Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
A long and tiring day, she mused, but a good one.
Earlier, she and some of the North Woods Chapel members had decorated the sanctuary with garland, white lights, and a lovely carved nativity set. Dennis Whitewater and one of their sons had hauled in a large and fragrant tree, which had been cut in the woods in back of Jim and Lorene Johnson’s house. Others had decorated the tree with blue and silver ornaments and Marla Whitewater had directed the whole thing with her usual artistic flair. Dee Anna had been pleased at the turnout and at the pleasant results, which only awaited the Advent wreath and candles to be complete.
Then she had helped sort the Thanksgiving food the churches had collected, piling an array of items into about 20 large cardboard boxes. The Baptist pastor, Rodney Brach, had come down with a sore throat, so Chad had volunteered to take his place helping to deliver Thanksgiving food boxes. He had rounded up a group of young people who had taken several boxes to doorsteps in town and in the surrounding area.
Dee Anna had discovered that there were many more people in the area than she had first thought. There were the people in town, and then there were many people who lived in homes, some luxurious and some glorified shacks, that were tucked along the numerous county roads that twisted and turned in the miles of thick pine forest that surrounded the town and its two lakes.
She pulled the ottoman closer to her chair with one foot, and thought about the Halvorsens. They were among the families who lived in an almost-hidden little house on a dirt road. She and Madeline were invited to share Thanksgiving with them, and she was a little apprehensive, wondering if they would have turkey or if venison would be the main course.
Thanksgiving and then Advent—first Christmas season away from Madison and Eastside Methodist Church with its beautiful sanctuary, its candles and its pipe organ.
Dee Anna changed the direction of her thoughts. Not thinking about Eastside, not thinking about Michael.
She had ordered a wreath from the Boy Scouts, and she was a little concerned that it would not arrive in time for the first Advent candle lighting. She wondered if she could just set up the candles with no wreath, or if she should use a fake one and then switch.
The phone rang, interrupting her thoughts and causing both her and Charlie to jump. Madeline called from the kitchen where she was making popcorn with two friends from church. “I’ll get it, Mom.”
Dee Anna closed her eyes again. “Hi, Grandma! Happy Thanksgiving!” Madeline was saying.
It was her mother calling. Well, might as well get the obligatory holiday call over now, Dee Anna thought as shifting her feet to the floor and rising a bit stiffly. “Am I getting old? “ she wondered. “Just some decorating and box packing, and I feel like an.…” Madeline’s voice cut into her thoughts. “Mom, it’s Grandma. She sounds upset and I think she’s crying.” Madeline stood with the phone extended, her hand over the mouthpiece.
Chad noticed it was growing colder as he shifted the last box onto a set of steps in front of a dreary little house. The house sat far back from the road at the far end of Main Street. It looked deserted, but he rang the doorbell and waited a moment before heading back to the church van. “Okay, that’s it. Thanks, everyone. Now, let’s head over to the church for something hot to drink!” As the van pulled away, the door at the house opened and a bearded man stepped out to retrieve the box. Light sleet began to fall.
The teens in back were getting rowdy; the novelty of their charitable deeds had worn off and they were ready for some fun. Chad liked them all, but he was glad he could soon turn them over to their parents at church. He was thinking of maybe heading over to a friend’s home for some Wii. If he was fortunate, maybe the friend's sister would be there too.
The passed the two Lutheran churches and North Woods Chapel came in sight. The lights in the basement shone into the darkness. Chad pulled in front of the wide glass doors and suddenly remembered how Dee Anna had looked as she had pulled up to the church in her dusty red Falcon, looking wide-eyed and distressed and clad in an oversized shirt and flip flops. He smiled at the recollection, noticing that the lights were on in the parsonage living room. He wondered what Pastor Dee Anna was doing for Thanksgiving.
Gus Williams hefted the box to his shoulder and carried it to his tiny kitchen. “Hey boys, lookee here! We’ve got a turkey!” Two pre-teen boys tromped down a narrow stair to stare at him in the glare of the florescent light fixture over the counter. The short one rubbed his eyes and said sleepily, “Well, where the hell did that come from, Pop?” The taller one just smiled. “Don't swear, said Gus, "Come on, help me sort out all this stuff, boys. Looks like we’ll save the corned beef hash for another day.”
Dee Anna felt a mix of emotions as she stared a moment at Madeline. Impatience fought with concern and concern wrestled with hope and hope shoved irritation as she took the phone from her daughter’s hand. “Hello, Mom” she said, a note of caution in her voice. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
Her mother’s voice sounded tired and old as she said, “It isn’t likely to be a happy day any time soon, Dee Anna. You need to come home. Your father had a heart attack. I think maybe he’s going to die.”
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phillipians 2: 5-10
Today I sat at the bedside of a dying woman. Her name is Shirley. Her grandson had asked me to come and pray with him and for his grandmother. He dearly loves her, and she was a significant influence in his life from the time he was born. He was very sad, as he knelt at her bedside, cried and caressed his grandmother's hair. He has never known life without his grandmother in it.
She was outwardly unresponsive, her breathing so shallow as to be almost imperceptible, her hands already growing cold to the touch. It made me get teary-eyed too, partly because my heart went out to him in his grief, and partly because the last time I was in a nursing home it was to be at the bedside of my own dying mother just about one year ago. The scene felt all too familiar.
