Message the Sunday following the State Track Meet

Following is the message that was heard in our church the day after the State Track Meet, on May 28, 2017. The scriptures used were: John 17:1-11, I Peter 4:12-14 & 5:6-11 and Acts 1:6-14. The title was “That They May Be One.”

Today it is really the beginning of summer in our house. The track season is over, and we are as some would say, finally free of meets and practices. I am thinking that it might even be time to put out the garden one day this week. As I said in the newsletter, it is my favorite time and my least favorite time. I have so enjoyed this season even for as tightly crammed as it was and even for the way I felt so tired sometimes. As I sat down on Friday night to put together this message, I couldn’t help but think of the scriptures a few weeks ago that pointed us to the message of “Life Here, too,” which was based off a podcast from the National website called “Enjoy this life.”

I have tried to use that whole concept of enjoying the life you are given as a jumping off board, a focus of a way to think of things, and to that I have been trying to add the idea of living in the moment. That thought of being present in what is happening in your life at the time and enjoying it has really been gnawing on me. I tried hard to put that into play this weekend, and for the most part it seemed to work. Maybe we will take a little time out here to give you the grumps of the weekend, just to get them out of the way so that the rest of this message will really have a turned up, happy note to it.

Ok, so the down side was really limited to a couple of things and mainly it boils down to only one thing and that is the attitude of entitlement. In North Dakota we only have a Class A and a Class B, and it gets really tiresome to learn that rules are being changed because certain things don’t seem to suit the important people in Class A. It is also annoying to have certain people on the team end up always doing the heavy lifting, and I do mean heavy in terms of setting up and taking down while others seem to skate by, always, even when duties have been assigned. And mostly working with youngsters is emotionally draining because they have this awful tendency to grow up and graduate and move on, and that is just way too hard for some of us. So, my warning to you is that no one here is allowed to move away, even if you get some notion that you want to be closer to children or other family or whatever the excuse is. I just won’t have it.

The entire group heading to state.

Ok, grumpy piece over, now for the good part. I ended up driving a mini-van on our trip, and instead of putting the older students in it, we left them with Mr. Haak on the mini-bus where there was more leg room, and I took the youngest group, the 7th graders. Let me just say that I have not heard so much giggling in a very long time, and I think that a few of them might have had stomach aches from laughing. It was a wonderful sound even somewhat musical and as I listened to them, I could feel their complete, absolute and pure joy. There was nothing better, even when they were giggling because they were making fun of my driving. So understand that it was this last story, this young childlike joy that was in my mind as I did a reread of the scripture lessons for this week.

As we start with the lesson in Acts, we find a story very similar to the one at the end of Luke in terms of the ascension of Jesus. Although in Luke it flat out uses the phrase “great joy,” I also get the impression of joy from the accounting of the event in this passage in Acts. We don’t see the word joy or exultation or anything on that line, but we also do not read anything that might indicate fear or alarm or sadness or gloom. These verses tell about how Jesus talks to his disciple, basically giving them their final instructions before he leaves them. In some of the other gospels we are told that this is when he is taken to his rightful place at the right hand of God. To me that idea alone should give us the image of an unimaginable joy that Christ is able to experience.

The other joy and the part I want us to concentrate on is the feelings of the disciples and what feelings that should give us. When Christ is taken away, according to the story in Acts, the disciples are visited by two men in white, two angels we presume. They tell the disciples to stop looking, or staring up looking for Jesus, because he will come again. Now the disciples had been told earlier to return to Jerusalem. They know he wants them to stay there waiting for the Holy Spirit to come to them, and so they go, and I will bet it wasn’t with dread or sadness over the past, but with joyful anticipation for what is next. Of course they were grown men, so it might not have been with giggles, but I kind of believe that they were on their way with smiles, even though Jesus had just left them.

If we look at the words from I Peter we read that Peter told the early Christians to rejoice that they were sharing in the suffering of Christ because they would then be able to shout for joy when he returns. Nothing could be truer than that statement. Think about it, no matter how bad things get, and I suppose the worse they get, the more we will shout in for the return of Christ to end the suffering and the agony. And this is true if we actually live to the age of his return or if it is the day that he comes for us alone. In truth, that day will be one of great joy for us as Christians.

