Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year; A New Path?

"Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

Today is the eve of the new year. It is a time when we typically take stock of the previous year and plan for a new and better year ahead. It can be a good thing to remember where we have been and what we have done. We can give thanks for the good things and resolve not to repeat the bad things. Remembering the past can help us with the future. But, it is not always such a wise thing to cling to the past. Forget it. Forgive yourself and others. It is time to move forward. The Lord has a new life in store for all who may have lost their way this past year.

May God help us to follow in His way in this new year that we might celebrate life in Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Vacations

The Hammock Goes Unused Even On Vacation

 
Vacations are nice; but, don't be misled. Vacations can be very busy times. In fact, mine are usually so busy that there is rarely time to even write my morning blog!

There is a hammock in the backyard that has Spanish Moss hanging all over it. It has gone unused for years. I have thought about cleaning it up. But, then there would go any time I have to rest.... I have a feeling that my blogs throughout my vacation time will be very short.

"And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done." Genesis 2:2

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Broken Heart

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:1-3 NRSV

Sometimes not allowing your heart to be troubled is a whole lot easier said than done. I spend a whole lot of time in prayer so that I can be reassured by God's presence that He is actually with me and with those whom I love. I spend a lot of time in the word so that I might be reassured of God's promise of eternal reconciliation with the One who loves me and the whole world enough to die for us.

As I consider what most troubles my heart, I find that it is concern for those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord. My heart is most often troubled with concern for those who do not follow in the Way. My concern is that their hearts will be indefinitely troubled. My concern is that they might never know Jesus as I know that there is no healing for the broken heart except in Jesus the Christ.

I can do nothing except for pray and continue to encourage, with the word, those who do not follow Jesus to turn around and follow him.

My heart is troubled. Yet, there is still peace to be found in the promise of eternal peace in the home that Jesus has prepared for all who believe.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 28, 2015

Clean Hearts

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 NRSV

Yesterday was a definite day of rest! Both my mind and body crashed after two days of driving, one of them in bumper to bumper traffic. As it was Sunday and I was not at home to worship with my own congregation, I attended worship at one of those large praise type services with my granddaughter and daughter-in-law. The sermon was pretty good. The music was a little loud for this old Lutheran. But, it did bring back memories of one of my mentors, Pr. Al Goodrich. The opening and closing praise song was something about giving your heart to Jesus. Pr. Al loved it when people would talk about giving their hearts to Jesus. His response would be, "Why would Jesus want that filthy thing! Jesus wants to give you a clean heart!"

Christmas and Christianity is not about what we can give to God; but, what God has already done and given for us. We celebrate because God is indeed willing and able to create in us clean hearts. We are not Christians because of what we have done; but, because of what God has done for us. Thanks be to God for His good and gracious gifts!

Merry Christmas!

God's Peace Pr. J

Saturday, December 26, 2015

With Wings Like Eagles

Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31 NRSV
We all get weary from time to time. Physical weariness can sometimes actually be quite satisfying when it comes from a long, hard day of work. However, I have not found emotional, mental, or spiritual weariness to ever be satisfying. It is a struggle for many to overcome this type of weariness that often brings depression. It is not overcome alone. We must wait on the Lord and trust Him to renew our strength. He will send His Spirit upon you so that you might once again soar like the eagle through the trials of the day.  
 
In Christ, we shall run and not be weary.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV
 
from all of us at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Skanee, MI

 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Television A Necessity?

Lately, about the only thing I have been watching on television are reruns of Mother Angelica. That's because I really haven't been able to find anything else worth watching. I woke up this morning and turned the television on so I could listen to some news and no satellite connection; so, no television. I often wonder why we waste the money on television. Oh, yes, I remember: football and no it is not me who watches football.

I don't watch too much television. I usually read the news online. Just about every time I sit down to watch something on television I think about the amount of money spent on this mindless entertainment.

I know more than a few people who are and have been unemployed for more than a year and no longer receive unemployment compensation. They are no longer counted in our lowering unemployment rates either. They are having a very difficult time putting groceries on the table; heating their homes; paying their rent or mortgages as others of us throw a hundred dollars a month away to watch blank television screens, football for a season, and reruns of Mother Angelica. I do find her interesting; but, not that interesting. It is not that I feel so guilty. It is more like disgusted. On the eve of the celebration of our Saviour's birth, when so many are struggling to keep shelter over their and their children's heads; when there are so many homeless in this country of such great wealth, how do we reconcile the extreme extravagance? I won't talk about the extreme amounts spent on cell phones this morning in order to "keep up with the Jones'." I, along with so many others, really must confess that I am not the steward of God's gifts that I could be.