One of her daughters was there too, a woman I know slightly. We talked quietly about her mother and memories as people do at such time. Other family members arrived and after a while I decided it was time for me to go. I had never met Shirley, and I wasn't exactly there in an official pastoral capacity, so I wasn't sure of what I would say or do. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me as I went over to Shirley's bedside, touched her cheek and spoke to her. I felt oddly connected to her, thinking of the time when it will be me who is about to cross over to "the other side" and wondering how old Trinity will be, who will come to say goodbye...all thoughts that passed through my mind in just a few seconds.
I told her that I know it has been hard for her, formerly an active and vibrant person, to have been imprisoned for five long years in a body made disabled by a severe stroke. I told her that family members were arriving and that she would be hearing their voices as they came to say good bye and tell her they love her. I told her not to be afraid, that even as family gathered around to say good bye, that family on the other side were gathering as well, preparing to welcome her with hugs and love and joy. Then I prayed for her to have a peaceful home going, comfort for the family, and so on. There were tears, and comments about how they would not wish her to stay, but how they would miss her.
What does this have to do with Christmas?
I kept thinking of what my mind had pictured as I spoke to Shirley--a woman about to take a journey of no return. The idea of family, friends, angels--and Jesus waiting to welcome her with open arms--seemed so real. I could picture it as I drove through snow-covered and dark countryside on my way home.
Then I thought of something I have never really considered before. What must it have been like when the reverse journey was about to take place? How strange it must have been as the Anointed One was about to take a journey of no return, so to speak. What must the conversation have been? How did it seem to people in Heaven--think of Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Esther, Isaiah....and how did it seem to the angels to watch and wait as the moment came closer and closer? What did they feel? Sadness mingled with joy? A sense of impending loss?
And what about the One about to take that journey, aware of his purpose, aware that he was going to fulfill a divine destiny of crushing the serpent's head and reconciling humankind to God--and also aware of all that was about to be left behind. Intimate fellowship within the Godhead, constant connection, beauty, perfect love, harmony, peace, all these would soon be lost as he lost conscious awareness of just who he was. And power. What must have been the scene as the one who created us prepared to submit to his creation, to become helpless and dependent--a human baby!
I was aware of the mystery of life and death and the unknown as I stood in a room in an ordinary nursing home and sensed the nearness of God. And how much greater still is the mystery of incarnation! One loving group was saying good bye, and others were being prepared to say hello and to welcome a new life into loving arms: a baby boy, the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, GOD with us!
What must it have been like at the moment of departure when those on "the other side" were saying good bye and preparing for a change like none other? And then the Eternal Word emptied himself, stepped out...and became flesh and dwelt among us.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Ken's sister, Karal, died early in December about thirty years ago. Yes, she was young, and yes it was a sad and distressing tragedy. Earlier today I got out my mother's little wooden recipe box for the first time since she died (last January) and seeing the box full of recipes in her handwriting with notations like "really good" or "Mama's" (my grandmother, gone for nearly sixty years) or "Pauline's." Pauline is my aunt, the best cook EVER, who was the last of eight children to pass away, just a few months ago. And one of my sister Darliane's recipes popped up as there well. I think I will never stop missing her.A couple of my sister Paulette's too. She is still alive and well and living on Planet Earth, but circumstances of our lives have made it so we rarely see one another.
I'm heading to the kitchen to make our family's traditional holiday bread. Find it here. I'm going to try adding craisins to one of them...my mother is probably rolling over in her...well...you know!
And in a few days I'll make Ken's mother's famous Julekaga...and I'll miss her too.
It made me sad and nostalgic and lonely for those I love who are no longer here--also thankful for people in my life. What a blessing to have a husband who loves me, Kris and her little family living only 10 miles away, and to know that our son, Josh, will be home for Christmas. This is our first Christmas with Ken's brother, Kevin, for more than thirty years. He is fragile, but he is here, and there was a very long time when we thought we would never see him again. Maybe someday his other brother, Keith, will decide he wants to have family. We continue to pray for him.
We've also recently heard from two neices we had lost contact with: HI KANDICE and KIMBERLY!
Give someone you love a hug soon!
Christmas is HOPE of life and love eternal.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Today the temps were only just below freezing, which feels quite nice after it has been below zero for a while. So we headed to a small ski hill that is bordered by woods. Trinity was the trailblazer, leading the way down a barely-there path and calling back to us, "Just follow me! I'll show you the way into the woods!" A couple of walking sticks made for easier going. Trinity had a ball, and we did too, in our own grandparent kind of way.
At Nutt Ski Hill
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking my name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate my birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate my birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting my birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all my followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.
If you want to give me a present in remembrance of my birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way my birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know. They tell me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the president complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of my birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes my love and Good News to those who have never heard my name.
9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in my presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don't forget; I am God and can take care of myself. Just love me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember.
I Love you,
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Ken made an excellent Santa at my office open house last week.
The tree is up, most of the presents are purchased or made, and I'm trying to enjoy my laid back December. There are advantages to not being a pastor in December.
I think I should go put some Christmas music on.
What are you up to today?
