Today is a special day in the Church that is called All Saints Day. It is a time when we remember the faithful who have gone before us throughout the generations. Our Catholic brothers and sisters remember those very special people whom they have named as saints - many were martyrs who died for their faith. In the protestant church, we do acknowledge those special people, but we also remember all those who lived their lives dedicated to Christ and to His Church.
Last night - on Halloween - we were at our church, which is right on the main street of Holly, MI and we always enjoy welcoming the cute little trick or treaters who come in for candy, popcorn and cider. We offer a warm resting place and bathroom break as well. They can sit down and color and parents can visit while they rest. It is a highlight of the year for us at Holly Presbyterian Church.
Halloween is also known by the Church as All Hallows Eve. It reminds me a little of Fat Tuesday that comes just before Ash Wednesday. You know, where everyone pigs out before they start a fast for Lent? All Hallows Eve is a time for letting the spooks and spirits come out before they are hushed and hidden away by the honor and glory of the saints in Christ. Of course, the majority of our little spooks are totally harmless. Although that isn't always the case.
I will never forget the Halloween night when I was around the age of 10. We had been trick or treating all evening and our final stop was at my grandparents house. My grandmother always sat in a rocker in a certain place in front of the windows of the living room. My grandfather usually sat in another rocker on the other side of the room but this particular night, he was sitting on the couch, always ready to get up for the little spooks who came to the door. My grandparents enjoyed seeing the little ones in their costumes so much.
That night, however, they narrowly escaped being hit in the head by a big rock that was thrown so hard and fast, it went through the window, buzzed past both their heads and skidded across the hardwood floor in the next room, that was their bedroom. When we arrived they were, of course, visibly shook up as they saw the force of that rock and realized how close they came to being seriously injured or killed.
I like to think that people, in general, are good and caring, but we know from our own experiences or simply from watching the news that are truly are people in the world who do not value human life, who have a desire to harm or at least do not think about the harm they can cause.
Truth is, many of those saints we honor today, died at the hands of people who were hateful and mean-spirited and who cared nothing for life., They persevered and were faithful to the end. My own ancestors came to America, fleeing persecution because of their faith as Mennonites. They were buried alive simply because of their beliefs. I consider them as some of the saints I remember and honor.
Today, let us give thanks as we hold in our memories the many friends and relatives who were faithful Christians, who influenced us in the faith and who held fast to their beliefs even at times when they were challenged or persecuted.
Thank you, Gracious Lord, for all the saints who from their labors rest. Amen.
This morning I am writing here for the first time in quite a while. We have cancelled worship today because, on April 15th - today, we have ice on the roads and are still in a winter storm warning until noon. It's the middle of April and we are still not seeing spring!
I guess if we have to stay home, this is a good time to stop procrastinating and write something. I was reading my profile that says how I love to write. I do love to write. So why do I put it off for so long?
I think it could be the same as anything that I want to do well. I want to look my best so I try on numerous things before I'm satisfied. Sort of. I put off writing my sermon, painting a picture, throwing clay on the wheel, playing the piano, etc.
Procrastination might be a symptom of perfectionism, I'm thinking. It can be hard to get started because I want to know without a doubt what I'm going to do, how it's going to look and until I have that image, I keep waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Until so much time has gone by. And if it is something with a deadline - like a weekly sermon - then I'm finally writing under pressure. I know a lot of clergy that do that. But it's not a comfortable thing. It's just a thing.
Call it an artists block, writers block, sign of perfectionism - whatever. It feels a lot like the winter in April we have today. It's difficult to vision the beauty of spring when there is ice and snow still out there. The trees are as bare as my imagination. And yet, here I am, finally writing something - because it's a winter day and we had to cancel church.
I had a professor once say about sermon writing: 'Sometimes you just have to start. Sometimes, the sermon writes you.'
So I'm going to try to commit to writing here three times a week. You may not find it interesting and it may be a lot of nothing, but write I will! Until it writes me!
So winter .... bring it on!
On the wall above the desk where I write are several pictures that have meaning to me. One is of me at Easter when I was five years old. I am smiling and wearing a fancy Easter dress with lacy socks and black patent shoes. I looked very confident in my beautiful little self on that day.