The remaining verses in Peter give us some advice for the in-between time. Two things stand out for me. The first is the idea that we should cast all of our cares, all of our anxieties on Christ, and the second is that we should keep ourselves alert for the evil powers which exist in that world that would keep us from what is right, from what Christ wants of us. I love that image of the devil prowling the earth around looking for someone to devour, as if he were some giant swamp creature or the abominable snowman. Maybe it is those sorts of images that make us think there is no such evil power in the world. Perhaps if we thought more of a cunning and conniving con-artist sort of creature, maybe then we would be more likely to believe that there is a power that works to perpetuate evil in the world. Peter’s point in essence is that we need to keep our faith and trust in Christ and God will take care of us.

Exactly! For God to take care of us is just what Jesus prays for in the verses that we read in John 17. This passage is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It is his prayer for the disciples and his prayer for us. He offers it to God shortly before he is betrayed and crucified. In it, Jesus asks for God to take care of his disciples and give them the task of completing the work he has started so that his work will not have been in vain. I know we can all understand that concept of hoping that what we do is not in vain, I can’t imagine how much Jesus felt the need to make sure his work would be finished by faithful disciples. And in many ways that means us as much as the original 12.

Tomorrow many of the communities in our country will be celebrating Memorial Day. We will gather to honor the men and women who served in our military and especially those who died while in service to secure and protect the freedoms that we have. As much as some of us might disagree about which freedoms we should embrace or exercise and how much we should value any or all of them, if we were to give up any bit of those freedoms, we would be essentially telling those who served and sacrificed especially those who died that what they gave up was not important. We would be telling them that their sacrifice no matter how big or small was really all in vain. I know that I couldn’t do it, and I am pretty sure none of you would be able to do it either, to tell a Veteran that their service was worthless.

I know that what Christ did for all of us was so much more than any of us could do for another, yet isn’t it written that the greatest love a person can have is to lay down their life for another? Each Memorial Day as we gather to honor our country’s fallen soldiers, we do that to ensure that none of them died in vain, that none of them sacrificed their lives or physical or mental well being or even their time without it being worth something.

Jesus in his final prayer to his Father in heaven, as he is about to leave his human existence, asks that his work, his time on earth not be without meaning. His prayer is that God look after the disciples that were given to him, so that they will be able not just to fulfill the work Jesus started, but that they will complete it and in doing that they will also experience the joy that Jesus knew while being about that work.

Of course we also read this to refer to us as believers and disciples in our own way and time. Jesus wants us to continue his mission of spreading his gospel, his love all the way to the ends of the earth, and while we do that he wants us to have the same rewards of knowing him and knowing the joy of eternity that he asked God to give to the original disciples.

At the end of the gospel lesson we read for today, we come across the words: “that they may be one.” A bit further into the chapter in verse 21, we see those words again with just a little twist. In verse 21 it is written, “That they may all be one.” That is the verse picked to be the motto of our wider church. Jesus wants that for us, that we would be one with each other as he and the Father are one, united and working together as soldiers in the trenches, and perhaps to put it in language I understand better, as members of a team, who all have the same goal. That they may all be one.

Jesus asks God to protect his disciples, the 12 that were closest to him, and all who have come to believe in him. He also asks that all his disciples could be one as he and the father are one. To me that means we should learn to love each other in a deep, intensely joyful, Christian love. This love is not restricted by family or gender or skin color or culture or economic status, but it is a love as Christ loves. Christ wants us to be one, to be open and accepting and caring for each other in the same way that Christ and God love each other.

I really believe that when we are willing to open ourselves up to that attitude and when we are willing to take up the task of helping the gospel to spread to the ends of the earth, we will know the love and peace and joy of Christ, and when we do, we will also be able to experience the kind of happiness that makes our sides hurt from laughing. Go this week living in the moment and experiencing the joy of Christ. Amen!

Holding the twins

James and me with the twins.

After the State Track Meet was over and we were back in Linton with the bus and van unloaded and all the athletes safely with their parents, James and I changed our clothes, at least some of them, and headed to Wishek to attend Elisabeth’s graduation reception. We didn’t make the actual graduation, and we missed her speech, which I was told was the best of the night. It ended up that we were there just as people were leaving the school. James was able to help Bruce set up some of the tables at the reception area, and I may have opened the bag with the plates and some of the utensils, but that is about all we did besides eat some of the Knepfla soup that was fantastic.