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Not only are they salmon swimming upstream, so to speak, and if you are invested you might want to find out why, but some visits and comments would be good for my financial security. :-)
See our new blog (yep, I'm the admin person) here.
And find out what happened when my hair turned purple, here.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Meanwhile, those of you who have been visitors here for a while may recall that each Advent/Christmas season for the last several years I have featured an Advent theme and daily, or almost daily posts. Last year at this time I had just had a devotional book printed which took us from Advent till Epiphany, so I posted all of it here at The Owl's Song too.
Not this year. How strange it was yesterday to sit in a lovely sanctuary decorated for the season and to realize that I'd had nothing to do with it! No need to work with the worship team on the often difficult hymns we would use for each week in Advent and for the Christmas services. No need to ponder an Advent theme, or to find readers for the Advent reflections. No planning for my favorite worship time of the year, an annual Christmas Eve candlelight service.
I thought about continuing my blogging practice of a theme for Christmas and a daily post. I don't think I can do that. But I will share a few things as the month goes on--poems, devotions, and some music.
I wish you all the blessings of this season, and I hope you have none of the headaches!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I hope you enjoyed that great acapella choir as much as I did!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all who have stopped by this year--not an easy one for many of us--who have left comments, prayers, words of wisdom, funny things. You have blessed me and I thank God for you.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It had been Dee Anna's first time attending the local ministerial group meeting, and she was feeling relieved and pleased with how it had gone.
Now she stood with Father Thomas, who had asked that she call him Tom, on the church steps. Pastor Jeff and Pastor Rodney came out together and Jeff sniffed the air appreciatively. "Ah, smell that? The Chamber of Commerce is at it again." "Just in time," replied Rodney. "It's almost noon."
The men all looked at her in surprise. "Oh, I guess you don't know about the annual burger bash downtown," said Tom, grinning. "You don't want to miss it." They all stepped down onto the sidewalk. "Come on, Dee Anna, let me show you how you how we do things up here in the north woods!"
They drove the few blocks to downtown, but long before the source of the smoke was visible, Dee Anna saw a long line of people. Many of them, mostly men, were dressed head to foot in blaze orange. Those who weren't usually wore at least an orange hat. Most of the men, like the two hunting buddy-pastors she had just met, were bearded.
Dee Anna knew about deer hunting, and she remembered her father once bringing home a big doe that he took off to the butcher. She hadn't liked the venison that resulted. And she had never imagined anything like this. She turned to Father Tom, who was grinning broadly. "What in the world is going on? This is the biggest bunch of people I've seen in one place since arriving in town!"
"Hi there, Tommy," she called, hoping he wouldn't ask her about it. She noticed Brenda was off to the side with a group of women, and then she saw the Halvorsen kids in front of Tommy. "Hi, Pastor," yelled the oldest one, a boy about twelve years old."
"Hey Jeremy, how are you today?" she called. " How come you aren't in school, anyway?"
"School?" He grinned, "It's hunting season, Pastor. Nobody goes to school during deer season."
Dee Anna looked questioningly at Father Tom. "Really? I did not know that. Madeline said something about being out of school. She is over at a friend's house today, but I somehow thought it was just something the elementary school was doing or..." Tom nooded, "Yep, that boy is correct. No one goes to school."
The noon whistle went off, startling her. Tom grinned and added, "Lunch time in the North Woods. And everybody that can manage it takes off of work too. The paper mill lets everyone off a bit early today so they can come down here for the burger bash."
They had been moving forward as they talked, and now Dee Anna could see that a large area of the main street was sectioned off with ropes. A vinyl banner stretched from one corner to the other. "Welcome to the Little Big Foot Burger Bash" it read in orange letters. A group of about ten men wearing blaze orange hats and long white aprons that advertized the Chamber of Commerce were gathered around several smoking grills . There was lots of laughing and loud talk among them, and one swore loudly as he flipped a burger too briskly and sent it sailing off the grill and into the street. Along one side was a tent, and Tom told Dee Anna that it was a beer tent. "A beer tent? In the middle of the street?" Dee Anna shook her head as loud polka music suddenly blared from the tent. "I've never seen anything like it. It's a big block party."
Moving a little closer she saw a long table with mustard, ketchup, bowls of onions and pickles, and cans of soda.
"Hey, Father," called one of the men at a grill, "Who's that beautiful redhead you have with you?" He laughed loudly and leered at Dee Anna. "Too much time at the beer tent," she muttered. "He's harmless," laughed the short little priest, moving to the table and picking up a paper plate for each of them.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Maureen said, "Personally, I like the idea of scars. They are proof that something has happened and healing has taken place."
Auntie Knickers said, "I think any trauma has to leave scars, just as aging leaves wrinkles! And that's not necessarily a bad thing." I loved that analogy!
I think Tom might have had similar thoughts when he said, "But if we remain without scars would we have lived?"
Iris, who is a most excellent student and teacher of the scripture, said something I find very significant. "Jesus still had his scars even in his resurrected body."
Sophia is thinking of Jesus wounds too, and says, "And Jesus' scars, at least in Catholic devotion, are seen as blessed and glorious and sources of healing for us....So ours can be the same, I think."
And Gail was thinking about this too, when she commented, "Since we know that Jesus has nail-scarred hands, how can we expect any less?" And she agrees with Maureen when she adds, "Scars remind us of the hurt and pain, but they also remind us that healing has taken place. And I am grateful that the Lord uses not-so-perfect people."
