Friday, October 13, 2017

NOTE TO URBANA YOKE PARISH:  I wrote this and had it set to post before hearing Pastor Larry use this poem last Sunday.  I guess we both have good taste in poetry.


The Road Not Taken (1916) 
by 
Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This has been a favorite poem of millions and millions of people.  Apparently, one of the most googled poems.  I learned this poem in school, an extreme number of years before google.

In July, when on vacation, we drove by a church in Bennington, Vermont.  Hubby is used to me saying, “Oh, look at that church.  Let’s stop.”  Stop we did.  The First Congregational Church was beautiful inside and out, but what fascinated me was the cemetery. 







And then there it was.

The grave of Robert Lee Frost.

Immediately a poem I had not thought about in years tumbled into my mind.  For the rest of the trip, every time I saw a lane or path my mind thought about roads not taken.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:11

God does have a path for each of us.  It is a joy when God is on the path with us.  It will be a pleasure when our path leads to eternity.




God has a path for each of us.  And we do not walk that path alone.

Friday, October 06, 2017

SPEAK     BREATHE

Ready?

Think of something you would like.  Got it?

Say it out loud. 

Is it there?  Did you get it?  No?  Maybe you did not say it just right.  Or you were not forceful enough.

Let’s try again.  Maybe something a bit smaller than last time.  Ready?

Think of something you would like. 

Say it out loud.

Is it there?  Gee, I thought it would happen this time.

Since that did not work, let’s try something else.

Ready?

Breathe in.  A deep breath.  Exhale.

Breathe in.  A very deep breath.  Blow out as hard as you can.

What happened?

Nothing?  Really?  You must not have followed directions.

Well, try again.  Breathe in.  Exhale!

What happened?  Nothing again?  Surely your breath caused a change in the world somehow.  Oh my.

God said, “Let there be
  • Light
  • Firmament
  • Waters
  • Grass, seeds, trees
  • The sun, moon and stars
  • Creatures in the ocean, on the land and in the air
  • Man              Genesis 1

The Mighty One, God, the Lordspeaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.  Psalm 50:1

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Genesis 2:7

The breath of God produces ice,    and the broad waters become frozen. Job 37:10

But the time will come when the Anarchist will no longer be held back, but will be let loose. But don’t worry. The Master Jesus will be right on his heels and blow him away. The Master appears and—puff!—the Anarchist is out of there.  2 Thessalonians 2:8  The Message

Let’s recap –

We can speak – ask for something to appear, maybe a car or a new refrigerator or even a toothpick – and nothing happens.

God speaks and – oh my goodness – the world is created, complete with lights and animals and us.  God speaks and summons the earth day in and day out. 

We can breathe out a deep breath and the world does not change.

God breathed into Adam’s nostrils and – oh my goodness – we breathe.  God’s breath produces ice.  Jesus took a deep breath and blew the Anarchist away.

Our power to speak or breathe water to ice or something into or out of existence:  Cannot do

God’s power to speak or breathe water to ice or something into or out of existence:  Can do


Question:  Why do we try to do life on our own instead of using the power of God?

Friday, September 29, 2017

If you are reading this around 8:20 AM, I will be giving the message at a local retirement home.  They have chapel and invite guests to speak and I enjoy doing this three or four times a year.  Today I am speaking on Elizabeth.  It would be a long blog if I copied the whole talk, so I would like to give you some of the highlights.  Cliff notes – and hopefully they will make you want to read this mother’s story taken from Luke 1 and Matthew 3.

ELIZABETH
FROM A NORMAL DAY TO I BET SHE DID NOT SEE THAT COMING

Zachariah and Elizabeth were quite elderly and they had never been blessed with a child.  Although she would have reconciled herself to never having a child, I bet, in the early morning, when she heard the children laughing and playing, her heart would ache.  I bet, when a new baby was named, her arms felt empty.  I am sure, even being obedient to God, Elizabeth often wondered, “Why?” 

