intimate human relationships, we begin to experience the merging of two souls and the unifying of two spirits. We sense the opening of our inmost being to receive the intercourse of love from heart to heart and the communion of soul to soul. In marriage, we can experience the fullest culmination of union in the merging of two bodies as well as souls and spirits. As Christ prayed for us, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23).

What an incredible prayer! That we may all be one. That every man, woman, and child who belongs to Jesus by faith in his sacrificial death for our sins would become one entity…cells working together in one body which is both the beloved bride of Christ and in some great spiritual mystery the real, physical, living, eternal body of Christ. Bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, having partaken of his blood and flesh, having become one in him. I stand in awe, silenced by my inability to comprehend the workings of such a mystery and the love that would allow me such privilege.

The Father loves us like he loves the Son? It’s true! The Bible teaches us this concept, and it is ours to believe by faith. The Father—who can do anything he wants—conceived a plan which will make us not only sons of God but a part of his organic body…even as the Father and the Son are one! Forever and for eternity we will be not only indwelt by the Spirit, but joined to Christ…and through Christ to God the Father as well! God in us and us in God…united and one in some inconceivably wonderful and mysterious way. And can it be?? Yes! Praise God, it can.

The Great Divide on Good Friday

You see the image often this time of year – three crosses in silhouette standing atop a small hill.  It’s a common image representing a most uncommon event and a critical truth.

Three men were crucified that day, two rebels or thieves and Jesus of Nazareth.  The rebels were lawbreakers.  They were convicted and being crucified for their crimes.  They had sinned too many times to count.

Jesus was sinless.  He was being crucified for claiming to be the Messiah and the son of God.

Religious leaders, people in authority, and countless others couldn’t believe it.  They thought the claim was blasphemy. Ignoring the miracles he had performed and despite fervently looking for and impatiently waiting for the promised Messiah who would redeem the Jewish people, most couldn’t or wouldn’t believe Jesus was the one.  If what he claimed couldn’t be true, it had to be blasphemy and he had to be crucified.   So, they nailed him to a cross and crucified him with the two thieves, one on his left, one on his right – a detail important enough to be described by all four writers of the Gospels.

Many in the crowd of onlookers shouted insults at Jesus and mocked him.  Even the two thieves taunted him.  In the midst of their own dying, they belittled the only one who could save them.

Then something happened.  One of the thieves noticed something.   There was something different about this Jesus dying next to him. He didn’t “take it like a man.”  He took it differently than the two thieves, differently from how you’d expect a normal human to take it.  He took it differently than the others who had been crucified — the soldiers noticed this.  One of them even said so. Despite being savagely flogged, torturously nailed to a cross, and struggling just to breathe – he still didn’t lash out.  He didn’t curse the soldiers or the crowd that mocked him. He didn’t respond insult for insult. He did something no one else did. He prayed for them — for their forgiveness. And he asked a friend standing nearby to take care of his mother. At a time when others being crucified would weep in sorrow or call out in defiance to the end, Jesus looked to the needs of others.

And it finally clicked – at least for one of the two thieves and one of the soldiers.  Maybe this Jesus really was different.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Maybe he was who he claimed to be.

When the one thief sarcastically taunted Jesus again saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us.”

The thief who now recognized something unique in Jesus rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Calling him by name he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then Jesus, through all the pain and anguish he was suffering for the sins of others chose to look out for the needs of one more. He saved the thief also, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

With that, Jesus forgave that thief of his sins, all his crimes, all his past as well.

The thief had finally recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was who he claimed — that he was Lord and God.

Jesus saved the thief.

Dying on a cross beside Jesus, legs and hands nailed to the tree, this thief couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t run to the temple, couldn’t sacrifice a lamb or a dove, couldn’t help care for the sick or the poor, couldn’t help little old ladies across the street. Literally and figuratively, he couldn’t lift a single finger to save himself or earn his salvation. Jesus saved him all the same.  Mercifully saved him by grace.

The other thief – bitter, defiant and spiritually blind — died a thief and a sinner.

Three crosses on a hill.  The sinner thief on one side, the saved thief on the other, and Jesus in between separating the two.  Fitting and profound.  As clear an image as you can imagine.  Jesus is the great divide. Graphically and spiritually, Jesus separates the saved from the lost.  His grace is sufficient.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15: 39).

He then brought them [Paul and Silas] out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16: 30-31).

(This post was written by Dr. Larry Hembroff, a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers’ Group as well as a lifelong friend. Thank you, Larry!)

