Lily of the valley is blooming in my backyard. I saw the delicate bell shaped flowers when I returned from a visit with my mother. She was placed in a nursing home last week.
The transition to the nursing home is a huge change. New environment. New people. Changing shifts for caregivers. Physical therapy. Occupational therapy. It is not surprising that she is exhausted.
On Sunday morning I wheeled her to the hymn sing taking place in the activity room. We joined a circle of wheel chairs. Favorite hymns were played on the sound system and the words to the lyrics appeared on a large screen. At first Mom was nodding off.
I took her hand and clasped it in mine. Her hand was cool and soft. Gradually she returned the clasp. She looked up and began to softly song the words to hymns that she remembered. One of the hymns was “The Lily of the Valley” by Charles W. Fry (1881).
I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul; The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole. In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay; He tells me every care on Him to roll.
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
I have a vase filled with stems of lily of the valley on my kitchen table. This song continues to play in my heart as I pray for Mom.
These verses in Revelation give hope and comfort. Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star.
Behold, I am coming soon . . . I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation 22: 12a, 16
For more than 20 years I have participated in Precept Bible studies. I started with the women of Faith Community Church, and have continued for many years with women at Village Church of Barrington. We meet every Tuesday morning, September through May. We have become friends through our time together, reading the Bible and discussing it, sharing prayer requests.
Currently we are studying the three covenants that God made: with Abraham, with Moses (Israel), and the New Covenant. Today our topic was the covenant with Moses (Israel) or the law. After God rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he made a covenant with them and gave them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19 & 20)
No one is able to keep the law. We all fall short. The purpose of the Law was to show them (and us) our sin and need for a Savior.
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
After the Ten Commandments were given on tablets of stone, Moses was given very specific instructions for a tabernacle. (Exodus, chapters 25 – 31) The tabernacle was a sanctuary for God. It was also designed to point to Jesus.
For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1: 17
When my husband and I toured Israel we visited a model of the tabernacle, built to the specifications in the Bible. Here we are in the outer court.
Just inside the gate (entering the outer court of the tabernacle) is an altar. The altar is for sacrifice and symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus became for us as he offered himself on the cross in payment for our sins.
Beyond the altar is a bonze basin for washing. The basin symbolizes the cleansing we receive by the Word of God.
Inside the tent the first room, called the Holy Place, contains a table with bread (Jesus, the bread of Life), a lampstand (Jesus is the light of the world) and an altar of incense (Jesus continually intercedes in prayer for believers).
A thick veil stands before the inner room that holds the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The Ark contains symbols of God’s faithfulness: Aaron’s rod that budded, manna and the tablets of stone. The mercy seat is the throne of God.
Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Hebrews 9: 3-5
The veil enclosing this room was torn when Jesus was crucified giving us access to God. We can approach God with our prayers.
God has reached out to us and has told his plan of salvation through his word. He has given us symbols that illustrate his plan. The Old Testament of the Bible points to the New Testament. The longer I study the Bible, the more I see God’s love.
After our discussion we have coffee and treats. Today I made an apricot bread to share. It was enjoyed–here is the recipe:
1 + ¼ C. dried apricots
½ cup reserved water (from simmering apricots)
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
2 large eggs
½ tsp. baking soda
2 + ¾ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coconut (I prefer unsweetened)
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan.
Place the apricots in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let them stand in the hot water for an additional 20 minutes and then drain off the water, reserving ½ cup. Chop the apricots.
Add the reserved water, melted coconut oil, honey and eggs to a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Then add the apricots and baking soda. Mix. Add flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Mix well. The batter will be thick (biscuit dough consistency). If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and when a knife or toothpick is inserted, it should come out clean. Cool on a rack; then turn out of the pan and slice.
Today is the 27th anniversary of my son’s passing away and entering eternity. Last year I wrote the illness and faith of our little boy. You can read about Steven here.
God has healed the wound in my heart, but it took time. Only when I was far enough from my initial grief, could I look back and see the hand of God guiding and supporting our family.
Steven was loved. He knew that God loved him.
The Psalms convey both the pain of suffering and the confidence in God’s love.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at the noonday. Psalm 91:4-6
I must confess that in the last days of Steven’s life I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, about to plunge into darkness. I wasn’t sure of my faith. But I never stopped praying. I poured out my pain before God. The Psalms provided an example for me to follow.
Christian friends stood by us, offering their faith and prayers. Over time I was able to see the places where God had been present with us. I believe that I will see Steven again, as the Bible promises.
If you are going through a stiff trial, don’t be afraid to pour out doubts and fears in prayer. God hears and He is faithful. Let others pray for you also. Trust that as you walk forward you will see evidence of God’s hand on your life.
Recently I completed reading books about two women that demonstrated different kinds of passion. I have read the Autobiography of Margaret Sanger, followed by A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter. The lives of these two women had some similarities and some great contrasts.
Both women came from large families, though Lilias Trotter (1853–1928) had more nurture and resources as a child, growing up in England. Margaret Sanger was born in New York and lived her later years in Arizona (1879–1966). Each eventually became involved with social causes.
