Rise Up, My Love (255): Holy Fire

Song of Solomon 8:1 “O that thou wert as my brother…” Although Solomon has used the term of intimate endearment, “my sister my spouse” four times in the Song, this is the first and only time that his wife uses the word “brother,” and then…she doesn’t really call him brother, she simply expresses the desire to be as affectionate with him in public as one can be with a true biological brother.

The  complete phrase (which I’m going to ask you to look up lest it sound inappropriate for anyone who reads on Face Book) implies a full, rather than only a half brother, since multiple wives but not multiple husbands sometimes occurred during that period. This is a significant differentiation since we know from the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Amnon and Tamar, etc. that half brothers and sisters could and sometimes did marry in ancient times, and therefore—apparently—public affection was socially uncensured only between true biological offspring of the same couple.

I was surprised to find that there is precious little commentary from anyone on this verse. Is it because we—as products of modern western culture—find it hard to understand what she’s feeling? From the remainder of the section (verses 1-4), it seems clear that her desire is not simply to be able to give him a sisterly greeting in public places, it is the desire to be able to draw him away from the public concourses into the privacy of home and initiate intimate communion without incurring public ridicule.

A biological sister could greet her brother affectionately in the market place and take him home to their mother’s house without arousing any suspicion or derision because it would be assumed that she had come on a legitimate business errand. But, this bride was on a romantic errand instead!

Why did she experience such a passion for intimacy during the day, and was the fear of being despised good or bad? As a wife, I can think of times when I’ve daydreamed about “kidnapping” my husband to carry him off for a romantic interlude. There are two common motivations, one selfish and one unselfish.

On the selfish side, such fantasies are often the result of feeling overwhelmed by present responsibilities or burdened by present griefs and trials. There is something almost irresistibly appealing about the thought of escaping to “somewhere” away from the fray with “someone” who loves you and will make you forget your worries. Haven’t you felt that sometimes too?

Although there are proper places and times for coming apart for refreshment (as modeled by our Lord Jesus, who would go apart with his Father and pray), I suspect the Lord doesn’t intend them nearly as often as we imagine! On the unselfish side, the ardent desire to be in communion with the one who is the object of our affection is ever a good thing, and although the pressures and responsibilities of the day often keep us apart for long periods of time, the eagerness of our hearts for reunion is simply an indication of the depths of our love.

Since the text gives no indication that outside pressures are distressing the bride, it seems reasonable to assume that her passion for union is driven simply by the intensity of her love. I wonder, do we share a similar unselfish passion for communion with our Savior…just to be with him not because we need something but because we want him? What about in our marriages? Do we long to be with our mates—not to get something from him or her such as help, reassurance, or sexual release, but “just because”…just because we love being together?

Dear God, please give us a passion for communion with our mate and with our Savior! Please grant us a passion for Christ like the passion we feel for physical union! Please develop in us a hunger and thirst for Christ that’s even greater than our drive for food and water! May we burn brightly with your holy fire.   PS—It didn’t occur to me 15+ years ago when I first studied this verse, but I think a very high percentage of adulterous relationships develop when people feel overwhelmed by life and work stresses but fail to go to God and their mate for help. As mates, we really need to be available to listen and soothe one another. If we’re always busy complaining and adding to our mate’s stress level, then pretty soon our mate will be tempted to go somewhere where they can feel less pressured, not more. However, that’s absolutely WRONG! If spending time with your mate makes you feel more stressed, tell your mate! Work together to find times when you can declare a “no stress zone,” and have times when you concentrate on bonding and having fun together instead of always grinding through issues and problems. The problems ye have with you always!

Cornbread Fit for Commoners and Kings

Cornbread—especially liberally doused with butter and honey—was always a special treat when I was a girl, although it wasn’t as much of a staple in our northern home as it often is in southern homes. My mom served cornbread sometimes with fried chicken or chili, and as a mother, I tended to do the same. Being a health-food freak at the time, I always made my cornbread from scratch using cornmeal. Trouble was, I didn’t make it often enough, so the cornmeal would spoil before I used it all up! Did that ever happen to you?And then, voilà! I discovered there’s cornbread, and cornbread —the kind made with real corn, such as they serve down at Disney’s Trails’ End Restaurant in Fort Wilderness, served with honey butter.

That was a game changer for me! I threw out my cornmeal, bought some creamed corn, and started experimenting. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool southerner or continue to be a health-food freak, you may not approve, but here’s what I’ve found as a super simple but very yummy way to make cornbread.

