Friday, January 30, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Get In The Game

This is Mike's sermon from last Sunday...
 For those of you who don't know me, I grew up in a small farming town in North Central Montana about 10-15 miles from the Canadian Border. One of the interesting features of living in this community is having a Port of Entry nearby. Of course, when you have a Port of Entry nearby, you need border control people. These people often had families and their children attended our school.

One year a new border patrol family moved into the area and their children did attend our school. I think I was in the 7th grade and the boy in this family, Dave Mende, was in the 8th grade. Basketball is the sport going on in small town Montana; Dave Mende joined the team in mid-season. He didn't have a lot of experience playing. He didn't really even know the rules.

We were playing a basketball in Whitewater, Montana. Our coach was a pretty good guy and he believed in giving everyone playing time. At one point he looked the bench and saw Dave sitting there. Coach said, "Dave, get in there for Terry."

Dave got up off the bench and went running right onto the floor while the game was in progress! The players didn't know what to do. The game just came to a halt. Dave was supposed to check in at the scorekeeper's table and wait to be motioned in by the referees. But Dave was ready to get in the game.

(Following are the Bible Lessons that were read last Sunday during the service and to which Mike refers.)

Jonah 3:1-5New International Version (NIV)

Jonah Goes to Nineveh

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

Jonah 3:10New International Version (NIV)

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31New International Version (NIV)

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
God came to Jonah. God told Jonah to get in the game. Jonah went the other way. Jonah later repented. He got back in the game and proclaimed the message. People repented and God's mercy was revealed.
In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul told the believers to get in the game, don't be preoccupied with other things, don't be anxious, get in the game. Your undivided devotion belongs to the Lord.
In the gospel, Jesus got in the game. He started his ministry. He proclaimed "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel." Then he got the disciples in the game. "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. They got in the game. They left their nets and followed him.
The phrase, "getting in the game" means living the faith, not just having a faith. It means you aren't just sitting on the bench. The coach is calling your number. Even if you don't exactly know what's going on, even if you make mistakes, even if you're not perfect. The game's going on. It's your time to go in.
Jonah was a reluctant participant but he got in the game. Paul was against the Christian game entirely, but he got involved.
I never wanted to be a pastor. It was never a dream of mine. I never had anything against pastors. I always thought we needed pastors. I just didn't think that was my life's calling.

When I started to get this feeling that God was calling my number and telling me to get in the pastor game, I had all kinds of excuses not to do so:
  • I'm not perfect. God's reaction was to let me know that if that was a requirement we'd have no pastors.
  • But God, I'm an introvert. On a scale of 1-10, I'm about a 9. I'm this close to being a hermit. God seemed to be saying to me, "That's ok. I'm not looking for Lone Ranger Christians. I'll teach you why community is important."
  • But God, public speaking makes me nervous. I have no experience. God's answer seemed to be, "Yep. People get nervous. You'll be fine."
  • But God, what about sick people and dying people, tragedies, funerals...I don't know how to do that stuff. God seemed to be saying, "Where did I plant you? On a farm you see birth, life, death, tragedy all around you. You've seen it in your family and in your community. People get sick. There are tragedies. There is death. People need pastors. Some things aren't pleasant but I've been trying to train you so you can help others."

Here's a little bit of wisdom for you. You don't win arguments with God.
Now, for the most part, I enjoy being a pastor. There are ups and downs, like any job. I don't aspire to be "Pastor of the Year". I don't care to be a bishop. But I am willing to be an instrument for God and I'm willing to keep growing. I'm just hoping the growth won't be too painful.
Now, let me talk about you. If you're on the bench, if you are a spectator, God's calling your number - #31, get in there! Now, of course, God isn't calling everyone to be a pastor. But God has work for everyone - good stuff. It'll make you feel good when you do it. 
If you have excuses, God has answers. Of course God isn't a bully or a dictator. He gives us freedom. We can say no. But most people don't feel good about saying "no" to God. For most people, God isn't plucking us out and telling us to go preach repentance to your worst enemy. God says take baby steps, do a little something even if you fail, it's ok. God tells us, "Way to go! You got in the game. Now give me a little more."
And if you're already in the game, way to go! Keep it up! If you're tired, that's ok. There are time-outs and pauses. Keep at it; you're doing a good job.
If you've been in the game and you're frustrated or you've made mistakes, maybe you've hurt the team, well, that's not good but God, your coach, can get you straightened out. God can get in your face if you need that. He can also give a second chance. He can give you encouragement because God's not as obsessed about the past as you and I are. The game is going on now. God is concerned about you and me right now. The game continues. Get in the game.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One of the Popular Girls

If you ever want to know what it is like being one of  the popular girls, try being a grandma!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Relaxing While Multi-tasking

We recently had these girls at our house for a few days. I look at this photo I took and I have to admire them. They look so relaxed. I don't think I remember how to relax.

