Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Twas the Beginning of Advent

Today is the first of four Sundays leading to Christmas, the season known as Advent. Join the RevGalBlogPals tomorrow as we share a day-long online Advent retreat. Just click here
tomorrow morning to join us. Subsequent meditaions will be added throughout the day.

I'd like to share a poem be the Rev. J. Todd Jenkins, First Presbyterian Church, Fayettevile, Tennessee.
'Twas the Beginning of Advent

'Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church, Our hope was all dying--
we'd given up on the search.
It wasn't so much that Christ wasn't invited,
But after 2,000 plus years we were no longer excited.

Oh, we knew what was coming-- no doubt about that.
And that was the trouble-- it was all "old hat."
November brought the first of an unending series of pains
With carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns.

There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys.
Enough to seduce even the most devout girls and boys.
Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt
From this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt.

The priests and prophets and certainly the kings
Were all so consumed with the desire for "things!"
It was rare, if at all, that you'd hear of the reason
For the origin of this whole holy-day season.

A baby, it seems, once had been born
In the mid-east somewhere on that first holy-day morn.
But what does that mean for folks like us,
Who've lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss?

Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting,
Of hoping and praying, and anticipating?
Can we let go of all the things and the stuff?
Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough?

Can we open our eyes and open our ears?
Can we find him again after all of these years?
Will this year be different from all the rest?
Will we be able to offer him all of our best?

So many questions, unanswered thus far,
As wisemen seeking the home of the star.
Where do we begin-- how do we start
To make for the child a place in our heart?

Perhaps we begin by letting go
Of our limits on hope, and of the stuff that we know.
Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss,
Let go of the searching, let Christmas find us.

We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes,
To see the king coming in our own neighbors' cries.
We look without seeking what we think we've earned,
But rather we're looking for relationships spurned.

With him he brings wholeness and newness of life
For brother and sister, for husband and wife.
The Christ-child comes not by our skill,
But rather he comes by his own Father's will.

We can't make him come with parties and bright trees,
But only by getting down on our knees.
He'll come if we wait amidst our affliction,
Coming in spite of, not by our restriction.

His coming will happen-- of this there's no doubt.
The question is whether we'll be in or out.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
Do you have the courage to peer through the lock?

A basket on your porch, a child in your reach.
A baby to love, to feed and to teach.
He'll grow in wisdom as God's only Son.
How far will we follow this radical one?

He'll lead us to challenge the way that things are.
He'll lead us to follow a single bright star.
But that will come later if we're still around.
The question for now: Is the child to be found?

Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls?
Can we find solitude in our holy halls?
Can we keep alert, keep hope, stay awake?
Can we receive the child for ours and God's sake?

From on high with the caroling host as he sees us,
He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus!
As Advent begins all these questions make plea.
The only true answer: We will see, we will see.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pie-ola Friday Five

Songbird shares a fun post-Thanksgiving Day Friday Five:

Please answer these five questions about pie:

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?
We had pear, pecan, chocolate and pumpkin pies, and only seven people at the table (one of whom is only three). Absolutely essential at Thanksgiving and Christmas! So essential that yesterday Kris and I were discussing the merits of a pie crust made with shortening or oil with a crust made from lard. (Lard!) Lard really does make a better, lighter, flakier crust. Good thing we don't eat pie all the time!

2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.
Ken (my spouse) and Kevin (my bro-in law who lives here) weighed in on this one. Ken prefers pie. Kevin prefers cake. (But that didn't stop him from having multiple helpings of pie yesterday. I like cake...but I don't know as I prefer it. Like comparing apples and oranges or coffee and tea. Hard to say. Well...maybe if I could only eat one for the rest of my life...cake.

3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie?
If it is a cherry pie.

4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?
I'm not a meringue lover, but lemon would be my choice. Our son, who didn't make it home for Thanksgiving this year, has already requested that his sis make one for Christmas, however. So I guess it's lemon meringue for Christmas this year.

5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?
I love chicken pie! Carrots, onions, peas, celery and corn if you want to use it up. I make one that isn't in a crust but is topped with biscuits. Yum! Turkey pie is good too, and beef pie. KFC's chicken pot pie is delicious on a cold day, but I probably don't want to know how many calories it contains. The crust is fabulous!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 You

This has been a good exercise for me! I am glad others joined me here and there along the way. I am thankful for friends old and new, cyber and IRL, and people in general! Thanks to those who still stop by The Owl's Song. Have a wonderful, joyful, peaceful day with family and friends. For those who are spending the day alone, may the presence of the Holy Spirit comfort you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 My House

The picture is of Kris and me, cooking Thanksgiving dinner in my kitchen when she was pregnant with Trinity.