The other picture is when I was ten years old. It was December, and I sang my first solo in church – “There’s a Song in the Air.” In the picture, I’m smiling, but my smile isn’t very big or confident. My face is now round and chubby and I can see in my eyes that I don’t think I’m very pretty. This breaks my heart when I look at this picture. Part of me wants to hide it away and forget the pain of not feeling good about my young little self. This was the time when the teasing started with other kids. It was the time when dieting became a part of my life, when the obsession with food and my skewed body image would be a huge part of the rest of my life. Many years later, I look at that picture and I still know that little girl so well.
So why do I keep that on my wall as a reminder of how I felt so long ago? I mean, I have come a long, long way, right? I’m a mom and a Gram. I’m a pastor. I’m pretty sure of myself today. But there is always a sense of that little girl living in me and I feel a need to honor her and to love her. I want to remember her; to assure her that she was as valued then as I know I am now.
It’s true that the past does not define us, but it does play a big part in who we grow into. The 10-year- old me might not have been very confident, but she was kind and talented; she cared for others, even those who hurt her. She also had a developing faith and belief that God loved her and had a plan for her life.
I have this challenge to allow the past to be part of the present in a significant, meaningful way. There are things in my past that I would prefer to bury, yet they are all part of what makes me ME today. Sometimes I forget how important it is to embrace every part of my life and to stand on the promise that the Apostle Paul makes in Romans 8 – that God works all things together for good for those who love Him.
Do you have memories that cause pain? Memories that you would like to shove deep down inside? How about honoring them as a significant part of who you are? Don’t they make up the compassionate, understanding, sensitive, brave person you are today?
Recently, I went to my daughter, Annie’s house, to stay with my grandchildren while Annie and her husband were going to be out of town for a week. When I arrived on a Thursday night, the internet was working fine. I was able to connect with their WiFi and was all set. It was important to me to be able to be on the internet because I would need to be working while I was there. I am a pastor and it was the week before Holy Week. I would be there until the evening before Maundy Thursday. I needed to be able to connect with our church secretary as well as other people and places. Annie’s home is in the country and without internet, I have no way of connecting to do my work.
Later that evening the internet went out. It was out every time I checked in the night. The next morning I saw Annie and Eric off and checked the internet. Still out. So I did what my internet company always tell me to do. I unplugged everything. I waited an appropriate amount of time and plugged it all back in. I first did it in the computer room and nothing happened. Then I went to the living room to the box beside the television. I pulled that router out from where it was wedged in, looked carefully where each cord went before disconnecting them. I waited a little time and then connected all the cords back up. This time, where there had been power, there was none. No light came on. Nothing. I was baffled. I traced all the cords to where I could to see if there was something loose but I had no luck. All day, on Friday, I had no internet and it was frustrating. That evening we left to come to my house for the weekend so I could lead worship. On Sunday, we returned to Annie’s house and still, we had no internet.
Annie called her internet/cable company and they suggested I call and have a technician walk me through. So, I did and we talked and he had me try numerous things. Finally, he said, “just unplug everything again and let’s start over. So, I started doing that. I disconnected the two top cords which were like phone jacks. Then I started on the bottom cable. “It’s screwed on kind of tight,” I said. He said, “What? That power cord doesn’t screw on. That cord should just plug into a place in the back.”
Well yes. There was a three-pronged place for a power cord. What I was unscrewing was the cable that went to the television. So, then I realized there must be another cord that I did not see. I started looking and lo and behold, there in the back of the entertainment center just about to slip through the hole where all the cords went to connect to the wall or somewhere else, was the power cord to the wireless router. Apparently when I pulled out the router to look at where each cord went, that power cord unplugged and was gone before I ever saw it. I felt ridiculous but was thankful we figured out the problem. We were not going to ever get power without plugging in to the source of power – the electrical outlet.
So, here’s what I’ve been thinking, once I got over the initial embarrassment of realizing I was looking at the wrong cords. I think we humans tend to be this way far too often. We try and try to have the power on our own to accomplish something. We work so hard on it and we are determined to find the energy and the ability to get it working. And when it is lacking, when it seems there is no real power, we search in all the wrong places to figure out what is going on. We look to ourselves first, trying to see if we are missing something. We give ourselves a pep talk. We look at all our knowledge and skills and wonder why it isn’t enough.
