Category Archives: Trying to be our best inside and out!

Learning to Focus at Church

Did you enjoy your Labor Day break? Are you ready for all the activities of fall?
I love this super short video! My friend (Jane A.) posted it on her Face Book page a while back, but I want my blog friends who aren’t on FB to be able to see it too. Such good advice! If you don’t have a church home at this point, this fall might be the perfect time to start going again. Growth, healing, and love are done best in community…even though no community is perfect!

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

P.S.—If you don’t have a church home and live in the Grand Rapids area, I’d love to have you visit our church, Calvary (on the Beltline). Let me know, and Alan and I can meet you there and introduce you to our Sunday school class if you have time! In big churches, being part of some smaller group—like a Sunday school class, the choir, or a life group—really helps a person feel a sense of belonging.

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

Movies, Movies Everywhere, But Nary a Movie to Watch?!

Do you enjoy movies? Almost everybody loves stories, and even for those of us battle workaholism, a thought-provoking story portrayed well through film is about the perfect way to end the day after all possibility of productivity has ceased. However, it’s challenging to find movies that meet our personal standards for what we consider worthwhile, isn’t it? Personally, I like movies that teach me something and make me think as well as being entertaining…and please—without sex, violence, or profanity! For this blog, I try to review only movies that I can recommend without reservation, but I often try several before finding one that I really think is worth writing home to mother about. Does that happen to you as well? Over the past months, I’ve watched a bunch, and I keep thinking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s line in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

On the other hand, I’ve watched a bunch that I can recommend partially, so I thought it might be time to share a few that are good…but with reservations.  The Post is one of the best movies from 2017, I think. It stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and is directed by Steven Spielberg, so you know the acting is great. *The Post is based on a true story about our country’s first female publisher, Katherine Graham, and her gruff but great editor, who get The Washington Post embroiled in a battle against with the U.S. government for the freedom to uncover information about the Vietnam War that had been concealed by four presidents.  The language is deplorable at times, but there is no sex or violence, and it’s a story that I’m glad has been made public. I just wish movie makers left out contemptible language, whether or not it was actually spoken. There are ways of expressing anger and frustration without being profane or crass.*Only the Brave (7.7, PG-13, 2017) is based on the amazing true story of Granite Mountain Hot Shot firefighters and their attempt to save a city in Arizona from a wildfire.  It has an excellent message of valor and the struggle to overcome bad backgrounds, but the language is terrible and the end so shocking that I’ve had a little PTSD ever since. However, if you know or love a fire-fighter, this might be one to consider.                                  (I would not recommend it for children.)*The Heart of Man is a 2017, 8.7 IMDb, PG-13 docudrama with stunning cinematography that envisions the story of the prodigal son for modern times and includes interviews with such men as William Paul Young, the author of The Shack The movie deals with dark secrets of the hearts, such as abuse, adultery, pornography, addictions, and how some found their way out through experiencing the love of God for them. Although I highly recommend this for adults, the themes are so deep and difficult that I would only recommend it for young people who who have been exposed to sexual abuse or are struggling with the issues of brokenness, identity, shame, guilt, or suicide.(For an interview with William Paul Young on understanding childhood sexual abuse, here’s a link:    http://goodguyswag.com/heart-of-man/

*The Masked Saint is a 2016, PG-13 story, and is very unusual.            It’s based on true story of a professional wrestler for 10  years  who becomes a pastor of a struggling Baptist church in Michigan, where he helps the community both as a pastor and as a vigilante protector of those who need help from crime.       Although the tale is true, and the moral of the story is clear and positive,  there are so many scenes with professional wrestling violence that Alan kept shielding my eyes (he knows I hate violence), and I couldn’t reconcile pro wrestling or vigilantism with my understanding of the way Christ taught us to live, but it was an interesting story of one couple’s journey to figure out how to use their gifts for good, and it has definitely provoked me to thought!Well, that’s probably more movies than I’ve discussed in two months, but I’ll try to come up with a few that I can unreservedly recommend in the next two months! Meanwhile, Happy Summering to you as we look forward to the end of the school year and the beginning of June coming soon. May the Lord help us all to grow in grace!

