Invitation to Make America’s National Day of Prayer into an International Day of Prayer

In America, people will be gathering from one end of the country to the other by twos and thousands today crying out to God for the 331+ million people who live in our country to find and share the love of God with one another. If you live in Southwest Michigan, please consider joining us at Crossroads Bible Church tonight. Wherever you live, there is most likely some group in your area (maybe in one of our country’s 350,000 churches) that will praying together today, and hopefully you can find the times and places online.

But, what about the rest of the 7,678,174,656+ people on our planet? No matter what country you’re from, if you’re reading this, will you join me in praying, not only for our nation, but for every person living around the world today? Can you imagine how the world would change if everyone really believed and practiced what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40? “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When my children were young, I taught them this concept as a jingle:

“Love the Lord above all else,
And love your neighbor as yourself.”

So easy to say, but so hard to do! I have found this to be the greatest challenge of my entire life, and yet, it would transform our world as no other single law could! No wonder it is called the “Royal Law” in James 2:8, “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.”

Are you with me? Will you pray with me?

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (—Jesus, as recorded in John 13:34-35).


We Can Do It!

Never Give Up!
 
Here we go again.
I thought I would be finished,
But I’m still not done. 

This was a playful photo was taken when our Birthday Club visited the Michigan History Museum in Lansing. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I have since! My petty personal problem (currently having a little finger still sporting external pins) pales in the light of the tribulations many people are enduring. Harder still are this world’s global concerns. I’ve recently finished Elie Weisel’s touching book, Open Heart . . . the reflections of an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and a Nobel Laureate. He thought that after World War II, people would learn from the devastation, and that oppression would cease, but this has not happened. The fight for right over wrong, good over evil, and life over death will go on as long as man lives on earth. Our job is to keep fighting and never give up!

Whatever our challenges, God is there and wants to help us. We are encouraged in the New Testament: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Some members of my family will be participating in an all-night prayer vigil at Moody in Chicago tonight. Come join in if you have time! God hears and responds to our earnest cries for help, and we citizens of earth need HELP!

Psalm 18, written by King David after he’d been delivered from his enemies, is (to me) the perfect example of how God wants us to approach Him for deliverance from troubles!

Psalm 18

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24 Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

28 For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

31 For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?

32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.

34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.

40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.

42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.

44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.

45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

46 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.

48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

What’s the Scuttlebutt? How about a Scuttled Bucket?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the term “scuttlebutt” used as a synonym for “gossip,” but I never knew the derivation until we visited Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. Before people knew how to purify water, sailors would store fresh water gathered from local streams for their voyage in caskets. A “butt” was a casket used for storing water, and a “scuttled butt” was a casket that had been scuttled (by cutting a hole in it so people could get the water out). During the voyage, the “scuttlebutt” was the current casket, usually sitting on the main deck, where the sailors could come to drink, and—like employees around a water cooler today—people would often catch up on news and swap stories while drinking the water.

There are so many things I’ve never really reasoned through, but at this fascinating museum of naval history, they made a point out of the fact that water from local streams would not be very clean, and after being stored for weeks on end, it became foul. However, that was all they had, so drink it they did. Better than dying of thirst, although there were times when drinking it resulted in their dying of bacterial infections or other disease-related illnesses.

Do you believe in heaven? There were many people in previous centuries who did not believe in a “new world” across an apparently endless sea. However, there were also a few brave sailors who believed—at least enough to attempt crossing the ocean. For those who believed and were willing to travel, and survived the trip, they really did find a new world. On their journey, the sailors had to drink water to keep them going, but if the water was putrid, it may have killed them at any rate.

This is true for us in the spiritual realm as well. Some people don’t even believe in a “new world” called heaven and have no interest in searching for it, but for those of us who do, we’re off on an adventure in a “fellow ship” with other believers. On the way, we need to drink water to survive the trip. The only pure water that remains clean and healthful throughout life is the water of the Word of God. Every other type of spiritual water is just from the “scuttlebutt;” it’s gossip and rumors gathered from local sources that are never pure and always leave a stench in the end . . . perhaps even causing death to those who drink.

In John 4:14, Jesus taught: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” In Revelation 21:6, Jesus tells John in a vision: “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

When we are spiritually thirsty, let’s forget the scuttlebutt and go straight to Jesus and the Bible for our refreshment!