Then, we look at the environment and we try to create scenarios where there might be a problem and how we might solve it. But all the time, we just need to plug in to the power source.
The Holy Spirit is, of course, the source of power for us who are believers. In John 20 we read of the time when the risen Lord Jesus appears to the disciples for a second time, this time to Thomas who had doubted that the others had seen Jesus alive before. John says Jesus breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would not have had the energy, or the motivation, or the courage to do what they had to do for the sake of the gospel. They became “plugged in” to the power source – the Holy Spirit.
Regardless of how much you might look in the wrong places and how foolish you might feel once you realize your search has been futile, just come to the place where you can admit that the only power source you need is in one place. That place is where the Holy Spirit is. That place can be in you, if you just plug in. Not to any other source. Just to the source of power. The mighty power of God, given to us in the Holy Spirit. Breathed into us by Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Savior. Amen.
This week (Holy Week) I'm working at my daughter's house so I can take care of my grandkids while their parents are away on a trip. I'm happy to be here so they can do this. I'm accomplishing quite a bit as I have quiet time during the day.
One thing I did not expect to do, however, is to take care of the livestock. My daughter and family live in the country and have goats and chickens. And one mean rooster.
So I was expecting to take care of the kids. But was surprised to hear that I was taking care of the other "kids." Although, really, how difficult can it be to go get goat feed and put it out in the pen for the goats. "You don't have to feed the chickens," said my son-in-law. "They will have enough food. The rooster will attack you if you go out there." I was relieved.
Thing is, the rooster and all the chickens get out every day. So, he's pretty hard to avoid. I knew I could be in trouble yesterday when I went to feed the goats and the rooster was inside the fence with them. I was armed with the bat I was told to take with me. "Don't let him see you are afraid of him," said my daughter. So I said to him, "I'm in control here." And I hit the fence post with the bat. Mr. Rooster didn't flinch. Instead he charged the fence. I said, "Oh no you don't." And hit the fence again. He charged it again and I walked as fast as I could back to the house. Like a boss.
Well, this morning when I looked out I saw that the goats were out of their pen, I texted my daughter to tell her that I wasn't going to deal with that. But she and my son-in-law twisted my arm telling me it was important that the goats not wander next door and eat the cattle food of the neighbors due to how expensive it was. "Just hit that rooster with the bat a couple of times and he'll back off." they said. "And don't show him you're afraid." Mmm hmm. "Put on Eric's work boots so if he attacks you he will just peck at the boots. He can't get any higher," they assured me. (I wasn't really very assured.)
Do you know how difficult it is to run with heavy mud boots that are way too big for you? It's actually impossible! I had the goats trying to eat the chicken food and the rooster comes up behind me and starts giving me you know what. I swung the bat at him and singed his neck. He flapped his wings and came at me. I looked him in the eye - sort of, although it's hard to tell if a rooster is looking at you or not - and I screamed at him and swung again. It was like he was taking his stance and waiting for the next swing. And up he came ready to charge, wings flapping and he started crowing. After about five swings, he strutted off acting like he had won the battle. My heart was racing and I felt weak but I knew who had really won. As scared as I was, I didn't back down. I faced the demon and fought a good fight. I got the goats back in the pen where they belonged and got inside the house without a scratch. And collapsed, shaking and weak. But I did it!
So I keep thinking about other demons in our lives. What are the things that keep us in fear? What is it that keeps me from stepping out and doing the brave, courageous things in life that I know needs to be done? Is it fear of what others will think if I express my opinion or do something I feel passionate about? Is it a fear of looking ridiculous? Or of losing friends? Is it a feeling of failure before I even try? (As in writing a blog and letting people read it?)
What are your demons that keep you inside instead of stepping out in faith? Is it a voice from the past or your inner voice saying you aren't good enough, smart enough, capable enough? I wanted to stay in the house. I insisted I couldn't face that rooster. But with some encouragement (or call it coercion) I went ahead and did it and whether the rooster thought he won or not, I accomplished what I needed to do and survived. I have to admit, I'm not looking forward to going out to feed the goats tomorrow. But I will and I will face that devil again and I will be okay.