Are you good at relaxing? I think I have lost the skill of doing nothing. I am very good at avoiding housework and I love being in my home. I am most happy when I am not overcommitted but my down time is never just doing nothing.

For example, I love watching Netflix TV shows where I can keep going from episode to episode. But, I don't seem to be able to even watch 10 minutes if I am not multi-tasking. I need to be doing something on the computer or crocheting or making jewelry or something. I would like to say that I want to be productive but honestly, even playing Spider Solitaire on my phone is enough to settle me into watching something. 

Even reading is now a multi-tasking event for me. I set my Kindle to reading to me and then I can crochet or fold laundry or yes, play Spider Solitaire. 

So, tell me. Are any of you like that? Is it a result of being in such a fast-paced society?  Maybe it is a Mom thing and after years of multi-tasking to accomplish things for my family I just forgot how to sit still.

And tell me this, is it a bad thing? 

I have to go now. I am watching White Collar on Netflix while trying to figure out how I can crochet AND play Spider Solitaire at the same time. I think I can do it!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kids and Balloons

I took quite a few photos tonight of the Grandgirls playing with balloons. Kids and balloons are the elements of great picture taking, or so I thought. I couldn't get them to stand still! Most of the photos turned out quite blurry but I caught a few. As part of my responsibility for being the grandma in town, I like to post photos of the girls for their other grandmas as well as some aunts and cousins. 

The girls wanted to "bonk" people with their balloons, a harmless little game. What was funny was they both stopped at me. I am too "kind" to be hit with a balloon. Hmmmm... While touched, I didn't want to be too precious too sometimes be fun grandma as well. So, I made them include me. 

I love the relationship I have with those girls. I love every snuggle, every sticky kiss and every balloon bonk!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Followers and Skeptics

John 1:43-51 NIV

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50Jesus said, “You believeh because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”51He then added, “Very truly I tell you,i youj will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’k the Son of Man.”  


C. S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. He was raised in the Church of Ireland (Anglican).
C. S. Lewis loved to read. In 1916 he was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University but WWI interrupted his study and he was sent to the front lines in the trenches in France.

In April of 1918 C. S. Lewis was wounded and two colleagues were killed when a British shell fell short of its target. His experiences in WWI left C. S.  Lewis and atheist, one who doesn't believe in God.

Lewis returned to Oxford and encountered Christian friends who gently persuaded and influenced him to return to Christianity. In his book, Surprised by Joy, he wrote, "Whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet, that which I had greatly feared, had at last come upon me. In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed. (I was) perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

C. S. Lewis went on to become one of the most respected novelists and lay theologians of the last century. He went from believer to skeptic to atheist and back to believer.

Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph." Nathaniel said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Nathaniel was a skeptic. He wasn't willing to jump on the Messiah Train without a little sarcasm, "Can anything GOOD come out of Nazareth?" And he wanted proof... "Let's be reasonable about this."

I am reading a book called 10 Answers For Atheists - How to Have an Intelligent Discussion About the Existence of God." by Alex McFarland. Alex McFarland go to college campusus, the  hotbed of Atheism, and he debates Atheists. But one wonders why Atheism has any pull at all in our society. Alex McFarland wrote, "In one of the debates the topic was 'Does God Exist'. The Atheist said, "Get this trough your head. Your life has no meaning. Your dead grandmother... is now turning back into dirt. In the big scheme of things her life meant nothing. And neither does yours. But isn't that liberating? Now we can get on with the business of living." It was so quiet you could almost hear crickets chirp. He continued, "In an ultimate sense,  in a very real sense, your life, your dreams, your memories, you - it all means nothing."

Guess what? Nobody got up and cheered. You life has no meaning? What good is that? People need hope and meaning and love and respect in order to carry on. Atheism will never be popular because it leaves people with despair.  Alex McFarland calls us to love our Atheist/Agnostic/skeptical brothers and sisters, to pray and confess our faith for them, to be gentle with them and to try and understand them.

