Baseball 2020 and “Summer of ’98”

WrigleyFieldToday, at long last, we will have a baseball post here. With the delay of the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season because of the coronavirus pandemic, my interest in baseball was waning quickly. Summer life just wasn’t the same (due to many other things pandemic related too, of course) and I didn’t want to find an annual book on baseball to read either. Golf was on my weekly schedule (usually with my 87-year old dad, who still plays well!), and I was grateful to have that interest and involvement at least.

But then the MLB commissioner, owners, and players saved the season, a 60-game schedule was adopted, and at the end of July baseball sprang to life – a little late and a little short and with fan-less ball parks – but at least it was here again. And my beloved Chicago Cubs roared out of the gate – with great starting pitching (we won’t talk about the bullpen just yet) and timely hitting from their batting order of stars, they have climbed to 13-3 – their best start since 1907! Yay! Go Cubbies! Could we have a repeat of 2016 and have another world champion team?!

Summer-of-98-LupicaAnd with that revived baseball season and renewed interest, I also found my 2020 summer baseball read (once again, in a local thrift store) – Summer of ’98: When Homers Flew, Records Fell, and Baseball Reclaimed America by Mike Lupica (Contemporary Books, 1999). This is a great retelling of the season of 1998, when monster home-run hitters Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey, Jr. all chased Roger Maris’ 1961 record of 61 homers in a season (Babe Ruth had held the record of 60, hit in 1927, until Maris came along and hit one more than that).

I remember the season well, in part because I had just spent 8 years in the Chicago area, where I fell in love with the Cubbies, and also because two Cubs players would figure prominently in that season – the above-mentioned Sammy Sosa, and 20-year old rookie Kerry Wood (who would strike out 20 batters in a single game in his first MLB season – his fifth game, no less!).

So now I have the summer-of-2020 pleasure of watching and listening to ball games again, and reading my new book, a portion of which I share with you here. By, the way, this book is also a great story of how fathers and sons come to love and share the game, another gift my father gave to me (thanks, Dad, for letting me play Little League baseball in Georgetown back in the 60s and for all those late-night Tiger games in old Tiger stadium – what great memories we have!).

Because no matter how old you are or how much you have seen, sports is still about memory and imagination. Never more than during the baseball summer of ’98, when baseball made everyone feel like a kid again, when it felt important again.

…For one magic season, everybody’s eyes would be full of the sky.

I never thought I would have a better baseball season than the one I had in ’61, not just because of the home runs, but because of what I thought was the best Yankee team I would ever see in my life [The author is also re-living his own experience of watching the 1961 season and Maris breaking Ruth’s record.]. Now I saw more home runs, and a better Yankee team.

It was McGwire and Sosa and Ken Griffey, Jr., at least until McGwire and Sosa pulled away from him the way Maris had pulled away from Mantle once. It was a strikeout pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, a twenty-year-old named Kerry Wood who would strike out 20 batters in a game.

David Wells of the Yankees would pitch a perfect game for the Yankees in May, the first perfect game in Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen in the World Series of 1956.

…You couldn’t make up a season like this.

Sosa would join the home-run chase in June, when he hit 20 home runs in the month, another record in the home-run summer. Now this wasn’t just about an American-born home-run hero like McGwire, but one from the Dominican Republic, too.

…McGwire and Sosa hit. Kerry Wood threw. Cal Ripkin, Jr., finally took a day off, after sixteen years. He was thirty-eight the night he did it. Tony Gwynn was also thirty-eight in the baseball season of ’98, and would have sat down himself because of aching knees and a ruined Achilles tendon, but Gywnn was limping toward one more World Series, his first since he was a baseball kid in 1984.

…You always hope this will be your year [Cubs’ fans know that very well!]. You always hope this year will be better than last year. That has always made old men young in baseball (pp.10-11).

