Saturday, October 03, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Humble Pie, Anyone?

Mark 9:35 "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

James 4:6  "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

James 4:10  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you."

Humility is a key value in the Christian Faith.  Jesus exemplified humility.  Our reading from James and Mark call followers to humility.

What is humility?  The word literally means "to be near the ground" or perhaps one could say, it means to be grounded.  

Here are some not-so-serious quotes about humility...

  • "Oh Lord, its hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way." Mac Davis

  • "My incredible humility is what makes me superior to everyone else."

  • "I try not to laugh at my own jokes, But we all know i'm hilarious."

  • And maybe the most outrageous quote of all, "Humility.  I've mastered it."

And that's the thing with humility.  You can't master it.  You can't win the humility championship.  You can't bestow the title on yourself.  The complete opposite of humility is lurking in the shadows.  That is pride.  Some say pride is the original sin; it's what caused Adam and Eve's fall from grace.

In the book of Mark, Jesus announces that he will be arrested, killed and 3 days later, rise again.  The disciples' response?  They did not understand.  The light did not come on.  Later, when they got to Capernaum, Jesus asks what they were discussing on the way.  They were discussing which of them was the greatest!

The disciples are us.  They weren't complete blundering fools but the Bible doesn't paint their picture with halos over their heads. They were people like you and me.  All human beings have their strengths and their weaknesses.  The power of sin is working on us but the Spirit of God also dwells within the faithful.

For some Christians, humility is a God given gift.  Other Christians learn to be more humble but then still sometimes struggle with pride.  We do some thing nice, some thing kind, and then we blow it by announcing to the world how kind and humble we are.  

Jesus took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus tells about the separation of people like a shepherd separates sheep and goats.  Jesus talks about being hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison.  They ask him when did they see him that way.  Jesus responds, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

Mother Teresa, who worked with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India said, "Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces given us and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."

In our society when the proud are brought down, when the arrogant are shamed, we say they have eaten humble pie. But this is really the encouragement of the whole Bible for Christians.  We SHOULD be feasting on humble pie.  Why is humility so important?  Because it keeps us grounded.  It keeps people connected and caring for each other.  Humility brings out the best in us.

Pride, in the bad sense of the word, can lead to arrogance, meanness, hard words and separation. Eating humble pie keeps us grounded, keeps us focused on what's most important.  The most important things are not trophies or awards but the kindness you showed others and how you helped those in need.

Jesus told his disciples that he would be arrested, suffer and die. The disciples didn't get it.  Later he would explain the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Jesus giving his life for us was, in part, an example of humility.

In the letter to the Philippians Paul would write, "Have this same mind among yourselves that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant... he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.

"Have this same mind among you."  Christ came to teach us to be humble servants.

Let us close by praying this Humility Prayer (author unknown)

Lord, I am far too much influenced by what people think of me, which means that I am always pretending to be either richer or smarter or nicer than I really am.  Please prevent me from trying to attract attention.  Don't let me gloat over praise on the one hand or be discouraged by criticism on the other.  Don't let me waste time weaving imaginary situations in which the most heroic, charming, witty person present i myself.  Show me how to be humble in heart like you.  Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lennon and Maisy and The Stellas

I love the old-fashioned sound of this family! It makes me feel like we should all hang out on a big porch, sip some sweet tea and just relax.  Yep, that's what this music makes me want to do.

My friend, Terri, shared this on Facebook this morning. I was charmed!

I had to look these girls up.  They are Lennon and Maisy and I found they can be seen on the show, Nashville. I've never watched that show, but I'm going to have to check it out.

I also found these girls have musical parents. I love their sound as well! They are known as The Stellas.

Check this one out!  It is such a sweet song and their harmonies are beautiful.

OK, I just needed to share something that added some sparkle to my day. My job is done here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

With Gratitude

Today was beautiful. The weather was nice and we had granddaughters to entertain us.

The girls did some time with colors and stickers.

Finally, Elise told me she was tired of so much work.

So, we took off for a bit of an adventure... Hiking around a waterfall.

The girls were charming, thanking us many times for taking them to the waterfall.

It was just lovely.

Elise wanted to rearrange the rocks from puddle to puddle.

Again, she had a lot of work to do.

Cordelia was like a little mountain goat, jumping from rock to rock.


The mountain goat....

After that adventure we dropped Grandpa off and decided to go "walk over cars".  That is, we used the pedestrian crossover all that goes over a busy street. 

There is a nice playground on the other side.

Elise liked to get caught in the spider web.

