Friday, July 22, 2016


Nan served cake for Chris and me at our 1965 wedding.

Because of all the clothes rationing in Northern Ireland during World War II Nan’s mother, Annie, would rip apart old clothes and remake them for Nan and her sister Alice.  She would even unravel yarn from sweaters and knit a new sweater.  

They were only allowed 2 oz. of butter each.  Annie would boil parsnips and mash them and add banana flavoring to spread on toast.   Alice didn’t even know what a banana looked like until after the war. (A neighbor of a friend of mine said that she moved to the United States from Liverpool after the war so that she could have orange juice.) 

One time Nan wrote to her Aunt Lucy in the United States and asked her to send some white flour, as their flour was a dirty gray.  Nan received the letter back from the censors. The part about the flour was cut out, as they were not allowed to ask for rationed food.  If you traveled by car, bus, or train, there were inspectors that could stop you and search your baggage.  They looked for food or other things that were black market items.

Annie carried a small flask of brandy and sugar and also a tablespoon.  If someone went into shock you were to give the person a tablespoon of it.   She also carried all their important papers with her—marriage certificate, birth certificates, insurance papers, and other important papers. 

Nan had two older cousins, Lucy and Annie.  They were 19 and 20 years old.  They worked at the rope works in Belfast.  Their father used to walk them to work when they were on the night shift.  They would roll their hair up on metal roller.  One night the sirens went off and they were so scared their father told them to take the rollers out of their hair or the planes would see them.  That kept them busy so they couldn’t think so much about what was happening.

Every street in Belfast had air raid shelters along one side.  They were brick with a thick roof of cement.  Trucks came by and took the metal railings and gates they had around their gardens in the front yard of each house.  Friends of the family had an underground shelter. The girls and their mom went there one time as the whole street had been hit and all the houses were burning.  They had to wait until the fires were out to go and see if their house was still there.  It was.

When families lost their houses and all their possessions the neighbors shared what they had with those who had nothing.  Even a blanket and a cup would help out. 

Nan’s father’s parents, Andrew and Alice, came out of their shelter after a raid and all they had left was the clothes on their backs.  Nan’s mother brought them to Portadown.  The next day she pleaded with her uncle’s neighbor to take them in. She did. They stayed there until after the war was over in 1945. 

During a raid one night the water works was hit.  There was a big laundry not far from them so they would take pots and get water from the huge green glass bottles. 

After a raid, trucks would come around to pick up the dead, and take the bodies to the wholesale fish market that had been set-aside as a morgue.  Annie, a friend of Nan’s mom, couldn’t find her father after a raid.  Annie went with her and they found him by his I.D. at the fish market. 

Nan remembers seeing a lady pushing a pram with a baby and her other children hanging on to her.  They were dressed but she was in her nightgown.  She had just enough time to pull on a coat before they had to go to the shelter.

When the victory was declared each family on the street brought out their tables and lined them up end to end. They all cooked whatever they had and shared it in a big potluck.  Prayers of thanksgiving were said for God’s grace, mercy, and victory.

It wasn’t until Nan was in her thirties that she moved to the United States.  She remembers the hoops she had to jump through to move here and then to become a citizen.  She said it was worth doing. When other people come here they should be glad to do what is required because it is worth it. 

She met her husband, Ralph, here, and had thirty wonderful years with him.  Then she had twenty as a widow.  She was a light to the church and community all the days of her life.  She prayed that God would keep her in her senses and He did.  She was a comfort and help to many people not counting the good food she made for people.  (Including feeding our daughter and son when they were attending college in the Spokane area.)

Ralph and Nan would always invite the Spokane Stowells over for Easter dinner.  She was able to keep up the tradition until both Nan, and my cousin Janet’s, health failed.  

Nan and I agreed-- even when you had nothing else in your life you had Jesus always with you.  Although we did share with each other how we liked food, clothing, and shelter! We thanked the Lord every day that He had provided such a great life for each of us!

Nan finished well.  I hope and pray that I can do the same.

If you have any additions or corrections please reply with a comment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Nan babysitting our daughter in 1971.  She and her husband, Ralph, would keep her while we went out.  
We moved away when Heather was seven.