I am not delighted with my house. It is a small ranch-style house. Every room in it is a bit too little, especially since we now share it with a wheelchair-bound relative and his two dogs.

I complain about the galley kitchen. The bathrooms are cramped. Our king size bed pretty much fills up the master bedroom.

I awoke this a.m. to a news story on PBS about families in Egypt. Things have not gone well there for "middle class" people under the current administration, much less the poor. We heard the story of one couple whose home was buldozed by the government with no warning. They were told to go to a local government office and fill out paperwork and they would be able to move into an apartment. Arriving there, they were told that no such paperwork existed. Along with some of their former neighbors, this couple has been living in a tent for over a year. Not a nice camping tent, either. A tent they put together from blankets from their bed. They are in view of an apartment building with many empty units. They are not allowed to move in. Paperwork.

Today I am feeling grateful for my little house.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Scripture

Today I have spent some time writing an Advent devotional. More about that in a moment. After pondering Isaiah for a while, I am feeling thankful for the scriptures. How fortunate we are in America and other free countries to have easy access to the Bible. I don't even know how many Bibles are one place or another in my house, or how many versions I have easy access to...and no one threatening me because I have them. May God grant grace to those who long for knowledge and wisdom and must make do with a tiny scrap, or a page, or a chapter.

The devotional is for the Rev Gal Blog Pals. On Monday, November 29th, we will be sharing an all-day Virtual Advent Retreat, the third of its kind. You are welcome to join us as various scripture reading, reflections and prayers are shared in an online "retreat." See the photograph of women's feet in the sidebar to the right? Just click on the picture to visit the blog of the Rev Gal Blog Pals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Life

Periodically I check the local papers for obituaries. I don't love doing this--some people do! I do it so that Veritas Financial Services does not send mailings or otherwise do something inappropriate because we are unaware that someone has died.

Reading the obituaries is a bit sobering. There seem to be a lot of people in their 60s who are passing on. Far too many for my comfort. And then there is the occasional write up for someone in their 40s, 30s, or even younger. Those deaths are usually from cancer or are unexpected tragedies like car accidents.

After spending time going through a pile of papers today, I find myself feeling thankful to be alive. Not only alive, but alive and well! I am once again reminded how short life is and that one day there will be a black and white picture of me in the paper. What will folks remember? As I thank God for life, I am also seeking to make my time here count for something!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 An Education

I have to share a little story before I get to what I'm thankful for today.

The prison chapel is badly in need of some tender loving care. The roof needs replacing and the paint is peeling from the walls leading down to the back door. Last Tuesday it was chilly in the prison chapel basement. But, as is usual there, I was warmly greeted by several inmates. A stop in the visitor restroom revealed floors grimy from age and cracked and peeling paint on the wall. I know the State of Wisconsin has a badly strained budget. Even so, when I look around inside the razor wire fences, it seems the chapel is the last building to get attention.

In a little corner classroom I am greeted by one of the inmates who has attended our Bible study faithfully for about a year. He calls me "Chaplain" or sometimes "Mrs. Chaplain."

His mother has cancer, and he recently had hopes that the parole board would let him go home. Such was not the case, and he is trying hard to keep his spirits up. He came to prison as a young man, but now he is middle-aged and very concerned that his mother will die befoe he gets home. He asks me to pray for her, and to pray that he stays strong. I've mentioned this inmate before. He causes me concern because I can see two warring sides of him. He longs to be a good man, to encourage others, to do what is right. He has had a hard time in a new prison job because he is being taunted for not stealing. So far, he has held his head up and resisted. But he has a dark side too. Of course, everyone does, and inmates more particularly do, but in this man it is more evident, and the struggle he wages is clear. I have grown to care about him, and I hope he can see his mother once more. At the same time, I'll be concerned if I hear he's actually out on the streets. I'll call him W.

About halfway through our study W. suddenly sat up very straight, looked at me with wide-open eyes and said, with a voice full of excitement. "Mrs. Chaplain, I saw the most wonderful show on PBS the other night. Did you see it? It went all the way back to the days of Abraham Lincoln! Did you know that there was a big disagreement in this country about slaves? There was this man, I can't remember who he was...a Christian man with a lot of slaves...and he had a dream and he came and told the others that he had to get rid of his slaves right away, that God says it is wrong. The others argued and made fun of him, but he did it!" W.'s smile was wide and his eyes sparkled.

