Message of Nov. 12 Preparing for Christ

Pew candles

Nativity set

I have not posted my messages consistently. I sometimes am not sure that I should share them as publicly as this blog might. I am still in the learning phases and not sure if what I say is always on track. At any rate, here is the one from a few weeks ago. The picture was from this last week when we decorated the church for Advent.

The scriptures used were: Matthew 25:1-13, Amos 5:18-24 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. The title was “Preparing for Christ.”

Some of you can probably tell from the guests we have with us this morning that we have had a busy weekend. Actually for me it started Thursday, and I am almost embarrassed to tell you this one because you might have second thoughts about me continuing here in this capacity. On Thursday morning I went with James to school thinking that I was to substitute for the Family and Consumer Science teacher. I originally thought that I was to go in on Thursday and Friday, but James kept asking me why I thought it was for both days since there was no school on Friday. That should have been my clue, but I didn’t pay attention. The secretary who makes the calls for substitutes was out of the office, and I didn’t want to bother anyone else, so I just went in. We were there a little before 8 and as I was waiting in the teacher’s work area for the secretaries substitute to get there to give me the information and a key to the room, and who walks in but the teacher that I thought I was replacing. I had the wrong day. I was there a week early, and yes this coming week, I will be there for her both Thursday and Friday. I felt rather foolish, but I was also relieved because I felt like someone had just given me a day, a whole day to do whatever I wanted to do.

I ended up going home and getting to work. I went to my office and began sorting little nooks and crannies and piles of this and stacks of that, and I actually tossed out and cleared out and rearranged things that I have not touched in about 5 years. Let me say, it felt good. I was finally in “the mood” to let go and clear it out. I also cleaned off the top shelf of my computer desk and of the bookcase in the room and on one I put the pictures of the grandchildren I have baptized and on the other, I put my collection of angels. Part of this plan was to get a jump on decorating for Christmas, and it was fun.

On Friday with James home from school in celebration of Veteran’s Day, he and I spent the entire day getting the house ready for our company. We cleared and cleaned and dusted and washed and even rearranged a little to make sure that there would be places for cribs and toys and bottles and all the things that come with little ones and the adults they bring with them. In fact by the time the day was over, we even put one of the vehicles out of the garage so they could drive in and no little one would have to be taken out of the car and subjected to that awful wind we had going on Friday. Come to think of it we also set out more of our seasonal decorations in the living and dining rooms, and even had a pot of homemade vegetable soup on the stove for supper. It was a grand day of preparation, and we were both pretty wiped out tired when it was over.

I would bet that any one of us in this room can think of times when they went all out getting ready for someone coming to their home for a weekend or a holiday. We all take the time to do at least a little something extra in anticipation of the visit. Even if we don’t need to redo rooms or areas of our homes, there is always something that we do in an effort of preparedness for our guest. We treat those visits as something special; at least I get that impression from listening to what I hear people say about those visits.

Our story in Matthew today is somewhat similar in that the 10 women, who are the focus of this story, are getting ready to see someone special. This is not a case of someone coming to their home, but instead they are waiting for someone to pass by so they can join in going to a special event. They are waiting for the bridegroom to walk past them so they can follow along to the wedding and attend the wedding feast. This is a big deal, and even if we know nothing about the procedures for the weddings or the status of the people in the days of Jesus, this story alone gives you the idea of the importance of this event. Simply put there are 10 bridesmaids waiting to go into the wedding feast with the bridegroom. He is delayed for whatever reason and they fall asleep as they are waiting. When the groom comes they grab their lamps and their oil and follow him, except that only 5 have the extra oil they need, while the other 5 have not made the effort to get their oil and they end up asking the others for help and they are turned down.

This could be a rather confusing story. If we are to think of this story as Jesus being the bridegroom and any of us being the 10 waiting for him to come and take us to the feast which is inside the doors of heaven, our question today becomes, what is it about this lamp that we have that needs to be ready? The lamp in essence is our faith/us that needs to be ready. This extra oil that goes in the lamp is not something we can borrow from someone else as the doors to the wedding feast open. We need to have ourselves, our beliefs, our lives in order when the time comes for that wedding feast to begin. This is true either for the end of time, or the end of our time. It isn’t something we can decide or change or prepare after the time comes, it is something we need to do—now.

