Post on Psalm 121

Every so many weeks the clergy in our town are asked to write an article for the local newspaper. Today was my turn and being pretty much caught off guard about it because I have been running hither and yon with too much on the schedule and a few unexpected events, I was a bit abrupt when the lady from the paper called to remind me about it. After our board meeting, I got home and managed to put together the following article. The hardest part about writing this for me is keeping it to a mere 450 words. I know every college student wishes their professors had that as a requirement for their papers. Anyway, below is the article with a couple of pictures thrown in for good measure.

My help comes from the Lord!

The Psalm I most like to use during a family service for the passing of a loved one is Psalm 121. It opens with one of the most comforting verses in the Bible. “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” This verse was also appropriate to use this last Sunday as our congregation celebrated Earth Sunday. I always enjoy that Sunday because we deviate a little from the same-old, same-old pattern of sing songs, read the scriptures and me delivering a message.

Looking for food at the base of the stalks.

Snuggled in bed with me.

On Earth Sunday and again at the end of the year, I supplement the message with a power point of pictures. Our final Sunday’s pictures are of all the things we have accomplished as a church, the fellowship we have had and the special services and special events in which we have participated. But on Earth Sunday, the pictures are from nature. Usually I include flowers and trees and pictures of the garden at harvest. This year I had some shots of the Blue Jays and squirrels munching on the tall sunflowers we let grow wild in the middle of the garden. There were lots of pictures of migrating birds and even some of the family cats. It was fun to work on that message. It was easy to place the pictures and figure out the background and tweak the details. Working on details like that keeps my mind busy and away from the things that are weighing it down.

Marshall and Lily together in the crib.

In so many ways April should be one of the happiest months of the year. I should like it for no other reason than I was born in April. It is also the time of year for watching the trees bud, the grass turn green, and getting ready for planting. It is baby calves in the pasture and all things new. But this year we lost my mother’s younger brother to a heart attack, and the day I was returning home from visiting his family in Arizona, I realized it was the 28th anniversary of my father’s passing and somehow April no longer was about new life. “From where will my help come?” God is there for us in all things—the bad and the good. On the day after my birthday, my oldest daughter’s twins decided to enter this world. We didn’t expect them until May, but they had other plans. It will likely be May before they are released from the hospital, but for now we are rejoicing and knowing, “my help comes from the Lord.” May you enjoy this spring.

Post on April 11

Junk outside

Hi, just stopped by to say I am still here. Things have been hectic around our place as of late, and I just have not felt the ability either by time or emotion to visit with the blog world. I have lots to say, but just can’t do it now. I will share a couple of pictures from well over a week ago. On Saturday, April 1, James and Paulina and I did some digging in the garden after we cleaned all the wet and damaged items out of my mother’s basement. We have plenty of signs of spring in the yard, and I am so very glad that we took the time that day to do it.

Later that evening after my message was finished and we were sitting in bed watching previously recorded television shows, my youngest sister called to tell me that my uncle in Phoenix passed away. He was laying on the couch watching the big basketball tourney and had a heart attach. My mind instantly went to wondering which member of the family was there to greet him as he passed from us to them. His passing leaves a horrible hole in the family dynamics both in his immediate family and in our larger extended group. He was so much the one we loved to call to share any of our great accomplishments. He was always so supportive, and even if he couldn’t be here with us so very often, we always felt that we mattered to him.

Peonies coming

Tulips

Irises

Days like this so make me wonder how God allows us to have such pain in our lives, and then I realize it is not the pain and the heart ache that matter but what we do with it and about it. How we deal with the hand we are dealt is what matters in life. That was the point of my message last Sunday, and I will share that later. I am in school with James this morning as we are waiting for the time for the bus to leave for the track meet in Hazen. Should be a great day. Enjoy the pictures!!

Message 4-2-17: New Life

Before I share the message that I used in our service on Sunday, I need to explain that while I was posting and thinking about other things on Saturday, April Fool’s Day, in Arizona other members of my extended family were having a very different sort of day. Later that evening, we received word that my 67-year-old uncle passed away of an apparent heart attack. I guess there will be a medical examination to determine cause of death before this is all over. I had completed the message before we got the call, and so I did make a few minor adjustments as I was speaking. For the most part what is posted below is what they heard.

One thing I wish to add, the opening song was “Jesus I Come.” As we began singing, I saw the lyrics with fresh eyes. All I could think of was someone saying those words as they were passing from this life to the next. I had not looked at that song quite like that before, and perhaps won’t ever see it any other way.

Here is what I mean:

  1. “Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come…In to thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus I come to thee. Out of my sickness into thy health, out of my need and into thy wealth. Out of my sin and into thyself, Jesus I come to thee.