I was slowly absorbing the fact that he was telling me about a peice of history he knew nothing about. He went on, "There was a big, terrible war between...I think it was the west side of the country and the east side...?" An inmate sitting next to him said gently, "It was the north and the south." "Right!" exclaimed W. "Did you know that, Mrs. Chaplain? There was a big war and Abraham Lincoln said the slaves had to be freed. Do you know about that?"

"Yes. It was a long, terrible time. It was called 'the Civil War'."
"Right! That's it! The Civil War."
"And Abraham Lincoln was president."
"Yes! They said that on TV. And Lincoln was a great man. He said they had to set they slaves free!"
"Was Lincoln a Christian man?"
"I think so. Some people don't think so, but I do. Either way, I sure do believe he was the right man for the work that had to be done..."

We went back to our Bible study and soon concluded. A guard in a prison van drode me back to the gatehouse. I signed out, passed beyond the razor wire fences, and drove away. But my thoughts have been returning inside ever since.

What kind of life did my inmate friend live before he committed the crime that landed him in prison? How is it possible for an American Black man in his forties to not have heard of the Civil War (or as they say down south, "the War between the states")? If I hadn't watched his face and heard his tone I would not have believed it.

Over the 20 years I've been visiting the prison where my husband is a chaplain, I've heard and seen many things that have made me deeply sad. None struck me quite like this.

Today I am deeply, profoundly grateful for my education.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Expect the Unexpected Friday Five

I am thankful for my blogging friends over at Rev Gal Blog Pals. I've met some in person, and there are a bunch more I'd LOVE to meet. They are a terriffic bunch. Rev Gal Jan hosts the Friday Five today, and she says, "With the American holiday of Thanksgiving being less than a week away, I tried to think of some questions for Friday Five that could be connected to this, but in a new way. So here is my one try:
Name five things that were unexpected in your life that you are now grateful for."


1. My husband. Very unexpected, and the greatest blessing of my entire life.

2. My second child was planned and eagerly awaited by all. (And, unexpected or not, we are thankful for him.) The first, on the other hand, was not. It makes me smile to think of it now. We had been married three months when she was conceived. Don't ask me how I know. I do know, and you don't need to. :-) About a month later I started getting REALLY sick, and when I went to find out what was wrong with me...yep. Pregnant! I was shocked. We were scraping by as it was. How were we going to afford a baby? I cried. When I shared the news we just stared at each other. It took a while, but of course we adjusted and eventually were joyfully anticipating our baby's arrival. That pregnancy was MOST unexpected, but my lovely daughter was the result. What a joy she has been!

3. Living in Wisconsin. Where is Wisconsin? When I lived in California, the state of my birth, I would have been unable to tell you, except that it was somewhere in the north and middle of the country. Like most Americans, I didn't think there was anything here but cows and beer. I've now lived here for nearly 30 years (wow!) and have learned to love many things about this part of the country.

4. An unexpected blessing...TOTALLY unexpected was being called to ministry. It is a long story why that was such a surprise, but the short version is that I grew up Southern Baptist.

5. It was never the plan that my mother come live with us. Her three daughters, of which I am the youngest, did have a plan. Our plan, for many complicated reasons, did not happen. She ended up living here for about five years. It was very difficult. My mother and I always had a rather strange relationship. I wish I could say that one day we sat down and resolved all our issues. That did not happen, but I am very glad that in the end she did spend those years with us. Yes, they took a toll on my that wasn't always good. Still, I have many wonderful memories. I miss her. I'm glad I had her close by at the end.

The picture was taken on her 90th birthday. She lived two more years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 CBE

Thanking God today for the ministry of Christians for Biblical Equality. They made a lifelong impact on the heart, mind and soul of one woman preacher. Yes, I mean me. Blessings to all of those hardworking and underpaid people!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Calling A Spade A Spade: Time To End TSA Theatre And Corporate Profiteering

Calling A Spade A Spade: Time To End TSA Theatre And Corporate Profiteering

Pretty disturbing, methiniks.

Thankfulness 2010 Friends

I am not a person who makes close friends easily. Lots of aquaintences, yes. But real friends are harder to come by. Sometimes it is surprising who your real friends turn out to be! Thankful today both for friends who have come and gone, and for friends who have come and stayed.

