Cathédrale Notre-Dame: The Broken Heart of Paris

Built through centuries;
Burnt in hours. We cry, “Dear God,
Please restore your Church!”

“He restoreth my soul;
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

We stayed under the shadow of Notre-Dame last time we were in Paris and visited twice.

We sat in solemn resonance through a service.

We climbed the 387 steps to the bell tower.

We breathed in the ethereal air above the Parisian landscape.

And, we gazed in rapture at the dazzling stained glass windows. But, it never once crossed my mind that it might be the last time I would ever have such a rare privilege.

Yesterday, in a matter of twelve hours, a fire destroyed two-thirds of the roof and enveloped the interior of this iconic 856-year-old bastion of our Christian faith, which is home to more than half a million parishioners.

As of yet, the extent of the damage is unknown, although there have been reports that heat melted the lead holding the panes of some of the stained glass windows, and France’s largest pipe organ, with its 8,000 pipes, has suffered damage.

Nearly 400 fire-fighters battled heroically to save the twin bell towers,

although the cathedral’s spire has collapsed.

The stone exterior of the building has been saved, but so much of the interior was made from wood that there are questions about the basic integrity of the cathedral. Is enough intact for it to withstand rebuilding?

Beyond structural issues, Notre-Dame cathedral was filled with irreplaceable treasures, including seventy-six paintings dating back to the 1600-1700s, along with many other relics, statues, and carvings, some of which have been saved, but many which could not.

This morning, a team will be assessing the damage, and I find myself holding my breath as I await further news.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has promised the world that France will rebuild Notre-Dame, and two french billionaires have already pledged $339 million towards the restoration. A call has gone out for the those who are artistically gifted throughout the Christian world to offer their help in the restoration. But, will it ever be the same?

The answer, of course, is that it will not! In the Gospel of John, Jesus forewarns his disciples that life will be full of sorrow and troubles, but that we can find comfort, “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).

Even though we suffer great disappointments in this world that change our lives forever, that doesn’t end God’s goodness or his constant work within us.

God will make something new for us, just like He will make us new! As He promised in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ” I believe God will help the world rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, just as I believe God will give new life to all who put their trust in him!

God is THE God of love and mercy. He is always up to something good, even in the midst of apparent evil: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Our responsibility is to believe in God and do what He’s asked us to do: to accept forgiveness for our sins through faith in the sacrifice of Christ for us, and to surrender our hearts to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He can make something new from the ashes of our lives, just as I believe He will make something new from the devastating loss of Notre-Dame.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.And he said unto me, 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. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:1-7).

*I took all the above photos on our last trip to Notre-Dame, in May of 2016. If you’re looking for even more photos and information, I wrote an earlier post here:

Have You Heard The Music of Silence?

“In my opinion, the only way forward in this world is with faith, which not only explains the reason for life but also fills it with joy and hope. Faith transforms what would be a tragedy into a marvelous story with a happy ending. If all of this is reflected in my singing, how happy that would make me.” —Andrea Bocelli Do you have a favorite singer? My mother requested that Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” would be played at her funeral, and ever since I’ve thought they have the most hauntingly beautiful voices in the world. So, I was delighted to discover that a movie has been made about this amazing Italian singer’s life. It’s an extremely emotional but inspirational story.  I always wondered how Andrea Bocelli happened to have a voice so full of passion and warmth but for some reason had never realized that he was blind…or that his faith in God had helped him overcome his blindness. His parents were advised to abort Bocelli before he was even born, warning that he was likely to have multiple birth defects. However, his parents disregarded the surgeon’s advice. He was born with congenital glaucoma and became blind at twelve, yet today he’s one of the world’s greatest opera singers and has sold over 80 million records!  The Music of Silence tells the story of his birth to his incredible rise to fame by 2000 (although he’s still actively singing in the present). It’s a beautiful story of faith and love. I was a little sorry I did research, because his life from 2000 to the present is not as lovely, but I suspect he feels the same way, because the movie ends very happily around the turn of the century.  As the mother of a musician, I was especially intrigued by the title, The Music of Silence, and what that meant. Bocelli’s maestro explained how music can be found in silence this way:  “You [speaking to his blind protégé, Bocelli] have a great advantage, you’re already familiar with sounds. They guide your steps through life. But the music of silence will be your guide through the interior of yourself. And that, which you discover, you will express through the beautiful perfection of song.”  And that he does! I smiled when Celine Dion was quoted as saying, “If God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” I have definitely thought that if the Lord would give me any voice when I get to heaven, I would like to sound like Andrea Bocelli! (Or, maybe Sarah Brightman if I’m supposed to sound like a woman. 🙂  ) Even if you’re not a big fan of opera, I’ll bet you find yourself inspired and encouraged by watching The Music of Silence, the story of how one young man overcame one of the world’s most difficult challenges and became one of the world’s greatest singers!  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).  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). If you want to hear Andrea Bocelli singing “Time to Say Goodbye with Sarah Brightman,” it can be found here:

