Saturday, September 27, 2008

Heirs Together Part 3: Back to the Garden

For those of you who read the "Husband as Head" series, this is going to be pretty familiar. 

I Peter 3:7 “...Live with heirs together with you of God’s gracious gift of life.”

Last week we asked the question, “What is marriage?” It is many things, depending on culture, custom, location, ethnicity, etc. But in each and every case, whether the marriage is a love match or arranged, warm or cold, good or bad, peaceful or painful, cheerful or chaotic, marriage is a relationship. In future weeks we will look more closely at what that means. For today, let's discover what scripture says about what the man's and woman's relationship was meant to be.

On our quiz from the first week of this series, I said that this statement:

”When God made male and female (a couple), God made one to be the leader and one to be the helper” was false. Some of you are still wondering about that. So then, does God have a plan for man and woman in marriage? YES!

Today, let’s go back to the Garden of Eden and start finding out about the biblical account of how God created male and female! But when we do, look for biblical principles—truths that stand in any time, any place, any culture. And again, can I request that for now you put books, tapes, ideas aside? Can we just look at scripture carefully, using good hermeneutics?

Good biblical “hermeneutics”means good principles of interpreting scripture. Always interpret a passage:
• in agreement with its context.
• in light of what it meant to the original hearers.
• considering the events and customs taking place when it was written.
• in the light of other scripture.
• without using an obscure passage to make a point, ignoring more clear passages.
• according to the best usage of the original language (which is NOT English)
• putting scripture above social teaching.

There are more hermeneutic principles, but these are a few that will be important to us over the next few weeks. Allow me to share a story that illustrates bad hermeneutics.

Some years ago I went to a women's conference along with several women from this church. Some are here today and may remember this. One of the most popular workshops was about husband/wife roles. I did not attend, but I heard plenty about it in the van on the way home. I grew disturbed and sad as I listened to happy, enthusiastic women tell how they had learned about "God's plan." God, the Bible said, made man to "have dominion." Men were designed to rule. That was the main point of the workshop. If we women did not allow the men to have dominion, we were demeaning them and undermining their God-given role as leaders in our homes. There were some good things shared, but mixed with helpful things was a damaging seed of error. Men were made to lead--it was an integral part or how God had made the male nature. Every man would step up and provide godly leadership, given encouragement. As Christian wives it was their job to go home and discover the ways in which they had robbed their husbands of this divine mandate. I listened in silence. They were too excited to notice. It was not a time for correction, but later when the excitement of discovery had dimmed in the light of real life, I was able to take some of those women to Genesis and read the workshop's text (Genesis 1:26). Careful reading and simply paying attention to the context was revealing, and surprising!

Did you know that there are two separate creation accounts in Genesis? The first account is a sort of summary or overview. Much of the language people are familiar with regarding marriage stems from the venerable King James Version. This is the passage the workshop leaders used, so we will start there.

Genesis 1:26-28 KJV
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

 Now we'll go to the New International Version

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.“ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

In the first creation account, God creates the male and the female together as "man" --humankind--in God's image. Who has dominion? "Them." Both genders are given rule over creation. At this point there is no suggestion of power, position, hierarchy or defined roles.

The second creation account adds detail to what we already know. It is found in Genesis 2:7, 18-24, and once again we will start by reading the King James Version. These words are familiar to most of us from wedding ceremonies.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul….And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam…and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh…And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

There is a “word” we hear and read a lot when Christians talk about marriage. HELPMEET…or even worse…HELPMATE. Helpmeet comes from pushing the noun and adjective found in the KJV together in to a sort of hybrid word. Helpmate apparently came into usage because a lot of people really don't know what "meet" means, but it sure sounds a lot like "mate" and this is about man and woman, so...

And when I see an educated person tossing these words around, being the word lover that I am, I get a little grumpy.

“Meet” is a word we no longer use. It means “suitable” or “corresponding to.” So a “help meet” is a help that is suitable. Here is another example from the KJV, Matthew 15:26 " But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."

That is a strange statement, but for now let's leave the verse alone except to note the usage of "meet" as "suitable" or "fitting."

Let’s move on from ancient English--and made up words--and see what some newer translations say:

a helper who is like him HCSV
a helper who is just right for him NLT
a helper complimentary to him TAB
a helper suitable for him NIV

And the two I think express it best in English:
a helper as his partner NRSV
a help who is like unto himself DV

Nowadays, the words helpmate or helper usually imply a subordinate or an assistant. Let me give you an example from life. Last week, my secretary, Honey, and I came up with a plan. Honey had a good idea. It would save the church some money, be fun to do, add to our worship experience. She shared the idea with me, and I loved it. So I will be Honey's helper on this project, and we hope you will like the result.

Now, be honest. Who is leading and who is the assistant?

So is the woman, as the man's helper, made to be an assistant? Do the men do the important stuff and women get to help out? Martin Luther thought so, among others. Last week we read, “A woman must never seek to begin anything, or to end anything, without the leadership and counsel of a man. Where he is, she must be, and must bend before him as one whom she must reverently fear and to whom she must ever be subject and obedient.”

BUT….let’s remember another hermeneutics principle. Lets look at the Hebrew!

Those two words, “help meet” or “suitable helper” are from two wonderful Hebrew words, EZER KENEGDO. Ezer is used many times in the Old Testament, but never for a subordinate or a lesser being. Always for a strong help! EZER is most often used for GOD! Is God an assistant, or beneath us in a hierarchy of command? Here are a few examples:

Psalm 118:7 "The LORD is with me; he is my helper (ezer)"
Psalm 33:20 “We wait in hope for the LORD; who is our help and our shield.
Psalm 20:1-2 “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; May the Name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help…”
Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

But what about that adjective, KENEGDO? The word the King James Version translated "meet" or "suitable" is NEGED (or depending on usage,KENEGDO),"counterpart to, matching, corresponding, like."

So put together, EZER KENEGDO means: “one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, supports.”