The other lines that start with out of include: shameful failure and loss, earth’s sorrows, life’s storms, distress, unrest and arrogant pride, despair, the fear and dread of the tomb, the depths of ruin untold. The other into’s include: joy and light of thy home, peaceful sheltering fold and jubilant psalm among others. It was hard to sing and for a time I could not, but it gave me the courage to give the message with greater conviction. Hope it makes sense to you.

The title of the message was: “New Life.” the scriptures used were: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45.

For a couple of weeks we have been watching the geese fly and waiting for the waters to open. As much as geese signal spring, the sure sign for me is the sound of the cranes. It seems that when the other birds come there is still a chance of snow here or there, and some people swear by the return of the robins, but I have seen snow many times after their arrival, for me the trick is seeing the cranes come back. And even though they fly really high and sometimes there is noise around, somehow their sound always comes through, that whirly, purring sort of sound that is different from other birds. I just love hearing them. Now if I could just get lucky enough to catch some of them with the camera that would be a highlight of my spring.

As for a not highlight of my spring, that was last week. Last week I was not so sure how long it was going to take for me to feel like I would survive. Friday, I started to feel sick, Saturday I was tired and miserable, but I found some old decongestant tablets and so I had a bit of relief. Sunday was not all that bad mostly because I had to get out of bed and get here to be with you, but the afternoon and evening were all downhill. Monday when I should have been able to sleep in and get some rest, I got up and told James I would start jotting down some plans for my funeral because I wasn’t sure how long I would still be breathing. (In light of the news we had Saturday, this remark seems rather inappropriate.)

I know that I shouldn’t joke about something like that, and of course there was no reasoning with me to go to the clinic. First off I realized that when you blow your nose and the stuff coming out does not have a color there is probably no bacteria and no way to treat it beyond over the counter drugs. I also started thinking about what Jessica was told when she went to the Dr. a few weeks back. They told her to wash her hands more and drink plenty of fluids. Wash your hands more is now the standard family joke. Monday afternoon, I purchased some decongestant and life got better. Hopefully this is the worst of the springtime illnesses at our house.

So, I might have been feeling better, but when I finally opened up the calendar and saw the lectionary scriptures for today, I cringed and nearly went back into sick mode. Three years ago this was the Sunday of my installation. So as the cycle goes, we have the same scripture lessons as that day, and I really don’t want to repeat that message. I initially had a hard time figuring out where to go that would be different. And as you can see the epistle lesson isn’t even in the bulletin, so that isn’t an option.

Of course the obvious answer would be to focus on the passage from Ezekiel instead of the story about how Lazarus was raised from the dead. I like that idea even less. I don’t like the Ezekiel scriptures and it is a silly reason, but it goes back to my college days. The man who was president of the college when I attended there was somewhat fixated on Ezekiel and used it often in his writings or speeches. For some reason his presentation turned me off at the time, and after he was asked to leave the post because of financial improprieties, I liked it even less. Maybe I will grow out of this down the line, but for now I am not there yet.

So here we are again with the story of the death of Lazarus and how his sisters Mary and Martha and their friends were grieving this tragic event. But today I don’t want to talk about the historical facts of that death and I especially don’t want to talk about the grief (yet ironically my family and I are grieving yet again this weekend) or even how amazing it was that Jesus was able to raise his friend who was in the grave for four whole days. Today I would rather look at this a new way. I would like to look at this in terms of what it means for us. If Jesus was able to raise Lazarus whose body should have smelled from decomposition, what can he do for us, who are still here very much alive in a physical sense?

Today I don’t want to think about all that stuff about Jesus talking to the sister and looking at the closed tomb and then actually grieving—crying real tears himself. No, today I want us to think about how Jesus looked at the tomb where he knew his friend was and instead of saying he was sorry not to get there sooner, Jesus raised his voice and he called for Lazarus to come out. That’s what he did, he stood there and called, “Lazarus, come out!” And if you want the substance of the message today, you hear those words with your name in that sentence. Jesus calls us each to come out of the tomb of our existence.

This is where we look at the scriptures differently than we looked at them in the past. Instead of seeing the grief stricken sisters and friends or even considering what Lazarus gave up by coming back, we see the new life that happened. Today we consider that the call of Jesus brought Lazarus to a new life. The simple call of Jesus brought Lazarus not just back to his old life to continue on, but to a new life, to a testimony of truth of the reality of Jesus, to the power of Jesus’ love, to the difference that the call from Christ can make in our lives.