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.--
Albert Camus

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Feeling Good

I am very thankful to only be sad once in a while instead of all the time. Today I am rejoicing in the fact that I feel whole. For a while that was not the case. I think there was just too much loss on too many fronts. It was hard to go easy on myself, even though I know all about "healthy grief" and how one must allow time to grieve losses of all sorts. Still not easy. But for several weeks now I have a general sense of well being, I'm feeling like ME again, and I'm ready for a challenge. We shall see what comes. Still praying about direction, but not stressing about it (too much).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 The Food Bank

Tonight is the last show of the "Sounds of Gospel." It has been great! Last night was especially good, just feeling like we were connecting, blending, singing beautifully together, moving the crowd--all the things one wishes for in a musical show. What I am thankful for, however, is the Food Bank that this wonderful show is raising money for. The Sheboygan County Food Bank will serve 14 food pantries throughout our county. Sadly, this is really important during this time of economic challenges and many folks out of work. The response has been gratifying, and the terriffic people of the area are being generous. I am thankful for a great area in which to live and work. And singing some of my favorite music isn't bad either!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rev Gals Getting Ready for Winter Friday Five

What is your favorite movie for watching when curled up under a wooly blanket?

One movie I can watch over and over is "White Knights." Love it...not sure why. You haven't seen it? It's a chick flick, I guess, but a good one with good dancing. It's old, but sort of timeless.

2. Likewise, what book?

Almost any book will do. "Wind in the Willows' comes to mind. I can read that children's book again and again. I really do love the classics, and I have a nice set on my bookshelf, so when I just want to read for comfort and not great insight, etc. I can read something from Mark Twain any time, and not feel I have to read the whole book if I don't want to. It's not as if I don't know how the stories end!

3. What foods do you tend to cook/eat when it gets cold?

Soup. I never make soup in warm weather, but as soon as it starts getting chilly I start making chicken soup, potato soup, split pea, stew...we eat LOTS of soup in the winter months.

4. What do you like to do if you get a "snow day" (or if you don't get snow days, what if you did)?

Listen to music. If Ken isn't home I can crank it. LOL Or sometimes a snow day is a good time to scrub the floor or clean out a closet.

5. Do you like winter sports or outdoor activities, or are you more likely to be inside playing a board game? Do you have a favorite (indoors or out)?

Inside for me, thanks. We love all kinds of games, though we don't play them as much as we did when the kids were still at home. Lots of favorites...hmmm...we love to play Mah Jong, and we have an antique set. I think there's a picture of it on this blog somewhere. We like card games, Clue, Scrabble, Perquacky. Yep, good thing since we live in Wisconsin.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Veterans

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” Eleanor Roosevelt

I once wore a tiny version of the globe and anchor above. I was engaged to a US Marine and he was far away. The ER quote above is a bit of a back-handed compliment, I admit, but everyone knows that when the job is difficult it will likely be the USMC who clears the way and makes it a little safer for their comrades in other branches of the military.

Today I am saying "Thank You" to not only my husband's fellow jar heads, but all of the men and women who have done the best they could do under almost unimaginable circumstances.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 A Home

Thousands of people remain homeless in Haiti and in Chile and Indonesia and many other places in the world. What a pleasure it was to come home to our little house after a trip south. It is not a large house, nor a particularly beautiful one, but it is warm, dry, has running water and a little kitchn and our bed, and books, and a stereo and closets of clothes. How rich we are!

Social Justice: Finding the Balance

Reposted from the website of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Some of both?

Some believers preach a “social gospel” that may address society’s ills but is very little gospel. Others preach the gospel, but do very little to help others. Where’s the balance?

By Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

November 8, 2010 — Jesus Christ has never been a social activist or a moral philosopher. To pitch Him that way is to drain His glory and dilute His excellence. While justice is important, justice apart from Christ is a dead thing.

The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of justice, peace, holiness, righteousness and every other virtue.

When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Some have made Jesus the chaplain of the American dream. Others have made Him the chaplain of the Democratic Party. Still others have made Jesus the chaplain of capitalism and Republicanism. All are equally blasphemous.

Some today teach that the kingdom of God is a political utopia taught by Jesus that we Christians are charged to bring about. This is essentially the old-fashioned “social gospel.” Those who hold this view are still caught up in the old “fundamentalist individual gospel” versus “social gospel” dichotomy. Advocates think that the only way to talk about social justice is to do it in social gospel terms.

We do not reject Jesus, or justice, or the kingdom. But we reject the notion that you can take the justice side of Christ and push it into a separate theme on its own.

