A Million and Ten Thousand Flowers

If you live in the Grand Rapids area and haven’t experienced Rebecca Louise Law’s “The Womb” exhibit at Meijer Garden, I want to encourage you to take time to visit before this spectacular artistic creation ends on March 1.*

What is it? An entire gallery filled with a million flowers and plants from Rebecca’s personal collection plus ten thousand botanic treasures gleaned from Meijer Garden, all dried and strung from the ceiling in delicate chains on tiny copper wires.

Why? To give you an intimate and immersive experience of feeling like you’re personally enveloped in a warm cocoon . . . complete with the comforting sound of a beating heart.

In Rebecca Louise Law’s own words: “I like to capture and treasure small beautiful natural objects to create an artwork that can be observed without the pressure of time. Preserving, treasuring, celebrating and sharing the beauty of the Earth with the world is what drives me.”

And, who is Rebecca Law? She’s a British installation artist—born in 1980, grew up in a little village in the U.K, and studied at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures in England.

(As a fun side note, my daughter-in-law Gerlinde also studied at Newcastle University about the same time!) Law has exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Academy of Arts and the V&A (all in London) as well as in galleries in NYC, San Francisco, Athens, France, etc.

So, this is a young and upcoming internationally acclaimed artist with a heart for beauty and nature . . . and the warmth of the womb, exquisitely portrayed through blown glass and paintings which compliment her sublimely sensual experience (in the best possible way) of being encompassed in a womb of flowers.

As I wandered through the quiet beauty, I felt more than anything a silent witness to the sanctity and miraculous nature of life. And death. The natural flow from life to death in the drying flowers.

I tried to imagine 1,010,000 flowers all fresh and alive with color and fragrance. Can you imagine?

Visiting “The Womb” Exhibit at Meijer Garden with my brother

Although I’ve been back repeatedly and taken all my favorite family and friends who’ve visited since the exhibit opened last September, it wasn’t until last weekend—strolling through the halls with Alan—that we realized he’d somehow missed seeing this exhibit!

We’d been there the weekend before and meandered through all the snow-covered gardens outside.

We’d visited Meijer Garden with the family at December when we admired all the Christmas trees adorned so brightly with ornaments from countries around the world.

How was it possible that he’d missed seeing this stunning exhibition? We had to walk right past the door into the art gallery on every visit, where the name of the latest exhibit is proclaimed clearly on the wall.

Is it possible that you—like Alan—are walking right past the door to a wonderful opportunity every day of your life without taking time to read the signs or explore the goodness within? It’s so easy to focus on what we know and already enjoy without taking time to look around. In this world of distractions and time measured mechanically rather than spiritually, are you missing out?

God is a God of abundance and joy, which He offers to each of us. Jesus taught in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The psalmist also reflected this thought in the Old Testament: “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).

Looking Up from Inside “The Womb”

Although I think for many of us (at least in America), trusting under the shadow of God’s wings often leads to physical abundance, it doesn’t always. I don’t believe in a “wealth gospel.” However, I firmly believe in a gospel that brings spiritual abundance: “They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).

Notice what is abundant here: goodness and righteousness. If you want a life blessed by an abundance of goodness, righteousness, and the pleasures that flow from a life lived in the light of God’s presence, then please, please put your trust in God, our refuge and fortress, and in his Son, Jesus, our Lord and our Savior!

A Photo I Took Trying to Capture the Feel of Being Inside R.L. Law’s “The Womb”

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

Painting by Rebecca Louise Law

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

*This exhibit has been running since September and will continue through February until Sunday, March 1.

If you go Sunday, March 1, it will be super crowded, but you will also be able to experience the first day of “Butterflies are Blooming” in the conservatory, which is always like a gulp of springtime air for winter-weary hearts. So, if you don’t mind crowds, that would be another excellent option. Also, the first photo is from Meijer Garden’s website. The rest are mine, taken at Meijer Garden.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (33): Did Jesus Nullify the Old Testament Law?

Many people—even Christians—seem to think that the Old Testament code of ethics is no longer valid for today. After all, Jesus kept the Old Testament law perfectly, died for our sins (including all the ways in which we’ve failed to keep the Law), and now all we have to do is believe in Jesus and not worry about the Law, right?

Wrong! In Matthew 5:17, Jesus explained, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” His goal was not to make the Old Testament instructions null and void, but rather to prove—once and for all—that the Law is good, that it is possible for humans to keep the Law, and that God gave his laws to us for our good, so that by keeping them we can experience a life of righteousness, peace, and blessing.