In his book he identifies 10 different types of Atheists.
     Angry Atheist - unbelief fueled by negative emotion
     Scientific Atheist - have science and reason on their alter, no room for anything else.
     Injured Atheist - unbelief associated with negative experience, prayers not answered
     Resident Contrarian Atheist - voice of dissent, like to argue, rejects what is popular
     Worldly Wise Atheist - jaded with life, where is God?
     Reflective Atheist - introspective and philosophical, focus on injustice/pain/flaws
     Antinomian Atheist - question everything - religion, morals, politics - don't limit freedom
     Activist Atheist - crusade for unbelief for office, school board, be a fly in the ointment
     Bible Scholar Atheist - studies the Bible but only looking for flaws
     Hasty Generalisationists - related to priest scandals, TV evangelist scandals, crusades

Well, that's enough; You've heard it before. It's been going on for centuries... There is no god/There are gods/It's all about me/It's all about pleasure/It's all about science and reason... In the garden the serpent comes with the original temptation, "You will be like God." Since then we've been trying to put ourselves in the center of the universe or find a fitting substitute, but God is God.

Look at the gospel for today. Do you think Philip & Nathaniel sat down one day and plotted to turn their worlds upside down and follow an itinerant preacher around Galilee? I don't think so, but that's what happened.

Someone from the outside stepped into their world and called them. For some reason they followed. No one can predict faith, plan faith or force faith. For some reason the light comes on and we believe. Of course, we always have the freedom to not believe or to reject or even be mad at God.

Marilyn Adamson was an atheist. She would ask people, "How do you know God exists?" This seemed to make some believers uncomfortable. They mostly responded, "Well, you just know."

Marilyn didn't feel comfortable with that answer so she reasoned that God probably didn't exist. But then she mentioned a friend who caused her to be interested in God. This friend was caring, kind and intelligent. It bothered Marilyn that someone so intelligent could believe in God.

So, Marilyn observed her friend for a year. This friend's faith was unwavering. She loved God. She loved people. She was convinced God loved her. So, Marilyn moved to the stage of wanting to believe. But first Marilyn had to read philosophers like Nietzsche, Hume, Sartre and Plato...but they were lacking. Something was missing.

Marilyn kept challenging her friend with every question she could think of. Finally her friend said she should read the Bible. She kept putting it off. She started asking her friend more questions. But finally her friend said, "You know, I can't make this decision for you and God's not going to wait forever."

Marilyn went home and she prayed to God, "OK, you win. I ask you to come into my life and you may do whatever you want with my life."

She went to sleep and woke up the next morning. She kind of sensed he was there, but now she wanted to read the Bible. She was still kind of skeptical but as she read, she felt like she was loved by God.

Still, her faith needed to be built not just on feelings but on facts and reason. For her, faith had to be logical, historical and scientific. She found those things and she has been a believer for many years.

Marilyn's story is one story. Philip had another story. Jesus said, "Follow me." He did. Nathaniel had another story. He was skeptical so was a "doubting Thomas". But they turned around and both made confessions of faith in Jesus.

The way of belief and following doesn't have to be hard. Sometimes we just make it that way. Just remember, God is behind the scenes in a supernatural world calling to us in the physical world, "Follow me." God is working for our good. God plants the seeds of faith in people and gives freedom to believe.

God had a good plan for Philip and Nathaniel and for you and for me. God is good and God loves you. Put your trust in him.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bode and the Bed

Every now and then we get our hopes up that Bode, now 4 years old, is over his chewing stage. With that hope, he got a new dog bed. He kept it nice for about 6 weeks.

THEN, this happened...

Sometimes I feel like we're living through our own version of Marley and Me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Almost Home

As promised, I have photos of the next piece of art I purchased.  It will be included in a show Maria is in this coming Spring, entitled Almost Home.  I wanted to be certain to lay claim to it now. 

I want to be sure you know that both Maria and Sara offered me their paintings as gifts. They are sweet to me! I just wanted to be a grown up and purchase art that I wanted so I insisted. 

Maria's painting is also a Wyoming scene. I love the colors.

I took a close-up so you could get a feel for the deep textures and details. 

If you are interested in Maria's gallery go to her website where she has lots to see.

