Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thankfulness 24-30

Since I accepted Rev. Mommy's invitation to post something I am thankful for each day during the month of November (but started late) I'm concluding with the remaining of the 30 days of thakfulness.

24. Moments of quiet
25. Animals--pets, but also the world of amazing animal creations
26. My children, Kris and Josh, my best contribution to the world
27. Sunsets and sunrises
28. Showers and flush toilets
29. My computer
30. Celebrations

Now it's time for December. What happened to autumn? It is snowing hard outside.

We Will Miss You, JJ

Early yesterday our son, Josh, called to tell us that his buddy, basset hound JJ, had broken his chain, ran into the road single mindedly (as hounds will do) and then was struck by a car and killed.

Little JJ was a sweet and funny dog--a beautiful example of a practically perfect basset hound with the those soft and lovely "Dumbo" ears. Josh used to joke that he was "God's little joke." We all loved JJ, and we will all miss him--Josh the most--but the rest of us too, including Trinity (who adored him, for some reason and loudly squealed, "JJ!" as one of her first words) Trinity's family dog, JJ's " big brother dog buddy," Rex will miss JJ too. The joy of those two dogs when they were together made all of us laugh-- big, leggy half great dane Rex, and stubby-legged little JJ excitedly running around him in circles, ears flapping.

Josh is here today celebrating a late Thanksgiving with the family. It's a sad day for him, but we thank God for the joy JJ brought Josh and others in the three years he spent in this world.

Advent Week One: Hope Day One

Isaiah 9:1-3
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever… there will be a time in the future when Galilee...which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory…The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice…

These words of hope were written about 700 years before Christ came to earth. Jesus grew up in Nazareth in the region of Galilee, exactly as Isaiah had foretold. I love the visual image of light blazing out into the darkness. The hope in this passage shines like a beacon, a beautiful metaphor for the appearing of the long-awaited Messiah, the one the Apostle John called “the Light.”

God’s glory walked among ordinary people, a man who looked, spoke, and lived like others in the region. Sometimes God’s glory shone brightly and people were amazed, convicted of sin, delivered and healed. At other times Jesus passed through crowds of people and slipped away unnoticed.

Do you suppose there was anything remarkable about the boy Jesus, growing up in a small town, attending school, playing with friends, maybe having a crush on a girl? Perhaps, but than again, maybe not, at least most of the time. Scripture seems to imply that he looked quite ordinary.

Still, God himself walked among them. They simply did not see. God’s glory can sometimes show up in unlikely places and in unlikely people. I think God delights in surprising us in this way, but we must pay attention.

Times of darkness will inevitably come. In dark times, continue to hope in the Light of the World. As we wait in hope, God may choose to show up in unexpected ways. Let’s be paying attention in these days of anticipation! Where might we see Jesus appear?

Challenge: Let go of preconceived notions of who or what God will use to speak to you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to watch in expectation for what you want to show me, to listen for your voice and to see you wherever you may choose to appear. Amen

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Introduction to "Christmas at the OASIS”

Devotional Readings and Prayers for the Season of Advent

Just thinking about everything that has to be done before Christmas can spike our stress level. Some of us secretly dread the season, knowing that all the bustle and “ho ho ho-ing” around us will make our sadness, loneliness, or fear even worse.
The image of a kaleidoscope comes to mind—a jumble of constantly changing shapes and colors—yet always resolving into a pattern of light and beauty. Like everyone else, Christians can be pulled in many directions at this time of year, but we do have an opportunity to stop, ponder, reflect and rejoice in a wonderful promise. That is the promise of Advent.

“Advent” means “coming.” The Lord is coming! We reflect on Jesus arriving as a babe at His first coming, and we look forward to his second advent when he makes all things new once again. Each Sunday of Advent an additional candle is lit, and then on Christmas Day the Christ candle, in the center of the wreath may be lit.

As we light the candles on an Advent wreath, whether at home or at church, we reflect on a different aspect of the season—Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy! “Christmas at the Oasis” invites you to consider the following themes, as you take a rest at a place of spiritual water.

Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Offer Hope
We light the candle of Hope: The people of Israel waited in hope for their Messiah to come. We have the message of hope for our world today, the true hope found in Christ.

Advance God’s Kingdom
We light the candle of Peace. We advance God’s Kingdom as we share the peace that comes through relationship with the Prince of Peace.

