Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, March 26, 2021

Two Visions, One Cross

George Bennard, son of a tavern owner, was born in Ohio in 1873. At the age of 22, Bennard stepped into the Christian faith through the ministry of the Salvation Army. By 1898, he was a traveling evangelist. He held revival meetings until his retirement more than 30 years later.

While speaking at one of these meetings in Michigan in 1912, Bennard was heckled mercilessly by several youth. In his deep concern for these boys, he reflected on the cross of Jesus as recorded in scripture.

“I seemed to have a vision,” he reported. “I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable.”

Bennard’s vision led him to write the first verse of a new hymn. Several months later, he added three more verses. Its first performance, in the living room of a pastor in Pokagon, Michigan, moved its audience to tears. On June 7, 1913, the hymn was incorporated into a revival service for the first time, with guitar accompaniment.

The church in which they met was a former hops barn. Today, that building welcomes thousands of visitors each year. It’s owned by a non-profit group called The Old Rugged Cross Foundation. You can guess why.

Fast forward to November of 2020. Jules Glanzer, President of Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, is in an ICU ward fighting Covid-19. While still recovering, he was able to write about his amazing experience in an article that appeared in the Christian Leader online magazine on February 1, 2021.

“I was standing in front of a very large cross, rising hundreds of feet into the air, square wood and brown in color. It was blocking everything. I sensed that behind me was the world and everything that pertained to living on earth. I had an incredible sense of total forgiveness, deep assurance of salvation and a peaceful serenity.

“It was clear that this was the cross of Jesus. It was not a pretty cross.

“I remember thinking, ‘Everything in this world ends at the cross. The gate of heaven is a cross.’ I sensed that if I stepped into the cross, I would be on the other side and that I would see Jesus.”

Glanzer wrote about how 2020 and his Covid-19 experience has motivated him to reset his life based on five words that were impressed upon his heart: contentment, gratitude, simplicity, smallness and focused.

Jules Glanzer is married to my husband’s cousin, so I read his story with great interest. It brought to mind George Bennard’s vision and hymn. “The Old Rugged Cross” remains one of the most cherished hymns of the Christian faith, especially on Good Friday. You can find it in most hymnals and recorded by numerous contemporary Christian artists. 

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Spring Cleaning 101

Way back in the late 1900’s, when our cubs still lived with us and I only thought I knew what tired felt like, I used to spring clean. Every April. I’d dedicate a whole day to each room, one day after the other, until I’d made my way from one end of our home to the other. And boy, did I have a system!

Step 1: Starting as early in the morning as possible, put supper in the crock pot and crank up some inspiring music. Find a garbage bag for discard items and a box for donations.

Step 2: Strip the room of everything you can carry. Pictures, lamps, books, ornaments—all go to a different room. Anything that can go through the washer—curtains, blankets, cushions, throw rugs—does, and then hangs on the clothesline the rest of the day.

Step 3: If the room includes cupboards, closets, or drawers, do those first, one at a time. Empty, clean, replace contents in a tidy fashion.

Step 4: Go around wiping down walls, windows, baseboards, light fixtures, furniture, and finally, the floor. At this point maybe rearrange furniture for something different.

Step 5: One by one, clean each item taken out of that room and return it to its place. Except, of course, discards and donations.

Step 6: Return the items from the clothesline to their rightful places. Haul out the trash and load the donation box into the car. Call it a day. Enjoy supper and a clean room. (Until the cubs tramp through with muddy feet … or squish a mosquito on the wall … or press noses up against windows.)

My system was ingenious, really. An effective cure for which there is no known disease.

Then the cubs left and found dens of their own. We moved. Springs began to come around faster and faster. One day I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d performed my annual ritual.

This year, with nowhere to go, I devised a plan to tackle the spring cleaning once again. I counted rooms and Saturdays. If I started in mid-February and devoted one Saturday to each room, I could finish by the May long weekend when it’ll be time to focus on garden and yard work. I even allowed myself two Saturdays for the kitchen.