Jessica was there with the twins, and I spent part of the night holding one or the other. We were able to get this picture of me with Lily and James holding Marshall. I must have had a grumpy thought or something, not real sure, but boy does my sunburn show on this picture. I was hoping for a shower before we headed out, but that was not to be had until we got home at 11:30 p.m. after which I still had to finish the message for Sunday morning. Yikes no wonder I spent Sunday and Monday vegetating on the couch. Well, that and on Monday washing up the uniforms that were turned in on Saturday after the meet. Again not trying to gain sympathy or brag, just stating the facts. Hopefully this next weekend will be more of a slow down, but not so sure…..

Season Over

Team by the mini bus their mothers decorated for the state meet!! We took 16, 13 competed, and 4 placed, 1 won 4 plaques.

Well everything about this year’s track season is over except the awards gathering and the inventory. It was a pretty good year, all and all. As we always say, it went too fast. It seems that in this part of the country, you barely get started and then it is over. We began practice indoors sometime in March. It was just early enough for us to have 9 practices before we went to the one Indoor Meet in Fargo. We started just after we came back from the trip to Tennessee to watch Paulina. And that was only a week after we had Jessica’s wedding and shower.

Then in early April my siblings and I were in Phoenix for my uncle’s passing just before the first outdoor meet, which was at home. The first away meet was the day the twins were born and that was a wild day, too. We stayed over night at James’ brother’s place then borrowed a car from Jess and Tony to go back to Linton for well there was no practice, it was the day the pizza’s were delivered, so we were in on that. After all was said and done, we stashed our pizza’s and grabbed our van so we could take the borrowed car back to Bismarck and come home to get ready for the next day. Needless to say, I missed a Wednesday at church, which meant rescheduling of a Minister’s Meeting. Yikes. And we are trying to understand why we are so worn out this year.

Parade of Athletes on Friday morning.

I feel like I am carrying on about this like I am whining and complaining. In truth it is more of an on paper accounting to make me look at it and understand what really happened. In truth if I were to recount what is listed in the calendar it would sound like I am bragging about how super busy we are. Mostly it is just normal life. I will bet nearly everyone around does twice as much as we do, but they just don’t think about it all that much. We are starting to understand that at this age our metabolism is not what it was when we were 50 let alone when we were 4o. James keeps wishing he could eat something or take something to make him less tired. I told him it is called a little rest now and then, and maybe some sleep other than on the couch in front of the TV. I think most of the problem is the traveling. In order to do anything or see anyone, we drive 100 miles if not more.

These were my relay girls. They placed the 800 and 1600 relays. The girl two from my right is our jumper.

So the end of the season was great, as in really great. We had 2 relays both place 6th and it was the same 4 girls in each one just a slightly different order and length of race. Our jumper who was in both relays was 7th in the long jump and 2nd in the triple jump, and she was leading the entire competition until the girl who jumped right before her beat her by 1 1/2 inches. Crazy! It was a good meet and the young ones who also came and participated were very good spectators when their events were finished. Hopefully they learned what it is all about and will come out again next year and be hungry for their turn to take some places. I have a few pictures to share. Hope your opening weekend to summer was as fun as mine!!

Another season is nearly over

Girls’ team at the end of the regional.

Another year of track and field is nearly in the books at our house. James and I have been traveling to school this past week for the practices for all who qualified for state. With the various injuries and near injuries that we have, he decided that we should bring along the next two best sprinters to help out in case of a dire emergency. The bottom line is the real qualifiers will run unless, as said before, a dire emergency. The issue is that we had a few other young ones qualify and the more we can take this year and get the first year jitters out, the better next year will be, or so we hope. I insisted that we take a picture of the group at the end of the regional meet. I am proud of how hard this group worded and I just wanted a picture for myself of this crew. I didn’t get one of the professional group ones, so this is mine and the mish-mash of shirts makes it a little extra special for me. Also we have a girl from Norway on the team. Don’t suppose anyone could guess which one she is. My only hint is that she is standing. HA!

washing the uniforms

So other than going to practice and trying like the dickens to clean out and clear out some of the junk around the house, I have been washing up the uniforms and sweats that were turned in at the end of the regional. It is my contribution to the efforts of the parents by not making them wash the items for the final meet. It is also easier to collect them into large garbage bags on the bus and take them home and sort them out and wash them. I have several sweat tops that need their pockets mended. I guess that is part of buying a grade less than the best. My only problem this year is that the weather has not been as cooperative as in the past. It has been cold and windy and not really drying weather, just rip things off the line weather. I will also give a shout out to the new clothes pins that were all I could find. No wonder they are always found in craft pins. They are not fit to use pinning clothes to the line. I need to try to find some like my old ones, but so far that has not worked for me.