Share God’s Love
We light the candle of Love. We share God’s love with others, because God loved us so much that he sent Jesus Christ the Son into this world to save us.

Invest in People
We light the candle of Joy. One of the simplest ways to invest in other’s lives is to share our own faith journey with God, our own joy in the new life Christ brings.

Seek God’s Purpose
The Sunday following Christmas Day, we will remember the wise men from the east who followed a star, seeking a King, and we will ask ourselves what it is we will seek for in the coming year.

We will begin the series with an early-morning post on Sunday, November 30th, the first day of Advent 2008.

My daughter, Kris, wrote several of the devotions. We hope they can help all of us take time to read, reflect and pray, either alone or with family during this Christmastime May blessings of hope, peace, love and joy be yours


Thankfulness 23

I have a friend. There we are in the picture. We are both much more beautious than you would ever suppose from our picture. ;-)

My friend loves me enough to tell me the truth. That is not necessarily an easy thing to do.

It is usually okay with her if I act silly, sad, grumpy, confused, happy, or a mix of all those things. That is not necessarily easy either, come to think of it.

We don't see eye-to-eye on everything. Sometimes I frustrate her. Sometimes she frustrates me. Sometimes we misunderstand one another. But even when that happens she persists till we get things as clear as we can.

She frequently visits my mother in the nursing home. She sends cards. We eat hot dogs and ice cream and Twizzlers, use aliases, laugh, drink coffee, sing songs, pray, go shopping, ruminate on the mysteries of life, recommend books, sit by the water, sit under the trees, look down the ski slope, light candles, seek God's presence, read the Bible, and commiserate about our "stuff." We want to encourage the best in one another. I am grateful for my friend and sister in the Lord, and I am glad our friendship has endured, even though these last few years have been challenging and difficult for both of us. I love you, Much 2 Ponder, and I thank God for you. God is better than good, and more often than all the time. Amen? Amen!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanking God for You Friday Five (and Thankfulness 23)

Phillipians 1:3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

I'm musing about giving thanks for people today, partly because Americans celebrated our annual Thanksgiving holiday yesterday (I try not to just make this holiday "turkey day" even though its main feature seems to be eating till one is nearly comatose) and partly because I read the above verse this morning. It started me thinking about individuals in my life for whom I give thanks. I asked the Rev Gals and Pals to share with us "Five People For Whom You Give Thanks to God" and maybe tell us why they are significant. It is hard to pick just five, of course, but here are mine.

1. My father. He has been with the Lord for a long time now, and I miss him. Among the things I appreciated and also learned (or inheirited) from him were loyalty, faith even when things are bleak, loving to sing, teaching, a compassionate heart, and how to have fun. I am happy to say that he passed down some of his positive traits to me. Well, a couple of the negative ones too, but those are not part of this post.

2. Dr. Jaques. He was an extraordinary eye doctor who agreed to take on a four-year old patient whom others had given up on. I never think of him without gratitude that this dear, old, gifted man not only saved my sight but loved me as well.

3. Mary Newbill. She was my Primary Sunday School teacher. She saw who I was, and she encouraged me. Those of you who teach small kids, never underestimate the power of love and belief.

4. Okay, let's move to present day. I thank God for my secretary, Honey, who reads my posts, works at our church faithfully, prays for me, sometimes cries for me, makes me laugh--and does it all without a paycheck.

5. My husband. He loves me unconditionally. What more can anyone ask for?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness 22

I'm thankful today for the changes that blogging has brought me, and some are significant. I'm also thankful for those who take time to read here once in a while--and to each and every one I wish:

Enjoy the day! See you tomorrow for the Friday Five.
Your Friend, SingingOwl

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankfulness 21

I am thankful for internet friends. So many people I have never seen have enriched my life in so many ways. I am glad I have met some in person.

I'm thanking God for longtime cyber friends from The Egalitarian Christian Alliance: Ruth, Maureen, Psalmist, Nightmare, Dr. Platypus (and family), Tiro333, Pat G., Rudd, Sharon, Bronwen, Jeannie--and many more. You all have changed my life forever. Especially you, Ruth. I'm thinking of my "sister" Psalmist sending chocolates as I studied for my ordination test, Mrs. Platypus making a quilt for Trinity, Dr. Platypus answering linguistic questions (and more), Mauteen's gift of encouragment, Pat G.'s wisdom and gift of a "happy" book, Tiro's gentle wisdom and admirable scholarship, and all of you praying for me at various times, challenging my thinking and more. Over ten years of online connections! Wow!

