Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Cross IV

Mark 15:23-25
They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

Can you see the expression that the artist has put in Jesus' eyes? I see pain, sorrow, love, and a resolute facing what was coming.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down.

Did e'er such love and sorrow meet?

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Isaac Watts

Sorrow and love; love and sorrow: the two things mingle in our minds. From Jesus' head, his hands, his feet, come both things, opposites united in a kind of glorious and terrible synthesis. Sorrow and love, says one line. Then love and sorrow. Which comes first? Which comes second? The wonder of the passion of Jesus Christ is something we can never fully understand but we can rejoice--and accept--just as we try to accept the thorns becoming "so rich a crown."

Kyrie Eleison,

Lord, have mercy!

Christe Eleison

Christ, have mercy!

Wash away my sin and pardon my transgression.

Make me whole again,

Have mercy on me.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Cross III

Mark 15:21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)
Poor Simon probably felt as though he was the man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps he was reluctant, perhaps not, but the text implies that he was. But the writer of the Gospel account knows him, and knows his sons by name. It seems clear that, whatever brought Simon to that place and time, he was changed. He became a follower of Christ, and his sons must have been noteworthy in the church in some way as well, because they are named in order to help the reader identify who Simon the Cyrene was.
Sometimes the very things we shrink from in dread are the things God uses to change us forever. And the next generation too.
Oh precious Jesus, may we eagerly and joyfully accept the challenge to serve broken, suffering, struggling humanity. And may we be forever changed in the serving. Amen

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Cross II

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 (New Living Translation)
[Christ sent me] to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
The cross--the very power of God! What a paradox! To the Romans Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, for it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe."
Perhaps sometimes "clever speech" actually obscures the love of Christ.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pondering Images of the Cross I

I'll be posting some cross images until Resurrection Day. Perhaps one each day.

Mark 8:34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.

Someone once told me that her personal cross was her family situaion, and she asked (rather piously), "What is your cross to bear?" The only answer to that question is "Me." We put crosses on our walls, wear them around our necks, post them on blogs. :-) But would you wear a hangman's noose or small silver electric chair around your neck? We forgot that the cross was a hated image to the disciples. It was a symbol of death. Jesus was not saying "Come and follow me and carry your sickness, your husband, your poverty, your ________ and it will keep you humble." He was saying, "Come and die with me."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Birds and Squirrels and Frogs--Oh My!

Song of Solomon 2:11-13
Look, the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone. The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air. The fig trees are forming young fruit, and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming. Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!”

This morning I laughed as I sat on the back steps of the church building making a to-do list and watching a pair of lovesick squirrels. And the birds! Oh, they are jubulant, singing and chirping and tweeting and cawing and warbling! A beautiful cardinal sat in a small maple tree nearby, calling his tweee tweeeeee to all. Translation: "Hey you, get offa my tree!"

Tonight I heard the annual early frog choir as I sat outside. The tiny little frog in the picture sounds like a cross between a cricket and the noise one makes by dragging fingernails on the teeth of a fine-toothed comb. It's aptly named the "chorus frog" and it's cheerful song is one of the earliest sounds of spring in Wisconsin. (You can hear it here.) It is closely followed in a few weeks by another singing little frog known as a "Peeper."

Why the nature lesson? I don't know. Maybe because we are having record-breaking warmth up north and it is a special sort of unexpected lovliness to sit on my deck in March and listen to the night sounds of the season.

Often March is one of the dreariest months of the year, but this year it has been not so bad...just one big snowstorm so far. ;-) The grass is tinged with green, the snow is melted, and the tulips are pushing their green shoots up through the soil. A few purple crocus turn their faces to the sun.

It was more like June than March today. As I sat and looked at the silvery moon and listened to the frogs I was reminded of Bible passages that speak of mountains and hills breaking into song. The little chorus frog, the acrobatic squirrels, the birds and the grass and the flowers bring glory to God by being what they were created to be, singing the songs they were created to sing, growing, sharing life and bringing joy and change.

The same is true for you and me! Are we singing the song we were created to sing, growing in season, pushing up and out when it is time, resting when it is time--bringing joy to our Creator in the process?

One other sure indicator of winter's passing is evident too. Our unpaved church parking lot is mucky.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Lamb of God, and the Unexplainable Wind of the Spirit

The Victorious Lamb and the Seven Streams of Life....