Which laws are we still supposed to keep? Well, there are various opinions on the subject, but the New Testament is clear that for non-Jewish people who believe in Christ, there are a few basic rules to keep: “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20). That’s a pretty short list, but it includes idolatry, fornication, and drinking blood. If you’re still having a problem with worshiping yourself (which comes out as doing “that which is right in your own eyes” rather than obeying the teachings of the New Testament), or with sexual immorality, then you’re still sitting at the starting line and haven’t really taken off on the path toward holiness.

But, what about all the Old Testament laws? Are they no longer valuable as guides for daily life? I believe they are, but not as “We’ll be damned if we don’t” but as guides to healthy, happy living. Many of them are moot issues today. We don’t make clothing out of linen and wool, and we don’t seethe kids in their mother’s milk. We don’t (usually) forage for birds eggs, and those of us who keep laying hens don’t kill the hens who are producing the eggs . . . for obvious reasons!

What about keeping the Sabbath Day holy? What’s not to love about a day of rest? Why fight it? Why not make space in our lives for worship, for fellowship . . . for that “margin” everybody talks about not having but desperately needing?! I’m convinced that all the regulations God gives us, both those He gave to the Jews in the Old Testament, and the many instructions we’re given in the New Testament, are there to teach us the way of wisdom and truth. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). All that God has given us in the way of laws and instructions are for our own good, to teach us what is right and good, to protect us from harm, and to help us experience an abundant, blessed life!

What about the Ten Commandments? Jews, Christians, and most non-believers around the world still believe in the goodness of not lying, not killing, not stealing, not cheating on your partner, honoring your parents, and not pining for what belongs to someone else. Right? Various religions fight over who the true God is, but they all believe in worshiping God. Even though these laws were commanded in the Old Testament, they are all verified again in the New Testament, even the Sabbath, where Jesus points out that “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). That doesn’t mean having a sabbath rest is no longer good for us; it means just the opposite! We don’t have to keep the sabbath, but a sabbath rest is good for us. We don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments to enter heaven, but we should keep them because they’re good for us—and for everyone else! And, if we don’t learn how to live morally upright lives, sooner or later we’re going to run into problems with our friends, our neighbors, and even the police!!

Let’s be good Christ followers, keeping the way of wisdom as set out for us in the New Testament! Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly, not to destroy it, but to prove its inherent goodness and value.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That’s “ALL!”

The beautiful illustrations above are used by permission of Yongsung Kim. His website and gallery of paintings can be found here: http://Havenlight.com

Sacred Fire (inspired by A.J. Sherrill)

Last night, Alan and I celebrated our 46th anniversary! Such a joy!! This morning, as I was reflecting back over our marriage, it occurred to me that when I prepared my last blog (on how Christ can heal us), I hadn’t really made any particular connection to the every day struggles we all face, but I listened to two messages Sunday night that were so good, and so appropriate, that I want to share the gist of them with you. Throughout the course of my life, the two hardest conscious struggles (probably more significant unconscious challenges) relate to self control in what I eat and what I think about. I’ve always felt very “normal” (if such a thing exists), so my guess is that these almost come as standard weaknesses on most human models coming off the assembly line. Can you identify?

A.J. Sherrill (a local pastor) taught a two-part series called “The Soul of Sexuality.” I’ll put links at the end and highly recommend them as healthy soul food to help you manage your appetites (maybe not as much for food, however).  In turn, A. J. gives much of the credit for his teaching to Richard Rohr, a little monk from Albuquerque, with whom he spent a week some years ago, trying to understand life. You may think a monk wouldn’t be the best resource for understanding how to cope with our innate sex drive, but think again. Any monk who has actually been able to keep his vow of celibacy has spent his entire adult life trying to figure out how to handle his own drives.

Even as a married woman, dealing with sexual impulses has been challenging! I remember when I was mid-forties, asking my spiritual mentor (who was about 80), when men stopped making passes at women. She nodded thoughtfully and replied, “Oh, maybe sometime between 75 and 80.” I was shocked and felt doomed! Would I never be free from unwanted male advances? Men I love, just like I love women. But, men challenging my commitment to my marriage, I do not appreciate. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun. Worst case scenario, it can actually be tempting, which was terrifying when I was 40 and my husband was way too busy to pay attention to me.