And so will you. Go face that demon and do what you are called to do! He might crow and act like a big shot in the coop but it's just a rooster, for gosh sakes. You are stronger than that!
P.S. I tried to get a picture of the rooster but I couldn't get a good shot without getting close to him and - well - I didn't think a picture was that important.
When I was growing up the fourth of July was a big celebration with our family. Mom would be up really early, mixing up blueberry pancakes and frying bacon. We always had family and friends there for great food, swimming in the pond and of course the fireworks.
My mother was an only child so having six children was a big deal for her. And being surrounded by lots of family and many friends from the church and the neighborhood was something she (and all of us) looked forward to.
There are many memories I have. Some are the times when I was still at home, and others are from my young adulthood … a mother myself. In those later days, we would gather at the cabin that my parents built after I was married. It was on the land by the pond that we had already enjoyed swimming in. Friends would come and set up tents, bringing food and games to play. One of our friends was a Boy Scout leader who would bake a cake in a hole he dug in the ground.
My husband makes fun of how we called the fireworks at night “Night Works” but that was just what we called them. They were what we saw at night. The others were set off in the daytime.
I miss my family and those great times even more on the Fourth of July than I do at Christmas, or any other time of the year. My mom passed away in 2004 and it seems our family gatherings dwindled away after that. Now my siblings and I all have our own children and grandchildren and some of us manage to get together, although this year, we are many miles away from our children – both Fred’s and mine. My daughter, who is closest, is off camping with her family and some friends, which is wonderful.
So, I am here today, enjoying the memories we have had. I am not feeling sorry for myself at all but am just remembering with smiles and I’m looking forward to being with some friends this evening. I wrote this silly little poem a couple of years ago when I was missing my family on the Fourth of July and I thought I would share it here today. Here it is:
Memories of The 4th of July
For my Family
I sit on the deck admiring the clear, blue sky
Thinking of memories on this 4th of July
Of blueberry pancakes at the crack of dawn
Mom’s hair up in curlers – getting her festive mood on!
Her family was big and we were all there
Laughing and swimming, we had not a care.
Cat jumped into the plate of my brother
Pinwheels flying straight toward me and another.
There was camping and cooking and firecrackers popping
And the food! All the food … there was just no stopping!
There were hamburgers, hotdogs; a cake in the ground?
Homemade ice cream and watermelon seeds to be found
And to see who could spit them the furthest, no doubt,
often spitting at each other, which caused some loud shouts
Of protest, but really, we all had great fun,
Dodging watermelon seeds …
We were all on the run!
Of course there was fishing and horseshoes and card games like Pig,
And did I mention the firecrackers with booms that were BIG?
Such fun times together!
But, of course, there was more!
The grand finale’, as we sat by pond’s shore
Ooohing and aaahing as the “night works” were lit.
They weren’t set to music but they were a hit!
I remember all this as I sit here today
Missing my family who are so far away.
But I smile as I think of fun times in the past
And the love of our family that will forever last!
Happy 4th of July!
Have a wonderful, safe Independence Day, my friends!
May peace and grace be abundant for you.
This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
“Rejoice and be glad.” When you wake in the morning, do you rejoice? Are you glad? This morning I woke and opened my bedroom window. I pulled up a chair and read my morning devotion and then just sat and looked out at the green of summer, listening to the birds singing, feeling a gentle breeze. It was so nice to feel the natural air and not have every window shut so the air conditioner can do it’s job. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite thankful for air conditioning, but was very glad for a cool summer morning!
It’s easy to rejoice and be glad in mornings like this one. But the Psalmist seems to be proclaiming something deeper and beyond those easy summer mornings when you feel like getting out of bed and the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect.
It’s a lot harder to rejoice and be glad when our bodies hurt and feel broken or when the rain is pouring and has been for days. It is more difficult to be glad when it’s freezing outside, and inside as well; when you feel you can’t get warm and comfortable. It’s nearly impossible to rejoice and be glad when you are in grief for whatever loss you have experienced.