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).

Hillsong United Comes to Grand Rapids: “Aftermath”

Yes, and so we went to join in singing with them…along with 6,000+ others who love Hillsong worship music. Having never been to the Van Andel Arena for a concert, I didn’t realize that “general admission” tickets meant we would be standing on the floor for nearly four hours, crushed together like so many sardines in a can, along with thousands of young people jumping up and down for joy throughout the entire evening!(Just in case you’re wondering, when we got to the arena, the officials asked that no one take pictures, so I don’t actually have any from last night. I took these pictures a year ago when the Hillsong Live group came to Kathy and Carl’s church in Detroit, which seats about 4,000. Nevertheless, the excitement and enthusiasm were strikingly similar, maybe minus a bit of the jumping, having a slightly older mean age for their audience. :))

Stephen graciously dropped me off to meet Alan in the long line waiting to get in, and we were able to get a place to stand in the very front row (unlike last year, where our seat was almost in the back row. But, hey, it was a very comfortable SEAT!) At any rate, we opted to stand in the corner on the right hand side, so I could rest my arms and back against the right barrier and still see and hear everything.We noticed that the flying speakers were aimed farther back and thought we’d be spared from some of the sound intensity, but we failed to notice that the bassist’s eight 12-inch speaker cabinet was aimed directly at us, so the bass and drums were pretty much rocking our bodies with palpable sound waves throughout the evening!In all, it was a most memorable experience, and I’m glad I went. If I go again, I’ll try to sit in a seat. But—as Alan pointed out to me—no one in the entire sea of people was sitting throughout the arena. The energy was electric, and after thunderous applause that was absolutely not going to stop, Joel Houston came back on stage and led us all in several other songs, finally ending with a prayer and a gorgeous rendition of the comforting piece “Take Heart.” Alan and I were both hoarse from singing our hearts out, and I’ll bet almost everybody who attended felt just the same! Happy and exhausted. More enthusiasm for the Lord than for a football game, that’s for sure! I love praising God, and I love all the emotion and energy of kids. It made me feel old and young at the same time.

Take Heart
There is a light
It burns brighter than the sun
He steals the night
And casts no shadow
There is hope
Should oceans rise and mountains fall
He never fails

So take heart
Let His love lead us through the night
Hold on to hope
And take courage again

In death by love
The fallen world was overcome
He wears the scars of our freedom
In His Name
All our fears are swept away
He never fails

All our troubles
And all our tears
God our hope
He has overcome

All our failure
And all our fear
God our love
He has overcome

All our heartache
And all our pain
God our healer
He has overcome

All our burdens
And all our shame
God our freedom
He has overcome

God our justice
God our grace
God our freedom
He has overcome

God our refuge
God our strength
God is with us
He has overcome            (—Joel Houston)

“These things I have spoken to you, that in me [Jesus] you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)