It was Zachariah’s turn to enter the altar of incense.  With over 8,000 priests, this honor would only happen once, at the most twice, in any priest’s lifetime.  Zachariah was performing his duties, when an angel appeared and told Zachariah, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  …………  to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

It was then Zachariah blew it.  My goodness, that silly man questioned an angel of God

The angel said to him, (Before you read this next part, use your imagination, picture the angel standing there.  Now, in your imagination, have the angel develop an attitude.  Standing very tall, an annoyed look on his face.  Maybe even, a finger now pointing toward poor Zachariah, who has realized he should have kept quiet.)  The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” 

I can picture Zachariah walking home.  Trying to sort it all out.  Knowing he had to tell Elizabeth.  But how? 

I can picture Elizabeth quietly watching as her husband tried to explain why he couldn’t talk, that they were going to become parents and the baby was going to be a boy.  Then, I think, she turned a cartwheel.

Elizabeth did become pregnant and was enjoying the normal life of a pregnant woman when one day, she heard a greeting. 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed:  “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  

Zachariah and Elizabeth became the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy.  They named him John.

I am sure, even being obedient to God, Elizabeth often wondered, “Why?” 

Why?  Oh…the child born to Zachariah and Elizabeth was the one needed.  Elizabeth was to give birth to the one that would prepare the way. 

For the Lord’s hand was with John.
Then John consented and baptized Jesus.
===========================================================

I love Elizabeth.  She has so much to teach each of us.

SHE  WAS  ACCEPTANING  OF  GOD’S  PLAN
With grace and righteousness and obedience, she accepted her lot of an empty womb.  Under the condemning stares of pregnant women, she obeyed even the ordinances of God. 

SHE  WAS  LOVING  AND  COMPASSIONATE
With open arms, an understanding heart and love, she comforted her husband when he came home and gave her the message from the angel. 

SHE  TRUSTED  AND  SHE  WAITED
She trusted God.  Getting pregnant, at her age, had to be a miracle.  And she waited.  She waited nine months.  And after waiting a lifetime, I can imagine those nine months were a time of joy and celebration and dreams fulfilled.

SHE  WAS  NOT  JEALOUS
When Mary came to visit, she did not shout, “For goodness sakes.  I am the daughter of a priest.  The wife of a priest.  I am married.  Why am I not carrying the Lord’s child?”  No!  She honored Mary and called the baby blessed.

SHE  WAS  STRONG – SHE  GAVE  BIRTH
At Elizabeth’s age the delivery would not have been easy.  She had to be strong.

SHE  WAS  HUMBLE
Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and told everyone what this child would do.  Elizabeth quietly held her child.  She became a mother.


Friday, September 22, 2017

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? 

In high school, I took two years of Latin and two years of Russian.  Not exactly sure why but I remember something about how Latin would help me understand the root of words.  Et tu Brute is not exactly a phrase I can work into everyday conversation and that is the one phrase of Latin I remember.  Russian, you wonder.  What I really wanted to learn was French so I could be an international airline stewardess, but our school did not offer French.  Russian would have to do.  It was interesting and my grades were -- not going there!! 

Thinking back on trying to learn Latin and Russian, makes me feel sorry for anyone trying to learn English.  Talk about confusing. 




How can these both be Hens and Chickens?

How would you use these words in a sentence?
            Live                       Resume                       Desert                          Produce                            

If you only heard these words, would you know how to use the word?
            Flour/Flower         To/Two/Too                Eight/Ate                    Knight/Night

Yes, the meaning of English words can be very confusing.  So can words in the Bible.

            Mercy                    Forgiveness                 Faith                            Sanctification
            Peace                     Baptism                       Communion                Grace

How do we learn the difference between Hens and Chickens the plant and Hens and Chickens the animals?  We read.  We study. 

How do we know the difference between flour and flower?  Eight and ate?  We read.  We study.

How do we learn the meaning of words such as mercy, grace, faith, and forgiveness?  We read.  We study.

Once we take the time to study, for more than two minutes, we will know what these words mean too.

Here are some websites I use to find the meaning of words in the Bible, answers to a gazillion questions and two that help when I have questions on the Jewish faith.