They aren't always this sweet together, but often they are and my heart wants to burst.

At home, I made them work for their supper. We made rainbow pasta. It was messy but fun. I boiled up fettuccini. I had them hold gallon size zip lock bags while I squirted in some food colorinf, added some water and then some of the noodles. The girls worked the bags around to distribute the color. We did 6 different colors.

I drained each color separately.

It took some time and I had to reheat it, but it made for a fun meal.

These girls are so sweet and grateful, always saying thank-you. Elise was looking at a little plastic cow coin purse that she had given me some time ago. I reminded her that it was a gift from her and she said, "Thank you for liking it."

As I watched these girls play today, I felt such gratitude for the times we've had with them.  I do not take it for granted.

My life has been so full, so complete with husband, children, grandchildren...I know that many do not get all this that I enjoy.  I wish everyone did.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chuckle Time

I still enjoy putting funny things on my office door each day...

I thought you might need a chuckle today as well.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Coach 'Em Up

This was a sermon Mike gave a couple of weeks ago...

"Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you and do them that you may live... " Deuteronomy 4:1

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."  Ephesians 6:10

"All those evil things come from within and they defile a person." Mark 7:23

Moses, Paul and Jesus are coaching. At least, that's one way of looking at it. A coach wants the one, or the team, to succeed, to be victorious.  I think that was the case with Moses, Paul and Jesus.

I grew up in a small town in Montana. The only sport to do in the winter was to play basketball.

(Mike didn't show these photos when he gave this sermon.  It's my blog, though, so I can do what I want, right?  Just so you know, Mike is #30.)

I played basketball from 5th grade through my senior year in high school and I basically had one coach through out that time, Clayton Hornung.

I looked on the internet to see if I could find a picture of him. I did!

Then, I looked to see if there were any stories about him, and there was!  Well, he was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014. He was quoted as saying, "Its a tremendous honor to be recognized by your peers and its a humbling experience.  It is not necessarily something I worked for but it is deeply appreciated."  I was excited to read, "I would also like to thank Mike Struck for making me the coach I am today."  I may have made up that last part.

Clayton Hornung coached 7 years in Turner.  One of his gigs was coaching the first year of Turner's girls' basketball team.  Their photo in the annual that year said, "We almost won one!"

(I am number 15, probably the worst player on the team.  Seriously, that first year I didn't even know the rules or any of the basics.  Still, I had fun! I won't name all the others in case they wish to remain anonymous, but I know a few readers may recognize themselves.  
Feel free to identify yourselves in the comments!)

Coach Hornung was so despondent that he said he would never coach women's basketball again.  (That may or may not be true.)

Clayton Hornung ended up going to Baker, MT and there he coached girls' basketball.  They won 3 state championships, took 2 seconds, 2 thirds and 1 fourth place. Three times he was Coach of the Year. He was also nominated for coach of the year 8 other times.  Additionally, he was a nominee for the National Coach of the Year Award.

I had no idea I would have such a great influence on him.  (groan...) He was also elected mayor of Baker, MT.

Coach Hornung loved to coach and he was a good teacher. However, whenever there was a practical joke played, he always blamed me.  It was only me SOME of the time.

I still have his playbook somewhere.  He was influenced by John Wooden, the great basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins.  My classmates and me still remember his teachings all these years later, "Don't televise your passes."  "Take the initiative!"  "Don't be lackadaisical!"  And here's another thing, something he probably couldn't do today, he prayed before we went out for the basketball game.

As I said earlier, we can see Moses, Paul and Jesus as coaches.  First, let's start with Moses.  In the book of Deuteronomy Moses is trying to get the people out of their wilderness wandering and into the promised land.  Deuteronomy is the Farewell Address of Moses.  It was through his last chance to "coach 'em up" before he died and they crossed the Jordan River to the Promised Land.

What was Moses saying in our reading today?

  • Keep statutes, rules, commandments.
  • What to DO, in order to live and take possession of the land.
  • Don't add or subtract from these laws.
  • Take care to keep these commandments, lest you forget or depart from them.
  • Teach your children and grandchildren.

Moses could coach 'em up today, make an application for our life. I think he would tell us:

  • Obey God and God's Word.
  • Don't forget or change the commandments.
  • Teach them... pass on the faith.

Do you have a Christian goal?  Is there some reason you are here today?  Is it to get to heaven?  Is it to become a disciple or work on discipleship?  Is it to promise something to God or to thank God?

Where are we going?  Where is this team going?  How are we doing?  A coach wants to know.

