Marriage then and now…

I updated this blog that I sent out last year. The 48 things I love about Gloria remain the same. I added one more (in bold print) in honor of our 49th.

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Marriage then . . . June 26, 1971, a date that will live in infamy -wait, that was Pearl Harbor. Let me start over: a date that will live forever in memory. A day when a 22-yr old woman (a beauty) and a 24-yr old guy (add any adjective or noun that is appropriate) said their vows to each other. Those vows did not announce how much they were in love on that day, but the vows were commitments made that they would, by God’s Immeasurable Grace, love each other “until they laid each other in the arms of God.”

Marriage now…June 26, 2019           

49 Things I Love About My Wife, GLORIA

G   od-lover, great (wonderful) grandma, giver, glad to help others, grateful when people help her, good cook, genuine servant, gold and diamonds are not important, glued to her marriage “until death do us part”

L oves her husband and kids and is loved by them, longs for meaningful conversation, loves to explore and take back roads, loses things but they usually turn up (just found car keys in coat pocket after 3 yrs), likes to stay up late but not get up early, lavish prayers said daily on behalf of her kids and grandkids, loyal to her marriage vows especially the “in sickness and in health” part

O pines (expresses an opinion) often, outdoor girl, oversees our plants and flowers, overlooks her husband’s faults, opens her home to the stranger and refugee, open-handed to those in need, oppressed by the computer, observes carefully whatsapp messages from kids about the grandkids, overwhelmed by the thought of selling our house and moving (but we did it, and made the move from West Chicago to Lancaster, Pa in early January)

R ank means nothing, raspberry lover (especially black raspberry pie), reads good books (especially about missions and biography), redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, regularly reflects on God’s Word, rather not do housework, really rather be hiking or kayaking, regrets living so far away from her new grandson in Switzerland, reads idiots guide to understand financial stuff, reaches out to people in need with offers to help in any way she can—she is a Christ-like servant

I nterested in just about everything having to do with her kids and grandkids, intelligent, incurious about sports (except baseball), inflexible in her convictions, initiates conversations with strangers and prayer with her husband

A   lways faithful, always supportive of her husband, asks a few questions once in awhile, an accomplished pianist and marimbist, appreciates working together on anything, always likes apple butter, an amazing ESL teacher, age has enhanced her beauty, a woman who fears the Lord

CHECK OUT 5 new episodes of the classic story Pilgrim’s Progress part 2 – click on the menu portion of any blog…

Happy Juneteenth to All Americans!

Today is Junetheenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the US, and yet, many white Americans are completely oblivious to its significance. Such a small thing (lack of knowledge) indicates a continuing large racial divide in our country. Certainly Black Lives Matter protests are continuing for a reason, and part of that reason is to educate white America to a part of its history completely ignored.

June 19, 1865 marks the day when Union Army General Gordon Granger delivered the news in Galveston, TX, that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. This was 2 1/2 yrs. after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on June 1, 1863. Granger’s formal announcement read:

In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the U.S. (refers to Lincoln though he had already been assassinated), all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.

While the controversial 13th Amendment abolishing slavery had already been ratified, it did not end slavery. And while this Juneteenth announcement was made freeing all slaves, it is more accurate to say that it was the day the slaves were told they were free—not the day they were freed. That would take many more painful decades of discrimination and persecution. When slave owners first heard this announcement, most did not tell their slaves until after the harvest was finished. And for the slaves who tried to act on their newly announced liberation, many were caught and hanged by their white owners.

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an African-American (bi-racial) of significant stature in American history. He was a lawyer, novelist, poet, and songwriter. He was to literature what W.E.B. Du Bois was to education and intellectual pursuits, and Booker T. Washington was to science and technology. Johnson was the first African-American consul to Venezuela and then to Nicaragua. He was also the first African-American president of the NAACP. He wrote a very interesting book in 1912 called “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.” He also wrote a poem in 1900 that was set to music by his younger brother, John, in 1905, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which has come to be referred to as The Black National Anthem. Someone has said that this anthem about the abolition of slavery could be describing the freedom of the Black body, as well as of the White Soul. Here are the lyrics:

Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
.

God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
.

If you want to listen to it sung (beautifully, I might add) use this link:

God Has a Greater Interest in Me, Than I Have in Myself…

I’m getting chemo right now and reading a portion of a book that I would like to share with you. The book was written by Thomas Brooks and is titled, “A Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod of God: Comfort for Suffering Saints,” originally published in 1659. Here it is:

You have a greater interest in me, than I have in myself. The godly one gives himself up to God. The secret language of the soul is this,“Lord, here am I; do with me what You please, I give up myself to be at Your disposal.”

There was a good woman, who, when she was sick, being asked whether she were willing to live or die, answered, “Whichever God pleases. ”But, said one who stood by, “If God would refer it to you, which would you choose?” “Truly,” said she, “if God would refer it to me, I would even refer it right back to Him again.” This was a soul worth gold.

