The Watchmaker’s Daughter

Life at her home was full of rich family times and a foundation of strong faith. The family was well known for their expertise at making and repairing the finest watches found anywhere and this daughter wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a watchmaker as well, a groundbreaking goal for a woman. Little by little she watched and followed each step as an apprentice determined to learn the skills of her father known everywhere in their city. Her attention to detail and determination were accomplishing the means to that end as her family celebrated the one-hundred-year anniversary of their Haarleem watch shop in the Netherlands. This quiet family known to all would see everything about their life begin to change in 1940 when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. But that very event would begin to unveil a far greater destiny for this family than their celebrated watchmaking. This daughter, Corrie ten Boom, would follow her faith that would be tested under the direst conditions and become known throughout the world for it rather than as a skilled watchmaker.

Many of you (like me) have known the name, Corrie ten Boom, for some time. Some of you have read The Hiding Place that tells the story of her family and their courageous decision born out of their faith to help Jewish people hide from the fate that awaited them at the hands of the Nazis. A few of you may have read some of the other books about her or read some of those she wrote or even saw the movie, The Hiding Place. But The Watchmaker’s Daughter by New York Times bestselling author, Larry Loftis takes you deeper into the story of Corrie and her family that results in a richer tapestry and understanding than you may know.

Details about how Corrie’s father inspired the family to take this step and how Corrie helped determine ways and places to hide those being hunted by the Nazis will lead to discovery of new characters involved in this dangerous decision and the betrayals of some of those they trusted along the way. You’ll get to know more about the ways each family member played a different role and how those needing refuge came to the shop for help beyond watch repairs.

What was at first a few Jewish people coming to their door and not a lot of notice by the Gestapo, became a flood of people and with them the challenge to find hiding places and practice drills for the day the Gestapo would come. Finding a way to get food to feed them when the Dutch people were already limited to ration cards was another area of research Corrie needed to pursue along with managing laundry and personal hygiene. 

The tireless efforts of the ten Boom family could not escape notice indefinitely and in 1944 the Gestapo arrived and arrested the family members in the home. Miraculously, those in hiding in the house were not discovered in the raid or search.

Their arrest subjected them to rigorous interrogation filled with questions meant to trick and ensnare them into telling who and how many Jews were hidden. They faced the terrors of beatings and execution for failing to answer the questions when taken to the interrogation room. Their faith together as a family had helped them stand strong but now they would be separated and taken to different prisons and work camps.

Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to the infamous Ravensbruck camp. Much of this part of the story is shared in The Hiding Place, but The Watchmaker’s Daughter expands that story and the various trials they face and those they recognize as needing their faith (both prisoners and those punishing them or standing guard over them). You’ll discover the details of Betsie’s vision for what they are to do after the war that Corrie goes on to fulfill alone after Betsie’s death in Ravensbruck and Corrie’s unexpected release from Ravensbruck due to an error in record keeping by the Nazis in charge.

This inspiring story of Corrie ten Boom who endures the loss of her family members and so many she loved is a well written biography that should not be missed. Her ministry before, during, and following her imprisonment serve as a shining example of unwavering faith. Her journey to incredible levels of forgiveness and love instead of bitterness and hatred is a remarkable one. 

If you do not know her story or have not discovered this newly released true story of Corrie ten Boom, World War II heroine, add this to your list of books to read. You’ll discover an inspiring work and how powerful resistance against evil can be.

In the Midst of Darkness

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Driving along the highway we now see the beginnings of lights adorning homes, lawns, trees, and rooftops. It starts in mid to late November and gradually increases as Advent begins and points toward the celebration of Christmas. And it can seem that Advent lights up the sky and our world in a special way unlike any other time of the year. It pierces the darkness and lifts our spirits when it happens and many who have already begun to add lights to celebrate do so now despite the dark times that seem to surround us.

We look toward Advent and perhaps pause to consider how nothing seems the same this year due to the pandemic and so much chaos and turmoil that swirls around us. How can we possibly turn our hope to that of the coming of a Savior?

We focus on the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, but what do we know of the world He was entering beyond knowing his birthplace was determined because Mary and Joseph had to travel there to pay taxes to the Roman Empire?

Not a great deal is spoken of, but the work of Josephus, a first century Roman-Jewish historian who was born in Jerusalem gives us a glimpse of what was a very dark time and place when Jesus came as a babe in a manger.