Thank you, Rev Gals and Pals, dear Questing Parson, Rev. Mommy, Lorna, Iris, Kievas, Chartreuse Ova, Amy M., Zorra, and the list goes on and on...I wish I had time to read more.
It was good to see some of you in person at the F. of H., and I hope next time I can actually have some conversations. ;-)

I once would not have thought that close cyber friendships were possible. I'm not saying they are the same as face-to-face relationships, but they are nonetheless "real."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankfulness 20

Yippee! I am thankful that just when I was about to give up on having the devotional books printed in color, I located a printer that charged about half of what everyone else had quoted. Wow! Printing is costly, so I didn't order as many as I'd like to have done, but it will be enough.
For those who asked for a "hard copy" I will try to get it in the mail Wednesday p.m. so it won't be too late arriving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankfulness 19

I'm thankful for what I saw outside earlier today, which was the first good snow of the season and Trinity and Rex playing in it. I am not always thankful for snow, so I am glad I can be for now!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thankfulness 18

Yesterday was a four-sermon day for me, one at Jubilee and three at prison. It was good, as usual, wonderful singing from the choir, prayer, response to the sermon, lots of handshakes and well-wishes.

A sad thing happened that is a first for me in nearly 17 years of going there periodically for services. As the guys exited the chapel two of them got into a tussle which quickly escalated into a fight which left one with a bleeding mouth and the other sprinting for his "unit." Of course, people quickly told Ken, so he radioed for security staff (why there wasn't one at the chapel is another issue) and then followed the guy heading for "home." So, unfortunately, right after church two men were sent to the segregation unit. Another, for some unknown reason, was picked up after the third service and so that made three.

That is not what struck me the most, however. To my mind the saddest thing was the consternation of the other inmates as the fight broke out. The two guys were in the midst of a group, since they had all just departed the chapel. Some shouted at them to stop. Others backed off as fast as they could. Others tried to break it up, quickly stopping that when Ken came outside. Others came back inside the chapel building, quickly distancing themselves from the fracas. Everyone was upset. One choir member said, "I hate the devil." One was quite distraught about the fact that his friend was going to "the hole" and he hadn't been able to stop him. One of them said, "If we are out there when the guards show up we could end up in the hole too." All seemed surprised and distressed that this had happened practically on the steps of the chapel.


The third service started a bit late, but was good. We prayed for light in dark places. Lest you have the wrong impression, "the hole" is not a hole in the ground. It is, nonetheless, a very dark place.

I am thankful that when I go to prison I can leave again. I am also thankful that the light shines in darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thankfulness 17 Christmas Devotion Book

The booklet of devotions is finished! It looks wonderful. I'm excited about getting it printed and using it for church folks and for giving away too. There are 35 devotions/meditations, one for each day from Sunday, November 30th (the first day of Advent) through Saturday January 3rd.
The theme is "Christmas at the OASIS" because our church condensed our mission statement to go along with an acrostic with those letters. However, anyone could use the devotions. It is done in color, and each page includes a color picture or graphic to go along with the devotion for the day.

I am concerned about meeting the printing costs. I suspect it's going to be a chunk o' cash, but I really want to have it printed in color. The color version looks SO much better than it does in black and white. The church is struggling financially. Please pray with me that it will work out.
I'm making phone calls on Monday to see which of three choices of places to print this will work best.

I will be posting the devotions online when the time comes. I would love to share these with anyone who would like to follow along and use this for your devotions this Christmas season. If you send me your email address I will mail you the actual book. Any money received from this blog's readers will be used toward the printing cost. If you'd like my snail mail addy, just let me know.

Mail your address to: dkgeorge at charter dot com
You know the drill, I just don't want my email flooded with messages from spam bots. I'll do my best to get it to you before 11-30.

Thanking God today that this project, a joint effort with my daughter, Kris (who wrote several devotions, found graphics and formatted it all into Publisher) came together so wonderfully! It is better than I dared to hope!