I am; however, most grateful today and every day for all that God has given me. But, this Christmas Eve, I am praying for employment for the unemployed so that they might not have to worry over having enough for the very basics of life.

Heavenly Father, give all in need of gainful employment the means to provide their families with their daily bread.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. The wind just changed direction so the satellite signal is back on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bringing Up Servant Leaders

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
                                                    Prov 22:6

This past Sunday, our children led a traditional liturgical worship service at Zion. As they stood in line to process into the sanctuary, I counted. I counted seventeen young people from preschool through High School who would in some way participate in leading the Advent Worship. This may not seem like a large number to many of you reading this. However, given the size of the community around us this is a huge number. The population is right around 200 in Skanee. Our public K-6 school has less than ten youth enrolled. The truth is that most of these young people come from elsewhere in the county.

We do have a couple of very shy students who will acolyte or receive the offering; but, most of our young people are willing to sing in the choir, to read, to pray, even to preach publically. For many years, we have been busy training not just adults; but, our children, as well, to lead worship; to proclaim the Good News in word and song. I have led very few mid-week Advent or Lent services since I was called to serve here as I understand a large part of my call to train others to be servant leaders. I do design the services; but, I do not lead them. We use these mid-week services to help others in the congregation to confidently lead this congregation or other congregations. One of our members presently serves as Lay Pastor to a congregation that is so small that they cannot call an ordained pastor. Pr. Peter is also very active in ministry at assisted living homes.

Our young people love being able to lead the liturgy, to pray the prayers of the church, and; yes, even to preach. They are becoming very good public speakers and witnesses to the Lord. I am grateful that we have this opportunity to train them to be servant leaders. Whether they will use these things that they are learning in the church or out in the world is yet to be seen. But, we trust that they will not depart from the way which they have been shown when they are old.

We do not believe that children are just the future of the church. They are also the church today. With the help of God, one day they will be training their children in the way that they should go.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Anniversary

Today is my husband's and my 43rd wedding anniversary. We are, again, many miles apart. We have spent much time apart from each other over the years. I can't really remember too many anniversaries that we have celebrated together on the actual date.

Although we are united in holy matrimony, we are still separate people with individual gifts and individual callings. Sometimes, those callings have overlapped and we have served side by side. Sometimes, they didn't. However, we have always been able to serve according to our individual gifts even when we were miles apart. Whatever God calls each of us to do; we have vowed to support each other until death parts us and that is what we strive to do. One call that we both have (as well as all of you reading this) is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls and minds; with all that we say and think and do.

When two people are united by God in marriage; they are not united for their own glory. When the commitment is made, it is not just to each other; but, to God. They are united so that the individual gifts of each partner may be joined together to bring glory to God.

So even we are apart physically we are always united in the love that God has given us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Our son, John, messaged me after he read this post to let me know that his father and I have been married for 44 years not 43. When you've been married this long you kind of lose track of time!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Where Did Monday Go?

 

"And He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'" Mark 2:27-28 NKJV

A lot of people really dislike Mondays. But, on most Mondays; lately, I have had to keep reminding myself that it is actually Monday. My Sundays have been so busy lately that by the end of the day it feels like I have completed two days and I totally want to move on into Tuesday. Although, it feels a bit awkward; it is a good thing. By Saturday, I have actually been able to take a Sabbath rest. I can spend most of the day just being in intentional communion with God; studying His Word and praying. This is a very good thing for me. It helps me to prepare for the first day of the week; which is not Monday; but, Sunday.

