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.
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
This month our women’s Bible study is beginning a study of the covenants recorded in the Bible. Chapter 17 of Genesis records the covenant God made with Abram and Sarai. With the establishment of the covenant God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah.
Having recently been in the New Testament it brings to mind other name changes. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul. Each of these people were transformed for the role that God gave them.
The name changes indicate that something big was happening.
As I studied the use of the word covenant in Genesis, I was impressed by the references to future generations. The covenant was about a long view into the future.
Abram was 99 and Sarai was 90 when God gave them the promise of a son within a year. The promise was for them AND for the future. And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of people shall come from her.” Genesis 17: 15-16
The most important event in Abram and Sarai’s life was happening when they were well advanced in age. They were given a blessing not just for themselves, but for people in the future. Can we grasp a little bit of God’s perspective?
I have been chewing on this. It is easy to be focused on our personal life. The covenant takes in a bigger perspective, a blessing for many people. It is a perspective that looks long into the future.
We talk about the environment—it is good to take care of the earth—but it is even more important to care for the next generation. A spiritual heritage is central in God’s word.
I think about this as I spend time with our grandchildren. Our influence as moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents is urgently needed. The importance of guiding and teaching the next generation is recorded in Deuteronomy.
“You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, when you lie down and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11: 18-19
Prayer: O Lord, may we be faithful in teaching the next generation your word and your ways.
Through the women’s ministry at our church I have been able to watch some of the G3 conference, streaming live from Georgia. The topic of the conference is the Trinity, and I was pleased to listen to the preachers. All around us there is confusion about who God is, and about what the Bible says.
Our school district is dealing with confusion over male and female. Parents are holding meetings to find ways to protect the privacy of teenage girls. The federal government has mandated that a student with male anatomy be allowed to use the girl’s locker room, because he claims to be transgender. My children graduated from the high school that received this mandate. I recently wrote about a parent meeting. Click here.
Wheaton College, my daughter’s alma mater, is in the news for firing a tenured political science professor because she claimed that Moslems and Christians worship the same god. The controversy has been reported in the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. One article is titled “Are Allah and Jesus the Same God?”
The only way to know the character of God is through the life and work of Jesus and through the words in the Bible. It is tempting to think that we can completely understand God or aptly describe Him in human terms. God is greater, is superior to our knowledge. According to Tim Challies “we are going to the edge of our capacity to understand.” The following Bible verses give us insight.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1: 26-27
The triune God created the world.
Jesus said to them [Jews questioning him], “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Throughout the Old Testament the term, I am, referred to God.
In John 10: 30 Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.”
When my husband and I were on a tour of Israel we visited the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock is there. Our guide informed us that the mosque has an inscription: God has no son.
The Moslem religion denies the triune nature of God.
Jesus explained the Holy Spirit to the disciples.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14: 16-17
Tim Challies explained that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all involved in our salvation. God calls us; Jesus redeems us; the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Once we acknowledge our sin and accept Jesus as savior, we know the Trinity by experience.
As I listened and chewed on the message, I thought about the importance of Bible study. We need to know the Bible and to teach it to our families. We must make time to:
Read the Bible. It helps to study with other Christians.
The gospel of John is a great place to start. Many passages illuminate Jesus’ relationship with God the Father. John 20:31 gives the reason that the disciple recorded his observations. These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31
Memorize scripture. The AWANA program is great for children. Now as an adult it takes more effort to memorize but I am realizing the value of having verses on the tip of my tongue.
Teach the truth of the Bible to our families.
I appreciate the focus that Janis has on the Bible at Word of God Speak. Visit her site here.
Over the past couple weeks I have encountered Henry Wadsworth Longfellow twice. I picked up a coffee table book at a home I was visiting. The book had beautiful photos, enticing recipes and quotes from famous writers. One of the quotes was from Longfellow and I wrote it down. I was touched by his words about gardens. (The quote will appear in a future post.)
Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel, Christmas Bells, gives vignettes of Longfellow’s life. He encountered tragedy and lived through the pain and turmoil of the Civil War. Towards the end of the Civil War he wrote the poem, “Christmas Bells”. You may have heard it sung. The first line is “I heard the bells on Christmas Day . . .”
The scenes from Longfellow’s life are paired with the story of a modern day family. It was a little challenging for me to grasp the structure of the story at first. This modern story was composed of one scene viewed from the perspective of about six people. Each sees the events that take place a little differently during a children’s choir rehearsal. They are singing “Christmas Bells” of course.
I was really pleased to read the history behind the poem, “Christmas Bells” and I am inspired to read more of Longfellow’s poetry. Personal tragedy and the war almost drove the poet to despair, but he finished his poem with this stanza.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead: nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Note: The photo of the bells and the engraving of Longfellow are via Wikimedia Commons and are public domain.
Over the Christmas holidays my husband I traveled first to Michigan where we spent Christmas with my mother, sister and brother. After a brief interlude at home we drove to a town west of St. Louis, Missouri. We rented a house near Lake Sherwood and all of our children and grandchildren joined us. We had some great family time during our four days together.
We had time for many conversations, a walk along the road, board games and a day of adventure at the City Museum in St. Louis. We took turns providing meals. I chose to make the family favorite meal, pasties—well, a favorite among the adults. The nice thing about this meal is that I was able to make the pasties ahead of time, freeze them and bring them along as a ready meal. I let them thaw in the refrigerator at our rental and then baked them for 40 minutes to heat them through. To appease the children I left the onions out of the pasties and included dill pickles as a side dish.