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).

(Photo of Coleridge from the National Portrait Gallery of London, England)

Rise Up, My Love (286): Who’s Our Real Father?

Song of Solomon 8:10 …See how the Lord works! It is now May (written fourteen years ago, although it’s also May again in 2018), and I can imagine confusion of broods, because I’ve seen it! Our family just returned from a wonderful vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we spent a refreshing week at the beach soaking up the sun and sharing ideas at our “Vision 2004” conference (organized by one of our older sons, who’s working on his Ph.D. in theology).   It has rained twenty-one out of the last twenty-five days here in Michigan, causing the worst flooding in over twenty years. While out trying to walk with my kids along the Grand River, we discovered that the river park had become a flood plain in areas. Confused fish that had washed over the bank were frantically trying to find their way back to the main river. Park benches and picnic tables were almost totally submerged. The children’s playground had become a swimming pool for ducks and geese, as had the parking lots and soccer fields.  Perhaps the saddest thing to me was seeing a little group of six ducklings swimming together anxiously but aimlessly with no parents. Where were their parents? Had they drowned? Further down the river we saw a mother duck surrounded by no fewer than sixteen ducklings taking refuge under a willow tree that had become a little island. Surely all those ducklings couldn’t have been hers. She must have taken in a batch or two of orphans.   So, back to our main story. Suppose for a moment that a baby cygnet got separated from his parents in a flood and took refuge in a brood of adorable little yellow fluff ball ducklings or attached himself to a group of goslings with their charcoal gray markings, gangly legs, and clumsy gaits. I don’t really know what would happen if a cygnet got mixed into one of these families. I know geese are good parents! If you try to get close, the parents put their heads down low, wave their necks back and forth in their most menacing manner, and hiss loudly! “Don’t touch my babies!”   But, I suppose at some point the cygnet would be detected as being different and would be rejected. That’s also what happens to us after we are born again. We may appear a little different at first, but as we begin to mature, we become more and more obviously out of place. Our appetites are different; our walk is different; our needs and interests are different. We just don’t fit in anymore.  Somewhere along the line, those around us begin to notice, and for the most part, they tire of our obsession with Christ and our desire to become like him. Sooner or later, we are ostracized or persecuted “for righteousness’ sake.” What does Jesus say? “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).   How do we become like beautiful swans? How do we grow up to become like the ideal bride in the spiritual mirror? “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how do we become the most beautiful of all?” Not by killing Snow White, but by becoming snow white in the blood of the Lamb and day by day taking “milk baths” in the Word until we grow up to be strong and beautiful.

Don’t despair! We may not have the genes to be the world’s most physically beautiful bride, but we all have the spiritual genes to become gloriously perfected…like a wall with breasts like towers! Sound impossible? The Shulamite didn’t think so. So, let’s keep holding up our spiritual mirrors and asking God to conform us to the image of his perfect Son and his perfect bride! Then we too will be “in his eyes as one that found favour.”

One last treasure, and then we’ll move on to the next verse. The word for “favour” is shalom, which means “peace.” The name “Solomon” is built on the same root word. In Solomon’s eyes, the bride found favor…peace…and that peace was Solomon! As the bride of Christ, we become like Christ and find our favor and peace in his eyes…and he is our peace (Ephesians 2:14)!

As we become more like him, he is ever more pleased with us. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, “God is easy to please but hard to satisfy.” He is pleased with us the moment we come to him in repentance and faith and are born again, but his pleasure increases as we grow more into the beautiful “swan” of his likeness…more like the statuesque bride with the towering breasts.   Oh, heavenly Father, you are our true, eternal father! Please fashion us into masterpieces of your love and grace. May we grow into the beautiful bride that you have planned for us to become. May we find favor and peace in your sight…the favor and peace that is you and is only found by growing in the knowledge of you (2 Peter 1:2).

