As we continue to do what we need to do to keep COVID-19 from spreading, may Corrie’s words be a source of both inspiration and comfort.
May God’s grace and peace be with you always.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, May 29, 2020
How are you experiencing God’s love today?
Corrie ten Boom
“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
When I think about what Corrie and her sister endured while in the concentration camp, a deep pit of sorts, I am humbled. They had many dark days of backbreaking labor and dark nights locked away in close quarters with no creature comforts. And yet, they were able to keep the faith and dwell in the love of God for them.
Living through this pandemic often feels like we are in a dark pit. The world news on top our isolation can often make our situation feel very dark and inescapable. We keep trying to climb up and out, but getting a good grip or foothold can be challenging. There is so little that we can firmly grasp or hang on to. And the climb seems so much longer than we imagined, the pit so much deeper than expected.
Yet, when trapped in a pit, you can usually look up and see some light shining. When we find ourselves in deep pits, we can look up to the light which is the love of God shining for us. God’s love is capable of reaching us no matter where we are. God’s love for us is deeper, more intimate than we can ever imagine. When we feel like we’ve lost our grip or our foothold is giving way, we can be assured that God still has a firm and loving grasp on us. We are never out of God’s care.
Loving God, when we feel lost and alone, even abandoned, stir us to know your presence with us. Help us to look for the light of your love abiding with us through those around us. Amen.
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Thursday, May 28, 2020
How’s your faith today?
Corrie ten Boom
“Faith is like radar that sees through the fog—to the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.”
My husband Greg and I live in Caledonia just over a quarter mile from Lake Michigan as the crow flies. While we cannot see the lake, as we don’t have a clear line of sight, we know it’s there as we often hear its waves crashing, especially when the wind kicks things up. Rather frequently during the spring and early summer, a fog bank settles in right along the lake for a few blocks to a perhaps a mile inland. In fact, last week when we were taking a drive, we alternated between bright sun at one intersection to dense fog at the next as we headed north on Highway 32.
Driving through the fog can be disorienting because you can’t see the normal landmarks. Sometimes you may miss a turn or make a dangerous move, since visibility is diminished. While it may not be like radar that guides planes between two points in bad weather, we do have GPS that will help us navigate even when we are disoriented. As long as we trust its technology.
This COVID-19 crisis has been very disorienting. We may feel like we have been going through fog. There are no certain answers. We don’t have a clear vision of what the future holds. Occasionally, it seems like we emerge into a sort of sunshine when things appear to be clearing up by what we are hearing, and then new disheartening information is shared and we find ourselves back in the fog.
Just like we know that the lake is there by its sound even though we can’t see it, whether because of fog or no clear line of sight, we know that God is there with us. We may not be able, by our own human ability or reason, to clearly see or understand what is yet before us – the reality of things at a distance. We need, then, to let our radar, our GPS of faith guide our way, trusting that God is with us and will see us through the fog.
Faithful God, when we get caught in the fog of our own thoughts and emotions, in the fog of overwhelming information that is often difficult to comprehend or trust, in the fog of anxiety and unrest in the world around us, be our guide. Help us to rely on you, knowing that you are with us and will bring us through. Amen.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020
For whom/what are you praying today?
Corrie ten Boom
“The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.”
As I was thinking about Corrie’s words about nothing being to great for God’s power nor too small for God’s love, I was reminded of the movie Bruce Almighty. Jim Carrie plays a news reporter named Bruce who complains that God is not doing a good job. God, in turn, offers Bruce the opportunity to be God for a week. Over the next few days, Bruce continues to hear voices in his head. When he next encounters God, God explains that the voices are prayers. In order to deal with the multitude of prayers, Bruce tries a filing cabinet that immediately grows tens of feet long. He tries post-it notes and every surface of the room he is in is instantly covered with the little notes. He even creates a computerized email-like system to receive the prayers and respond but finds that there are just too many prayers for him to manage, even though God lets Bruce know that he was receiving prayers only from the Buffalo, NY area. He sets the system to answer “yes” automatically, but one can only expect what that might look like. In the movie, everyone wins the lottery, but only get a pittance in the payout. There is simply no way that Bruce could do what God can do when it comes to prayer.