Today we sang about (and to) the Lamb of God. We prayed, read portions of Isaiah 53 (below) and worshipped the Lord who bore our sorrows. Isaiah is one of my favorite biblical books. There are many reasons for that, but one is simply that I love the flow, the poetry, the drama, the expressive sweep of the words themselves. Something about the majesty of the writing often causes me to catch a glimpse of a larger picture, a more open view than what I see with my limited spiritual perspective. And Chapter 53 is surely one of the most beautiful and mysterious passages of scripture ever penned.

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
Yet we believed Him to be stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.

For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has allowed Him to grieve,
When You make His soul an offering for sin.
He shall see the labor of His soul,and be satisfied.
My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
He poured out His soul unto death,
He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many.
And these distressing, horrifying, glorious words were penned hundreds of years before Jesus "poured out his soul." We can discuss and debate the meaning of Jesus death. But As we sang Agnus Dei this morning "...worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb..." something happened. Something indescribable. I've noted in this blog that something has been happening at Jubilee for a while now. For me, it began just after Christmas on the Sunday I did the Anna monologue. It grew stronger during the week of prayer which culminated in a powerful prayer and worship gathering. As I began the "Fear of the Lord" series it continued, and I tried to express some of that here.
Something happened that morning as we read (coincidentally?) about the victorious Lamb who is worthy of glory, honor and power. What is it? What happened? I do not know. I simply know that something has changed, shifted, moved, altered.
That something continues. In my mind I'm hearing the words to a song, "O the passion! O the wonder! O the fiery love of Christ..." Contemplating the fiery love of Christ certainly must move us to reverential awe of our mighty, holy, God--to the right kind of fear. This morning I was moved to kneel as our worship time was drawing to a close. I am not graceful, and kneeling on the platform is certainly not a common thing for me--but I could no longer stand in the presence of God. Then I saw our worship leader, guitar in hands, kneeling as he played spontaneous worship music. Others knelt too...and then most of the congregation! Some were on their faces. If you are thinking this is "church as usual" because we are an Assemblies of God church, think again! This is Wisconsin, not the south, and we are not demonstrative folk here, as a rule. Peace that passed understanding, awe, poured over me in waves. I know this sounds a bit mystical, but I think I am trying to describe what cannot be...explained.
Perhaps it is a shame that we Pentecostal/Charismatics are known more for celebration than at reverence. Celebration is good. But the fear of the Lord is not just about celebrating. It is about facing our sin, our lack of holiness, our pride, arrogance, our lack of Christ-like love.
Today we were moved to our knees as we were confronted with the holiness and the fiery love of the Lamb.

Ephesians 2:13 But now, through Jesus, you were once far away from God have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

Romans 5:1 and 8-9 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us...God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
Peace with God through Christ's sacrifice!
It was an unseasonably warm day here. Tonight I sat outside as the wind of an oncoming storm began to blow. The wind blew warm and soft, then harder and cooler. I felt the change in the air. And I prayed and thanked the Lord for the wind of the Spirit that is blowing. The Divine Wind--the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery. I am becoming more comfortable with mystery than I used to be. I don't know what is happening among us. But I know it is God and I know it is good.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Rev Gals Friday Five: Rivers in the Desert

Songbird writes: I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.

This is one of my favorite passages, for reasons too complicated to go into here. And a nice, simple Friday Five, which is good because I am a bit overwhelmed.


1. Camping

Yes, that is me. We like reenacting, so camping is a way to step outside our usual life and be someone else, in a sense. I always find a change of pace, scene, schedule, and so on, to be refreshing.

2. Reading

This is so rare these days, but I like reading by myself, in a solitary place. Or maybe I have quiet music on. Sometimes this means reading my Bible and taking time to savor and ponder. Some times it means reading something totally unrelated to my usual reading-to-learn. If it is a stream in the desert, it isn't going to be a deep volume by Bonhoeffer, etc. though those are important.
Other times it means reading something fictional. I've been "transported" by books ever since childhood. A current recommendation for those who want a different world is the trilogy "The Circle" by Ted Dekker. The books are titled, Black, Red, and White. I would not have purchased them for myself but they were a gift. It is good fantasy writing with a decidedly spiritual bent. As I read about "Justin" (the Christ figure) my understanding of God's love for me was renewed!''

One of my favorite reading spots at home.