Indeed, what a season that was. But now there’s the summer of ’20. Did I mention the Cubs are 13-3? 🙂

Published in: on August 14, 2020 at 6:35 AM  Leave a Comment  

May 2020 Scenes in the Midst of a Troubling Pandemic

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Last month I did a post in which I showed from a personal perspective what life was like during this pandemic in our little corner of the world. Little mercies seem bigger now (rainbows). Small freedoms loom larger (a ride to the lakeshore). Life has changed in many ways, and yet it is the same is some ways too.

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The one constant is our Creator and Redeemer, who remains on the throne and at the helm, governing this vast universe – from viruses to Venus and from migrating rose-breasted grosbeeks to lily-of-the-valley – in perfect wisdom and in infinite goodness – for the glory of His name, the coming of His Son, and the everlasting good of His saints.

 

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So enjoy these photos taken this month, as they tell of God’s mercies and goodness, in small things and great things.

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Online singspiration from Faith PRC’s sanctuary led by our pastor’s family –  a great blessing!

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First golf game of 2020 with my nearly 87-year old dad – what a treat!

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Sunday afternoon walks along the Grand River with some grandsons – special times!

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Of course, time with any of our grandchildren is special, especially these days.

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Including ice cream time – tailgate style!

 

Living or Dying in Christ

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Photo taken last night at Lake Michigan – beautiful “glory” sky!

As noted last week here, PRC missionary (and good friend) Rev. Aud Spriensma is writing some special meditations for the PRC website this month. The one he gave me to post for this past Monday (May 18) was especially relevant, as my wife and her family lost their father, Vern Klamer, the day before, Sunday, May 17. He was a godly Christian family man (husband, father, grandfather) and church man (served as deacon and elder), and we will miss him dearly.

Vernon L Klamer - MKD Funeral HomesAs he was facing the end, he and we with him shared our only comfort (and hope) in life and in death, that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who has fully satisfied for all our sins, delivered us from all the power of the devil, and preserves us according to Father’s perfect will so that everything (even death!) is subservient to our salvation.

Below is that special meditation missionary-pastor A. Spriensma wrote for this past Monday. Reading it, you will see why it is so relevant for our times – and for our present family time. God is good, and we praise Him for His mercy to us in our crosses and losses. In Christ, we have all and gain all, no matter what befalls us!

Meditation on Philippians 1:21

Living or Dying in Christ

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

A short Scripture text means a short meditation, right? No, it does not, especially for ministers. The less notes I take in the pulpit, the longer the sermon is. In our text, we need to understand what it means for the Apostle Paul when he states, “to live is Christ.” Second, how we learn to live for Christ, Third, we need to know why “to die is gain.” Should we wish for death?

The Apostle Paul wrote these verses to the believers in Philippi. They were concerned for him. Paul was a prisoner in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. This trial could end with the Apostle facing death. In Paul’s absence, there were some who were preaching Christ out of envy and strife, and therefore they were adding affliction to Paul’s prison life. Paul wrote to comfort those saints who were concerned about his welfare. He said that all that was really important was that Christ was being preached. Paul was only concerned that his Savior was exalted and the gospel extended. Paul’s greatest concern in either life or death was magnifying Christ, his Master (vs. 20). Paul informs the Philippians that he is not afraid to die. He would be with Christ.

When the Apostle said so emphatically, “to me” placing this word at the very beginning of the sentence, he is giving a profound personal testimony. At the same time, he was drawing a contrast between the preachers who are proclaiming Christ out of selfish ambition. Paul was not self-centered, but Christ-centered. “For me to live is Christ.” Is this true of your life? Paul was concerned with the honor and glory of his wonderful Redeemer.

Paul was speaking of his life lived from day to day, continuous living on earth as a child of God. He could have spoken of the continuous hardships that he had faced. He experienced a thorn in his flesh that he had prayed might be removed. He had been beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He had been in prison both in Philippi and now in Rome. Oh, how he had suffered for the sake of the gospel. But he did not speak about those things. He spoke about Christ! Christ was the center of his whole life. Christ was everything. This was not just his preaching to others. Paul himself relied upon Christ for the whole of his salvation. He would boast in nothing but Christ crucified.