When I think about the recent months of being in a pandemic, I can only imagine how God’s prayer department has seen increased petitions, much like the days following 9/11. When our worldly ways and human efforts fail us, we often feel like we are left with nothing but praying to God. Fortunately, I believe, God understands that and still welcomes and hears whatever concerns, thoughts, feelings that we offer in prayer, spoken or unspoken. We know that when we don’t have the words, the Holy Spirit takes care of praying for us. When we engage in prayer, we enter an intimate relationship with God in God’s realm, God’s kingdom, where God reigns.
What a gift it is to know that everything – the big things, the little things, even the impossible things – that we pray about isn’t put on a sticky note on a wall, or filed away somewhere, but receives God’s loving attention. We may not see the answers come as we expect, but we can know that we have been heard and are cared for by God.
God of the Impossible, we give you thanks, that in all times and places, we can come to you in prayer, knowing that you hear us. Help us to open our hearts to you in honesty and trust. Amen
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020
In what are you rooted?
Putting down Roots
Corrie ten Boom
“The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it is in putting down roots as deeply as possible."
Think about that tree up on the mountain. It’s place was where it was appointed to grow. A seed fell into the soil and from it sprang up a seedling, a sapling, that from its emergence had to deal with whatever the weather came and went – sun and warmth, cold and snow, times of wetness or dryness, gentle breezes and tempestuous winds. It had no choice. It was simply where it found itself.
We’ve been living through a very turbulent time over the last few months. There have been winds of knowledge and opinion, denial and fear, hope and disappointment that have blown from every directions, catching us up in the whirlwind of them, being tossed to and fro, up and down, most of this all having not been our choice. We’ve had times of wetness as tears stain our cheeks; the dryness of isolation. We didn’t ask for it. It is simply where we find ourselves.
Corrie experienced many storms in her life, many tears, maybe even dryness of the soul, but she was ultimately sustained by her deep faith in God. She could have let the blustering winds sweep her away; the dryness crack her heart in two. Her choice, however, in the face of a tempest, was to go deep, rooting her trust in God. She was able to stand firm even when all the evilof life was swirling around her. Corrie found the water of God’s Word that quenched the thirst in her soul.
We, too, have a choice. We can let the storms of life, particularly the COVID-19 cyclone, overwhelm us and sweep us away, or we can root ourselves deeper in our faith and trust in God. One of the ways we might do that is by recalling all the other times in our lives when we have faced storms and survived them, maybe even triumphed through them, knowing that God had been with us and had seen us through. We can be encouraged and find hope that God is still with us and will see us through yet again. We can also look for the sunshine of blessings that shines through the clouds, and feel the warmth of God’s love that is still there in us, with us, and for us. Spending a little time in God’s Word and in prayer won’t hurt either
Almighty God, when we find ourselves facing the changing weather of life – the cold or the dryness, the storms raging – help us to deepen our faith and trust in you. Open our eyes to your presence with us, the light of Christ brightening our days, and your Word that waters and feeds our souls. Amen.
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Monday, May 25, 2020
Recall those who loved you and those you love.
Love Can’t Be Shut In
Corrie ten Boom
“It was astonishing, really, the quality of life she was able to lead in that crippled body, and watching her during the three years of her paralysis, I made another discovery about love. Mama’s love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before. She sat in her chair at the window and loved us. She loved the people she saw in the street—and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world. And so I learned that love is larger than the walls that shut it in.”
Corrie’s thoughts about her mother reminded me of my mom. Widowed at the age of 48, when I was only 9, she worked hard at two part-time jobs to put food on the table the two of us and for my siblings when they came home from college. She was also the typical “church basement lady” who helped with church dinners and banquets, funeral luncheons, wedding and anniversary celebrations, and was a member of two women’s circles. She sewed countless outfits for my sister and me, as well as herself, and put those same skills to work at church to make bedroom slippers to sell at fund raisers and to assemble quilts for Lutheran World Relief. In later years, it became more difficult for her to do those things, and so she spent more time at home sitting in her rocker recliner in the corner where windows looked out to the neighbors and to the street. She often seemed to be on neighborhood watch as folks came and went and walked by. Her time was spent reading and calling friends on the phone. Her love was larger than the walls that shut her in.