I do not despise this first day of the week. I do not really have much time to think about it. I just follow the daily planner and keep on moving. But, I do thank God for the day of rest that He gives me on Saturday so that I might be refreshed, so that I might be reenergized, and ready to go very early on Sunday morning. As Jesus tells us, the Sabbath was made for us. May God help you to all find time to spend solely resting in Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

After the last of my out of town Christmas visits to shut-ins and then a little bit of last minute shopping yesterday, I was exhausted. The visits were great; but, the icy roads were awful. I tried to relax by finding something on the television to watch. The only thing that I found that was worth watching was a rerun of Mother Angelica. She was advising a woman who was trying to distance herself from the family Christmas gathering. This woman found it objectionable that they would sit around the dinner table and talk about sports and argue about politics rather than actually celebrate the birth of Jesus. Personally, I know that feeling and can empathize with the woman. Mother Angelica suggested that she try to bring the conversation around to what they were actually celebrating. She suggested that maybe the woman bring a birthday cake for dessert and have everyone sing happy birthday.

May there be many birthday cakes and much joy as we observe the holy day that is commemorated for the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior.

God's Peace - Pr. J
 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

I ordered a custom made mask for a charity masquerade ball from a local artisan yesterday. She will do the designing. I am not too big on masks. They are meant to disguise who we really are. I am who I am and I see no reason to hide my face; wrinkles and all. Those wrinkles are mine and it's taken many years to acquire them. The mask that Brenda is creating for me will most probably have feathers and glitter. I know her work. It will be fantastic. But, it will not be me.

We all already wears masks from time to time. Some of us wear them all of the time. It can be difficult to get through the layers of masks to see who the person really is. We encounter happy, smiling faces all of the time just to find out later that the person is wearing a mask. They may be sad underneath the mask. They may be grieving. They may be jealous or even vindictive and out to harm others. Just because the mask one wears give us the impression that all is well; even extraordinarily well, does not mean that it actually is. All that glitters is not gold. Most of the time glitter is just glitter stuck on with a bit of glue. Be careful then who it is that you would follow; who you would keep confidences with; who you would ally with. Watch for the masks! It can be very difficult to discern who is really underneath them.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." Matt 7:15

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 18, 2015

Do Not Be Afraid to Move Forward

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life." Matt 6:25-27 NRSV

There have been times in my life when I have been quite confrontational when it comes to injustice. Where others were shrinking back and warning me that I should too for safety's sake, I have advanced. I did indeed consider the worst case scenarios before I advanced. What is the worst thing that could happen to me? What is there to fear? Nothing, not even death. I have eternal life.

When considering a new venture; whether it be a new job or investing in a project or a person or whatever challenge the day might bring; again, the same question. What have I to fear? Nothing. Life in this world is temporary. It will all pass. I have eternal life.

Jesus knowingly went forward to the cross; to his death, that we might live. He could have gone in the other direction. He could have; but, he did not. He did not shrink back from saving the world; even though much of the world would reject him. He did not pretend that everything in the world was okay. He was willing to give even his life because the world was not okay.

Do not fear. Our Father in heaven loves you. Believe this and you too will have nothing to fear. You will be much more able to attempt to make radical changes within yourself and in the world around you with the knowledge that God is with you and for you. The world may abandon you. You may even lose many things in this world that you now treasure. But, there is nothing to fear. By faith, you have received eternal life.
 
May God help us to always stand in His truth; in His Way, no matter what possible dangers may lay before us. May He help us to remember that we have nothing to fear for through God's own Son, Jesus the Christ, we have eternal life.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Lord Is My Shepherd and King

What's so good about a shepherd king? That was the theme for our Advent Service last night. What's so good about having a king that knows how to lead their flock? Everything. The ability to lead others even through the darkest shadows of the valley of death is a very important trait for someone who would be king or maybe president. The ability to protect and comfort them when times are troubling is an awesome trait for a ruler.

David was a good shepherd and a great king. But, we have one who is even greater. He is the King of Kings. He looks after us as only a good shepherd can. He will reign forever over us.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.
Psalm 23
 
What's so good about a king who is also an experienced shepherd? Everything!
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Great Things For Us

"For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." Luke 1:49

Mary was beside herself with joy and wonder at the amazing things God was doing in her life. Wonder and joy are probably not the only words that could be used to describe how Mary felt. Anxious, nervous, afraid might be some others. We like to think that we are at least in charge of our own lives; of our own destinations. But, God blessed Mary with a gift that she had never requested. Her life and ours was forever changed by this gift. In her, God's Son was conceived. Through her, God's only begotten Son was born.

God gave this gift of His son not just to Mary; but, to the world. He has done this great thing for all of us. Thanks be to God for this precious child born to save us from ourselves. May God continue to do great things for us; turning us from ourselves to serve the living Lord.

