Carry On!

When my boys were young, I read them a book called, “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.”  The book is a fictionalized account of Nathaniel Bowditch’s life.  Why am I writing about this book?  Because the message of the book is “Don’t give up, even when your dreams don’t appear to be coming true—keep pressing on.”

Nathaniel Bowditch did live, and he accomplished great things and overcame great obstacles.  He was born in 1773, 2 years before the American Revolution began.   He lived in Salem, Massachusetts.  He was a mathematical genius, and when he was young his dream was to go to Harvard to study.  However, his family had many financial problems so instead, he had to stop formal schooling at the age of 10, and when he was 12, he became an indentured servant, for 9 years–until he was 21 years old.  He lost his sweet mother, and beloved younger sister when he was young.

 However, with each adversity, Nathaniel–”Carried On.”   He kept studying,  He taught himself Latin, French and Spanish.  He would read familiar verses from the English Bible–like John 1: 1–”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. and then read that verse in the language he was studying like Spanish, “En el principio era el Verbo, y el Verbo era con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios.” and in this way–he could figure out the language.

 He pursued knowledge.  When he finished his indentureship, he worked on ships, doing navigation, and he taught the crews how to navigate.  He ended up writing a book on navigation called: “The New American Practical Navigator”,  that is still used today and carried on every U.S. Commissioned Naval Vessel.

Nathaniel was one of seven children, and he dearly loved his family, but he would lose most of his siblings.  His  precious first wife died after only several months of marriage. 

Again, Nathaniel persisted and did not give up, or give in to despair.

 He remarried and had 6 sons and 2 daughters.

He was awarded two different honorary degrees from Harvard, and was asked to take a faculty position there as the chair of the Mathematics Department.  It is thought that he turned it down, because by this time he owned his own company, and would have taken a great step back financially.

Isn’t that a great story!  I love stories like Nathaniel’s–I call them transformational stories.  They offer me hope.  They encourage me to keep going, to keep fixing my eyes on Jesus, to keep running my race.  Hebrews 12:1,2

2 Tim 2:3  says, “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”  Then the scriptures go on and compare us to an athlete and a hard working farmer.

In life we suffer.  Soldiers suffer,  Athletes suffer.  Farmers suffer.  They do not give up, they keep going.  If they want to win the battle–they keep going.  If they want to win the race–they keep going.  If they want to bring in the harvest–they keep going.

I think that Nathaniel Bowditch kept going because God gave him strength to do so.  

I know that I keep going because God gives me the strength to do so.

God will give us the strength to keep going.  That does not mean it will be easy.  It won’t.  Life involves suffering.  It’s good to look at that fact squarely.  Anyone who tells you differently, is selling you something. (I think I heard this line in the “Princess Bride”, but it is a good line and a true one. 🙂)   God does not tell us, we will not suffer.  In fact:  Jesus Christ says, “In this world, you will have tribulation, but take courage, for I have overcome this world.”  John 16:33   Jesus has overcome this world, and so shall we!!

So, let us be encouraged and let us–“Carry On”!

That Guy

Tonight, our family watched a movie together.  It was an action-adventure movie, where against unbelievable odds, the good guy saves the day.  At some point during the movie, I turned to my husband, and said, “You’re that guy—the guy that is good in a crisis, who saves the day.”

Once, when my husband and I were out for dinner, a woman seated near us, fainted and was laying on the floor.  The waiters and waitresses ran to her aid but didn’t know what to do.  My husband is a Firefighter/EMT.  He had gone outside to grab a sweater, and when he came in, he was faced with this crisis. (I had told the waiters and waitresses that my husband would help.) He calmly went over to the woman, knelt beside her, and took her pulse.  By this time, she was awake, and he started asking her questions to assess her health history.   By the time the paramedics arrived, he calmly gave them her vitals and history and they then took her away.

It seemed to me that my husband’s presence calmed everyone down in the room, and I was filled with admiration for my husband.

Many years before, when we were standing in a lobby of a theatre with open candles around the perimeter, I saw a young woman back into the flame, and her hair caught on fire.  My husband moved like lightening — extinguishing the fire with his bare hands, saving the girl, and possibly the theatre.  He acted like it was no big deal. But it seemed like a big deal to me.