Oh seems I forgot to mention what athletes and events we have going with us. James was pouting most of the season, and especially after the girls started qualifying the relays. He was good when our girl jumper made it in the long and triple jumps, but when the relays made it, he began to fret because no boys were qualified. I told him to buck up and realize that girls have value too. In the end we have all 4 of the girls’ relays qualified. The 400M, 800M and 1600 Meter all with the same 4 girls and the 3200 Meter with four different girls. The jumper was on the three shorter relays, but will be out of the 400 because of the 4 event limit. We have a young substitute for that one. Also our girl and boy javelin thrower made it on Saturday. Our boy 400 runner and 300 Hurdler qualified Saturday and our girl 400 runner made it by time earlier in the year. All in all we have 16 running with 2 alternates and a student manager in 11 events. It should keep us really busy this weekend. All that and trying to make it to our nieces graduation reception, we are pretty sure the actual event will be impossible. Hope they video so we can watch the speech later.

May track updates

Today is an exciting day and a sad day. It is the last regular season meet for this season. On Saturday we will have our regional meet which is the last opportunity for any of our athletes to make the state meet. Today is called the Last Chance Meet, which means it is the last chance to qualify by time or distance. We have hope for a few more to make it in today, but mostly it is a fingers crossed sort of day. We are fighting a few injuries and so hoping for the best.

Shot put

Getting award for 3rd in Hammer.

Last week, I left after the Thursday meet and headed for Jamestown to watch the second day of Paulina’s conference meet. I didn’t get to see the hammer throw in which she set a personal record of 46.40 meters which is 152′ 3.” It was good enough to land her at second place on the all time list of throwers. She said her PR of shot put was 10.56 meters which is 34′ 7.75″

OK, James just came in from loading the bus and I need to head out. Check back later.

Happy Mother’s Day Message

I was pondering not putting this message on the blog, but I guess…. First off, I messed up the scriptures when I went to put the message together. I was in II Peter rather than I Peter as the lectionary suggested. Next I may have talked about my own family in ways that might not be appealing to all. Fortunately I tend to go off script, so what is here was not exactly what they heard. Let’s just say we had a jovial time again this morning and most of it was because I shared the truth about my own life. May you find some spark of truth and a real message in this, mixed up as it might be.

The scriptures for today were listed as: Acts 7:55-60, I Peter 2:1-10 (actually based it on II Peter 2:1-10) and John 14:1-14. Our title was, “Honoring Mothers.”

Let’s just start with what to me was the obvious oxymoron here today. When I opened up the desk calendar in the office and looked at the lectionary suggestions, I was a little stunned. I don’t understand fully how the powers that be don’t do some coordinating between the secular calendar year and the scriptures of the lectionary. This is Mother’s Day for goodness sakes and the scripture lessons somehow don’t seem to have anything at all to do with anything about honoring your mother. The verses in the gospel of John are more likely to be something you would hear at a funeral, and the writings in I Peter are instructions to tell Christians how to keep away from those who would lead you astray and the story in Acts is just too gruesome to even think about. Stephen who was not even one of the inner circle of disciples in his zeal to share the story of Christ ends up as the first martyr when a mob stones him while Saul AKA Paul watches in approval.

Actually, one of the first times I ever used the John 14 verses at a funeral was at Verna Schock’s, and I thought I was going to NOT like the one daughter-in-law very much. I wanted to read verses 1-6 or even to 7, but she told me I had to stop at verse 3. Interestingly as I was checking the “sermon seeds” in my email for this week, the write-up mentioned that too many people take this passage and only focus on verse 6. So, it got me to looking at the whole thing, especially the opening a bit closer. And there it is in the opening three verses, we hear those final words, the final instructions that Jesus is giving to his disciples before he leaves them, and here is where we can begin to realize the thread between these stories and this celebration of mothers.