Eija has written a song in Finnish, but I found her words (loosely translated into English) to express this so beautifully.
"Let your scars...nurture people as warmth from the Lord. You know how to comfort the broken and the crying, because the scars always remind you of your pain."
"Your pain has turned your weakness into strength, and now you can support others. You can walk with the crying because you know Who heals the wounds."
I wish I could hear you sing that, Eija!
Grady says this, "... in the spiritual realm, scars become a part of the structure of a person in a way that the physical does not mimic...the scars we gain here on this earth are merely reflections of His scars - they are a part of our becoming conformed to His image - not merely in the physical, but as His glory - a spiritual glory - is revealed in us.
Some mentioned the pain that unrealistic teaching of scripture can bring. This is the saddest part of all. Again, I have not read the book, "Healed Without Scars" but the title reminded me of a website I saw once. It was the site for a large, independent, Pentecostal church. The church's motto, emblazoned in bright letters on a banner at the top of the home page said
Welcome to _________ Church--Where Failure is Not an Option!
I have no doubt those church folks meant well. I wonder how many dear people have given up on church because they are think there is something wrong with them--since everyone else is so happy and blessed all the time!
The leaders at that church were probably trying to emphasize that we can be healed, we can be victorious, we can be what the Book of Revelation calls "overcomers." Praise God for that! God does heal! God brings physical healing, and God brings spiritual healing. How I praise the Great Physician, and the One who loves us always, that we can find healing, confidence, hope, and restoration as we abide in Christ and allow him, more and more, to abide in us.
But do you suppose that there is much open sharing of struggles and pain at that church? Their banner makes me shudder. The truth is, failure is very much an option. We all fail at times, and it is how we respond that counts. I am not yet perfect, and neither is anyone else--even preachers who tell you that you can walk in perpetual health, or that you can life your best life now.
I found myself wondering how a person who was not only blessed by God with emotional healing but who did not even have scars could "rejoice in suffering," as both Jesus and St. Paul tell us to do? Grady said, "I want to glory in my sufferings (which are incredibly light, compared to His), for they are a large part of what makes me more like Him!"
I am grateful for both the physical and the spiritual/emotional healing that God has brought into my life. Without the grace and mercy of a Healer God, I would be a very different person than the one I am today. I was not supposed to see and I do, nor walk and I do...and so on. I also am not, as I once was, spiritually wounded and bleeding to the point of desperation. God forgives and restores. But scars do remain. So do areas of greater tenderness or vulnerability, both physically and spirituality. So do some things that remind me I must guard my heart and be cautious--and that I must depend upon God!
If you have been damaged or discouraged by teaching that ignores the reality of living in a fallen, sinful world with fallen, sinful people--with sickness, pain, grief, tragedy, horror, abuse and death--take courage. Hope in God, dear ones.
While there are no promises of blissful existence while we are in this world, there are many scriptural assurances of a better time--a time when tears will be wiped away, all our diseases will be healed, and there will be no more death.
Meanwhile, continue to walk out your faith as a child of light. Allow God to bring you healing in whatever way, and whatever time, God decides. Like Paul, allow your difficulty to help you have compassion on others--other scarred and marred and frail human beings. Allow your scars to be a source of remembering that you are being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ.
The wounds of Jesus Christ bring us healing. As Sophia notes, that makes them glorious!
Our own scars will remind us of our own humanity. I do want to be healed. I am seeking healing of some things right now. But, truth be told, it probably would not be a good thing if I were healed and no scars, no reminders, remained.
The real victory of those who find peace and hope and faith in Jesus Christ is that we CAN be victorious, vessels for God's use, instruments of life and peace and hope for others in spite of our scars. The only way to do this is in dependence on God's grace.
I think that is just how God wants it.
John 20:19-21 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
Romans 8:17-18 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering...But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Even those of us who are not quite comfortable in that group can still find ourselves believing in a sort of spiritual magic thinking that says that if we are good we will be blessed, if we pray we will have what we ask for, and we are entitled to special consideration from Heaven.
Jesus followers do need to count our blessings, don't we?
I believe so, and I believe that the one who hopes in God will not be disappointed (in the end). We do need to be joyful people, people of confidence and enthusiasm, and so on. Scripture makes this quite apparent. Even in dark times, and he had many, the Psalmist held on to integrity, did what was right, and continued to hope in the Lord. Sadly, that did not always remain the case for David, and the results were tragic, but during the time he waits for God's promise that he will be Israel's king, we see him at his best.
Here is one example from Psalm 119.
Get out of my life, you evil-minded people,
for I intend to obey the commands of my God.
Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live!
Do not let my hope be crushed.
Sustain me, and I will be rescued;
then I will meditate continually on your decrees.
and one from Psalm 13
O Lord, how long will you forget me?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.