The same as? We know men and woman are different. But the creation account emphasized that the woman was like the man, suitable in every way, figuratively standing right beside him. One writer described it as, "eye to eye, vis a vis, a matched pair." This couple illustrates the ‘eye to eye’ relationship of the man and his “ezer kenegdo”.

Because of this passage from Genesis, I have a bumper sticker on my car that says PUT WOMEN IN THEIR PLACE: Right Beside Men.

Can you hear the joy in the male’s exclamation, "Ah, at last! This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”? Not, "Someone for me to rule over." Not, "Someone under me in the order of things." Not, "At last, someone to follow my lead."

AT LAST, someone LIKE ME!

We often hear that “God’s plan is a chain of command.” So far, scripture does not say this was God’s plan. God’s plan was that the man and the woman were made to rule together. The woman was made to be a strong help—the man’s partner in every way.

What happened to this beautiful plan? Did God institute a chain of command where the man rules and the woman is subordinate? Did God curse mankind? Will it ever get better?
And why are Adam and Eve wearing those ridiculous fig leaves?

Find out next week as we continue in Genesis!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Keep the Nasty Stuff Under the Counter?


There are none in Wisconsin, but if you live close enough, how about you go to a local  LifeWay (Southern Baptist Convention) store and flood them with requests for this magazine. And then tell them what you think of placing a magazine under the counter because of--women preachers (shudder) on the cover.  Oh, no, it isn't because women are on the cover.  It is...well, click on the link and read for yourself. 
Yes, I'm beyond disgusted. I am dismayed at the arrogance and pride and plain old fashioned foolishness. Most of all, I grieve for the message this sends to those who already think Christians have nothing to say that is worth hearing. Please pray with me for those who are on the edge of leaving their faith for something they believe is more hospitable to women--and for those who have already left the church and don't know whether to come back.
I know several of those people personally.

And I cannot tell you how much I admire this man, who has graciously but steadfastly called his Baptist brethern to account, again and again.  Now he is being bold enough to post simply but eloquently about why Wayne Grudem and his pals in the CBMW are on a very slippery slope indeed.  I meanioned CBMW and subordination in the godhead and Arianism a few posts ago, but his blog post does a great job of explaining the problem.  God bless you, Wade!

Lord, forgive those who do not know what they are doing. Convict those who might, but would rather hold on to power, tradition...anything but you and your Holy Spirit given freedom.  Help LifeWay employees who are embarassed by this to speak up. Bless those in the Southern Baptist Convention, and other likeminded denominations, who are praying and speaking truth and calling for wisdom and balance and  change. And as for me, help me to love my enemies and pray for them. How strange to feel that fellow believers are my enemies. I hate that. You must hate it more, Lord God. Grant strength and grace and wisdom and peace to those who seek you. And thank you, Jesus Christ, for never treating the women in your life as though they should hide under the counter. Amen

A Johnny Appleseed Friday Five

I'm hosting the Rev Gals & Pals Friday Five today, so I think I'll write about someone who has interested me since my childhood. Raise your hand if you know that today, September 26th, is Johnny Appleseed Day! September 26, 1774 was his birthday. Johnny Appleseed" (John Chapman) is one of America's great legends. He was a nurseryman who started out planting trees in western New York and Pennsylvania, but he was among the American settlers who were captivated by the movement west across the continent. As Johnny travelled west (at that time, the "West" was places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois) he planted apple trees and sold trees to settlers. With every apple tree that was planted, the legend grew. A devout Christian, he was known to preach during his travels. According to legend, Johny Appleseed led a simple life and wanted little. He rarely accepted money and often donated any money he received to churches or charities. He planted hundereds of orchards, considering it his sevice to humankind. There is some link between Johny Appleseed and very early Arbor Day celebrations.

So, in honor of this interesting fellow, let's get on with the questions!

1. What is your favorite apple dish? (BIG BONUS points if you share the recipe.)
This is not my favorite. I mean, there's apple pie, and apple crisp, and apple strudel, and apple bread...but it is really good! It seems an appropriate little recipe to share, this being the home of Cheese Heads.
Cheesy Baked Apples

4 medium apples - peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
In a shallow dish, arrange apple slices. Sprinkle with water and lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle over apples. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until apples are tender. Uncover, top with shredded cheese, and bake 5 minutes more or until cheese melts. Great side dish!
Serves: 6.

2. Have you ever planted a tree? If so was there a special reason or occasion you can tell us about?

Yes, I planted a plum tree in the backyard of my childhood home in California, with help from my dad. Never was any tree treated so tenderly, watered, fertilized, and the second year we watched with anticipation to see how many plums we would have. Nothing happened. Finally, late in the summer, one small plum appeared. We were excited, and we watched its purple progress with thoughts of juicy Santa Rosa plums dancing in our heads. We were scheduled to take a vacation to Texas, so we gave the tree a good soaking before we got in the car. We calculated that the plum would be ripe about the time we arrived back home--still the only plum on the tree--but everyone decided that Daddy and I would be the ones to eat the "fruit" of our two years of labor. When we arrived home I ran out back right away--THE PLUM WAS GONE!

I cried. (I was only 8.) Later that day we discovered that a no account, shiftless, bum of a neighbor (I guess it still bugs me) had helped himself to our one and only plum. That poor tree--it never produced another one.

3. Does the idea of roaming around the countryside (preaching or otherwise) appeal to you? Why or why not?

Oh yeah! That's one of the reasons I was fascinated by Johnny Appleseed stories. I liked the wandering idea then, and I still do. Have you read "A Walk Across America?" Well, I think I'd prefer an RV, but I'd love to hit the road. Preaching too? What else could a preacher woman ask for?

4. Who is a favorite "historical legend" of yours?

I know this is cheating, but it's my F.F. and I already picked him. It's Johnny Appleseed, of course. Even the little we know is fascinating. How often does one encounter a truely selfless, kind, singing, tree-planting person, after all? I always wondered just what made him "tick" and why he thought planting trees was so important.