Let's move on to Paul.  We know about him. He coached for the other team for awhile. He was a Jewish Pharisee.  He wanted his people to follow the law and not be lead down the wrong road by a cultish group called Christians.

Well, Paul switched teams and he became the coach for many Christian Congregations.  Usually, the end of his letters were full of all kinds of coaching.  That's the way it is in Chapter 6 of Ephesians. Here's a summary of his coaching:

  • Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.
  • Put on the whole armor or God.
  • We are standing against/wrestling with the devil, rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil.
  • The Whole Armor of God is Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, Shoes - Gospel of Peace, Shield of Faith, Helmet of Salvation, Sword of the Spirit - God's Word.
  • Pray! ... at all times, for the saints, for Paul to be bold in his proclamation of the Gospel.
What's the application for today? We are battling evil forces; We are in a spiritual battle. We must be strong in God's power and use God's weapons.  We are to pray.

Battles and contests can be overwhelming at times, but we have the greatest power in the universe on our side.  We need to lean on HIM, not on our own understanding.

Finally, Jesus does some coaching.  The scribe or Pharisees were complaining that his disciples were eating with unwashed hands, thus making them defiled.  Jesus does some coaching on the floor, then he takes his disciples into the locker room and does some more coaching. Here are his points.

  • Nothing outside, going in, defiles us before God.
  • He declared all foods clean, freeing Christians from Jewish dietary laws.
  • From within the human heart, that central place of who we are, comes evil thoughts, etc.
What does this reading mean to us today? Is there something to learn? Yes, evil thoughts and actions defile us before God. Beware of your sinful human nature!

So, each week you come to church.  Sometimes you need to be "coached up". Sometimes the coach can be hard on you. Sometimes you need to hear:
  • I am a sinner. I need to change.
  • I've got to quit going through the motion of being a Christian.
  • Quit complaining. Quit judging people.
  • Say, "I'm sorry." "I forgive you."
  • Let go of the past. Don't be a victim.
  • Sometimes our failures, our stress, our difficulties, are times of growth for us. We can become bitter or better.
And sometimes you need to hear encouragement:
  • God loves me. I'm one of God's children.
  • Thanks for years of faithfulness and service.
  • I'm not perfect but I'm moving forward in faith.
  • Jesus' death on the cross brings me life, peace and salvation.
  • God knows what I'm going through and God cares about my life. God wants me to have an abundant life. God wants to fill my life with favor and blessing.

I want you to know you have the most powerful coach ever - God.  He wants you to win, to have an abundant life, to be happy and blessed.

This is my coaching advice to you.  Let God "coach you up" and it will go well for you.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Adding Some Culture

I recently had a fun evening.  After work I went to our local artist guild's gallery for a talk by none other than our talented son-in-law, Eric.  He currently has a showing up of some of his photographs. He has published a book to go along with it as well.  In fact, today I was told he was at a book signing. Doesn't that sound cool?  And to think, I knew him before he was such a big deal.  No, that's not true. He's always been a big deal to us.

So, I went a little early to watch the girls while Eric did the meet and greet thing. Maria was teaching an art class elsewhere but arrived soon.  The girls feel very much at home at the facility. They used up some energy in the back room first. Cordelia explained to me that she needed to do that so she could be good during her Daddy's lecture.

Maria came soon enough to enjoy Eric's lecture as well.

Like I said, the girls feel at home there.  I set them up with stickers and paper. I enjoy this photo as Cordelia was trying to cooperate for a photo but she couldn't quite take her eyes off the stickers.

 And here is Eric nearing the end of his lecture.  I felt proud to be his mother-in-law.

After the lecture we went to the other side of the building and shopped at a Turkey Trunk Show!  Ha ha! I just read what I wrote.  Anyone else picturing a turkey with a trunk?

No, this was a show of items a young artist brought back from Turkey, where she now lives.  She had some beautiful items and served interesting and delicious finger foods.

I feel oh so very cultured!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Bread That Lasts

I am way, way behind on passing on sermons from my husband. Here is one from awhile back...

John 6:27 "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you."

John 6:35 "I am the bread of life...Whoever comes to me shall not hunger."

