Message for Sunday, Oct 8, 2017

Following is the script of the message that I shared on Sunday. The scriptures were: Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 3:1b-14, and Matthew 21:33-46 and the title was, “Love inside the Hatred.” I did go into story telling mode for most of it, but there were some parts that I gave word for word. The script you see is the intent of the message. We also celebrated World Communion Sunday since I was gone last week when we were supposed to celebrate it. Somehow the lectionary that went with communion seemed to fit this message perfectly. I always know God’s hand is in the day when that happens. So here is the message…

On Monday morning when I turned on the television before getting up for school, I sat in the bed and wondered when can we quit having to pray for victims of violence? Yes, I am talking about the unfathomable destruction of the man who decided to do whatever needed to be done to allow him to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. When I got to school that morning, there was a short all-staff meeting. The superintendent was visibly shaken and he wanted to tell us why and how to address the concerns of some of the students.

His wife’s sister and husband had been at the concert and though they were fine physically, they were upset about what they had been through. They had to crawl out of the concert over some of the victims and when they finally got to their rooms they realized that they were covered in blood from those shot around them. We also learned that there were members of the community including one set of parents in Las Vegas, though no one was sure if they had attended the concert, and we knew some of the students would have questions.

Seriously, I can understand—I am not saying it is right—but I can understand when someone is angry at another person, and they seek revenge on that person or others like that person, or on society as a whole because they were wronged, or at least they think they are wronged. I get that. I am able to—in my mind find an acceptance for that sort of violence. I also get it when someone is so warped that they find pleasure in killing whether it is human or animal. I understand that some people are just evil. I am not trying to be funny here, but we need to realize that God gives everyone an opportunity to turn away from sin and sinful choices, but there are some who are not going to make that choice no matter what. We need to understand that it isn’t God giving up or creating evil, or even choosing that person for evil. It is the person, the human who has made the choice to follow the way that is not from God.

In terms of the events last Sunday, what we may never know is why. And except for maybe being able to help someone else in the future to make a different choice, I am not so sure it matters that we know why. What I know is that somehow inside this horror that comes sandwiched in between these natural disasters of one hurricane piled on top of another, we might want to stop and try to figure out where we fit and how it is that we can make some sort of difference in our world. And I think I have some ideas.

This gospel lesson that we are given today seems more like it was written by some 16th century British author than one of the writers of the Bible. John Bunyan and Pilgrims’ Progress comes to mind. One commentary that I read even suggested that it should not be discussed as it is written in Matthew in-depth because of its anti-Semitic implications and instead the focus should be more on the poor tenant farmers and their abuse by the rich land owners. Let me just say that as a land owner myself, I take a bit of an offense to that version. I don’t particularly agree with either sort of stereotype. What if instead we look at this story as it is presented and then look at the meaning that Matthew suggests?

We have a landowner who rents his fields to some tenants. He is obviously rich or living away or both since he sends his servant, not once but several times, to collect the rent money. The tenants, though, don’t really want to pay and instead they beat up or kill the servants when they come. The owner decides that the tenants need a stronger voice and so he sends his son, his heir, but instead of heeding him, they kill him thinking that if there is no heir, they will be able to keep the land for themselves. Personally I don’t think these tenants are very bright. Not only will they lose their ability to rent this land, but they won’t be renting any land because the evidence against them is so strong they will surely pay for their crimes. To me they sound like the proverbial dumb crooks.

So the allegory part is where some theologians get nervous. If we go through this and identify the tenants as the people of Israel, they see it as making it ok for all Christians to ostracize and condemn and even do hateful things to the Jewish people. Perhaps I am naïve, but I don’t see the disciples as intending that in their writing. Let’s look at this allegory in a historical way. It seems the tenants are the people of Israel and the servants are the prophets like maybe Elijah who was sent to the wilderness, or Isaiah who was sawed in half, why didn’t I know that before? Or even John the Baptist, ok I knew he was beheaded by King Herod, and the son is Jesus who was crucified, and the land owner is God. Somehow I get the feeling that the tenants are more like the Jewish leaders than the common Israelites. What happens to the tenants in the end is that the land is taken from them. What happens to the Israelites is that the promise of being the children of God is no longer just for them, but is now given to the Gentiles too.