Lilias attended Christian conferences, taught a Bible Class at the Welbeck Street Institue (which offered a hostel for young women), and opened her own home to provide social hours for working women.
Margaret Sanger was one of eleven children and when her mother died at the age of 48 she had to take on many responsibilities. Eventually she left home, went through nurses’ training and did home visits for maternity care. She saw difficult situations that poor women faced.
As Lilia continued her outreach to young women she was also developing her skill as an artist. She was invited to spend time polishing her gift under the guidance of John Ruskin.
Margaret left nursing, married Bill Sanger, an architect and artist. The couple faced challenges—Margaret’s treatment for tuberculosis, the loss of a home to fire. They had three children. When they settled in an apartment they became involved with radical groups. Margaret writes “Our living room became a gathering place where liberals, anarchists, Socialists and I.W.W.’s could meet.”*
Lilias’ passion was to bring the message of the gospel to people by living with them and loving them. Although she was a gifted artist, encouraged by John Ruskin to devote herself to art, she chose to establish a mission in Algiers.
Margaret’s passion was to relieve the suffering of poor women by making birth control available. She left her husband and young children to travel the world, researching the topic of overpopulation. As she pursued contraception she joined forces with people promoting eugenics.
The difference that I see in these two women is this. One was devoted to prayer and loving service; the other was out to solve human problems through her own intellect and effort.
As I consider the initial goal that Margaret Sanger had, I am saddened. Did she improve the status of poor women? Our culture has become dependent on contraceptives. Are marriages more stable? Are women better off?
What was the impact of Lilias Trotter’s work? She wrote about legacy in a book, Parables of the Cross. “The results need not end with our earthly days. Should Jesus tarry our works will follow us . . . God may use, by reason of the wonderful solidarity of His Church, the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us.”**
Here is the link to an interesting article about the focus in Lilias’ life (written by the author of the biography).
*The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger, Dover Publications, Inc. : Mineola, New York. 1971. p. 70
**Miriam Huffman Rockness, A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, Discovery House Publishers: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003. p. 325.
After a week of traveling to attend to extended family needs, it is good to be back home. This morning I participated in Bible study with dear friends at my church. In the afternoon my husband and I went to see God’s Not Dead 2.
Can a teacher mention Jesus in a public school class? The film shows a court case involving religious freedom. Although similar cases have occurred in the U.S., this story is fiction. I enjoyed seeing Lee Strobel, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee make appearances in the movie.
Two points made by the movie have stayed with me.
Prayer was a key element in the story.
The teacher prayed, her grandfather prayed and large groups of people prayed throughout the trial.
The community—not just the individual—was involved.
Many Christians, in different places, played a role in supporting the teacher who was on trial.
I know that there are times in my life when I have been so focused on personal issues that I have neglected to see the big picture. Standing firm in faith and supporting other believers is increasingly important.
The gospel of John records Jesus’ instruction for us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 34-35
The early church provides a great example.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2: 42
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4: 2
Prayer: Lord God, we praise you for your great love and sacrifice for us. We give thanks for the examples of faith that we have in the Bible. Guide us when our faith is challenged and increase our love.
The lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Lilias Trotter are a great inspiration for me. Both spent much time in prayer. Here are quotes from each.
The morning prayer determines the day.
Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weakness and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with others, all have their own origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer. Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God. Decisions, demanded by work, become easier and simpler where they are made not in the fear of men but only in the sight of God. “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men” (Col. 3:23). *
The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. May it not be that the human impossibility is just the very thing that sets His Hand free?–& that it is the things which are possible for us to do that He is in a measure to let alone. **
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6: 14-18
This is a practice that I want to embrace. Let me start each day with the Lord!
*Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible, Augsburg Fortress: Minneapolis, MN. 1970
** Miriam Rockness, A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI. 2003
We visited Tent Rock National Park in New Mexico. I was easy to see how the park had gotten its name. A rocky trail weaves through narrow canyons and continues upward to the peak of the rock formations.
A sign at the beginning of the trail was accurate—as we found out.
We climbed, slipping occasionally. Sometimes large rocks lay across the path. The Christian life has similarities. We encounter troubles and challenges. But we also have a good shepherd.
Psalm 23 reminds us that Jesus is with us, guiding us.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
When Jesus is our Savior we have access to the Lord in prayer.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 4-7
Memories of the week leading up to Easter stretch back into my childhood. I was blessed to grow up in a home where we read the Bible and attended church regularly. Like any family we had problems, but the foundation for my faith developed from hearing the Word of God.
In past years I attended Maundy Thursday services. What is Maundy Thursday? It commemorates the day of the last supper. The following scripture describes this event.
And when the hour came, he relined at the table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he said, Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body that is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And like wise the cup after they had eaten, saying , “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22: 14-20
Communion was served on this quiet day of reflection. Communion symbolizes the new covenant. God offers us forgiveness of sin and salvation through Jesus.
When my husband and I traveled to Israel we visited the site of a deep pit. The theory is that Jesus was held in this pit prior to the crucifixion.