Again this week there have been events that have—let’s just say given me pause. And though I have been bothered by the events, I have been bothered even more by certain reactions to these events. I will explain: This past week on Wednesday the Ministerial Association met here and after a few of us had lunch together. As we were visiting afterwards, I asked the others what they felt about the church shooting in Texas in terms of having someone either inside or outside of the building on guard with a gun. As much as I was shocked and saddened by the reports that someone would walk into a church and kill people, I was equally shocked to hear one of the reporters asking why or where were the people who were supposed to be standing guard with guns of their own.

Since that day, I have considered how vulnerable everyone in the pews here would be. Then I remembered how we dedicated the doors. I had been very intentional about making sure the words said the doors were there to keep out the cold and the rain, but they were also to open wide to welcome the people inside. I don’t know how you prepare for a thing such as that but let me just say I don’t think that I am in favor of having our ushers or anyone in our building on guard, packing a weapon.

The other words that blew me away this week were in regard to the person running for an office and being accused of inappropriate relations with a young girl many years ago. I do not want to debate the truth or untruth of the accusations or even the right or wrong of the possible event, but in the firestorm of comments afterwards to have someone compare that supposed relationship to the relationship of Mary and Joseph to me is nothing short of sacrilege.

Now perhaps for us, here in the place that Hamlin Garland called the Middle Border in this area of the northern plains, maybe we are sheltered from all those things happening in Texas and Alabama and Hollywood and almost everywhere along the coasts where the biggest of cities are. Maybe we don’t have any of those “crazy” things going on. Maybe we can just keep the news turned off and go about our quiet little lives and not think about any of these things… And maybe in truth there is not a thing we can do about either of the two events I mentioned in particular other than offer up a prayer. But, we certainly need to consider how we reach out to those in our own family and community who are hurting, and people hurt in so many ways. We also need to consider what we do to seek justice for those around us. Do we stand up to those who would run over the weakest around us, or do we help those in need by giving them what help we can even if it is pointing them to the proper agencies or outreach programs.

The scripture lessons leading us to Advent (and the proclamation of John the Baptist—prepare the way of the Lord) this year are not so easy to hear. This parable about the 10 Bridesmaids with the idea of preparedness is just the beginning. Jesus in those days leading up to his crucifixion is trying to prepare the disciples for what is to come. In the days of the early Christian church, as the stories of Jesus’ life on earth are passed on to others and are finally written down for generations after—for us, the belief is very strong that Jesus will return almost immediately. The apostles, even Paul, wanted to instill the idea of being ready for Christ’s return. Now here we are 2,000 years later and we are still waiting. Some of the commentaries on this scripture lesson would have us think in terms of what we can do to make life better for others. The bottom line is that Christ says we don’t know the day or the hour and we are to have our lives, our faith, our commitment and our relationship with God in order. But we can’t stop there, perhaps we can’t repent for our friends or family, we can’t commit for them or have that relationship with God in their stead, but we can be an example, a witness and the Christian friend who cares and prays for them. Let’s go this week as examples of preparing our lives not just for the upcoming season where we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, but preparing our lives for the Christ who came to be our Savior. Amen!

De-cluttering My Way

I am so excited about the work I finally did last week in my bedroom/craft room and in my office. It happened because Jessica was coming home with the twins for a weekend, and we were not really sure where to put them. OK, so that is not really true. We had planned to put them in my room because it is the largest, but I had it so messy that it was actually hard for me to function there. And if you need to see any proof of all that scroll back to October 17, 2017 to the post titled: Declaring War on Clutter, sort of!

So, everything is put into a can or a box or a tote, and they are even labeled so that I know where to find things without opening up everything. I fixed, as in sewed the stack of items without buttons or torn and returned them to the drawers and closets where they belonged. That was a good feeling. I have also been working on my Works in Progress items in the crochet department. Hopefully I will get to the sewing on the “to do” list by Monday or Tuesday. I even threw away the scraps of yarn that were too small to use for anything. In the past I saved them and set them out for the birds to use in their nests, but they never took them, so into the landfill they go.

So, the cleaning was thought up because of the pending visit, but it was not the actual trigger of my de-cluttering frenzy, which is still going on, Hurrah!!!

Baptism display

What actually happened is that I thought I was scheduled to sub on Thursday and Friday of last week. I got up on Thursday morning, got dressed and ready, and went along with James to school only to see the lady I was covering for in the building. I had the right day but the wrong week; I am subbing today. Instead of being super upset, I took it as the gift of a free day to do whatever I wanted to do. I went home, went to my office and began to sort. I sorted books into a spot in the bookshelf. I put items into the file cabinet and the desk drawers where they should have been in the first place. I sorted so much that I even put up the pictures of the twins’ baptism and Ana’s baptism on the top of the bookshelf. Those are the three children that I have baptized since beginning in ministry…well since ever. Duh!