Scripture contains many accounts of people who were far from perfect, people who the world might consider failures, or losers, or without hope--but who left a lasting mark on their world (and ours too). The list is long and contains many luminaries of the faith. Here are a few:
Abraham - liar, doubter, coward
Jacob - a deceitful mama's boy
Moses - murderer, shy, speech impaired
Job - self-righteous
Rahab - a prostitute
Hannah - childless in a day when that was seen as God's curse
Ruth and Naomi - grieving widows, poor, bitter
James and John - hot tempered opportunists
Peter - loud mouthed and impetuous
Paul - angry, proud, arrogant murderer
Timothy- quiet, physically frail
Mary Magdalene - demon possessed
Woman at the Well - either promiscuous or victimized, or perhaps both
and so it goes.
These people were chosen by God for great tasks, and all of them were blessed, transformed, and touched in some lasting way by God. Were they healed either physically or emotionally or spiritually--or all three?
Were they without scars?
I don't think so.
I'll share more about that soon.
The title has bounced around my head, off and on, since I first saw it. That was a few years ago. I read some reviews at Amazon today and the book may be worth reading...meanwhile...I'll be back soon some thoughts about the concept.
Have any of you read the book? (That is, if anyone is still stopping by!)
Do you think genuine healing will leave us so totally whole that not even scars remain?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Here are a few pictures. Just because.
One of my favorite pictures of Larry. He is with my mother during a visit to our house just after my sister, Darlaine was diagnosed with Alzheimers. It was a bittersweet visit--and the beginning of a closer friendship between Larry and me as we pondered issues, grieved, planned, and tried to make wise decisions for my sister together.
When this picture was taken a couple of years ago, Larry and I were talking about how it could be possible that two formerly youthful and hip California beach lovers could have become so danged old and fat. We were having fun.
He's a special guy. Thanks for agreeing with me in prayer for him and his new wife, Earlene, and the family.
Here is one snippet from the post. I wish John Mac A. was aware of what Earl says here:
Generalizations are the enemy: It’s hard to have a conversation without them, but they are misleading. I’ve been asked questions like, “is the EmChurch good or bad?” “Well,” I might reply, “is Pentecostalism good or bad?” The only answer with any integrity is, “yes.” Most of the pastors and members of EmChurch venues that I’ve met have no resemblance to the ...stereotype that my more conservative friends tend to fear so much. Remember, most of these friends are reacting to the sins (real and perceived) of the mainstream evangelical church... And some have few theological interests, as in the mainstream, they are present within EnChurch because of their cultural prefernces.
Earl left a professorship at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary to plant a church in extremely postmodern Berkeley, California. I wish I could be there and help them out!
Friday, October 09, 2009
In that post she says, somewhat as an aside (and she is talking about a Banty rooster), " I get such a kick out of watching the little guy. He is so small (and so easy to catch), but he doesn’t know it. He thinks he’s an amazing stud, ever eager to take on any and everything that gets near *his* hens...swaggering around with his wings spread low and his head up high, and we all good-naturedly put up with it, because, well, we have to. He can’t help himself. He has no idea we giggle at his crowing and strutting..." And speaking of a few bloody ankles, she adds, "His puffing, with all its littleness, has a bite. The...truth defenders are much the same. They would be funny, if they weren’t sometimes so harmful, particularly harmful to the very faith that they think they’re defending. All that puffing and snorting does little to attract anyone to grace or truth. It feels good and meaningful to the one doing the puffing (and their supporters), but that’s about all the good that it does."
She is speaking of truth defenders on the 'net, but it takes me back to a radio program I tuned in to recently. I was driving on a boring stretch of road and surfing radio stations. I stopped when I heard a well-modulated, reasonable and educated-sounding preacher.
It took me a few moments to realize what he was really speaking about. He was encouraging his church congregation to be wary of heretics. After some derogatory comments about church leaders who "strut about in robes," he cited alarming quotes, bashed mainline churches, and generally strutted, in a verbal sort of way. Who are these dangerous heretics?
It is those "emerging church" people, that's who. All of 'em.
The speaker said some alarming things and some arrogant things. He said them in such a reasonable way that it was frightening. The congregation was appreciate, laughing at the "right" times, offering affirmation and--I fear--never noticing the implications of what their pastor was saying. Those things included:
We should not respect people of other religions.
We should not engage in dialog with non-Christians, except for the purpose of converting them.
We should not listen to anyone who is not a fundamentalist (he did not use that word, but he might as well have).
The emerging church is extremely dangerous. Heretics, in fact, who have perverted the truth.
Jesus rebuked the self-righteous religious leaders. He would, if he were here, soundly rebuke these religious leaders too.
He quoted at least two men, one "a prominent emergent church leader" and the other "the leading spokesman for the emerging church movement" without ever naming either one. I suspect the quotes were taken out of context, but I can't read and find out for myself, since he did not name any of the heretical leaders. He seemed unaware that the "emerging church" is not a cohesive, coherent body, not a denomination, and not even a united group.
I have to admit that I agreed with a tiny fraction of what the speaker said. But I have been pondering the possible effects on his hearers. I am all too aware that people in a congregation or an audience only hear a small part of what is spoken from a platform. And they can misconstrue things in amazing ways.
So what might some people do who hear John MacArthur say that they should not respect, not engage in dialog, in fact should rebuke and correct those who have beliefs unlike their own? I shudder to think!
If you want to read the sermon you can find it at Grace Community Church online.