It is hard to take in fully the pain and confusion that the followers of Jesus must have felt in the days between Jesus arrest and his triumph over death. Peter’s denial of Christ gives us a little glimpse.
Out of deep sorrow comes great joy. So much wonder and joy in the scene that the apostle John describes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look in the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means teacher). John 20: 11-16
One of my favorite songs on Easter morning is Christ Arose.
Death cannot keep his prey—Jesus my Savior! He tore the bars away—Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose With a mighty triumph o’er His foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
On Monday night our PBS station aired a documentary about Pope John Paul II. As I watched I was remembering the discussions that I had with my daughter about the Theology of the Body (writings by Pope John Paul II).
Julia was attending Marquette University and was introduced to the Theology of the Body, God’s design for male and female, for marriage and sexuality. She brought home some tapes for me to hear, and we talked about them.
I am not Catholic, but this teaching on sexuality makes sense to me. I have great respect for the Catholic position on life. I understand the position of the Catholic Church, opposing contraception and drugs that cause early abortions. As a nurse I have concerns about the effects of hormonal drugs on longterm health.
So when the Little Sisters of the Poor refuse to be providers of contraception, I am with them. This is the teaching of their church. They have a right to live out their faith.
My own right of conscience was tested during my first year of nursing practice. I was working in a large city hospital, affiliated with a university. I was shocked when I realized that an abortion was taking place in our labor/delivery unit—a saline induction. I could not participate. That night I wrote a letter stating my conscience objection to abortion, gave it to my manager and it was kept in my file. I was never called to assist with an abortion.
Later I would choose to work at Catholic or Lutheran Hospitals.
In the United States the first amendment guarantees the freedom of religion—the right to live according to one’s faith. The Little Sisters of the Poor are living out their faith as they minister to the elderly.
Can the government force the Little Sisters to provide free contraception in the health insurance they give their employees? The mandate goes against their faith. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on this case today. I am praying for the right of conscience to be upheld.
If SCOTUS rules against them the Little Sisters will be heavily fined and may be forced to discontinue their work.
The Little Sisters minister at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in my community. I am participating in a day of prayer and service as a sign of support. Let them serve.
Addendum: A good sized crowd gathered in front of St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Palatine. We were positioned along Northwest Highway and were encouraged by cars and trucks honking as they saw the signs. We received many waves of approval.
Maria Goldstein led in prayer and Bible reading. We sang the servant song together.
What do you want of me, Lord
Where do you want me to serve you?
Where can I sing your praises?
I am your song.
Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord. Jesus, Jesus, you are the way.
You are the light in my darkness.
You are my strength when I’m weary.
You give me sight when I’m blinded.
Come see for me.
I am your song and servant,
Singing your praise like Mary.
Surrendered to your Spirit,
“Let it be done to me.”
We prayed for the protection of conscience rights:
Father, we praise you and thank you
For your most precious gift of human life
And human freedom.
Touch the hearts of our law makers
with wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights
and religious liberty for all.
Protect all people from being forced to
Violate their moral and religious convictions.
In your goodness, guard our freedom
to live out our faith and
to follow you in all that we do.
Give us strength to be bold and joyful witnesses.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Every summer I visit Calumet, Michigan. At one time it was the center of the copper boom with a growing immigrant population. Both of my grandfathers emigrated from Finland and worked in the copper mines. I know that Calumet had many bars to serve the immigrant workers.
So it is with interest that I am reading Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. The saloons and bars were a place of escape for men working long hours in menial tasks.
That the proliferation of saloons was abetted by immigrants (usually German or Bohemian), largely for immigrants (members of those nationalities, but also Irish, Slavs, Scandinavians and many, many others), was not lost on the moralists of the WCTU [Woman’s Christian Temperance Union].*
The wellbeing of women and children was affected when a husband spent his paycheck on alcohol.
Various groups came together in a fight against drunkenness, supporting prohibition. The WCTU, the Anti-Saloon League and the Suffragettes joined together in the battle against alcohol consumption. I wonder if a fight for better working conditions might have helped men and their families—less use of alcohol?
In response the brewers and distillers organized against Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage. Women’s Suffrage became a target because the brewers believed that women would vote for Prohibition.
In 1906 a state suffrage amendment in Oregon was defeated when the brewers secretly enlisted Oregon’s saloonkeepers and hoteliers in an elaborate get-out-the-vote operation. Secrecy also prevailed when the USBA [Brewers Association] paid the nationally known suffragist Phoebe Couzins to repudiate her previous position . . . *
It is interesting to me that Finland gave women the vote in 1906 and the Netherlands in 1917. The United States did not give women the vote until 1920.
What a tangled web we weave as humans when we try to solve social problems. The money involved makes it more complex. Until 1913 when the income tax was instituted, the government depended on revenue from liquor sales.
In the New Testament Jesus does not confront government practices or politics. Instead he asks his followers to be a light to a confused and chaotic world.
You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14
Jesus also prays for his followers.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. John 17: 14-15
In this election year I see the need to spend more time in prayer, seeking God’s guidance. I can rest in the knowledge that Jesus is interceding for his people.
*Okrent, Daniel, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, New York; Scribner, 2010, pp. 26, 65