Bread is a staple of life for most of the world. Here are some "fun facts" about bread:
  • Bread is probably the one food that is eaten by every race, culture and religion.
  • It takes 9 seconds for a combine to harvest enough wheat to make 70 loaves of bread.
  • Each American consumes 53 pounds of bread per year.
  • 1 bushel of wheat will produce 73 one pound loaves of bread.
  • In 1997 Kansas wheat farmers produced enough wheat to make 36.5 billion loaves of bread, enough to provide each person on earth with 6 loaves of bread.
  • Farmers receive approximately 5 cents for each loaf of bread.
  • In 1995 a team of bakers from Wheat Montana Farms Bakery set a Guinness World Record.  They harvested and milled wheat from the field then mixed, scaled, shaped and baked a loaf of bread in 8 minutes 13 seconds.
  • Breaking bread is a universal sign of peace and fellowship.

In the next few weeks our gospel readings from John 6 will focus on "Jesus the Bread of Life".  Here are some "fun facts" about bread in the Bible.
  • We don't know if Adam and Cain made bread but they were tillers in the ground. God told Adam, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread."
  • One of the first mentions of bread in the Bible is in Genesis 14. Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram after a victory over several kings.
  • At the Oaks of Mamre Abraham received three visitors. He bowed before them and asked if he could bring them a morsel of bread.
  • In Genesis 25 Jacob stole Esau's birthright with stew and bread.
  • In Exodus the Jewish people were to bake unleavened bread for they were to leave Egypt in a hurry. They didn't have time for bread to rise.
In the Gospels, bread plays an important role in the life and ministry of Jesus.

The first temptation Jesus faces from Satan in the wilderness is to turn stones into bread. Man does not live by bread alone.

  • The Lord's Prayer - Give us this day our daily bread.
  • Feeding of the 5,000 involves bread.
  • Disciples are sent out without bread on a mission.
  • Disciples forget bread for one of their boat journeys.
  • Jesus reminds Pharisees that David took the Bread of the Presence when hungry, teaching them that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

Jesus went to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He took the bread, blessed it, broke it and said, "This is my body..."

In the time of Jesus, bread was a fixture in the Jewish diet. If you had flour, you baked bread. Jewish women baked bread every morning and bread was consumed throughout the day. In the morning, bread baking started again.

In the Gospel Jesus took a common element from Jewish life, made a pronouncement, an authoritative statement, "I am the bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger." At that point a discussion about physical and spiritual bread began.

What we see in John's gospel is that people are often too literal. They don't understand what Jesus is trying to teach them. Their main concern was their next meal.

Here is a brief synopsis of what Jesus was saying to them: 
  • God has sent me to nourish your spiritual hunger.
  • If you believe in me, in my teaching, in my death and resurrection for you, you will never be spiritually hungry again.
  • This bread, my life that I give to you, will lead you to eternal life.
Unfortunately, the crowd wouldn't understand this. Some would grumble, some would question. Some of his followers would leave. The teachings of Jesus were too hard. He said things like, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." Jesus wonders if the 12 disciples will leave, too. Peter responds with the great confession, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" and "We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God."

We humans are interesting. We can be asked, "What is most important to you?" and then "How involved are you in what's most important to you?" How do you actually spend your time?

If an average American lives to 78.6 years, we will find that we spend: 25 years sleeping, 10.3 years working, 9.1 years watching TV-2 years are just commercials, 3.66 years eating, consuming 35 tons of food, 4.3 years driving, 3 months waiting in traffic.

An average person will walk 110,000 miles, 4 times around the world. Some will spend 1 year of their lives deciding what to wear and 8 years shopping, 1 1/2 years doing their hair.

On the other hand, when asked what is most important people will respond with:
  1. God
  2. Love
  3. Family
  4. Music
  5. Health
  6. Friends
  7. Food and Drink
  8. Happiness
  9. Knowledge
  10. Parents
But if God is most important, why does the average Christian spend only 15-30 minutes a week in prayer? 57% of Christians read the Bible 4 times a year or less while only 26% read it 4 times a week. Only 20-30% of Americans attend worship weekly. That is not a very good track record for us.

The truth is, we humans are mostly busy living our lives. The thing we do the most in life is sleep, but nobody except insomniacs puts that as the most important thing in life.

Invite God into your busy life. See the things you do, like working and cooking and cleaning, as spiritual things you do and not just tasks to be completed.

I don't think it does a whole lot of good to feel guilty about not praying, worshiping or Bible reading enough. Just start again, be positive and ask for God's help.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger.

God sent Jesus to nourish our spiritual hunger, our spiritual lives.

If you believe in me, in my teaching, in my death and resurrection for you, you will never be spiritually hungry again.

This bread, my life that I give to you, will lead you to eternal life.

God is calling us. God is drawing us to the Bread that lasts.