Angels

I also cleared off all the items from the top of the computer desk and put up my display of Christmas angels. At first I was wondering why I put them there, and then it hit me that what better inspiration to write my messages than a bunch of angels. These angels have either been gifts from family or friends for Christmas or were things that I picked up at auction sales in $1. boxes. I think that the only one I bought for myself is the one on the far right in the back. Both the blue one and the green one belong to a daughter and the two little reindeer don’t really fit the theme, but they match in color and are staying with the angels rather than moving them to the Santa display.

The plant stand in my office.

Mostly I sorted and tossed little sticky notes of paper and sheets of things that were no longer relevant. I also found an empty shoe box and filled it with the Christmas, birthday and cards of congratulations from my installation. That was set aside to make myself a scrap-book later. I was really happy to fill the garbage so full. I got so excited that I even cleared out a stack of old magazines and reduced that by nearly half. I also found a pile of old manuals for nearly every appliance around. We even found the one for the washer and dryer that we had to toss this summer. They were given to us by James’ parents on our wedding. I wish they were still with us. That set worked far better than what I have now. Oh well… So, this is all for now. All I know is that I am happy about what I was able to clear out, and that I only tossed out the items that really had no further value for me. I refuse to toss just to toss, but it is time to go. Hope you are having a great day!!

Jan. 14: Sorting some Christmas items

James and I finally put away the Christmas tree. If you read any of my previous posts, you have seen our little white tree. I posted a picture of this year’s version on both Dec. 25, 2016 and Dec. 29, 2016. We bought it a few years back for several reasons the number one being that there really isn’t any room in this house for a large tree. I also really dislike putting lights on the tree. Each year it was getting more annoying to do that, and when we saw this little table top tree with the lights already in place, it was a no brainer. After we got it home we decided to pick a different color theme each year and decorate accordingly. The first year it was read (picture found on Nov. 29, 2014 post), and candy canes were all over that tree. I think I even replaced them once. Last year the color was blue (picture of this found on Nov. 27, 2015 on my old lucindagardens site) and that was really pretty.

All the old ornaments boxed for storage.

This year we did gold, and I like that one too. So now rather than have to dig through the big box of ornaments and try to remember where the garland and string beads are located in the storage area, we boxed up the items by color and marked the outside of the box. I think next year we will start all over with green. I know we have a few bulbs, and if we are willing to use the old wooden ornaments that are mostly green, I think it will work. Pretty soon we can just pull out the box with the label and leave the rest in place under the steps. Yipee!!! We also did some rearranging in the boxes that we were using for storage, and found that we could get by with smaller containers. Sometimes sorting isn’t necessarily tossing anything out, it is just organizing more efficiently. That was our main focus today. We also fixed items that were damaged for example James glued the head back on a wooden soldier.

Blue decorations

Blue decorations

Red decorations

Red decorations

One of the things that makes our basement look way more cluttered than it needs to is all the cardboard boxes that I save. I keep telling myself that I need them for days like today (and I did find just the ones I needed) so I can find something better to relocate and repack items to keep. It is cheaper than purchasing fancy plastic tubs or baskets. It is also better for the environment than the plastic storage items. However, as a bit of advice to the young people out there, the best thing would be not to accumulate and especially not to purchase so much junk in the first place, and then you don’t need the storage containers or the space.  And think of all the money you save from: #1 not purchasing the stuff and #2 not purchasing the storage container and #3 not needing to spend money at the clinic or hospital on a sprained ankle from tripping over all the junk or worse yet a counselor or psychiatrist to get over your hording addiction. OK, so maybe #3 didn’t come out quite as funny as it was intended.

The bottom line on all of this refers to the third part of my philosophy of frugal/organized living, where I list that thing about ask yourself if you really need this. Most of these Christmas items I ended up getting at various auction sales. Almost nothing other than that little white tree were purchased at full retail price. This is where I get myself into the most trouble. I always think that if I am getting a bargain then of course it is fine to buy it. I have to stay away from auction sales because bidding becomes a high in itself, and if an auctioneer ignores me for a couple of items that I might think are ok, and I might actually use, then I get carried away on junk things and bid just for the fun of bidding. You might see why I never step foot inside a gambling casino. I am too afraid of participating in that form of recreation. Now if only I could get myself to find the high in exercising or cleaning, that might be a good thing.

Homemade ornaments!

Homemade ornaments!

Plastic canvass and crocheted items.

Plastic canvass and crocheted items.