However, as Molly said, all that puffing does little to bring anyone to grace or truth. Perhaps he (and all of us) should take note of the facts that clearly point to some serious trouble in the evangelical camp as well. We have plenty of work to do to clean our own "houses," seems to me.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Yes, autumn has arrived. So today we decided to get out our fall lawn decoration and add some corn stalks and pumpkins. Squash and pumpkins grow very well in the upper portion of the USA, and all around in our area are wagons loaded with beautiful varieties for sale. Usually there is a box somewhere for depositing cash.
I love the color in the fields and trees, the pumpkins, the scent of smoke, the warmth of a cozy sweater, snuggling under the weight of more blankets on the bed. Tonight I am feeling a bit at a loss. I still feel like I should be working on a sermon on Saturday. I am missing my mother (who absolutely loved Fall) and I am missing my sister too. Something about this time of year always makes me feel a bit melancholy, even though there are many things I love about it.
I miss fellowship and fun with certain close friends. I miss prayer with a group of others who longed for God's will to be done. I miss the sense of expectation and anticipation for what God was doing and would do.
Lately I keep thinking of Darlaine, and the odd thing is that for a millisecond I forget that she died. I always think of her being somewhere. I know, she is. But I mean somewhere in this world that just does not happen to be the same place as I am--not difficult because we never lived in close proximity after I got married.
So for a moment I think of her at her stove, or sipping a steaming cup of tea as she reads a book...or...and then I realize I will not see her, or hear her voice till eternity. I miss her with a sharp pain of loss. Strange time. I wonder how long it will before I realize she is really gone?
This will be the first Christmas since my mother died, though she was not really "present" last year and did not enjoy the season. How long before I do not feel guilty for using anything that was hers? I mean, I can feel guilty using a towel or a basket or anything that belonged to her. Not rational, I know. Doesn't matter.
I am missing things I always did at this time of year: decorating the sanctuary with fall flowers along with my secretary and friend. Doing our annual prayer walk around the towns of our area. Beginning to think seriously about what I will do for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service.
How long before I am feeling comfortable in my own skin again? How long before certain worship songs do not make me teary-eyed? Or how long before I stop feeling out of place and a bit lost? How long till I am genuinely at peace with God--and with myself? How long until I am aware of God's presence or become aware of God's "voice"?
I don't know. Autumn is a strange time. Especially this year. But it was, nonetheless, a lovely day. And God is still good.
The Psalmist knew this too, and Psalm 13 reminds me that I can make a choice to praise God and be thankful, even when I do not understand.
How long, O LORD?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes..
Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Episcopalians had already begun practicing for their annual Christmas drama. Dee Anna had heard that people came from all over the county to see their beautiful production. The Lutherans were planning their annual Lutefisk supper. The Catholics had begun a campaign for Thanksgiving food baskets and all the churches were participating. Autumn had arrived in Wisconsin’s north woods.
North Woods Chapel was having a festival.
The water was colder than she had expected, and Dee Anna came up gasping. The crowd around the dunk tank applauded and cheered loudly. Catching her breath she called loudly, “Okay, those of you who said you’d pay to see me get wet, remember you owe the youth missions fund some big bucks!”
“We have the coolest pastor ever,” said one teen girl who was dressed as a butterfly. Her friend, a tall lanky girl who was outfitted as a vampire, grinned, showing her fangs. Dee Anna didn’t think she had ever seen her before.
“Make that the coldest pastor ever, and you’ll be right,” she called as a grinning Deacon Chad helped her out of the dunk tank and Lorene Johnson handed her a large beach towel. Madelaine was standing to one side with a school friend she had brought to the party, a short round girl with long braids. Both girls waved to Dee Anna as they munched on pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies.
The wide back lawn at North Woods Chapel was crowded with people—children, teens and adults. One side of the lawn was filled with food and the buttery aroma of popcorn mingled with the sweet scent of the funnel cakes that Lorene’s husband Jim was frying in a large vat. There were Nesco roasters full of hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst with sauerkraut. Crock Pots contained baked beans and German potato salad. Coolers held cans of soda in ice and one long table supported two large coffee pots and several jugs of hot cider.
The other side of the lawn featured a blow-up jumping castle and a row of booths that contained various kid’s games. A group of boys pushed each other and laughed as one of their friends shouted loudly that he had landed his wooden hoop over the top of a bottle. Dennis and Marla Whitewater stood together in another booth with fishing poles and helped children hook toys from a “pond.” Lee Coats stood in the next booth, helping a group of smaller children take turns trying to pin the nose on a Jack O’ Lantern. His booth also contained a large pumpkin bean bag game--in the same shade of glowing orange. Dee Anna smiled to herself, remembering that when she had brought the can of orange paint up from the parsonage basement Lee had agreed that the leftover wall paint would make a fine pumpkin color. He had seemed surprised to learn that the orange color was left over from someone’s previous paint job in the parsonage master bedroom.
Dee Anna aimed for the back door of the church, navigated through a kitchen full of junior high girls making candy apples and climbed up the stairs to the front entry and her office where she had stashed a gym bad containing a change of clothes. Slinging the bag over her shoulder, she headed for the women’s restroom.