3. Water

Up in beautiful Door County

Speaking of rivers in the desert, water is very refreshing for me. My favorite sound is a stream running over rocks. Not something I hear in my current part of the world, but a vivid audio memory from childhood trips into Sequoia or Yosemite National Parks or places like that. All kinds of water are soothing. A lake, pond, river, stream, ocean. My friend Much2Ponder showed me a nice spot about three miles from here where one can park the car by a grassy stretch of park along the river. Across the way is a tall steeple and, occasionally, bells. A great place for a short stop to pray and ponder or just be.

4. Prayer in our sanctuary at night

I love our little church at night. I can light some candles, and sit in silence looking at our lovely cross, or I can kneel or I can walk around and pray. The presence of God is often sweet there. Right now the cross' dark purple drape and the faux "crown of thorns" are back lit and stark. I don't have a camera right now, but I'll post a picture next week.

5. Music

Another thing that has been relaxing since childhood...when things get to be too much for me, music helps. Depending on my mood it can be contemporary praise choruses, hymns, African harmonies, classical, a harp, the blues, folk, old rock, etc. I have a pretty eclectic music collection. The Our Daily Bread selection of c.d.s is so nice to listen to if I'm anxious or edgy. And they are often one of the lower-priced items at the Christian book store near me. They are "easy listening" but I mean that in a good way. They are beautifully done.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'm in Print

I am greatly blessed and encouraged by the organization, Christians for Biblical Equality.

And I am excited to report that I am in print. Well, not me exactly. My article, "Is My Church Feminized?" If you would like to read the article, go to CBE's website and scroll down the page to "Mutuality." You will find a link to the article, which comes up in Acrobat Reader.

Thank you, Chelsea, for your wonderful additions. The Rembrandt "Flayed Ox" made me laugh out loud. And the sidebar with songs....great! Blessings to you and the folks at CBE.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I'm Back

That is, I have a new hard drive. I lost a bunch of stuff, all my "favorites" and my email address book, but at least I can blog! :-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring Watch in Wisconsin

My long-time readers (I think I do have a few) might remember how I posted last year about longing for winter to end. It happens every year in March. We start watching for signs of spring, even as the snow flies and the wind howls. Spring begins (according to the calendar) on March 21st. But March is tricky in Wisconsin, often turning out to be the month of greatest snowfall, ice storms, wind, and general wintery gloom. It is frustrating, because we realize that much of the rest of the country is out tilling the garden, opening the windows and have long since put away their winter coats. When we first came to Wisconsin as new pastors we tried an Easter sunrise service. We shivered in a chilly rain and saw nary a glimpse of the sun.

January and February tend to bring out the worst in us. People are sleepy, grumpy, edgy, quiet and a bit depressed. BUT we all continue to have hope that spring is on the way. We know it comes eventually.

Some signs:

Our piles of snow have melted in an unseasonable streak of weather in the 50s. It is going to be below freezing next week again, but once we have a taste of a March thaw we start anticipating.

The tiny creek behind my house has become a raging torrent several feet across and is tossing trash, tree limbs and chunks of snow as it burbles along. I don't even mind that the sump pump in the basement awakens me several times a night. It is all part of watching for spring.

A friend swears she saw a robin. I haven't, but I'll take her word.

Speaking of robins, I actually heard birdsong this morning.

The squirrels are twitterpateed, full of energy, and showing off for each other.

Daylight Savings Time!
A teenager was spied dressed in shorts.

The pussywillow bush is budding! YAY! I hope that it doesn't get blasted with an ice storm, as happened last year.

AND...see the post below.

The First Green of Spring

The first green of spring is not the grass. It is not new leaves on the trees. It is not tiny shoots in the garden plot. It is green beer.

I am not saying this is a good thing, but it is Wisconsin. Beer is part of the culture (which is many times problematic). Green beer, green water (the picture at right is Chicago, I think) green decorations of shamrocks and leprechauns in green hats abound right now in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. No, the upper Midwest is not known for it's Irish population, except Milwaukee, Chicago and other large cities. We are mostly German and Scandinavian around these parts of Wisconsin.

But winter is long and green is slow in coming, so St. Patrick's Day is an excuse for a party, I suppose.