Pasties are a traditional meal in Upper Michigan. The copper miners would take these meat & potato filled pies with them for a meal in the mine. The shops in Upper Michigan still sell them. I have posted the recipe before, but here it is again.
3 C. flour
½ tsp. salt
2/3 C. shortening
1 egg yolk
½ C + 2 Tblsp. cold water
1 Tblsp. cider vinegar
Combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it appears as coarse crumbs.
Mix the egg yolk, water and vinegar. Gradually add this to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork. Mix just until it holds together. If needed, add additional water a tablespoon at a time.
Divide the dough into six portions and roll out each portion to a 9” circle.
1 lb. round steak, diced or coarsely ground
1 C. rutabaga, chopped
½ C. finely chopped onion
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 rounded tsp. salt
Place a generous cup of filling on half of each dough circle. Fold the other half of dough over the filling and crimp the edges. Place the pasties on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve hot.
If you are planning to freeze the pasties and reheat them later, the bake time can be reduced to 50 minutes.
The dill pickles were a hit. I made them using cucumbers from one sister’s garden, garlic from another sister’s garden and dill from my garden. I came across the recipe for a small batch of pickles here.
The violins, piano and voices of the choir gave a beautiful rendition of an old German carol. I was swept away from the news reports and troubles in our community. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
Here are the lyrics to this carol, Lo How A Rose:
Low, how a rose e’er blooming From tender stem hath sprung Of Jesse’s lineage coming As saints of old hath sung.
It came a flower bright, Amid the cold of winter. When half spent was the night.
Isaiah foretold it. The rose I have in mind. With Mary we behold it The virgins mother kind.
To show God’s love aright She bore to us a Savior When half spent was the night, When half spent was the night.
O Rose, whose fragrance tender With sweetness fills the air, Dispel in glorious splendor The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God. From sin and death now save us And share our every load.
Alleluia, Alleluia Alleluia, Alleluia Sing alleluia
The apostle Peter knew much about the troubles in this world. He had walked with Jesus and had seen the crucifixion. He saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord. He had shared a meal with Jesus after the resurrection. He was there when Jesus instructed the disciples to make disciples of all nations. Peter had been in prison for his faith and from his experiences he wrote:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxious cares on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5: 6-7
We have so much to celebrate! Tomorrow night we will go to our grandchildren’s Christmas program. Each year adds new memories. I still remember the Christmas programs that I participated in as a child. It is a blessing to see the grandchildren singing carols and reciting scripture verses.
The school board in my town met, and the community was invited. The federal government—specifically the Office of Civil Rights— has demanded that a transgender student be given full access to female locker rooms and restrooms.
The meeting place, a high school cafeteria, was packed. Seats extended to the back wall and people were standing at both sides of the room. The meeting was intended for residents of the school district but a large contingent of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community from the surrounding towns and city of Chicago showed up. They were carrying placards and wearing stickers in support of the transgender student.
Attendees were allowed to sign up for a 3-minute speaking slot, to express their opinion to the school board. When the first three speakers were from the LGBT group a gentleman called for a point of order. He walked toward the front of the room and stated that speakers should be living in the school district. The school board president asked him to sit down or be escorted out of the room.
My heart ached as one transgender or adult homosexual partner after another testified to the pain in their life. And when a teenage girl said that she had just discovered that she was bisexual, she was given a round of applause.
A doctor said that it is impossible to distinguish the gender of an individual from their anatomy. Instead there are some internal markers. Really?
Teenage girls stood up to explain their discomfort and the awkwardness of having a transgender student in the locker room when they shower and change for swimming class.
Fathers spoke up in defense of their daughters. Teenage girls have a right to privacy.
One speaker for the LGBT community said that times have changed. The standards that we once had no longer exist. It is a new age.
The air was heavy and I tried to pray.
An article titled Educating for the Kingdom by Gerhard Cardinal Müller is in the current issue of Plough. Müller writes:
Rather, education is the entrusting of a gift from one generation to the next. The older generation’s accumulated culture, learning and skills are given as an unearned gift to the younger. But this gift also carries a responsibility: the younger generation must make the gift a reality in their own lives.
Overnight I have been wrestling with thoughts about the meeting. Families are breaking down. Divorce and single parent families are common. Children are susceptible to deception. We are experiencing spiritual warfare. Images from the Lord of the Rings come to mind. Remember the black riders? They were trying to get Frodo. In place of Frodo, I could visualize them seeking to destroy the family.
Pray for families.
Pray for the teens that are seeing so many distorted versions of sexuality.
Pray for wisdom, compassion and kindness in sharing the truth of God’s design of the family. God is good, and His ways are for our benefit.
Friday night we had our first snowfall and by Saturday evening up to a foot of snow had fallen in some areas. We had a family event, celebrating our son-in-law’s 50th birthday. The roads were open but snow packed and icy in places. The scene was beautiful. Snow coated the trees, making a white wonderland.
Will the snow last through Thanksgiving? The children would be delighted. The forecast is for warming temperatures this week.
Happy Thanksgiving to friends in the U.S. and best wishes to all!