One of the unique privileges of blogging is getting to know people you’d never meet otherwise here on earth. What a joy to make new friends who live far away—sometimes even on other continents!—but with whom there is the precious bond of sibling kinship through our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and God as our heavenly father! In April I shared several poems by Carol Floyd, who is a newly found sister and soulmate from Kentucky. Today I want to share with you another such friend, this time from France: Jérôme Framery. Jérôme approached me initially about helping him find photographs to illustrate some of his work on the Song of Solomon. I was more than delighted to be a tiny part of his project, and we have quickly become friends. Today I’d like to introduce you to Jérôme and encourage you to see his lovely YouTube video on the Song of Solomon.
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).
“Twenty-twenty” vision means our eyes can perceive what a person with normal, healthy vision can also see from twenty feet away. I don’t know about you, but it’s been years since I’ve had perfect vision, although thinking about tomorrow being the first day of “2020” makes me wish I could somehow have perfect vision again. If you’ve lost your 20/20 vision, wouldn’t you like that too?!
Okay, so maybe that’s not going to happen for us in this life here on earth, but aren’t you glad we have glasses to correct our vision? I used to think Ben Franklin invented glasses back in 1784, but then I learned Salvino D’Armante made the first pair of glasses 500 years earlier, back in 1284. However, glass has been intentionally produced for more than 3,600 years, and where there is glass, there is likely to be magnification used to enhance eyesight, so I’m not sure if we will ever really know who first used glasses to improve vision. I even heard years ago that a pair of glasses was found next to the imprint of a dinosaur track, although I can’t find any photos to corroborate this claim, so it may be bogus!
Still, it is certainly true that our human vision is limited but can be improved by magnification. For instance, the Hubble telescope can magnify objects 4,700X, so we can see images of the heavens like this. The universe appears to be perhaps infinitely huge, so we’ll never fully understand it, but it would be impossible for us even to begin exploring outer space without the help of such telescopes.
Similarly, electron microscopes can magnify up to 10,000,000X, allowing us to see images of incredibly small “inner spaces” such as the cells within our bodies. Without the help of microscopes, our understanding of life and how even our own bodies work would be extremely limited.
I believe with all my heart (and experience) that the Bible corrects my spiritual vision just like glasses help me see more clearly in this physical world. The Bible, like a Hubble Telescope, helps me catch a vision of the magnificence of heaven, even though I can’t perceive it with my limited eye sight. Through meditating on biblical passages, I can learn about the deepest recesses of my heart and mind. Like a fluorescent microscope, the Bible lights up my inmost being and illuminates my spirit.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Day . . . the first day of 2020. My vision for 2020 is to develop 2020 vision spiritually . . . to regain clarity, to focus more intently, and to respond in faithful obedience to the spiritual light I receive. I hope to share some of the highlights with you, and I hope you’ll share what you’re learning with me as well! For starters, have you made any New Year’s Resolutions yet? I’m working on mine, and chief among them is to meditate on scripture daily (which I’ve been practicing for many years) and to memorize at least one psalm per month. For many years after being spiritually born again,* I worked on memorizing Bible verses every day, and I suspect I had closer to 2020 vision back then. Sadly, in the past 15 years or so, I stopped memorizing, and I’m sure that’s effected my spiritual vision. I declare 2020 as my year of attaining spiritual 2020 vision! Want to join me?
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” ( Psalm 34:3).
“Be Thou My Vision” (Ancient Irish song translated by Mary E. Byrne)
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art Thou my best Thought, by day or by night Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord Thou my great Father, I Thy true son Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise Thou mine Inheritance, now and always Thou and Thou only, first in my heart High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
(*If you’re not sure what I mean by the term being “born again,” please click on the “Coming to Christ” link at the very top of this post. Without being born spiritually, no one can even begin to understand the spiritual world and is as blind to spiritual life as a babe still in the womb),
Have you drifted away from being involved in a church? If so, I would love to hear your “why” and if there is anything you can think of that would make the Church so appealing to you that you would want to go again.
I am thankful all my kids are involved in church communities, but it almost seems like this is now unusual rather than the norm for those between twenty and fifty. When I was a young mom, I very much admired a woman whose husband had been the pastor of our church. They had eight grown children who were all involved in churches, but in very different denominations. I thought that was really strange and wondered how the children of a minister could possibly end up going to such diverse churches. A generation later, I am no longer amazed. In fact, I’m sort of like that pastor’s wife!