At Jubilee Church this Sunday we will be hosting an unusual guest, fellow A/G guy, Jeff Pockat, a player of the ancient Gaelic harp. I'll share some history about the real Patrick and some wisdom from the great man himself. And after church we will gather in our basement fellowship area, which will be properly decked out in green for the occasion, to eat corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. We will all enjoy the first green of spring. No, not green beer. We are Assemblies of God folk, not Catholics, for crying out loud! :-) The first green is on the tables as we poke shamrocks in our table decorations, set out our green place mats and drink green Kool-Ade. After the corned beef we will likely eat something green for dessert too.

The real Patrick is somewhat of a mystery. He was born in Britain and was carried to Ireland as a slave. Much of what we think we know about him is actually legend. However, what we do know is pretty impressive. His "Confessions" have been discovered, and they reveal a great deal about the heart and spirit of this remarkable missionary. Here are a few quotes.

“I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many...people. We deserved this fate because we turned away from God; we neither kept his commandments nor obeyed our pastors who used to warn us about our salvation” (Confessions 1).

While Patrick was working as a shepherd in Ireland he underwent a conversion experience. He wrote, “The Lord...made me aware of my unbelief that I might at last [admit] to my sins and turn wholeheartedly to the Lord. He showed concern for my weakness and pity for my youth and ignorance; he watched over me before I got to know him and before I was able to distinguish good from evil. In fact he protected me and comforted me as a father would his son.”

He became a man of deep prayer. “After I had come to Ireland I daily used to feed cattle, and I prayed frequently during the day; the love of God and the fear of Him increased more and more, and faith became stronger, and [my} spirit was stirred...before daylight I used to rise to prayer, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm. because the spirit was then fervent within me.” (Confessions 16)

While in captivity for six years he learned Irish. His master was a high priest of the Druids so he learned their sophisticated religion. This was essential to his later mission of sharing Christ with them. So God’s plan was working itself out in his life even if he could not see it at the time.

I wish you could all join us next Sunday to listen to Jeff and to hear the rest of the story. I think that Patrick would have wanted us to think of the cross when he came to mind, not shamrocks and green beer.

Anyway, Irish Day at Jubilee A/G might be destined to be one of those sure signs of spring.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Fear of the Lord -- How to Have It

Over the last few weeks I'v posted about this subject of "fearing" God. I started on January 1st with this post. Thinking about this subject started with reading others blogs, dealing with a few personal and professional issues and with looking around me in society, home and church. I was struck with the realization that we are suffering from an acute shortage of wisdom. What is wrong? Could it be that we have lost the understanding of the fear of the Lord?
This picture is called Intense Prayer. That is a hint about what follows.
I posted a picture of "Buddy Christ" and posted about it here. This is satire--or is it? Then we looked at a little C.S. Lewis and thought about Aslan here. And I found a wonderful definition: Holy fear is"Worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to God” Then I pondered the relationship between Tolkien's characters, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. What a visual reminder of "fear" as we are coming to understand it.

And then I found some benefits of fearing God and posted them yesterday.

Now I'm ending with the how-to. As I prepared to preach about it, and as I posted snippets of those sermons here, I certainly realized that I did not understand this subject in the way that I should. Seeing that is one thing, but how do we change things?
Proverbs 2:1-5 is a list of instructions on how to have genuine fear of the Lord (and thus, to begin to be a person of wisdom). Here is the passage from the New Living Translation.

1 My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands.

The King James Version says “receive” my words. Do you listen with submission, seeking what God wants to say to you? It is not just hearing—-it is listening!

"Treasure” is to store something up in a secret place. These things are between you and God. Do we take time to think them through and begin to understand the implications for our own life?
Like Mary did with the words of Gabriel, do we ponder them in our hearts?

2 Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.

The KJV says “incline” your ear. Lean your head over…..listen with care. "Concentrate on understanding" is again telling us that this is not casual, not ho hum stuff. James tells us “Be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer.”

3 Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.

This is passionate prayer! When is the last time you prayed like you were desperate? I'm not saying we must make a public scene. Crying out for insight needs to happen in the secret place too--but I see a trend here.

4 Search for them (God’s commands) as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.

The good news of Jesus love is available to all. But then, we go on to understand what this means to us. Here is what I'm starting to realize. The wisdom of God, it seems, does not come to the casual, apathetic seeker. It does not come to the people who just add religion on as a little piece of their life. It does not come to a lukewarm, passive, Church. It does not come to everyone who says they are a Christian. It comes to those who seek. Jesus said we will find him when we seek him. Search like you were hunting for treasure! God’s jewels are not on the sidewalk to be picked up by anyone. He puts them in places where you have to grasp for them, to hunt for them, to put some effort--some intensity-- into the search. Perhaps that is so we will value them more.