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

 

Some Timely Tips for Doing Life with Your Adult Children

Do you (like me) find yourself wondering what you did wrong when you hear what one or another of  your adult children is thinking or doing? As would be obvious to all who are living through the honor of interacting with adult children (but perhaps not a no-brainer to young people): It’s actually a lot harder than it looks to be good parents to grown offspring, even really, really admirable grown offspring, like mine. Alan’s being the medical director of maybe the world’s largest Christian psychiatric hospital hasn’t really made us professionals either.

However, as we’ve been floundering our way through this stage of life, we came across a great resource that has significantly encouraged us, so I want to recommend it to you! We read it to each other while on our Southern Caribbean cruise these past two weeks, celebrating our 46th anniversary. Ever since, we’ve been ending our daily prayers for our kids with this mantra: “God, we release our children to your loving care and tender mercies” (from page 115).

Doing Life with Your Adult Children walks readers through the various cultural mindsets of the different generations (all five of them) sharing Planet Earth at this time, reminding us that “our job as parents is not to agree with all the values of our children’s culture but to have a greater understanding of how culture influences the way they think and act.” This has been a game changer for us. Up until now, we’ve wondered why our kids didn’t just naturally take on our values. Surprise! Faith in the Bible, love of country and family . . . even gender identity based on DNA is no longer the norm. Of kids brought up in church, some 60% will drift away in college, making lifestyle choices that would curl the hair of our parents and make our grandparents roll over in their graves.

Not to fear! Hold on. Keep being faithful to what you believe is right and good. More than half of our wandering children will come back to their roots and faith. Meanwhile, author Jim Burns offers all sorts of helpful insights into what’s going on, what the culture is teaching, and how to love your kids and grand kids in ways they can actually feel no matter what they believe. One of many principles (similar to Dr. Gary Smalley’s advice on how to treasure your spouse) is to treat your children and grandchildren with AWE: affection, warmth, and encouragement. Amen? No matter what your young adult is thinking or doing, every “child” (grown ones too) needs big doses of real, genuine, open-hearted love, the way our heavenly Father lavishes his love on us.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t set boundaries or allow our kids to struggle with the consequences of their choices. The book also gives some helpful suggestions for how to engage your “failure to launch” young adults and help them mature into responsible, independent adults. There are also tips on how to become better in-laws (such as “wear beige” . . . “keep your mouth shut and the welcome mat out”) and how to interact with your grandchildren in ways that will leave a legacy of love for them.

From the very beginning—which describes a scenario I’ll bet every couple has experienced—to Chapter 1: “You’re Fired!” (PRINCIPLE 1: YOUR ROLE AS THE PARENT MUST CHANGE) to the very end, laced with ideas for how to party down with your grand kids, the book kept us engaged and learning!

Interested? I actually had an advance copy, but the book is coming out March 26, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Zondervan or Amazon online. If you buy it, I hope you appreciate it as much as we have! Parenting parents is a tough job!  🙂

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

The Ultimately Creamy Tiramisu: With or Without

Tiramisu has long been a favorite dessert in our family, especially when we eat Italian food, so my son Joel has been practicing this year and has it down to an art. He even tried making his own ladyfingers (although he says it’s a lot easier to just buy a couple of packages), and he’s perfected the balance of cream with the other flavors to make a memorable dessert that can last several days in the refrigerator and just seems to improve over time! Previously, tiramisu was a dessert I never really attempted to make, I think because I don’t like the heavy alcohol flavoring common in most batches. However, I was surprised but very pleased to discover that the tiramisu I bought for my son Michael’s family in Italy this summer had no alcohol whatsoever, so it emboldened me to work  out an authentic, non-alcoholic recipe that tastes great. You may wonder why I have such a vendetta against alcohol (some of my own kids do), but it’s because I have so many friends who have been hurt by the impact of immoderate alcohol consumption. Just this week, a report came out from the WHO (World Health Organization) stating that 1 in 20 deaths world-wide is due to alcoholism. That’s a shockingly high statistic to me when you consider war, accidents, and disease. Sure, alcohol is probably related to the majority of mechanical accidents, but alcohol is one of the few things in life that we absolutely do not need in order to carry on life (unless someone becomes addicted…which is what unfortunately happens all too often). Therefore, why take a chance with a non-essential substance that gives you a 1 in 20 chance of either killing yourself or someone you love? (And, if you’re in your 20’s, the chance goes to 1 in 7.)Well, I’ll get off my soapbox in a minute and share the recipe, but I also wanted to point out an article from The Washington Post entitled, “Americans Are Drinking Themselves to Death at Record Rates,” which states that 30% of Americans don’t drink at all.* So…if you don’t drink, please don’t feel like you’re the only one out there (which has happened to me a few times). There are a lot of fellow water or Pepsi totters, so the resistance movement is strong!