Herod the Great’s bloody reign of terror was coming to an end. It was marked by mass terror and widespread surveillance resulting in not only killing those reported as enemies, but members of his own family as well. When he finally died there was hope the new ruler would punish those who had carried out the evil devices of Herod including a reduction of the burdensome taxes levied by him. Many were impatient for justice and when Herod’s successor, Archelaus, saw the growing outcry of the people and how those teaching the Jewish law stirred up the people and how they began to attack his soldiers, he sent an army to destroy them. They killed 3,000 men and others fled to the mountains.

To look at that first Advent and begin the story on the road to the inn in Bethlehem is where we often start, but to do so would miss the context for those who looked and waited in the darkness for the Light of the World. It would miss how great their hope despite the darkness and how that hope was planted in their hearts at another place and time. Because the beginning of the story is key to the celebration of Advent, we must begin at the beginning of the story – the place where God starts and remember that He is the author of the story. It is after all, his story.

“Everything begins somewhere, and to go from a knowledge of Advent traditions to becoming an Advent people we must start where God starts – with creation.”

Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative

The word Advent causes us to look back, but if the Lord dwells within our hearts, this season should also propel our eyes forward to the Advent yet to come when the Lord returns for us.

“God takes the story of the world and shows us details that lead us forward into the place of waiting where we find ourselves now. He prepares our hearts, souls, and minds for the time when Jesus will come again. Our story as God’s chosen children is one that is woven into HIS story of love and peace.”

Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative

In this season of preparation that is Advent, I think the Lord would have us less focused on the darkness of the world around us and more involved in preparing for his return and the role each of us is to play as his light shines through our brokenness to speak to the hope so many need to hear and see.

“This Advent we are walking into story. The binding of God’s story into our own. The unfolding of God’s grace-gift and the receiving of this beautiful gift as our own. For it is with and by grace that we will find our own way along the path of our lives. Advent marks our own arrival into God’s story.”

Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
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Even in darkness, one small light can shine the way to the path toward home. The darkness makes the light that much brighter and small as we may be in the scheme of things, He has written us into his story, and we have a role to play as a light shining when the world is searching for some light of hope. Our path is forward. Our hope is in Jesus not in what we see around us.

It is not only now that we tell the world around us that Jesus came to earth in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago to show us who God is, light the darkened path before, and offer us the hope of grace, but also to tell them He promised to never leave us and is coming again for those who are a part of Him.

“He continues to teach that we do not know when the Son of Man will come again so we must remain vigilant. The call to stay awake is not always physical vigilance. God calls us to an awareness that prepares us to dive deeper into relationship with Himself and others, and to better understand ourselves.”

Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative

As Advent people, let us not fail to be looking for Him again as we live in the time of the now and not yet.

It’s Not Easy to Do

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The series I just finished posting based on Hinds Feet in High Places offers many glimpses of what it means to follow the Shepherd who is the Christ. Key themes are fear and love. Both are strong emotions within us and not easy to tame and yet it is what He asks us to do. Over and over again we are told not to fear and over and over again life hands us new situations that stir up that very uncertainty that tumbles into fear. We learn that life after the failure to resist temptation in the very beginning in Eden’s Garden, throws us into a dangerous unpredictable environment that we, the relatives of Adam and Eve, have been facing ever since. 

Even when facing a new situation we try to be prepared for we know we are not able to control all the variables and fear tiptoes in begging us to succumb to the obvious path that we ought to be afraid of. We study for an exam and know the material well and yet more often than we wish, questions on the exam throw us a curve ball and we agonize over what the best answer should be. We were so sure of all the material but then…

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We make plans for a special trip we have saved to enjoy. Our bags are packed, tickets are confirmed, and we are on our way when suddenly the flight is delayed with no guarantee when it will take off. Sometimes it is a road trip and along the way we face unforeseen construction, a shift to bad weather, or a tire that runs into debris on the highway and our emotions quickly move from disappointment to anger to fear the trip planned for so many months will not happen or be shortened when we were counting on all those wonderful days.

Sometimes we discover later that those delays or diversions actually protected us from an accident or some other challenge that would have been worse. By then, perhaps we can see God’s provision for us but it isn’t easy. Our hearts were set on this thing.

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Then we are asked (even commanded) to love, to love God and others as much as we love ourselves. Love is not really so much squishy sweet feelings as it is a tough path of caring that we hate to admit isn’t something we do very well at all. We don’t have much of a clue of what it’s supposed to look like and don’t love ourselves as He would have us do in the first place. Oh, yes, we know how to treat ourselves to something we want or like – that ice cream treat is a small expense even though our weight tells us to skip this stop. The sale at our favorite clothing store is one we cannot miss even though it puts us above our budget and we can’t afford that. That person who has been abusive has been sweet the last times we were together so maybe this time things will work out so we set aside facts and get caught up in a bad relationship again.