North Woods Chapel’s new pastor was wet and her teeth chattered slightly, but she was happy. She had been in Little Big Foot for about two months. Madelaine had started third grade at the public school, and to her mother’s relief she had made several friends, the "best" of whom was Dana, the plump girl with braids. Dee Anna, Madelaine and the dog, Charlie, had settled in at the parsonage, and Chad and the Whitewaters had helped her paint the rooms more reasonable colors. The pizza-patterned carpet remained, but after bringing in their furniture, it was less noticeable. Madeline’s room was lovely, and the beige walls of Dee Anna’s bedroom were passable, but the orange closet remained. She planned to get to that soon.
Dee Anna had been busy getting acquainted with the people of North Woods Chapel. She had already visited most of the congregation in their homes and things seemed to be going well. The first meeting with the deacon board had gone off fine, she mused, and she had met with other ministry teams during the past weeks. So far, so good.
She peeled off her wet flannel shirt, put on dry underclothes and pulled a sweatshirt over her head. A few minutes later, she emerged from the restroom wearing jeans and white sneakers and with her red curls mostly dry. She was thinking happy thoughts of how well the Fall Festival was going. The attendance had been better than expected. They had planned a fun night that would conclude with a short time of worship and an autumn-themed story with a gospel message.
She peeked in the sanctuary doors. Mary Coats and another woman were arranging some props that Dee Anna planned to use during the story. Mary placed a scarecrow on a small chair, and then she smiled and beckoned, but she didn’t look happy. “What do you think, Pastor?”
“This looks great, ladies!” smiled Dee Anna. “Thank you so much for all your hard work.” Mary smiled and nodded but said nothing. Her companion was Mary’s neighbor, a small thin woman with a sharp nose who had recently started coming to church at Mary and Lee’s invitation. Dee Anna had only spoken to her briefly and now she struggled to remember her name. Betty? Bernice? Something with a B…
Her thoughts were interrupted as the woman crossed her arms across her chest and said, with a frown, “Pastor, I know I’m new here, and maybe I should keep my opinion to myself...” She paused and glanced at Mary, who was looking miserable now. “But I just cannot keep silent in the face of such goings on.”
“Uh oh,” thought Dee Anna as she said, “Is something wrong…um…Bonnie? You and Mary have done a wonderful job in here.”
“Scarecrows and hay and cornstalks in a church are one thing,” the woman snapped. “But…” she turned and gestured toward the direction of the back lawn. “Jack O’ Lanterns? Don’t you know those are pagan?”
Dee Anna sighed inwardly, thinking involuntarily of her mother. “Well,” she began, “actually…”
“And another thing,” Bonnie continued, stabbing a finger in Dee Anna’s direction, “Did you see those costumes? There is a vampire, a witch, and even….” she sputtered, “A devil costume! I simply cannot believe that any church that preaches the truth would condone such things.” She frowned at Dee Anna, who took a deep breath and spoke softly, keeping her voice even.
“Yes, I know that some of those costumes may be a bit questionable…”
“A bit!” the little woman snorted. “Do you have any sense?” Mary gasped and patted her friend’s arm, “Please, Bonne, Pastor Dee Anna means no harm. She…”
Dee Anna smiled reassuringly at Mary. “It’s all right, Mary. I’m sure your friend doesn't mean to be disrespectful.” She turned to Bonnie and began again, “I am glad you feel strongly about spiritual matters. When we planned this event we knew there might be a bit of controversy, but children are going to celebrate Halloween one way or another, so we thought it would be good to have some fun right here at the church where we can also share some good news with the…”
Bonnie snorted, “So you are going to mix a gospel message with all this…this…evil? Don’t you know that light has no fellowship with darkness?
Dee Anna sighed softly. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Bonnie. I hope that when you see how we end the evening you will be reassured. My daughter, Madelaine, and most of the church kids are not wearing costumes or they are wearing less, um, less dark ones. But we are happy to have children and teenagers come here who might not show up for Sunday worship. Their moms and dads too.”
Bonnie interjected, “I don't much like fun and games in a church. Still, I was happy to help Mary decorate the sanctuary for a story and some singing, but when I arrived and saw what is going on here…well…I can tell you the ones who are happy about what is going on at this church right now are the demons in Hell!”
Afterwards Dee Anna could never understand how she had spoken the next words aloud. Mary had stared at her, confused, and Bonnie’s mouth had dropped open.
Dee Anna had replied, “Actually, speaking of Hell, I think the demons might mostly be happy about my bedroom closet.”
Friday, September 25, 2009
There is something so nostalgic about this time of year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights grow cooler, crops are harvested, for some of us the leaves are beginning to change colors. The scent of smoke is in the air, pumpkins are in the stores (or on wagons, or in roadside stands for those of us in the country). I'm thinking of putting away my summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. And I have a tub of Fall-themed items that my husband just lugged up from the basement. I'm looking for my scarecrow.
For this week, let's share some memories along with some hopes and expectations.
1. Share a Fall memory.
My mother loved Fall, and it's not a season that happens much in California where I grew up. Sometimes we would take a trip up the the mountains where the air was crisp and the leaves were showing some color. I remember one Autumn weekend at Yosemite National Park, roasting marshmallows (which I do not like, but like the smell) with my sisters, singing songs, smelling smoke and pine trees. I experienced an all-too-rare sense of peace and serenity. It was one of the last fun times we had as a family.
2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)?
