Saturday, July 2, 2016

Night Light for Couples - “Shmily”

by Laura Hammond

My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "SHMILY" in a surprise place for the other to find.

They took turns leaving "SHMILY" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more. They dragged "SHMILY" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring. "SHMILY" was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath.

At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "SHMILY" on the very last sheet. There was no end to the places "SHMILY" would pop up. Little notes with "SHMILY" scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards and car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. "SHMILY" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace.

This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture. It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparent's game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love - one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life.

Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection which not everyone is lucky enough to experience. Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome an old man he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em." Before every meal they bowed heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other.

But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: my grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared 10 years earlier. As always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that color so she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside. Now the cancer was once again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, they still went to church every Sunday morning. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore.

For a while, Grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone. "SHMILY." It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet.

As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby. Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew then that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty. S-H-M-I-L-Y: See How Much I Love You.

Looking ahead…

Is there any doubt that this tender couple knew the joy that springs from true love? That they understood the meaning of intimacy and commitment in marriage? Through a simple message sent in simple ways— traced in a flour container or on the bathroom mirror—this husband and wife continually expressed their love to each other for over fifty years. And when the time came for “Grandpa” to face the world alone, through his tears he sang his bride a lullaby that told her one last time, “See how much I love you!”

So many couples today reach the end of their days without ever experiencing such genuine love—the kind that includes stealing kisses, finishing each other’s sentences, and holding hands whenever possible. They sincerely desire a deep, intimate love, but they assume it will just “happen” somewhere along the way. When it doesn’t, disillusionment and even divorce follow.

We’ll talk this week about true love—what it means and how you can achieve it in marriage. I’ll close tonight’s reading with this question: What does true love mean to you?

- James C. Dobson

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
“SHMILY” by Laura Hammond. © 1997. Used by permission of the author.

The First Americans to Observe the 4th Were Moravian Pacifists

by Linda C. Brinson

Moravian settlers in NC were the first Americans to officially celebrate the 4th of July. But they weren’t partying in honor of military victory. They were thanking God for peace.

At the nation’s first official Independence Day celebration, there were no fireworks, no sparklers, and no rowdy parties. The parade was solemn, with reverent music and the call-and-response singing of two choirs. Songs were sung in German.

Those marking the nation’s hard-won independence at that first celebration had not participated in the long and bloody war, and they were not celebrating the newly free nation’s victory over the British oppressors at Yorktown. They were thanking God for peace.

That subdued celebration was on July 4, 1783, in the Moravian village of Salem, now part of the hyphenated city of Winston-Salem in Piedmont North Carolina. On January 20 of that year, a preliminary peace agreement in Paris had signaled the end of the Revolutionary War, even though the Treaty of Paris would not be signed until September.

Ecstatic over both victory and peace, Alexander Martin, the governor of the new state of North Carolina, proclaimed July 4 a day of public thanksgiving. The governor’s order was not widely heeded. Some of the more backwoods areas of the state didn’t even hear about it until the designated date had passed. But Governor Martin, on his way to somewhere else, stopped in the thriving settlement of Salem on June 30 and mentioned the proclamation.

Despite the short notice, Salem and the other Moravian villages that made up the Wachovia settlement scrambled to put together suitable observances. All the villages celebrated at least a little, by ringing bells or attending church. But the grandest, most extensive celebration was at the settlement’s main town, Salem. That, plus the Moravian fondness for documenting everything, gives Salem its claim to the first-ever Fourth of July celebration.

“Moravians kept meticulous records and wrote everything down,” said Tyler Cox, the manager of community relations for Old Salem Museums and Gardens. The Salem Diary for July 4, 1783, details the day’s events. Since no one else has produced similar proof, “We think we can pretty safely say the first celebration was here.”

Apparently, the Moravians in Salem got the jump even on their brethren who lived near Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed in 1776. The Moravians, a Protestant group in what is now the Czech Republic, had sent missionaries to establish the settlement of Bethlehem, Pa., in 1741.