First off before we go any further with this, let’s just stop and remember that in some of our past discussions, I have noticed that our wider church is more likely to set today as a celebration of the family, not just the mothers. Personally, I am ok with having a day for Mothers and another for Fathers. It gives a second opportunity for children to be guilted into remembering all the things their parents have ever done for them. I mean really in some homes everyday is children’s day. I am pretty sure if you check with my oldest two daughters that was not the case at our house, at least not where I was involved. But on the other hand they will be sure to tell you that things changed when the third one came along. Let me just say the jury is still out on how things will work for them with their children. For now I am noticing that there is little to no grown up television or movies to be seen when you enter their homes, and even Jessica has started checking in with cartoon channels while she is feeding and rocking one of the twins. Not so much at Grandma’s house.

One more personal note then I will get back to the lessons from the scriptures. This past Thursday I found a pair of matching coffee mugs that I just had to buy for those two “slighted” daughters. The writing on the side said, “Sometimes when I open my mouth, my mother comes out.” I believe they will notice that more and more as they age, whether they like it or not, many of us have been there for me it is more and more each day.

So what is the thread of Motherhood and mothers that comes from these scripture lessons. The one in second Peter could almost be compared to a mother lecturing her teenager as he or she is walking out the door. Last night was prom in Linton and we drove up to watch grand march. We attended somewhat because my niece Elisabeth was in it since her boyfriend is from there, and we also went as coaches just to let them know we are aware of where they are and that we are thinking of them. There were no lectures in practice on Friday, but plenty on Monday when they had their Jr/Sr banquet and that is sometimes reason for concern.

Some people might think that children/teenagers should be allowed to make their own decisions and especially their own mistakes. I would rather go along with the words of Peter as he spoke to the early Christians telling them about the false teachers that will try to infiltrate them, and how God was not so lenient with the angels who rose up against heaven, and even the story about the days of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yes, God is a loving God, but as Peter points out, those incidences of rebellion and disregard for God’s laws were not tolerated. And we probably all know well that Mothers, too have their limits, and when they set them it is with the safety and well being of their children in mind.

Now of the three passages we read today, I think the text in John is the easiest to relate to the actions and the love of a mother. This chapter is part of that long narrative in John about the final night Jesus is with the disciples before he is betrayed and arrested. Chapter 13 begins with Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, then there is the last supper and in this chapter Jesus tells his disciples that he is going back to his father’s house to prepare a place for them. What a wonderful promise. He was going back to his home, to get a place ready for them and then he promises to return again to bring them to that house to live with him. Now it didn’t happen immediately and not all at once, but in their order each of the disciples was welcomed home to the place that was prepared just for them. And the great thing about this story is that it is meant for each of us in just that same way.

Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. How many of us have gotten our homes ready for someone to come and stay? At our place it becomes a major operation, especially at this time of year when the dust has piled so high on some of the shelves that I can write my name in them, then there are the dust bunnies who are big enough and old enough to be named and demand pet beds, and we won’t even discuss the windows. My mother used to tell me she always knew my house because it was the only one on the block whose windows were not washed.

We will likely have all the children at our place for a short time in June and I am already getting nervous about how we will get everyone into a room let alone into a bed that isn’t piled high with junk. I have to admit that my grand plan to eliminate some of the clutter from the house around the time of Lent fell by the way side after the first bag went out the door. Hopefully this summer there will be a little more cooperation from my hoarder self on this business of letting go.

Considering the sort of preparation we as humans go through to invite someone to a stay over visit, or the act of helping someone move into a new or different home, it is sort of hard to consider Christ telling us that he is going to prepare a place for us to live. This really doesn’t strike me as God’s work, to provide a home for us, yet that is what Jesus promises. “If it were not so, would I have told you…” If we as human parents stress and fuss and work to provide a place for our children to come to stay or even help them to find a spot to live, how much more do you suppose Christ has worked to provide a home for us, a place for us to join him in paradise?

