Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dust to Dust

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:4-6

I like to tell my children that when Mommy and Daddy wanted to have a baby, God handpicked them from all the children in heaven and knew they would be the perfect kid for me and Daddy. I picture lines of children with signs above like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd kid, and angels with clipboards filling orders. Sometimes they get sent two or more at a time and sometimes they are returned prematurely, but the ones that make it are perfectly matched for their parents. My kids know heaven is their real home because that’s where they came from.

Today my 5YO asked what happens to our bodies after we die. I told him they go back into the ground to turn back into dirt. I told him about how God took a handful of dirt and made Adam out of it, so we are technically made from dirt and that when we die our spirit goes to heaven where we get new bodies that won’t wear out, and our old body stays on earth and becomes dirt again. He was really excited about his new body that he is going to get in heaven because I told him his new body won’t be able to get hurt. An awesome prospect for an accident prone boy!

I didn’t always want to have children. I didn’t think kids were a good idea. They wreak havoc on your world and consume an inordinate amount of time with little return. (I wonder if God ever feels that way about us.) But since I’ve had children, I can safely recommend them to all my childless friends. They have opened another dimension of my life that could not have existed without them. They have brought me immeasurable joy, pain, and pride. They have brought me closer to God because I need him now more than ever. I am in direct charge of expanding God’s family through my own. My greatest task is to teach my children how to get to heaven.

I like to think that if I get that one thing right, then maybe all the others will fall into place. Maybe I’m dreaming. Please don’t wake me. I need the rest!

“… For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mr. Bird and Kitty Waa Waa

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

Yesterday we witnessed one of the Circle of Life’s not so nice episodes. The cat, Kitty Waa Waa, as she’s known to the kids, had captured a bird in the front yard, so we were able to watch the whole saga unfold from the kitchen window. I know, a bird killing is at least rated PG-13, but my kids are kind of into that kind of thing just like I was, so we watched to see what would happen. (Yes, I would have ran out and shooed the cat away before the blood and guts started!)

We thought the bird was dead right away, but the cat kept sitting there looking away and then going in for the slap if the bird made even a twitch. This went on for a minute or two until the bird hopped up and flew all the way across the yard where the cat caught up with him and slapped him out of the air. The kids thought this was immensely funny.

Then here comes the cat with limp Mr. Bird’s neck in her mouth carrying him back to where we had a better view. (She knew she had an audience!) I told the kids that Mr. Bird was definitely dead now and the cat laid him out on the ground right in front of the window. A couple of times I thought I glimpsed breathing, but the bird lay there with its head on the ground, completely still.

Something else must have caught the cat’s eye, because she left her prey and trotted off. I think she must be ADD, but then again, it may run in the family. Probably the years of tail pulling that she’s had to endure.

Just when I was thinking I had a dead body removal to perform, Mr. Bird sensed his chance. His head popped up and he took off across the yard! I thought the kids would die laughing. It was a real Tom & Jerry moment. He appeared to have a broken wing, but would have none of me and the kids trying to catch him and nurse him back to health. I think word must be getting out among the wildlife. He ended up in some low bushes across the street with several of his bird friends cheering him on in the trees above him.

Thank God for comedic performances, laughter with family, and second chances, although sometimes we turn out a little worse for the wear!

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prostrate Check

Our hymn for today is #272 in the blue hymnal. “All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name, let angels prostrate fall...”

Ok, I left out Kathey in yesterday’s blog about the wedding. She’s our church secretary and she made a most fitting second witness, as I later found out. She also took pictures, I’m hoping one of which will go with the dollar store bouquet and Princess Jasmine veil that have mysteriously disappeared from the church.

Kathey is our church secretary and has been witness to all sorts of events, I’m sure. Kathey and I have mutually attended several Women’s events at the church and I’ve learned a bit about her personality and life through these shared events and her keeping me company while I’m cooking on Tuesday afternoons.

I know that as a young girl she watched a boy riding a motorcycle through the window and reportedly said, “I’m going to marry that boy on the motorcycle.” And later she did! I know that she’s always willing to help, but when you ask her to stir your BBQ pork in the crockpot about 3 pm, she will say "no", but do it anyway because she doesn’t like a messy kitchen either. She likes to laugh and loves her family and is usually in good spirits – all-in-all a lovely church secretary!