5. Johnny Appleseed was said to sing to keep up his spirits as he travelled the roads of the west. Do you have a song that comes when you are trying to be cheerful, or is there something else that you often do?

I sing. Sometimes I sing the Johnny Appleseed song. Really. Here it is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fireproof: the Movie

Generally, I am not a big fan of "Christian films." And I know that Evangelicals are supposed to go see any movie with Kirk Cameron in it. :-) But I thought "Left Behind" was awful. That said, may I offer a word of praise for this film?

Ken and I saw an advanced showing. I'll be frank--I was prepared to hate it.

I liked it.

Is it great movie making? No. Is it Oscar worthy? No. Is it going to change marriage in America? No. It has some flaws. It is a bit too obvious, a bit too "pat." The acress who plays Kayla is--well--pretty amatuer. Kirk did much better.

But, on the plus side, I was surprised by the humor in the movie. There are some funny moments, and some funny characters. Yes, it is a movie with a message, but it is not overly preachy. There is no sermon, and no church segment, and no Billy Graham crusade. (NO, I'm not dissing Billy Graham.) I was waiting for the conversation where the firefighter character, Caleb, is told to offer "servant leadership" and (HOORAY!) that moment did not happen. He is offered a challenge, and perhaps some will find it simplistic. But I can't find fault with spending 40 days to focus on what real love is. I liked the juxtaposition of the hero fire fighter in public with the jerk husband at home. How like all of us, to one degree or another. And no one told the wife to just submit more.

This movie will not transform an abusive relationship into a healthy one. It will not save every marriage. But it will help some people to rethink what marriage is about, to examine themselves, to seek more loving ways to relate, and to invite God into the equation.

I saw Kirk Cameron on The Today Show this morning, and I am pleased to say that he handled the interview well, came across as warm and "normal" and approachable, did not preach or condemn or moralize. I was proud of him.

I'm encouraging my church folks to go see the movie as a sort of adjunct message to my marriage series. I applaud the filmakers--a church group! for not just complaining but doing something about it. Their efforts are commendable and worthy of praise. I hope that as they keep making films they will get better and better.

I'm interested in other's opinions. It opens this Friday, September 26.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heirs Together Part 2: What is Marriage?

This sermon owes a great deal to Patricia Gundry.

Last week we saw that Christian marriage is in trouble. The rate of divorces inside the church is about the same as outside, and some indicators would say that divorce rates are even higher for church folks than among those who do not profess faith in Christ. What is wrong? This is a simple question that does not have a simple answer, but here are a few beginning thoughts.

1. Traditional teaching about marriage is not as biblical as many of us believe.

Many of the ideas we encountered in last week's quiz are based on views of women held from early times. We will take a look at Genesis next week, but for now I'll just note that the biblical account of the beginning of things seems to tell us that Darkness will have a special hatred of women.

Jesus'' treatment of, and relationships with, women as respected friends, students and witnesses (think of Easter) were radical. It took a while, but in the first century church we have evidence that women were given freedom that was unheard of prior to that time. There were women deacons, prophets, preachers and even bishops. Sadly, as things became more institutionalized it didn't take long for Jesus' revolutionary treatment of women to be forgotten. Views of women became so negative we would be shocked by them today. Here is a sampling (I paraphrased the language in a few, but I did not change the sense of the statement). And guys, be careful how you respond or you may regret it later!

Tertullian – Woman, you are each an Eve. The sentence of God lies on you, and guilt must forever lie on you as well. The serpent would never have approached your more noble mate, but he used you as his evil gateway. Because of you, the Son of God had to die.

Origen – A man should never listen to a woman, even if she says saintly or admirable things. That is of no consequence or importance, since she is a woman.

St. John Chrysostom—“A woman taught once, and she ruined everything. Let her never teach….a woman is weak and fickle. God assigned the important, more beneficial matters of work to the male and the less important, inferior matters to the woman.”

Gratian said, “A woman’s authority is nonexistent. Let her be subject to men in everything…she may not teach, be a witness, give a contract or a guarantee…”

Clement of Alexandra-- “Men are endowed with for is shameful even to think of what nature she is…”

St. Augustine -- “Man reflects the image of for woman, I fail to see what use women can be to man if one excluded the bearing of children.”

John Knox -- “Woman was made to serve and obey the man.”

Thomas Aquinas -- “Woman is defective and misbegotten. The active male seed tends to produce a perfect male. The production of a woman comes from some defect in the active force.”

D. M. Burrows -- “It is an ascertained physical fact that the brain capacity of the average male is considerably greater than that of the female. Why then, should she be admitted to collegial study?”

Martin Luther - “Women are ashamed to admit this, but scripture and life clearly ascertain that only one in a thousand is able to live a life of…purity. She cannot help it...A woman must never seek to begin anything, or to end anything, without the leadership and counsel of a man. Where he is, she must be, and must bend before him as one whom she must reverently fear and to whom she must ever be subject and obedient.”

Women, do those statements make you rejoice in the freedom of God's grace?

Me neither.

Am I saying that nothing these men ever said was of value? By no means. We owe them a great debt in many respects. But it isn't hard to see where some ideas sprang from, is it?

Gnosticism was an early heresy that troubled the church for several centuries. Eventually it faded from the forefront (though it still exists in altered forms today). One facet remained. Asceticism—deny your physical body—the body is evil. Thus sexual desire is evil. Women as the objects of a man's sexual desire must also be evil. Celibacy is holy.

By the Middle Ages, the Church was a giant socio-political institution as well as a religious one, and it believed that God had designed a specific order that would keep the world running properly. Everyone had their place, and the Church did not hesitate to use force to keep people in their “proper place in the divine order.” Some races were designed by God to be slaves and servants. Some were ordained to rule. Man was superior, and woman was inferior. To deny these truths and others invited ridicule at best and torture or death at worst.

