Bye-bye and baby pictures or not

Just as quickly as the house fills with people and noise and fun, so it empties. All three girls were home this weekend, and now they are gone. I always feel so empty when they leave. We/they spent the majority of the day packing up. Jessica took a couple of boxes of books and things that I had sorted out and deemed hers along home. They also took lots of produce and Carson and some items to leave with Melissa and Bruce. Victoria and Nate just took some produce and some empty boxes and a few very few things that I deemed had to go with them now. Earlier, Victoria and Paulina with Nate’s able assistance took a few pictures of Ana. I wanted to share one or so, but I refuse to share none fully clothed pictures of my grand-daughter. Call me old-fashioned and a prude,  but that is how it is. Maybe inside of the family we will see them at some time, but not on the blog. So, here is the picture of their little rigged up studio.

Make shift studio for baby picture.

Make shift studio for baby picture.

Now that everyone is gone, I look at the table full of tomatoes and the pail of apples that Victoria was supposed to pick and think about the plums in the basement, and the potatoes in the pails and the beans on the plants and the unpicked tomatoes and the onions in the mud that need to be dug out, and I plan to eat some left overs and sit on the couch and watch some cheese old romance movies and call it good. We learned the year that my father’s stack mover burned on Labor Day that a day off should be a day off.

Five-gallon pail of apples

Five-gallon pail of apples

table of tomatoes

table of tomatoes

Hope you had a restful Labor Day weekend, or any weekend for those not celebrating such.

Holy Ground

The ideas for this Sermon for Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 were gleaned from the Sermon Seeds written by Kathryn Matthews Huey in her reflections on the website http://ucc.org. The scriptures used were  Exodus 3:1-15, Romans 12: 9-21, and Matthew 16:21-28.  The title was as listed above, “Holy Ground.”

I don’t know how you are when company comes, but I get pretty frantic about how things should look. We have known for a time that our daughters were coming home for Labor Day, but I didn’t plan drastic action until Friday night. Well, let’s say I tried to plan. Anyway, without giving away too many of the family secrets, let’s just say, I get a bit stressed out about how I want thing to be arranged, and the rest just want to relax and have a fun time together. Perhaps if I paid more day to day attention to how things looked around my place, I wouldn’t get so frazzled when I have someone coming to visit. I guess each of us does our thing as we do it.

I bring this up and share it with you because the text that we have in Exodus is a tish bit related to hospitality. When Moses finally realized that there was something strange about that burning bush and that there was someone in or near it, or at least a voice coming from it, he went closer to investigate. And as he got to a certain distance from the bush, he was told to take his shoes off because he was standing on holy ground.

Now this might make perfect sense to us, this taking off shoes when standing on holy ground. This is something quite sacred that Moses is experiencing. It is probably the most important moment of his life, and God tells him to remove his shoes. Not really out of line in that sacred moment, (pause) but what else could it mean. Let’s think about coming into this church sanctuary. Apparently we don’t look at it as that sacred. We don’t take our shoes off when we come in. Of course it really isn’t a custom in our area to take off shoes in public. I think there is a health concern about what might be on feet. We can’t be barefoot in a public eating place.

Ok, so now I might be back to the house cleaning and hospitality and such. I do NOT demand people take their shoes off at my place unless we have really got some major particular reason for it. We have hardwood floors, as in the old original hardwood floors at our place, and frankly, they are not as soft or nice as carpet to walk on. You also feel every stinking little stone or piece of dirt on them, so I would just as soon keep my shoes on thank you very much, and besides that, if I walk around without a good arch support for too long my shoes hurt. So, you will always hear me say, “Leave the shoes on, this house is for living in,” if you show up at my house, unless of course they are full of mud or such, but that is a different story.

Part of hospitality and taking our shoes off when we enter a home might have to do with comfort. According to one of the commentaries on this scripture, removing one’s shoes is a sign of being at home, feeling the comfort of being at home, and so relaxing in the presence of others with our shoes off. Hmmm, the scripture directly says to take the shoes off because the ground is sacred, but the implication for the time and culture of where Moses lived could also be the comfort of home. What if being in the presence of God is like being at home? I don’t know about you, but that changes a whole lot of the meaning of this passage for me.