Now the story from Acts almost seems like it should just be ignored in this discussion about honoring our mothers. How can we possibly see any sort of nurturing, mothering, loving story in this horrible account of a group of people turning into a mob that stones a man to death, and what about the man who stands quietly by holding their coats and allows them to do it? The horror of it just seems too much to even think about. The thread here comes from the words of Stephen as he is being stoned when he looks to the heavens and prays, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” His final words were much like those of Jesus who in his final words said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the same sort of love that mothers have for their children.

OK, yes there are times when we want to shake our fist and give them the Peanuts gang version of Lucy, “I will give you five reasons” and there are those exceptions of mothers who are more involved with things that are harmful–alcohol and drug abuse and such, but when you think of a loving and a caring, nurturing mother, you hear the same sort of words that Jesus and Stephen used in forgiving the mobs.

Mothers and fathers both want what is best for their children. They want a life that is better than the one they had, but the best that any of us can give our children is the story of Christ’s love for us. I am sure we would all agree that the best we can do for our children is not just to give them our love, but to give them the opportunity to share in God’s love.

And if any of you have not had a call or a card or a notice from someone today, let me say to all of you Happy Mother’s Day from me. In looking up the word mother I found such definitions as a woman exercising control, influence or authority, someone who is the origin, source or protector, to that I would add someone who nurtures or cares for another, regardless of gender. As I look around our congregation, I see, so many examples of ways we act as those descriptions for each other and it doesn’t matter our gender. Maybe that is who we are as a congregation, maybe that is what it means to be the church for each other. As we leave today on this beautiful Mothers’ Day, let’s remember to be that person who loves others just as Jesus did. And let’s reach out to others as our mothers would reach out to us. Amen!

Life Here, too

Message of this past Sunday was based on: Acts: 2: 42-47, I Peter 2:19-25 and mostly the last verse of John 10:1-10. I used the following as the title, “Life Here, too.”

Our gospel lesson and our Psalm today are the comparisons of Jesus and God to a shepherd. We read the Psalm as our call to worship, and we just heard the words of the gospel of John where Jesus tells the disciples all about how the good shepherd goes in through the gate and how the sheep know the voice of the shepherd who watches over them and protects them and all of that is well and good, but the focus of what we will discuss today is that last verse, the one where it says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Our other two lessons support this, but we will get to them a bit later.

This week, which has been a month long in case anyone wants to know how it went, this week began with that trip to Eagle Pass Lodge on Monday. Monday is normally when I first look at what we are to study this week, and so as I headed here to pick up Mary Lou and then we traveled on to Bowdle where we met up with Faye Jackman from Mobridge, who leads the church in McLaughlin, I had these lessons in the back of my mind. Jesus came so that we can have life, and have it abundantly. The trip was great, we had enough time to stop in Highmore and have lunch and visit even more than during the trip, and we made it to the place in plenty of time with very little difficulty. We were greeted very warmly, there was one more licensed minister there, a woman from Clark, and we all met in a large room with the Committee on Ministry and the Conference Minister, and it was great!!

I am not just saying this, it was a wonderful meeting and we talked about all sorts of things, what is going well, what is hard for us, what we feel confident in doing and what we would like some assistance with which was mostly resources, and we even shared some ideas of where we get our resources. And we even felt so comfortable that we shared why we were a little put out about having to come there and meet with them. And we talked about this business with the change of how clergy are given their status, and I think we will all be fine. And it made me want to come today with a message about how Jesus came to make sure that we have life and have it abundantly, and I was thinking about just how great life is and so I was really ready to put together this super great and happy message for all of us to share.

And Tuesday was anther fun day in most ways. We hopped on the bus for that conference meet in Ellendale, and except for the porta-potties and the non computer way of doing results, it was pretty good, but the ride was long and it got fairly late and we read some of the news events of the day, and that wonderful happy cheer was starting to fade a bit. Then Wednesday there was Bible study, which was good and nearly brought me back to sanity, but later after practice James and I quick ran to Bismarck and picked up the iPads that he was supposed to buy for the team, and we ended up getting two and seeing Jess, Tony and Lily and it was good, but we got home late and we were tired and things were getting a little testier. Then Thursday there was another track meet in Underwood and we had a couple of qualifying events including a girls’ relay and we were so happy, ….but we bought two iPads and there are 3 coaches and though it is true and I said, I can’t time and record at the same time, so I don’t want one, when we got home and I was extra tired and wanted to stay up to do statistics, but I was too tired and instead I turned on the news and learned some more about what is going on in the world that I can’t change, and then I realized that I never got to record anything on that iPad let alone even touch it or look at what was on it and, well….happy was flying right out the window….

