Valentine’s Day

I had planned to write a post on the history and relevance of Valentine’s Day in relation to biblical beliefs, but someone beat me to the punch and did a really good job at it. So instead I will just post the link to his post.

Valentine’s Day

Enjoy.

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To Elora Liann, On Your First Birthday

Dear Elora Liann,

Today we celebrate your first birthday. What a joy! It’s funny to realize that all the cliches apply, but that it has no effect at all on how amazingly joyful I feel because of it. I could start by saying that I still 3075316262_0c72721e082remember the evening of your birth like it was yesterday, but I can actually still remember as well when your mom said that you were in her belly. Wow! Tears came to my eyes realizing that I would become a daddy. Your daddy! I can still remember when your grandma Sawyer said to me, even before you were born: ‘Marc, you are a father already, and now it’s your task to become a daddy. ‘ Profound words indeed, because being a daddy is so much more than just being a father. I will always be your father, but I have to work always to become and stay your daddy. A lifelong task I eagerly accept with much joy and anticipation.

But let’s get back to the evening you were born. It was a rainy evening, and I just got back from a quick visit to some friends who ensured me that the chances were high that you would not be born yet that night. But, I didn’t even have time to take off my coat when you let me and your mom know that it definitely time. With much eagerness, speed, and force did you make your grand entrance into this world. Into our world. Into our home, at home. In a single second you made us into a family. In a single second everything changed forever. A girl. My girl. I choked. I was speechless. Beyond words. The nurse asked us for your name, and your mom and I said in unison: “Elora Liann.” A name we derived from the Hebrew name Eleora, which means “God is my light,” for we sure pray that you will see God as your light, and Liann, which could mean “God has answered” or “to bind darkness,” but is actually a combination of the names of both your grandmas, Linda and Anna.

And then, I held you for the first time. Something I will never forget for the rest of my life. To hold your delicate, fragile, lively body, smaller than my lower arm, was amazing. You sometimes opened your eyes, you sighed, you yawned. Cute as can be. I fell in love with you instantly, and every day since I love you more. To be the daddy of a girl is already a blessing, but to be your daddy is such an amazing honor and blessing that I can do nothing else than thank God each day for you.

3075325936_1d160bca731Yet now, here we are, one year later to the day. And what a beautiful girl you are. I have cherished every single moment of your growing up so far. Your first smile, your first giggle, how you manage to fall asleep in your bed in these crazy funny positions, how your face looks when tasting something unfamiliar, how you start laughing when I toss you on the bed, your crawling that would make any Navy Seal jealous, and so many more. You are such a joy to have around. Your smile makes me all warm inside. And I love your character. You are friendly, warm-hearted, a people person, relaxed, eager, determined, and curious. I love you, Elora. You are my girl! And this is only the beginning. Year two has officially started. And I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see you stand on your own. I can’t wait to see you wiggle around the house. I can’t wait hearing you say your first words. I can’t wait to see you eating your own food by yourself. I am ready for it. Are you?

Elora, I love you so much, and I am proud and blessed to be your daddy.
Happy birthday, my sweet girl!

Thanksgiving, but to Whom?

Today a dream comes true. This may sound like an overstatement, but for years and years I always wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving on actual U.S. soil. I know, I know, I am Dutch, so what do I care about this celebration. We don’t even (really) celebrate this in the Netherlands. And why should we, for it’s not our history. But there is something about an actual celebration of thanksgiving. Sure, there are similar holidays like Easter and Christmas which are celebrated across the globe which also end up being times where the family all comes together and eat a lot. In that way it seems no different from Thanksgiving. And you may be right, if looked upon in its current version, because, like Easter and Christmas, also Thanksgiving has become a commerical monster which seems impossible to slaughter (that in comparison to the many turkeys). But in a similar fashion it can be stated that also Thanksgiving is a celebration where the original spirit is long gone. Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving are nowadays all about food and presents. Yes, we give, but in our hearts it’s more about what we get in return. You can be honest here… And I am not necessarily talking presents here.