The church where I grew up also had a lovely church secretary named Sherry. Sherry is still responsible for prayer requests, getting the bulletins and newsletters together, phone calls, messages, appointment making and such, and after being there all week long, still making it to church every Sunday, just like Kathey. I get Sherry’s Prayer Request emails a couple of times a week.

Have you ever gotten one of those emails with church bulletin mistakes that were funny. Something like: Sermon series – Fasting to cleanse your body. Fellowship meal to follow? Well, Sherry always made the typo in the bulletin about members having “prostrate” cancer. I had noticed it several times and was a teenager when I finally made the connection between her typo and the song at the beginning of this post. Needless to say, I was cracking up the rest of the church service. Since then, every time I hear that song, I think of Sherry. It’s OUR song, whether she knows it or not.

Anyway, both of these ladies have the thankless task of being the behind the scenes administrators of the church. They serve the church, its members, their Pastors, and ultimately the Lord with their steadfast faith and willingness. They issue letters about completing counseling sessions to allow young members to get their marriage licenses, and sometimes witness the outcome. They coordinate volunteers, events, scheduling, and the files and records of the church. The sometimes give us something to smile about during a particular long church service. What would we do without them?

Thanks to the Sherrys and Katheys out there who keep their congregations in line. Thanks for your generosity and dependability. And thanks for serving God, while at the same time putting up with… I mean… serving us!

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dearly Beloved....

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.” Mark 10:7-8

A funny thing happened while I was cooking Wednesday night’s meal today at the church – a wedding!

About 1:00pm, a boy (ok, I guess he’s a man now if he’s married) whom I thought was about 12 until I saw him in his military fatigues at church on Sunday, and his girlfriend came in looking for the Pastor. They had funny looks on their faces (think deer in the headlights) and he was carrying an envelope. Pastor was still out to lunch, but since I don’t usually know anything, I directed them to ask the keeper of the preschool. She’s in the know about schedules and such.

Then I see exasperated couple and director of the preschool heading up the hall as I continue to stir my rice. The crafting group was just getting settled in the next room. One of the ladies even caught the couple on their way out of the church and spoke with them briefly. Matrimonials never came up!

Imagine our surprise when Jo, our preschool director, comes into the kitchen where several of us were chewing the fat, with a bouquet of fake flowers and a veil that I recognized from the Princess Jasmine dress up outfit in my Sunday School room. I said, half jokingly, “What’d they do, get married?”

And sure enough they had! In less than 20 minutes, this boy and girl had become husband and wife. They had eaten lunch at Arby’s, and then came to the church to get married in shorts and tennis shoes. His plane was leaving at 4:30pm for California. I guess there are housing issues for marrying couples that needed to be settled. Some of the ladies said that they thought the actual wedding would take place sometime in May.

I hate to tell them, but today was the actual wedding! No amount of pomp and splendor or witnesses will make them any more married than they were today. It was just the two of them, the Pastor, and Jo. No parents, no siblings, nada. I’m guessing the Princess Jasmine veil was the something borrowed, and I only hope someone took at least one picture with their camera phone or something. I also hope they told their parents that today was no ordinary Tuesday!

And then for the rest of the day, I was shot! I kept reliving my own wedding, and the lack of knowledge of it on behalf of my in-laws in Russia. His mother called in the middle of the night screaming and crying. They were not happy that their 18-year-old only child had married an American woman. They thought I was too pale (must be sick all the time), too thin (obviously couldn’t cook), and I was 21, so I must have MADE him marry me. Then there was the common speculation that he’d married me for a green card. Then there was the fact that we hadn’t even known each other six months. And all the paperwork I had to complete on my foreign husband! What a trip.

I see some similarities in my story and the story that unfolded today - paperwork, youth, Arby’s, lack of parental witness, an odd something borrowed. (Tube socks – you figure it out!)

For the record, the in-laws warmed up to me and even think I look a little Russian. It HAS been 12 years, after all. Oh, and their Russian son is now an American, although we argue about that term.

I hope the newlyweds will include today as part of their wedding story, even though they probably feel like it wasn’t their REAL wedding. I wish they’d taken the veil and flowers with them as mementos. I think it will make a great story to tell their grandkids someday!