What is it to live in Christ? It is to derive one’s strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13), to have the mind, the humble disposition of Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), to know Christ with the knowledge of Christian experience (Phil. 3:8), to be covered with Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9), to rejoice in Christ (Phil. 3:1; 4;4), to live not for self but for His glory (II Cor. 5:14,15), to rest one’s faith on Christ and to love Him in return for His love (Gal. 2:20).

How is this life possible? Not in ourselves. We would live for pleasure, sin, earthly things. Paul had been trying to by his own works to be right with God. It was only by Christ taking ahold of him on the Damascus Road. It was by the Spirit of Christ giving him a new heart and working conversion and faith. Paul was turned around from a physical life that leads to death to a new life lived for Jesus Christ.

Can you make this personal confession, “For me to live is Christ”? Do you and I live this confession with our daily lives: in our marriage, being a parent, in the workplace, the friends that we have, in our recreation, what we think, what we desire, and everything that we do? May God work in us and give us the grace to live in Christ.

Then “to die is gain.” This seems so strange, for death is loss. It is the loss of earthly relationships, family, friends, earthly things, and even our earthly bodies for a while. We know from Rom. 6:23 that death is God’s punishment for sin. But my friend, the sting of death has been taken away ( I Cor. 15:55). Christ bore all the punishment for our sins in our place. Death now becomes a servant to take us as pilgrims and strangers to a far better land. Dying physically meant gain for Paul. It meant that he would be with Christ (see vs. 23), “at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Death is the gateway to a clearer knowledge, more wholehearted perfect service, more exuberant joy, and a closer walk. No more sin or temptation, no more sickness, pain, trial, sorrow, affliction.

Death is gain! I will be with Christ. I will be like Christ. All the blessings of Christ will more abundantly be poured out. What do you live for? Is the glory and honor of Christ’s name more important to you, or is comfort and ease of life? Paul’s life was so wrapped up in Christ and the gospel that he wanted nothing more than to see the gospel advance, even if it meant that others sought to add to his affliction. When life’s circumstances get difficult, it is easy to become focused on self. May we say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall. Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better friend; I trust him now, I’ll trust him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend; Beautiful life that has no end,; Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my friend.”

Life in These COVID-19 Days: A Personal Picture

So what is life like for us during the coronavirus pandemic?

Like many, we are trying to keep things as normal as possible, keeping as many routines as we can. But, of course, many things have changed too. Yet, in the midst of all these changes (and fears), manifold evidences of God’s faithfulness and goodness appear from day to day – as you will see from the pictures.

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A sunset over the “muck” fields of Hudsonville this past week

Let me begin with life at home, which is where we often are these days, especially in the evening (I have been able to maintain my work days at seminary – see more below). My wife and I have been working on some home projects, inside and out. She has been painting/cleaning/reorganizing (it’s Spring!) and I have been cleaning out clutter in the basement (the garage will wait a bit yet for nicer weather so I can move the deck and patio furniture and yard accessories out).

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Some hyacinths blooming in back of the house this week

I love yard work, and with the weather becoming more favorable each week – and the daylight longer – I have been doing some landscape cleanup and garden preparation (the kale I left in the ground over the winter has actually started to come back!). This past week I also repaired our mailbox, which was knocked down for the third time in five years!

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On the warmer spring weather days/nights I get out to walk, ride bike, and play pickleball (but no golf – the courses are closed!). We even got a ride out to the lake in this past week (Holland State Park), where the lake and sky were amazing!

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Recently my brother and I visited Kollen Park in Holland, where we watched the first ship of the season come in – the Pere Marquette.

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One of the things we had to stop for now too was our Voices of Victory quartet practices – and it is sorely missed! We take turns hosting at each other’s homes and we have come to enjoy the fellowship (“business meetings”) as much as the singing. Though several singing events have been cancelled, we continue to practice our songs and prepare for some future scheduled concerts by means of recordings. We are also posting some old and new recordings of fitting songs for the times on our Facebook page, so be sure to visit it.