Ultimately Creamy Tiramisu

Custard:

In a quart-sized sauce pan, whip together:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar. When well blended, add
2/3 cup milk
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until it bubbles and thickens. Cool and refrigerate until well chilled. Then carefully whisk in:
1 pound mascarpone cheese until it’s all smooth and uniformly mixed. Refrigerate this mixture until you’re ready to assemble everything.

Whipping Cream:

Whip together until stiff peaks form:
1.25 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Coffee mixture to soak the lady fingers:

5 tablespoons espresso coffee mixed with 6 tablespoons of “something.” Many recipes call for rum or amaretto, but you can also use:
5 tablespoons of white grape juice plus
2 teaspoons of almond extract

To assemble everything:

Lay out one 3-ounce package of ladyfinger (spongecake) cookies flat in the bottom of a 13X9″ pan. If they aren’t already split in half, split them. Drizzle half of the coffee mixture over the cookies, then add half the custard gently, spreading it carefully until all the cookies are covered. Next add half the whipped cream, spreading it over the top. Then, carefully arrange a second 3-ounce package of split ladyfinger spongecake cookies on top of the mixture. Drizzle them with the rest of the coffee mixture. Add the rest of the custard, and top with the rest of the whipped cream, making sure everything is level and covered at each step. Sprinkle liberally with sifted cocoa powder. Ideally, chill it for 4-6 hours at least before serving to let the flavors meld. (As a side note: soft ladyfingers are best, but if you can only find the hard kind, dip them individually into the coffee mixture to make sure they’re soaked before arranging them one by one in the pan. Also, use 6 tablespoons each of coffee and white grape juice instead of 5.) Tiramisu is best if it’s allowed to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving, and it continues to taste great for several days (although it never lasts very long at our house)!                                               Enjoy!! We sure do!  🙂

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1)

*https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/americans-are-drinking-themselves-to-death-at-record-rates/?utm_term=.b105c5ec4cfd

 

Saying Goodbye to Christopher Robin

Although I grew up cherishing Winnie-the-Pooh stories, my children grew up practically quoting some of the stories by heart, and a couple of my grandchildren remind me of Christopher Robin (like this one, whom I’ve been visiting the last while, and who’s recently become a big brother, again!),

I never knew much about A.A. Milne, who authored the tales of Christopher Robin and his plush playmates. Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017, PG, rated 7.1 on IMDb) tells the heart-rending back story of the Milne family.                 A.A. Milne, and his wife Dorothy, were rich British socialites.

In the movie, the real Christopher Robin (nicknamed “Billy Moon” by his parents) appears to have been largely neglected by his mother, although according to his biography, it was his mother who came into the nursery and told him stories about what Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends did and said, and he felt that it was his mother who actually created most of the ideas for Milne’s books. However, it was absolutely true that little Billy was very devoted to his nanny, Olive, who was responsible for his daily care. (I gather this is often true for children who grow up with caring nannies!) Milne had suffered severely from (probable) PTSD after serving in World War I and wished to use his talents as an author to write something that would inspire the world to stop resorting to war as a way of “resolving” conflicts.

Although Milne published a serious plea against war, Peace with Honour, he became famous for was his playful, four-book series based on his son and the little boy’s stuffed animals. These books were incredibly successful, and the Milne family became extremely rich!

Billy Moon (aka Christopher Robin) didn’t mind becoming a celebrity as a child…until he was sent away to boarding school at age eight, where he was mercilessly bullied for his fame.