Here is the introduction page:

"Christmas at the OASIS”
Devotional Readings and Prayers for the Season of Advent

Just thinking about everything that has to be done before Christmas can spike our stress level. Some of us secretly dread the season, knowing that all the bustle and “ho ho ho-ing” around us will make our sadness, loneliness, or fear even worse.

The image of a kaleidoscope comes to mind—a jumble of constantly changing shapes and colors—yet always resolving into a pattern of light and beauty. Like everyone else, Christians can be pulled in many directions at this time of year, but we do have an opportunity to stop, ponder, reflect and rejoice in a wonderful promise. That is the promise of Advent.

“Advent” means “coming.” The Lord is coming! We reflect on Jesus arriving as a babe at His first coming, and we look forward to his second advent when he makes all things new once again. Each Sunday of Advent we light a candle on our wreath and reflect on a different aspect of the season—Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy! This year the four Advent Sundays before Christmas and the Sunday following Christmas will focus on one of our O.A.S.I.S. purposes.

O Offer Hope

We light the candle of Hope: The people of Israel waited in hope for their Messiah to come. We have the message of hope for our world today, the true hope found in Christ.

A Advance God’s Kingdom

We light the candle of Peace. We advance God’s Kingdom as we share the peace that comes through relationship with the Prince of Peace.

S Share God’s Love
We light the candle of Love. We share God’s love with others, be cause God loved us so much that he sent Jesus Christ the Son into this world to save us.

I Invest in People
We light the candle of Joy. One of the simplest ways to invest in other’s lives is to share our own faith journey with God, our own joy in the new life Christ brings.

S Seek God’s Purpose
The Sunday following Christmas Day, we will remember the wise men from the east who followed a star, seeking a King. And we will ask ourselves what it is we will seek for in the coming year.

I hope these devotions will help all of us take time to read, reflect and pray, either alone or with family during this Christmastime May blessings of hope, peace, love and joy be yours.

Pastor SingingOwl

P.S. Thanks, Kris, for helping!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thankfulness 16

I wrote about "terrible twos" (and Trinity isn't even quite two yet), so now I must say that I am so thankful that she is nearby. For me, of course, but right now I am thinking of my mother, Trinity's "Grandmommy" who she usually calls "Grandma Mommy." That makes me smile

Today my good friend Much2Ponder and I went over to the nursing home. I don't go as much as I probably should these days. It is very hard. My poor mother looks so lost. Today when the three of us came up to her it took her a moment to realize who we were and that we were there to see her. Then when it registered she just smiled so sweetly and spent the rest of the visit in silence but gazing intently at Trinity, smiling occasionally, riding around in her wheelchair clasping Trinity on her lap, and one even once chuckling at something funny Trinity said. I am unsure whether she actually understands that Trinity is her great granchild, but no matter.

Trinity was so good! She is such a pretty little thing, and when she passes the residents they light up, of course. She passed around little decorative squashes to the three of us, calling them pumpkins, she smiled, chatted cheerfully (man oh man, she is SO verbal!) and generally just blessed my heart with her sweet innocence and something that seems like innate understanding of what she needs to do. As she toddled down the hall to go my mother was looking so sad till Trinity looked back and waved and said, "See later, Grandma Mommy." Surprisingly, she is very willing to hug her great grandmother, and kissed her goodbye.

As for my mother, I know she will not remember the visit. But it gives me such joy to see her have a little pleasure. She will be 92 in January. I do not know how long she will live, of course, but at least for this time Trinity is able to bring to her a few moments of connection and the closest thing she has to joy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankfulness 15

I am grateful for clergy colleagues.

I attended a ministerial meeting earlier this week where plans were made for a "Walk to Bethlehem" -- sort of a progressive reading of the Christmas story and carol singing and checking out each other's churches when they are all beautified for the season. We start at the Catholic church, then head over to a Lutheran church, then another Lutheran church and then to the UCC church and then to our place. After that, we troop across the street to the high school for "A Country Christmas" which is put on by the chamber of commerce but includes a bunch of church choirs in concert.

Then today Ken and I attended our local AG minister's fellowship group, which was more personal since most of us have know one another for awhile. Good friends.

And then there is the online fellowship of Rev Gals and Pals, some from the webring and some not.