Meijer Garden: Butterflies Are Blooming Again, But Not All Butterflies Are Free

One of the perennial delights of living in Grand Rapids
is access to Meijer’s beautiful botanical gardens, and from March 1 until April 30th, 60 colorful species of butterflies bloom  in the 15,000 sq. ft. tropical conservatory,  which is kept at a luscious 85° with 70% humidity  so you feel a rush of warmth  every time you enter, no matter what’s going on outside! We’ve been at night and during the day, but unless you enjoy flashlight hunts and sleeping butterflies,  a bright, sunny day is by far the best option. In unclouded sunshine, the butterflies are dancing everywhere, and if you wear brightly colored clothing, they’re apt to light on you
just in case you taste as delectable as they look!         Usually, our times searching for butterflies is pure bliss,

but this year, there is another ongoing exhibition that counterbalances the joyous uplift of butterflights with the broken-hearted reality of suffering and captivity.The artist is Al Weiwei, a Chinese activist who was arrested in 2009 (and had the presence of mind to take his own photo, which he later tweeted to the world!).  In 2011, the Chinese authorities took his passport so that he couldn’t travel. Once he was beaten so badly that he was unable to go to court to testify. During his house arrest, he bought and photographed beautiful bouquets of flowers as a silent protest against his captors, a practice that he continued until his passport was restored on July 22, 2013.

Perhaps his most provocative sculpture is a vibrant collection of twisted rebar, commemorating the many children who were killed during an earthquake. Reading his story made me think of many Christians who have been similarly persecuted for their faith, not only in China but around the world. As humans, we are born to be free—as free as butterflies!
However, just like humans, not all butterflies are completely free! When we leave the tropical conservatory, each person is carefully examined to make sure no butterfly has landed on them and will end up outside in the cold.Of course, we don’t think of it in terms of their freedom being limited,
because we know they couldn’t survive the freezing nights outside. We think they’re being protected, but the butterflies don’t know that! They flutter happily wherever,
with no apparent sense of direction besides sipping nectar.

My heart aches for Al Weiwei and all who are unfairly persecuted and confined. But, I am also exercised to think about those who wander off in an attempt to “escape” all contraint (like the butterflies who flit outside on a freezing day). Sometimes we’re like those butterflies, totally oblivious to how carefully God has provided a safe environment, mindlessly wandering away from warmth into an exhilarating, freezing freedom which cannot sustain life. In our flights and fights for freedom, let’s make sure we’re fighting for what promotes health and life rather than what will destroy us. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, NKJV).   Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:7-8).

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)

What Scares Toddlers?

We used to live in Ann Arbor when our four oldest were grade schoolers, and in those days, there was nothing more scary than our basement…at least, for the boys. Kathy, at age three, was the only one brave enough to go downstairs and bring me some milk from our second fridge, which used to make me laugh. What’s so scary about a basement? Well, there might be monsters, you know! I used to be terribly afraid to sleep alone at night for fear of monsters reaching up from under my bed and grabbing me. Were you afraid of “monsters in the dark”? Although I’m no longer afraid of monsters under my bed, it’s become  obvious to me that fears are age and perception related. For instance, loud sounds almost universally startle infants and make them cry, because infants have no clue what the loud noise means. One of the surprises for me as a young mom was the realization that all my toddlers were uniformly afraid of something that was totally harmless. Can you think of what it is? You’re driving along with your family, looking out the window enjoying sunshine and scenery, when all of a sudden you go into this dark tunnel and start creeping forward instead of flying along. Suddenly, you hear rain pounding on the roof and your entire car is engulfed in a flood.                                            Strange colors blot out your view, and then a great, hairy monster starts beating on the front windshield, trying to get in. For sure it’s going to break through and gobble everybody up! You and your mom and everybody bigger than you who might help take care of you are helpless against such a giant creature. Without a doubt you’re all about to be mercilessly eaten by a terrible monster!! Okay, so maybe not, but I’m pretty sure that’s what was going through my toddlers’ brains, because without exception, somewhere between age one and two each child would go through a time of terrible wailing in a car wash. Adults have different fears: finding true love, and once found, there’s always the fear of losing that loved one. Becoming and staying solvent. Surviving the chronic sleep deprivation and testing of character endemic in child rearing. As we grow older, health issues arise, and the fear of losing loved ones, or losing ourselves! Throughout life, there are constant anxieties and fears, and like toddlers, we’re often forced to go through frightening experiences against our choosing or will.                 However, it helps a lot to know that others have gone before us,                                 and that others are coming behind us. Like a car wash, we need the scares and the purging to combat rust…for maintenance and cleansing, so let’s not fear our trips through the car wash. Let’s remember that after God has cleaned us up, He’ll bring us through and let us go again…either here in this life, or up to heaven above!   Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:11-13)