So if you see me stealing some flowers and a dress up outfit from the church tomorrow, remember it is for a good cause. Congratulations to the happy couple! And thanks for the memories! I hope I’m not spilling the beans!

“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:9

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Heart, One Voice

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

I just got back from attending my first LWML District Convention. The verses above were the basis for the One Heart, One Voice theme of the convention. Somewhere around 320 LCMS Lutheran women from all over my fair state gathered in Oklahoma City for two days of singing, fellowship and parliamentary procedure. A good time was had by all… I think.

I went to find out more about the LWML and was torn. On one hand, I was a Delegate, who was responsible for voting for mission grants and LWML officers my first time out. On the other hand, I was also a Young Women’s Representative (YWR), a small group of 20-40ish year olds who seemed to be the fun bunch at the conference. And the most distinct group at the gathering.

I found out – and there were many jokes about this during the conference – that the primary body of the LWML has a lot of “maturity”. Perhaps 10% of the attendees were under 40, in my rudimentary approximation. There was a special servant project, a special interest session, a special evening social, a special seating section and a special luncheon, all for the YWRs. It gave us all a chance to get to know each other, as much as any group can in two days time.

The experience left me thinking, why does being labeled as part of a group give me both heartburn and confidence at the same time? Obviously from all the “special” events planned for the YWR group, we were enthusiastically welcomed at this event. Some of the more “mature” ladies, that I didn’t even know, even stopped me in the foyer and hugged me and told me they were glad that I was there. (For future reference: I’m not a hugger and I only have one purple shirt.)

I think truth be known, the LWML would like to see more YWRs attend events, but at the same time, I don’t want to be labeled a YWR because that means I’m a part of a group. That means I might have to do something. And don’t I already have enough to do? Don’t answer that.

Nevertheless, I left knowing that I should learn the ropes now. I’m thinking that by the time I’m of the 50+ crowd, I’ll be less open to change and new learning opportunities. I’ll probably be less fun, too. I left with the thought that my church should be doing more to bind the 20-40 crowd, or YWRs, or whatever you want to call them, together. The speakers said we’re supposed to take it “personal” too, so I’m sure the change must start with ME. I’m not sure I gleaned any distinct fellowship ideas that will have young mothers and college students running out of the woodwork, but maybe the opportunity will present itself. Hopefully my One Heart and One Voice won’t be overpowered by my One Mind which is sometimes too dense to get the message.

So maybe my attending the conference was just to make me think. Maybe I’ve met someone whom I’ll be bound with in service at a later date. Maybe I need to stay alert for opportunities for young women that I’ve never been sensitive to in the past. Maybe my mom was right when she said, “What’s in your heart eventually falls out your mouth.” Maybe I’ve already said it, or maybe there is a lot left to be said. I’ll let you know when I figure it all out!

It could be a while. Don’t wait up!

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Groany Pony

“Do not join with those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21

Roany Pony is a glutton. His weakness is grass. He can’t help himself. Every Spring when the grass finally greens up, I have to watch him like a hawk or he will eat himself into a terrible fit of founder. He has been so bad before that he could barely walk and had to have injections every four hours to get him over the hump. Of course, I was his nurse and I was ecstatic that he recovered fully. I still almost cry when I see him buck and play.

Roany has been with us for four years and came from a man who was heavy handed. He is very untrusting of adults, but loves kids. When my little one was only a year old, Roany would bend his neck to meet his hand so the baby could pet him through the fence. He’s never kicked, bit, or even moved an inch when a kid was anywhere near him. In fact, sometimes I send the kids out to catch him because he won’t come to me without a big bribe of sweet feed and a little song and dance we do before he lets me catch him. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about ponies that were spoiled rotten, but with Roany that is just not the case. He is our good pony, even if he is a pig!

Every time I see Roany lying down in the pasture, I suspect he has fallen to founder once again. This morning he was stretched out for more than 30 minutes under the cottonwood tree and I ran out to check on him. I scrutinized his every stretch as he rose. He looked a little stiff to me. So I blamed myself once again, for not putting him up sooner. I know his weakness. I am his keeper. It is all my fault and all my work when he gets sick. I second guessed the treat of some sweet feed yesterday after he’d let the kids ride him bareback and lead him around the pasture by themselves.