It is good to be part of something larger than oneself, however, and good to know that some issues, problems, joys, challenges are common to all of us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thankfulness 14

I'm very thankful that the "terrible twos" do not go on forever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thankfulness 13

I'm thanking God today for my church. Sunday was a sweet day as they shared a cake, a gift and some beautiful prayer for me. I especially thank God for my terriffic, loving, grace-filled deacons!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thankfulness 12

My Christmas cactus is confused and has been blooming steadily since Halloween. It is amazing and beautiful. A nice sight in the window as I looked out the the ice pelletws and snow falling outside!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thankfulness 11

I'm thankful for my beautiful girls. Here they are in their winter coats as we headed out the door for church.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thankfulness 10

I am thanking God today for peace and rest, not so much physical as a new understanding of some "internal" stuff of my heart. It will, I hope, work it's way outward until this understanding does make a physical difference too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thankfulness 9

I don't shop much. I hate the cost, I hate "women's sizes," and I don't like fitting rooms. Today I found some nice, classy, coordinating clothes. I'm always glad when that happens. I needed something new for church--getting tired of my standard Sunday morning black dress with various things/blazers layered over.

You know, there is really something to be said for vestments. I sometimes envy my mainline colleagues in that regard. Once I officiated at a wedding where everyone dressed in Renaissance attire. I mean, what was I to wear? Vestments, of course, borrowed from Rev. Marcia the Presbyterian. And I was so comfortable, in a sort of anonymous, good way. No worrying about skirt length, coordinating colors, appropriate neckline, fit, etc. I was just the "the clergyperson."

Anyhow, I am thankful I found nice things that were ON SALE. Never pay full price. That is rule number one of shopping...but I digress.

I think it's bedtime. ;-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankfulness 8

Thank you, God, for our five senses. I am so glad to be able to see the leaves of fall, the beautiful dark eyes of my grandchild, to hear her laughter, music, geese honking, to taste warm soup on a chilly day, to sample my daughter's baking experiments, to smell woodsmoke, bread, candles, pinetrees. I rejoice to touch Patches' soft fur, Trinity's smooth cheek, my husband's beard!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thankfulness 7

Today I am home in my p.j.s working away on the devotional book. I have a lot more to do if it is to be ready to hand to my church folks on Nov. 30th! It is dreary outside, and I am thanking God for a home with light and warmth. I remember the homeless folks I used to see when I worked in Milwaukee. Cold weather is here, and much colder (bitterly frigid) weather is coming. Pray with me for God's mercy on people without homes, for strength and wisdom for those who help them, for compassion from those who pass by them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life Goes On

We are all doing fine at our place. Trinity seems to have adjusted well, and we are having fun being greeted gleefully each morning. She's graduated to willingly(most of the time) sharing kisses with her Papa and Grandma, and she doesn't mind too much if Mommy and Daddy are gone for a while. Rex the Big Dog is mellowing nicely too, and the visiting cats, Flower and Blossom, are their usual selves. The only member of the household who is unhappy is Princess Patches the Cat, who is mostly spending her days in hiding, both from the visiting felines and the visiting toddler.

I am working on a book of devotions for Advent (and the week beyond). Since our church's mission is encapsulated in the acrostic "OASIS," this year's theme is "Christmas at the OASIS. The cover of the booklet is a cute palm tree decorated for Christmas. Kris is writing some of the devotions too, and we are excited about how it is turning out. I'll post the devotions here, beginning November 30 at about 5:30 a.m. so you can use them too if you would like.

A few chapters of two different books are also slowly but surely coming together. Cold has arrived for good, it seems. Mittens and hats are in order. We will be taking a short vacation in December. Not too many deep thoughts in my head at the moment.

That's it. As Trinity says, several times a day, "Ta Daaa!"

Thankfulness 6


Monday, November 10, 2008

Which Simpson's Character Are You?

I'm just like Lisa!
I'm Lisa, who are you? by

Hat tip to Kievas. I think I'm really Marge. My son says so, and I suspect he's right. Sigh.

Thankfulness 5

I'm thankful for 4 generations of women. And thankful that Trinity will have opportunities available to her of which my mother never even dreamed.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thankfulness 4

Today I am thankful for pumpkins. I love pumpkins and they make me happy for some unknown reason. I love the pumpkin-like colors of fall decorations. I love seeing the fields of pumpkins, and the mounds of them for sale on Amish wagons I love the smell of fresh pumpkin baking (as we get ready to make pies, bars, and bread). The blog banner above is from my front yard.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thankfulness 3

Last week, 70 degrees. This week, snow. Today I'm thinking I'm thankful for hot chocolate!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Comic Strip Friday Five

Presbyterian Gal says, "After an exhausting election here in the states it's time for some spirit lifting! Join me with a nice cup of tea or coffee or cocoa and let's sit back and read the Funny Papers!"