This is the point of these scriptures for us today. It is the call of Jesus, the beckoning of our Christ that gives us new life. In reality this would probably have been a much more appropriate message for me to hear three years ago, but at that time I wasn’t anywhere near being able to imagine it let alone write it or speak it at that time.

New life is more than just the resurrection that we all hope to experience when this life that we now have is over. New life is about our personal survival of so many things. New life is about overcoming an illness, surviving a job change or the loss of a parent or a sibling or a spouse or even a child. I was reading one of the blogs that I follow last week. This blogger was not posting anything for a time, and it seems something has happened to cause the person pain, but they have not revealed details. I have been concerned that maybe something happened to another family member, but slowly the comments about others in the family are returning. I just know that something is different in this person’s life and I tried to leave a gentle encouraging remark on the last post as a way to connect and to let the blogger know I cared. I was relieved when I received a like for my comment.

New life is an adjustment. New things in our lives, whether they are new jobs—or retirement, different homes, new situations, a change in our health and mobility, new family members, or even the loss of someone close to us those are all adjustments we experience in life. Those are even things we grieve for a time, even when we are excited for the new, there are scary points just as much as when we experience loss. What we need to remember is that just like Lazarus heard Jesus call to him to come out of the tomb, Jesus calls to us to come out of our tombs of existence to experience the great love that he has for us. And more than that, Jesus calls us to come out and share that love with all those around us.

We might not know the details of what happened to Lazarus after Jesus called him from the tomb, and he came out alive and restored. But we can be sure that he didn’t hide out away from the world keeping this miracle to himself. Jesus called him to have a new life. Jesus restored Lazarus to life, just a few days before he himself would be betrayed and crucified and then rise from the dead. He didn’t make that call so it would be kept quiet. And Jesus doesn’t call us from our everyday lives in order to come here to worship then quietly slip out the door back to our homes to keep these beliefs and ideas to ourselves. Jesus calls us out of the tombs of our existence to share—to share what we know to be true with everyone around us.

The epistle lesson we didn’t read today comes from Romans 8:6-11 (read it) Paul tells us that when we give ourselves to Christ, we are given new life through the spirit of God. It is the spirit that lives in us that gives us the ability to answer Christ, to come out of our tombs and follow Jesus wherever that may be. Let us go this week with the strength of that conviction, answering that call as joyously as this magnificent spring day demands. Amen!

April Fool’s Day, outside…

 

Lily Garden

Today we worked in the garden, well the flower garden, or at least a few of the beds.  We didn’t start out there, but that is where we middled. I can’t say we ended there because the end for me is here in the blog world. I showered and came to the computer area after we were finished up outside. Well, at least I was finished. After being down and out with a sinus/head cold for a week, I was not worth much at a time today. I am thinking it will be ok to stop taking those OTC decongestants because they are making me just a little jittery. I also did a load of laundry (good skirts and shirts) and hung them on the line, oh how nice to be able to do that again. I decided today that my request for this birthday is new lines (all four spots, pulled tight and no splices) and new clothes pins, just saying.

James and Paulina and I started the day by dragging everything out of the basement at my mother’s house. I guess our April’s Fool was that no one else was available to help. And since this was our only open weekend, and with the furnace coming in at 6:30 a.m. on Monday there really wasn’t much choice on the matter. We should have done it sooner, but I don’t think it would have been such a good idea to have it sitting in the snow. It was also too icky to drag to the main floor, so it was out the cellar door with it all. Paulina picked a spider web off James when it was all finished that went from his shoulder to his ankle. She told me the spider in the back room was the size of a small tarantula. I did not go in to look. I recognized a few items as things we had left behind when we moved into our house, but the rest is well, items that my mother had packed away and put in the basement. I didn’t realize that she had so much Christmas stuff there. I still have not located the ceramic scene that I gave her of the figure skaters. I am starting to wonder if it was broken and she just never had the nerve to say anything. Oh well. Mostly it was paper boxes that need to be folded up and stuck into garbage bags. I insisted we leave it out to dry, and if anyone thinks something is theirs, I am not delivering. Mostly we will get it tossed by tomorrow night and hopefully take a drive to the dump on Monday or Tuesday at the latest. James would have tossed it all today, but I was the one who wanted to take a second look at the stuff after a day in the sun.

Solar lights are up!

After we had some lunch I figured it would be a good time to move some of the solar lights back outside. They have been in the basement and in my bedroom over the winter. Before we could put them in place, we raked all the dead leaves and pulled some of the fall grasses out of the flower beds. James got a little over zealous in my poor lily bed and a few of the new sprouts were pulled out. He heard about it more than a few times. He finally moved on and cleaned out the little pond. I did my best to clear out the rest of the lily area by hand and a bit more gently. The day lilies are quite thick so I don’t think we will be hurt in terms of blooms. This is one flower garden that probably would like a bit of compost to feel some nourishment.