We could go on at length to describe attitudes and beliefs that arose in different historical periods and became established teaching. They were repeated so often that even now we tend to accept them without question. Since this is not a history lesson, I will move on.

2. We have expectations that are completely unrealistic.

In many other cultures marriages are arranged. Often marriage is viewed as primarily for the purpose of children, financial security, protection and other practical reasons. I recall a visitor from a foreign country laughing out loud at a Viagra commercial. She could not believe that middle aged people in our culture still expected sexual intimacy to be part of marriage! In our culture we marry “for love.” Love will find a way. Love conquers all. When problems inevitably come, we think the love must have been faulty.

A favorite movie at our house is "Fiddler on the Roof." One of the most memorable scenes is when the middle-aged husband, Tevye, and the middle-aged wife, Golda, ponder the nature of married affection and, for the first time, share a few timid words of love. " After twenty five years", they sing, "it's nice to know." We cannot imagine ourselves marrying first and loving later. And yet we are willing to toss out the marriage when we feel love has misled us. It seems that our romantic view of marriage may have led us to believe that marriage is either perfect or useless.

When you think of it, it is really amazing that we treat the most important alliance in our lives as though it must maintain itself without our wholehearted effort. No wonder that is called a romantic view. (One dictionary definition of romantic is "unrealistic.")

3. Christians have believed the lie that if they follow a formula, they are ensured success.

We all want our marriages to be wonderful and successful and lasting. And we want to be faithful to God. When someone tells us that scripture assures success if we are sure to do it "right" it is easy to be deceived by our desire to know God, and our longing for human love and intimacy. And the stereotypes are stated, and stated again, and we begin to believe them, and we begin to believe that everyone else is making it work. Christians are good at hiding our "stuff." So if we aren't living in a happy marriage we must be faulty in our understanding or our execution of "the divine plan." We must try harder to follow the rules. We must lead, we must be more spiritual, we must obey, we must submit more.

Of course there is truth in every stereotype—but the problem with stereotypes is that almost no one fits them. Women talk more. Men don’t like to talk. Women like to relate. Men like to do. Women love to shop and hunt for bargains and try on 30 dresses. Men just want to “git ‘er done.” Men are more aggressive and so are natural leaders. Women are passive and so are natural followers.

I have a radical idea. Stop worrying about “men” and “women” and get to know your own loved one!

In her book on marriage, Heirs Together, Patricia Gundry suggests that marriage is like a kaleidoscope. She says:

"A good marriage is like a kaleidoscope. With a few simple ingredients it is ever changing, showing new facets of each other and the pleasure of working and living and loving as a team. A marriage can be whatever you want it to be. It can become better and better. It can change as a husband and wife learn and grow and change...Your marriage is your very own; it belongs to no one else. If you try to live out someone else’s idea of marriage, you may be fortunate and stumble onto a pattern that you happen to fit into pretty well. On the other hand, you may get a pattern that does not fit at all. So it is important to realize that it is your marriage and that you can write your own rules. (I hope they will really be principles rather than rules). Marriage can be what you make it together."

During this series we will be avoiding formulas and looking for Biblical principles. Principles are abiding truths that transcend time, place and culture.

I do not say that if you will listen carefully and do as I say, or even as scripture suggests, that you cannot fail. Life is uncertain. Marriage is, by its nature, two people in a relationship. TWO people. One cannot carry the burden for both, no matter how much they want the marriage to succeed. We cannot love enough, lead enough, or submit enough to make it happen. But the Bible does give us some wonderful insight that can help two people who are committed to live together in love.

Read the Bible for yourself. Talk about it. Pray about it. Go as God leads you. Listen to your own wife or husband.

Love does not solve everything. Love does not necessarily conquer all. But love is of God, and those who love are born of God. We can nurture love, and welcome it. We can avoid things that hurt or kill love, and we can seek to do things that make it grow. We can ask God to help us love again. We can seek to love with more maturity. We can ask Him to show us how to encourage love in another. We can move beyond formulas and rules and find our way, by God's grace, to a marriage of two equal partners, heirs together of the gracious gift of life.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Fall Equinox Friday Five

Songbird says, "It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness.And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn.As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall."

1) A fragrance

Smoke. Campfire smoke, or smoke from someone's fireplace or woodstove. An autumn smell for sure.

2) A color

I love all the fall colors. I love decorating for fall, and it isn't that I love orange or brown or gold or yellow--actually I don't. It is the combinations that are lovely.

3) An item of clothing

Sweaters. :-)

4) An activity

Raking leaves...hard work because we have LOTS of trees...but satisfying work too.

5) A special day

I love Thanksgiving Day. Family, fall settings and docor on the table, turkey, the aroma of pies baking, playing games afterwards. I wish we did not rush pell mell into Christmas the very next day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Heirs Together: Part One -- Last Sunday

This really isn't what I intended for Part One.  I was unable to resurrect last Sunday's sermon, but it was really just introductory. We began with a little quiz. I didn't actually require anyone to answer, just to think answers to themselves. Only one person knew they were all false. And she did have a bit of an advantage. She's my secretary and gets to hear me rant about stuff all the time. :-) Then we took a quick look at "A Very Bad Sermon on Marriage." Then I shared some good quotes on Christian marriage, and some alarming stats (basically, marriages in the church are not doing any better than those outside the church--and some indicators would say we are doing worse). Something is wrong. What is it?

Here is the quiz.

A Little True or False Quiz on Marriage
Servant Leadership and Graceful Submission

1. Marriage is like the Trinity, where the Father is in charge of the Son, and the Son obeys.

2. When God made male and female (a couple), God made one to be the leader and one to be the helper.
3. The husband is the priest of the home.