But, it’s Thanksgiving today, and I am happy to celebrate on its original soil, so let’s do an overview of the first Thanksgiving, in the hope that its original spirit is revived, meaning to acknowledge the provision of God. In order to do this I am going to fall back on the studies of Chuck Missler. All I will say is: happy Thanksgiving, and I invite you all to thank the God of the Bible for His amazing provision (the family and friends with which you can celebrate it, the house with all its provisions in which you can celebrate it, the big turkey and all the other food so you can celebrate it, the television in whatever size so you can watch all the football that’s on, your highly intricate digestive system that has to cope with the aftermath of your gluttony, etc, etc, but most important the provision of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised again so that all who believe in Jesus will have eternal life and are reconciled with God, so that we can see and savor the glory of God for ever.)

http://khouse.org/articles/1997/111/

The early settlers of America, who braved the privations of those incredibly difficult years, were a fabulous lot, indeed. We can hardly imagine the burdens they endured to make a new life for themselves in a new land. Their turning point began one Friday in the middle of March,1621.

Samoset
An Indian, wearing nothing but a leather loincloth, strode up their main street to the common house, and to their startled faces boomed in flawless English, “Welcome.” His name was Samoset, a sagamore (or chief) of the Algonquins. He had been visiting the area for the previous eight months, having learned his English from various fishing captains who had put in to the Maine shore over the years. He returned the following Thursday with another Indian who also spoke English, and who was to prove “a special instrument of God for their good, beyond their expectation.” His story was to prove no less extraordinary than the saga of Joseph being sold into slavery to Egypt. His name was Tisquantum, also called Squanto.

Squanto
His story began in 1605 when Squanto and four other Indians were taken captive, sent to England,and taught English to provide intelligence background on the most favorable places to establish colonies. After nine years in England, Squanto was able to return to Plymouth on Capt. John Smith’s voyage in 1614. Lured and captured by a notorious Capt. Thomas Hunt, he, with 27 others, were taken to Málaga, Spain, a major slave-trading port. Squanto, with a few others, were bought and rescued by local friars and introduced to the Christian faith. Thus, it appears that God was preparing him for the role he would ultimately play at Plymouth. He was able to attach himself to an Englishman bound for London, then he joined the family of a wealthy merchant, and ultimately embarked for New England in 1619. He stepped ashore six months before the Pilgrims landed in 1620. When he stepped ashore he received the most tragic blow of his life. Not a man, woman, or child of his own tribe was left alive! During the previous four years, a mysterious plague had broken out among them, killing every last one. So complete was the devastation that the neighboring tribes had shunned the area ever since. The Pilgrims had settled in a cleared area that belonged to no one. Their nearest neighbors, the Wampanoags, were about 50 miles to the southwest. Stripped of his identity and his reason for living, Squanto wandered aimlessly until he joined the Wampanoags, having nowhere else to go. But God had other plans.

God’s Provision
Massasoit, the sachem (or chief) of the Wapanoags, entered into a peace treaty of mutual aid with the Plymouth colony that was to last as a model for forty years. When Massasoit and his entourage left, Squanto stayed. He had found his reason for living: these English were helpless in the ways of the wilderness. Squanto taught them how to catch eels, stalk deer, plant pumpkins, refine maple syrup, discern both edible herbs and those good for medicine, etc. Perhaps the most important thing he taught them was the Indian way to plant corn. They hoed six-foot squares in toward the center, putting down four or five kernels, and then fertilizing the corn with fish: three fish in each square, pointing to the center, spokelike. Guarding the field against the wolves (who would try to steal the fish), by summer they had 20 full acres of corn that would save every one of their lives. Squanto also taught them to exploit the pelts of the beaver, which was in plentiful supply and in great demand throughout Europe. He even guided the trading to insure they got full prices for top-quality pelts. The corn was their physical deliverance; the beaver pelts would be their economic deliverance.