I put him in the front pasture, which is smaller and has less grass. Within an hour, he was back down. I kept watching him. Just when I was headed to the garage for my tube of Bute, he was up and wandering around as if he had made peace with his temporary confinement. And he was fine the rest of the day!

Naturally, for the next week or so I’ll be watching him like an old mother hen. I’ll be letting my big horse, Scooter, in with him to help eat the grass so Roany won’t get too much to eat and because I know it is not the same seeing your buddy through the fence. I’ll still let Roany out in the big pasture throughout the Summer periodically so he can keep up with the gossip with the horse that lives behind us and the ones cattycorner and across the street. I’m pretty sure they have horse meetings when no one is looking.

It is a lot of work to take care of a glutton! Almost like living with an addict of sorts. I can never trust Roany to know when enough is enough, and yet I can’t leave him to his own demise because we love him.

Thanks be to God for never giving up on all the gluttons of this world, whether equine or mankind, and for loving us enough to keep us from what we deserve.

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10-11

Monday, April 12, 2010

Battle Horse

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31

I like to think of myself as a horse in the Kid War. Every morning I get up and try to get myself ready for the day’s battle. I think of my plan of action, as in “If they act like they did yesterday, I’m gonna…” I ready my arsenal of timeouts, removal of prized possessions, spankings, and miscellaneous threats. I tell myself that I’m the mother and they will listen to me today! Of course, I am wrong most of the time.

I had a sticker in my cubicle back when I worked for the government that said, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Some days I think this saying is applicable to my life with my boys. Some days I’m not sure if I’m the one whose morale needs to improve or if it is theirs. I’m not sure if I’m the one giving the “beatings” or taking them. There is a lot of gray area that comes with motherhood.

And yet, we carry on. Most days, things go pretty smoothly even though my words fall on deaf ears. Most days, there is no bloodshed or serious injury caused by their not listening to my specific instructions. Most days, what I want them to do gets done even though it seems like they argue with me forever. And most days, it is me that probably needs a timeout more than they do, or at least a nap.

I seem to put a lot of effort into the first part of this verse, but forget about the but. I should really be praying more for patience and wisdom and guidance as to how best to teach my sons to be godly men, but I get caught up in trying to get them to always do what I want them to do, act the way I want them to act, wear what I want them to wear, and so on. Sometimes it’s hard just to let it go.

And so the horse is often frustrated – that explains the long face. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself!)

Eventually, I will have to trust that what I’ve taught them has been good enough for them to make it out in the world on their own. Eventually, tests will come of their faith and beliefs and it is then that my mothering will be on display. Eventually, I will become painfully aware of some area that I must have missed. Eventually, I will have to come to the realization that I’ve not been in control the entire time. God has. And I’m only helping God shape them into the people that he knows they will be, regardless of how I think they should turn out.

Maybe all that arguing is just junior lawyer training. Maybe all the tuning me out is really honing their focusing skills. Maybe their perseverance and stubbornness will make them great role models to their children. Maybe they will love me despite my shortcomings, and put me in a nice nursing home someday!

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rummage Sale

“I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.” Job 29:14

Come with me on a walk down memory lane to a place known as the Fellowship Hall, where each Summer the Ruth Guild would hold their annual Rummage Sale. Rummage Sale was right! First people rummaged through their own things to see what could be cast off. Then the organizers of the sale would rummage through the items to put them in order, or see what they might want of the cast offs. Then the public would come rummage, again and again. Rummage Sale, for sure.

As I said in my last post, the youth of our church held a Rummage Sale today as a fundraiser for the National Youth Gathering. They called it a Garage Sale, but from my professional opinion, it was definitely a Rummage Sale. And I should know! For years, I was dragged along with my Nanna to the church to help with the set up, take down, sales, etc. of the annual Rummage Sale. She was one of those ladies who was at the church every time the door was open and helped with every event. I was with Nanna most of the time, so I “helped” too.

Bertha, Wilma, Monetta, Ann, Lilian, Loraine, Ella Ann, Ruth, Margaret, and my Nanna, Irene. All these ladies were more like surrogate grandmothers to me growing up, and all were involved in the rummaging, if memory serves me right. Back then, the prized items for me were toys and costume jewelry that I would try on and play with while the ladies set things up. I remember a few of them trying on some of the clothes over their own clothes, or taking them to the bathroom for an official fitting. Back then, the strange items were leisure suits, psychedelic polyester shirts, and go-go boots that had been in peoples’ closets for decades before seeing light of day at the rummage sale.

