What About Dead Parking Meters and No Outlets? Is There No Hope?

Have you ever gone up to put money in a parking meter only to discover that it’s dEAd? Today is my son Daniel’s thirty-second birthday, and when I asked him what he wanted for a gift, he said a little wistfully, “You know, I think time is about the most precious gift.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to buy him time, but after reflecting on it a little, it did occur to me that I could offer him a little of my time to babysit their two little ones so he could take his wife out on a date!

It also occurred to me that their toddler, Samuel, likes donuts, so I decided to stop at Van’s Pastry (which has some of the best donuts in town) and pick up some donuts to make his day a bit brighter.  Can you believe this parking meter? In all my years, I’ve never seen this before, but it did make me think about what it means to be “dEAd.” On the way to their home, I also pass a cemetery, and I’m always taken with this sign: “NO OUTLET.”                                Once you’re dEAd, is there really “no outlet?” Over the weekend, Alan and I watched two movies, both based on true events that dealt with life and death issues. In one movie (A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on the youth of Amos Oz, who lived through the terrible years of Israel going from a British Mandate to an independent state), one of the main characters became terminally depressed and looks at Death (personified) as a comforting protector. The other story, The Unmiracle, is  about two brothers (one an ex-marine) trying to cope with the tragedies of life, although in their situation, they began to see a glimmer of hope even in the midst of all the darkness. Quite a few years ago, I bought three cups and let my two sons (who were living with us at the time) each choose which cup they wanted. They chose “Love” and “Faith,” leaving me with “Hope.” At the time, I don’t think I completely appreciated the value of “hope.” I knew that God is love (1 John 4:16), and that to love God above all else and our neighbor as I love myself is God’s highest command (Mark 12:29-31). I also knew that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and through faith we’re justified and have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2). But, I didn’t appreciate the role of hope in life. Hope is what gives us joy and makes us happy (Psalm 146:5). It’s what gives us the courage to go on. I read about a study on what helped people survive during World War 2. It wasn’t physical strength and health (although I’m sure that gave people more of a possibility of surviving). The strongest factor was the will to live, and that was usually based on the person having a sense of hope.

Are you lacking hope today? Do you feel dEAd and like there’s no outlet? Please, please, please turn to Jesus and cry out to him for help and hope. Trust him. Call on him. Let him help you! Truly, He will!

*Here are a few readings from the Bible to get you started if you’re wanting more hope:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these Mark 11:29-31.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

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” (John 3:1 6).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Psalm 78:6-8).

ArtPrize 2016 ala Notre Dame Cathedral: One Dream Has Come True

Rose Window in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceGuess what? Almost 3 years after initial inspiration, I signed a hosting agreement last night with the Holiday Inn on Pearl Street adjacent to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, so I’m now officially “in” for ArtPrize 2016! Votive candles burning in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceThose who know me well or have been patiently reading my blog will recognize that this represents a dream come true and the culmination of unending hours of contemplation, prayer, hard work, study, listening, submission, hard work, expense, prayer, research, prayer, frustration, hard work, submission, excitement, determination, prayer, soul-searching, anxiety, confusion, prayer, hard work…you get the picture! I would have added “ad nauseum” were it not something I felt like the Lord had inspired in the first place. P.A.S.S.I.O.N. Candles burning in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceSleepless nights. Distraction. Planning. Asking. Organizing. On my knees and on my face. Walking in the Spirit and wrestling with my flesh. Around, and around, and around in spiraling circles. Hope. Deferred hope. Hope again. Growth. Disappointment. Resignation. Hope. Then, the whole crazy cycle started over again for the third time this April when it was time to apply for ArtPrize 2016. Christ on the Cross in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceYou get the picture, and I’m sure you’ve experienced similar passions in your life—if not for a venue for ArtPrize, perhaps in wanting a particular spouse, a certain job or a particular home or car. As humans we all experience ardent hopes that something we desire deeply will become a reality. Candles and statue of Jesus in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceIn the process of praying about an ArtPrize venue, I was always acutely aware that whether or not I succeeded would be up to God ultimately, and that in the grand scheme of things, there were (are) innumerable things that I desire much more, such as the spiritual health and welfare of my loved ones and the world at large, peace on earth, and goodness to overcome evil. Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, FranceWhat infinitesimal impact my ArtPrize entry might make on the relatively small population of people who will see it is less than a drop in the bucket of need and desire, but it is one of the things I feel like God has inspired me to pursue, and so I’ve been pursuing it with all the “heartily as unto the Lord” I can muster! Jesus with Peter walking on the water in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceDespite my calm assurance that God is in control, which provides  an ocean of peace in the depths of my being, I still struggle superficially, and I still find it thrilling when my prayers and hopes are granted. You too? Sarchophagus in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceI’ve prayed for some things over 50 years now, and perhaps I’ll go to my grave praying for others, but let’s keep praying and asking, for God’s glory and our good.Candles buring in Notre Dame. Paris, France 2

Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes,
it is a tree of life
” (Proverbs 13:12).Chestnuts bloomin in spring at Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris, France(I took all these photos in or of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, May 2016.)

Sammy at 34 Weeks: Double Delight

www.putteringinthegarden.comHave you ever seen a “Double Delight” rose? Each is a unique creation bursting with heaven-scent aroma and  shaded with swirls of cream dipped in ruby red. Samuel 34 weeks So, when I heard that Baby Samuel has now doubled his weight, it made me think of those delicate beauties…but he’s really even so much more of a delight!! Dan, Brianna, and SamuelSamuel has really been making great strides this week! He’s now weighing in at 3 pounds, 4 oz. of wide-eyed wonder.Samuel with CPAP He’s also off his CPAP & only needs it if he gets too worn out after nursing care. Dan and Brianna Holding SamuelThis makes it possible for Brianna to hold and comfort Samuel “just like a regular baby!” (Before she had to hold almost breathlessly still and make sure his CPAP and tubes stayed exactly in place.) SamuelThe other wonderful news is that the NICU has lifted the ban on visitors! Our family just returned from vacationing in Florida,  so my son Joel (who’s never gotten to see him yet) and I are running right over to the hospital! Counting up all these blessings, I guess that makes Baby Samuel a quadruple delight!

Thank you for your continued interest and prayers! His due date was February 18 (Alan and my 42 anniversary), and I’m beginning to be hopeful that he might be able to come home in time to celebrate with us!

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes,
it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).