There are many men and women like my husband—they are good in a crisis, and they serve others with their skill sets all the time.

The day of our son’s accident, my husband heard his pager go off, stating that there was a motor vehicle/bike accident.  He was out of his chair like a shot, going to help.  It was our son.

At the funeral of our son, my husband spoke about the fact that the ambulance was changing shifts, and so they were only 1 minute away from the accident.  He was also struck by the fact that the paramedic instructors had just finished a class in our town, and they came to the scene of the accident.  My husband personally knew these people and thought highly of their skills.  

After our son had been airlifted to the hospital, the doctor who worked on Sean had previously been in Afghanistan as a combat surgeon.

These details meant something to my husband—these were his kind of people—people who serve others.  My husband saw the hand of God in the service of these people.  He saw God’s lovingkindness in the service of these people.  He saw God Himself, through the acts of these people.

When we were at the hospital with Sean, we were on the pediatric floor, and we were surrounded by nurses and doctors who took care of our son and showed compassion to us and to our other children.  We saw God’s lovingkindness through them.

When our country experienced 9/11—we also witnessed men and women, running into buildings while others were running out.  They ran in to save, they ran into to serve.  We saw God’s face in their faces.

It is easy to look at the bad, and dismiss God and dismiss His existence, His power and His love. 

It is not so easy to look at the good—the good in people—especially when there is a crisis—and dismiss God—dismiss His existence, His power and His love.  For what other reason do we have to act as we do—except that we bear His image.

If we as humans, can act so nobly—just think what that means about the One who made us, and loves us.

For my husband and I—all these things—all these people—combined with experiencing God’s loving presence and strength— testified to us of God’s goodness, God’s grace and God’s love. 

So the next time you see a good guy or gal working to save the day or a moment, or a child—remember the One who made them, the One Who saves us all—and thank them for bearing God’s image to you—and Thank God for making them!

Let us be encouraged!

Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman, who hid Jewish people during WWII.  I think she is one of the  most influential Christians who ever lived.  She has greatly impacted my life and millions of others’ lives.

Here’s the thing—I have a very good friend who is married to a relative of Corrie Ten Boom.  He is also Dutch.  When they lived in the Netherlands, she was shocked to find out that not many Dutch people she talked to, knew who Corrie Ten Boom was.  I was talking to another friend yesterday, who spent time in the Netherlands, and when I mentioned this—she said, “That’s true.  You can easily get in to see her home in the Netherlands, but you can’t get into Anne Frank’s home, the crowds are so great.”

I found this astounding!!  If I asked any of my peers, who are Christians, “Do you know who Corrie Ten Boom is?”  They would say, “Of course!”  I love her!  I love her writings!”   In fact, in the last letter that my friend Becki Crain wrote, she referenced Corrie Ten Boom.

Why is she not well known and revered in her own home country?  Well, Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”  In addition to this– perhaps Corrie Ten Boom’s message of forgiveness and love to our enemies , was a hard message to accept for Europeans who had just come through the ravages of war, and the evilness of war.

Corrie Ten Boom had this message tested herself, when after a speaking engagement– the Nazi officer who had beaten her sister and herself, came up to her, stuck out his hand and asked her for her forgiveness.  Corrie Ten Boom, saw her sister die in the Concentration Camp.  She was filled will hatred and anger towards this man—and—she said that she could not in her own strength extend and shake this man’s hand and forgive him; she found herself asking God for His strength and His power, and her hand was moved and she was speaking, telling this man she forgave him.  She says that was not done in her own power, but God was moving through her, forgiving through her, loving through her.

I too have experienced this supernatural power, after my son died.  I can’t explain getting through the ordeal then and now—except by His power, His grace, and His strength.

Corrie Ten Boom wrote the book, “The Hiding Place”, detailing the events of her life during WWII.  If you have not already read it, I pray that you will. 

Others who have gone before us and lived a life of faith during trials and temptations can help encourage us as we go through our own trials, our own temptations.  Right now, people are filled with anger and hatred toward each other.  I think Corrie Ten Boom’s message of love and forgiveness is very timely.  It is not a weak message.  It is not a roses and lollipop message.  It is God’s message to all of us, every day.  The reality of God’s love–sent Jesus to the cross for each of us, to save us.  It sent Corrie Ten Boom to the concentration camps, as she tried to save Jewish people.  It sent her on a pilgrimage around Europe after the war, proclaiming that sacrificial love—and living out that love in forgiving those who had done evil to her.