Fast forward to Friday - I had donated three trash bags of toys, puzzles and stuffed animals from the children with the mutual understanding that we would return for the sale and let them pick out a few new treasures. Friday evening was setup, and I figured if I helped, then I would be privy to any exclusive pre-sale items. My five-year-old quickly found his stuffed animals and had donator’s remorse, but I was able to distract him with a new stuffed horse from Build-A-Bear. One dollar. What a bargain! Then we found a Leapster, a Don’t Break the Ice game, and a stuffed dragon. They were set!

I started helping unload the donated clothing out of black trash bags. This time around, it appeared the ‘80s had been resurrected since we found several instances of large print shirts with shoulder pads. Then, one of the teenagers reportedly found some kind of ballet pants. I had to educate her as to what stirrup pants were (not that I ever wore them, of course). We put them with the shoulder pad shirts so they could be reunited. Maybe someone found a complete outfit!

Then, it happened - I reached into a sack of clothes and found what should be the understood non-donate-able item. UNDERWEAR! Who donates old underwear to the church garage sale?? I need names. I had to touch them. Old underwear. One stretch away from a blowout underwear. Not good!

Anyway, we all had a great time setting up for the Garage Sale on Friday night. I may or may not have tried on a gray wig and pink housecoat, and there may or may not be pictures. We laughed, we cried, and all-in-all I only ended up taking home one trash bag full of stuff, so it was a net gain!

Check and see if your church has an upcoming Rummage/Garage Sale that you can donate some of your stuff to. Know that your stuff will provide the basis for some good fellowship between numerous members of your congregation. Yes, some of it may be at the expense of your stuff, but it will be good fun nonetheless.

And remember, UNderwear is UN-donate-able, or at least it is if I’m working your sale!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:2

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sneaky Cleaning

“When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.” Matthew 12:44

Ok, so I missed yesterday. I enjoyed adult conversation and lunch with a friend. I’ll try to make up for it on Saturday.

Anyway, today I’m being a bad mother for like the million-bazillionth time. The church is having a garage sale this weekend for the youth to raise money to go to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans this Summer. And since my children are without want (except for everything Lego Star Wars ever made) and in a state of excess, I thought this might be a good time to get rid – uh, donate – some of the excess. I’ve waited, conveniently, until they were both at school to go through the booty.

We have a closet in our kitchen area that is a black hole of childhood. My children, much like myself, have a penchant for arts and craft supplies. Not so much the actual process of making something, just having the supplies. My vice is yarn. Today, it appears theirs is coloring books and paper items.

So I’m making stacks - Keep, Trash, and It’s Outta Here! I’m sure the last one will receive some negotiation when the children return, but they’ll never miss what goes out in pile #2. Ha ha!!

Or so I would like to think.

It probably will be just my luck that some obscure piece of scribbling that I find today will be one of their best works that they wanted to be buried with. We’ll have to lament its missing status for weeks before I’ll finally fess up. Then there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Why do we hold on to all this stuff like it is a near and dear part of us? Why do we have such grief over getting rid of certain items? Why do we let our stuff define us?

The Bible tells us our treasures are not of this world, but tell that to me when I find fancy yarn on sale at Big Lots. We’ve all heard that cleanliness is next to godliness, but in the housekeeping competition, I wouldn’t even make Miss Congeniality!

If you look up the verse I started with, know that my children aren’t quite the evil spirits mentioned there, and I certainly hope I’m not seven-fold worse off for my efforts in their absence. I don’t really expect to be closer to God just because my closet is cleaner, but the process of “letting go” is a religious one.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Holy Moly!!

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the works thy hand hath made”

-How Great Thou Art, Hymn 519 in the Blue hymnal

Here on the DD Ranchette, we’re running a bit of a mole sanctuary. This time of year, the new tunnels are black and seem to spring up overnight. We must have hundreds of moles living around our house and out in the pasture, but we rarely see them alive because we have a deadly, mole-hating cat. However, yesterday…

Before I went to pick the kids up from school, I was doing my pre-mow yard inspection/cleanup. There, underneath the birdfeeder, was a fuzzy gray blob wiggling around. At first, I did my little one legged song and dance that I do whenever I encounter vermin or reptiles in the wild. Then I quickly realized I wouldn’t be eaten alive by a baby mole. I thought about killing it, even offered it to the cat, but thought better of it.