Alan and I always attended very conservative evangelical Baptist/Bible/Brethren churches, and I assumed our children would follow in our footsteps. Totally not so! Now, I will say that I’ve attended almost all the churches where my kids fellowship (except our military kids, who moved to Belgium last summer), and I almost always feel blessed and instructed by what I hear, but a few of them have found church homes quite different from those in which they grew up.
What happens? Well, for one thing, as we mature, we have to decide for ourselves what we believe and what we’re going to prioritize in life. We aren’t born with spiritual life, we are born again into spiritual life. We may grow up in a Christian home, but we aren’t born with faith in God. We may be taught about God (as in the case of my children), or we may become curious about whether or not there is a God (as in my case, who did not grow up in a church). Either way, as we grow up, we have to evaluate what we believe about God, the Bible, and spiritual life.
For most of us, spiritual life is largely explored and lived out in community, and the “community” God has given us is the local church. If you want to learn more about God, read your Bible and pray, but also get involved in a church family. Like coals of fire, we burn brighter and longer when sharing the heat with other coals in the fireplace! Embers that explode and fall off the grate usually burn out very quickly.
That being said, as we approach the beginning of a new school year, I hope you make being part of a local church one of you priorities. If you live in the Grand Rapids area and don’t have a church home, I would like to invite you to visit my church, Calvary Church (on the East Beltline). We have a fabulous Sunday school class called Heirs Together that is really helpful for ages 55-75, but there are excellent classes for all ages. Please consider visiting our class if you’re in town and around that age!
This past Sunday our pastor, Jim Samra, just began a new series on the Book of Titus. It’s the first of a series of topical messages that will find their roots in Titus but cover a plethora of very practical topics, such as “What is Godliness?” The first message can be found here:
If for any reason you are disabled, have to work on Sundays, live in a country where there is no local church, or are otherwise unable to attend church in person, this sermon series will be online each week. (The new message is downloaded each Tuesday morning.) If you’re looking for a prayer group, I am part of a weekly “Zoom” prayer group that you are welcome to join. Just email me at email@example.com and I will connect you. Nurturing your spirit is every bit as important as nurturing your body (and I would say— “Even more so!”).
Hope to see you or hear from you soon—either at church, on Zoom, or in the comment box below with suggestions for how to make church a more spiritually nurturing environment for you and members of your generation! Thanks, and may God bless you in your spiritual journey!
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).
I have a dear friend who was an accountant for many years, and at my request, she shared a recipe she’d created for her family . . . in the perfect format for somebody who’s computer savvy: A spread sheet! However, I’m a klutz and couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a wordpress-friendly doc., so I’ll share it with you as is, just in time for the holidays. Merry Christmas!! Here’s what she shared: “I love cranberries but at our family gatherings I seemed to be the only one enjoying the cranberry dishes……so I created Powers Family Holiday Fruit Salad. Everyone loves it, and it is now a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
POWERS FAMILY HOLIDAY FRUIT SALAD
Cranberries, cleaned and drained
Crushed pineapple, drained
Apples, diced (I use gala)
Heavy Whipping cream, whipped
Grind the cranberries in a food processor or blender
Combine the cranberries, drained pineapple, diced apples, and grape halves with the sugar.
Stir in the vanilla and mix well
Fold in the whipped cream….then add marshmallows
Refrigerate until time to serve
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3)
Do you like roasted lamb? I don’t serve it nearly as often as roasted beef, because it’s more expensive, but a good lamb roast (and lamb stew made from the leftovers) can be a very festive addition to holiday menus.First: roasted lamb: Choose a size that is about twice what you’d normally serve for your dinner, sprinkle heavily with your favorite seasonings (mine are minced garlic, onion powder, Montreal steak seasoning, salt and pepper) and fill up the pan with potatoes, carrots, onions, and 2 cups water. Cover and roast in the oven at 350°F. for 2.5 hours or until very tender.
Festive Lamb Stew
(Serves 6-8…or about as many as you served for your original lamb dinner)
Chop up the remaining lamb, potatoes, onions, and carrots into bite-sized chunks. Pour all the broth from the bottom of the roasting pan plus 1 cup of water into the cooking pot. Add:
1 cup cooked or frozen corn
1 cup cooker or frozen peas
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s, but whatever you like is best)
1/2 teaspoon crushed basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon red curry powder
Salt and pepper to tasteCook it over medium heat until everything starts to simmer. Reduce the temperature to low and continue simmering for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Add 1/3 cup flour and stir until you have a light, smooth gravy for the stew. Taste test it again and adjust the seasonings if needed (salt and pepper). Serve it up as a meal in itself, or possibly with a side salad and garlic bread.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3).
