Category Archives: Those Wonderful Special Occasions

Reflections, stories, and ideas for holidays

These Colors Don’t Run

Happy Fourth of July to all Americans everywhere, and if you’re not an American, I hope you are living in a country where you are happy enough to want to celebrate, and that you’re able to enjoy safety and freedom. My little grand daughter Amélie was helping me arrange this bouquet, and when we got finished, she sighed happily. “At least we won’t have to water the flag!”  My sister heard this sentiment: “Red, White, and Blue. These colors don’t run.”

I am glad to be an American, just like I hope you’re glad to be a citizen of your country, but even more precious to me than my citizenship in America is my citizenship in heaven…where the color red most often refers to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, the color white speaks of purity, and the color blue is known as “the heavenly color,” pointing us heavenward. What keeps me from running—from being afraid—is that I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, can daily experience cleansing by the water of the Word of God, and am filled with eternal life through faith in Christ.

Today, I want to praise God for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness here in America, and for the even greater spiritual blessings of life, liberty, and love! I hope you’re experiencing the same joys and freedoms wherever you live!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, ESV).

 

Anybody for a Watermelon Cake? How About a Wedge Salad?

My grandson Reid asked his mother for a watermelon cake for his birthday. Apparently they’d seen a picture on Pinterest. Carlie says it tastes like a cold wedge of fruit salad, and everybody who tried it liked it, although there was some dissension over whether or not it really qualified as a “cake.” So, I think this might make the perfect “wedge salad” to serve for the Fourth of July. If you bill it that way, don’t you think the kids will love it? Think how (relatively) healthy it is as a dessert, too…just watermelon frosted with sweetened whipped cream. I’m definitely going to try it on my grand kids. If you try it, let me know what you think, and I’ll  do the same!BTW, here’s an earlier fruit extravaganza that Carlie made some years ago to help feed our youth group! Talk about talent and good taste!  🙂  Thanks for being such a stellar daughter-in-law, Carlie! You’re a doll. (Actually, I have to say, I’ve got five of the best son and daughter-in-laws in the world!!! No prejudice!!!)

Did You Have a Happy Mother’s Day?

One of the saddest notes I read yesterday came from a young man who lost his warm and extremely gifted mother to Mad Cow Disease ten years ago. Mother’s Day was very painful for him. One of my sons (who is a dentist) had a patient this morning who was teary-eyed because she has four grown children, none of whom remembered (or cared enough?) to call her on Mother’s Day.

My heart goes out to everyone who grieves during the holidays because they have lost that for which others are rejoicing. If you do not have a mother, may the Lord comfort you. To the millions who have children who don’t care enough to call, may you know that God loves you even if your children don’t seem to. To all those who’ve longed to be a mother and have never been able to, my heart goes out to you. May God grant you a fruitful life even so.

I wish there were some way of matching up the motherless and those who long for children. I had a wonderful mother, but she didn’t understand the spiritual side of me, and so I developed a mother-in-love relationship with a couple of older women who guided me spiritually (until they left this earth for better things above). Now, I have a couple of spiritual daughters. There is no complete replacement for the “real thing,” but surrogate mothers and children are better than nothing, and frankly, it’s possible to have a wonderful spiritual relationship with someone who isn’t biologically related.

If you were lonely yesterday, please look around you and do a little prayerful thinking: There may be someone who’s just as lonely as you are. Would that person make a good friend? Could be a surrogate mother or son or daughter to them? Maybe by next Mother’s Day, you’ll have a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day again!

“And he [Jesus] answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:33-35).

If I’m Absent in Body for Awhile…

Well, joy of joys, another baby has been born into this world, and happily this one is mine…or at least the daughter of my son and his wife!       Elanor has come to stay with Dan, Brianna, and Sameul. She looks a lot like Daniel did when he was a newborn; dark hair and C.U.T.E.! She’s our sixteenth grandbaby! If I don’t post as regularly for the next few weeks, know that even though I may be absent in body, I will continue to pray for you, as I hope you do for me.

Also, I’ve not really gone to heaven (may feel a little like it…), but I’m probably smiling broadly, rocking a baby or humming in the kitchen whilst preparing a meal (or snack). It’s a great joy to be a grandma…and so much easier than being the mama!  Now that Brianna’s back home, if Sammy needs a little firm love, I’ll have a backup! (Takes all the pain out of parenting. 🙂  )A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).

 

The Gift of Easters Past (…and Present and Future!)

