Love and weddings in these stressful times – a story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For young people in love

Coming home from another stressful trip to the grocery store, the music on the radio turned to love and nostalgia.  It made my heart feel weepy and my thoughts turn to other days of stress and turmoil long past when young people were in love.  Just as there were in those days, there are today so many young couples who would like to get married, and so many long planned weddings that were to take place this summer, but big weddings have all been put on hold.  Maybe romantic movies have changed our expectations of what a wedding should be, but I would like to tell you a different story.  It ain’t about the weddings, my darlin’s.

To Ken and Marie

My parents were young and in love in the early 1940’s.  Dad joined the army before Pearl Harbor.  He had aspirations to be a pilot, but a small problem with color blindness kept him from it.  In the early spring of 1942, he proposed to my mother, his Marie, by long distance phone call one day when she got home from work.  He had sent the ring to Mom’s mother, but Mom had already intercepted the package and knew what he was going to say and what her answer would be.  There was no time for long engagements then.  Pearl Harbor had come and gone and there were plans for Dad’s unit to be shipped overseas.  A quick and simple wedding was all that could be arranged.  To marry her sweetheart, her Ken, Mom bought a new blue suit and traveled to North Carolina by train with her mother and best friend.

The day of the wedding was a day of torrential downpours and it also just happened to be the first day of gas rationing.  Dad had forgotten to fill up and they ran out of gas on the way to the church.  Someone helped them out, but the new blue suit got wet.  At the church, they had to hop over a puddle in the middle of the center aisle.  They each had one attendant.  Mom’s maid of honor was her best friend, her brother’s wife.  Dad’s best man was a friend from the army.  My grandmother and the priest were the only others there.  They got married, spent a couple of days together and then Mom had to go back to Michigan with her mother.  Not long after that, Dad got orders to ship out to England.  So Mom went back to North Carolina to see him before he left.  So many of the guys had their wives visiting them that there was no place to stay.  Most of the young couples, my parents included, spent the night in the woods near the base.  The second night, someone Dad knew arranged for a room for them.  Then he was off to England, and Mom went back home to spend the war years with her parents and her sister-in-law.  My parents did not see each other again for two years.

While working and crying on each other’s shoulders, Mom and her best friend, my aunt Mary Ann, waited anxiously for the letters to come and for any good news about the war.  Dad was not in immediate danger because he had done shorthand and typing during his high school years and so he spent the war as a secretary, traveling first to England, and then eventually to the Rock of Gibraltar and Italy.  His unit helped to plan the invasion of North Africa and then he was with the British in Italy.

Returning from the war in 1944, they finally had a honeymoon in New York City.  Life after the war was also difficult, but they began their family, bought a house on the GI Bill, and made a life for themselves.  Their marriage lasted for 75 years until Mom passed away two years ago at the age of 96.  Dad is now 99 and misses his “Marie” every single day.  In their elder years, they always held hands as you see in the picture above.  Their marriage survived economic hardships, the crazy sixties and seventies, sons in the army in Vietnam and Thailand, illnesses, caring for elderly parents, marriages, grandchildren and so much more.

So, you see, love is more than a wedding.  Love is a lifetime commitment to uphold each other, encourage each other, see the best in each other, help with the worst in each other and maintain an everlasting faith in the God who brought you two together and who will get you through the worst and the best that life has to offer no matter which way the road leads you.  And in the end of it all, you will look back and be astounded at all the way that the Lord has led you.  A wedding without love is just a party and a big waste of money, but love, even without a big wedding, will stand the test of time and keep you feeling young at heart all of your life.  Yes, you will cry and yes, you will laugh, but most of all, your love will continually grow.

Don’t be afraid to marry your sweetheart even in troubling times.

Independence? Selfishness?

We Americans have an independent streak.  Is that a truth or an understatement?!  Personally, this quality of ours often stares me in the face because I have been teaching students from other countries for many years.  Did you ever know that people in some other countries consider the group to be more important than the individual?  Therefore, they make their decisions based on what is best for the group.  In their countries, it would be rude and shameful to do something that would hurt the group, whether that group is the local town or the entire country.  With the best of intentions, that could be a very good quality, but in the worst of times, it could also have very bad results.  In the U.S., our independence is our greatest strength, and yet it can also be our downfall.  How can this be?