As we have been “shut in” the last couple months, I often think of so many who have struggled because of not being able to use their usual “soup pot and sewing basket” to show love for others. We’ve all had to discover different ways, alternate means to let others know that we care about them and love them. One thing, that I think we have learned is that the love of Jesus cannot be confined by the walls of a church sanctuary, and that his love abiding in us is larger than the walls that shut us in. What a blessing that is!
Mothering God, we remember that the love you have for in through your Son, one who could not be shut away in a tomb. Walls could not confine him nor your grace for us. Help us to remember that the love you have for us is so much greater than the walls of physical isolation. Use us to share that love with others however we can. Amen.
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Sunday, May 24, 2020
Happy or unhappy? Which are you today?
Corrie ten Boom
“‘Mama,’ I said as I set the tray on the bed and sat down beside it, ‘can't we do something for TanteBep? I mean, isn't it sad that she has to spend her last days here where she hates it, instead of where she was happy? The Wallers' or someplace?’
‘Corrie, Bep has been just as happy here with us--no more and no less--than she was anywhere else. Do you know when she started praising the Wallers so highly? The day she left them. As long as she was there, she had nothing but complaints. The Wallers couldn't compare with the van Hooks where she'd been before. But at the van Hooks, she'd actually been miserable. Happiness isn't something that depends on our surroundings, Corrie. It's something we make inside ourselves.’”
I think of what Corrie experienced when she was in the concentration camp. How did she find happiness in such grim circumstances? It was by returning to what her mother had told her – that happiness is something that we make inside ourselves.
I wonder, if we are honest, and look back on things a few months ago or a year ago, what were we praising and what were our major complaints? Are they the same today? Have they changed? Why or why not?
We’ve been through a couple of months of fairly difficult, if not grim months due to COVID-19. It, admittedly, has not been an easy task to keep our spirits up at times. How have essential workers been able to find happiness when doing back breaking work and putting themselves at risk, or have they even been able to? How have we been able to find moments of happiness when things have been taken away from us and we have been mostly isolated? What have we found within ourselves that helps to make us happy?
While happiness isn’t everything, it also isn’t healthy to wring our hands in doom and gloom because of what’s going on in the world, and because of our own situations. So, so can be grateful for what we do have and look for the bright spots in our day. Some days, it’s a tough task, but when we call on God to help us, we might be surprised at what our eyes are opened to see.
Gracious God, some days it is very difficult to find moments of happiness, reasons to smile. We ask that you be with us in those times to hold us. Then, God, help us to notice and appreciate eventhe smallest of things that serve to make us happy. We give you thanks for your presence with us every day, especially during this crisis. Amen.
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Saturday, May 23, 2020
Recall some of your favorite and your most troublesome memories.
Memories – The Key to the Future
Corrie ten Boom
“Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.”
Just think of the variety of memories that Corrie must have had – the gladness of being a child with siblings, working at her watchmaker father’s side, becoming the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in The Netherlands; the boldness she had in taking risks on behalf of the Jews during the Nazi invasion; the fear she must have experienced when searches of homes were going on in the neighborhood; being in prison performing back breaking work; observing the failing health and death of her sister also in prison; the ill treatment by some of the Nazis; the joy of sharing the Gospel even in the midst of such pain and distress.
We all have a variety of memories – some that are funny or joyful, some that are serious or painful, some that perhaps we haven’t brought to mind in a long while, some that we’d just as soon never recall again. Those memories are a key to who we are; our lived experience. Yet, we can’t dwell in them or on them, because indeed they are in the past. What we can do, however, is see them, as Corrie puts, as a key to the future. We can let God use them to prepare of for what we will be called to do in the future. Corrie, herself, after having survived the trauma of being in a concentration camp, through the telling of her story, proclaimed the Gospel and taught others about Jesus.
As we move through this COVID-19 crisis, we have all drawn upon the memories of the way things used to be, even if it was only a few months ago. We long to go back to the way everything was before. Unfortunately, much of that will be relegated to “memory.” Even these last few months, when we get through the crisis, will be relegated to “memory.” We can, however, use our lived experience through all this, can use all that we’ve learned, not to go back to the way everything was before, but prepared to do what we will be called to do in the future. What, out of these last few months, can we take with us into the future that will help us to answer God’s call? What have we learned that, although it may have been difficult, will be beneficial going forward?