A little more than a decade later, Moravians bought land in the North Carolina hills and began the Wachovia settlement. Salem was established as its center in 1766, with five outlying congregations. The Moravians were an industrious, inventive, highly organized, devout people who valued education for all. Their way of life can be observed today at a living museum.

They also had a strong pacifist tradition, dating to their founding amid the religious struggles of the 15th century as a “peace church.” Members were forbidden to serve in the military. They lived by the teachings in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

It’s little wonder that by 1783, the Moravians in Salem were thrilled that the battles were over. During the Revolution, both British and rebels harassed them, collected fines, and even attacked them physically. Some young men hid in the forest to escape being pressed into service. A few did join with the rebels; the church forgave them later.

Too, the Moravians, despite their reluctance to bear arms, were pleased to be part of the new country, now that it was at peace. They heeded the governor’s proclamation. And eight years later, in 1791, they welcomed President George Washington for a two-day stay and tour of the settlement.

The 1783 Independence Day celebration, as documented in the Salem Diary, started with trombone music, of which Moravians were fond. At 2 p.m., there was a Love Feast, a Moravian tradition that is more a celebration of community than a sacrament. People gathered in the church for a service that included a simple meal (usually coffee heavy with cream and sugar, plus a sweet bun).

As Moravians have long made music central to their worship, the service also included the singing of a “Psalm of Joy.” That gives the Moravians at Salem some claim to having come up with the first patriotic song celebrating the nation’s freedom. (This was years before Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”) Johann Friedrich Peter, who was the chief scribe and keeper of the Salem Diary, also served as composer-on-call, whipping something up whenever the occasion called for a new hymn or a celebratory opus. Some accounts say he wrote the cantata “Psalm of Joy” for the occasion, but Richard Starbuck, assistant archivist at the Moravian Archives in Winston-Salem, said that the composition wasn’t entirely new. Pressed for time, Peter adapted a piece he’d written celebrating the end of the Seven Years War.

The cantata, often described as “challenging,” was sung entirely in German.

Later in the day, the Moravians assembled for more hymns and walked joyfully though solemnly down the main street and around the square. The diary entry reads in part: “… Hearts were filled with the peace of God, evident during the entire day and especially during the procession, and all around there was silence, even the wind being still.”

The Moravians skipped Fourth of July celebrations for a few years after that, but they soon revived them. This year, as for several years now, the day will get started at 10 a.m. with a naturalization ceremony for new U.S citizens on Salem Square, where that first celebration was held. At 2 p.m., there will be a performance of “Psalm of Joy” at Home Moravian Church, with organ, an orchestra and a 35-member chorale. Members of the congregation will join in hymns during the performance. Most of the singing is still in German, although English translations are provided.

And at 4:15 p.m., today’s Salem Moravians will lead a re-enactment of the procession around Salem Square celebrating peace, just as their forebears did 231 years ago.

Linda C. Brinson, former editorial page editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, is a freelance writer and editor and an adjunct faculty member in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

NIV Devotions for Couples - Coming Clean With Each Other

Romans 8:1–17

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again.Romans 8:14–15

When Sheryl and Gary got engaged, they sat down and had some pretty frank conversations with one another. They discussed their families and their past relationships, trying to identify the ways their childhoods and dating histories might impinge on their present and future together.

What they didn’t discuss—at least not adequately—was their financial history. In particular, Gary didn’t tell his fiancée that, six years before, he had gotten into massive credit card debt. Gary figured he had dealt with the problem so it was behind him. Why bring up something that wasn’t an issue anymore?

Of course, any time we find ourselves thinking along those lines, something more is going on. If the incident in question was truly in the past, we would feel OK sharing it. Failing to bring up credit card debt, porn use or an affair means the shame of it hasn’t really left us but is still choking us as we try to keep it secret. Over time we become captive to our fears of being found out.