DRUM ROLL.....badadadadadadadadadadadad

5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord ,and you will gain knowledge of God.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Fear of the Lord III -- There are Benefits!

Lady Wisdom Seeks to be Heard
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." Psalm 111:10

The benefits of wisdom cannot be measured. If we read the first few chapters of of the Book of Proverbs, we realize that Wisdom is crying out to be heard! She must have something significant for us.

Scripture does give us some specific blessings if we will count ourselves among those who are living in obedient, submissive, reverence to God. I've listed a few below:

Psalm 25:12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.

Some of us ask for direction, but we forget that God does not teach everyone equally but shares His wisdom with those who take it seriously. God does not commit to teach those who will not fear him. Those who do have a divine guide!

Psalm 25:14 Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear him. With them he shares the secrets of his covenant.

Intimate friendship!

Prov. 10:27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.

This does not say how long you will live. But how many stories have you heard of someone’s life being cut short because of foolish behavior? We will live longer lives with fear of the Lord as part of them.

Proverbs 19:23 The reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it rests satisfied; he cannot be visited with [actual] evil. (Amplified Bible)

Satisfaction! Those who fear God, who live to serve to worship, to love will be satisfied, and will be protected from evil. “Deliver us from evil…” Who could turn that down? The same promise is echoed in Prov. 22:4…

Prov. 22:4 The payoff for meekness and fear of God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. (The Message)

The payoff? Interesting way to put it. And the payoff for a foolish life lived pursing pleasure, or lived having God in your life on your terms? The opposite! Financial struggles, disgrace or at least disrespect, lack of trust from others, and a life of frustration.

It seems the next scripture, Proverbs 14:26, can be translated two ways. Either is wonderful. Take a look.

Prov. 14:26 Those who fear the LORD have a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. (TNIV)

Those of us with children want to leave a legacy of faith.

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence; and His children will have a place of refuge. (NKJV)

Christians who fear the Lord are not wimps or pushovers. If we fear the Lord and begin to understand what that really means (and, more importantly, who GOD really is) we need not fear anything else. The fear of the Lord will give you strength, courage and confidence!

Those are some powerful blessing, aren't they?
Tomorrow I'll end this little series with a "how to" about fearing God.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What a Surprise -- NOT

I'm home and my sermon is done and I am heading to bed right after I turn my clock forward one hour. Too tired for writing, so here is a bit of fluff. Like Dr. Platypus, I'm not sure why I bothered with this one. Ha!

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.

An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.

You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.

A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Heading Home Today

I believe that we truly had "the mind of the Spirit" this week. It was tumultuous, distressing, wrenching and fast. I spent much of last night weeping instead of sleeping, but I know this must happen. My sister will be moving to the adult family home very soon. Her husband, her son and his wife, and me--everyone is grieving, but in unity. Praise be to God. I'm going to go pack now. :-)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Issaquah

Issaquah is a suburb of Seattle. Like Wisconsin, Washington has many Indian names for streets and towns. What a beautiful place this is, with winding roads, tall pines and the snow-topped Cascade Mountains looming on the horizon.

The weather has turned unseasonably warm here. It was 70 degrees and sunny! Woo Hoo! Green grass and flowers are fabulous. Today I sat at a table in an outdoor hot dog place and soaked up the sun on my back, glad I was not at home where I hear it is snowing hard.

My sister started crying and laughing alternately last night when she saw me and rushed over to hug me. But today I realized that she does not really know who I am. I think she probably occasionally knows I am her sister but not my name, but at least she does seem to know there is love between us. She peeked around the bedroom door this morning with a bright smile and said, "Good morning, sweetie." Then she kissed me on the cheek and promptly started going through my suitcase and trying to put my shoes on over the top of hers. There is still a sweetness in her face at times, and light in her eyes. She is never at peace though, constantly tying and untying her shoes, taking off her clothes and struggling to get them on again, searching, trying desperately to converse with absolutely no sense to the words, looking for something, looking, looking, looking, pacing, doing the same small thing (like folding a towel) over and over, knitting her brows in frantic concentration--which helps not at all. It is a distressing thing to watch this once bright and engaging woman struggle constantly.

