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.

Message July 30

The scriptures were: Romans 8:26-39 and Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. It was another week of parables about planting, so my title was, “Another Sowing Parable.”

Before we get started, I need to apologize for failing to tell you last Sunday that I was planning to be out of town all week. I went with James, this year, to the coaches’ clinic in Bismarck. There was a session on a new piece of technology and he wanted me there to get the information on it. It was good, and there were lots of interesting sessions, but I hope that I will not have to go away overnight again this summer. I am good with staying home and getting things done around here and around home.

Our sessions included information about coaching ethics and philosophy and not just specific techniques, which was interesting for a change. One of our final presenters, a coach from Billings, MT, who did three of the four last hours, gave us his dilemma of walking into a team with absolutely no discipline. It seemed that for many years prior to his coming to West Billings High School, no one cared about the track team, as in no one—not administration, not parents and especially not students or even the track athletes.

After he took the job, he found out that they really were at the bottom of the proverbial sports’ totem pole in their school. The first thing he learned was that they didn’t have a budget, so no equipment purchases and don’t think about purchasing any other sort of things like meals for the meets. He fixed that with a fund raiser. On one of the first bus rides to a meet one of the athletes asked who would be next year’s coach. It was then he learned that before him no one coached there for more than one year, and because of it the athletes did whatever they wanted. In fact, everyone kept telling him not to get worked up because it was “just track.” I don’t think the schools of Eureka or Herreid would understand that idea. We have never been like that.

His point was that discipline and expectations are very important to building a program that will be successful, and then that success carries itself. He decided early on in his time there that he wasn’t going to be there for only one year, and that he wanted to build something that the student athletes were going to buy into and something they would work as hard at as he would.

He was asked to speak at the clinic because he has had a team win the Montana State AA title for 7 of the 12 years that he has been there. And on the other years, they were pretty much second or third. I forgot to write down how many times they have been 2nd or 3rd.

I think his belief that children need discipline and need to buy into a program has done wonders for their teams. Lately, the more news I watch and the more I pay attention to certain local politics, the more I realize how important discipline and following some sort of rules would be good for all of us. Enough said on that.

The reading that we had in Romans today, at least the ending part, might seem familiar to us. I am sort of hoping that it becomes less and less familiar to us, but … Those words are found in our bulletins when we have a funeral. The last verses of Romans 8 are the final part of that affirmation of faith that we read together following our funeral messages, before the final song and benediction. As a public affirmation, we read these words and if we believe, really believe what we are reading, we are telling everyone around us that we have bought into the message that Jesus brought to earth from God, which is that we are loved and accepted and wanted. We have importance. We are children of God and nothing will keep us away from his love, his acceptance, his family.

But what about the words we keep reading in the 13th chapter of Matthew? What about those parables about sowing and plants growing and good seed and bad seed? What about that idea that on the last day, the weeds will be torn from the good grain and sent to the fire to be burned. One of the commentaries that I read last week said that was a much easier concept for the people of our frontier to grasp than it is for us. If any of you have read the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you might remember the book called, The Long Winter. In it we read how they were out of fuel in the middle of that winter during a horrible blizzard, and they went to the barn and kept twisting hay and putting it into the wood burning stove to keep themselves from freezing. Having some extra weeds around to burn would have been a great luxury in those days.

So who are these weeds and who are these seeds that grow up to be the good crop? How does this difference happen? In today’s gospel lesson the parable is about a useless seed, a little tiny mustard seed that in the days of Jesus had no purpose, yet it grows up to be something of great importance that houses many of the birds of the air. It seems to be telling us that even what we think is nothing can become something. It seems to be saying that the least of these are important. Could it be telling us that we too are important? Could it be saying that even if we feel mostly inadequate, we are somebody in the eyes of God? Maybe we are supposed to connect them to other Bible stories of how the last will become first and the first will become last? Perhaps that is something for us to study in our age of importance and entitlement.