I picked it up, put it in a cat carrier and took it to first grade. You know it isn’t every year that the teacher has a Hick Mama’s kid in her class. “Thank goodness,” the teacher probably says!

The kids thought the mole was cool and the teacher Wikied moles and put the info and picture up on the Smart Board. I told them it was a WILD animal, and under no circumstances were they ever to touch WILD animals!! Baby mole just kept trying to dig a hole in my gloves. The danger was palpable.

A lot of people hate moles, or rodents of any kind for that matter, but I can appreciate them for their design and persistence, if nothing else. They literally travel hundreds of feet, digging innumerable tunnels for me to trip over or fall into, in their quest for the elusive grub worm. They have no eyes and no visible ears - I guess God thought they might get dirt in them! – but an incredible wiggly nose that moves almost like a finger sniffing for food. And you can’t overlook those front digger claws! There is no doubt that this animal was made especially to dig up my yard.

Just another fine example, no matter if you think it is gross or not, of God’s perfect creation. Perfect for the job for which it was created to do. And so are you! No matter what job man gives you, you’ll be able to do it, because that is how God made us. Perfect in His image! Perfect for His purpose!

So the next time you’re out cursing the moles in your yard, be thankful you don’t need specialized appendages for your job! Can you imagine the extra cost of the manicure??

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

Monday, April 5, 2010

Herding Cats

Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care;

In thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use thy folds prepare.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

- Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779-1847

I have to mow today. I saved the grass and all the little wildflowers until Easter so that we could have ample grass in which to hide eggs. The boys have enjoyed picking me “flowers” every day and we’ve had “fancy” dinners with little bowl of water filled with henbit, dandelions, and other unidentified blooming objects. But it’s over. It’s time. I have to mow.

Mowing is my thinking time. If I’ve got a problem, or I’m particularly aggravated about something, I’ll go mow. Something about chopping up grass and other items left in the yard and spinning around on my lawnmower gives me joy. Plus, the motor is too loud for me to hear anything over, so it’s just me and the voices in my head.

Ever notice how many songs and Bible verses there are that have to do with grass, pastures, or mowing?

Maybe I’m the only one who feels a kinship to sheep and other farm animals and can particularly identify with being led beside the still waters, and lying down in the green pastures.

The version of Psalm 23 that I learned began “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” and I think there may be two sides to the last part of that verse – I shall not want. Yes, I think it means for most of us that we lead a blessed life and God will give us everything we need. But sometimes I think it might mean “Hey, I don’t need a shepherd!  I've got this handled.”

I’ve walked to the library with my son’s first grade class for the past two Mondays. I liken it to herding cats. They are definitely unaware that they need supervision on the way. Twenty-four children going this way and that way, all with their own ideas about how the trip should go, and all with their own agenda about how they will get there. Some are preoccupied with picking flowers, others are playing I Spy. Some could not stay in line if their lives depended on it, and others are unhappy with who they got stuck with as their partner for the trip. A lot like life really, when you think about it.

I think sometimes herding me where I need to go is probably a lot like trying to get those kids to the library. I have my own opinions about where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, and what the trip is going to be like. Unfortunately, I’m not my own travel planner. God is. Sometimes life turns out very different from what we thought it would be. Sometimes things we think are important turn out not to be very important after all.

So, I hope you’ll be a good sheep this week and remember that your Shepherd is in control. In fact, if you’ve ever been told that you were “out of control” or feel that about some smaller people you may live with, realize it is the truth! We do not have control over all aspects of our lives, our children’s lives, or the lives of others. We just do the best we can with what we have at the time, and pray that our Shepherd will make his desired path known.

And watch out for me on my lawnmower! I may not have control!