1. What was your favorite comic strip as a child?

Little Lulu. Yeah, I'm getting old. Anyone else remember her? I also like Archie and Veronica and Betty and Jughead, etc. But not so much the strip. More the comic books.

2. Which comic strip today most consistently tickles your funny bone?

Hagar the Horrible. It would be the late, great, Calvin and Hobbes if it still existed.

3. Which Peanuts character is closest to being you?

Linus. I don't have a blanket, but otherwise...I'm a hopeless idealist and all that. And Linus once said, "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand!" That made me laugh out loud.

4. Some say that comic strips have replaced philosophy as a paying job, so to speak. Does this ring true with you?

Hmmm....never heard that said, but yes I suppose it does, to a point.

5. What do you think the appeal is for the really long running comic strips like Blondie, Family Circus, Dennis the Menace as some examples?

Maybe because there are always military folks, always families, always couples?

Bonus question: Which discontinued comic strip would you like to see back in print?

Ah, said it. Calvin and Hobbes without a doubt. Now there was some philosophy!

Giving Thanks 2

Earlier this week I visited the eye doctor for my annual exam. I'm very thankful for a good report--always uncertain. Actually the best report in a few years. :-)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Giving Thanks

Reverend Mommy reminds us that November is a month for giving thanks. Each day in November she is posting something for which she is thankful, and she invited her blog readers to join her. I'm getting in late, but I accept.

For today, I am thankful for the wonderful, unusual warmth of this autumn season.

Will you join us?

The Owl's Nest is Crowded These Days

Going from two inhabitants to five is interesting. We are, however, doing fine and mostly having fun. Son in Law, Daryl, has a job beginning Monday. It is not his dream job, nor what he thought he'd be doing, but it is employment and for now that is good. Kris has landed a seasonal job that will end after Christmas, so she is still looking. They found a wonderful farmhouse in the contry about 10 miles from us, and they will be moving come December.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures.

Trinity's Tigger costume was just right for a few trick or treat stops on a cold day.
And a Tinker Bell costume was just right for visiting "GrandmaMommy" at the nursing home.

Turns out that Tinker Bell's great grandmother was a a sort of fairy godmother--also dressed as a fairy! I don't think she quite realized it, but we did and it was sweet.

Kids and residents mingled in the dining room.

Exploring Grandma and Papa's back yard with Rex.

Wind! And leaves!

Another visit to the nursing home brings a smile to "GrandmaMommy." This is rare, but Trinity is doing great, smiling and waving at the people, and even being willing to sit on Grandmommy's lap for a ride in the wheelchair. We took Rex too, and we think he's going to become a great visitor at the nursing home too.

Record breaking warmth has allowed for days outside! We are enjoying it while we can, knowing it won't last. In the seventies in November! Fabulous!
More later.
Ken is recovering from a toe amputation and has returned to work on "light duty." I have finished the marriage sermon series and will be making CDs soon. I'm working on a devotional book to pass out at church for Advent, and putting together a series of sermons, "Christmas at the O.A.S.I.S." to remind us of our OASIS themed mission statement. I hope the month of December is going to include worship dance, dramatic reading, a skit or two. Depending on how my series of devotionals turns out, I'll probably post them here.
What's new with you?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Off to the Polls, at Last!

I'm about to head over to the local police department, which doubles as a place to cast a ballot. I intend to rejoice. We Americans are exercising our right to vote, and we should be smiling about that, shaking hands, laughing. No one is going to intimidate me as I approach the booth. No one will be guarding the door with a gun.

To my conservative friends, on the unlikely possibility that you will read this, don't be afraid. The Book of Revelation really does not say all that stuff about the anti Christ. It was just a stupid and uninformed email, okay? I'm old enough to remember about 8 or 9 candidates for the "office" of Anti Christ that caused consternation among "Bible believing Christians." God is still God, and God's people on both sides of the aisle, I hope, have been praying for Divine will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. If Obama wins, rejoice in the fact that a young man of color is in the White House! There is much to celebrate about that.