Online Bible:                                                         www.biblegateway.com
General questions:                                                 www.gotquestions.org
Bible commentaries:                                              www.studylight.org
Study help                                                             www.biblestudytools.com

For questions on the Jewish faith:                        www.torah.org
                                                                              www.jewfaq.org

I hope these help you when you are trying to find the meaning of a word.  Or you have a question.  Or you want to dig a bit deeper. 


Celebrate each and every day.

Friday, September 15, 2017

TWO COPPER COINS

They spent time getting dressed.  Picking out their best robe.  After all, they wanted to be seen.  How great it was to walk into the temple and be treated with respect.  Just last night they had the best seat at a banquet.  And today they would be in the most important seats in the synagogue.  They were prepared to offer long prayers that would make people take notice.  It was unimportant that they had taken a few houses away from widows.  They were the teachers of the law

She looked at the tattered edges.  But her clothes were clean.  Besides, who would notice her?  Only a widow.  That is what she was:  a widow.  If she hurried she would be in the woman’s court early and she could slip in quietly.  She could drop her money --- money?  It was not even enough to be called money.  What use were two copper coins?  She hesitated and wondered if she could, just this once, miss temple.  She decided if she looked at the floor she would not see the disgust in the eyes of those who judge what she put in.  Slowly, she closed the door, entered the street and became invisible.

Jesus sat opposite the temple treasury as the rich put in large amounts.  He watched as the teachers of the law made their way to their seats.  Then he saw her.  Bent over, trying to melt into the floor.  She approached the treasury, wearing the best she had.  Quickly she dropped two copper coins into the treasury.  Quickly so no one would notice how little she gave.



We know very little about the widow in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4.  Only four verses.  But I can picture the whole scene.  It is as if I am watching it unfold in front of my eyes.

Jesus is in the middle.  Calmly watching the people.  The disciples are off in the corner discussing yesterday’s activities.  The teachers of the law are making a grand entrance.  Others, the rich and the not so rich, are mingling and dropping their money in the treasury as they head to the different areas of the temple. 

It is then the widow enters.  Looking around she realizes she did not get there early.  She will not walk in alone.  She will be seen.  She will have to drop her coins in … she will have to drop her coins in and they will all see there are only two copper coins.  Only two.

The disciples hear Jesus calling them and they go to him.  Jesus tells them about the widow.  Jesus tells them about her extravagant gift.  Jesus tells them…

These verses on the widow’s offering are used often.  It is used to encourage us to be generous givers.  To give out of love and not show.

BUT –

I see this in a different light.  JESUS SAW HER!!!

The life of a widow was hard.  (The story of Ruth is a big exception to the life of most widows.)  She would not have inherited an estate.  Maybe a small settlement to help with expenses, but that would not have lasted long.  She had no way to support herself and had to be dependent on her son(s) or the generosity of the community.  She could only take the leftovers from the fields.  She could not easily remarry.  She would be invisible so people would not feel guilty about her poverty. 

Invisible!  But JESUS SAW HER. 

In her poverty.  In her tattered clothing.  In her humility of only putting in two coins.  JESUS SAW HER.

In that instant, Jesus saw her humble heart.  He saw her struggles.  In that instant, she was not invisible.

I wish Luke and Mark had told the rest of the story because I do not think it ended with Jesus pointing out this woman to his disciples.  I think Jesus approached the widow.  I think Jesus gently held her hands.  I think Jesus assured her that she was not invisible.  I think Jesus assured her that she was valued and loved.


And he assures us of exactly the same things.  JESUS SAW HER.  JESUS SEES YOU.

Friday, September 08, 2017

CHANGING SEASONS

As I look out the window, things are changing.  The leaves now look a dusty green.  Some leaves are beginning to turn various shades of red and orange.  It is dark when I wake up.  (Hate that!)  But, at least it is dark when I go to bed.  I do believe fall is fast approaching.

The posts on Facebook range from “Yes, fall is almost here!” to “Oh no.  Summer is almost over.”  I am sure our daughter is saying, “Winter will soon be here.”  Funny how we have a favorite season.  A favorite holiday.  A favorite sport and team.  A favorite …..