It is our greatest strength when we rely on our intuition and inner strength to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps when we’re down.  In our personal life, it is our greatest strength when we search inside ourselves for solutions to our problems.  We don’t want to burden anyone with having to take care of us, so we try to remain independent for as long as we can.  In our economic world, we forge ahead and create new businesses through entrepreneurship.  In technology and science, we are not held back by previous ideas and traditions.  In all of these situations, our independence has helped to build our country into a strong nation.

However, it also becomes our downfall since it easily turns into selfishness.  This virus situation gives us an amazing view into this independent world of ours.  Most of us are willing to stay home so that this disgusting disease will spare our elders and our loved ones.  Perhaps we have seen its ravages in either friends, family or acquaintances.  Others of us will not be told what to do.  Wear a face mask in order to protect others from getting sick just in case we are unknowingly infected with this virus?  Not on your life.  Even fist fights are breaking out over refusals to just put on a face mask.  Stay away from public places?  Forget it.  We have our rights to congregate by the thousands in beaches and parks.  Stay home for the good of our elderly, our families and health care workers?  Fahgeddaboudit!  “I want to go to the mall and I will do what I want to do when I want to do it.”  We go to the state capitol and protest for our rights when we don’t want to be told by anybody what we should do, even screaming into the faces of those who are employed to protect us, our police force.

Martin Luther had a different idea.  He wrote a letter to his friend, the Rev. Dr. John Hess in 1527 when the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe.  In his letter, he demonstrated this amazing attitude: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Many of us are reaching deep into whatever strength we can muster up in order to work together towards a common goal of eliminating this “thing.”  I believe that many of us do have Martin Luther’s attitude of avoiding “places and persons where my presence is not needed.”  We are rallying behind our health care workers, our leaders, our teachers, and other public servants who are doing their best to keep our country whole and healthy.  Let’s try to demonstrate this attitude daily and pray for those who don’t have it.

 

The Earth gets a rest

And on the seventh day, God rested.  I wonder what God did when He rested!  Here on earth we always think about doing.  Most of the time we “do” stuff even when we’re resting.  We’re reading or watching TV or out walking.  Maybe God just watched His creation for a while.  Sometimes we do that after we’ve made something, but we have a really hard time just resting.  There is always something going on in our world – traffic flowing, airplanes buzzing, jackhammers pounding, cement trucks rumbling, drills drilling, etc.

Scientists are reporting that because people are required to quarantine throughout most of the world, human activity has come to such a great halt that the earth’s crust is not shaking as much as normal.  It is quiet.  I never even knew that human activity could cause the earth’s crust to shake, just never even thought about it.  So, in spite of the increasing misery among humans, the earth is getting a rest.  Imagine that.  The earth is resting.  She has needed a rest for a long time.  God is always so kind.  He considered the earth in His early messages to mankind.  He provided for a rest for our earth every seven years.  Wow, when was the last time that happened?  Well, it’s happening to a very large extent now.

What does the earth do while it is resting?  It recovers.  It recovers from us and all of our non-stop activity.  Think of all the things that are recovering.  Apparently there is much less pollution throughout our earth.  The canals in Venice have cleared up.  Because fewer planes are in the air and fewer factories are producing smoke, there is much less air pollution.  There is less noise pollution in our cities and because there are fewer boats (think cruise ships!), the oceans are quieter.  Think of how happy that must make the dolphins, whales and other fish!  Maybe while we are stressing and praying, the earth is rejoicing.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-earth-pollution-noise/609316/

https://www.ecowatch.com/coronavirus-earth-shaking-less-2645628570.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

So, as we continue our social distancing from one another and as we continue praying for health and safety for our loved ones and our nations, let’s consider the earth.  Pray for her.  Let her rest and recover for a time.  And when our quarantine is over, let’s be kinder, not only to each other, but to one of God’s greatest gifts to us: our earth that we live on.  Stay well.

Hope, Spring and Resurrection!

With one grim news story after another, it has been hard to keep negativity at bay.  This afternoon, I was looking out my kitchen window while washing my hands for the umpteenth time.  The woodpeckers were pecking at the suet, a gentle spring rain was cleansing the landscape and a patch of bright yellow daffodils were lightly dancing in the gentle breeze.  Wow! I thought.  It’s spring!  Why did God allow all this to happen in the spring?

0414131347b

God is always looking for a closer relationship with each and every one of us.  We have forgotten Him and put Him in second (or third or last) place in our lives.  He wants to be first.  Is that selfish of Him?  Absolutely not.  When He is first in our lives, He can lead us in the way we should go.  He can show us the right way.  We do have free will, but our free will should guide us to choose the right way.  There is a right way and a wrong way.  The wrong way always leads us into trouble.  He wants the best for us, but individually and collectively, we have let Him down.  He’s not allowed in very many places at all any more.