“Well,” says a gracious soul, “The ambitious man gives himself up to his honors, but I give up myself unto God. The voluptuous man gives himself up to his pleasures, but I give up myself to God. The covetous man gives himself up to his bags of money, but I give up myself to God. The wanton man gives himself up to his lust, but I give up myself to God. The drunkard gives himself up to his cups, but I give up myself to God. . . .The heretic gives up himself to his heretical opinions, but I give up myself to God.

Lord! Lay what burden You will upon me, only let Your everlasting arms be under me!” Strike, Lord, strike, and spare not; for I submit to Your will. You have a greater interest in me, than I have in myself; and therefore I give up myself unto You, and am willing to be at Your disposal, and am ready to receive whatever impression You shall stamp upon me. O blessed Lord! Have you not again and again said unto me, as once the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, “I am yours, and all that I have is yours” (1Kings 20:4).

God says, “I am yours, O soul, to save you!

My mercy is yours to pardon you-

My blood is yours to cleanse you!

My merits are yours to justify you!

My righteousness is yours to clothe you!

My Spirit is yours to lead you!

My grace is yours to enrich you!

My glory is yours to reward you!”

“And therefore,” says a gracious soul, “I cannot but make a resignation of myself unto You. Lord! Here I am, do with me as seems good in Your own eyes. I resign up myself to Your will.”

Amen!

Observations: Abraham’s Negotiating with God

I am sitting in a dark room in the hospital waiting for a PET scan, after being injected with radioactive dye. This scan will literally “light up” all the areas of my body that are infected by cancer. It will give a definitive view of where I am at after 3 years of living with this disease. Sometimes it is hard to know what to pray for at times like this. There is the human tendency to want to negotiate with God—”Lord, could you give me 5 more years . . . how about 3 . . . maybe 2?” Is it wrong to do this? I guess it all depends on if, in the end, we are willing to accept God’s answer.

Abraham is an example of someone who negotiated with God in prayer. In Genesis 19, we see the angel of Lord telling Abraham that he is about ready to destroy the city of Sodom because of its great wickedness. Abe is alarmed because his nephew Lot and family are living there. So he begins to negotiate with God about the baseline number of righteous people there would need to be living in Sodom before the Lord would stay his hand of judgment. Abraham starts high with 50 people- just 50 righteous people, Lord, is that too much to ask for you to stay your hand of judgment.” God “relents” and is willing to reconsider all the way down to 10—sounds like an Amish auction! It seems like God just can’t make up his mind and Abe is setting the agenda for prayer. Certain theologians and others who struggle with God’s sovereignty love this, because it seems to show that while God has a plan, it is set in wet cement allowing for input and adjustments.

Observation: Then the negotiations just end. And the angel of the Lord departs and it’s all over for Sodom. Why? What is going on here—why didn’t Abraham keep going down to 4 (Lot and his wife and their 2 daughters)? There were at least 4 righteous ones, right? Wait a minute, only 4? Ahhh . . . then the light bulb moment. Abraham comes around to realize what God is doing. Abe thinks: Wow, Sodom really is wicked— only 4 righteous ones and they don’t even belong there because they are my family? That city does deserve judgment and God is perfectly just in doing destroying it!

Thus, what initially looked like God relenting or changing his mind turned out to be a way of bringing Abe around to his way of thinking. We see a similar strategy (for an opposite reason) that God used with Jonah after Nineveh was spared judgment, and Jonah is beside himself with anger because God showed mercy. God grew up a plant to offer shade from the burning sun while the sulking prophet just sat there waiting for God to come around to his way of thinking. Then God used a little worm to destroy the plant which made Jonah angry, but showed him that he was more concerned for his own comfort than he was for the thousands in Nineveh who had just repented.

Someone once said that Jonah waited beneath the comfort of his shade-plant for God to come around to his way of thinking, while God destroyed Jonah’s comfort and waited for him to come around to his (God’s) way of loving.

Application: We tend to look at prayer as a way of getting things from God —and we are enjoined to ask, seek, knock. However, when prayer is just asking we often grow frustrated when the answers are not immediately forthcoming or not according to our expectations. The experience of Abraham (and to a certain extent, Jonah) shows us that God often uses the process of prayer (be asking, be seeking, be knocking) to bring us around to his way of thinking; to understand his mind and perspective on things. In prayer then, God often changes us to see what he sees and then ask for what he wants.

And so, Lord, you have heard my prayer (as well as the prayers of many others) concerning the outcome of these scans. I’ve asked you for the things that I want, but you have convinced my heart that this whole situation is not about me and my longevity. It is about you and what you want for my life and the faith of those around me. It is about you being glorified in my body whether by life or by death. I’m not sure I even understand what that means, but you have brought me to the place where that is what I want. I am in your hands; I bless you, I trust you, and I worship you my Father. Amen.

