Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Five Christmas Carols

Friday Five: Christmas Carol Edition
1. What is your all-time Christmas carol?  Silent Night 

2. What is your favorite Christmas hymn to hear on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Mary, Did You Know? 

3. What non-religious Christmas song is your favorite? The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) 

4. What is your least favorite Christmas song? It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...heard it way too many times over the years when I worked retail

5. If you could record a Christmas song duet with any singer (living or dead), with whom would it be and what is the song? And So This is Christmas (War is Over) with John Lennon. I'm not that great a singer, but I'm way better than Yoko ;)  



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful...but

It's Thanksgiving Eve. Tomorrow my husband works during the day, so we'll have dinner late. We have turkey, sage stuffing made with cornbread and white and whole wheat bread. Roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. Brownies for dessert, maybe a pie too, but my guys don't care for pumpkin. 

I'm grateful for being able to make a nice dinner for them, and older son's girlfriend. I'm glad they live here in town so we can get together easily. 

There are so many other things I'm thankful for this holiday, and every day. But i remember too, that there are so many who are less fortunate. As a pastor I work closely with organizations to help those who are in need, especially with food insecurity and homelessness. There is so much need right here in my home town. And sadly, the need is increasing. The economy in this area never comes back all the way from each successive downturn, so for 30 years there's been a slow spiral down economically. 

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for plenty to eat and a warm house to live in and a loving family. And i will continue to support and work to help alleviate the problems of poverty that plague my community. Will you join me? 


Monday, November 20, 2017


Roses were my Mom's favorite flower, and I guess they're mine too. 

They're so intricate. 
and they are fun to photograph. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thinking ahead


I took this picture with my cell phone this past Sunday. We had just a bit of slushy snow that morning, and as as we got home from church I happened to notice this colorful leaf. It's a nice image for late fall. 

This fallmorning, Christmas songs are on my mind. Yes, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving, and I am NOT one to play Christmas music before then, ....although I could listen to "Feliz Navidad" and a couple others all year ;)  But this morning, I am doing worship planning. I am scheduled to preach at the morning service at our church on Dec. 24. So I've been rummaging through Bible lessons, hymnals and YouTube videos. The latter get used since I don't read music. So far, I've narrowed it down to about 8 songs! We won't be able to do all of them, and I am leaving alone the "night" songs, "Silent Night", and "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" for example, since we'll sing those in the evening service. But there's so much wonderful music to choose from!

Here's a cool version of one of our hymns for that day! 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reading

oops, forgot to blog for a couple days! (we all knew that would happen didn't we? 😉

Saw this article online on the importance of reading. I've always loved to read! When I was a kid, i would read way later than bedtime, wore out a lot of flashlight batteries reading under the covers! Now I have devices to read on any time of day or night! and still read print books too.
So here's the article...

Reading Books Will Help You Build These 7 Habits



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veteran's Day



"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." -Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Today is Veteran's Day, and I posted on Facebook, my gratitude to family and friends who are on active duty or have served. The freedoms we have here in the U.S. have indeed come at great cost. 

Our country was founded on Biblical principles. Sadly, those principles have not been fully lived out. Justice means that all are treated fairly in all situations. People living in poverty, women, people of color, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities are often treated unjustly. Unfair treatment happens in regard to respect- personal and professional, equal treatment under the law, or in wages. 
People are rising up to protest in various ways. The protests range from social media posts of "Me Too" regarding unwanted sexual advances and abuse; to huge marches and rallies of various kinds. There is of course serious push-back to the protests. {although the "Me Too" on social media seemed to wake a lot of folks to realize how widespread sexual harassment is!}  

Domestic tranquility will not and can not be complete until all experience true justice. There will be no true justice until we can all find some common ground and discuss issues with respect. There will be no true justice until we all realize that we all are perpetuating the problems, and we all make active efforts to change our mindset and learn new ways, and reach out in the true Love, that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) This is my prayer today.

Friday, November 10, 2017

2 photos

A couple more photos from a frosty morning. 
The sun shining on the frost was so pretty! 



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Craving Living Water

This is a Bible lesson I shared at a  Women's Fellowship event at my church. 