We could perhaps side track and talk about some of the current political issues happening in the Middle East at the dictates of the leaders of Israel. One of the resolutions brought to General Synod this summer was in regard to the way the nation of Israel through its police force and its military targets the Palestinian children taking them from their homes and families for whatever reason just because they can. The truth of the matter is that people of all faiths, or all races, or all ages and genders can be cruel. We all have the ability to get caught up in the frenzy of the world around us. We are all able to get angry with those who seem to do us wrong, or those who want to do things in ways that we don’t think is right or the way we like, and any one of us can get fed up with the far away land owner who is constantly nagging at us about the “rent” about what is due to them from us. And maybe we don’t get so upset that we kill the one who come to collect, or maybe we don’t get so out of control that we hole up in a hotel room and open fire on a concert full of people, but maybe sometimes we shoot out our anger or frustration in other ways. I know I have a time or two.

It seems to me that the real lesson in this parable is the love that God has for his creation, for all people the Israelites and the Gentiles. Perhaps that parable was spoken as a warning to the Jewish leaders at the time, but those words are for all of us. As creatures of God’s world, we are all expected to be good tenants in the way that we treat others, in the way that we show Christ’s love to the world. At the very least what the tenants did to those who came to collect the rent was bad hospitality. At the worst it was against the teaching of Christ who said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

One of the things that I have come to realize over the past few weeks of this long-term substituting stint is that everyone, and that means fellow teachers as well as each student, has their own story, their own problems, their own heartaches, and what they need most of all is to feel that someone cares. The position I have been covering is in the K-12 resource room, the special education room, and thankfully there are two very good para-professionals there who know all of the ins and outs, or I would be lost. What I have come to realize with the students is that everyone just needs someone to care, to listen, and maybe even to help them out every now and then. Sometimes they need a little more help and sometimes a little less.

This week the UCC website had more information on the 3 Great Loves initiative. It also has information on how and where to send information on what we as a church are doing to participate in that initiative. I actually looked at it in terms of “well what do we talk about first?” We might want to count what we send off here soon for the hurricane relief, maybe we write-up something about the quilts we have nearly finished, or perhaps we wait and include what we do at Mission Fest, and then what about the school supplies we dropped off in August. All those things are good, but what we probably don’t mention, is what we do every day with everyone we meet or work with. Every time we treat someone with respect and courtesy and with God’s love those are the times that we are really and truly fulfilling the expectations that God has for us as someone he wants to call his children. Let’s be that family this week and every week. Amen!

Long day of labor

James and I opted for a Saturday at home. It was supposed to be a day of much needed rest, but instead it was far more labor intensive than we spend during the week as teachers and preachers. I guess. Anyway the issue was to do as much as we could in the garden. I had a really hard time getting started, and in fact thought it would be best to let the tomatoes have as much time on the vine as we could allow today.

James started by digging out the rest of the potatoes. He said it might have been better if we had taken them sooner. It seems that there were worms or slugs or something underground eating on them after it rained. I stayed inside while he was digging and made some vegetable soup. I wanted to use up the carrots in the crisper before we dig out our carrots and store them there. I also had this idea about baking bread.

Opps I almost forgot, in the meantime before I really got going on the bread, I peeled up all of the damaged apples and made a batch of apple sauce. How could I forget about that. It took longer than the bread mess that I have printed out below.

So, here is the bread thing. I used this recipe that Paulina left behind. I misread the yeast amount and by the time I was adding the 4th cup of flour, I knew that something was very wrong. I needed 4 teaspoons and had read it as 1 tablespoon, so I was only off by 1 teaspoon, but something else must have been off. I actually accused her of being another Grandma Freda.

James asked what I meant, and the thing is that my grandmother would never really share any of her recipes because, well she just didn’t. If someone insisted on having her recipe, she would leave something out, or give it just a bit off, so that no one else could do what she did. I remember watching her bake pies and I was never smart enough to write down exactly what she did. No one could make a pie the way she did.

Finished Pretzels

Pretzel dough

OK so now I had this dough, and it was either figure out a way to salvage it or dump it. I know that 95 percent of my family would dump it. I am such a Scrooge that I pondered until I came up with a solution. I know that knepfla dough involves milk and eggs, so I added about 3/4 cup of milk and two eggs them mixed it as best I could. Next I turned it onto a floured board and kneaded it up. I flattened it out and cut it into strips then rolled it into a rope in my hands and made pretzels with most of it and bread sticks with the rest.