Tomorrow we have a nurse and caregiver from an adult family home coming over in the a.m. and someone from the Alzheimers Association in the afternoon. It is her 67th birthday, and so we are going out to eat.

I feel exhausted. It is emotional as well as a bit of jet lag, I'm sure. It was a difficult day. We are not getting closer to any clear plan...I pray it can happen before I return home. I do think I am a comfort to my brother in law, and in some way, to my sister too. But it is so hard to face the reality that his life together with her is essentially gone.

Below is a picture of the two of them in happier days. Well, as he says, "She pretty much has forgotten me, and soon she will forget God, but God will not forget her." Praise God for the hope of eternity. If this was the end--how can people bear that?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Seattle or Bust

For some reason when I try to look at this blog I get a post from February with Old Abe looking at me, so I don't know if anyone will see this. Blogger is nostalgic or something?

I am in Minnesota today. Son in Law is out buying diapers. Daughter is at work, and that leaves me, the two cats, the big dog and the little baby girl at home. She has doubled in size, I think. And her eyelashes are coming in thick and a little curly. Can you believe her mommy took her out to make a snow angel yesterday? LOL!

It is nice to have some moments of solitude this morning as I prepare my mind and heart to travel on to my sister's home. Her husband is telling her today that I will be arriving, and hopefully she will remember. If not...well...SURPRISE!

I am singing a hymn today from childhood. "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

That is my prayer today. I am leaning on strength greater than I have, trusting God to hold me up as I need it. I feel so sad already, but I also feel peaceful. It was good to have a few hours with the baby. It is such a reminder of life. A sad contrast, looking at little Trinity and knowing my swet sister is at a "close" of life--even if not yet physically. But God will hold her too.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

How About a Picnic?

I don't know why I keep being struck by these contrasts of outside and inside, but outside is monochromatic. I looked at the picnic table and didn't know whether to laugh or groan. And the planter looks like a big cupcake.

Inside, hope of warmer days springs eternal. The yellow tulips are a gift to my mom from much2ponder, and they have been helping to brighten our days a bit.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Friday Five -- Artsy Craftsy

Over at the Rev Gals and Pals blog, Reverend Mother says, "During Lent here at Suburban Presbyterian Church, we are exploring the creative and liturgical arts, with classes and speakers dealing with storytelling, iconography, dance, visual art, writing, and so on. The theme is "A Beautiful Thing," inspired by the story of the woman anointing Jesus and his declaration that "She has done a beautiful thing for me." (Mark 14, NIV) We are working on the notion that everything we do can be considered a beautiful thing--a creative offering to God--whether it's gardening or scrapbooking or accounting or sorting clothes at the clothes closet or child-rearing. And so: ..."

1. Would you call yourself "creative"? Why or why not?

Yes, because creativity is many things. If I was asked if I'm "artsy craftsy" I would say an emphatic no. I am all thumbs when it comes to quilting or making crafts, or sewing, or crocheting, or painting delicate little patterns, etc. But I like to write, both prose and poetry, and I have composed songs too, though not recently. And I also like to paint, and I like to think of new ways to do things.

2. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you currently do that you'd like to develop further.

I'd like to take a painting class. I don't currently do it, but I have both painted and unpainted canvases in the basement, and if I had time I'd love to set up an easel in the spare room. I'm not saying I'd paint a masterpiece. But it was very fun and relaxing for me.

3. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you have never done but would like to try.

I would like to learn to make stained glass. I almost took a class a couple of years ago, but it was too expensive for my pastoral budget. I love color, and creating something colorful and beautiful is very appealing.

4. Complete this sentence: "I am in awe of people who can draw so that it actually comes out looking like something ."

5. Share about a person who has encouraged your creativity, who has "called you to your best self." (I'm pretty sure that's from the Gospel of Oprah.)

My sister. She sang with me, read to me, made me go to the library, helped me write, encouraged me in absolutely anything I did.

P.S. I'll be going to Seattle in a couple of days. If you read my posts about my California visit, you know my sister has Alzheimers. She is rapidly growing worse, more aggresive, more "lost" and beginning not to know her loved ones. It will soon be time to find a place for her, and my brother in law has asked for my help. I owe more than I can say to her love and support. I dread doing this, but I am asking God to help me see it as possibly my last time to bless her in any way. Prayers gratfully appreciated.