Now, don't you feel all cultured up this week after having seen some new art?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Driving into a Storm

I recently made two purchases. You know I have a lot of family members who are artists, right? Obviously I can't have all their artwork, no matter how lovely. Now and then, though, I treat myself by investing in art that I love.

The first new purchase was this piece created by our daughter-in-law. I liked it the first time I saw it. I went online and purchased it before someone else did.  The title of it is Driving into a Storm.

I am really enjoying it! After I bought it Sara told me where it was. It is on the drive between our's and my Mom's. I love that drive so it is no wonder that painting spoke to me!

If you want to see any more of her work go to the website, newly designed by our son, Ben.

I will get photos ready for my next post of the other new art I purchased.  See you soon!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Influenza A

I have been home a few days thanks to the flu. I got sick and tested positive for Influenza A. Apparently the vaccine this year had some deficiencies.

Anyway, the flu just isn't fun and rather zaps all of your energy and IT HURTS! This one caused horrendous headaches and body pain. I feel I am past the worst of it now, though. I hope I didn't share it with anyone before I knew I had it.

Friday, my sickest day, I received this sweet video...

In case you didn't understand, Elise said she hoped I felt "bettay".  Elise changes the "ER" sound at ends of words to "Ay" sounds. So bettay translates to better.  She is pretty sweet.

So, I should be back at work and feeling well on Monday. I hope you all avoid Influenza this year!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Identity

Mark 1:11  And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased."
Mark's gospel doesn't leave us any surprises as to the identity of Jesus. 
        -Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God"... That's pretty clear.
        -Mark 1:11 Then the baptism, the Dove, the Holy Spirit, the voice.."You are my beloved Son."
There isn't much mystery in Mark's gospel. Jesus is the Son of God. That's his identity.
I started to think about the word, identity. We all have one, or maybe we have many identities.
Our identity, the way we see ourselves, is in part formed by us.  But then, we should also admit that people and things and circumstances form our identity, too.
For instance we have... 
     a)    a national identity. We are Americans and you would be different if you were born in South                 Africa.  
     b)   a cultural identity - cowboys/girl - What is Wyoming culture now?
     c)   a gender identity - male-female-confused
     d)   a racial identity - different shades of brown - human race
     e)   a social identity - the "we", the "they" cliques...the people who do this, the people who do that.
     f)   a religious identity - I am a Christian first. I am also a Lutheran.

Our identity is always in flux; It's always changing.
    a)   I look in the mirror and find that I am not a 16 year old boy with acne.
    b)   I see pictures of myself as a 1 year old.  That was me, that's not my identity today.

Sometimes our identity is...
    a)   bound up in the past (he showed a photo of high school football)
    b)   bound up in the's how I will look when I get serious about my exercise program               (he showed a photo of Arnold Schwartzenegger during his body building days)
For the Christian, our identity is with Christ. What I am concerned about is our identity today, right now and into the future. I want you to have a positive identity of yourself as a follower of Christ. Things in your past may not be so good but with God "right now" is a new opportunity. God is good at forgiveness, new chances and moving ahead with a positive Christian identity.

You know Jesus had/has an identity, too. We are at the beginning of the season of Epiphany, as season in which the identity of Jesus is being revealed.,,
   a) Baptism - my beloved Son
   b) Transfiguration - my beloved Son, listen to him
   c) Jesus revealed as the Son of God

(I have to tell you that there were a lot of pictures shown as Mike talked about each point. The picture that went with an  ascension  point was of Jesus up high with people down below looking up at him. I was holding Elise and when that photo went on the screen she had several comments, "Why is Jesus in the sky? Everyone can see his feet!"  I just thought I'd share that with you.)

So, let's look at some aspects of the identity of Jesus. First, he had a national identity. Jesus was a Jew/Hebrew, a follower of the law. Jewish law established how you felt about men's and women's roles and how you felt about Gentiles.

Jesus had a cultural identity. Time and culture had an influence on who Jesus was. Some were scandalized that Jesus was from Nazareth of Galilee. Even one of Jesus' own disciples said, "Can anything good come of out Nazareth?" 

Jesus had a gender identity. Jesus was a man. can you imagine Jesus as a woman rabbi in that culture? What a shock that would have been.

Jesus had a social identity. He was a member of the carpenter's union. This didn't win him any "cool points" as he tried to esta
blish himself as a rabbi/teacher. The term of derision was, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?"