Bread twists

strips of dough

For the bread sticks, I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. I let it rise for a bit, though it really didn’t rise much then I baked it at 350. Sadly I over baked the pretzels, but with a slathering of butter and some sea salt sprinkled on them when they were got out of the oven, they almost tasted like actual pretzels. The flavored bread sticks were quite good with the homemade vegetable soup. It was good dipping either in the hot soup after we came inside from working in the garden.

The tomato harvest

Close to 4 p.m. about when the sun was starting to head for the horizon, James and I went for the tomatoes. I started with the celebrity and the big boy plants. James had a table readied in the garage (the van will have to sit outside until the table is emptied), and we began to fill it. I filled the box seen at the end of the picture and the small section on the table that is covered with papers with the round tomatoes. James started picking the romas. Those seemed to take the longest, but I believe we had 20 plants of them. We filled and refilled and filled some more. I finally asked where the long plastic sleds were, and we filled them too. There is now only the plant beside the pumpkins left to be picked and those are extra-large cherry tomatoes. The small cherries are just going to be left, neither one of us has the inclination to pick them.

Pumpkins and one tomato plant left. Outside of the fence is the wheelbarrow filled with the pulled plants.

We also pulled all of the plants and the cages, except the one that the pumpkin went through. That will stay until Monday night when I pick the three pumpkins. It is supposed to frost really hard that night and by then we hope to have anything of significance inside the garage or the house. I guess the onion will need to be picked tomorrow, but the beets and the carrots are waiting until that frost because it helps sweeten them. Well that was our day…I have a feeling we will both sleep well tonight.

math class, my way

I am not sure how much I have posted regarding this long-term substitution stint I am doing. I have only one week left at the school and I will have to say this will be the hardest to leave of my three times there. The students have really been amazing to work with even on the days when a couple of the younger ones have been so frustrated with situations that they didn’t want to cooperate. I may give you more on that later, but for now let me just say that I could really feel for them in their situation rather than be frustrated that they were not doing what they were told. Let me also say that part of my attitude about teaching has changed and mostly it is because of age and even more it is since being a grandmother. I look much more at these youngsters in “how would I deal with my grandson/daughter in this situation. It has really made a difference for me in terms of my attitude. I also feel much less stress than when I was thinking of my own children in this situation. Wow, it is so amazing to see age as a positive thing for a change.

Today I wish to tell you about our math class. We began with 3 younger high school students (after a transfer, we now have 4) who all spent time in the resource room. Math at that age begins to go the way of algebra and geometry and all sorts of really beyond me things like graphs and slopes and I want to run away and scream. Well, these three youngsters were put into a class of functional math. The lessons in the beginning were all about fractions with the dynamics of money. It was learning about what the top and the bottom numbers on a fraction really represent (equal division of a whole and the number of those parts used). We also learned quite a bit about measuring with a ruler in the beginning.

Well to make a short story long, the big issue is that the math teacher decided to stay home with her baby that was born last spring and so the school advertised for a new teacher and to date has not been able to fill the position permanently. There is a teacher who comes once a week, while the administrators (both certified in math) fill in. The resource room (me and one of the para-professionals) fills in on three days a week to teach the students that fit there. We have been focusing on the book work while the certified teacher has been filling in with labs of measurements (they built a bookshelf) and computer work.

One day in a brainstorm about the math, our para said that measurement is more than just using a ruler, it is also about work in the kitchen. The resource room just happens to be located in the room of the building that was originally built for a home economics (now called Family and Consumer Science) classroom. We have the perfect spot, our own kitchen complete with sink, stove and little fridge. We decided to learn fractions in a more hands on and life skill way by cooking with the students. The first week when I was at the homecoming in Jamestown, they made cookies in a mug in the microwave. This week was my week. I decided it was time make banana bread. It was a blast.

Students holding their Banana breads

The brief version of what we did. First we made them take the recipe and double it, which gave them a bit of work with paper. I divided up the tasks we needed to do and they were able to choose their assignments. One boy did the mixing because he felt comfortable with it. I was not into teaching that on this first try. Another measured oil, one measured sugar, a third cracked all the eggs and dropped them into the mixing bowl. The student on the eggs is not actually in the class, but was in the room and we invited him to participate. The other two students did the dry ingredients, flour, soda and baking powder.