To my liberal friends, don't despair. McCain is not a blood thirsty war monger with fangs. I know, he said some things he should not have. But a man who endured what he did is not really likely to forget the cost of war. Just my two cents. And even if Palin scares you, you too can rejoice in the undeniable significance that a woman is elected to the second highest office in the country. There is also something to celebrate about that!

God is still on the throne.

It's an election. Promises made will be impossible to keep. The advertisements will end. McCain and Biden will go back to being buddies, as they have been for years. Obama is here to stay, no matter what the outcome. It is an exciting, historical, wonderful election.

Smile! And let's go vote. And let's stop name-calling, and the insane emails, and the fear mongering, and the hand-wringing despair. We are still one nation under God. I pray we can start acting like it!
P.S. People were smiling in the record-breaking warmth this a.m., enjoying the wait in line. I recall previous election days of standing in sleet, rain, and a bit of snow, so this morning was terriffic. Poll workers were efficient and helpful. McCain has made a gracious concession speech, and there was rejoicing in Chicago and elsewhere as Obama made an equally gracious acceptance speech. I'm off to bed.

God of All, please help us to remember that we are strangers and aliens in a world that is broken. Help us to reemember that our true home is with you, and until the day we are in your holy presence there will always be a sense of lack and incompleteness. Grant that the sense of lack will not make us apathetic but instead will encourage us to pray and to work and to seek that Your will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven. I pray that people of faith will stand together, pray together, worship together and link arms when we can. I pray for the Church of Jesus Christ to shine in these days when many are uncertain and afraid. Thank you that America has reached this milestone, and may it be a part of the racial healing that still needs to come to our land. Bless our new leader with wisdom and courage and insight. Draw him to yourself in whatever way needs to be. Protect him, and strengthen him for the difficult days that will be ahead. May your will be done. Amen

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Heirs Together Part 7: So Now What Do We Do?

We have covered a lot of ground, haven't we? Today Ken and I will share our thoughts, gleaned from 37 years of marriage, first trying to live someone else's idea about the "rules" and later throwing out most of the teaching we had received and asking God what to do. We don't have it all figured out. We slip back into old patterns that aren't necessarily healthy. We argue. Perhaps this is a bit of the blind leading the blind, but we have managed to live a mostly happy and satisfying marriage for more than three decades. We can't tell you exactly what your marriage should look like. We will not tell you about your role. But that is the whole point. What we hope to do is to help you begin thinking about the practical ways you can apply the biblical truths we have been learning. How will they fit in your marriage? What does a marriage of partners, of equals, of heirs together who live in mutual submission look like?

First, a quick review.

God created a beautiful world, and in it placed the man and the woman, who was made to be a suitable and strong help for the man. Humankind, both male and female, was made in the image of God. God gave them dominion (rule) together of all He had made, and God pronounced it all “good.” Disobedience to God's directions brought sin into the world, causing fear, shame, pain, and damaged relationship with God and each other. God cursed the earth and the serpent. God also told the man and woman that their relationship was damaged. The result of sin would change them. The man would seek to dominate the woman, and the woman would turn toward the man instead of to God. God did not pronounce this good. He just told them that the world was going to be a much different place.

We asked ourselves whether we choose to live under the results of sin and a cursed world or whether we want to, as much as possible, live under the grace and freedom of God. We learned some new words and phrases:
HERMENEUTICS: Principles that help us correctly interpret scripture
EZER KENEGDO: Suitable, strong Help (not the made up word “helpmate”)
TESUQAH: Desire for, or literally “turning toward”
We learned that some of our beliefs about women and men and marriage do not come from the Bible after all, but from culture, from history, from a Middle Ages view about the “natural order of things” and from the “Church Fathers” – many of whom had a very twisted view of women.
KEPHALE: "Head" but not authority, "head" as in "noggin" -- a metaphor for "source."

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

Let’s put that in context.
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives...Your beauty that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs together with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Weaker does not mean intellectually weak or weak in character. Women are generally not as strong as men--I mean who do you call to move furniture? And women have been more vulnerable because of that, because of pregnancy and motherhood issues. Women are, in a sense, more delicate. I'll let you work that out in your own life.
We looked closely at Eph. 5, especially the verses beginning with verse 21: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head [source] of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself... and the wife must respect her husband.