This is a story that is familiar, and over the years, there has been a lot of teaching on this story that is highly critical of the woman. And many of the women of the bible. But modern scholars, have learned more about what every day life was like in Jesus' time and studies by those more open to the viewpoint of women and the other so called outsiders with whom Jesus interacted, has brought new insights.
Text...from CEB-Common English Bible. 

Jesus leaves Judea

Chapter 4
1 Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was making more disciples and baptizing more than John (2 although Jesus’ disciples were baptizing, not Jesus himself). 3 Therefore, he left Judea and went back to Galilee.

Jesus in Samaria

4 Jesus had to go through Samaria. 5 He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
9 The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
10 Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.”
17 The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.”
You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered.18 “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
19 The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way.24 God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.”


Going 'through” Samaria was unusual. There was long time feuding betw. Jews and Samaritans, going back centuries. Jews believed that Samaritans didn't properly follow the laws about ritual cleanliness or worship.

Also in this time in the Middle East, men and women who were not related did not speak to one another, or even make eye contact. So Jesus speaking to this woman broke a couple of long-standing, iron-clad traditions.

Scholars often point out the woman arguing with Jesus. I'm not reading it exactly that way, I think the conversation taken as a whole shows her to be bright and curious—wanting to learn! When she asked him, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, that may be a challenge. But could it be that she genuinely wants to know how he can say this? What does he really mean? She also refers to “Our ancestor Jacob” which is a comment on what the Jews and Samaritans have in common! I find that fascinating... he and then she break the customs that keep them apart, but once their discussion begins, they can find a common connection.

Jesus' reply..
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

He has no restrictions on it. Everyone...Jew or Samaritan, who drinks here will thirst again, but if they drink my Living Water, they will never thirst. ..”

Everyone!

Her response, Give me this water! She may be speaking literally... water that sustains me so I don't have to carry water from the well! Or maybe she's understanding at this point the spiritual depths Jesus speaks of.
Either way, he tells her, get your husband and come back.
She answers I have no husband...again she's open and honest with him!
and he says, you've told the truth!' and says he knows she's had 5 husbands and she's not married to the man she's with now.

This is the point that has caused a lot of scholars to refer to this woman as basically a fallen woman. Modern scholarship however, says otherwise.
In these times, women could not initiate a divorce, unless there was flagrant adultery. And women were at a huge economic disadvantage if they were not married. She may have been in a situation called Levirite marriage, where if the oldest son in a family dies childless, the widow is obliged to marry the next brother to try to carry on the family inheritance. She could have been married into a family with a bad gene pool and/or accident prone behavior! (She apparently was not to blame, it seems He might have mentioned that!) There was also some acceptance of a couple living together in a committed relationship, if the woman had no dowry to bring to a marriage.

This part is also very likely more of a symbol to John's readers, about the nation of Samaria itself. They were, in the Jewish view, worshiping more than one god, and not in a covenant relationship with God. So the 5 husbands are the many gods, and the one who is not your husband is the broken covenant.

Maybe this is a woman with a long string of bad luck or a symbol of a nation that needs to come back to relationship with the One true God. Either way, she is a symbol of the loneliness and heartbreak that we all feel at one time or another!

Jesus reveals that he knows her well. And her response? “Sir I can see you are a prophet!” and she asks him a theology question! Here again I see her as bright and curious and wanting to learn! {if you want to change the subject, do you discuss theology? No, “it's how about this weather?” Or something else safe!”

This whole story is the longest single conversation that Jesus has with anyone in the gospels, and it's with someone who is on the surface, a complete outsider. Yet he perceives her craving for something different, a new way. She craved Living water!

Jesus' answer speaks to the difference between their 2 customs of worship, yet brings it around to 'all must worship in spirit and in truth”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Again, he puts no restrictions on it... aside from “True worship”. -the time is coming and has now come, refers to the prophecies that he himself is fulfilling.

25 The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.”

This is the first time, in fact the only time until his 'trial' that Jesus says he is Messiah. He asks the disciples who do people say I am, and when others say something to that effect, he tells them not tell anyone else. (which they promptly ignore)

But he says it plainly to her... to this outsider!!

27 Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus.
.
39 Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of the world.”
Again, the 'normal' customs of the day that divide people were broken. And because of this woman's -this woman who shouldn't have looked at or spoke to Jesus;-because of her curiosity and belief, many came to believe in Jesus..as Messiah.
God can use anyone and everyone.....to mend the divisions between us.