Here we are with one of those many Biblical paradoxes. We have a scripture that seems to have two meanings at the same time, and yet both are true. Moses is told that he is standing on sacred ground. This would mean he needs to show the greatest of respect for the place and the time, and mostly for what he is about to be told. Moses, when we talked about him last week, was just a little baby floating around in the river inside a basket, being watched over by his big sister, and then found by the Pharaoh’s daughter when she goes to take a bath.

Today our text has Moses as a fully grown man, living far away from Pharaoh and all the riches that he grew up with. He is in a foreign land working for his father-in-law, basically a felon hiding out because he has killed one of the Egyptian over seers. That was quite a fast forward for us to handle, but we know that story. Again it is one many of us would have learned as youngsters. But did we pay that close attention to all of it? It is pretty far-fetched after all. Maybe he was just suffering from some delusions brought on by dehydration. It must be that he is just seeing things out there, alone in the desert. A bush wouldn’t just start burning without being consumed and then voices come from it.

But it is happening to Moses. It is all true, and it is because God wants to tell Moses what he must do. Moses is God’s guest in a place that is ordinary yet at the same time sacred because God is present. See, anyplace that God is present is sacred. Anyplace that we open ourselves up to the presence of God is a sacred place for us. At the same time it was home. Moses was a foreigner, an alien. He didn’t fit it. Sort of like that old Ugly Duckling video we had when our daughters were young. The theme song was “Your not one of us, it’s plain to see that when it comes to ducks you’re just Ugggly.” Moses was not of the people who his wife was born to. He was an Israelite.

God came to him with a very specific task in terms of his own people. It was a task above all tasks and the New Testament Pharisees and religious leaders centered everything around what Moses said and did and the law that he eventually brought to the people from God. Moses was being chosen for a very special task, not just to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, but to bring the rules and the laws of God to the people. God invited him to sacred ground and to his home, into his presence to tell him all the things that he needed him to know.

Wow, it must have been pretty amazing to have been Moses. It must be pretty amazing to even have known Moses. Isn’t it great that we can read stories and hear messages about guys like Moses who have all those wonderful tasks and get brought into the presence of God? I guess, you know by now that the story doesn’t end here. The sacred ground wasn’t just up on that mountain where Moses was watching over the sheep. Being in the presence of God isn’t just for Moses or the prophets or even the disciples. It is for all of us. We have that opportunity to stand on that sacred ground every time we take our joys our concerns, our cares and our gratitude’s to God.

Let’s just remember that when we stand on that sacred ground we need to have the attitude of Peter, not as he was seen in the text in Matthew today, but the Peter who led the disciples after the ascension of Jesus. We don’t want to be rebuked like the Peter we read about today, who thought only about the time and day, the moment they were living. Jesus was clear, that if we want to follow, if we want to stand on that sacred ground, we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow him.

I am guessing God won’t be demanding the same sort of thing that he demanded of Moses, or what was demanded of Peter, but we know that it will be something, and it probably won’t be what we had figured it would be. And yet, in truth, though we might want to say, who are we? We won’t be given a task nearly as important as someone else, all tasks are important in the eyes of God. All things that we are asked to do—matter.

One thing we know for sure, God doesn’t let anyone hide out in the pastures with the sheep unless there is something out there that we are supposed to do. Paul tells us so well in chapter 12 what is expected of all Christians, and though we don’t always want to hear it, we know we must; his final verse says it so well, that we are not to let evil take over us, but instead we should over-come the evil with good. We can do that if we just keep remembering that we too are invited to stand on sacred ground, to be in the presence of God. All we have to do is take the time to listen to the nudging we hear when we take our cares to God. Amen!

Family day

Today after church, we had a family day. Al my daughters were home and one of my sister’s was there and James’ sister, Alvina and her son Colin came over from Eureka. It was a fun time, hamburger, hot dogs, brats and some fixings.

Sitting around after supper.

Sitting around after supper.

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Jaxon and Carson had fun playing shoot Zoombies.

Working together.

Working together.

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Last night we took a photo opp with Jaxon and great aunt Adie.

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With Paulina on the back they went to Adie’s to get some ice cream then she made some hot fudge and yummy.