Gary managed to keep his financial past hidden from Sheryl for a few years, though he now says that, in hindsight, he can see that his inability to talk about money with Sheryl caused him to dodge conversations that were important for their financial future. Eventually, Gary had to talk about money and ’fess up to his past money mistakes and his deception when he and Sheryl tried to buy a house and were turned down for a loan because of Gary’s bad credit rating.

It was hard, of course, to have those conversations. “It was much harder than if I’d told Sheryl about my credit card debt years before,” Gary said. “Then we could have strategized together. And then I wouldn’t have had to deal with both Sheryl’s distress that we were having a hard time getting a mortgage and her even greater distress that I had, in effect, lied to her by not telling her the whole truth.”

It can be hard—even terrifying—to reveal a long-buried secret to your spouse. You worry he’ll be furious, that he’ll judge you, that he’ll be hurt. Indeed, your spouse might be hurt. She might be angry. She might be stunned. But put yourself in your spouse’s shoes; if he was keeping something from you, you would want him to come clean, not only so that you could be in the know, but so that he could be freed from the chains of shame and secrecy.

Romans 8:14–15 tells us that we are no longer slaves to fear. As children of God, we live in the light of full disclosure, sure of forgiveness, pardon and restoration—in our relationship with God and with each other.

Lauren Winner

Let’s Talk
  • Is there a not-so-big issue one of us is keeping from the other? What is preventing full disclosure?
  • Does envisioning God as truly present in our conversations make it easier to imagine starting a hard conversation with each other about that secret?
  • Look back to the hard conversations we’ve had with each other. What have been the fruits of those discussions?

Standing Strong Through the Storm - PRAYER CHANGES THINGS

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Ages ago the prophet Jonah saw it happen. The population of the city of Nineveh (in the north of present day Iraq) repented from sin. A radical change came because he preached and God’s Spirit worked. Almost on the same spot in the city of Mosul (modern Nineveh), the climate has changed too.

After 2003, Mosul became a city with increasing violence. Car bombs, attacks and all kind of violence are normal in this old city. Civilians of whatever religion and police and soldiers have been targeted. In the beginning of 2010, there was a significant increase in violent attacks on Christians. In the month of February that year, eight were killed in just ten days. This all caused an exodus of Christians.

“Thousands of Christians have left our city…and that hurts,” shares twenty-one-year-old Dawud. “I saw a lot of my friends leaving too,” the young Iraqi adds. His family has been Christian for generations, as is the case with many Iraqi Christians.

Open Doors worker, Daniel, says that as far as he knows the number of Christians dramatically dropped in the second biggest city of the country. Before the fall of Saddam Hussein, the number in Mosul was estimated at two hundred thousand of the one and a half million inhabitants. “We believe the number is now far less than one hundred thousand, many of them not living in the city itself but in Christian villages around.”

“We started some years ago to pray for our city,” Dawud continues. “It started small with just our family, but soon there were more believers coming to the prayer meetings. Now we pray weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays from five till seven in the afternoon. Some fifty Christians in our city regularly participate,” he says. “Because of our prayer, the city started to change. The situation is different now. What I see now is that my generation doesn’t want to leave, we want to stay. This is God’s place for me. I’ll stay; I will never leave. And if I will be killed, I will be killed.”

“But,” he goes on, “the situation is much better now. We can go out as youth again, even in the evenings. We can go to our meetings without being afraid, we don’t feel insecure anymore.” His father, pastor of one of the churches in Mosul, confirms that the climate in the city improved after they started praying as a church. With a smile on his face he adds, “We even saw Muslims becoming followers of Jesus.”

RESPONSE: Today I will rejoice in the ability I have to take every issue I face to the Lord and trust Him for the answer.

PRAYER: Remember brothers and sisters who live in violent societies. Pray that fear will not drive them to leave.

Verse of the Day - July 02, 2016

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NIV) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Read all of Jeremiah 17