4. The Bible never tells husbands to submit.

5. The biggest mistake Adam made, and husbands make today, is that he was not willing to lead.

6. The Bible instructs women to submit and husbands to lead.

7. The husband should consider the wife’s opinions, but he has final say.

8. The man will be held responsible for the actions of his wife and children.

9. If the husband is a servant leader and the wife graciously follows, God will insure that all will turn out right.

10. If we do not follow the divine plan of husband as leader and wife as follower, our marriage will be unstable.

11. Someone always has to lead in a relationship.

12. Eve’s biggest mistake was in making a decision without consulting Adam.

13. The divorce rate for non Christians is much higher than the divorce rate for Christians.

14. God made men to lead and designed women to follow.

Scripture? Oh yes, we had some. I used some of the scripture about discernment that I posted a while back, applied them to being discerning about what we are "told" about marriage, asked everyone to do their best to lay aside previous notions and just explore the scripture with "new" eyes for the duration of the series.

And we will base the series on I Peter 3:7

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
New Living Translation

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
New King James Version

Next week, among other things, we will consider that "weaker vessel" phrase and what to make of it. (It is pretty simple, really. The problem starts when people read all kinds of thing into it other than the obvious meaning.)

Back to the quiz. Every question was taken from a sermon, a popular book, or a statement I heard on Christian radio just in one month's time.
Every answer is false.
I got some odd reactions to that, I can tell you! But I expect there were some conversations over the dinner table. And that is, mostly, a good thing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Marriage Sermons

Thank you, everyone who commented and asked me to post the upcoming marriage sermons online. We may soon be podcasting them! If so, I will let you know. If not, please be aware that some of the sermons will be a rehash of my "husband as head" series which you can already access by clicking on "Egalitarian Marrige" under LINKS in my sidebar. I will certainly post those that are new stuff. Just want you to know that it won't be all fresh and new. ;-)

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Woman Preacher is a "Grave Moral Concern"

After 18 months of study, the Irving Bible Church, near Dallas, decided to allow one of their female staff pastors, Jackie Roese, to preach to the men as well as the women.

Read about it here.

This created a bit of a brouhaha. The most disturbing thing I read in the article was that a woman preaching is a "grave moral concern." The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood says so.

A grave moral concern?

Lord, have mercy.

The CBMW folks just get more and more outrageous. We can only hope that someday they are going to overstep reason so far that they totally discredit themselves even among their conservative following, Campus Crusade for Christ and Focus on the Family included.

And when is Wayne Grudem going to be seen as something other than a mainstream Evangelical? Why is there such quiet about his view that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father? I see this popping up in sermons all over the place. Since when is the Trinity about who gets to be boss? I'm not calling Grudem a heretic, but doesn't it seem like it would not be such a big step from this "eternal subordination" teaching to be right back at Arianism?

It seems particularly so to me because CBMW appears to have started teaching that particular point at least in part so as to say that the Trinity is an example of marriage--the female is eternally subordinate to the male, but not inferior. Oh dear me, not inferior. Of course not. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) Here is an article which says that "eternal subordination" has long been the teaching of the church and is nothing new. I beg to differ--but that is a post for another time perhaps. I never heard anything about hierarchy in the eternal Godhead till CBMW arrived. How about others of you?

The whole thing makes me queasy.

I wonder how the sermon went?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Really Bad Example of a Sermon About Marriage

This is edited from a sermon I just read online.

Marriage is like the trinity, The Father is in charge. Jesus ALWAYS submits to the father, he obeys, he says what his father has told him to say, Jesus sees the father in the trinity as the head, and he obeys him. It is never the other way around. Isn't it interesting? But in no way can we say that Jesus being subject to his father is demeaning. ...

In Gen. 1 God said, Let us make mankind in our image.

To be made in the likeness of God is to be made in relationship where, just as the son submits to the father, we have a couple, a head and a helper.

Wives, submit to the husband as the head - he is in charge. God solved the argument before it started, he said, I have to choose someone, okay, husbands, you are in charge. I hold you responsible.

I want to point out something that is very important. In our culture we decide that if something doesn't work we change it. But God designed humanity. God designed the world and gave it order. We submit to all authorities because God has put them there. Never in the Bible do you see God saying plan B is if it is not working, swap. You never hear, wives command your husbands, and husbands submit.

God does not say, I put you in charge now rule. He always tells authorities, I have put you in charge but what I want you to do is love. You are in charge husbands, I have decided this, too bad if you don't want to be in charge, you are in charge, says God, like I am in charge of you, so I want you to love your wives, in the same way I love the church, so far that you are willing to die for her. Use my love for you as the minimum requirement for how you love your wife.

If there is any husband who raises his voice or strikes his wife the smell of hell is close to your marriage. How dare you? Love your wives sacrificially.

It is so shameful when you go to other cultures where the gospel is not preached, women are sold. they are treated like objects. But it is an irony. In a culture where Jesus has been proclaimed and women have been raised to equality, and have been treated in every way equal but different to men, that same culture, people jettison God and the women say they want to jettison the men, they say, we want to be in charge...

Husbands ask your wives how you can be a better husband, and take notes. - The biggest mistake Adam made and we men make is we are not willing to lead. - It is difficult in any culture if you have a lousy husband. This culture has made it easy, you just divorce him. that is not necessarily, the solution love them as if they were the lord. - A good divorce? Divorce is a natural consequence of living in a culture that denies the living God.

Tomorrow I am starting a series of sermons on Christian marriage. This is an example of the kind of marriage sermon I have heard all my life. How about you? There is some truth in the sermon, but it is overshadowed by suppositions, assertions that do not come from scripture, extrapolations and a patronizing tone. How many wrong things can be in one sermon? (I found at least 9.) I only wish it were a completely unusual example!

My main point tomorrow is about the need to think for ourselves, to be discerning, to seek wisdom instead of formulas. (Don't believe about 95% of what you read and hear regarding "God's plan" for husbands and wives.) Think I can cover that in one Sunday? Me neither. But it's a start. We are going to look at this sermon, among other things.

I may post some of my sermons as we go along. We shall see.

Happy Sunday!