So enough of my true confessions. During our sorting today, I also pulled out all of the little handmade ornaments from many years past. I now have them in a small container in my sewing area. I see that some of them are little felt items and others are made with the plastic canvass that was so popular years ago. I have a stash of each, and figured these would be great small projects that I can work on during long nights of watching television. They can then be used as gifts for the grandchildren later on down the road. Oh and those crocheted snowflakes, I have to figure out how to make those to give each of my girls some of their very own. These were a gift from my Aunt Sylvia the first year we were married. I have treasured them each year that I put them on the tree.

We also found a few items with Paulina’s name on the back, and they have been added to her box of Christmas ornaments that hopefully will disappear to her home when she graduates and gets out on her own. Someday…. Well enough for now. What have you organized at your place lately???

Dec. 29, Little dog goes home

Raja playing out in the snow.

Raja playing out in the snow.

Today was finally the day that little Raja was allowed to go back to Jessica and home to Jamestown. Raja came to our house with Paulina when she came home for semester break. We were on dog watching duty because Tony and Jessica went to Green Bay to the Packers vs. Vikings game on Christmas Eve. It was Tony’s birthday gift from his parents. James was so upset about them going on that trip because of the prediction of bad weather. Little did we know what was going on. While they were there, Tony proposed to Jessica on Lambeau field. His text was, “She said Yes!” It was great.

She accepted!!

She accepted!!

Tony proposing

Tony proposing

Considering I didn’t get a proposal and neither did our middle daughter Victoria, we thought this was pretty great. Jess got the romantic moment that we missed. Of course I would probably have yelled at James for acting so silly. Sometimes I wonder how I got so matter of fact in things like that and then break down to sobbing tears watching some Olympic game event or talking about something nostalgic. Just a weirdo I guess.

The little tree with the gifts before we divvied them out.

The little tree with the gifts before we divvied them out.

Today, Jess and Tony were in Bismarck because Kenlee had an appointment with a surgeon to remove her tonsils. The surgery went pretty well and she was able to go home with her mother for over night. They will pick her up later this weekend for some time with them before school starts up again. We met up with them at the Perkins restaurant and had a little lunch and a rather hasty exchange of Christmas gifts. I didn’t do any big presents for anyone this year just a small pile of little things. Alyse was heading back to Jamestown with them, and she was able to open her gifts with us. Fun!!

Ok, so I haven’t mentioned this on the blog before and not really for any reason other than it just didn’t fit the post. Jessica is due to have twins sometime in May, or possibly late April depending on how all things work out. I had almost given up on her even having children, and now she is having two at once. I predict that they are one of each or both boys. I just keep dreaming about caring for a little boy. I just pray that they are both fine and all goes well for them and her. She is currently fighting a bad cold and sinus issues. Yesterday her ear hurt pretty badly so she went to the clinic and was told to take Tylenol and wash her hands. She is miserable, but I guess it is better not to overdo the antibiotics, though I have been in that situation when you feel rotten and there isn’t any help. I am thinking that lots of fluids and rest will help some, but the ear thing is miserable. Victoria yesterday had some ideas about using some scents and rubs to get some relief. Hopefully she is doing that and will be feeling better soon.

Not much else to report. I called a few of the older members today to see how they fared during the power outage this past week. We apparently have a major build up of ice outside of the church elevator and side door. We will drive to Eureka tomorrow to look it over and see what can be done about it or if we will need to call off services on Sunday. I am getting to the point where I may not remember how to hold services. Not quite, but it is beginning to feel a bit off.

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas from our house to yours!!

Dec. 25, 2016

Dec. 25, 2016

We woke this morning to the sound of winds swirling around the house, but upon a peak outside we saw white skies, white ground, but no snow falling down. The major storm has yet to hit in the terms that have been predicted. It is cold and windy and James, who was out to grab his shovel from blowing away and pull in a few of the decorations that were not faring well in the wind, said that it is nasty to be outside. I am feeling a bit guilty that we rearranged the church service schedule to get ahead of the storm and now there basically is no storm. James also says to be patient, it will hit later. I am not complaining, mind you, but it scares me to have a prediction as big as has been told us for over a week, and then nothing happens. When those occur no one takes the next prediction seriously and that is when people get hurt or killed.

Presents under the tree.

Presents under the tree.

I was up at 7 a.m. to put the turkey into the oven. Interestingly, this was the first turkey ever that I didn’t have to re-clean. It gets so disgusting some years when there are pin feathers all over the wings and tail areas. I literally had to use a pliers one year to pull some of them out. This year try as I might I could not find anything, and it wasn’t that we bought from some expensive company. It actually was on sale and less than I have ever paid for a bird. With only three of us at the table, I suppose we will have plenty of left overs.