One of the most important pieces of the identity of Jesus is as Son of God. Throughout history that has been the struggle... Jesus, divine AND human? The confession of the scriptures and the church is unchanged, Jesus is God's Son,

However, Jesus more frequently refers to himself as "the Son of Man" which can refer both to his humanity and to a figure who will come at the end times.

Now, I want you to think of the identity of Jesus in a different way., in a way in which we can identify.  Jesus was part of a family. Families form our identity, for the good or for the bad, functional or dysfunctional.

Jesus lived under a foreign oppressive government. The Jews didn't like living under Roman domination. Some thought Jesus might lead a revolt against Rome. He didn't, but they did 66-70AD.

Jesus was a sage, a wise man.

Jesus was a social reformer. He was known to talk with women, blessing children and going into Gentile land.

Jesus was a sender. He told his disciples to go into the villages, go and make disciples.

Jesus was a compassionate one...they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus was an angry one. He cleansed temple, turned over tables.

Jesus was a non-violent one. "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword."

Jesus was a chastizer. He was especially hard on the disciples... "You of little faith, how long must I be with you?"

Jesus was an encourager, "Your faith has made you longer have I called you servants, I call you are the light of the world."

Finally, we have an identity in this Christ, this Jesus, this Son of God.

Our identity as Christians is formed by the Word and the Holy Spirit. Who is God forming you to be today? We need to kick the negative stuff out of our lives. We can let the negative pastor form who we will be today or tomorrow. The devil, the world and our own sinful self may whisper that we are "no good" or "we failed in the past" but we can't listen to those voices.

God has a good place for you and a good future. With God's help, maybe you will be an encourager, a compassionate one. 

I don't know what the future holds but if we listen to him, to the beloved Son, well then, good things are coming our way. We are living out our true identity. We are part of God's family. God loves us, forgives us and gives us second chances. He knows our true identity.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Festival of Talents

We had a fun event at our church Saturday morning. A young woman in our congregation, I will call her Sarah... because that's her name, arranged it all. Sarah went around weeks ago and sweetly asked people to share a talent, to teach a short class. Seriously, she has the sweetest way about her and no one could turn her down.

Sarah had it all organized so we each had a room or a space to teach our thing. There were three sessions and each teacher taught only two sessions and attended a third. 

I taught crochet. It is hard to teach it in 30 minutes so maybe I just set them up for frustration but I promised to be available for help if needed.

Maria taught vegan baking. I don't think there are many vegans in our church but lots of people appreciate learning ways to lower calories and cholesterol in their baking. I heard that class all got chocolate chip cookies! Maria wore a lovely dress and apron, complete with high heels. She was quite a classy looking cook. She did NOT learn that from me but I like that she is often dressed up.

There were classes on writing a will, tying fishing flies, sewing, making and playing with play dough, voice lessons and more. It was wonderful!

Eric taught the basics of drumming. Eric is an accomplished drummer; I already knew that.  I took his class and really was impressed at how well he taught. We learned quite a bit in 30 minutes. I learned why a snare drum is called a snare drum. I learned a bit about how to train your limbs to all do different things at the same time, not that my brain will ever make that a reality.  I know which drums in the set are the Toms.

I don't expect I will ever be a drummer but there were some young people in the class who seemed pretty inspired!

The event made me think a bit about talents. We all have God-given gifts but we often don't recognize them or allow them to show. Sometimes I think it is because we think we have to be among the greatest in order to use our talents.  That is just dumb but it has taken me a lot of years to realize that.

I was thinking maybe we could tell each other about some of our talents.   I will if you will.  

I am not the greatest crocheter or typist in the world, but I can type and crochet like the wind.  I usually find it easy to express compassion. I can calm almost any baby, or at least I think I can. Confidence is worth something, right? My favorite personal talent is the one that took me many years to recognize as a talent. I am very adaptable. Move me to a new environment and I will adapt. It maybe isn't as cool as being a great dancer but it has served me well. Perhaps God knew what he was doing with me.

Ok.  Your turn... Go!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Girl Time

I love it when I get off early in a Friday. We meet our men for lunch and then it is GIRL TIME!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - "The Word"

It has been awhile since I snagged a copy of one of Mike's sermons. Here you go...

The Word

I want to see how good you are at recognizing great words, words that have shaped us as a people.  Here are some lines from great speeches. You tell me who said it.