Hat tip to Suzanne.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meditation for a Community Gathering

This morning a friend asked me "Where were you when you heard the news about the Twin Towers?"

Those who were alive when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor could likely tell us exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news came that would plunge America into WW II.

I, and most others of my generation, recall the day the news came that our handsome young, president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. I was sitting in a 7th grade algebra class. I hated algebra, so when the speaker on the wall squawked to life with an announcement from the office, I was momentarily relieved to lift my head and put down my pencil. The announcement left the teacher in tears and a classroom of junior high kids stunned and silent.

I recall 9-11-01 as a beautiful day of blue sky and sunshine. I was working alone in my office. Oddly, no one called to tell me the news. About three hours after the first airplane hit, I took a break from sermon preparation to pick up mail. I sat in front of the post office, hardly grasping what I was hearing over my car radio. Could this be possible? How could I have been working peacefully, unaware, while such horror was unfolding?

A few hours later some of the area clergy put together a prayer service for the evening, and phone calls quickly went out to invite the community. I sat with two other clergy women in a sun-drenched room at St. Peter's UCC. We had been given the task of writing a litany for the service. We sat in silence, looking at one another sadly as we listened to the tolling of the bell at the Roman Catholic church across the street. It seemed to go on and on, each somber ring striking our spirits like a blow.

Where to begin? How could we encourage anyone when our own hearts were stricken and afraid? I remember thinking how incongruous the sunshine was. It should be cloudy and raining.
The three of us joined in prayer for a few moments, began to brainstorm a bit--and then it happened--not with bright lights or trumpets or any sort of excitement. The litany came together in a matter of minutes. The one taking notes almost could not write fast enough to get our thoughts on the paper. When we finished, three pastors--a Presbyterian, a Methodist and a Pentecostal, looked at each other in a sort of wonder. Finally, someone said, "The Spirit of God came in the room with us."

The Bible tells us that God created a world that was "good" and humankind was made in the image of God. So how can such evil happen? This world was marred and scarred by sin. Thus, living on earth is a mix of beauty and ugliness, sorrow and joy, dancing and mourning, war and peace. We see ugliness every day, and we see beauty too. We saw evil and heroism together, as New Yorkers and Washingtonians, police, firemen, emergency personnel, and ordinary citizens came together in a way that inspired all of us.

Why do we remember where we were when terrible things happen? Because disaster comes unexpectedly. An unthinkable horror can arrive on a sunny day.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Someday, Jesus Christ said, evil would be defeated. Until that time he told us to show mercy in the world and to do what we could to bless others and share the love of God.

Allow me to share a secular song from the sixties. I love the song, which is really not so secular after all. Here are the lyrics:

Get Together
by the Youngbloods

C'mon people now, smile on your brother,
E'vrybody get together,
Try to love one another right now.

Love is but the song we sing,
And fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the Dove is on the wing
And you need not know why.

Some will come and some will go
We shall surely pass
Till the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moments sunlight
Fading in the grass


If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command

C'mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Right now
Right now!


Gracious God who gives us hope, today we remember those who lost their lives seven years ago. We also remember those who were injured and disabled and who lost loved ones. We remember those whose lives were changed forever and we pray for them. Comfort, strengthen and sustain them. We thank you for those who share love and care in countless ways. Bless them this day. Thank you for helping professionals, medical people, police, fire fighters, ministers, chaplains, and others who respond in times of crisis. Grant them physical and emotional strength. Help each of us today, even as we look back and remember, to look forward to the day when you return for us at last and all things are made new. Even in the midst of uncertainty and sorrow, may we celebrate life! Amen

Here is a video of the song:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Pensive Kind of Day

This morning was just one of those kind of days. I awoke to a glimpse of sunny blue sky and clouds--and to prolonged, insistent meyowling from the cat. Yawn...where is the coffee...oh, no coffee creamer. Well, it's a beautiful day outside.I decided to stop off at church and check the phone and the email and then drive to the town that is three miles away for a cup of McDonald's coffee. I like Ronald's coffee. I dressed and stepped out back to decide if the day called for a sweater. Fall is most definitely arriving in Wisconsin, but no sweater today. Long sleeves will do.

I gave the flowers a quick drink from the hose. Some look all right, but the petunias are getting scraggly. Well, look what popped up right in the middle of them! Where did he come from?
I drove the short distance to the church building.

The sky was wonderful. These are the kind of days that make Cheeseheads glad they live here. It was about 62 degrees or so.
This photo, snapped from my church's back driveway, shows the cornfield across the street, and a corner of the high school. We are as far west as it is possible to be and still be in town. I instantly decided, there was no way I'd stay inside today. I went in the building and checked my messages, took a call from the district superintendent, and grabbed my Bible, a notebook and a pen.

Here is a closer view of the cornfield. I really wasn't taking pictures of the corn stalks. I was trying to get a picture of the sky.

Hopping back in my van, I kicked up a bit of dust exiting our dirt parking lot. Truth be told, I didn't want to see anyone. It was that kind of day.

I drove around McDonald's in the drive-thru circle and then on to a nearby park. I sipped my coffee and sat at the park for a long time, trying to make sense of my life. And failing. And also working on some letters and my sermon, and partly succeeding.

There are roadblocks in front of me that I do not even begin to know how to overcome.
I'm feeling uncertain and a bit powerless. There is so much more I want to do, and time is short.

It seems I am much more aware of time passing, of changes in my face and my body, and my life and those in it, of lost opportunities....that sort of thing...than usual. I don't know if that is good or bad. I suppose it depends on what I do about it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Lost Gift of Discernment

The following is not from me. It is exerpted from a message by J. Lee Grady. I will be sharing some of this with my congregation this Sunday, and I cannot state my agreement strongly enough.