Origen said that Jesus is the autobasilia. He is, in Himself, the kingdom. Jesus’ own person and work are the establishing of a new humanity—a new social form of existence. In Him, we find the kingdom of God. In Him, we find what freedom and equality genuinely mean.

Practically speaking, the church (when she is functioning properly) is the new society that Jesus is creating. Christ and the church cannot be separated.

A good definition of the kingdom of God is as follows: the manifestation of God’s ruling presence. “The kingdom of God is in your midst,” Jesus said (see Luke 17:21, NASB). In other words, Jesus was saying, “I’m standing here in your midst. I am the kingdom incarnated. Not only in what I do, but in who I am.”

The kingdom of God is made visible when the community of the King embodies justice, peace, and love together, and then shares it with the world. The church, therefore, is the embodiment and instrument for displaying the kingdom of God.

We must never avoid social issues. But the distinctive mark of a Christian is that you don’t begin with a social or moral issue. You begin with God. You start with God’s revelation in Jesus, and the relationship of justifying/sanctifying/glorifying grace that the “heir of all things” releases in all of us.

You make the Light of the World, not culture, your reference point. Our time should be spent figuring out our relationship to Jesus, and what He is doing in the world. Why? So we can join Him in what He’s already doing.

If we start anywhere else but Christ, we lose our way. If we start with the social and political as our reference point, the “social gospel” becomes very much “social” and very little “gospel.” In truth there is no “gospel” that is not a “social gospel.”

For example, when we reach out to the poor and sick, we are not doing so because of some principle of justice, or some theology of poverty and sickness, or some political platform or legislation, or some responsible way of dealing with surplus wealth. We do so for three reasons:
The deepest hungers of the human heart are for forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
We are reaching out to Jesus Himself (see Matt. 25:36). In the poor and sick, it is Christ whom we attend, feed and love. Followers of Jesus exist for others, not for themselves.

The life of Christ within us compels us to reach out to such. The Galilean prophet who healed the sick and cared for the poor continues His ministry in and through us today.

This reframing of “the poor” was one of the greatest contributions of Christianity. The pagan world called poor people “base and shady.” The Christians called them “sisters and brothers,” and identified them with Christ.

The “needy” and “afflicted” received more than alms; they also received prayer, affection and relationship. The poor were not a political problem. The poor were “us” not “them.” Care of the poor is a matter of orthodox faith.

The story of redemption is where we begin talking about moral and social issues. Of course, it is one thing to get the meaning of what Jesus said and did; it is another thing to start meaning it. Meaning is meaningless until and unless you start “meaning it.”

But “meaning it” means something other than politicization. The pressure on the church to “pietize” politics and mumble polite noises in political directions will only get stronger. What happens when these siren songs are heeded is evident in any reading of the history of the church, where the worst in the history of politics is on display. The perversion of the best yields the worst.

It is a Christian’s fatal conceit to think he can bring in the kingdom. A careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the kingdom is not something that we bring, or build, or cause, or create. The kingdom is a presence that we enter, a gemlike gift that we receive and treasure, a new creation that engulfs and embraces us.

In other words, the kingdom of God is Jesus the Christ, and His righteousness. In seeking Him, “all these things [are] added” in our lives (see Matt. 6:33).

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thanksulness 2010 My BED!

Not much time to post tonight. We just returned from a trip to Tennessee where I officiated at the wedding of a young woman who used to be part of my congregation. She and the groom are stationioned at Youth With a Mission, Nashville, TN. It was a good trip, but a long one, and after several days away I am aware of how lovely it is to be able to come home to one's own bed. Ahhh....good night.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 My Sisters

How do people make it through life without a sister? ~Sara Corpening

Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of. You know whatever you do, they'll still be there. ~Amy Li

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty

Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister? ~Alice Walker

If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child. ~Linda Sunshine

You can kid the world. But not your sister. ~Charlotte Gray

I am the youngest of three daughters. The eldest sister, Darlaine, died much too soon from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She is pictured on the left above, with our mom in the middle of the love seat and my sister's son and granddaughter behind us. It was a bittersweet visit a few years ago. She loved me unconditionally and I miss her so much.

The middle sister, Paulette, is on the left next to our late aunt Pauline. We are smiling, but it was a sad time. We were in Texas and on the way to my mother's home town to attend her funeral. Paulette lives much too far away from me, and I think of her almost every day, wishing we could share a cup of tea and a chat.

My two sister were very different from one another. Darlaine was the quiet bookworm and Paulette was (is) the outgoing one who liked being active. I am a mix of the two! How glad I am to have had them in my life.