By the end of my first Saturday, I’d finished four cupboards and felt like I’d lost a wrestling match with Mr. Clean. And that was with a nap. Twenty cupboards remained, not to mention the fridge and stove. At this rate, spring cleaning would take me all year. Granny warned me old age ain’t no place for sissies.

The next Saturday, I cleaned about half the remaining cupboards. I was never this stiff and sore at the end of my cleaning sessions back in the day.

The third Saturday, I finished the kitchen and vowed never to clean my oven—or any oven—again, as long as I live. SO not worth it. (By the way, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is NOT from the Bible.)

I moved on to the bathroom the next Saturday and felt a bit less weary afterward. Do you think my stamina is increasing?

Last Saturday, I tackled the living/dining room. Since the furniture in that room is “one arrangement only,” I told hubby I’d love fresh flowers for the table and then said, “Oh, what a nice surprise!” when he brought some home.

If I survive the rest of my spring cleaning, I think I’ll create a new, one-step system: When the urge to clean surfaces, lie down until the urge goes away.

Psalm 51:10. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”



Friday, March 12, 2021

Saying Grace, Part 2 of 2


In my online query about mealtime prayers, my friend Amanda told me of a time she served her kids a quinoa-based meal which was met with gross faces and complaints. As a joke, she made up this prayer on the fly and she and her kids have been saying it at lunch ever since:

“Thank you, Jesus, for this food,
Help us be kind, and not be rude.
Thanks for hands that help us eat,
Whoever complains can kiss my feet.”

Don’t you love it?

I learned that ethnicity plays a big role in our mealtime prayers. Two friends, both from a Dutch background, said they prayed before and after a meal. Before they ate, they’d say, “Lord bless this food and drink for Jesus’ sake, amen.” After the meal, it was, “Lord thank you for this food and drink for Jesus’ sake, amen.”

One person shared with me a cartoon where a little boy is asking his friend if his family prays before they eat. The other kid answers, “No. We’re Ukrainian. My mom knows how to cook.”

Several friends from a Mennonite background told me that praying aloud was not something they were taught to do, only silent prayers. When at family gatherings at her grandparents’ home, they prayed before and after the meal, also in silence. Dorothy told me, “I asked my mom why and what would the prayer be? She didn’t know. I guess it was one of those things you just did and didn’t ask any questions.”

Speaking of asking questions, I watched a movie recently where a character recited a familiar prayer: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful.”

I’ve certainly heard that one before, but now it made me wonder something. The prayer implies that God has to make us grateful, as though gratitude is not a response we can choose for ourselves. If that were true, why would scripture instruct us, “In everything, give thanks?” (I Thessalonians 5:18) Not all our prayers carry the best theology.

When my children were preschoolers, our church ran a program called “LIFT” where women came together for a morning of activities, study, and prayer while their children attended their own program. My kids and I loved participating, but they came home singing a new prayer that really raised my eyebrows at first. Have you heard it?

“Oh, the Lord is good to me. And so I thank the Lord; For giving me the things I need, the sun, and the rain, and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.” The catchy tune made me smile, and I found no fault with the words. But where I’d been taught to pray in Jesus’ name, this prayer ended with, “Johnny Appleseed, Amen.”

I’m sure I gasped out loud the first time I heard the closer. What kind of heresy was this? I steered my children away from the “Johnny Appleseed” ending, though it was their favorite part. I was concerned the phrase would somehow offend God.

I wish I’d known then that God is not so easily offended. That he is far more concerned with the genuine condition of our hearts than by the precision of our words. That he basks in the songs of children. That he inhabits our praises, our gratitude, and our joy.

I think the most meaningful prayer sent my way came from Jocelyn who said it was often sung but sometimes spoken:

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger,
For faith in a world where many walk in fear,
For friends in a world where many walk alone,
We give you humble thanks, oh Lord.” 

To that I say, Amen!

What is your favorite meal-time prayer?