But what about the rest of the parables, those little incidental phrases near the end of this passage? The themes of those seem to be that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure that is worth more than anything else we could ever have or ever want. Jesus is telling us that no matter what we have or want to have on this earth, nothing can ever compare to what we can have in the kingdom of heaven, in God’s kingdom. And the underlying message of that is sort of the opposite, the converse. It is the idea that we should strive for what we gain in the kingdom of heaven, not what we gain in this kingdom. In other words, what we do here—on this earth—should be in an effort to build up mansions in the great beyond, not mansions on this earth where things don’t last. We need to be buying into the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom on earth. Sort of gives you a different perspective on saving for retirement. Perhaps this is a different kind of 401K.

And what about the things we talked about a few weeks ago when I said, and I saw some of you agreeing, that we need to be about more than just sitting around waiting for the day when we join the kingdom of heaven?  Yes, we do need to be about more as a congregation and as individual Christians; we need to be active in spreading the gospel and loving our neighbors and caring for the world around us, “A Just World for All” and all of that stuff, but just doing that doesn’t make or break it in terms of getting us to the kingdom of God. We can’t ‘good works’ our way in, we can’t buy our way in, we can’t sing or teach or preach our way in, we all know that.

Paul in Romans 8:38-39 says there is nothing, nothing at all that can keep us apart from the love of God. Then how is it that there still are weeds that get pulled away from the good crops and thrown into the final fire? The fact is, there is nothing outside of ourselves that can keep us from God. It is what is on the inside that determines where we go on the day of dividing. It is what we believe, where our faith lies that makes the difference for us when our time here is over. All God asks is that we believe, that we believe in him, in his Son and accept the Holy Spirit into our lives to guide us and help us through all that we face. Will we be perfect at all times, of course not, we are human. But by following the words of Jesus, who says, “we are to love God with all our heart and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.” If we do that then when our day comes, nothing will be able to keep us from that love that God offers us, which means on that day, that wonderful day; we will see Christ in Paradise.  And, as long as we can buy into that faith—that wonderful faith in Christ, I don’t think there is anything we can’t accomplish. Amen!

Message the Sunday following the State Track Meet

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

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

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

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

The entire group heading to state.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season Over

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

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

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

Parade of Athletes on Friday morning.

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

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

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

Another season is nearly over

Girls’ team at the end of the regional.

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

washing the uniforms

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

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

May track updates

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

Shot put

Getting award for 3rd in Hammer.

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

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

Sick Day, uck!!!

Every year at this time, or near this time, I end up down for the count. Today was the day. It could have been Monday or even Sunday afternoon, but no, it had to be Saturday morning as we were getting ready to head out the door for the State Indoor Class B Track and Field Meet. It technically is not a State meet, but it is open to any Class B teams and hosted by NDSU. We didn’t used to go, but lately James is trying to push some of his athletes a bit harder.

Breakfast for the sickee

At any rate this morning when we were packing up to leave, I just couldn’t do it. My throat felt like someone was pulling a rake up and down it, and my head was about to explode. As I was digging in my track bag from last year, I found an elastic pony tail holder and two of the decongestants that I normally use for these bouts. I downed them with my orange juice and headed to bed as James went over to pick up Kathy and head to the meet. Actually, as you can see from the picture to the side, I took a little breakfast with me to the upstairs area and watched a bit of tv before nodding off. The oranges were those I would have taken to the meet. O, well! Roger was more than happy to curl up beside me and know that she wouldn’t be home alone today.

When I woke at noon, I felt human again, but since the decongestant has worn off, not so much. I took a second dose hoping it will help, but I am a bit afraid of tonight and tomorrow since there is no more in the house, and I don’t really feel like going out to get any more. Well this is all for today. I have been monitoring the track meet and Jaxon’s wrestling from the computer. Looks like the poor little guy should have stayed in bed, too. Victoria called to say he had a positive strep earlier this week. Sounds like she is her mother’s daughter. She went to play basketball in a YMCA tourney the week we finally realized her back and stomach problems were not normal growing issues, but a bit of something called Crone’s Disease. Yikes what we don’t do for sports. Actually as for today, I only stayed home to protect the others from getting sick, and to make sure I could get up tomorrow and get to church. We have had enough Sunday’s off in the past few weeks.

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