Most of us have probably heard of “The Ghost of Christmas Past” from Dicken’s classic book, A Christmas Carol, and it’s in that spirit that I address the topic of past Easters in my life, although they’re more giftly than ghostly!                                           Easter was sweet but quiet this year. We enjoyed a lovely sunrise service centered around celebrating the resurrection of Christ and the incredible wonder of God’s delight in showing us mercy, but for the first time in forever, there were no colored Easter eggs or the fun of watching children have an Easter egg hunt, & I found myself feeling rather sad. What did you do yesterday? Did you have a happy or rather lonesome Easter?  To cheer myself up, I searched through my photos, relived some of the joys of Easters past (such as last year was with Jon’s family in Spokane, Washington), and wrote a few haikus to share with you from Easters past with Mike’s family. I hope these photos put a smile on your face and perhaps bring to mind happy Easters from your own Easters past.

On EasterResurrection Morn:   Dress up; worship; fellowship,   Hunt for Easter eggs.

On the Inevitable Messiness of Little ChildrenWhy is it each day  That after breakfast’s over  I need to bathe again?

On Asian Delights (Which also Delight Americans!)Ice cream, popsicles,  Cotton-candy stickiness…  Sometimes life is sweet.
(Yes, even if it’s “Green Tea Ice Cream.”)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18, ESV).  God loves us all!! I hope that no matter what your Easter Day was like, you’re cheered by this wonderful gift of Easter present and future: Jesus! Please accept God’s gift of love to you in Jesus!If you live in some part of the world where you don’t have access to the Bible, you may not have read the resurrection story from the Book of John, chapter 20, in the Bible, so I wanted to share it with you:

 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Joy to You this Easter Day! He is Risen Indeed!

In honor of its being Resurrection Sunday, I’ve laid aside my usual post on the Song of Solomon and want to share some beautiful poetry written by the daughter of one of my friends. Lynette Garlets is the mother of four and in the midst of moving her family from Michigan to the Southeast. She wrote these poems first in her head while nursing her young children during the midnight hours of last Easter season. I hope you’ll be as enriched as I have been by reflecting on her meditations.

                                                       Mary’s Delivery

She carried a burden for nearly a year.
He carried his for thirty-three clear.

She traveled the days before her time.
His last walk was the Golgotha climb.

She labored for hours with groans and sweat.
His labor made the sky turn black.

She spilled her blood when her baby came.
He spilled it all, his race to reclaim.

She treasured these things and pondered on them.
His treasure was the rescue of men.

The cry, “It is finished, it is done!”
And Mary kissed her sleeping son.  (~Lynette Garlets)

                           Jesus 

His only crown was one of thorns.
His only throne a cross.
His palace–where they laid his bones.
His subjects all, he lost.

His naked body clothed my own.
His wounds healed all of me.
His flowing blood paid all my loan.
He won my loyalty.

So raise your flag of homage now.
Sing his song anew.
Love him and before Him bow.
He loved all of you.  (~Lynette Garlets)

(As it says in the Bible:) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Resurrection

The woolly worm within its casket sleeps–
All dried and hardened, given up for dead;
All crushed and crowded in its narrow bed.
Like death he neither eats nor breathes nor creeps.
A secret there enclosed, its casement keeps,
A mystery so wondrous, it is said,
That in due time this coffin it will shed
To spread its wings of light, to heav’n it sweeps. (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)Can we accept this miracle divine
And justly give the glory to our God?
And then to learn the lesson of the sign–
The metamorphosis of Christ to laud.  If we believe the truth of only one,
Then our own transformation we have none.  (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)

And finally, a beautiful hymn written 150 years ago:Crown Him With Many Crowns

  1. Crown Him with many crowns,
    The Lamb upon His throne;
    Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
    All music but its own!
    Awake, my soul and sing
    Of Him Who died for thee,
    And hail Him as thy matchless King
    Through all eternity.
  2. Crown Him the Lord of love!
    Behold His hands and side—
    Rich wounds, yet visible above,
    In beauty glorified.
    No angel in the sky
    Can fully bear that sight,
    But downward bends His wond’ring eye
    At mysteries so bright.
  3. Crown Him the Lord of life!
    Who triumphed o’er the grave,
    Who rose victorious in the strife
    For those He came to save.
    His glories now we sing,
    Who died, and rose on high,
    Who died eternal life to bring,
    And lives that death may die.
  4. Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
    One with the Father known,
    One with the Spirit through Him giv’n
    From yonder glorious throne,
    To Thee be endless praise,
    For Thou for us hast died;
    Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days
    Adored and magnified.

    (Matthew Bridges, pub.1852
    v. 3 by Godfrey Thring, pub.1874
    copyright status: Public Domain)

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!)