We may choose to love and determine we will but loving like the Shepherd, the Christ, is not really in us. It isn’t something we can really do. After all, He didn’t just do it, it was who He was and just emanated from his very being. How can we possibly do that?

The Shepherd’s love was not based on convenience, preference, or any of those things that often are how we love. His love is based on sacrifice, inconvenience, and a long list of things that turn us aside from loving. It wasn’t convenient for Him to lay aside heaven to come to earth as a helpless, dependent baby. It wasn’t convenient when He was in agony hanging on a cross to consider the request of a criminal on a cross beside Him and offer Him paradise. But He did that as well. Most of the memorable moments of his life on earth happened as an interruption while He was on his way to somewhere else, at a wedding, or hanging out with friends. Most of us cannot come close to that.

In a recent message our pastor made a statement that has been echoing in my head and heart for weeks. It was this: “Great love always moves first.”

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Great love moved the Christ to move first and offer to die for us so we would be set free from the bad choice in Eden and be able to spend eternity with Him. He knew our condition when He moved out of love for us and knew we would fail Him even after we said we chose Him. His disciple, Peter, was no surprise to Him. He knew he was impetuous, got angry and ahead of himself often. He knew he would betray Him but chose him anyway just like He chose you and me. 

He asks us to love like that and it would be easier if we recognized we cannot possibly do that but if we invite Him into this heart of so many inconsistencies and yield to Him that He will be in and through us what we cannot. That’s what love looks like and it is the only way love can defeat fear and every evil thing set to ensnare us. 

As we pause this week to offer thanksgiving, perhaps it’s time to look at that example when we offer thanks. 

The person who is most thankful for health is the one who has walked through illness and pain. The person who is most thankful for any food set before him or her is the one who has known hunger. The one who most values freedom is the one who was in prison or in a place where they could not enjoy that gift. Thankfulness flows from the heart of one who has been broken, lost, and without hope and discovers it in the most unusual places.

Yes, you need to make a choice to love but that choice needs to include an awareness that you cannot do it well unless He does it in you and transforms you.

He’s eager to do that. After all, “Great love always moves first.”

The Realm of Love

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On our long series looking at the allegory Hinds Feet on High Places, we ended with the King of Love going about his work in the Kingdom of Love. Hannah Hurnard described it like this:

“Here the King’s gardeners were always busy, pruning the trees, tending the plants and the vines, and preparing the beds for new seedlings and tender shoots.

These the King himself transplants from uncongenial soil and conditions in the valleys below so that they might grow to perfection and bloom in other parts of the Kingdom of Love, to beautify and adorn it wherever the King saw fit.”

Hannah Hurnard

Love so tenderly and fiercely pursuing our hearts cannot help but plant love unlike human love within our own hearts. He wants that for each of us, but it is not intended for only our good and pleasure. Something that wondrous begs to be shared, not in words but in a life lived out differently in the world God created. That is what it means to be salt and light.

Photo by Pam Ecrement

In the sometimes barrenness of life in this world, God transplants his love within us, and it speaks most loudly when it emanates from our undivided self.

What does that look like?

It’s when our spiritual life is not segmented into a religious compartment with everything else in another. And then, we talk less about love and simply are love toward those with whom we come in contact. We listen to the hearts of others, not to see their problems and offer a solution but to seek instead to truly know them. It is too easy to forget at times that when Christ walked the earth, He never saw a person as the problem to be fixed but rather the person to be known and loved and heard. Sometimes we get ahead of that without really hearing the person and that sets us up to be the problem solver rather than the one carrying the cup of cold water to offer to a person who is thirsty.

As I have spent time in Colossians, I see Paul’s words resonate with Christ’s desire:

 “I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.”

Colossians 2:2-4 (MSG)

Yes, love can be expressed in a myriad of ways, but it is most effective when how it is offered flows from the wholeness of our undivided selves as we discern the heart of Christ in us for the other person. That means as well keeping in perspective that the ground around the cross is level and we do not share from one above them, but one beside them.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
Photo by Pam Ecrement

Perhaps we can be better at loving if we consider a waterfall. It can captivate us as it rushes from a source we may not see and cascades over rocks and keeps tumbling onward to a destination that also may not be within our gaze.

The water we see does not decide to start moving or flowing in a direction through rocks as if it were a source unto itself. The source of the water often comes from a great distance and mountains that may be much like the High Places. It flows without determining its direction but nonetheless directed for its purposes and God’s glory.

The source of the water is the God of Creation, and He determines and wills it to flow from his love and heart to remind us of Him here on earth.