Monday, August 31, 2015

From Buffalo to Bluegrass

After climbing Independence Rock Friday, we drove on to our destination for the night, Lander, Wyoming.  We had tasty dinner then needed to walk it off a bit. We just took off touring downtown at dusk.  We found this sculpture, which I really liked.  Wyoming is full of buffalo depictions but so many of them have buffalo in violent scenes. This one just seemed quite peaceful.  Maybe that is why I liked him so much.

Lander is not a large town.  I think it is quaint and adorable.  We found a lot of people out walking and enjoying the perfect evening.

The next morning we drove just a few miles out of town to The Sinks.  I hope you can read this very informative bit of information about The Sinks, where water disappears underground for a few hours.

I think it is really cool down there.  The river flows down and just disappears.

This photo was Mike's idea. He likes planning out interesting shots like that.

The area is loaded with boulders.  I'd like to see that place in the Spring when the snow is melting on the mountains. It comes flowing over all those boulders at times.

A quarter of a mile down the way there is the area where the water reappears, The Rise of the Sinks. It is marked "no fishing".  People buy food there to feed the fish, though.  A family with little kids was there throwing fish food over, resulting in a lot of swirling and splashing with all those fish competing.

Do you see that sandbar down there by the fish? Magpies hung out down there. Apparently they like the fish food also.

The weird thing in that canyon is that the North wall looks like this,

And the South wall looks like this.  Why, you ask? Because the North wall gets the most sunshine and so its snow melts and is gone too quickly to grow much.  The South side is more shady so keeps its moisture longer.  Interesting, huh? Really, I was standing in the same spot when I took that photo above, then turning to take this photo below.  It is sort of a bipolar canyon.

After we left the sinks area, we drove on up into the mountains. We saw lots of people riding bicycles up the mountain. Why? Why do people do that? It didn't look like fun to me.

Then, we saw this guy hiking... ON CRUTCHES!  Impressive!

We went higher yet and found a lake.  Do you see those mountains in the distance with the snow on them, above the timber line even? That, my friends, is the continental divide.  

This is my guy.  I enjoy adventuring with him.

We headed back down into Lander and wanted to grab a quick bite before heading back home. We spotted a little bakery/cafe and stopped in. What a lovely surprise we found there!  There was a sweet bluegrass group playing. They were wonderful! I found out, from their mother, that they are a group of 4 siblings from Texas.  They are called the 4 Proches. 

We both really enjoyed listening to them play. The youngest brother could really go on that banjo!

Here's a link to one of their YouTube videos.
I hope you also find them charming.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

24 Hours of Adventure!

One thing I love about Mike is that he is often up for a quick adventure.  Yesterday we had a window of opportunity, 24 hours, to have an adventure.  So, we did!

We headed West... further West.  Our first stop was to Independence Rock. We've been there several times before and always enjoy the experience.  We like walking the trail around it and we like climbing up on top. This first photo was taken from the top.  Those are red ants on that rock!

 Independence Rock is such a unique place.  It has names pioneers scratched into the stone as they moved West!  Now, there is a highway nearby with truck after truck cruising by. Then, though, travel was a different story! Can you imagine travelling 5 months in this early RV?

OK, now is when you come to learn just how lazy I really am.  Instead of telling the story of Independence Rock myself, I took photos of the signs along the trail.


And one more...

I hope you can read those.  If not, here's the condensed version: People followed the trails (think Oregon and Mormon) for months. Getting across Wyoming could not have been easy. This huge rock was a landmark they looked for and it has a little stream nearby.  Many wrote/scratched their names into the rock and some of those names are still easy to see today.  We are allowed to climb up to the top and wander around.

It is a bit of exercise to get to the top, but so worth it for the view!

See, I told you their names are still visible!

 I like the little pools up on the top.

You must be very, very brave to get across the deep crevices!
OK, well, it seemed like a dangerous crevice at the time. 
Mike was laughing at me.
That wasn't very nice, was it?

The trail around the bottom was also beautiful. 
We could see lots of little cave like areas, formed from fallen rock.
We did not go in.
We have heard there are lots of rattlesnakes around there but 
decided we didn't need that much adventure.

We were only there for a short time, then it was time to move further West. 

As we drove along we enjoyed sparkling conversation. You may not know this about Mike but he is a great conversationist.  (My computer is telling me either that isn't a word or I am misspelling it. Oh well. It's my blog, I do what I want!)  After 37 years of marriage you might think we have run out of things to discuss.  Mike sees to it that we don't have that problem. He asks important questions like, "Do you think a sprinter would be frustrated on the moon?"

Where does he come up with this stuff?