“[Jesus said] I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10:14

Friday, April 2, 2010

Goodwill and Entitlements

“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41

I fell off the materialistic bandwagon a long time ago. In fact, I’m not sure I ever jumped on it. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and clothing and material things were just never that important. Some of my best outfits came from Goodwill and I still return there from time to time. I haven’t hit a bag sale in years, but I did get a practically new pair of shoes for $3.99 a few weeks ago. The best part was they were identical to a favorite pair I had a few years ago.

A lot of mothers that I have contact with would pity me for shopping at Goodwill. The truth is, I am financially stable and could afford to never shop at Goodwill again. In fact, if I wanted more stuff, I could easily return to the working world that I gave up six months ago. The fact is, I just can’t spend $50 on a pair of jeans. It hurts too much.  I’ll admit it.  I’m a miser, a tightwad, a cheapskate.  Call me what you will!

But why do so many people feel entitled? Dr. Phil’s show is full of examples of people who think they are entitled to better lives than they deserve. Why can’t I have a new car every year? Why do I have to take care of my own children? Why can’t I just run away from my responsibilities because I never had a decent childhood? I think some people may take instant gratification a little too seriously.

A sinful life is supposed to be tough, and we are all sinful. We are getting the punishment our behavior deserves. We’re not supposed to be able to snap our fingers and get whatever we want. Some struggle more than others. I believe we’re supposed to work, and put down roots, and leave this life better for the next generation. So maybe that’s why I save, plant trees, and try to teach my children how to live a “poor” life. A life that takes just as much joy in the process as it does the final result.

And at the end of that life is where they will receive their greatest reward ever. Not because they deserve it, or are entitled, but because Jesus has already paid the price. A blessed Good Friday to everyone, and I'll see you all in Heaven!

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gethsemane and Tainted Beans

Our hymn today is #159 in the red hymnal if you’d like to sing along:

Go to dark Gethsemane, Ye that feel the Tempter’s pow’r;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see, Watch with Him one bitter hour;

Turn not from His griefs away, Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.”

I have a Maundy Thursday Lutheran confession today. Now this memory plays out in my head as having occurred on Good Friday, but since my church only held the Tenebrae service on Good Friday and did not have a meal, I’m guessing it really happened on Maundy Thursday.

We were having a fellowship meal, I’m pretty sure that followed the traditional Seder meal. Before it started, there was a too-doo in the kitchen. All the old ladies, my great-grandma included, where whispering over a crock of green beans. I think I was about 10 years old, or less, and did not fully understand all the rules to the Lutheran Seder meal/Holy Week rituals. Not sure I do now. But someone had unknowingly put bacon or ham in those green beans. This was a big No No! I learned that night. I recall five ladies, who were surely members of the Ruth Guild with my grandma, all standing over those green beans, diligently picking out every scrap of pork, so that they could still be served. I didn’t eat them. I was sure some sort of wrath would come from eating the tainted green beans. Of course, I never told anyone either about the pork. Until now! So to all of you who may have been at that fellowship meal some 23 years ago, sorry, but you ate tainted beans! And that’s all I have to say about that!


I’ve been thinking about the garden of Gethsemane today. Not only because I’m gardening today, but because I have trouble staying awake through my evening prayers like the disciples had on this night a couple thousand years ago. I was taught by my great-grandma, whom I called Nanna, to pray before I went to sleep. Now we never kneeled at our bedside – there wasn’t any kneeling room in her trailer, but we always said our prayers together before going to sleep.

These days, when I become even slightly horizontal, I’m lucky if my eyes stay open five minutes. I blame it on a lack of sleep that stems from having children, although our baby is five now, but that’s my story. I never caught back up. And heaven forbid I exercise, or do any kind of manual labor, or sit in the sun during the day, or I’ll be snoozing by 6:30 pm. I’m actually looking forward to the part of menopause that keeps you up at night. Maybe I’m slightly narcoleptic. Who knows!

Jesus had been telling his best friends that he was going to die. I’m sure they were confused as to what he meant exactly, but they knew it was coming and I’m sure they were worried. And worrying wears you out! I can totally empathize with their sitting down outside the garden and falling asleep when they should have been supporting their friend. I can only imagine that given similar circumstances, I would react the same way.

I hope you get a nap today, so you’ll be well-rested for church tonight. And as you attend your Seder meals or Maundy Thursday services, try to stay awake. But if you don’t, remember, you’re not alone!

“The he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’” Matthew 26: 40-41