Now, I am not sure how this went from changing seasons to favorites, but that is the way my mind works sometimes.  (I heard a few snickers out there about how my mind works.)  We do have favorites and it is a good thing.  Think about it.  How boring would life be if we were all alike?  Wow – I would have no one to argue with.  Everyone would think just like me.

What if we all liked the same color?  Boring!  Besides, the fashion industry would be in big trouble.  What if there was only one genre of books?  I would hate not being able to read a mystery and then a romance.  What if we could all sing on key?  There would be a really big choir with no one listening. 

What if we never changed?  Oh?  Back to change now?

God did not create this world to be the same, day in and day out.  He created this world with change built in.  Now that is planning ahead!  He created us to change also.  We are not to stay children.  We are to grow and learn.  Our lives have seasons.  The Bible tells us this in Ecclesiastics:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Spring.  Fall.  Winter.  Summer.       Seasons.  Change.  Change.  Change.

Birth.  Death.  Planting.  Harvest.  Weeping.  Laughing.  Keeping.  Throwing away.  War.  Peace.       Seasons.  Change.  Change.  Change.

Part of the problem is we do not like things to change.  Let it stay fall.  Only the old hymns.  I do not want to get old.  My children are leaving home. 

Part of the problem is we fear change.  What will I do in the winter?  But that song was written last year.  What will happen next to my body?  I cannot know what my children are doing.

All around you, there is change.  Never fear.  Not everything changes. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”  Revelation 1:8


As I look at my life, things are changing.  But with an unchanging God as my guide, I can handle it.


Friday, September 01, 2017

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Hubby and I walked through a National Cemetery.  It was very moving.  We felt humbled that so many served to preserve our freedom and defend freedom around the world.  As we looked around, we saw row after row after row of white stones. 

 
Each stone had a name and rank.  Each stone represented a time in that person’s life when they were willing to leave their family to defend freedom.  


Along the back, a wall contained the remains of those who chose cremation.  Again, a sober reminder that service to our country comes with a price. 

Earlier, on our trip, we had seen a monument to “the glorious memory of our native sons who paid the supreme sacrifice” and “also in everlasting gratitude to those who daring to die, survived.”  Those words came back to me as we saw dates that indicated some died in battle and some died many years later.

As we were walking to another section, I saw them.  Here – in this place of honor.  What were they doing here?  As they came closer, I knew my first impression was correct.  As they came closer, it was even worse than I thought!

They looked 19 – 22 years old.  She had pink hair.  Not a soft pink used as an accent.  Bright pink!  And the clothes she had on.  Really!  Talk about not being respectful.  The piercings did not help.  He had on baggy pants, but to his credit, his underwear was not showing.  Of course there was a chain from a belt loop going to somewhere that made no sense.  Punky hair and things stuck in each ear and his nose.  His nose.  Then they were beside me.  Then they spoke.

Looking at me with genuine eyes, he said, “We love to walk here.  It is so peaceful and such an honor to realize they served for us.”

And with that, they walked on down the path.  And with that, I apologized to God for judging these two fine young people.

{ { { { {  } } } } }

Every sports page.  Every sports show.  Every sports report – we hear:  Colin Kaepernick kneels during National Anthem.  It has become an epidemic.  You would think no one stands for the National Anthem.  You would think no one shows respect.  You would think ….

Let me tell you:  THAT IS NOT TRUE!!  Just last week we were at the Half Century of Progress when the American Flag was raised and the National Anthem sung.  When it was announced that it was time to raise the flag, every golf cart, ATV and electric cart of any kind was immediately turned off.  All conversation stopped.  Seed corn hats were removed.  This farm show spreads over 400 acres and the only sound you could hear were the first notes of the National Anthem.


120’ X 65’ flag flying high between two cranes

A football player making gazillions might not respect the country that gives him the opportunity to throw a ball around but those that get their hands dirty in the soil sure do.  One football player makes the news.  Thousands of quiet farmers do not. 

{ { { { {  } } } } }

It seems we all trust our first impressions.  We know we are right.  But are we?