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Our Sundays are the best and hardest of days right now. “Best” because, though not allowed to gather for public worship right now, we are able to receive live preaching, prayer, and singing through live-streamed services broadcast on our church’s website (Faith PRC). We are thankful for this blessed means of grace in these times – truly rest for our souls! Thank you pastor and elders for providing this for us!

At the same time, these are the “hardest” days, since we cannot gather with the congregation and experience face-to-face fellowship and united, physical worship together. But our leaders are making sure we stay informed and in touch with one another as best we can. And, we are also missing our every-other-Sunday family dinner gatherings. It is hard not to see our children and grandchildren in this regular way. But, in this too, we stay in close touch and share picture and videos as well as texts and calls. They say this is the “new normal,” but it not normal and it is hard, as we know it is for you too.

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But, then, last night our pastor and his family, along with an organist and pianist  from the congregation, organized a congregational singspiration and live-streamed it! It was a wonderful hour of psalm and hymn singing, as many of us gathered around our devices to join in! Word is they are also organizing one for next Sunday night on Easter. That would be wonderful!

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As for life at the PRC Seminary, things have changed significantly there, too, as of last week. After the first executive order of our governor (in early March), we were able to continue our normal daily labors. But after the second order (last Monday), we had to transition to all online classes.

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After a crash-course in how to use Zoom (the popular live-streaming app), most of the professors are teaching their classes live each day – either from their office at seminary (allowed!) or from home. For a few of the classes we are using prerecorded videos. So far this is going well, and we are thankful to be able to continue the training in this way. But, again, it is hard not to have regular contact and fellowship together. Our seminary “family life” has also been disrupted. (:

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I am continuing my labors at seminary with near normal hours. I am allowed to be present to maintain the building, keep up with office work (it’s actually busier now!), and offer support (tech and moral!) to faculty and students. I am blessed and thankful to do so.

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The friendly deer notice it is quieter at seminary and feel free to roam in front now too.

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Little blessings of Spring from our Lord – miniature daffodils in bloom in front landscape

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Even Judi Doezema’s Thanksgiving cactus inside is rejoicing in Spring!

Pray for us as we live in these trying times. We pray for you too, wherever you are. God is faithful and God is good, always worthy of our trust. And He loves us unchangingly, as one of our elders reminded us this past week in one of the devotionals he writes and sends us during these days:

Knowing our sin, and let’s be honest, only God knows our sins better than we ourselves, it so often seems unfathomable that the Holy God could or would love us.  In fact, simply the idea of Him having any kind of a positive disposition toward us, much less love, seems impossible.  We need only look back on this day or yesterday to see that repeatedly we have fallen into sin, and in our pride have rejected God and denied His sovereignty in our lives.  This is nothing new.  When we read through the history of old testament Israel, we are struck by how quickly and how often they would forget God and His mighty works that He had done, and follow after the false gods of the people around them.  We might even shake our heads at this, but are we really any different?  Yes, the circumstances of our lives are much different from theirs but think about it.  How many times, just today, just in the last few hours, have we forgotten God and gone after the other gods in our lives such as self, money, human strength, etc.?

And yet, despite our sin, God loves us.  Despite our failings as husbands and fathers, God loves us.  Despite our failings as wives and mothers, God loves us.  Despite our disobedience as children and young people, God loves us.  Despite our constant backsliding and forsaking of Him, God loves us.  Think of the prophet Hosea, who God commanded to take Gomer, an adulterous woman, for his wife.  Why did He do this?  First, it was to give a very clear and real example of the infidelity of the nation of Israel as she ran after other gods.  Secondly though, it was to show to Israel and to us, the great and unchanging love He has for His people, despite our constant infidelity.

The key, and this is what we must always remember, is that His love is UNCHANGING!  There is nothing that the people of God in the old testament or that you and I today, can do to change God’s love for His people.  Not even our greatest sins are able to change that great love.  If that were true then the Apostle Paul could never have written what he did in Romans 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 

Comfort Greater Than a Pandemic

As our lives have changed drastically in the last few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now in our own state of Michigan a “stay-at-home” order was issued Monday by our governor with further restrictions on our activities and work, the fears and worries mount. Flooded daily with information about the spread of the deadly virus, we feel overwhelmed by the news. We try to stay occupied and keep our own minds as well as those of our children and grandchildren off the threat lurking all around.