Kingly Cornbread
(serves 6-8)

Empty into your mixer:
1 Jiffy corn muffin mix (please don’t tell)
1 can cream-style corn
1 egg  (Note: Don’t use any milk, although the recipe on the box calls for it.)
(This is all you need, and I don’t usually add anything more, but if you want to make it addictively good, you can add 2 tablespoons each of sugar and melted butter. This tastes great, but I prefer to add my butter and honey on top.)
              Mix it thoroughly, but don’t beat it up any more than necessary!   Pour into an 8X8″ pan and bake for 30 minutes at 375°F (which is slightly lower than the directions on the jiffy mix, but the batter will be wetter and need a little longer to bake). It may take more like 35-40 minutes, but check it after 30. It’s done when the surface starts to turn a golden brown and tiny fissures start to appear.  Serve it piping hot if possible (although warm is still fine), and be sure to have lots of butter and honey available!Our family are commoners, but it’s my firm belief that every man should feel like a king in his own castle, so that makes our husbands kings, too. True?

In the Bible, speaking of Jesus, it says, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6). According to these verses, every person who is saved by the blood of Jesus has become a king in God’s eyes, so even if we’re commoners by station, we can all be kings by status!

Follow Me, Boys!

If you’re ever in the mood for a charming Disney movie about small town America in the 1930’s, especially if you have any grade-school aged boys or budding Boy Scouts in tow, you might really enjoy watching Follow Me, Boys When our boys were growing up, they loved all the old Disney movies with Fred MacMurray, like The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Shaggy Dog. They were family “cult classics” that got watched repeatedly.  We also had a lot of laughs over the Disney movies starring Kurt Russell like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, Now You See Him Now You Don’t, and The Barefoot Executive. By the way, did you know that Walt Disney personally signed up Kurt Russell with a ten-year contract when he was just a kid, and Kurt became one of their studio’s leading stars in the 1970’s? Somehow, we all missed finding the earliest Disney movie where Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell starred together: Follow Me, Boys! It might be because it was so old (1966), but it’s full of good-spirited fun and all the themes that make Disney movies memorable!Fred MacMurray plays the role of a young musician who decides to give up city life and settle down in a small Midwest town, where he becomes involved with the Boy Scouts. Kurt plays the role of a young boy who struggles with finding his own identity because his father is an alcoholic. Although you can kind of guess the plot from the beginning, there are some twists and turns along the way, and it’s a refreshing break from modern life! It’s good to remember a time when America was safer, life was simpler, and boys were free to enjoy hard work with lots of challenge while still having fun.Both my older brothers were proud Eagle Scouts in the 1950’s, and I’m really excited that my oldest grandson has just joined Boy Scouts! If your church doesn’t offer Awana or some other program geared to help kids grow up wise and capable, at least consider Scouts. But, maybe watch Follow Me, Boys! first. By the way, there’s something even better than following a good role model who will teach you how to tie knots, fish, and work hard as a kid, and that is a role model who will teach you everything you need to know about life both now and forever. There is only one such perfect role model, and his name is Jesus. Jesus can teach you not only to fish, but to be a fisher of men!  Do you know Him? Are you a follower? It will be the most challenging thing you’ve ever done in your life—much harder than becoming an Eagle Scout— but you’ll never regret it!

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Brain Research and Brain Dialysis

(By guest writer, Jane Anderson)

A few years ago, then President Obama approved $100M to start an initiative for study of the human brain. “There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked,” Obama says.  No doubt! I, too, have been fascinated by the way my brain works [or doesn’t]. In fact, I’m often baffled by how people think. And just so you don’t get the wrong impression, I fit into that classification of people with sensible thoughts one moment and totally illogical thoughts the next. Try mind mapping that!

I’m not slamming the research project. I understand the mission behind it, which according to the White House “aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.” I get that. However, there’s a much more significant brain research project available that’s 100% free and has eternal benefits, except it’s a do-it-youself project that no one else can do for you, and it starts with this observation: What we think actually affects the health (or illness) of our brain! In a very real way, we become what we think about. Every act started as a thought – in the brain. “Right thinking leads to right doing.” No amount of brain research is going to alter that truth.

There is a map in our brains, and all paths stem from the initial thought. To act right, thoughts must be right. But, how can we clean up our map of wrong thoughts and get on the path of right thinking? How often do we get onto a path of wrong thinking—worry, pessimism, negativity—and then wonder why we can’t shake the despair?