People are fond of quoting this Scripture: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)  It’s one thing to quote it and shove it into people’s faces, kind of raw and self righteous, but it’s another thing to take it to myself.  Looking at myself, having a serious talk with God my Father and admitting my own issues.  I can be sure, 100% sure, that when I do the first part of this Scripture, God will always keep His promise and do the second part.  He is over the top reliable and dependable.

Sooo, why is this happening in spring?  Spring is the season of so many hopes.  The hope of warm weather.  The hope of a great garden this year.  The hope of quiet evenings out on the deck or afternoon picnics in the park.  We have a spiritual hope as well.  He will never leave us without hope.  “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”  (Matthew 12:20)  This is also the season of resurrection.  We can resurrect our connection with our Father.  He is always there to encourage and sustain us.  When we do the self reflection, the repentance, the restoration, He will absolutely hear from heaven, forgive us, and heal our land, both the personal “land” of our hearts and the land of our nation.  Let’s not take this time in quarantine lightly. Let’s use it to reconnect with Him.  We can resurrect His life in us.  Sincere best wishes for a fruitful (and healthy!) time of quarantine and a peaceful season of resurrection.

We all need a rest!

 

P1010252

This morning, the radio talk shows were all about the current issues with the corona virus.  Most of us have felt the impact of this national crisis this week, perhaps in many ways.  Elementary school classes are being cancelled for several weeks.  Universities are moving their classes to an online platform.  Most events are being cancelled, even professional sports games and championships.  Grocery stores are maxed out on certain apparently necessary items.  I was out doing my weekly (plus a little extra) grocery shopping this morning.  The stores were mobbed, but every single person was kind and polite.  No one was rushing around frantically taking cuts in lines or grabbing things off the shelves before others could get it.  It was very orderly and almost peaceful.  It was actually a nice kind of experience in simple human camaraderie.  We are all in this together.

On the way home, the local talk radio host remarked that when we were young, everything shut down on Sundays.  That brought me back to those days when banks, stores, gas stations, and just about every other kind of establishment except perhaps restaurants were closed on Sundays.  Only churches remained open and they were filled.  Sundays were mostly spent with family.  Our family dinner was always around 3:00 pm on Sundays and took several hours to prepare, after which we all enjoyed sitting down together and eating it at our leisure.  There was always conversation and many times laughter, but never a need to rush through it.

The talk show guy’s comments reminded me of a few Scriptures about the relationship between God and Israel.  God Himself was the first one to rest.  Genesis 2:2 tells us that after God finished his work of creating the earth and everything in it, He rested on the seventh day.  Then in Exodus 20:8 – 11, God included a day of rest in the Ten Commandments.  In Leviticus 25:1 – 4, the Lord laid out his requirements concerning sabbath days:

And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.  Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

In Leviticus 26:33 – 35, God explained what would happen if His people did not keep the sabbaths, and finally in 2 Chronicles 36:21, the Scriptures record that, in fact, God forced a sabbath of seventy years on the land of Israel by letting the people go into captivity and therefore leaving the land desolate for those seventy years.

Our modern life is so busy.  We are always doing something.  Whatever day we take for a sabbath no longer keeps us from working, shopping, doing business or doing anything we please.  Even the old “blue laws” have been voted out and you can buy alcohol any day of the week.  With smart phones and globalization, people can do business 24 hours a day, seven days a week … but is it good for us?  Most people are running ragged on just a few hours of sleep.  They have no time for meditative activities and no time for leisurely Sunday dinners with family.  Human beings require rest.  The land requires rest.  Even our machines require rest.

Have we once again forced God’s hand?  Is He forcing us to sit things out for a while and take a Sabbath?  Let’s make this a true sabbath.  Sit down, connect with God, our loving Father, and enjoy a pleasant Sabbath.  Happy Sabbath to you!  I hope that you are well and that you stay that way.  We can do this.  We can stop for a few weeks and let this thing pass over.  I wish you all the best as we rest and ride this out.

 

Rippling Effects

Most of us think that as long as our actions don’t bother anyone else, we can do whatever we want.  I hear people saying that.  “It doesn’t hurt anyone.”  Hmmm.  Or does it?!

