Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why me?

Bode does his business with lightening speed before dashing back inside.

We are having a White Thanksgiving!  Yep, we've got lots of white here today.  I don't know how many inches we have but enough of it was forecast that a lot of us changed our travel plans for this holiday.  We often go to my Mom's house and celebrate Thanksgiving there with my sister and her family.  That won't be happening today.  There are more than 100 miles of prairie between us and that prairie is all ice and snow today.  Luckily, our plan B is just a lovely.  We will be with Maria and Eric (daughter and son-in-law) and Cordelia and Elise (granddaughters) as well as our son, Sam.  

Our house is already starting to take on that holiday smell as I am making pies, rolls and vegan stuffing.  Maria is taking on most of the cooking, which is good.  She is an excellent cook and I always look forward to seeing what she has put together.  It will be a good day!

This week I have been thinking about how lucky blessed I have been.  Certainly my life has not gone as I had planned and I do not get everything I think I need.  However, I was thinking about the fact that all of the things I wanted most have been fulfilled for me.  

For one thing, I have always felt loved and protected by God, even during the hard times.  I have never felt abandoned.  That sounds kind of dramatic but honestly, I have observed that many have felt abandoned during much of their lives.  I have not ever truly experienced that... except maybe that time my parents left preschooler me at church.  No, just kidding, Mom!  I have never felt abandoned.

There are other dreams I had that have come true for me.  First, I married a great man.  I am so very grateful that God's plan for my life included Mike.  I was exactly the kind of girl who could have easily married someone abusive in some way.  I am not going to say much about that but my Dad was broken somewhere early in his life and if I'd married someone just like my Dad, my life would have been much more difficult.  I made my choice very early, knowing I wanted to marry Mike when I was 17 years old.  Not everyone decision I made at age 17 was the best and I am aware I could have made a gigantic mistake.  I didn't.  I've already enjoyed more than 37 years of marriage to a creative, funny, deep, quirky and spiritual man.  Not only have I been blessed with a good man, my children and grandchildren have been blessed by a dad and grandpa that loves them deeply.  I am so grateful.  But why me?  Not everyone has experienced a satisfying marriage.

I also really, really wanted to be a mother.  I am very aware that not everyone who wants children has that dream come true for them.  My gratitude for my children is huge!  Each of them is different than the other, with their own styles, their own dreams and their own ways of showing their love for me.  I've not always done things as well as I wish I had as a Mom, but still, they love me.  Again, I am so grateful!  But again, why me?  

Friends!  I have had so many friends!  Some friends are "forever" friends and some were there during different periods of my life, adding sparkle and contentment to my days.  I've had friends who have helped me through illness, grief and even friends who've shown up to help load moving trucks.  Now, that is a good friend, huh?!  I've had friends who have brought me in to enjoy the special days of their lives as well.  I've been a bridesmaid (matron) three times and I even had a friend invite me to be with her when she had one of her babies.  For every moment spent with a friend, I am grateful.

Mike & I have extended family that have been such a strong scaffolding for our marriage.  No couple is an island. We have always had extended family willing to enrich our lives and support our marriage.  I am very, very grateful for that. Not everyone has that blessing.

Grandchildren!  As a young girl I envisioned my future with a husband and children but I don't really think I dreamed of grandchildren at that time.  Apparently I was rather short-sighted.  The two granddaughters we have are such a joy!  They have so much personality!  They are so loving toward us, making us feel like celebrities every time they see us!  I so love watching them grow and learn and experience their own lives.  I just didn't understand until I experienced this grandparent thing for myself.  I am grateful!

I was typing this post as I was cooking steel cut oatmeal.  I had choices today for breakfast.  I could have made waffles or scrambled eggs or pancakes or just had Cheerios.  I have what I need for any of those breakfast meals. My point?  I've never been without food.  Yes, I've looked in my refrigerator and thought, "There's nothing to eat." It was never really true, though.  I've always had food.  I am grateful.

I have a home.  Often I think it is one of the "before" homes for an HGTV show but really, we have more than we need.  I am grateful.  Our "before" home would seem like a castle to many in this world.

So, I ask, "Why me?"  Why did I get to grow up so loved and well cared for?  Why did my biggest dreams come true?  Why do I get to be so content? 

Why me?  

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Generosity Allowed

excerpts from one of Mike's recent sermons....

Mark 12:38-44New International Version (NIV)

Warning Against the Teachers of the Law

38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

That's pretty intense.  Let's begin with a not-so-serious moment and look at stewardship...