The final addition was the bananas. They were all so curious about how to cut up the bananas and measure them. Ha! The joke was that I brought 6 frozen bananas that thawed in the fridge overnight. They were gooey and sticky and the students panicked about who might get the job of peeling them. I showed them how to carefully pull open an end and squeeze the banana into a bowl then drop it into the batter. Then I looked at them and said if they wanted their bread (I had individual loaf pans for the baking) they had to each do one banana. They did and I think they loved it and will never forget this lesson. I also brought some chocolate chips and let them drop some into their bread. It was a great day and makes me wish I had gone into FACS. Because these are minor children, I will not post their faces or their names. They loved the joke of how we took this picture and it being like the parents on Peanuts cartoons. The English teacher who does the school newspaper took a picture of them and will put an article into the paper about what we have been doing in that class. Hopefully it is a hit with the public.

I hate to make this post so long, but I will share the recipe here: Banana Bread (single loaf) 350 F

Mix dry ingredients and set aside: 1 1/3 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda.

With mixer combine: 1/3 cup veg. oil, 3/4 cup sugar and 2 eggs. Mix and add part of dry ingredients. Add 3 ripe bananas and remainder of dry ingredients. I often add walnuts to the mixture. Some prefer chocolate chips or whatever you enjoy. Bake, cool and eat up.

Homecoming weekend

This past weekend was Homecoming at the University of Jamestown. This year they decided to host a full blown everyone reunion. Usually they pick the classes of 10, 25 and 50 years. That is way too far apart, but such is how it was always done. This year they encouraged everyone to come back and boy did we come back. They even had a parade. Granted it was only around the library square, and they only circled it once instead of twice like they were planning. Paulina and Katy and Alex were on the float representing the athletes. Ha! The throwers rode and the runners walked. Makes sense to me. In these pictures you pretty much see coach Clark, who has retired from being head coach but is still part of the team as an assistant. Throwing Coach Lemm is also in the picture, but she is walking. The track team won the float award. One of their posters bragged up the fact that the girls’ team has a very high GPA (3.5) and boys’ cross country is right behind with a 3.46. They have earned scholar athlete awards and the teams were recognized for that. I am glad they put an emphasis on that too. Anyway, thought I would share those pictures now that I found them on the card. I will post more as I dig them up.

Light frost!

Garden in the morning.

So the first frost of this season hit overnight. It was not as bad as we expected but I am currently not home to check on the real damage. James had to recover all of the plants when he came back from his morning bike ride while we had expected. As he was going past the bank, he noticed the sign said 37 degrees F, but by the time he was filling gas in my van, it was 33. That was between 7 and 7:30 a.m.

Morning glories seemed hit even though James covered them.

I left the house a little after 9 a.m. because I had to stop at the bank. It was warmer then and the sun was shining, so I took some time to remove the cloths from the garden. I hung them all on the fence and the pictures show what I saw this morning. Ironically some of the covered plants looked frozen while some in the open looked fine. We will have to wait until later this afternoon to see the real results.

Roger watching me leave

Hope you all have a great day!

Chance of Frost under a full moon

full moon over covered garden

A lighter view of the moon.

About a month ago one of the men in our church predicted that we would have frost on the full moon. I think he is right, he was just off by one moon. Ha!! We are supposed to be having temperatures in the low to mid 30’s F overnight. Siri told me 35 by 7 a.m., but no idea what it would be at 8 a.m., so that was the unknown that made us go out and cover tonight. I was willing to take the chance, James said we didn’t work this hard to let them all freeze. I have been picking as much as possible each night, and that included another basket full tonight. It was enough to fill up what I took out of the boxes last night. Hurrah!!

Morning glory garden

Tonight the blankets are surrounding the tomatoes and the pumpkin, which are nestled on the ground between the tomato cages. I also covered the peppers, but there are no pictures of them. The wind has come up and we are pretty sure the blankets will be eased off before morning. Normally we would hold them down with bricks, but the cages have the plants so high I don’t think it will reach. James says he will check before he heads out on his bike ride in the morning and will reposition them. Frost is only a problem when the sun hits the cold plants, so they will be covered for sure before then if by chance they blow off. I took a few other pictures of the flowers just to know what they looked like because there was no way we were going to try to cover any of them. I did pull all of the house plants inside as soon as I came home from school and the other more outdoor types of plants like the petunias and the moss roses, we just pulled under the swing which sits under the upper deck. They should be more than fine there.