When the charismatic movement was at its zenith 30 years ago, Christians rediscovered the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. We embraced healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues and miracles...We also learned that discernment is one of these nine supernatural gifts (see 1 Cor. 12:8-10). We were [warned about] “all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9, NASB), God’s people must be tell the difference between the true and the false.
God gave us spiritual gifts in a package, and discernment is part of the set. It is not optional. Yet today it seems we’ve set discernment aside—perhaps because we’re suspicious of any gift that requires us to exercise clear judgment.

We live in a confusing season marked by spiritual compromise, moral relativism and deceptive imitations...... hunger for the supernatural is encouraged while leaders seem reluctant to put boundaries around it for fear of seeming intolerant. We stopped teaching discernment because it forces us to draw lines. We desperately need to return to what the Bible teaches us about this important subject:

1. We are commanded to discern. The apostle John instructed us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The word “test” means to “examine as metal”—the process a jeweler would use to prove authenticity. Metals may look the same; only when you apply heat will you find which ones are fake or of low quality. All that glitters, in such cases, is not gold. We don’t like to test because it seems harsh. We don’t like confrontation. We want to be nice to everybody. But it is the Lord who tells us to test the spirits. Will we please people, or fear God?

2. Discernment is a sign of spiritual maturity..."Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). The implication here is that those who don’t learn to discern are spiritually stunted.

Is it possible that we in the American church have been so focused on satisfying our own material or emotional needs that we have gotten stuck in perpetual infancy? The Bible offers a remedy: Grow up! We will never come to full adulthood in a spiritual sense if we don’t develop discernment.

3. Discernment is damaged when leaders compromise. The prophet Ezekiel denounced the priests and governors of Israel because they didn’t teach the people to discern. “They have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek. 22:26). Discernment, according to this passage, is shaped by the choices leaders make.

When shepherds don’t build fences, sheep wander into wolves’ territory...some...have brought their flocks to feed near toxic streams. The gospel has been polluted by false prophecies and poisonous doctrines and, in some tragic cases, by the direct impartation of immorality and greed from the pulpit.

Do you want discernment? It will probably not make you popular. But I pray we will be willing to risk our popularity in order to become mature disciples of Jesus—and to guard the American church from deception.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Meet Sally, My New GPS

My brother in law, Larry, loves his Global Positioning System (GPS).  Last year in California he made my husband, Ken, a little crazy by turning the GPS on even  when we already  knew where we were going.  Ken is one of those manly men who never stops to ask for directions.   He also has an uncanny ability to find places, and he almost never gets lost.  Almost. 
I suspect Ken considered  it was a sorry state of affairs that a fellow guy took directions from a little box.  That's even worse than stopping at a gas station and asking a real live person.  Larry was undaunted, and told us he had  named his GPS Sophelia, which sounded kind of exotic. 
I instantly got a bad case of GPS envy.  Those who know me in real life know that I can get lost coming home from the grocery store.  I once did that, actually, but it should be said in my defense that we had just moved to a new apartment in a suburb of Washington D.C.  I coveted Sophelia, even though she made my man grumpy. 
Our son Josh, knowing his mother's uncanny ability to get lost (and probably with a little hint from his long-suffering dad) bought me a GPS for Christmas.  I don't know why it took me so long to plug it in.  A few weeks ago we planned a short road trip.  Ah, a good time to break out the new GPS! 
The GPS has a battery but also plugs in to a cigarette lighter.  In went the cord, I held the on button down--ta daaa--and Sally came to life for the first time. We named her Sally because it is much easier to say "Where is Sally?" or "What does Sally say?" than to consantly say, "the GPS."  Sally is not as exotic as Sophelia.  But "Sally says"  has a certain rythm, like Simon says.  Sally says turn right.  Sally says make a legal U turn.  Sally thinks taking the country roads is shorter.  
Sally has a lovely, well-modulated voice.  It's an amazing voice, for a computer.   She also never gets rattled or frustrated or cross.  I asked my beloved what he thinks Sally looks like.  I mean, what is the face that goes with that voice?  He shook his head and he left the room without answering.
Well, Sally has a face.  It looks rather like this one.   She is very professional, attractive but not sleazy, calm, assured, unruffled.  Not like me when I am trying to find my way around unfamiliar places.  Not at all. 
It is amazing that Sally knows where I am anytime I push the on button.  Also kind of frightening.  Big Brother (uh, Sister?) is up there in the sky, you know?
But Sally sounds helpful but harmless.  Reassuring.  Even when I ignore her directions and go the way I choose instead, she just calmly tells me she is recalculating my route. 
Much 2 Ponder and I are known for getting lost when in the same vehicle.  She may have even a worse sense of direction than I do.  No more!  We have Sally!
Remember Psalm 32:8?  "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."
You know what I think?  I think Sally might be a tool of the Holy Spirit in my life! 

Friday, September 05, 2008

Does Sarah Palin Juggle Snakes?

I don’t often express political opinion here. That is because I have a sort of love-hate relationship with politics and also because many other people are far more knowledgeable than I when it comes to political matters.

Many of my friends are more “liberal” than I am. Many of my friends are more “conservative” than I am. My husband would be among that second group. Those of us in the middle are boring, honestly. But today I have to post about politics. I can't restrain myself.

When Bush and Clinton vied for the presidency, I was working at a legal services corporation (an LSC). LSCs are federally funded law firms that serve low-income clients. As you might surmise, I learned more than I could have imagined about the inequities of “the system”—the Medicaid system, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, etc.

Before working there, I would have described myself as a Republican, but afterwards I never could. I was too angry at what I had seen.. Still, while I wasn’t exactly a Democrat either, I was undoubtedly the most conservative person in the firm. I did not care for Clinton and was not excited about having him as president, but my colleagues spoke of him in such glowing terms it was almost idolatrous. As for Bush Sr., I was furious with him for several reasons that now no longer matter. I voted, but not with any enthusiasm. I admit that it has been longer than I can recall since I went to the polls with excitement about my choice—especially for president. Maybe the last time was before I could vote, a time in the 60s when I was in high school and enthusiastically campaigned for Richard Nixon and sat up late watching the returns and cheering. Yeah, we all know how that turned out.