I didn’t intend to go into a boring rendition of my week, but the point is that while I was thinking about talking about this great abundant life, I knew that I could never do it with that sweet and sticky oo/aa sort of voice of sheer happiness that I suspect to be fake anyway, and my tiredness kicked in and the crabbiness took over and I wondered how on earth I could have even considered speaking about it in the first place.

And then on Friday morning as I tried to get myself back into the focus of the scriptures, I took a time out to read some of the skipped pages of The Upper Room and there I found the words from Wednesday, the verse in Isaiah 60:20, “Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.” And the comment near the end of the page said, God is the wind at your back, not the rain in your face.” During the storms God is there helping you through, not making it harder.

So, as I read the scripture passages again for this week it occurred to me that in the past few years, passages like this would make me focus on the life that God gives to us when we leave this earth. The message was always centered around the idea of eternity, the happiness of the life to come, the reuniting with those who have gone on before, but not a lot of hope for the here and the now. And the truth is that every morning when we wake up, we are all one day closer to the day when we find eternity and meet Christ. That thought used to really depress me. I remember thinking about that so often when I was visiting my mother, and I knew that she wouldn’t always be with me. Our mortality is a fact we carry with us every day, but that is not what Jesus wants us to focus on.

On Friday morning, as I looked at those words that Jesus left us I saw more clearly than ever that our focus needs to be more about this life, this wonderful—joyous life that God has given us to live, this great opportunity to be about the business of living and sharing and spreading the message of the love that Jesus has for all of us perhaps not quite like the apostles did in the lessons we read in Acts and I Peter, but sharing none the less.

Those passages tell us the stories of the disciples in the days after Jesus has ascended into heaven. The faithful worked together sharing their possessions, their treasures, their means so that they could spread the gospel the good news, so that everyone around them could learn about Jesus and the life that he wanted for all of us. He wanted/he wants us to have a life of happiness and goodness and days free of sorrow and strife, and I believe that, but sometimes when you look at the world around us and some of the antics of those in charge you wonder. I get one tangent and I promise I won’t go too far, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if our elected officials or those in power (even at the levels of the city or county or state and some school) would adopt the idea that their purpose was to make sure that every one of their constituents would be able to have life and have it abundantly. Wouldn’t it be nice if their bottom line wasn’t to advance their own agenda? Just saying!

The other thing I found on Friday morning was Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.” And it hit me, that even as I was going through this goofy, overtired week, and I was taking too many things to heart, God hit me on the head with a simple verse in a devotional booklet, “I know the plans I have for you.” Even when we can’t seem to understand where the happy is going to come from because everything around us seems to be falling apart or there is something holding us down or holding us back, God comes to us and says, “I know the plans I have for you. I am the good shepherd, and I came so that you could have life and have it abundantly.”

Were those words there accidentally? Did I read something into them because I wanted to see something? Maybe, or maybe it is the workings of the Holy Spirit. In our denomination, we are not such good spirit believers, though there are some who acknowledge it more than others. I think our Bible study group has an openness to it. I was amazed at the discussion we had on Monday at the Committee on Ministry meeting. It started when we were talking about renewal classes and we 4 licensed women said we haven’t all done any formal training this year, but we have been fairly diligent in our own devotional and Bible study. In fact the more we as licensed ministers shared, the more we saw reaction from the members of the committee, and one of the long seasoned clergy even made the comment that perhaps it might be time to begin a more faithful time of devotions.

I really and truly believe that as we take the time to spend time with God in any number of ways, as we do that, we open ourselves to the workings of the spirit inside of us and when we do that, we begin to recognize the awe and the wonder of this life we have been give. It isn’t always going to be easy, it isn’t always going to be perfect or trouble free, but when we accept Christ who came to earth so that we could have not just life, but life abundantly and when we walk with the God who really only wants good for us, we will enjoy that wind on our back even if the rain is hitting us in the face, and we will know the true joy of a life that is filled with the Holy Spirit guiding us through all things, even hot coals on occasion. Go today, and this week with the confidence that whatever comes your way, you can get through it because God loves you and wants you to enjoy this life.  Amen!

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