Nan, a long time friend of the Stowell family, and my friend, prayer partner, and sister in Christ, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  She lived there during WW II.  She was nine years old on September 9, 1939, when war was declared.  Her sister Alice was six.  Her father, Andrew, wanted to enlist but had poor health. He worked at the shipyard as a driller.  Later he came down with meningitis and died after going to the hospital.   

In 1940, Nan and her sister Alice, along with her maternal grandparents, were evacuated to her great uncle’s farm in Portadown, Co Armagh. They attended school there.  After morning prayer the teacher would ask what part of Belfast they were from and then would tell them if the area was bombed the night before. When the American’s arrived they set up camp behind her uncles farm.  After Nan’s father died her mother brought the two girls home to be with her in Belfast.  Their Uncle Chris would come and check on them after the ‘all clear’ signal.

In the school in Belfast they had to learn many defense measures.  First they were timed to see how fast they could get home from school.  If they were fast enough they could go home when the air raid siren blew.  If they couldn’t get home quickly they were taken to a shelter in the playground at the school.  Each child had an identification number.  Nan’s parents had bracelets made for the girls with their numbers on them.  They practiced jumping out of a two-story window.  They had to bend their knees so they wouldn’t break their backs. They were issued gas masks.  Nan could still remember the smell of that horrid rubber.

Families and communities clung to God during the dark years and sang hymns and songs to each other to keep up their courage.

Each week a group of children from different schools would be taken to the City Hall to sing on a radio broadcast.  They sang hymns like:

Eternal Father strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep,
It’s own appointed limits keep.
Oh, hear us when we cry to thee,
For those in peril on the sea.

They would change the words to “For those in peril in the air,” referring to the Royal Air Force.

Another song Nan remembered went like this:

God is our refuge be not afraid,
He will protect you all through the raid.
When bombs are falling danger is near,
He will protect you to the “all clear.”

They also sang this:

They’ll always be an England while there’s a village street.
Wherever there’s a cottage small beside a field of grain,
There’ll always be an England and England shall be free,
If England means so much to you, as England means to me.

The siren was a warning of a raid. Another different sound was for “all clear.” There were two air raid wardens for each street.  They patrolled the streets to make sure no light was showing from the houses.  Everyone had to install dark blinds. No street lights were lit at any time. The houses were all joined together.  The wardens knew everybody on that street.  After a raid, if you got separated from your family, the air raid wardens helped you find them.  Everyone dreaded moonlit nights because as the enemy bombed they could see the animals in the field and would machine gun them to devastate their food supply. They also had to put sticky tape on their windows. It was supposed to keep glass from flying all over if they were blown out.

One older lady in their neighborhood refused to go to a shelter.  She would hide under the stairs in her house.  Each house was required to leave the doors open so in case of a bomb landing near by the explosion wouldn’t destroy the house. One moonlit night the moon went behind a cloud. She peeked out and said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph they shot down the moon!”

One family thought that they would be safer in the hills rather than in a shelter.  One sister was married so she and her husband would run and get the other sisters and hide.  One time one of the sisters yelled that she had forgotten her teeth!  The brother-in-law yelled, “What the hell do you think they are dropping, sandwiches!”

Ration books were issued for food, books, blankets, and clothing.  New toys and household goods were not manufactured as all the factories were used for the war effort.  Nan remembered a neighbor who wanted to give her small daughter a doll buggy as a Christmas gift.  Nan gave her the one she had used as a young child.  The mom painted it, made a new pillow and blanket, and the child was delighted with it. 

This is getting long.  I will continue the rest of the story in my next blog.  If you have any corrections or additions add a comment.  