Anyway, when Clinton won the election, there was widespread rejoicing in the halls at the firm. My boss said, “You don’t seem too happy. Don’t you like Clinton?” I explained a bit of my dilemma and admitted that I hadn’t even wanted to go to the polls. I wonder, will the day come when this liberal conservative/conservative liberal will ever feel good about my choices? I don’t know. Honestly, I don't like being in the middle of the road. People to the right and to the left want middle-of-the-road people to pick one side or the other. I wish I could do so without feeling I'm guilty either way.

I heard the sexist remarks aimed at Hillary Clinton by the news media. I was dismayed at the decidedly un-Christlike things I heard from some of my Christian friends. It seemed to me that if the target was Hillary, anything was acceptable as far as folks on the right were concerned, no matter how outrageous, petty or cruel.

I know Sarah Palin is very conservative. I don’t know yet what I think about her politcs. I haven’t had much time to investigate. But a quick search online left me fuming. I’m wondering why a lot of women seem to think that it is great to have a woman run for office unless she is conservative? It reminds me of my former colleagues at the law firm, people I deeply respected, who were excited about people of color running for office—unless and until that person was a Republican.

I am appalled at much of what I have been reading about Palin online. Could we stick to the issues? I can’t help but think that if the governor from Alaska were a liberal Democrat some of those same individuals would not be talking about her daughter, her special-needs baby, her marriage, her hair, her mannerisms, her picture on the cover of Vogue. They would be rejoicing that a woman, for the first time in history, was chosen as a candidate for vice president. And they would applaud her toughness, among other things. (A mistake here--second time. Geraldine Ferraro was first. Still remarkable.)

Today just finished me off. I read that Sarah Palin (who grew up and was baptized in an Assemblies of God church) shouldn't’t be in Vice Presidant because Pentecostals are too extreme in their politics and too “unbalanced,” and too “fundamentalist.” One educated news person who should have known better referred to her as a “Pentecostalist.” The tone of what I what I read often stopped just short of saying we can't elect someone who may start babbling unintelligibly and bring out snakes from behind her desk. And then I found a website that asked the question that led to the title of this post. Her childhood church was described as if it were an unknown cult. Can you say S.T.U.P.I.D? Yes, I am quite offended by such ignorance and stereotyping.

What is happening to us?

I told more than one friend to stop sending emails and telling people that Obama was Muslim. If he identifies himself as a Christian, I might not agree with everything he says, but I’m not going to call him a Muslim and spread it all over the 'net. I did take a look at his book, "The Audacity of Hope" and I was pleased at much I found there. Obama deserves a lot of credit, and admiration, whether you agree with his politics or not.

Now the same goes for Sarah Palin. You don’t have to agree with her political positions. She deserves respect. Can we just give her an ounce of credit for being a smart, savvy, accomplished woman? (Cheers for Dr. Phil who did just that on The Today Show, after admitting he did not yet know who he was going to vote for.)

I’ll tell you the truth. I am gravely concerned about some things connected with Obama and his campaign. And I am not a McCain fan either. Once again, I’ll be going to the polls with consternation—seeing too much on both sides for my comfort. Nonetheless, this is an amazing election. No matter which party wins, it is a historical moment. Race and gender stereotypes are falling in high places.

At least I thought so. Please, let it be so, without regard to which side of the aisle the person sits on--or what denomination they call "home" or what their last name is. Let’s rejoice in the wonder of this time, this rather amazing election process and its unusual protaganists, and let’s stop being so self-righteous and smug and partisan!

I’m going to be a little amazed and excited, no matter who wins. Significant history is in the making! America is changed for the better, and I mean that in a postive, long-overdue way.

And I'm pretty sure Sarah Palin doesn't handle snakes.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Late Summer Colors

Acts 14:17b "...He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

This basket of ripe peaches sat on our table during  last weekend's camping trip. I was struck by the beauty of the varied hues--no tweaking needed!

In our backyard, the blackeyed susans are in bloom. Because of their shady location, they never bloom till the end of summer when, at last, they cannot help themselves!

The beautiful clusters of choke berries are gleaming in the sun, even as the leaves begin to have a slightly yellow tinge.

The season when Summer eases into Fall is one of the most beautiful times in Wisconsin. The Canadian geese are beginning to gather and take short practice flights, honking their way across the sky. Soon they will be gone.

The corn has tasseled and begun to change from verdant and shiny to brown. When I first moved to this part of the state, I watched for the corn harvest, only to be surprised at how many fields of corn remained till cold weather. After the sweet corn was harvested and filled the stores, I discovered that most of the corn still stood in the fields--for dairy cattle. When the stalks and ears turn crisp and dry they are harvested for silage.

The sweet corn crop has been remarkable--so sweet and juicy! The tomatoes are ripe and I hope some of my church folk remember that their pastor loves garden tomatoes! The wheat is harvested, but the soybeans are still green and growing. This makes for beautiful landscapes of color on our rolling hillsides. They will gradually change over the next month or so to yellow, gold, orange and brown.

The temperatures are erratic too. It is going to be 90 today, but the nights are cool and next week is forecast to be sharply cooler. I do love the crispness of fall, the colors, the nostalgia that somehow always arrives on the wind, the awareness (sometimes melancholy) of change and time passing. I love fall clothes--sweaters and boots and jackets--and the scent of smoke on the air, the orange pumpkins in the fields, the anticipation of frost and then--winter. Not anticipating that so much.

God is in the reminders of constancy even in the change. The cycle of seasons will remain long after my life is gone and no one remembers my name, except God. Meanwhile, I'm going to buy the last fruit, and ears of corn, and tomatoes, and put off storing my summer clothes till frost is in the air.

The Queen Anne's Lace by our little creek is going to seed.
I hate to let the warmth go. At the same time I am anticipating the next season--in the earth and in my life.
Change is coming. I feel it. Do you?