So, I used to complain to the Lord, “Why did you make us sexual beings, anyway? Why couldn’t you have made us without sexual passion???” One of the most helpful resources I found was Living with Your Passions, by Erwin W. Lutzer. (It came out in 1983 but is still available on Amazon.) After reading Lutzer’s book, I came to a somewhat grumbly surrender to the thought that God must have known what he was doing and determined to learn how to live a moral life despite my immoral heart, but I wasn’t thrilled about the challenge.

After studying the Song of Solomon for ten years, I decided that God intends our chief love to be spiritual, and that as we’re drawn into a love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we find joy and strength that surpasses human love . . . an energy and beauty that causes those around to marvel: “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13: the dance between our soul and the Trinity [my interpretation]).

A.J. took it a step further, and I love what he had to say. The “why” of sexuality is about “beauty, mystery, and meaning . . . Your sexuality is an echo of a larger cosmic mystery unfolding, which is the story of Christ and the Church.” “God is not a stoic force; he’s a passionate lover.” (I’m putting everything in quotation marks but they may not be perfect; I was typing as fast as I could!) God is Israel’s husband (Isaiah 34; Jeremiah 31) and in the New Testament, we learn that we, the Church, are the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5). From John 7 and 15, we can infer that our marriage to Christ is designed to flow into the stream of life and bear spiritual children and spiritual fruit. In John 14 we are offered the Kiddushim—the covenant of love—and now we’re just waiting for the Huppah, when Jesus comes back to receive his bride (us!).

“Information in the head is not the same as intimacy in the heart. We were made for intimacy.” “Ya had” means to throw out your hands. Let go! Let God dwell in us so much that through us He will produce fruit! Hebrews 12—throw off all false lovers and fix our eyes on our true lover, Jesus. When we celebrate communion, we are celebrating our love covenant with Christ. He wants us to understand how much we’re loved and feast with him. He has never forgotten us or forsaken us, even though we have failed him and had other lovers and idols. Come and feast with him. Let him heal you!

The first message dealt with vertical love; the second message with horizontal.  A.J. offered three scripts for how sex is handled in our culture: Erotic play, Intimate connection, and Covenental Promise. He offered some excellent quotes thinking through the value and power of sexual energy (a couple of which I’ll write out for  you below), and he ended with an invitation to reach a “higher altitude” for viewing. “Sexuality is the best instrument for learning self-control There are times when offering yourself is a gift and when withholding yourself is a gift.” If you’re in a relationship right now, he suggested that you “Talk with your partner about what you want without finger pointing, but by offering your longings, not your complaints. Complaints create emotional distance, but longings are redemptive. You’ve trusted God with your soul. Will you trust him with your body?”

“A healthy sexuality is the single most powerful vehicle there is to lead us to  selflessness and joy, just as unhealthy sexuality helps constellate selfishness and unhappiness as does nothing else . . . Sex is responsible for most of the ecstasies that occur on the planet, but is also responsible for lots of murders and suicides. It is the most powerful of all fires, the best of all fires, the most dangerous of all fires, and the fire which, ultimately, lies at the base of everything, including the spiritual life.” —Ronald Rolheiser

“The fire of sex is so powerful, so precious, so close to the heart and soul of a person, and so godly, that it either gives life or it takes it away. Despite our culture’s protests, it is not casual and can never be casual.” —Rolheiser

So, in light of Jesus healing the lame man—and offering to heal us too!— if you’re restless or unhappy with your sex life (or lack thereof), this is a great time to let Jesus heal your wounded heart! Consider watching the two messages (which together are shorter than a movie!):

https://marshill.org/teaching/?sermons=the-soul-of-sexuality-week-1

https://marshill.org/teaching/?sermons=the-soul-of-sexuality-week-2

I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Homespun Fun and Homemade Lemonade

Family DinnerWhen our third bouncing baby boy was born, Alan and I were encouraged by friends who playfully posited that heaven holds a special prize for parents of three sons. Small children sitting on cousin's feetIf that’s true, I’m pretty sure there might be an even bigger prize awaiting my firstborn son, Aaron, and his wife Carleen, who are now hard at work rearing their brood of four energizer bunny boys!