Paulette, I love you and thank God for you!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 #4 My Church Family

Psalm 35:18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.

Thanking God today for my church: friends and family, music and prayers and sermons and reminders that there is more to life than just what I can see.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 My Husband

As I mentioned a few posts ago, October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every time I read statistics of the violence--whether it is physical, emotional, sexual or verbal (or all of them) I find myself feeling renewed gratitude for my dear husband of nearly forty years.

Today he is travelling with me to Tennessee so I can officiate at the marriage ceremony of a very special young woman and her fiancee. It will be nice to spend time together, even if it is in the van heading down the highway.

I will never forget the day I met him, nor the day I married him, and I will be forever grateful for a man who has stood by my side through many challenges and changes. Sometimes, come to think of it, he has stood a little ahead and beckoned me onward, and sometimes he has stood behind me and pushed a little. But he has always hoped, believed, trusted, and loved.

If you are a pastor or church professional who would like to know more about what we can do to help those in our pews who are abused, I recommend you take a look at this blog post.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Water

Psalm 65:8-10
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.

We are currently experiencing problems with our hot water heater. A day or so ago I was feeling irritable because I came in from leaf raking looking forward to a long, hot shower and such was not to be. How fortunate am I to expect that when I turn on a tap I can have instant water? Not only instant water, but HOT water? According to one report, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; this is approximately one in eight people. Some put the number even higher.

I am thankful for an abundant and clean water supply.

Want to help someone who is not so fortunate? Here is one way.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 God is Good

1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Today I'm thankful for God's goodness. It is displayed all around me, if I only take time to notice. It is in the sunrise, the honking geese who are about to migrate, the warmth of a fire, the smile of a friend, a good-night kiss from little Trinity.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 # 2 Voting

1 Timothy 2:1-3a I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior...

I love to vote. I may not love the ads and phone calls and emails leading up to voting day, but I love the process itself.
I know I am one very small piece of the whole of this nation, but when I stand in a voting booth and mark my ballot, I always feel oddly powerful and very grateful for the place I live. It is wonderful to see people entering the polling place, talking with neighbors, doing their civic duty and exercising a right so many would LOVE TO HAVE and DO NOT!

How can we take it so lightly that a good turnout is only half of us? No police are needed, no guns slung over shoulders, no glares, no intimidation. Just people voting. I am so thankful for the privilege!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 #1 Singing

Yesterday I went shopping. I'm not a person who loves to shop, so it has been a while since I've set foot in a retail establishment (other than the grocery store or one of the "big box stores)." So I was surprised to find Christmas decorations. Can we please finish fall before we rush headlong into Christmas?

Here in Wisconsin we have enjoyed a splendid fall season (certainly not always the case) with glorious sunny days. Now, the fall colors have faded, for the most part, and the fields are empty. Most of the trees are bare. It is November already!

I have been looking at old posts, perhaps because fall always makes me nostalgic. I read about my mother's failing memory, shedding a few tears as I read what I wrote on the Sunday morning she approached me at church looking distraught and admitting that she didn't know where to go, what to do, and couldn't remember anyone's name. I read about a trip to Washington, spending time with my dear sister who was suffering with Alzheimers and how hard it was to realize she didn't really know me--and then read about a later California trip to their time-share condo by the sea where she wasn't with us. She was in a group home.

I read about my sabbatical--a wonderful yet stressful time as I began to face facts--and then I read about my difficult resignation from my church pastorate of ten years.

Last year at this time I had just met up with my brother-in-law Larry and his new wife. I posted about how strange it was to see Larry with someone other than my late sister, Darlaine. Now Larry is gone as well. I'm so glad that I was not aware he actually had only weeks to live.

I see that quite a few of my posts for the last few years have been about difficult times....and life is what it is. However, as I said, it is November. Almost Thanksgiving. And, as is always the case living here where seasons are pronounced, the changing scene outside the window makes me deeply aware of life passages. I've decided to spend some deliberate time this month in being thankful. Each day I'll post something--at least that's the plan. Care to join me? Feel free to comment, or to link to a post on your own blog.

Today I am thankful for the opportunity to sing in a wonderful choir with a wonderful director. Singing comes naturally to me, but it has been a long time since I did it in any sort of formal way. It is good to sing with others, to polish things, to hear the progress from week to week. I'm happy that soon the sounds of gospel will be shared with our community. Great music, great people, great to have a voice to raise in song!