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But as children of God, we must know we also have an abundance of special peace and hope coming our way in these days. We have a comfort greater than any and all pandemics! Because we have a comfort that comes from the triune God, rooted in the love of our heavenly Father, accomplished by the saving work of the Son,  Jesus Christ, and applied by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit. Now, there’s an anchor for our souls!

And in these times, we are also being flooded with the gospel of this divine comfort. I think of all the wonderful sermons being produced by our pastors, just for these times. A couple of examples are Rev. C. Haak’s at Georgetown PRC this past week, “Souls Redeemed from Fear,” based on Isaiah 43:1. and Rev. C. Griess’ at First PRC, “Coronavirus and the King,” based on Rev.4-5.

Then there are the precious pastoral meditations pastors, elders, and members are writing and sending out to the congregations. One of our elders at Faith PRC, Tom Cammenga, has written a couple, including this one this week, which reads in part as follows:

To whom or to what are you looking right now for peace and security?  Is it yourself, or your neighbor? Is it the government? Is it the stock of food and goods you have amassed?  Is it the money that you have in the bank or in a retirement account? All these things are fleeting and can be lost in an instant.  

Let us instead, with David, seek the Lord.  It is only in Him that we have deliverance. It is in Him alone that we have our boast.  It is in Him alone that we put our trust. Let it be our prayer together as a congregation for ourselves and for one another that the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts that enables us to say with David in Psalm 34:1-2: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad”.

What then is the result of our seeking after and trusting in God?  First, He hears us. Think of that for a moment and be amazed and humbled.  The Almighty God of heaven and earth hears US! We who are less than the dust and are worthy of nothing less than eternal damnation!  He, as it were, bends His ear to us in His Fatherly love and tender mercy, and HEARS us. What a wonder!  Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry”.

Secondly, He answers us.  Our God is not the god of wood or stone that is unable to answer those who seek deliverance from them.  Jehovah is the LIVING God and answers our requests. Psalm 145:18: “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth”. 

Finally, He delivers us, and that deliverance is total and complete.  Yes, He certainly delivers us from evils and difficulties here in this life.  And when, as it is at times, not His will to deliver us from them, He works them out for our eternal good and advantage.  Ultimately and most importantly of course, He delivers us from our sin and the misery that is ours because of it. Even now, though we still battle with our old human nature, in Christ, we have been made righteous, and in Christ we have and enjoy that beautiful Covenant relationship of friendship with God.  Even when we are afflicted, alone, or, as now, when we are unable to come together as a congregation, we are never left desolate and without hope. Psalm 34:22: “The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate”.   

Our own pastor, Rev. C. Spronk has produced some special YouTube videos with a comforting message from God’s Word. You will find one such here:

Besides, we have God’s Word of comfort through radio messages, such as on the Reformed Witness Hour. The Facebook page of the RWH featured one today, ‘Trusting and Not Fearing,” which was also posted on the  PRC website.

And then there is the powerful message of music. On the Voices of Victory Facebook page today the song “Don’t Be Afraid” was featured. It’s a beautiful song of comfort for these days. Read and listen to these lyrics based on Mark 4:35-41:

1. The disciples were tossed on a cold, raging sea
But Jesus was sleeping so peacefully
They cried, “Master, don’t you care that we die?”
But He spoke spoke three small words, “peace be still,”
It was the storm that had to die

(Chorus)
So don’t be afraid when the darkness is closing
The Master is near, His voice calms every storm
So when the world says it’s over, the Master says, “No, I’ve just begun”
In your darkest of times, whether rain or in sunshine, don’t be afraid

2. I know how it feels to be tossed by the storms
And I know how it feels to be battered and worn
But then I know how it feels to be carried on through
Called by the strength of the One who is faithful and true

Repeat Chorus

And, of course, the Psalms speak to us in times like this too, because they speak for us, as God’s children speak (sing and pray) out of the experience of their own personal doubts, worries, and fears. You are encouraged to make use of our Psalter online, including the lyrics, piano accompaniment, and special videos by the PR Psalm Choir.