Fall was when the Spiegel catalog arrived. Californians don't really need warm clothes, but I loved looking at the wool coats, hats, scarves...who knew that one day I'd live in snow country? I still like getting out the fall clothes, sweaters, boots, my brown corduroy skirt. I just wish that the need for fall clothes did not turn so quickly into needing WINTER clothes.
3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc.
One of the things I love about reenacting is what happens around campfires at night. People talk, sing, reminisce--there is something very companionable about sitting around a fire. Think of how many generations people have been doing that!
4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year?
The changes happening in nature are very evident here. I'm starting to take the camera with me in the van--there are so many beautiful things to see. The fields are ripe--corn, beautiful golden soybeans, wheat, bright orange pumpkins. The grasses are taking on the hues of fall, and the sounds are changing too. The Canadian geese are getting excited and starting practice flights, honking excitedly in small "Vs" which will grow larger as the time to depart arrives. I love the sound of geese in the sky! I do not love being in the north (still a bit of a California hot-house flower, I suppose) but I do love this time of year.
5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, family...whatever...as the season changes and winter approaches?
Kris and Daryl are busy harvesting from their garden and their apple and pear trees. Kris is loading her basement shelves with canned things. She recently made pickles. Yesterday she made jam from the Concord grapes that are on their property--beautiful things as the grow purple in the sun. Next comes salsa making. It's fun watching them on their little hobby farm, and seeing the fun Trinity is having as she learns about life in the country. I don't know what is ahead for me...still hoping for ministry opportunity but enjoying the work I'm doing for a small financial firm. As always I'm thinking of change as the season turns cool. I do not know what to expect. But it will be good to celebrate Thanksgiving with Kris and her little family, Ken's brother, Kevin, maybe our son Josh. Fall seems to be a "gathering in" time, doesn't it?
Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house? Recipes always appreciated.
Apples! Kris and Daryl have LOTS of apples. It is lovely to see them ripen on the trees, to smell the applesauce cooking, to think of pie baking, apple bread, other things that call for cinnamon and spice!
Friday, September 18, 2009
This video is how I remember Mary Travers--that strong, deep voice belting out the music, tossing that blond hair back out of her eyes...singing for all she was worth and Paul and Peter harmonizing too...amazing harmony.
I am a Peter, Paul and Mary fan from way back. Oh sure, I came of age in the '60s so we all loved folk music to some degree. But Ken and I own every album they made, including one very non-folky one. I know ever word to every song they sang, not just the well-known ones that made the Top 40. We also own Paul Stookey's solo album (love it) which is simply titled "Paul."
Peter, Paul and Mary were singing during many memorable moments of my life. That sentimental song, "Puff the Magic Dragon" brought tears to my eyes as a kid. I was kissed under the stars at the famous Hollywood Bowl while listening to PP&M sing. After another concert a friend remarked, "Listening to those three is almost like they are in your living room giving you a personal concert." It was true. I don't know how they managed it, but with their guitars, voices, lyrics, gentle humor and passion for justice they connected with their audience in a way that was uncanny.
Our kids love them too. Actually, our kids can quote the entire "Paul Talk" track--side two of the "Peter, Paul and Mary in Concert" album. I laughed so hard the first time I heard it that I nearly fell off my sister's couch.
I sang "I'm in Love With a Big Blue Frog" and people thought it was about Ken. My late sister, Darlaine, our friend Rod Turner, and I sang their songs, and others, at a few Valentine's banquets! I recall many evenings when Rod and I sat in my living room singing and singing...PP&M, Ian and Sylvia, and Dylan. I was so very young then!
I am saddened to hear of Mary's passing, and it almost feels as though I lost a personal friend--yet another reminder of the brevity of life in this world.
Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
Halfway up the stairs
And isn't down.
it isn't in the nursery,
it isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
"It isn't really
It's somewhere else
— A. A. Milne
When We Were Very Young
Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)?
This is a difficult one, but I'll make a brief attempt at it.
1. at the bottom?
The first of many times feeling "at the bottom" was in Kindergarten. I did not realize, being mostly loved and sheltered at home, that I had some physical difficulties that most other children did not have. So the nearly blind and very clumsy and pigeon-toed me was completely unprepared for the cruelty I encountered in my first classroom and playground. The most "bottom" thing about this was that I knew quite clearly that my teacher, whose name and voice I recall very clearly, did not like me and had no clue what to do with me.
2. at the top?
The most uplifting times for me that same year were in church. I loved everything about it. My teacher, Mrs. Newbill, loved me and saw that I was longing to learn about God. I recall her voice as well, and also her face. That lets me know she got close enough to me for me to see her, which would have been quite close in those days. I loved my pastor, Brother Polk, our classically trained pianist, Paul Zizanis, my friends, the choir...well, you get the idea! No wonder I love the Church. Other "up" times were on camping trips (think Giant Sequoias, Redwoods, waterfalls, and mountains). Camping trips were the times my family acted most like a normal family.
Just out of high school, feeling half-adult, half-child, feeling miserable about my disintegrated family, but excited to be out of school for a while, feeling freedom coming, feeling frightened. A very tumultuous time...that half way place is an odd one. Maybe I shouldn't have used this one since it wasn't exactly "childhood."
4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?
Always climbing it...always seeking to go higher.
5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but "somewhere else instead."
This year. Right now. Not elaborating on that one today.