Looking at the full moon tonight, I think of those who were outside in Las Vegas last night under a nearly full moon having a wonderful time at a concert with their friends or family or just someone who had a ticket and stood beside them. How one person’s mindset can affect so many lives for such a long time. May God be with those who are grieving and those who are hurting and healing on this night under this full moon. May God’s love and healing power extend to all who are feeling the loss of this time, whether it is loss of a loved one, loss of time to recovery or even loss of innocence because we are all part of that issue. And by the way God, I am getting just a little bit tired of extending condolences and prayers for the families and those injured, maybe we could find a solution to this mess in our world. We, at least I, am open to some suggestions. Please let us know what you need from us to insure that these sort of events don’t happen anymore. Thanks God!!

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes!!

Picked Sunday afternoon.

Largest tomato of the year.

We have been picking in the garden as much as possible each night. I have been taking the tomatoes as soon as they are a little pink or orange, though some are nearly soft ripe before I find them. Tonight I moved a few of the plants from leaning left and tipped them right in order to get inside of them and find the ripest ones on the plant. The days are getting shorter and cooler, though the sun was out most of the day, which was nice, but not much is growing anymore. Mostly they are ripening on the plant and that is fine. I really don’t have room for all of them in the house until I figure out what to do with the cucumbers that really are not all that good. Add to that the stack of zucchini that is on the table and I see why we can’t fit any more tomatoes in the house. Checking out those pictures, I think that for supper tomorrow night we just might cook up a batch of jalapeño poppers.

When I got home from school tonight someplace between 4:30 and 5 p.m., I went to the garden to grab another batch of tomatoes. It looked much like the batch from Sunday, but this time there were more romas and less of the really huge ones. I brought them all inside and sorted what was on the table into the sink and put most of what I picked back on the table. I was able to empty on entire box on the table and most of the second one. The tomatoes in those shallow boxes have been ripening under paper most of last week. I had put the ripest into the sink thinking that I would can a batch on Wednesday night, but there were not enough to start the water boiling. Tonight I found enough. I had no idea as I was washing them and dropping them into the water that there were so many. As I took them out to cool, I used four cake pans and a large bowl. I always use those fancy cake pans, one is a bus, one a turkey and the other a bear, plus just one that is a rectangle. They cool much faster, and I refuse to dip them in cold water because I am such a contamination freak. This method has worked for me for years and that is how it is.

I did change a little this year in how I deal with what I used to consider the excess liquid in the pans. I used to drain it away, and now I realize it is from the tomatoes, so I strain it through the cone and put it aside to make juice. Tonight I made three quarts of juice and seven quarts of soup. I held back the final container of peeled tomatoes and one batch that was in the blender while I was filling the jars with the juice. I had two quarts full but only 2/3 in the third quart. I kept draining the liquid and a little bit of the runnier tomatoes through the sieve until I had that third quart full. I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, canning salt and sugar to each of those quarts then sealed them up to process.

7 qts. soup and 3 qts. of juice

The soup was interesting as always the ratio of salt and sugar is always determined by the flavor of the tomatoes. I dropped in one stick of butter, then added 1/4 a cup of lemon juice to assure it has the correct acidity for canning safety. I put in 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of canning salt then I whisked in 1 cup of sifted flour. That was a treat to coordinate. It became much easier when I began using the large whisk and switched hands. After a couple of taste tests, I added a bit more sugar and a touch more salt. In the end, I think I should have put in more flour. I didn’t want to over do the stiffness factor though because I was not sure how it would sit up after being processed. I used to really add lots of flour and ended up with really firm soup, almost like what you buy in the store. This batch has less liquid because I strained so much off for the juice. I wasn’t real sure on the flavor, but at the least it will be good when cooked up with a little milk and some chunks of fresh tomatoes. I did not used to like it that way, but it is pretty good on a cool fall day.

Well enough of this fun today. I hope to take some time tomorrow and share some of where we were this past weekend. It would be much easier if I had all of the pictures I tried to take. When I realized that my card was not in my camera it was already the second day of the reunion and I had missed lots of shots. Dang nab it. Oh well, I did still get some, and Paulina shared hers with me, too. Happy Gardening to you!!

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