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Beautiful fall day

Today has been an absolutely beautiful fall day. The sun is shining, there is only a slight breeze, it is not too hot, not too cool. One of the stations in Bismarck has a weather man who calls it a “Goldilocks’ day.” I would have to agree, but here I am inside working on the message for tomorrow. Hopefully knowing what is outside will get me to stay focused and off the Zuma’s Revenge game. Well, maybe just one. Nate and Victoria and the tykes are on the way here. They will be stopping through Bismarck, so it should give me time to get this done. Jess and Tony won’t be leaving until he is finished with the banquet that is going on at the Gladstone tonight. He works as a cook or perhaps I need to upgrade that to chef, and sometimes that means staying until the weekend of work is finished. If they would like a small town atmosphere with a good school and great track coach for children, I know of a place with a pizza business for sale. Ha!!
Well, I really, really need to get back to work, but since I have not posted for a couple of days, I will leave these garden pictures behind. It is not that I have been off the grid. I have been reading and such, but I figure there are only so many garden pictures you can look at.

James and Paulina dug up potatoes today. They are so much bigger than last year. Weird. We used purchased seed potatoes last year. This year it was the runts of the left overs that we didn't eat.

James and Paulina dug up potatoes today. They are so much bigger than last year. Weird. We used purchased seed potatoes last year. This year it was the runts of the left overs that we didn’t eat. I really need to put one of the big ones beside a ruler so you can see their size.

I dug up some onions to dry and take to the church and give to some of the people there. I can pick more on Monday if Jess and Vic want any to take home.

I should have positioned them better in the grass. You can see the shadow of the clothes line, I guess proof that the sun is out.

I should have positioned them better in the grass. You can see the shadow of the clothes line, I guess proof that the sun is out.

Inside the wheel barrel is what James and I picked today in the garden. He took off all the large cucumbers he could find, and I picked the beefsteak tomatoes that are turning. Oh yes, and some peppers.

Inside the wheel barrel is what James and I picked today in the garden. He took off all the large cucumbers he could find, and I picked the beefsteak tomatoes that are turning. Oh yes, and some peppers. I have been trying to let them get quite large this year rather than taking them early.

The peppers at the far end of the garden are so far ahead of the ones near the house. I am guessing the soil is much better there. I have treated them all the same or so I thought. I might be looking back to my journal to see if I was doing an experiment and forgot. Wouldn’t that have the joke on me.

Close up of the tomatoes and one pepper. Some in the area are having a bad time with blossom end rot, but knock on wood, we have not.

Close up of the tomatoes and one pepper. Some in the area are having a bad time with blossom end rot, but knock on wood, we have not.

Far off look at the zinnias and garden and mostly how beautiful the sky is today. I am thinking that would be the sky to look at in working on a painting in the future.

Far off look at the zinnias and garden and mostly how beautiful the sky is today. I am thinking that would be the sky to look at in working on a painting in the future.

Finally, we put the chairs and table out on the concrete. I suppose I should start calling it a patio, but we don’t need to have anyone think we need a house reassessment by the tax person. Apparently a male cat decided that last night would be a good time to mark territory on our porch. Fortunately, he only hit the tarp we had covering an old couch we placed out there a few weeks ago. We put all these chairs out today as a precaution for airing them out. So far we haven’t noticed anything after we took the tarp away. Oh and the last picture, I apparently left the family car setting out after I finished sweeping off the porch. I will have to park that back in its area. Hope you are having a great weekend.

Furniture on the patio. Maybe coffee later?? Or we could do some lemonade.

Furniture on the patio. Maybe coffee later?? Or we could do some lemonade.

Family car in red behind the chair.

Family car in red behind the chair.

From fog to slow, peaceful rain

The rain is so nice and peaceful today that I just want to stay in the moment.
I could grab a warm quilt, wrap up and sit on the porch all day. In fact today I wish my swing were useable and I would take a nap on it. Don’t answer that, I know that I could easily fix it. I just don’t feel like to right now. Instead I will share these pictures and then read my scripture to work on the message for Sunday. And, if I feel like it later, I will watch tv and knit or read my stack of new magazines or get the mail or stay on porch watching the cable updates drive hither and yon trying to read their maps in a town where no one (ok so mostly no one) uses street numbers. In other words, I am fried out from yesterday and I am taking a break.

