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.

Psalm 121: A comfort reading

Yesterday when I was all blue and crying and “back in the day.” I put up the scripture that I had read in the morning. I really should have turned to the Psalms and chapter 121. I always use this one at family services when someone has passed on. The opening verse is enough to hear. “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.” I have heard that was one of my grandmother’s favorite verses and it certainly ranks up there for me.

I should have taken a class on Psalms when I was in college, but I decided to follow my other major and do a class on Women in Sports when the Psalms thing was offered. I had taken a class on Revelation the previous January, so time to branch out. See, when I was in college we ran on an interim program during the regular semester and between semesters. It was a 2-1-2 set up. We went to regular classes for 2 days, then had a day of labs and tutoring and observing and such and then 2 more days of classes. It was great! The semester was set that we ran 4 months, then after Christmas the month of January was interim. You could come back to campus for a relaxed schedule of one class only. Each professor also had only one class, or you could find another campus that did the same thing and go there in an exchange. It was great for the runners who wanted to train in the south on the beach. At the end of January, we had a three-day break and then came back for second semester of 4 months.

This changed when I was a junior or senior because some faculty member saw it as a detriment to our studies. We also had a president who thought that Tuesday nights were nothing but parties. Well then make Wednesdays harder. Ha!! By the way, that was the same president who nearly bankrupt the college with his skimming, but that was never charged or proven, so I will say no more. No names, no school names etc… I remember because I was on student government and we probably didn’t get into trouble for some investigating that we did…. No wonder we never come together for reunions. Ha!! I also probably wasn’t threatened that I wouldn’t get a teaching certificate because they would block it because I knew about the students investigating, but didn’t tattle. Probably not, and look at me now, trying to be a pastor of a church and act all moral and such and here I was in on this sneaky thing where we tried to prove that someone was doing wrong. Hmmm. I guess that is part of life. Oh the places we go and the things we do. Still the best philosopher and writer ever is Dr. Seuss. Well, no more to say, have a good one!!

Feel better

 

This is for Victoria, but anyone who can use these words to ease their pains feel free to share.

When I was a child we had a song in Bible School and Sunday School that went like this:

Deep and Wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide…

Fountain in our yard

Fountain in our yard

The fountain above is not so deep and not so wide, but it is cool and clear (at least when we filled it) and now that the lights are in it, we see wonderful colors coming from it in the evening. One of the neighbors mentioned to Paulina at the pool how she loves looking at it from her bedroom window when she wakes during the night.

My point of choosing that song is because God’s love is deep and wide. God’s love flows to us just like a great fountain. It is deep, wide, cool and clear and the waters are healing.

Psalm 121:1-2 (My absolutely favorite verses in the Bible) say the following:

1. I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where does my help come?

2. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Two other quotations that I found that you should hear are:

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Mark Twain wrote, ” Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great.”

May the love of God that passes all understanding be with you now and evermore. Amen!

 

Retreat to our old home

On Friday, James took a personal day from school to go with me to the Clergy retreat in Eagle Butte. I don’t think he would have taken the time if it would have been any other place. It has been years since he was back there. Paulina and I were there many times while she went to school in Mobridge and I taught there.

I wish the pictures of the road would be closer to what you see with the eye, but somehow there is no way to capture that beauty with a camera. It might have helped to have a wide-angle lens or a bigger camera, but this is what we were able to nab on the way out. We were sort of in a time crunch, or so we thought, on the way in. I normally get this “Ah, home” feeling as we pop over the big hill between Trail City and Eagle Butte, but some how, I couldn’t capture it for you. Here is what we have.

The winding road.

The winding road.

The buttes as we were leaving.

The buttes as we were leaving.

A couple of horses grazing.

A couple of horses grazing.

A water hole at the bottom of the buttes.

A water hole at the bottom of the buttes.

It isn’t the same as it was in 1982 or even in 1985 when we left there. I never did the math on it, but yesterday, James’ sister, Alvina, did. It has been 30 years since we left there, a significant anniversary I think. After the retreat we drove around and took a few pictures.

The duplex we lived in, the window showing on the right was our living room.

The duplex we lived in, the window showing on the right was our living room.

The far right door was our garage.

The far right door was our garage.

We had three bedrooms in that duplex. The bathroom was quite small, but plenty for the two of us. The basement was as large as the house and had one room separated off from the rest. We mainly used that for storage. The dining room was really only a window at the back of the main living area, and the kitchen was, let’s just say, cozy. We loved it. As we drove by on Friday, we noticed there were steel fence posts in the backyard just where we had fenced off an area for a garden. Who would have thought? It wasn’t fun to see the paint peeling and such. Many of the houses in that area have not been kept up. This housing in our day was owned by the BIA, which is Bureau of Indian Affairs. Not sure if it is still that or was turned over to another agency.

We drove around town a bit more and checked out some other places. Below is the church we attended.

Front door to UCC church in Eagle Butte. The far right is Sunday School and kitchen addition. I believe there is a day care there now.

Front door to UCC church in Eagle Butte. The far right is Sunday School and kitchen addition. I believe there is a day care there now.

Corner view of the main part of the church.

Corner view of the church.

We also drove around the south part of town. It has changed quite a bit in 30 years. The school James taught at was the middle school. It housed 4-6 in his day, but now they call it the elementary. I am not sure how many grades are there. I believe the youngest are still up at the other complex. Anyway. the rounded area shows the doors he was used to entering in the morning. The first year he taught there, they were so crowded his special education room was in the boy’s locker room. The next year, he had his own classroom. I think they moved some title rooms together, so he could have a space. I don’t think they expected us to last past the first Christmas. Had they not taken the track contract away from me after the third year, I would have stayed forever.

School where James taught. It was round, with a gymnasium in the middle.

School where James taught. It was round, with a gymnasium in the middle.

Not much left to say. The retreat was really centered around some conversations we have been having with our Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ in South Dakota. For some reason, the conference ended up owning the land that their churches were on, even though tribal members had donated the land originally. Who understands what was done in the name of religion years ago? We have a hard enough time understanding what we do in that name today. The lands have all been given back, thanks to some recent actions, and now we are working on changing our attitudes towards each other, and figuring how we can better work together.

The late afternoon was also spent discussing suicide. No real answers were reached. I am not sure there are answers. We are just going to try to figure out how to do a better job of reaching out to those in need both family and those potentially at risk. I hate to leave this post in a downer tone. A verse that comes to mind right now is Psalm 121: 1 “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.”

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