And what about the many people who wake up after a night of sleeping on the street or in a homeless shelter; what about those who are in third world countries with disease and hunger pains and oppression; with poverty as their constant companion?
When I visited Costa Rica and Mexico I met some amazing people. Most of them lived in very small, modest houses. A few (in Mexico) were in a house with 3 walls (1 side was open), with dirt floors and no running water.
Yet, my observation of most all of the people I met was that, regardless of their situation in life, they were full of the joy of the Lord. They knew how to praise God every day. There was a warmth and an eagerness to give whatever they could and whatever they had in joyful generosity.
One Christmas, in Nashville, Fred, Annie and I served a Christmas dinner to a group of homeless men. We were so blessed by them and their joyful attitude about it being Christmas. We were greeted by many with “Merry Christmas! Thank you for being here with us!”
When I think of people like that, I give thanks and then I ask God to clean me up, give me a right spirit and help me to rejoice and be glad for every day, no matter what it looks like. Because this is the day the Lord has made. If God has made all my days, then God surely is in every one of them with me.
That is great reason for rejoicing and being glad!
I don’t know about you but I have found myself feeling a little anxious and agitated lately, and I suspect I’m not the only one. You all watch the news and know what is going on in the world. I’m not going to list all those things here because I’m committing to a change for myself, my own peace of mind, and hopefully, I will have something valuable to say (with God’s help) that might help others to feel some peace and calm in the midst of all this violent storm we seem to be in.
I joined Facebook several years ago because I found it a great tool for keeping up with my family who are spread out in different places. I would never really know much about my nieces and nephews and their children if it weren’t for Facebook. It isn’t the perfect way to have a relationship, of course. I would prefer actually getting together often. But that is not possible. So, with Facebook, I get to see pictures of family and know what they are doing in their lives. We get to communicate with one another where, if it were up to phone calls or letters, it probably would not happen. Unfortunately, social media has been used as a tool for political posts and hateful comments. People try to outdo each other with their own critical ideas and if you read the threads underneath some posts, it is disheartening to find so many people judging one another and calling them ugly names, making accusations. What is happening to our world, I wonder?
Well, I found myself being caught up in it all, and because of it I have felt that agitation; I have felt a lack of inner peace. And I am stopping it right now! I had a revelation the other day as I was caught up in looking for just the right post that would counter the one I had seen that was opposite what I think. I suddenly realized how angry I felt, how shaky and anxious I was feeling. And the revelation was that, out of all my Facebook friends, I doubt that anything I post will change even one mind. People already have their minds made up. It’s more about stating loudly and sometimes obnoxiously what we believe, even if it intends to put those who think differently down. I’m not going to change anyone’s opinion just because I post something, right? But as a trained pastor, as an experienced spiritual leader, I do hope that I have some ability to help people find some peace and feel more grounded. I pray that I might be a vessel of that peace and that, as I reclaim it myself, it will flow out to all of you.
Remember how Jesus appeared to the frightened disciples after they had witnessed his death on the cross? The risen Lord came to them and “breathed on them” and said “peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36; John 20:21, 26). Finally, Jesus said, in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)
Is it possible to have peace in the midst of chaos? If we put our trust in Jesus and keep our eyes and hearts tuned to him, we can feel at peace even with all that is going on around us. My commitment is to give you positive things to think on in this time. I will be writing and sharing here on my blog and in some brief videos for the next several weeks about having peace in the midst of the chaos. It’s been a long time since I’ve written but I’m ready to go! I hope you will stay with me on this journey of grace.
May the Peace of Christ be with you all. So be it. Amen.
I'm attaching a Lenten Guide to Meditation that goes along with each Sunday's scriptures. I'd like for you to have it if you are looking for something different!
Click the link below to download the PDF:
I am a woman with many interests, yet most of them flow into what is my source of life, my very breath, the reason I do what I do. I am Called. That means, for me, I have experienced a call on my life to serve as a pastor to God’s people. In that calling I love to write, to speak, to lead, and to teach. My deepest desire is to pass on to others what I have experienced in my own journey of grace. I am human, and in that humanity I have known passion and joy, sin and disgrace. Yet, in God’s love I have known nothing but love and redirection and total grace.