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Pictures show fog and rain this morning. When I woke it was so foggy that I could not see very far out the window. I should have taken the picture sooner, it was fairly clear by the time these were taken.

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Flowers taken from the lower of the upper decks.

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Roger wanted to be on the blog today, and final picture is the calla lily back in bloom. Amazing what flowers will do when you ignore them.
That is all for now, have a nice day. That is an order!

Angry squirrel

Today while I was on the phone with my aunt I kept hearing a weird sound. I thought it Wes a bird, but later found it was a squirrel. It wanted to get at my plums, butRoger was interrupting the plan. When I realized what it was, I chased after it, but the only shot I got was it running away.

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Here are the plums it was after.

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I need to keep a close watch on these trees to get the fruit so there will be new jelly for Jaxon. The other picture is what is left of the moss roses.

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A turn of events

Lately I have been thinking up the title of my message before I write the message. I don’t always see the connection and it rather bothers me that the bulletin is done so far in advance of my message. This past week, my husband thought that I had hit the title pretty well. I didn’t see it until he explained it. Crazy how some things work out. The scripture used was Exodus 1:8–2: 10 and Romans 12:1-8. Title is above. We used the Matthew scripture as our responsive reading. If you would like a different twist to today’s lectionary you should check out the message presented by Emily Heath. I will try to leave the address here(http://emilycheath.com) , but I am not so good at this tech stuff, so hopefully. If you look through the bloggers that I follow she is in the first column near the bottom wearing a black robe and a green stole.

Anyway, here is what I had to say this week.

If any of you have taken the time to look at any of our bodies of water this year, you might notice lots of cat tails, and the long grass known as bull rushes that goes with it. Paulina and I were “killing time” for a bit on Thursday, we needed to check a house that was being upgraded with the fiber optics and the workers hadn’t left yet, so we drove out to the spillway, something we do to kill time. As of Thursday, the water was green and full of algae. It was slow, but was actually moving and going over the spillway making foam at the bottom, and there were large rushes and cat tails growing along the banks. It is an indication of a wetter year, even though we see the garden as powder dry a few days after each the rain.

For anyone who has taken time to read the stories of the frontier in South Dakota, you know that much of the eastern part of it was full of tall, tall grasses when white people first settled here. The stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder let you know that you could not let a toddler loose to wander at will in those areas because you would likely never find them again. It is a scary thought for those of us who tend to be “mother hens” when the youngsters are around. It would be really scary to think of putting a baby in a basket made of grasses and place that basket into the water at the edge of a river bank in the middle of tall grasses and things like rushes and cat tails and let a teenage or pre-teenage sister watch that basket.

Youngsters in the days of old were apparently quite a bit more reliable than those of today’s age. I know we still have “good” children, but what a responsibility to leave with a young child. What a responsibility for anyone of any age, to try to keep a baby safe in a basket out on the river bank. Now I can bet there were plenty of dangers in terms of insects or animals. Were there mosquitoes with West Nile, they were in Egypt after all? What about crocodiles or alligators? I didn’t look up which animals were around in that area at that time. There were certainly locusts later in the story, and the water turned color, so perhaps pollution of some type. No, the danger for this baby was mainly human. The Egyptians wanted to decrease the population of the Israelites, so they targeted the male babies. Again, there is a story here in the Old Testament that sound blatantly like something that happened in the days of Jesus.

I am not sure how you feel about population control, but if I were trying to downsize a species, say my sheep or cattle herd or chickens in the hen-house, I probably wouldn’t target the male offspring, but what do I know. Apparently the leaders of Egypt at the time around Moses’ birth were threatened by the strength of the Israelites, and they set out to do something about it.

From the ending of Genesis to the beginning of Exodus there is a period of 3.5 centuries about which nothing is written in the Bible. The relatives of Joseph that came to live in the land of Goshen and be protected from the famine by their brother totaled 70. At the time that Moses is a baby, they have grown to a small group of 3 million. No wonder the Egyptians are a bit concerned about their power.