We found out that verses 21 and 22 are one sentence, not two, or even a separate paragraph like we see in most of our English Bibles. We discovered that the word "head" (kephale) is a metaphor for source. Customs of the time, word usage and context all combined to show us that these passagec are not about the husband’s supposed authority over his wife, and not even about Christ’s real uthority over his church. The man is the source of the woman as Christ is the souce of the Church. This isn't about authority at all, but about love, humility, honor, respect, and mutual submission.

We also discovered that the Bible does not assign leader-follower roles to the husband and wife, but partnership and interdependence--on each other and on God.

I need to say here that many women have said things to me like, “I wish my husband would step up. I feel like I am always leading, like I am the spiritual authority. How do I get my husband to lead?” Upon further questioning I usually find that most women really do not always want to be led (a few do, but that is another issue). We want our men to be our lovers and friends, we want them to step up, not lag behind, not always be the authority, but stand beside us as our partners. If we constantly emphasize that the man must be “the authority” or “the leader” over the wife, what is the unspoken message about women? What is the unspoken message about men?
Does that bring freedom or does it bring bondage?

So, now what do we do? How does this different idea work out in real life? What does “mutual submission” look like? We don’t have time to consider all they ways this might change our marriages, but here are some thoughts just for starters.

Work and Responsibilitie: We are free to divide things up however it works for us. If we reject someone else’s idea of what our marriage must be, we are free to decide for ourselves. Each person can lead out of their strengths and receive support in weak areas. Dividing up the work and responsibilities according to what each person likes and does well means that the person doing the job is more likely to do it right.

Decision Making: Much is sometimes made of authority, of husbands having “final say.” I’ve been told that every organization must have a head and that if no one is in authority that chaos and confusion will be the result. This makes marriage more like a corporation, and not much like a loving relationship of partners.
If the decision is minor, talk about it as needed but the person whose job it falls under probably should decide. Ken chooses the laundry soap. I choose food brands. A silly example, maybe, but you get the idea.
If the decision is major, you must reach a decision together. This means you must talk and explore feelings, pros and cons, implications, and so on. If you can’t agree, give it time. Pray. Consider the counsel of othes (but be careful here). Seek compromise or agreement where possible. Look for other options.

I can honestly say that we have not always followed this advice ourselves, but when we have we have always been able to reach a decision together. When we have not, we made mistakes.

Fighting Fair: Some of this should not have to be said, but I’ve learned that it does. Remember the “one another” principles we looked at a few weeks ago? Practice them! No name calling. No swearing, belittling, demeaning the person, telling them their opinion does not matter. No dragging the past into the future every time you disagree. If you can’t disagree without yelling, stop. Take a break to cool off. No projecting how YOU feel on to your partner. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. If either of you thinks there is a problem, there is a problem. No itimidation, not verbally, physically, emotionally. Submit, love, honor, respect—even when you disagree.

What About the Kids? Just a few words here. Discipline is necessary (and is beyond the scope of this message) but living in God’s grace and freedom means you respect and value your kids. No using them as weapons. No playing them against your partner. No painting the other parent as the bad guy. No name calling, humiliating, swearing, screaming. Involve them in decision making as appropriate.

This kind of relationship frees both of you to grow the way God designed you—free to be who you really are. This is not just a "woman's issue." It is a people issue!

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong,
There is a man who is tired of acting strong when he knows he is vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb,
There is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”

For every woman is who is tired of being called “an emotional female,
There is a man who is denied the right to weep and be gentle.

For every woman who is called “unfeminine” when she competes,
There is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.

For every woman who is tired of being a “sex object,”
There is a man who worries about his potency.

For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children,
There is a man who is denied the full pleasure of shared parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay,
There is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile,
There is a man who was not taught the satisfaction of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step towards her own liberation,
There is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier!

Nancy R. Smith
Last, what may be the most important thing of all, R.E.S.P.E.C.T! Marriage is, above all, a relationship. All relationships must have respect if they are to survive and thrive. Talk to each other about what communicates respect. For some it is body language or tone of voice. For others it is being listened to with focused attention. When it comes to respect, words are important, but the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words” applies.

A marriage of mutual submission, mutual honor and respect, mutual love, means that you are free to design your own marriage. You are free to decide what it means to be “heirs together of the gracious gift of life.”
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom! Thanks be to God!