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? 
For bid it, Almighty God!
I know not what course others may take,
but for me
give me liberty or give me death.

That came from Patrick Henry 1775, from a church pew when discussing whether to mobilize forces against the British.

Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth
on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty
and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

That came from Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address. Critics said it wasn't a good speech because it was too brief.

It was we the people, not we the white male citizens, 
nor yet we the male citizens but we
the whole people
who formed the union
and we formed it not to give the
blessings of liberty
but to secure them not to the half of ourselves
and the half of our posterity but the whole people,
women as well as men.

That was from Susan B. Anthony when she was fined $100 for casting an illegal ballot in the 1872 election.

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your country.

That was in JFK's inaugural address in 1961. He was 43 years old, the youngest and first Catholic president.  It seems like words we need to hear again in a society that is more individualistic.

I am also amazed by great words in the scriptures.  Every time I read John 1:1-18, the prologue, or the first word in John's gospel, I am overwhelmed at the great words.  There is so much to chew on, to think about in these 18 verses. I had a seminary professor tell me that when he took "The Gospel of John" when he was in seminary, his teacher spent 80% of the class on these first 18 verses. Almost every line is a classic:
  • In the beginning was The Word and The Word was with God and The Word was God.
  • The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
  • He was in the world and the world and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
  • But to all who did receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become Children of God who were born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God.
  • And The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son, from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • No one has ever seen God, the only Son, who is at the Father's right side, he has made him known.

Great, great words.  Let me see if it can be summarized in a few sentences.  By taking on human flesh, Jesus the Word comes into the world he created. The Word is the light of God that overcomes spiritual darkness and Jesus authorizes believers to become Children of God.  The only Son reveals God the Father to the World.

Words have great power over us. We are being bombarded by words on a continual basis. Those words, whether we realize it or not, are shaping us.

We are speaking words, and hearing words. We have words in our heads.

We get up in the morning and the words start coming.  Conversation, TV, radio, Kindle, words on my coffee machine, words on the packaging of my bread, on my cereal box...

As I write I notice words on my sweatshirt. It says, "2006 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals". Words are everywhere.

This year I have cut back on listening to/reading the news. This was hard for a boy who started reading the newspaper when he was in the 4th grade. The news was bringing me down. 

Every morning I listen to an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading and a devotional reading on my Kindle. I have a prayer time with God. That is, I speak words to God - confession, thanksgivings, words for others, words for myself, praise for God...

In his book he promises to speak over your life. Joel Osteen writes "Our words have creative power. Whenever we speak something, either good or bad, we give life to what we are saying.  Too many people say negative things about themselves, their families and about their futures. Here is the key. You've got to send your words out in the direction you want your life to go. You cannot talk defeat and expect to have victory.  You will produce what you say (or think)... With our words we can bless or curse our future."

When I read the words of John 1:1-18 I am encouraged.  It takes a lot of pressure off of me.  God created the world through The Word.  God continues to take care of the world, this congregation, my family, me.

I don't have to worry about salvation.The true light has come into the world that enlightens everyone. All who receive this light, believe in his name, are authorized to be Children of God.

Its a new year. I have no idea what will happen but I believe that God will take care of us.  I don't know about you but I am going to cast all my anxiety on God because he cares about me. I am going to make this a year of good words, of positive thoughts and positive proclamations. I know I feel better when I do this and I think you will, too.

Jesus is the ultimate good Word that God speaks to us. That Word is light and life. Go into 2015 with God's Word, Jesus, in the center of your life.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

White Out

This is what I had up on my office door yesterday. It was so good I needed to share it.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Return to Sender

Here is a funny/absurd thing that happened. I had to send in a payment for a PO Box last month. I wrote the address exactly as it was on my bill but a few weeks later it came back marked as "not deliverable". How can a letter to the postmaster be undeliverable?!  

Once, many years ago, I received a letter from my sister-in-law.  She and my brother had been married over a year at that time. As I read her letter I grew more and more confused by the things she had written. It was evident that she wasn't in Texas where they were living at the time. 

Eventually it occurred to me to look at the postscript and when I did I found that it had been mailed to me more than a year earlier, before they married and moved to Texas!

Have you any weird mail stories? Please note, I am not asking for any weird male stories, although that could be funny as well.

I hope you all have a nice week. I will try to check back in soon.

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