Facilities are important to churches—that’s self evident. In this article—the first in a series on trends in church buildings—I will make a few philosophical observations about church facilities and their importance.
Much ecclesiological conversation these days indicates a love-hate relationship with church and church buildings. Yet historically, many people find and follow God in sacred places and spaces.
I have the privilege of preaching in a variety of facilities over the last few years. Every facility I visit has unique designs and values. Maybe that is why I’ve noticed the importance of worship space over the course of my ministry. From Pentecostals in the U.S. South to Westminster Chapel in London, the diverse facilities were as stunning as their diverse traditions and values.
Buildings can be a telling of God’s story to our culture. If we are going to have buildings—which is actually neither a biblical requirement nor always helpful—then we should at least use them well, leveraging them for maximum influence needs to be part of our strategy.
As such, I’m asking, what can we learn about buildings? Certainly the series will from my (limited) vantage point, and I am not an architect so that is all I have, but maybe it will be help.
In his book Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith points out the importance of facilities and atmosphere in ritually shaping our habits and desires by showing us what is important in life. Using the shopping mall as an example, Smith demonstrates that how we move through a space and what we experience in that space has a formative impact on us. I believe the same thing is true of our church buildings.
The following are four philosophical reasons of why our buildings are important to our overall church strategy.
1. Worship Facilities Can Suggest a Theological Tradition
Church buildings have been traditionally designed to highlight certain aspects of the churches theology. As one moves through these facilities, the important and distinct aspects of that particular congregation become apparent.
The beautiful building in which the Christ Church in Plano, Texas worships is a wonderful example of this theologically-driven architecture.
Like many other Anglican churches, Christ Church highlighted their beliefs by constructing a sanctuary that reflects the cross of Christ. The central space of worship is often designed to highlight certain aspects of the churches beliefs.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to preach at Fairhaven Ministries, a Dutch reformed megachurch in Grand Rapids, MI. The centrality of God’s word in their worship service is highlighted by the architecture. The central focal point of the worship space is the pulpit. Minimal ornamentation avoids visual distraction and keeps the sacred desk the focus. (That’s very Dutch Reformed, trust me.)
2. Worship Facilities Can Reflect a Philosophy of Ministry
For some churches, their use of space reflects their philosophy of ministry. Worship buildings are designed to intuitively move people from one space to another, often communicating what is important to that particular church family.
If you have ever visited North Point Church in the greater Atlanta area you have experienced this. At North Point, the goal is to move people from the foyer (where people are welcomed as guests), to the living room (where people connect with the ministry), and then to the kitchen (where people serve in the ministry). The actual worship facility of North Point physically moves people through an intentional process built around their philosophy of ministry.
3. Worship Facilities Can Evoke a Posture of Worship
If you have ever walked into a high (liturgical) church, the atmosphere and ornamentation in the facility, more than likely, had an effect on your physical posture. The intricate design, religious paintings, stained glass, and worship elements evoke a sense of the transcendent. It is quite unlikely that worship will open with an electric guitar solo in a contemporary worship song. It is almost intuitive that when one enters into a space such as this, a posture of reverence and quietness is understood.
West End UMC in Nashville (pictured at the top) is just such a building.
Churches that evoke the transcendent are quite a contrast from walking into a warehouse space that has been redesigned to house a modern church. In most cases there will be no religious symbols or ornamentation in the architecture at all. Much of the worship atmosphere is created by lighting and digital media. In reality, these differences in architecture do not necessarily change ones worship, which is a matter of the heart. However, they do reflect differences in intentional use of space.
4. Worship Facilities Can Communicate A Cultural Engagement
We could jump in my car right now and I could drive you to a low income part of town where most of the houses and business show the effects of hard financial times. Interestingly enough, situated in these areas it is not uncommon to find a pristine church facility built from exquisite materials resting on a well-manicured lawn. The contrast may cause some to scratch their heads.
On the other hand, we can also find church facilities that reflect the context in which they are situated. In these situations, the church buildings become part of landscape as a whole. Visually, they belong there and communicate they are part of the community.
Other churches have found ways to include their surrounding geographic landscape in the worship experience. Saddleback Church is an example. It feels like a southern California church. In order to include elements familiar to their worshipers, the architects included several glass walls that allow the exterior geography to become part of the visual aesthetic of the worship center.
In a very real way, the view of the countryside reminds the worshipers they are part of a specific church family in a specific cultural context. (Full disclosure, it was: distracting to me when I preached there—I kept thinking how nice the outside looked!)
A philosophy of church facilities is something many Christians and many pastors overlook until they walk into a worship space that brings purposeful architecture to the forefront of the worship experience.
Does your building correspond with your philosophy of ministry? I’m not saying you should do any of these things, but I am saying you should think more than just about the four walls.
More on that next time…