She left her water jar, just as Peter and his brother left their fishing nets, Matthew left his tax collection booth. She brought people -outside the Jewish traditions to faith in Jesus! The Salvation and love and grace of God through Jesus is indeed for everyone! Because we all crave connections and the Living water can bring us to a complete relationship with God and each other.

Let us pray:

God of All, thank you for your Word which enlightens us and brings us together with you and each other. Guide us to live in this knowledge, to stay in your word, indeed help us to crave YOUR living water! Guide us to focus on connection rather than division, & guide us to share Your love and carry that message into our community. We pray in the name of Jesus the Messiah, Amen.







Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Frosty Morning

I live in the Midwest US, so we definitely have four seasons. We joke that we sometimes have all four in a single day! This morning is the first really chilly morning of this fall, it was 21 degrees  F. when I got up. (about 10 deg. colder than it's been the past few mornings.) The predicted high for today is 47, not a bad day for November. But a cool, crisp morning sure reminds one that winter's not far off! There was frost on the ground and I was able to get a few photos. There is beauty in every season if we pause to pay attention. 






Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bountiful Blessings



This is the altar at my church, United Church of Beloit (Wisconsin) decorated for fall. An anonymous talented person* brought the mums, gourds, and basket decorations and arranged them. Doesn't it look great? It's a lovely reminder of how blessed we are. Most of us have more than enough to eat, a place to live, a vehicle, and a job or a retirement income. I pray we who do have enough are generous to help our neighbors in need, by donating our time and/or monetary gifts to organizations who help our neighbors. 

*Pretty sure the arrangement was made by the Sr. Minister's wife, Joanne :) 

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Blessing for Every Occasion

Sermon at United Church of Beloit Nov. 5, 2017 

A Blessing for Every Occasion 

Psalm 118:19-29
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.


Our Psalm this morning is one of several that was composed specifically to be sung in worship services-for the beginning of the Passover worship service.

118:19  the gates of righteousness.  The entrance to the sanctuary, leading to the presence of God, where the psalmist will offer thanks. The gates are righteous because the One who dwells behind them is righteous, and those who enter must be righteous as well (Ps. 15  and  24). must put God first and obey the commandments...

118:22  The stone that the builders rejected.  The metaphor would likely refer originally to a king, who represented his people.
the cornerstone.  The low and insignificant, despite having been rejected, is exalted to the chief place. A Cornerstone, the first stone or concrete block laid in the foundation of a new building, must be laid perfectly straight, because all the rest of the building is aligned with that very first stone. A stone rejected by the builders, was not square, or would not align straight and true. Yet, the song says the rejected stone became the the cornerstone!

This hymn must have been on Jesus' mind during his Last Supper with the disciples. In the gospels Jesus quoted vv. 22, 23 about Himself. He said HE was the stone the builders rejected who would become the Cornerstone. He would of course become the cornerstone, the foundation of the church!

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! We hear and even say that a lot. And it means today this very day is the day the lord has made, so we are grateful!!

but it means much more as well! It means that Jesus. The One who was rejected is the cornerstone, the very foundation of our faith and worship. And how can we be anything but grateful!?


118:26  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the  Lord. Later, this cry is lifted up by the crowds as they welcome the true King, Christ Jesus, into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. (Matt. 21:9). In a way still beyond their understanding, Jesus was about to defeat sin and death on the cross.

Because of God’s victory, His people will turn the day of despair into a day of worship before the Lord. We now know that victory came through Jesus on the Cross,

You see how this psalm ties to the stories of Jesus?

Shortly in our Communion service, We commemorate the Passover meal , that last supper that Jesus had with his disciples.

Now let's look at our New Testament Lesson.

Philippians chapter 4

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Keep God first. Rejoice, find something to be grateful for. Remembering to count our blessings is powerful. An attitude of gratitude for blessings large and small makes life better all the way around! Do you know people who grump and complain about every little thing? They're never happy. Then think about someone you know who is grateful for what they have and always tries to look on the bright side! Who would you rather spend a lot of time with?
How can we develop or improve our attitude of gratitude? ...