God of History, we give you thanks for all the memories, the recollections of our lives, for they allow us to remember how we came to be who we are and where we are. Help us to not hold on to them as a key to the past but appreciate them and learn from them as we move into the new normal of the future into which you are calling us. Amen.
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Friday, May 22, 2020
Contemplate on what’s going on in the world, and then on what is going on inside you.
External vs. Internal Life
Corrie ten Boom
“Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.”
When watching the news, we certainly have been made aware of how the observable, external life of the world has grown horrible in so many ways.We’ve seen the ugliness of disease, poverty, greed, selfishness, inequity, and injustice…and that was all before COVID-19, but now it’s even worse. We wonder if things will ever change.
I can hardly imagine what it was like for Corrie during her time at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Under hellish conditions, she was treated extremely cruelly while doing backbreaking work, went without food, and lost her sister. She certainly wondered, every day, when the end would come. Yet, she and her sister managed to hold worship services and teach others about Jesus using a Bible that had been smuggled in. Their faith and trust in, their relationship with God grew better and deeper.
I wonder if, in many ways, our faith and trust, our relationship with God might be growing better and deeper during these horrible times. Perhaps some of us have had more time to examine and grow in our inner life through increased devotion, study, and prayer. Or, maybe some of us have been so busy, so pressed, that the one place we can find rest and refuge is through our inner life with God.
I certainly hope and pray that, in spite of all the unpleasantness going on in the world around us, we can grow in our faith and trust in God and may reflect God’s glory.
God of Grace, God of Glory, when there are so many horrible things going on in the world, help us to not become overwhelmed and lose heart completely. Let us, instead, find the time to spend time with you, put our trust in you, abide in you, that we might grow in faith. Amen.
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Thursday, May 21, 2020
In whom or what do you trust? What makes it difficult to trust?
Corrie ten Boom
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
It seems as if we have been traveling through a tunnel for the last couple of months. When you enter a tunnel, pretty much the only direction you can go is forward or backward. We know that, in the case of the tunnel in which we currently find ourselves, we can’t turn around and go back. All we can do is travel forward, and we do that much in the dark.
While we have been warned about and have witnessed its virulence and high level of communicability, there are still so many things that we don’t know about COVID-19. The overwhelming abundance of information, much of it conflicting or not making sense to us, often leaves a lack of light being shed on the subject. We remain in the dark, not knowing which engineer we can trust. Yet, we can’t, as Corrie put it, “throw away the ticket and jump off.” We need to move forward through the tunnel.
I know that when I have been motoring through a very long tunnel, I can become anxious wondering whether there is actually an end coming. It’s only when I can see the light at the end that I can breathe a little bit easier. In between entry and exit, the only thing I can do is trust. That’s where we are now. While we all hope that we will see the end of the tunnel soon, and we’re all a little anxious, we’re not necessarily there yet.
The one engineer that we can trust is Jesus. He is the light in the darkness. While we might not be able to know for certain what to believe coming through media, we can turn to Jesus asking for his guidance. We can dig deep to the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us to help us, through prayer and study, through mutual conversation around the Word, to learn and discern what is best for us during this time. None of us have all the answers, and we are not certain some of the answers we do have are right, and so we trust in God to help us sort it all out in time, God’s time.
Faithful God, when we feel like we are stuck in the dark, help us to see the light of your Son shining for us in the good that is still being done in the world. Give us the confidence that we need to keeping moving forward through this COVID-19 tunnel, knowing that you are always with us. Amen.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Whom do you need to forgive? For what do you need to be forgiven?
Corrie ten Boom
“Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
I really appreciate Corrie’s imagery when talking about forgiveness. When we are unable or unwilling to forgive, we do indeed find ourselves locked in resentment, anger or hatred, and bitterness, much or all of that rooted in selfishness. Sometimes, we have hung onto all those feelings for so long, that there seems to be no way to escape.