Have you ever wished there was such a thing as dialysis for the mind?  I sure have.  I have a friend who has dialysis on a regular basis. I have zero medical expertise, but I know that in that process her dirty blood is drawn through a machine that cleanses it and puts it back. It’s a fascinating process. In dialysis, man-made equipment and procedures perform the life-preserving act.

However, when it comes to our minds, it’s all up to us! We have to take responsibility for cleaning up our minds (although we can have access to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us, of course).  Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is the ultimate dialysis for our minds! Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but instead be transformed by renewing your mind. It’s not easy, but renewing our minds is the only way to think rightly.

It would be a phenomenal achievement if my brain could be mapped with all the right paths deeply embedded so I don’t fall off the track. It would be so much easier if I could hook my brain up to a machine and have the contents cleaned up and put back while I do nothing but wait. What are your thoughts on that? Well, don’t think too long because that’s not how it works. You know…free will and all. We have work to do in our minds, in our hearts, and in our acts.

If we get the inside right the rest will take care of itself.  How can we focus on the right things, so our acts will be right? We have some clues in the Bible.  2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Let me assure you, if our thoughts are obedient to Christ, the maps in our brains will lead to acts that follow Christ and are good.  1 Peter 1:13-16 from the Message translation reads this way: “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'”

Maybe you have it all figured out, but I don’t! I’m still working on spiritual dialysis and mapping my mind to right actions, and I don’t think this research project will ever be finished until the Lord takes me to heaven one day!

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

(Image of the brain from Wikipedia.)

 

Birthday Bliss (or Not)

Alan has taken me somewhere very special and unusual for my birthday (out of town sans cell phone), so I won’t be home to soak up all the kindness of friends and relatives, chat on the phone, or even hit the “like” button on Face Book! Still, I wanted to let you know that you’re ever in my heart and prayers, and so I decided to prepare a few jokes so we could share some smiles today anyway!

YES!!This is in honor of all my friends who—like me—struggle with weight!This is especially for my daughter, four daughter-in-laws, nieces, and all young friends who are bravely rearing babies today! This one is a direct hit for me. Don’t know how the rest of you feel!  Here’s one for my hubby and all you health-care professionals! This one’s not so funny with all the hurricanes disrupting America’s millions of alligators. May you meet no crocodiles or alligators either later or in a while. 😦(This in honor of my son Stephen, who just passed his PhD comprehensive exams in musicology. Way to go, Stephen!)This is especially for my son Joel, who works as an editor, my daughter,  my writers’ group buddies and all fellow writers, lovers of good books and movies! Never thought of this one, but doesn’t it make you laugh?! …In honor of all my fellow Baby Boomers
who are developing gold-fish brains like Alan’s and mine. Anybody singing in a choir these days?  🙂 Here’s another one for the birthday girl (me).And, for all you fans of super hero movies…and Jesus!

 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. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Rise Up, My Love (254): What Are Some New and Old Fruits We Can Give?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “…and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.” The term translated “pleasant fruits” in the KJV is the Hebrew word meged which means “costly” or “precious,” and the idea of fruit is interpolated, since it is not in the original text. (So, do you suppose it was really sushi? Just kidding!) Sapan is the Hebrew term translated “laid up” and means “to hide or to conceal.”*

Since the phrase “pleasant fruits” used in 4:16 is most often thought to be alluding metaphorically to marital bliss, most commentators interpret these costly delicacies—so carefully hidden away by the bride for her husband—to be the offerings of her own personal affections. As a wife, I can easily imagine that a husband would prize the offerings of love more highly than gifts of fresh and dried fruits, but—whether taken figuratively or literally—the invitation is a triple delight!  🙂

First, Solomon’s wife offers all types of that which is pleasantly appealing. Second, she offers both old and new delights. And third, she offers fruits which she has lovingly stored away just for him. “All manner of pleasant fruits…” All—every—not just some or a few favorite, but some of each of those that delight. Nothing held back; nothing excused; nothing missing. Oh, that our hearts might produce and store up for our beloved all the fruits that will delight him!  “New and old…” Here is a woman who knows what her husband loves but who continues to be freshly creative in finding new ways of pleasing him. Based on her experience of what he has loved in the past, she prepares for him a wealth of his “old favorites,” but that isn’t enough to satisfy her! She has experimented with new fruits that she believes will delight him also. Isn’t that the true nature of love? It is ever constant, yet constantly expanding…ever soothing by its familiarity, yet ever fresh and refreshing.