Here’s a few lines from Psalter 34, based on Psalm 18:

1. I love the Lord, His strength is mine;
He is my God, I trust His grace.
My fortress high, my shield divine,
My Saviour and my hiding place.

2. My prayer to God shall still be raised
When troubles thick around me close;
The Lord, most worthy to be praised,
Will rescue me from all my foes.

3. When, floods of evil raging near,
Down nigh to death my soul was brought,
I cried to God in all my fear;
He heard and great deliverance wrought.

May we avail ourselves of all these means in the days ahead. God has comfort for us, the only comfort there is in this present world, comfort greater than the pandemic.

Old Year’s Night with the Voices of Victory

As we end this year of our Lord 2018, we would like to invite you to end the year on a high, spiritual note – by worshiping the Lord in His house with His people (If you are looking for a place to worship, these churches have churches!) and by attending the special Voices of Victory concert tonight in downtown Grandville, MI from 8-11 pm!

Here are the details from our Facebook page and poster:

Our annual New Year’s Eve concert is tonight at First Reformed Church of Grandville (3060 Wilson Ave). A schedule somewhat subject to a few minutes added or subtracted here and there is: Sacred Harmonies 8:10-8:40, Voices of Victory 8:45-9:15, Covenant Chr. HS quartet 9:15-9:30, Collection for Georgetown Harmony Homes 9:35, S.H. 9:40-10:10, VOV 10:15-10:45, closing singing with audience 10:45-11. To God be the glory!

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Maybe the weather forecast sounds bad, but don’t let that deter you! It’s a short drive from wherever you are, and once there, you will be safe and warm! Love to see you there! And we hope we do! It promises to be a wonderful night of praise and fellowship. And the cause is a good one.

O, and the cookies and coffee are tasty and “on the house.” 🙂

Published in: on December 31, 2018 at 11:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Merry and Blessed Christmas 2018!

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From our home to yours, we wish all our family, friends, and readers a merry and blessed Christmas Day 2018! May the peace and joy of our Savior Jesus Christ be yours today and in the New Year.

In late September we were blessed with grandchild number 12 (Gale Owen, on grandma’s lap). And we are expecting number 13 in late January from our son and daughter-in-law in Arizona. We are thankful for the goodness of God’s covenant and for His mercy to us in all our circumstances.

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Have a beautiful and blessed day celebrating and worshiping the Christ born in Bethlehem, now exalted on high in glory, and soon returning in power with final salvation for all His own.

The Christmas gospel from the perspective of Hebrews 2:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

The Death of the Michigan Wilderness

…originally the lumberman was highly selective. He wanted nothing but pines, and they had to be fully grown; he took only the larger ones, and only those that grew near running water. Now [That is, after the development of better tree-cutting instruments and the construction of narrow-gauge railroads deep into the Michigan forest.] he realized that he wanted everything, and so he took everything. He could use small pines as well as big ones; more important, he could use hardwoods as well, because the railroad could move hardwood logs as readily as logs of pine.

All of the old limitations were gone. The lumberman could go into every corner of the forest and cut down all the trees, and that is exactly what he did. He still preferred pine, but by the 1890s the end of the pine supply was in sight, and so while a number of operators dismantled their mills and tracks and moved out of the state in search of virgin timber farther west, a good many remained and went after the hardwoods. Grand Rapids took walnut, oak, maple and black cherry and before long was boasting that it was the furniture capital of the United States, or possibly of the entire world. Traverse City suddenly discovered that it[s] largest single employer of labor was a mill that made hardwood chopping bowls, salad bowls, butter bowls and so on. Out of the dwindling forest came railroad ties, telephone poles, fence posts, shipyard timber, and blocks cut from pine stumps to be used for matchsticks. Even the supposedly worthless aspen, that came up in matted profusion when a stand of pine was removed, became an article of commerce; men could use it to make boxwood, or feed it into the pulp mills to make paper, and boats and trains that once carried saw logs went off to market loaded down with the slim logs of aspen.