Corrie Ten Boom’s life was one of taking one step at a time, in trust and obedience to God.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take the first step.  The first step is to be honest with God about our need for Him, our need for love and forgiveness—our need for His power to live out that love and forgiveness with each other.

Corrie Ten Boom is one of the Netherland’s national treasures, indeed her life is a treasure from God that He has shared with us—mostly because her life points to Him and what He has done for us!

May we be encouraged!!

A Tribute to Marilyn

My mother-in-law—Marilyn— entered into eternity this month.  She was 90 years old.  I am writing a tribute in honor of her. 

Marilyn was such a hard worker and showed her affection in acts of service.  She would do our laundry when we visited her, and when she visited us, she would involve herself in a project to better our lives, whether she thought we needed a new rug, or landscaping or a new sink, or insisting that the bubblegum pink bathroom needed to be repainted before her husband arrived, as he would never use it.

When we moved into the first home we bought, she and my father-in-law purchased a new washer and dryer for us.  After years of carting our clothes to the laundry mat, I thought I had gone to heaven!!  I told my husband, I had nothing to complain about anymore, as I did not have to chase a toddler all over the laundry mat while trying to fold clothes!

Marilyn was an amazing decorator.  Her decorating, picking great locations and properties and the passage of time, brought tremendous profits when it was time to sell a home and move.  Even though she never worked outside the home, she helped to increase their family’s finances.

My mother-in-law loved her children and grandchildren so much.  She did not know how to verbalize that love, but she tried to show that love in shopping for them or taking them shopping.   She was a great gift giver.  She would often be up all night, the night before Christmas, wrapping gifts.

She threw great parties, and each one was filled with fine food, interesting conversations, and beautiful surroundings. 

My mother-in-law was a tennis player, a golfer and in her last years – a pool player.  She studied each sport and applied her standard of perfection to each one.  Her children inherited her and her husband’s athletic abilities.  My sister-in-law played competitive tennis in high school and college and my husband swam competitively in high school and college.

My husband tells the story of how they joined a country club started by the Jewish community in their town, as in the 60’s and early 70’s, the country clubs that existed did not allow Jewish people to join.  He said that most of their friends growing up, were Jewish.   At a time when many people were self-segregating, my husband’s family was integrating with others.

When my husband and I lost our son Sean, Marilyn was devastated as well.  She loved her grandson so much.  She was 5 years old when she lost her brother.  She told me that her mother did not speak her brother’s name after his death, and she urged me to talk about Sean for the sake of my children, especially my youngest who was six when her brother died. 

Marilyn also told me that her mother never went to church even though her father did.  I asked if her mom stopped going to church after her son died and she said, she thought that is what happened, although she was so young, she wasn’t sure.

Marilyn was raised going to church, but she did not go when she was an adult. 

I had many conversations about spiritual things with her over the thirty years I knew her.  She had many doubts, and questions.  The Friday before she died, we talked again.  Once again, she told me she had doubts—I told her that she could ask God to help her with her doubts, just as the man in the Bible asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief.   She told me that she wanted to see my son Sean again, and her family, and she wanted to see God.  I told her to tell God that—to tell Him, she wanted a place with Him.  I said, God wanted her to be with Him, so much, that He sent Jesus to die for her.  She said that she believed that, and she would ask God and tell Him, she wanted to be with Him.

In past conversations with Marilyn, her biggest obstacle to wanting a relationship with God was because of the problem of pain– how could a loving God allow pain on this earth?  Marilyn herself was in a great deal of pain before she died.  She fought this pain, she hated it, she was angry at it.  Ironically, it may have been this pain, that brought her to God.  I saw this pain soften her to God and humble her before Him.  No longer could she be the self-sufficient woman, who could meet all her own needs.  This pain made her aware of how vulnerable she really was and helped to bring down the walls she had erected towards God.

My husband and I had prayed for decades to see his mom, soften towards the Lord, and receive His love and forgiveness, and at practically the last hour, we saw the answer to that prayer. 

So, now we say, “Thank You”, to our Lord, and to Marilyn, “We will see you again!!”