Christmas mouse sings "We wish you a Merry Christmas"

Christmas mouse sings “We wish you a Merry Christmas”

Oh my, I hear noises above me. Could it mean that Paulina is waking, hahaha!! James and I have been patiently waiting to open our gifts. I guess without the other girls and the grandchildren it sort of doesn’t feel like an opening presents sort of Christmas morning. On the other hand, it will be ok today to just have a quiet gathering.

Corner of decorations

Corner of decorations

Hopefully tomorrow we will find the time to put a few items back in their place and we can clear out some of the chaos we have setting around at this time. I am leaving you today with a few pictures of the room where we will open our gifts. Hope you all are having a blessed Christmas Day, and Happy Holidays to all of you.

More decorations

Some old and some new…

The ponds

The ponds

Merry Christmas Eve: Peanuts collection

Snoopy plays for Woodstock

Snoopy plays for Woodstock

Greetings to all and to all a Merry Christmas. I am on shut down mode today. My family is not happy with me, but I have just spent three days in a row doing services, and frankly, I am fried up. Monday was spent putting all the bulletins together choosing songs and contacting the pianist. Tuesday was the mobile food pantry in town which I always help with as a clergy from the area, and it was the day Paulina came home. She got to town just in time to help us move some of the heavy stuff.

Snoopy resting on his house. This one plays, "Christmas Time is Here."

Snoopy resting on his house. This one plays, “Christmas Time is Here.”

Wednesday I was in charge of the service at the Nursing home then back home to write the message for the funeral on Thursday, which turned into an all day event, and then of course yesterday we did a joint Christmas Eve/Christmas Day service a bit early to get ahead of the storm. It has been a full week and it all turned out fine, but today I am fried up mentally and worst of all this storm has my joints going crazy. My Achilles on the once broken leg is swollen and throbbing and my knee on the other leg is out of whack and I can’t see very well and it is almost worse with my glasses. I must just be falling apart. I know this sounds like lots of complaining, it really isn’t that I feel so horrible, it is just how it is today. I am ready for a rest, and I think if I take today to lounge around a bit, tomorrow I will be ready to pop a turkey in the oven, peel up some potatoes and maybe even make a pumpkin pie.

Peanuts gang as Nativity figurines and a few extras.

Peanuts gang as Nativity figurines and a few extras.

More Peanuts figurines.

More Peanuts figurines.

In the meantime, I will share with you a few of the Peanuts gang figurines and displays that are setting around my house. The first two play songs from some of the specials and I really can’t resist pushing those buttons each time I am near them. Such a delight. There is a fairly new antique shop in Eureka that has Peanuts memorabilia for sale. I will have to check what is new in there on Wednesday when I am in town. In the meantime hope you are all having a wonderful, blessed, family filled Christmas Eve. “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Advent: Dec. 19 #2 Naughty cats

Sophia looking out the east door

Sophia looking out the east door

Today as I was busy working on the bulletins for the up coming church services, my cats decided to let me know that they are tired of being cooped up in the house. Of course they don’t understand we are all sick of being stuck in the house, but the alternative is not so appealing at this time. The snow is so deep on the east steps that I can’t even open the door. I tried today while they were watching, and they turned around in disgust or despair, I wasn’t real sure which.

Roger sitting in her safe zone after getting into trouble.

Roger sitting in her safe zone after getting into trouble.

Mostly I can tell that they are bored because they are running from one end of the house to the other and jumping on chairs and desks and all sorts of places. There has also been some dirt dug out of the plants in the south window of my bedroom. I notice it every time I open or close the curtains then I forget about it when I leave the room. I should really get off this blog and go do some cleaning up there. I am not sure which of them did the digging, but I might be able to guess and not be too wrong.

Ornaments Sophia was hitting together

Ornaments Sophia was hitting together

Usually it is Roger who is causing the problems, but today when I heard a glass on glass tinkling sound, it was Sophia hitting two of the glass ornaments together on the Advent tree. I even caught her chewing on some of it. This was the fiber optic tree that my mother gave me around the year that she retired. This is the first year I have used it as the Advent tree, and I am not sure that I will have it where these two scoundrels can get at it again. Later Roger tipped it over in an effort to steal one of the little wooden ornaments that she must have thought would be a great toy. She was looking under the desk and the curio for some of her hidden toys this evening. I should grab a yard stick and poke under them to see what she might be searching for.

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