If we were truly honest in examining our lack of forgiveness, we might realize the power it has over us in the long run. Hanging onto bad feelings has actually been shown to affect us emotionally, as one would expect, but it can also be detrimental physically. Some studies have shown that we can become physically sick when we can’t find a way to let go of bad feelings toward others…or ourselves, for that matter. Often, forgiving oneself is harder than forgiving someone else. Asking for forgiveness of others, is also very difficult.
I know that Corrie struggled with the matter of forgiveness toward those who treated her so cruelly during her imprisonment long after she was released. While she uses the image of a key, I’m not so certain that it’s a key we can turn once and then throw it away. Forgiveness isn’t easy, and it doesn’t necessarily come all at once. Forgiveness is often more of a process. We are able to let go, perhaps, little by little, but because we have been bound by the hurt and pain for so long, or were hurt so deeply, we tend to relapse into the captivity of unforgiveness.
I think that there is hope, however, knowing that Jesus is the key to our forgiveness. We have the promise that we ARE forgiven and still loved by God regardless of what we have done. God’s grace and mercy for us, in turn, is what will ultimately allow us to forgive others. It is what gives us the strength and inspiration to go and do likewise…even when it’s not easy.
Forgiving God, we know the pain, not only of the hurt shown toward us, but that of hanging on to unforgiveness. Help us to sort through our resentment and hatred, our bitterness and selfishness to discover where we might be able to receive or offer forgiveness. May we remember that your love and grace for us abound. Amen.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Who/What do you value? Why?
God Values Us
Corrie ten Boom
“God's viewpoint is sometimes different from ours - so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things....In the Bible I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us.”
There are so many times that we wish we had more answers, wish we had more strength, wish we had the means to improve our day or the world around us. We can begin to feel inadequate in our dealing with the challenges of the day. We might feel like there is more that we should be accomplishing, even when our hands have been tied, in a sense, because we are isolated at home or can’t engage in our normal activities. It’s easy to fall into a sense of apathy or complacency.
Isn’t it remarkable, that even in her imprisonment, Corrie found worth and meaning? She and her sister Betsi managed to continue to find a way to spread the Gospel in the midst of their trials. The ability they mustered to do sowasn’t because of their own physical strength or brains, but due to their knowledge and trust in God’s love from them simply because they were God’s creation, God’s beloved children.
When we feel challenged by feelings of not measuring up, not being able to do what we feel we should be doing, or when we cast a judgmental glance toward others, we can remember that God does not look at things from that viewpoint. God values us, all of us, for who we are has God’s beloved. That is enough for God. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that we can’t do it all, nor expect that of others; that just being God’s children, living in God’s grace is enough.
Creator God, we often find ourselves and others from our own viewpoint of inadequacy. Help to see ourselves and one another through your eyes, not judging by strength or brains, but simply as those you created, those you love. Amen.
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Monday, May 18, 2020
What worries you today?
Corrie ten Boom
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Back in 1988, a Bobby McFerrin song hit it big on the charts as folks hear the refrain of “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” A couple lines from the first verse are:
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
While, on the whole, the song is a bit trite, and the opposite of worry isn’t exactly happiness, McFerrin did, in a sense, capture Corrie’s thoughts about worry. Worry doubles our trouble, doubles the strength we need to get through the day. Just think about the strength it must have taken for Corrie to get through a single day when she was in a concentration camp.
The burdens we carry on a daily basis are heavy enough, but when we worry, that heaviness – the heaviness of heart and mind – only increases the load and makes it even more difficult to bear. It diminishes our strength physically, emotionally, and spiritually. No, we can’t just simply a switch to move from worry to happiness. There are some things that we carry with us that simply can’t/won’t bring a smile to our face. Yet, those same things are likely things that cannot be improved by worry.
What we can do, however, is share that burden with Jesus. In 1 Peter, we are urged to “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” Jesus loves us and wants to care for us. He says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) He also tells us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:34) He doesn’t promise great big grinning smiles of happiness, but a sharing of our burdens and rest for our souls. Isn’t that what we need today?
God of Comfort and Rest, when the burdens we are carrying seem to be overwhelming, remind us that we don’t need to bear the load alone. Help us to let go of worry, placing the load of all we face – our challenges and concerns – in your care. Bring us peace of body, mind, and soul as we trust in your presence with us and for us. Amen.
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