And spiritually, what could the new and old fruits be? Well, it has been said that “love is the golden thread that binds all together,” so surely it is a new fruit as well as an old fruit. Love is the first fruit, and the last fruit. It is the first work, and without it, any other work becomes “tinkling brass” without meaning or “a sounding gong” without melody. The bride has certainly demonstrated love in her plans and preparations.

What else? New fruits…old fruits. If I were thinking literally about my household, I would say that new fruits are mangoes and kiwis and old fruits are dates and raisins. Do you think that’s what the Bible is talking about? Let’s think beyond the literal story to its possible allegorical, spiritual meaning. New fruits…new efforts, new converts brought to Christ, new zeal and deepening commitment, fresh understanding about who he is and what his Word means, new enthusiasm to serve him, new appreciation for all his blessings and protections, new awareness of how much his presence means to us, a new sense of reverence for the majesty of his person, which rises in us like a great tidal wave sweeping over our souls.

Ah, how he longs for us to go on in our faith, learning new things about him and recognizing the new mercies that he lavishes on us morning by morning! How he wants us to conquer new territory, praying with Jabez: “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain” (1 Chronicles 6:10, NIV). New surrender, new courage, new hope, new strength, new confidence, new endurance. How our Lord longs for us to prepare such gifts for him!

And, what about old fruits? What might they be? Old honors and successes…not clinging to them in pride, but instead recognizing that it is not we ourselves but rather Jesus who does all things well and works through us to perform his good pleasure… looking ever forward to Christ alone as the goal and prize for which we strive. Old forgiveness…taking the sins that he’s forgiven and casting them behind our backs forever, refusing to ever speak or even think of them again…not only the sins that we’ve committed but the sins that others have committed against us.   Old saints, ripening for heaven, and old parents (whether saved or unsaved) who brought us up…do we truly give them the place of reverential honor that they deserve? Or, do we tend to blame them for our failures and despise their ever-increasing frailty and need for help? Wow. I believe God wants us to honor our earthly fathers and mothers as a reflection of the honor we feel for our heavenly Father. That’s a big one, but that is certainly an “old fruit” that we could store up to please our Lord!  Not only is it the cup of cold water given to a child in his name that pleases our Lord, it is the cup of kindness poured out to the elderly…that extra sacrificial time we take to bring them into our homes, to read to them, to talk to them, to pray with them, to bring them into our confidence. I had two very aged and needy parents when I wrote this (years ago now), and there was nothing that meant more to my father than just having me sit at his bedside, hold his hand, and spend some time with him. If we try to minister to our parents with the same tender love with which we’d attend Christ…that is a gift for him!

Indeed, in all of life, may the good that is produced in and through us be “laid up” all for Jesus, and for him alone.

“Thou God and I, none other:
Oh far from men to be!
Nay, midst the crowd and tumult,
Still Lord alone with Thee.
Still folded close upon Thy breast,
In field and mart and street.
Untroubled in that perfect rest,
That isolation sweet.”
(—L.M. McPhee, in The Romance of the Ages)

* Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.

Hearty Three-Bean Chili for Chilly Days

Autumn is the perfect time for a steaming bowl of chili with corn bread…and maybe a salad and apple juice to complement. There are lots of recipes out there for chili, but I’ve developed a brew that’s a hit around our home plates, so if you haven’t settled on a favorite recipe, consider trying this one:

Chilly Day Three-Bean Chili
(Serves about 6)

Add together in a large sauce pan:
1 pound hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pepper (orange, green, red, or yellow)
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning (or your favorite)
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to tasteCook over high to medium heat until the meat is completely cooked and the vegetables are tender, stirring often to keep anything from buring. Then add:
3 cans of chili beans in chili sauce ( I like having variety in color and taste, so I use three different types of beans, even garbanzo at times, but whatever you like will work fine)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 can of diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water (I use a little water to rinse out the bottom of the cans to get the last bits of sauce, which amounts to about half a can altogether)Simmer everything for at least a half an hour, continuing to stir it every few minutes to make sure nothing sticks and burns on the bottom. The flavor continues to improve with time, so you can turn off the heat, keep it covered, and just rewarm it when you’re ready to eat. This also makes chili a great dish to take to take to a friend, serve at an open house or potluck, or prepare when you’re not sure when your family will come home for supper. (Um hum. My husband was stuck in a meeting for an extra hour when I made this, but it didn’t hurt a thing!)     🙂

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9…and perhaps by hearty soup as well?!)