So too the source of the love He would have us share comes from Him rather than a decision that it is something we are to do. If He has transformed us it will flow from what we are because of Him.

Only when God is the source is love the pure, undefiled love that sees beyond what human love can ever see or know. Only that love can truly transform our hearts, so they flow more like his heart of love for humankind.

How often are we tempted to look for some list or recipe for how to be salt and light, to be love in this world. Could it be that we are trying too hard from human love?

“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well-constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.”

Colossians 2:6-7 (MSG)
Photo by Pam Ecrement, Bow River, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Beyond the High Places

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As Grace and Glory (previously Much Afraid) continues with time in the High Places with the Chief Shepherd and her two companions, Joy and Peace (previously Sorrow and Suffering), she begins to recognize something she had not expected – there was so much more for her to see, learn, and understand. There was so much beyond the new discoveries on her journey to the High Places.

“It was now perfectly evident to them that there must be ranges upon ranges of which they had never dreamed while they were still down in the narrow valleys with their extraordinarily limited view.”

Hannah Hurnard

How true that is of us as well! No matter how much insight we may have (or believe we have), we see so little. I cannot help but believe that Christ is so eager to share so much with us. Some of it we can peek into now, but so much more of it will not happen until we are with Him.

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

Can you imagine? Consider this through the eyes of Grace and Glory:

“She began to understand quite clearly that truth cannot be understood from books alone or by any written words, but only by personal growth and development in understanding, and that things written even in the Book of Books can be astonishingly misunderstood while one still lives on the low levels of spiritual experience and on the wrong side of the grave on the mountains.”

Hannah Hurnard
Photo by Pam Ecrement

The trips I have made to the mountains have forever changed me for how they remind me of the limits of my perspective. The seemingly endless peaks and vistas I saw in every direction I turn helps me to see each part of the trail differently.

I am reminded always of the greatness and grandeur of God and how small I am (any of us are) in comparison and yet, He sees us where we are planted just as the wildflowers that are snuggled between rocks and seemingly barren soil. I get a better sense of how much He would want us to delight in Him and see Him in creation. It’s there that He can best quiet our souls and harness our thoughts that race in so many directions. Photos I take cannot capture the reality of being there as all the senses come alive to the reality that we are a part of something so much bigger than we can fully comprehend. Just like Grace and Glory there is always more to see, learn and understand.

As Grace and Glory began to consider all this, she was eager to share new insights with the Chief Shepherd about what she had learned:

“First,” she said, “I learned that I must accept with joy all that you allowed to happen to me on the way and everything to which the path led me! That I was never to try to evade it but to accept it and lay down my own will on the altar…

Then I learned that I must bear all that others were allowed to do against me and to forgive with no trace of bitterness…

The third thing that I learned was that you, my Lord, never regarded me as I actually was, lame and weak, and crooked and cowardly. You saw me as I would be when you had done what you promised and had brought me to the High Places..

Then she looked up into his face and for a little time could say no more, but at last she added, ‘My Lord, I cannot tell you how greatly I want to regard others in the same way.

Every circumstance in life, no matter how crooked and distorted and ugly it appears to be, if it is reacted to in love and forgiveness and obedience to your will can be transformed.

Therefore, I begin to think, my Lord, you purposely allow us to be brought into contact with the bad and evil things that you want changed. Perhaps that is the very reason we are here in this world, where sins and sorrow and suffering and evil abound, so that we may let you teach us to react to them, that out of them we can create lovely qualities to live forever. That is the only really satisfactory way of dealing with evil, not simply binding it so that it cannot work harm, but whenever possible overcoming it with good.”

Hannah Hurnard

Oh, if we could only learn those things at deeper levels! How much more fruit would our lives bear if that would be our heart’s focus. Then we would truly be more like Christ, and it would be clear that the Holy Spirit is the One who is guiding us.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5;22-23 (NIV)
Photo by Pam Ecrement

Surely then we would also come to better understand the Apostle John’s words:

“And so, we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

Just like Much Afraid learned on her journey to the High Places, we must offer Christ our heart of human love so He can transform it to be more like his. That could transform so much of the life we live now if we would take that step.

The transformation that happened to Much Afraid and became Grace and Glory caused her to want to return to the Valley of Humiliation for those who were wretched and miserable and without hope to see what she and the Chief Shepherd could do for them and as the book Hinds Feet on High Places ends Grace and Glory, Joy and Peace, along with the Chief Shepherd leap down from the High Places to share the Good News.

Bow River, Alberta, Canada – Photo by Pam Ecrement