So over most of the state of Michigan the forest was destroyed, with single-minded dedication and efficiency. Sometimes it seemed as if men of that time actually hated trees….

waiting-train-catton-1987Taken from chapter 6, “Death of a Wilderness,” in Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987), pp.117-118.

As promised in my last post on this book, we have to face what the greedy lumber industry did to the Michigan wilderness. Catton doesn’t hide the sad history of what man did to the beautiful forests of Michigan’s north country. While there are still glimpses of what once was, it is hard to imagine the trees that formerly covered the area of Benzonia County and beyond. And with that destruction of the wilderness, as Catton notes, went the killing of bird (passenger pigeon) and fish (the grayling in the Au Sable River, for example), and even people, for the industry also produced massive forest fires.

Such is another manifestation of the sinfulness of man. Created a steward of the land and its resources, in his fallen state he recklessly rapes the land and ruins its resources, leaving a trail of barren wilderness, vacated towns, dilapidated buildings, and ruined lives. Such was “progress” in the industrial age, just as it is still man’s “progress” in this information age. Just the resources and tools have changed.

Will we learn from this history?

Winter Has Arrived in West Michigan! (Updated with Lake Michigan Pictures)

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No doubt those outside of Michigan have heard about the fast, furious, and frigid winter that has descended on us here in West Michigan. After a beautiful, mild, drawn-out Fall, winter came with a flourish in mid-December and has not let up yet – although the hope of a “January thaw” is in the forecast for next week.

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These are pictures taken back and front of our home last weekend when we received over a foot of lake-effect snow in two days. And this week on top of 8-10 inches of fresh snow, it has been bitter cold – -3 (F) this morning and wind-chills below 0 (F) all day yesterday and today – and colder yet tonight!

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But, as you can see, there is a marvelous beauty that is revealed in God’s winter work. Truly, He makes a wonderland of white that covers all the death and decay underneath and around us. What a gospel picture!

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And His creatures all look to Him for food – the deer and wild turkeys have been coming close at Seminary, poking around in the landscape for food (where are those luscious hostas?!) – or visiting Prof .Cammenga’s bird feeders for free seed.

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How do we snow-stricken, frozen-chosen Michiganders cope? Why, we get out and enjoy the snow, of course! Monday, a few brave souls in our family – including some grandkids for the first time – went cross-country skiing at Pigeon Creek Park west of us. It was cold but was it ever beautiful in the woods and along the creek!

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And if one really wants to have fun, do some backyard ice bowling! [This video appeared on MLive this week.] See what you are missing!

Late this (Saturday) afternoon my wife and I went out to Holland State Park to see Lake Michigan. Word was that the ice formations were amazing, so we decided to check things out, partly because the time-frame for seeing ice caves, etc. can be so short. Though we have seen icier conditions, it was still good. Here are a few pictures I took with my phone.

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Comfort in Life and Death

As you have noticed, I have been absent from these “pages” for a week. That was due to circumstances surrounding care for our ailing mother, whom God delivered out of this vale of tears and shadow of death and ushered into everlasting glory this past Monday morning.

A private family funeral and committal service was held yesterday morning and a public memorial service last evening, both in dad and mom’s home church, Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

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Watching one’s mother die is one of the hardest experiences in life but, when she is in the Lord and has the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ in her heart, it is one of the most precious experiences in life. We praise God for His mercy to our dear mother, and for His sustaining, comforting grace to us as a family.

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was timely and comforting, as this is the way mom always taught us to live – one day at a time, without fear or worry for the next. I pray it comforts your heart as it did mine, whatever your circumstance may be today.

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life!

(J.R. Miller)

“As your days–so shall your strength be!” Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life
, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day–but the bit of God’s will for that day. If we do that well–we have absolutely nothing else to do.

Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day–had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty–for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be–if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering–if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.

We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are–life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down–we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat–if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with–and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time–more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.