Thoughts on Racism…

I am reposting this blog that I wrote back on November 8, 2019, before the recent events that have triggered our national discussion on race. I hope you read it again with new eyes and find it helpful…

There was an article in the Daily Herald (Chicago) this week about a group of 18 mostly African-American folks being asked to change tables at a local Buffalo Wild Wings because some regular “white” customers didn’t want the group to sit near them. This racist request was reported and 2 managers were fired. Some people were calling for a boycott of BWW until safeguards such as sensitivity training for all employees , etc. were put in place.

It is true that we don’t know the whole story, which doesn’t call the incident into question, but it does raise the question of why such a thing continues to happen over and over again after so much publicity and media attention. Racism is defined as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race/ethnicity based upon the belief that one’s own race is superior.” I think that this is too narrow a definition. While such feelings of racial superiority can be part of the mix, I believe that the underlying causes for racism are far more complex and deceitful.

In Numbers 12, there is an account of an older sister, Miriam, and a younger brother, Aaron, criticizing their brother, Moses, for marrying a Cushite woman. Cush was a region of southern Ethiopia, where dark-skinned people lived. “Can an Ethiopian (same word translated “Cushite”) change his skin or a leopard his spots? Then also you can [not] do good who are accustomed to evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). As an aside: Moses had married a Midianite woman, Zipporah, 40 years earlier whom he had met in the Sinai region after his escape from Pharaoh. The Midianites were originally from northern Arabia, but many had migrated to Sinai. Reading between the lines, it could be that Zipporah had died (or that she had left him again like she did in Ex 4:18-20) and was living with her father’s family back in the Sinai. Either way, Moses’ new wife was not Zipporah. I doubt that Miriam and Aaron would have complained about her after 40 years.

So the sibs criticized Moses for marrying a black woman, who was not an Israelite. The text implies that Miriam took the lead in this family dispute. We would call this racism, but the way the story is unfolds in the text, racial superiority was not what prompted the slur. The underlying cause for this racially motivated criticism was jealousy (especially Miriam’s) of Moses’ leadership position and the belief that she could totally do a better job. God punished Miriam severely by striking her with leprosy that turned her skin “white.” John Piper suggests that in Numbers 12:10 God is in effect saying, “you like being light-skinned Miriam? I’ll make you white as snow.” She was not punished for being a racist but, because she was jealous of Moses and criticized the leadership of someone whom God had appointed. Aaron confessed his sin and wasn’t punished, while Moses prayed for his sister’s healing and was heard.

This text is not only a study of how a leader handles criticism (with humility and restraint), but also informs us that there are deeper reasons for the sin of racism than just an attitude of “racial supremacy.” Racism can also be caused by a heart of jealousy, of fear, of inferiority, or of just going along with the crowd in order to be accepted. As we have seen in the case of the Holocaust, Hitler made the Jewish race a scapegoat for the problems of the nation. There could be that same blame-shifting racism among some white people who see law and order as being disrupted by immigration protests trying to populate this country with more of the “foreign element” and people who don’t “look like” they belong here. A case in point is the story of the 61 yr. old white man in Milwaukee who was arrested over this past weekend for throwing battery acid in the face of an Hispanic man while shouting, “why did you come here and invade my country?”

Sins of the heart cannot be punished by human law, but it is fairly obvious that ignoring the deeper issues of racism only adds to the problem. Certainly a society must bring law into the picture in order to protect racial and ethnic minorities from oppression and hate crimes, but, at the same time, it cannot ignore the place of faith as a part of the solution for the racial divide, because it is the function of religion (not law) to address issues of the heart. Thus instead of criticizing religion, society should encourage the practices of religious communities to challenge their membership to live out their faith and not in contradiction to it—especially as it relates to racial issues.

Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). He also told his disciples that you’ll be able to recognize the true and the false adherents to religion by their fruits, because a healthy tree cannot produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce the good. (Matthew 7:15–20)

I believe that only a person in whose heart God has worked through the miracle of new birth, because of faith in Jesus Christ, can be changed from a racist to a “gracist.” This change does not occur overnight, but there should be an immediate desire for racial reconciliation and a growing attitude of repentance that will ultimately lead to change from the inside out. This repentance along with a humility to learn from those of different ethnicities, will bring healing to the deeper issues of the heart which often cause racial conflict, which Miriam and Aaron so vividly exemplified.

As Christian faith-communities we must continue to preach repentance and faith in Jesus, as well as to demonstrate justice, mercy, and humility to all people regardless of race or ethnicity. (Micah 6:8) It is time for followers of Jesus “to put up or shut up” when it comes to the racial divide in this country—to act like him, to love like him, or else they might prove to be false followers filled with self-deceit. Jesus once said something that should make us all shudder and fall on our knees in humble self-examination: “When that day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out devils in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them to their face, ‘I never knew you: out of my sight, you and your wicked ways!'” (Matthew 7:22, 23 NEB)