In the Jewish tradition, at the time of Jesus and since, people say quick short prayers upon awakening and throughout the day to help them remember to always put God first. The prayers begin with “Blessed are you Oh Lord Our God, King of the Universe..” if you saw the play or movie Fiddler on the Roof, there is a line, “Rabbi, is there a blessing for a sewing machine?” to which the Rabbi replies, “There's a blessing for everything!”
to be clear, one isn't praying God bless you, God. To bless God is to praise God! Remember Psalm 103 which begins “Bless the Lord O My Soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” it means to praise the Lord. By the way, a pastor friend says that if you forget to say grace before a meal, you can just say that verse!... (pat stomach) “all that is within me bless his holy name..”
“to bless” in Hebrew translates to both praise, and to kneel, as if kneeling in worship, or to receive a blessing. To kneel, is an act that shows that you are humbling yourself. Lowering yourself before God or the person bestowing the blessing.
So to say Blessed is the Lord God, is to humble ourselves to praise God, to honor and revere, the lord and creator of all. And in so doing, we are putting God first, which helps us to remember how truly blessed we are!
At that Last Supper, After Jesus and the disciples settled together around the Passover table, the first words Jesus spoke were: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). 

He looked forward with joy and anticipation to have this special celebratory meal with his favorite people...

do you look forward to a holiday dinner with your favorite people? If you're the main cook and cleaner, then Joy may not be the very first word that comes to mind! {Story about Sherry remembering me teaching her how to shuck sweet corn! My thought was “all these people to feed”}
But years later, that moment was a cherished memory for our oldest niece! So do try to find some joy even in all the work during the upcoming holidays. You never know what might end up being a blessing for someone else.

Philippians 4
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable―if anything is excellent or praiseworthy―think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me―put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

We may find ourselves down, struggling with emotions for a variety of reasons. But we can choose to change our focus, to mentally set aside the sadness, anger, or whatever. I have a friend who has a magnet on her frig that says “Today I am in charge of how I feel, and I am choosing happiness” she isn't just ignoring situations in her life, or in the world, but she is a person of prayer. She prays over things, and then doing whatever she can about situations, she moves forward. And chooses to be happy. Because she knows she is alive, she has children and grands and that is a lot to be grateful for.

I think of this text being a type of "mental floss". When we are mired in thoughts or things we've heard or read that bring us down or make us angry, we can help turn ourselves around, and 'floss' our thoughts with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. These are qualities of God. When we view something lovely, we are taking in a quality of God. Ponder excellence or perfection, you are pondering a quality of God. If and when we think about things that have these qualities, it helps us to get the negativity out of our minds. That's  why i call it "mental floss" -we can floss away the debris left by the negativity.  That's what my friend does.

Jesus chose to be filled with Joy at that last Supper...he had eagerly looked forward to it. Even tho in a matter of hours he would be arrested, beaten, and go through the worst form of capital punishment that humans could devise, and in so doing, he would take on the sin of humanity...all of OUR sin, and therefore, upon that cross, endure complete and utter separation from God. Yet He chose to enjoy time with those closest to him. He praised God, how can we do anything less?

Please pray with me, Blessed are you Lord God, maker of heaven and earth! Thank you for your Word which helps us learn how to choose gratitude, and to honor and revere you, Thru your blessed son, Jesus we pray, amen.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

photo of geese


Near the post office, there are geese that hang out along the river. There's an open grassy area across the street that seems to have lots of good seeds or bugs or whatever it is they like! This goose was kindly posing next to a small Burning Bush so I was able to get a nice shot. There is always one that stands guard, keeping an eye out for interlopers while the others find tasty treats in the grass. I stayed in the car with window open to get the shot, so as to not bother them too much. 

A while back a friend posted on Facebook about seeing migrating geese near his home in Michigan. Someone asked if they were Canada Geese?  he answered he wasn't sure, and many of us commented things like, "Did they say Honk, eh?" or "Were they very polite?" Just a little humor....very little, i know ;) 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

sunrise!

Sunrise, Friday.
Yes I recently wrote that I don't often see sunrises, or am not able to photograph them. (Lots of trees in the way at home, and i am not a morning gal!)  But Friday morning, my timing was good, and got a few shots by the river. (at Wooton park boat landing) The clouds are so beautiful!!

The river was quite smooth, so the reflection was almost hypnotically beautiful. 






Reminder, all the photos and writings on this blog are my own, unless credited otherwise. All are  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.