We also noticed that the tulips are growing well in the old bed where they were supposedly all removed, but not coming up at all in the new bed to which they were transplanted two years ago. Imagine that! It was quite an ordeal snipping and breaking and pulling off the old stalks of holly hocks. I even managed to dig out a few of the plants, which might explain why my arms are sore. When you get those flowers started in a spot, they just keep getting bigger and thicker and almost invasive. Oh well, they are pretty and make for a very nice natural fence.

So, how did you spend your April Fool’s Day???

Foggy day, foggy sinuses

Well Monday isn’t much better in terms of the sinus/sore throat/can’t breathe situation. I woke this morning worse than Saturday, or so I felt. I was up yesterday at 5 a.m. and never did sleep until after midnight. I have been miserable since the last of the pills wore off on Saturday. I am hoping to get some today. I tried at the local pharmacy place, but not the kind I like to use and I am too stubborn to try something different.

This morning the sun was shining and the sunrise was actually fairly pretty, but when I looked outside at 9 a.m. I was shocked at what I saw. A massive fog had moved in and it was really thick, but so bright that it hurt your eyes to look at it. Actually today everything hurts my eyes, they don’t stop watering. It feels like the mucus is so tight behind my eyes that they are nearly popping out. I know this is really an appetizing and wonderful blog to read, NOT!!

I was planning to skip out on track practice today, but I am thinking if we are outside, I probably can’t germ up anyone. I am also supposed to sub tomorrow for the computer teacher, so I will try to pull it together to fulfill that obligation. I am really hoping to get a few more sub dates this spring to help reload the savings account since I found out what the synod trip is going to set us back, yikes. We will probably be doing one of those credit card roll over things which is so not advised by the money experts, but sometimes you do what you must. I just know there won’t be any crazy purchases or wild trips in our lives after this.

Enough of this wailing and gnashing of teeth. I better take a hot shower and head north. Maybe I can catch a nap in the van before practice. Sitting up seems to be the only way I can sleep. No just to make sure that I wait until the van is parked before I take the snooze. Catch you later. O, by the way the sunrise picture at the top is from a couple of weeks ago, but it was nearly that pretty early this morning, too.

The Snows have invaded!

Snow geese

Today as I was heading to track practice in Linton, I saw a plethora of birds overhead. They were geese moving from southwest to northeast. As I followed them with my eyes I looked to the side a and found the field to my right was full. It made the field look snow covered. On the way home we saw a mixture of snows and Canadians in a sunflower field hidden basically in the stubble. Oh how I wished I had brought the camera. I did manage to get the picture above on the way north. Happy Spring to you all!

Spring is here!!

Flowers on campus

I didn’t take any pictures of spring today, but a couple of weeks ago, I had to write the ministerial contribution to the local paper. It was the week after we returned from the trip to Nationals to watch Paulina. In Tennessee the flowers were blooming and I took some pictures of them, so I will share both the pictures and the story here.

Recently my youngest sister, my husband and I took a trip to Tennessee. We went to Eastern Tennessee State University in Johnson City to the National NAIA Indoor Track and Field Competition to watch our daughter participate in the weight throw. I was expecting sunshine and plenty of warm weather and so packed cropped pants and t-shirts and light jackets, we were going south, after all. Much to my surprise and chagrin, we woke the first day to snow and ice on the tarp over the outdoor pool. Of course I had not done a good job of checking out the geography of the area, and I ended up slightly chilly as a result.

We could see the Great Smoky Mountains through most of the trip. We saw them as we drove from the airport in Knoxville to Johnson City and again when we left in the airplane to return home. Sadly we never actually had the time to enter the park associated with them or do any serious touring. At least I was able to snap lots of pictures of the countryside as we drove along. Some highways were lined with trees others were walls of rock and some were ditches similar to ours with the difference being that they were filled with daffodils in bloom. Not many of the trees were sprouting leaves, but the flowers were blooming and the grass was green. It was a sure sign that spring was closer than the cool air was indicating.

This morning when I opened up my devotional booklet it instructed me to read from Isaiah 55: 10-11. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (NRSV) The words in this passage are another reminder of spring and all that God does for us in terms of providing the seasons and the conditions that allow for growth of plants and grains to give us food for the body and growth of God’s word to give us food for the soul.

As spring approaches our area, take some time to experience the wonder of God’ creation as the grass turns green, the trees show their leaves and the flowers break out in bloom, and as you do be sure to give thanks for all the blessings you have been given.

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