We have a huge example staring the world in the face right now.  Although it’s not certain as to how the novel 19 coronavirus got started, some believe it jumped to humans when someone or some people ate a certain type of unclean creature.  You know what, God is waaaayy smarter than us, and He told us not to eat certain creatures.  I guess He had a terrific reason for saying that.  In any case, once that happened, that disease has affected the entire world in one way or another.  Businesses, schools, hospitals, travel disruptions, events cancelled, governments, mounting hysteria and a growing number of deaths.  The ripples just spread further and further out.

There are so many more examples.  One person discards a cigarette in a dry forest.  One person decides to clear all the trees off of his/her property.  Another person, too lazy to follow correct disposal protocol, pours his bottle of chemicals in a local stream.  It all ripples out.  Our actions, large and small, some even apparently insignificant, do affect others.  We are all one family with common DNA.  We are all affected.

Consider something so small as a smile.  One person smiles at another.  That person leaves feeling a little better and smiles at someone else and that person goes to work humming, which in turn affects the whole atmosphere of the workplace.  Because of the warm welcome a visiting businessman receives, the company gets a new contract with a company in India and then more people in that country are smiling because they have jobs.  It all ripples out.

If my actions are going to affect people that I have never even heard of in a far distant place, wouldn’t it behoove me to mediate my behavior to make sure that I am benefiting my distant brothers and sisters?  We are all responsible for our actions.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Just think of how that will ripple out through our world!

Take heart in 2020

Daniel was a much beloved man of God.  In the book that bears his name, the mighty king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had a strange dream.  In it he saw a large statue with a head of gold, the upper torso of silver, the lower torso of bronze, its legs of iron and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  What potter would try to make a statue with feet of iron and clay?  How can those two materials adhere to one another?  As Nebuchadnezzar watched, a stone was cut out of a mountain without any hand doing it and it began to roll down the hill, gaining speed as it went.  It reached those feet and smashed them into pieces.  This brought down the whole statue and it was all completely broken in pieces.  It says that the pieces of it were like the chaff of a summer threshing floor and it all blew away in the wind so that no trace of it could be found.  However, that stone grew and became a great mountain and filled up the entire earth.

We can clearly see that the Scriptures show that this supernatural stone will begin rolling during a time when there is a kingdom in power that does not adhere to itself.  It is one part this and one part that, a divided kingdom, partly strong, partly brittle.  We know from the gospels that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.  The kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision will be blown away so completely that there will be no traces left of it.  You can imagine the stone gathering momentum as it rolls down the mountain until it smashes into the divided kingdom and destroys every single aspect of it.  It is also not hard to see that there is so much turbulence in our world today.  We see it everyday in the news.  No one can agree about anything.  Politics has become very personal with each side calling the other “haters.”  Around the world, political opponents are not getting anything done because they are completely divided; they cannot agree on even the smallest detail.

Those of us who love the Lord need to take heart.  If we are already living in the time of the iron and clay feet, then we should know that the stone is also either being cut out of the mountain or it is already rolling down the hill, ready to smash into those toes and destroy them.  Despite this vision of complete destruction, it is not a vision to create despair.  Nebuchadnezzar’s dream does not end in despair, does it.  In the end, Daniel describes the kingdom of the stone that grew as a kingdom set up by God Himself that will never be destroyed nor will it be left to another people.  If we love God, we’re going to love His kingdom.  It’s beautiful.  People get along in it.  They love one another and never want to see their brothers or sisters hurt.

God’s kingdom is coming.  Is today the day?  We don’t know the answer to the question of when our physical world will change.  It is not given to a man to know the times and seasons.  Only God knows that.  However, every single day that stone is crashing into my kingdom.  It’s destroying what I thought was gold, but is in reality just dross.  God’s kingdom is destroying all of the idols that I once held dear.  It is smashing all of the pieces of my life that don’t adhere with God’s life.  Just like in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, there will be no trace found of those former parts of my life.  His Spirit will blow them all away.  I have not really lost anything because in the place of those things, that living stone, Jesus, is creating within me a kingdom that is pure and ready to be filled with love for all that belongs to God.  Each one of us has to allow that process to happen to us.  God is kind and doesn’t smash everything at once.  He leads us one step at a time to tear down the old life, remove the sins and build up his life.  Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within and when we allow Him to create His kingdom within us, we are getting ready to live with Him in that beautiful kingdom that will never be destroyed.  What we need to do as this process churns in our lives is to maintain our love, faith and trust in the one, true, living God.  He is above all and yet in all.

I wish you a very happy new year and may you grow in God this year and may His Kingdom grow to be strong in your lives, a strength that will never be destroyed or given to another.