If you know anything about the history and the geography of the area, you might know that Egypt as a land was not easy to protect. And it appears that the leaders at the time of Moses birth may not have been blood relatives to those in power when Joseph was alive. Some of the problem was because it was hard to keep invaders out of their midst, and some of the take-overs had been forming from right inside their, well, I am not so sure there are clear boarders, but you should begin to understand just how concerned the powers that be were about the security of their rule. All those Israelites were a threat, and when slavery and horrible working conditions didn’t keep their population in check, it was time to do what they could.

The rulers started by telling the midwives, the ones who delivered the babies to take care of matters. They were to wipe out an entire generation of boy children. Scripture tells us that the mid-wives didn’t listen. And I complained that there was too much security in the hospital when Victoria had Anastacia. This is a whole different kind of health care issue. But, I really don’t need to go one and explain this scripture step-by-step. We all know this story. All any of you had to do was look at the front cover of your bulletin, and you could have given an account of the scripture and an explanation. This is a story that we all learned in Sunday School or Bible School, or some place along the line. It is a parallel to some of the events of Jesus birth and it is just something we know, so what about it needs to be repeated or lifted up, or how on earth could it possibly be interesting or fresh or even a little new.

These old stories are comfortable. They are nice to hear inside the safety of the church sanctuary. They are wonderful, old stories that we know. It is nice to come to church and listen to them to take our minds off the horror outside those doors. How great to hear this hero story about a baby saved by the very daughter of the man who is all about killing the Israelites’ sons. And ironically, she ends up paying his own mother to “nurse” him until he is old enough for Pharaoh’s daughter to take him to her own home. Moses is a baby plucked out of the river where anything could happen to him, and eventually taken to a palace and given the best of everything, and down the road a few weeks, we will probably hear how he grew up to lead his people out of slavery into freedom and from this group God sends his son that saves even us.     Hurrah!

But what about when we go out those doors and have to face the real world that we live in? What does this story do for us tonight when we watch the 10:00 news? Or tomorrow morning or afternoon when we pick up a copy of the daily paper and read about the events in our country, our state, or elsewhere in the world? Or perhaps this up coming weekend where some of us may exit town for a last summer trip because it is Labor Day weekend and encounter some of the real world of 2014 and the events of our times? What good is that safe story then?

The story of Moses is a story of how God works to turn evil into good. It is a sort of happy ever after story, or is it? It is also a story of great hardship and great perseverance. It is a story of dodging God’s call, then some obedience and then some cajoling and what our daughter Victoria likes to call “Wah” moments, meaning that Moses tries to get out of things by crying around a little when God gives him some orders. I think all of us have been there a time or two. I was there majorly on Friday when I was working on the message for the funeral that I led on Saturday.

These stories let us know that God is able to take the evil of any situation and turn it into good. It also tells us how important it is that we follow where God leads. In the passage in Romans 12 that we also read today, Paul lays out for us exactly what it means to live a Christian life. He lets us know that no matter what the stories of the world are, we are to live our lives in a way that is acceptable to God. Paul tells us that we are not all made the same, that we each have our own part to fulfill, but as we do our parts, we do them to the glory of God, and in the way that Jesus would have us to live.

As we read to the end of that chapter, we see that it says we do this even to the point of returning good when we are given evil. Not easy, but expected. When we leave the safety of this place, we need to take God with us. It would be so much easier to leave it behind, and save it for next Sunday. But just as God demanded more of the mid wives than obedience to an evil Pharaoh, so God demands more of us. Perhaps our duty is like the sister who stood at the side of the river and watched the baby in the basket. Perhaps we are like the mother, who nursed that baby until it was claimed. Whatever our task, God asks us to perform it to the best of our ability, and with a Christian attitude towards those around us in our times. Amen!

(I also included the opening part of our prayer as it sort of finished the message for me.)

Dear Heavenly Father:

We come today knowing that the world around us is in chaos. We come today thankful for a sanctuary where we can come and listen to your words, though we know it is not all about the history or the past. There is much in today’s world that we would rather not discuss when we are here, but it still weighs heavy on our hearts. Help us Lord to reconcile those –what seems like two different parts of our lives. We know that you want more from us in terms of what we do to help this world be better. …Amen

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