Good things have been happening in Samuel’s tiny world. Here’s what Brianna shared last Tuesday: “Word on the street is that Samuel’s eyes are ‘mature.’ He will have an outpatient follow-up exam in two weeks to verify. Considering how extensive his disease had become, this is remarkable news! Thanks for the many prayers on behalf of the little man. Thank you Lord for answering with a ‘yes’.” Because Samuel’s eye exam went so well, he had surgery on Wednesday to repair his inguinal hernias. Here are a few “family photos” from the last time we saw him before surgery. Brianna and Dan have been real troopers throughout this whole ordeal! This is Brianna comforting Sammy before he was prepared for surgery. He’s gotten quite attached to his pacifier! Ready to roll? His surgery went very well, and recovery has been so rapid that there’s talk of his being able to go home this weekend! It may be that we’re close to the end of Baby Samuel’s scary hospital journey! Wouldn’t that be nice!So, Samuel and his traveling buddy, D.J., are both safely home, but we’ve connected with yet another preemie family. Tiny Elin Faith was born just a couple of weeks ago at 24 weeks and 15 oz. So far, she’s hanging tough. Here are her mom and 3 older sisters, who (along with their daddy) are also trying to hang tough. If you have any interest in following Elin’s progress or praying for her, her family is posting on Facebook under “Elin Faith Updates,” and they welcome you to follow there.
“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3)
Now, any of you who know me really well probably know I’ve never had an alcoholic drink in my life, but I just love Mike and Grace’s church, and their pastor dreams up crazy sermon titles. For instance, he wanted to call his Easter message, “How to Shock a Woman” (the women who found the tomb empty), and this week’s title was: “How to Throw a Party” and dealt with Daniel 5 (how NOT to throw a party) and Mark 2 (how to share your best friend—Jesus—with all your other friends). So, I’m using a provocative title for fun, but we did have several “mixed drinks” on Sunday. This is the way my tale goes—What to have for breakfast? Michael and I got up before anybody else was awake and headed straight to the bakery for a dozen malasadas, a fabulously rich donut-like confection most notably consumed on Mardi Gras, but here in Hawaii…you can buy them any old day you can come up with 99 cents! However, buying something to drink with the malasadas for our milk-guzzling calves was a slightly different story: $8.00 a gallon!While milk and donuts were just the ticket for the girls, Michael wanted something even more exotic for the grown ups so we started out with shots of tangerine juice as a good wake up sugar shockand then progressed to mocha cappuccinos. You can imagine that after this we had no trouble staying awake in church all morning! 🙂Getting ready for church was so easy as a game of 3 on 3 that we ended up being 10 minutes early. Score!!We even had a few minutes to chat with their closest friends here, who have four little girls. The church has a system of families reaching out to military families so they feel at home and supported more quickly, so this wonderful family “adopted” Mike and Grace and have really been a blessing to them.Michael was less than two weeks old when he was dedicated to the Lord (about 35 years ago). Our minister—an aged, white-haired man—lifted Michael up to show the congregation and blessed him, but not before commenting on how Michael slept sweetly through the entire proceeding: “He looks like a baptist already!” Well, although Baby Blue slept sweetly through much of the service, none of the rest of us did. The pastor’s messages are full of light and heat, and when he invites people to come to Christ at the end…people respond! It’s really a thriving, growing church with many young families, and I’m so happy they found such a great church!But, on to my tale about the mixed drinks. While Michael was down range (in Iraq), the guys aren’t allowed to drink alcoholic beverages, but they did enjoy some pretty exotic fruit and soda mixes. Michael said one of his favorites was made by some Muslim friends during Ramadan (after the sun set, of course) that was green and avocado based. Meanwhile, he decided to concoct some super fruit smoothies while Grace provided some veggies and meat for Sunday dinner.Strawberries, blueberries, mango, papaya, banana and a good dose of our super special tangerine juice. The drinks were incredibly good, and it was free drinks all around…except for Cerulean. The bouncer was a big ape who wouldn’t let him in because he was under age. Poor guy had to miss the whole party. 😦Drinks were on the house and “no limit,” so after the berries were used up, Michael tried grapes and some sweetened squash along with the tropical fruits. Believe it or not, the second and third rounds were just as popular…or else we were getting so giddy we were losing our good judgment (but I don’t think so).Well, this story is getting way too long, so I’d better cut to the chase. Round 3 were caramel frappuccinos after nap time… and round 4 was tri-flavored shaved ices (or “ice shaves” as Nycteris would say) after we’d been to the beach for a swim. Michael says people are happier in Hawaii because they’re more relaxed.And, what was Round 5 for the mixed drinks? Maybe we’ll keep that one a secret.
“O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”