Folding LaundryWhen you have little boys, there are always mountains of laundry to do, Mother making dinnerand mountains of food to prepare, Mother reading bedtime storiesWith little ones, there are endless books to read, Child practicing pianolessons to teach, Father Son Chess gameand games to play. Small Boy helping Mother in KitchenEvery child needs his turn being mama’s little helper,Making Chocolate Chip Cookiesand—of course—even sons need to know the crucial aspects of survival,
such as how to bake chocolate chip cookies.    🙂  Playing with cousinWhen we visited last week,
I’m not sure if the kids ever held still except when they were asleep, Grandpa and Grandson playing chessand it kept us all totally occupied having fun with them. Little LeagueWe enjoyed Little League on Saturday morning, Family Hike in Californiaand hiking on Saturday afternoon.Sandlot hockeySunday morning we went to church.
(Well, there were a few minutes to spare before we had to leave.)Mother rounding up kids for church(And, when you have boys…
it’s especially hard to keep them clean until it’s time to leave for church!) Mother having tea breakI think there’s something to that old adage: “A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” At least, that’s the way I remember it.Older cousin playing with kidsSunday afternoon we went out for dinner with my brother’s family,
and we were all thankful for Jack, whose boundless teenage energy and expertise in high school wrestling was more than a match for his 4 little cousins!
(Thank you, Jack!) Lemon TreeOne of the special pleasures of living in California now is that Aaron and Carleen have intensely fragrant lemon and orange trees in their yard, Ripe lemon on treeso Alan wondered if he could have some fresh lemonade on Sunday afternoon. Picking LemonsThe two youngest boys helped me pick the ripest lemons, Making fresh lemonadeand then Aaron supervised making lemonade for his dad (and all of us). Squeezing lemonsMost all the boys took a turn squeezing out the tart juice.  Father making lemonade with kidsand it occurred to me that although each event was very memorable and fun…Little boy squeezing lemonsas a mother (and grandmother)… Making juice for lemonadeI was most touched by those activities where the family all worked together.Blue Potato Bush FlowerSince returning home, I’ve thought a lot about our wonderful visit White Calla Lilyand the purity and simplicity of homespun fun. Home Spun FunThank you, A+C, for all the love and energy you pour into making your home life such an abundant experience for your children!

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

(P.S.—Lemonade can be made lots of ways, but perhaps the easiest is to squeeze out whatever lemon juice you can get, add sugar until it’s sweet/tart to taste, and then add water and ice until it’s dilute enough. You really don’t even need to boil water and sugar to make syrup!)

Why Does the Easter Bunny Hide Eggs for Us??

Opening Easter EggsHave you ever wondered where the Easter Bunny comes from,
or why he brings Easter eggs? Early SpringBunnies are symbolic of fertility and growth, because they multiply so rapidly. Family with Easter bunny and dogThe Easter bunny was a tradition brought to this country by German Lutherans back in the 1700’s and has become a beloved part of most Christian celebrations. Finding an Easter EggThe tradition of celebrating with Easter eggs is even older,
and can be traced back to Christians in Mesopotamia,Searching for Easter Eggswho gave Easter eggs to celebrate new life in Christ. Opening Easter EggsThe egg reminds us that Jesus died for us, and the broken, empty egg symbolizes the empty tomb and the miracle of his resurrection from the dead.Happy FamilyAlan and I celebrated Easter with Jon and Gerlinde’s family last weekend. Family BreakfastWe had a wonderful breakfast together and then got ready for church.Children singing Easter SongsThe children sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” during the morning service. Child Listening to Easter StoryHowever, the lyrics are quite complicated for little ones, Mother telling daughter Easter storyso Linda practiced with the girls ahead of time, helping them understand
the message of this eloquent hymn of our faith.Little girl with hatAfterwards everyone took time for fellowship with coffee, donuts, and play. Hiding Easter EggsThen, it was time for lunch & a nap, (and for the Easter bunny[ies] to hide eggs)!Hail and Violets on Easter! It was pouring rain, and then it started to hail!   😦Two girls in raincoatsHowever, Linda wisely reminded us of a German saying:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Easter egg hunt for little girlThe children had a marvelous time searching for eggs. Eating Chocolate Easter BunnyIn fact, we all had a marvelous time!Small Girl with Easter basketI’m not sure who feels the deepest pleasure!
Is it the children as they hunt for treasure, Taking pictures of children hunting for Easter eggs or the parents, who delight in watching their children’s joy? Showing Grandpa an Easter prizeOr, perhaps it’s the grandparents, who feel so deeply the goodness of passing down through the generations such blessed Christian traditions. Finding Easter Eggs on a treeThank you, Father, for giving us families and so many precious times to share! Easter egg in gardenThank you most of all for Christ, who died and rose again for us on Easter Day, giving us the hope of being raised from the dead to new life as well!  Child with Easter BasketJesus said: “I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).Children singing in church on Easter Morning“Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

“Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

“Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

“Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!”
(—Charles Wesley, 1739)