In response, Billy enlisted in the army during World War II, where he contracted malaria and took some shrapnel to his head (although he recovered completely). It was during the war that Billy came to terms with all the difficulties in his life, because he realized that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories helped people recover from the pain and disillusionment of war by allowing them to retreat into the happy bliss of childhood innocence. Since the original books were written (almost 100 years ago), they have never been out of print, and they have sold over 20 million copies in 50 languages! However, Christopher Robin never accepted royalties from any of the books.  Instead, he married his cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt, founded the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, and wrote a book of his own, Enchanted Places, finding it more gratifying to make his own life rather than live in his father’s shadow.

Now, you may fairly criticize me for telling you so much of the story, but in order to experience all the depth of pathos and charm, I highly recommend that you see Goodbye Christopher Robin for yourself! It made me appreciate that life is always much more complicated and difficult than we can ever imagine, and even the joyous affirmations of innocent childhood—in the real world—often come at great cost.

I also want to say that, unlike Christopher Robin, who didn’t want to stand in his father’s shadow, I am eternally grateful for our loving heavenly Father, who invites us all to stand safely under His shadow! “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice” (Psalm 63:7).

               Beneath the Cross of Jesus
(Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868)

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

grand daughter holding 1st edition copies of winnie the poohP.S.—While I was helping out with my new grandson in Italy this July, my son’s landlord graciously took  us on a tour of his villa, and guess what? This Italian count has first edition copies of all the Winnie the Pooh books, so they really have been famous the world around!

 

 

You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love Lox and Bagels!

Probably most of you have enjoyed bagels with cream cheese, but are you a fan of lox and bagels? (“Lox” is derived from the Yiddish word for salmon and refers to a fillet of brined salmon, usually thin-sliced.) Lox and bagels were served by delicatessens in New York City as a Sunday morning treat as far back as the 1950’s, although it’s only been since about the 90’s that I remember learning about “lox.” The traditional formula was to serve them with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and sometimes capers. However, in the past 25 years, I’ve learned to love lox in concert with all types of breakfast treats…although atop a savory bagel is still a great favorite. And bagels? Well, I don’t remember them from childhood, although they’ve probably been around for ages. One of my first experiences of falling in love with bagels was at Schmagels Bagels in St. Augustine, Florida,  where they feature 13 varieties of New York-style bagels (all home made in St. Augustine—of course!) and eleven types of home-concocted cream cheese spreads. One of my favorite breakfasts of lox and bagels was served at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island with a dill cream cheese, giant capers, and a mango smoothie. However, I recently served lox and bagels for a Sunday  treat at home, and Alan (who is pretty discriminating) gave his stamp of approval, so I’ll pass along my recipe in the hopes you’ll like it too.

Lox and Bagels à la Avocado
(serves 2)

1. Split two “everything” bagels in half and toast them in the toaster. (An “everything” bagel has poppy and sesame seeds, onions, and probably some other things on top, but use your favorite savory bagel.)

2. Butter the bagel lightly, and then add smear on as much cream cheese as you like.

3. Add lox (You can add some thin-sliced smoked salmon instead if you can’t find “lox;” they are similar but not identical. Lox are soaked in a salty/sweet brine and come from the rich, belly portion of a salmon, but I think any thin-sliced salmon is very good.)

Top with:
1 slice avocado
1 thin ring of onion
1 teaspoon capers

Obviously, as mentioned earlier, you can also serve it with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, or anything else for that matter! I used fresh cherries, but there are no end of delicious combinations. I do think the capers and onions add critical taste points, though, or the dish may seem too bland. THEREFORE, if you serve it for Sunday breakfast before church (as I did), be sure you all brush your teeth and use breathe mints or chewing gum before trying to engage your church friends, or they may wonder why you have such bad breath!  🙂  It did occur to me that I should have thought through when to serve it. Jewish people attend synagogue on Saturday, so on Sunday they aren’t engaging all their dear friends in conversations. In like spirit, maybe Gentiles should make this as a Saturday treat instead of a Sunday treat!

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

(Photo Credits: I didn’t actually have any photos of the traditional way of serving bagels, so I looked online. Most of the photos are mine, but #3. is from Bottega Louie’s in L.A. #5 is a photo of Schmagel’s Bagel Shop in St. Augustine, and #6 is a photo from Schmagel’s. The rest are mine.)