This may come as a revelation to you but there are many churches in Las Vegas.  Not surprisingly, some people who come to church will put casino poker chips in the offering plate instead of money.  Since churches get chips from many different casinos, the churches have devised a method to cash in all these different chips.  The churches send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan Monastery for sorting. From there the chips are taken to the casinos of origin and cashed in, then the cash is given back to the churches.  This work, this labor, is done by....
Chip Monks!  

Today, I want to talk to you about "Generosity Allowed".  In our gospel reading a poor widow gives everything, even though it isn't much. She gives everything to help others. Jesus doesn't stop her. He allows her to be generous, even though she was the one in need.

Generosity is a willingness to give more of something, more than is expected.

We often speak of people being generous with their money, but people can be generous with their possessions, talent, time, attention, compliments, help, encouragement, hugs, listening, advice and so on.

When people are generous, without fanfare or hoopla, they are blessed, whatever the gift. Generosity leads to blessings.

Beth Hughes, a stay-at-home Mom in Oklahoma, was about to pay the grocery store cashier for food for her family's Thanksgiving Dinner last November.  A customer tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Ma'am, I'm going to pay for your groceries."

The customer stepped in and swiped her credit card, paying the $214 grocery bill, and left.  According to KJRH TV, Hughes was so shocked that she can't remember if she said "Thank you" but she did share the story on Facebook and encouraged others to do the same.

What causes someone to be generous, especially without a reward?  Well, I suppose it has to do with one's heart, one's spiritual condition, one's willingness to listen to God's promptings, a willingness to bless others...In reality, we humans can be both self-centered and generous.

The opposite of generosity is greed.  Our whole lives we will struggle with our sinful self.  We will want to take care of #1.  We will hurt others, just so we can get our way.  We will pass up opportunities to be generous and act selfishly. Of course, we will have justifiable reasons for our actions.

But, we see in our gospel reading that Jesus is a people watcher.  In his teaching Jesus said "Beware of the scribes..." be he could have said "beware of your own sinful self." The flesh, that selfish part of you, needs to die everyday and a new God-centered self should arise to live in obedience to God and God's ways.

Jesus took the disciples aside and said, "watch this." It was an insignificant act, a poor widow putting in a penny.  Jesus, the people watcher, was telling the disciples, "I like this. This is the kind of person you were created to be. You are allowed to be generous!"

My life has been blessed by generous Christian people.  My parents were generous and giving people.  They gave to the church and the community and to their children.  My mother has said, "I'm giving you this money.  My parents did it for me.  I hope you do it for your children."

I had a friend by the name of Terry Jones. Generosity came more naturally to him than to me.  He was willing to share candy bars, pop, toys, etc. with me.

I have been blessed by generosity in the church. One of those generous people was Evelyn Muir  in Harlowton, Montana.  One day, before church, she grabbed me by the arm and marched me up to the offering plate at the front of the church.  Then she announced, "Pastor, I want you to know that I just won the lottery and I am giving 1/10 of my winnings to the church." Then, she placed a $1 bill in the collection plate and returned to her seat.  Evelyn was generous to the community as well.  Every year she bought a golf membership at the country club.  She didn't golf but she knew that it helped the club survive in a small town.

Dick Frier was the barber in Harlowton.  He took care of a man who had a drinking problem.  This man had burned bridges with friends and family. Yet, Dick gave him free haircuts, brought him groceries and checked in on him.

Our gospel reading is telling us, generosity is allowed, you were made for this.  God sees the core of us.  He knows we struggle with sin and selfishness but he knows our great potential. He knows that in each one of us is a generosity impulse. We are being told to go ahead and give in to that impulse. The world, and you, will be blessed by your generosity.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

To be Cherished

Years from now, we probably won't remember this particular evening.  Nothing extraordinary happened, yet, it will be filed away somewhere in our "family night" cache of memories.  

Our granddaughters likely won't remember the goofy dances they did for us while their Dad, Grandpa Mike and Uncle Sam were watching football tonight.  They won't remember that I read books to them while the three of us sat on the floor in our guestroom.  They may not remember that we had a kid menu tonight including tomato soup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and chocolate almond milk.  They probably won't even remember the new princess magnets they got to arrange on our fridge. 

When they are grown, though, I hope they always carry a memory of love and joy from being at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  That is something I carried from my childhood. Grandpa and Grandpa's house always seemed almost magical to me.  It was my favorite vacation destination! 

I don't remember every detail of my time with my grandparents but I remember the feeling of being cherished.  That is my hope for our granddaughters as well.

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