The First Thanksgiving
The Pilgrims were a grateful people-grateful to God, grateful to the Wampanoags, and grateful also to Squanto. Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving, to be held in October. Massasoit was invited and unexpectedly arrived a day early-with an additional ninety Indians! To feed such a crowd would cut deeply into their stores for the winter, but they had learned through all their travails that God could be trusted implicitly. And it turned out that the Indians did not come empty handed: they brought five dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys. They helped with the preparations, teaching the Pilgrim women how to make hoecakes and a tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup. In fact, they also showed them how to make one of their Indian favorites: white, fluffy popcorn! (Each time you go to a movie theatre, you should remember the source of this popular treat!) The Pilgrims, in turn, provided many vegetables from their gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbages. Also, using some of their precious flour with some of the summer fruits which the Indians had dried, the Pilgrims introduced them to blueberry, apple, and cherry pie. Along with sweet wine made from wild grapes, it was, indeed, a joyous occasion for all concerned. The Pilgrims and Indians happily competed in shooting contests, foot races, and wrestling. Things went so well (and Massasoit showed no inclination to leave) that this first Thanksgiving was extended for three days. The moment that stood out the most in the Pilgrims’ memories was William Brewster’s prayer as they began the festival. They had so much for which to thank God: for providing all their needs-and His provision of Squanto, their teacher, guide, and friend that was to see them through those critical early winters.

A National Institution
By the end of the 19th century, Thanksgiving Day had become an institution throughout New England. It was officially proclaimed as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Traditionally celebrated on the last Thursday in November, it was changed by an act of Congress in 1941 to the fourth Thursday of that month. Originally observed to acknowledge the provision of God, let us also make this national holiday a very special time to thank Him for our own provision-our families, our sustenance, and, above all, our redemption in His Son! Let’s also pray that He might restore the religious freedom that those early Pilgrims cherished so dearly-and that the current enforced paganism that has invaded our land be curtailed. This country is now becoming what the Pilgrims had risked their very lives to flee from.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today my mom turns 70. Quite an achievement I must say. And so it will be a day of festivities, lots of food and good times. As a sort of tradition I wrote her a poem, and although it is in Dutch I will post it here. Happy Birthday Mom! I love you.

Lieve Mam,

Er zijn soms van die momenten, van die momenten die uitstekend zijn
Uistekend zijn om wat te vertellen, wat te delen, wat te verkondigen
Wat normaal niet gezegd wordt, of althans niet vaak genoeg; onbesproken blijft
Van die momenten van reflectie, van vooruit kijken, van in het moment kijken
En zo’n moment is nu
Want waarom zo’n moment te laten passeren over zeventig jaren vrouw zijn
Daar kunnen we natuurlijk niet aan beginnen
Daar valt best wel wat over te zeggen
Want wat voor een vrouw!
En wat voor een moeder!
En wat voor een oma!

Mam, je bent een echte moeder!
Hoe goed je voor ons alle zorgt; tot in de puntjes
Wekker gezet, je ontwaakt
Ontbijtje staat klaar, de lunch gemaakt
En altijd iets lekker voor diner
Dag in dag uit, zonder te verzaken weet jij alles tot een feest te maken
Zoveel gezelligheid en warmte
Huis is thuis, ook als je er niet woont
En ik weet één ding heel zeker: daar word jij lang niet genoeg voor beloond
We nemen het allemaal maar op de koop toe
Het is gewoon deel van het geheel
Zoals de zon die schijnt of maandag vanzelf dinsdag wordt
Dus, laat deze dag het begin zijn
Het begin van meer waardering (of, nou ja, het uiten ervan dan)
Waarderen doen we je natuurlijk al
Want hoewel je pas op de helft bent
Tussen waar het leven schijnbaar écht begint
En waar het als eeuwig wordt gezien
Beginnen de jaren natuurlijk wel te tellen
Maar niet in uiterlijke zin, want je ziet er geen dag ouder uit dan 69

Echter niet alles is zoals het was
Zuur en zoet zijn tegenwoordig flink gemengd
En daar waar de definitie van oma nu ook op jouw betrekking heeft
Tot grote blijdschap van ons allen!
Is de definitie van vrouw aangescherpt; moeten soms alle zeilen worden bijgezet
En terwijl dat niet makkelijk is, wordt ook dat met zoveel liefde gedaan
Op eigen kracht wel te verstaan
Waar wellicht verder gekeken moet worden voor volharding in hoop en liefde
Maar beschouw je omringd door liefde, en alles wat je hebt gegeven komt terug
Gevraagd of ongevraagd, gewoon voor niets
Dus, laat deze dag het begin zijn; het begin van meer waardering
Want mam, je bent een echte moeder!
En hoe goed je voor ons alle zorgt zo moeten wij ook voor jou zorgen
Je er geen dag ouder dan 69 uit laten zien, ook al ben je straks 80
Maar of dat weer zo’n moment is voor reflectie?
Elora is dan 10 jaar, en ik heb goede hoop dat zij hier dan staat en zegt:
“Oma, je bent een echte oma!”