Monday, July 18, 2016


The You Tube above is the latest news for July 17, 2016.  It is almost impossible to keep up with the tragic news all over the world each day.  Now another attack has happened in Germany. Click here to read.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


What a shock!  I’ve experienced another first world problem today.  I’m hurting more than usual from my fibromyalgia pain because my doctor quit her job and decided to stay home with her kids.  The clinic I prefer does not have another woman doctor I could have as my primary care doctor.  I had to see a young male doctor.  He sees me as an almost 73-year-old woman who shouldn’t be taking muscle relaxants. He decreases my dose without telling me.  Fortunately the clinic has hired another woman doctor so I will see her the first part of August.  I have confidence she will restore my pills!

Life is tough all over!  Nobody gets a free lunch.  What we do know is that Jesus has the words of life.  There is nowhere else to go but to Him.  I’m counting my blessings today despite the pain!  It burns like this bonfire!

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil." Psalm 37:8

Monday, July 11, 2016


Here are two pictures of a baby demonstrating the immaturity of America.  She insists on sitting on the table.  People cannot eat there, or do any type of work because she is adamant about having her own way.  This reminds me of I Corinthians 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [f]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The second picture depicts America when they will not listen to God but reap what they have sowed.  She rolls on the floor having a temper tantrum. 

When will she accept that all she needs to do is grow up and accept God’s laws and obey His commandments?  If this happened then this: f 11 "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

She will be God’s faithful obedient child all grown up.  May America learn and obey.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Here are links to the blogs I read on a regular basis.  My category for blogging would be "the hobbyist." I enjoy reading and writing about culture, faith, and how Christians are surviving in a society that is more and more hostile to people of "The Book." I also occasionally write about my personal story. I thought you might be interested in checking out some of the blogs I like: Alcorn, who lives in Oregon, writes here. I have read several of his books including his non-fiction book, “Heaven.” Also, I read his novel about a Chinese Christian working for Christ in China, “Is This The Day I die?” His fiction trilogy “Deadline”, “Dominion”, and “Deception” was similar to Frank Peretti’s novels. French writes this one.  Her husband David French writes for the National Review. I would call it a gossip column.  I think it basically informs about the anti-Christian culture we live in. “Understanding the Times” is a weekly radio show on Saturday mornings.  I listen to it on I Tunes.  It informs about stories of the week that point to end times.  I click on the link and go to the right side of the page to check the daily headlines. A Small group of Young Christians who have spent the past seven years working out what their faith looks like in public.  Blog by a group of pastors and professors. The evangelical voice of today. This blogger lives in TN with his wife and two sons and two daughters, where he serves as a writer and online editor for Facts & Trends.  As you can tell from the title of his blog he is a C.S. Lewis fan.

These are the blogs I read from the Gospel Coalition.  They are a group of pastors and writers from the reformed tradition.  Tim Challies is a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, where he primarily gives attention to mentoring and discipleship. He is a book reviewer for WORLD magazine, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and he has written three books. is a blog by a missionary to Tanzania.  She blogs about her family, missions, adoption, and the joys and struggles of life in Tanzania. World Magazine is the source that informed families across the country turn to each week for breaking news, current events, cultural analysis, and insightful editorials from a Christian perspective. Christianity Today is a globally minded evangelical magazine that provides thoughtful biblical perspectives on the news and ideas of our day. C. Rosenberg ( is a New York Times best-selling author of 11 novels and five non-fiction books, with more than 3 million copies sold. Is written somewhere in Missouri, I think. We are pleased that you have found The Sacred Sandwich and are hopeful that you will find much spiritual food presented within these pages. However, if you read no further than this introduction and feel compelled to read the Bible instead, then our work is done.

What blogs do you read on a regular basis?