Rise Up, My Love (284): “Beautiful in His Eyes”

Song of Solomon 8:10 “. . .then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” Well, so much for personal struggles (as a prototypical female). What’s the bottom line on this verse? Was Solomon’s bride being realistic? Did she have a pride problem? Or, was the bride simply expressing how beautiful her husband made her feel? I’d like to believe the last option, although for those of us mortals who live in this physical, fallen world, I suspect the Shulamite was truly a stunningly beautiful woman, Solomon had been attracted to her for that reason, and she knew it.

This is the most reasonable, literal interpretation of the verse, and the fact that Solomon gathered a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines who became idols in his life and led him astray from God strongly supports this view. (1 Kings 11:3: “And he [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”) This is one place in the book where—on the physical level—Solomon departs from our precious Savior, who looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7. Thank you, Jesus!).We’ll discuss spiritual beauty next, but on the physical level, what lessons can we learn today? First, a word to all of us, but especially guys (who are often extremely visual in their orientation). Of course you’re attracted to a woman’s beauty, so be sure you marry someone who is physically appealing to you. Never try to be “super spiritual” and refuse to acknowledge your basic feelings about how physically attractive a potential girlfriend seems. However, your physical attraction should only be the first step in identifying the right girl.

If you want to be content in this life…if you want a happy marriage…then learn to be like Christ. Look for an attractive mate who is intently developing spiritual beauty…and make sure you’re intently developing godly character yourself! It is our flesh that draws us to physical beauty, and if we don’t train our hearts to focus on and love that which is spiritual, we will forever suffer lustful attractions to members of the opposite sex based strictly on physical appearance. Why do you think the draw to pornography is so incredibly powerful? Modern men may not have Solomon’s wealth and power to acquire a physical harem, but for the price of his soul a man can develop a Satanic harem through visual images that will lead to his destruction just as surely as Solomon’s lust turned him away from his God.

The Proverbs remind us: “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:31). If you want to be still singing your spouse’s praises when you’re seventy, look for someone who loves the Lord with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. The spirits of such people grow more attractive year by year.Second, another word to all of us, but especially to us as women (who due to child birth and hormone shifts have an extremely difficult time retaining our youthful figures). Let’s try to be as beautiful as possible for our spouses! A fact of human nature that we would be wise to understand and accommodate is that human beings are attracted to physical beauty. (No offense on the lizard; I was thinking of myself!)

Let’s assess ourselves realistically. Are we firm and straight like a wall, or are we sagging and bulging under the weight of indulgence? Are we being self- disciplined enough to eat and exercise properly? Do we have good posture? Standing up straight will go a long way toward looking as attractive as possible. Our breasts may not exactly seem like “towers” to us, but if we’re not overweight, we’re standing up straight, and we’re wearing undergarments that are appropriately supportive, most women will have a pleasant frame that can be totally satisfying to her husband. (If he keeps his eyes off strange women; a man with wandering eyes will never be satisfied, no matter how beautiful his wife is.)Believe it or not, being as shapely as possible is something that God desires for us as part of living “heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). It is part of good stewardship. He gave us our body as a gift to maintain, and he wants us to be beautiful for him. We are his abiding place, and just as he is preparing a place for us, so we can express love to him by keeping our earthly tabernacle as beautiful as possible for him. Although our motive in everything should be first and foremost God’s pleasure, a beautiful body will also be a pleasure and attraction to our husbands.

We probably do not think we could compete in a Miss Universe contest, but let’s work on being able to go at least this far towards feeling like the bride. Let’s work on being able to say: “God gave me just the body he wanted me to have, and I am beautiful to Him. I want to be a good steward of the body that God has given me, and my husband appreciates me for that.”(Hopefully!! 🙂  )

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:19-21).

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~).