Kiss Halloween Goodbye

Yesterday was Halloween, and I figured that it would be a good opportunity to spend some words on this topic. Ever since I am a Christian I want to be more aware of what all these celebrations mean, in light of pleasing God and what the Bible has to say about us being in the world but not part of the world (John 17:14-16), to not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2), and to have nothing to do with worldly fables (1 Timothy 4:7). Halloween should be considered a dangerous celebration as many of these seemingly harmless involvements associated with this feast could be entries to the occult.

Its History
Halloween has its origin in the ancient Celtic festival known as ‘Samhain,’ which is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is also the end of the summer as November 1 was the new year for the Celtic. Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient Celtic pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Now, the ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, now known as Halloween at that time, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits. The Druids, the Celtic priests, believed that on October 31, the night before their New Year and the last day of the old year, Samhain, the Lord of Death, gathered the souls of the evil dead who had been condemned to enter the bodies of animals. The Druids also believed that the punishment of the evil dead would be lightened by sacrifices, prayers and gifts to the Lord of Death. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired a sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to appease the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. Interesting side note is that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, which started the movement known today as the Reformation. Appropriately, he did this on Halloween.

Its Name and Symbolism
The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows’ Even as it is the eve of “All Hallows’ Day”, which is now also known as All Saints’ Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints’ Day from May 13 (which had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures) to 1st November. The carved pumpkin lit by a candle inside originated in Europe. The believe was that the head was the most powerful part of the body, containing the spirit and the knowledge, and so the Celts used the “heads” of vegetable to frighten off any superstitions.

Its Dangers
Halloween is an involvement in which innocent games can lead to serious entanglement with real witches, neo-pagans, New Agers, and other occultists. A common pastime is the use of a Ouija board to attempt to contact ghosts or spirits that are believed to be roaming about. This can lead to serious consequences including demon possession. Demons have an unconditional interest in Halloween because it supports the occult, and it also offers novel and unexpected opportunities to control and influence people. Forms of the occult can include mediums, channelers, clairvoyants, psychics, spiritists, diviners, mystics, gurus, shamans, psychical researchers, Yogis, psychic and holistic healers, astral travel, astrology, mysticism, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, contact with the dead, and thousands of other practices. Occultism includes Satanism, astrology, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, theosophy, witchcraft and many forms of serious magic. It includes activities seeking the acquisition of “hidden” things, which are expressly forbidden by God in the Bible. There is genuine power in the occult, but it is demonic power. (Isaiah 47:9; Matthew 24:24; Acts 8:7; 13:6-11; 16:16-19; 19:18-20; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:7-11, 22; 2 Timothy 3:8)

What Does the Bible Say?
The Bible tells that Satan is the power behind all false religion, witchcraft, idolatry and the occult (Deuteronomy 32:16,17; Psalm 106:35-40; Acts 16:16-19; 1 Corinthians 10:19-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10; 1 Timothy 4:1). The Word of God makes it clear that these are all to be shunned as dangerous. There were many superstitions and false concepts in ancient Israel about which the Bible is silent. However, occultism, in any form, was punishable by death! Why? The spiritual power and reality behind idols involves demons (1 Corinthians 10:20; Psalm 106:37). Also mediums and spiritists are expressly prohibited (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10, 11, 14; 2 Chronicles 33:6). Nowhere are such practices acceptable.

What to Do?
Halloween is an example of the necessity to truly understand the Armor of God as outlined in Ephesians 6, but in any case we as Christians should heed the words of Jesus and Paul. We are in this world, but not part of this world. We should not be conformed to this world. And we should stay away from worldly fables. Does this mean Christians cannot celebrate Halloween? Well, that is debatable. I think we don’t lose anything if we would skip this celebration all together. It may be a fun way to dress up, have a party and be creative with decoration, but God is quite clear when He spoke to Israel when He said: “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God’” (Exodus 20:2-5), and Jesus emphasized that by saying: “‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17). But, if you do decide to celebrate this holiday then I think it’s good to be aware of its history, the possible impacts it will have, put on the armor of God underneath your silly costume and pray. But like I said, if you want my advice I would kiss Halloween goodbye!