The Savior lives! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dark Days and Nights

It's been quite a few days since I have seen the sun. I have never quite gotten use to living in so much darkness. The winds blew; the rain came down along with a bit of hail all day yesterday. A little before 8 p.m., the power went out. I have been living in this home long enough that I can navigate around it without any light. I figured I should take advantage of the darkness and lay down for the night.

It was so dark that whether my eyes were open or shut, it made no difference. All was dark. Yet, even in the deepest darkness there is no reason to worry or fear. God is with us. The light of Christ abides in all who believe. He will help us to navigate through the darkest of places. In Him we can live and rest in peace.

The sun is not yet up this morning and I'm not really expecting to see it today; but, the light of Son, who is Jesus the Christ will always shine. Let us rejoice and be glad for even in the darkest of nights, the Light does shine.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
    which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what they stumble over.
Prov 4:18-19 NRSV
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 14, 2015

Wisdom of the Elders

Arlene's wisdom has helped
to guide me for 17 years.
"The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
    but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
    but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse."

Prov 10:31-32 NRSV

The wisdom of our elders should not be neglected. It should be listened to. It should be heard. I admit, I did not listen well when I was young. Yet, it still amazes me that so many will not listen to the wisdom learned through the life's lessons of the elders is neglected. Instead, many turn to their peers or even those who are much younger who have experienced even less than they have. I am not discounting the knowledge or the wisdom of the younger people. I am merely wondering why we would ignore what has already been proven.

Much grief would be averted if we listened to one another; especially if we listened to those who have already learned life's lessons.

May God open our ears and our hearts to hear and receive wisdom so that we might live abundant lives in righteousness.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Standing Inside The Fire

Cassie Standing Inside The Fire
Photo by Uncle "John Arthur Photography"

"And I will put this third into the fire,
    refine them as one refines silver,
    and test them as gold is tested.
They will call on my name,
    and I will answer them.
I will say, 'They are my people';
    and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'” Zech 13:9


When she was younger, I called her Sassy Cassie. She can still be a bit sassy. She, as most of us do, has fought the refining process as well as she could. Thankfully, God is patient and loves all of his children continuing always to soften our hearts toward Him that we might live abundant lives in Him. The refining is not easy on the person that is being refined or on anyone around them. But, it is better to withstand the fiery ordeal of refining then never to step inside those refining fires. It is better to withstand the refining process while young so that as we grow old, we can joyfully say, "The Lord is my God."

For most of her life, I have reminded Cassie to "live life." Life is much more pleasant when we get up and actually experience the awesome life and all the gifts that God has given us. Focus on truly living life in Christ and you will know joy and peace.

Garth Brooks reminds us in his song:
     Standing outside the fire 
     Standing outside the fire 
     Life is not tried it is merely survived 
     If you're standing outside the fire

Do not fear the refining fires. God is with you even in those fires. Live life!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Children of God

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children."Gal 4:4-5

Children are an awesome blessing. They can be a lot of work, though. In our attempts to bring them up in the way they should be going doesn't always work the way that we planned.

We have a Father in heaven. We have been adopted as His own children; redeemed by His only begotten Son to be His children. I have often wondered what God, my Father, thought when I really did stuff that were not in His plans. Does he get as frustrated as I do when the children I care for are straying? I am sure that He is not all that pleased when we do things to our and our neighbors detriment; when we do not love as He loves us. As children of God we try to please Him even as our own children try to please us. We all fall short. We don't always do what we ought to be doing. We don't and our children don't. But, we keep on loving even as our heavenly Father loves us.

All who believe are the children of God. May He help us to follow in His Way.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 11, 2015

Be Who God Made You To Be

Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:2-4 NRSV

Although, it keeps commerce going, I have never quite understood the need for anyone to have major amounts of piercings or to change the color of one's hair every few weeks or the wearing of someone else's name on you clothing. It makes me think that the person is not comfortable with who they are. I can't quite get why someone would need to wear make-up that would disguise the person that God made them to be. I'm not saying that I think women shouldn't wear any. But, I would think the purpose for make-up would be to enhance one's features and not to mask them.

God has made everyone and every one is precious in God's sight. Let the world see the person God created you to be. There is nothing more beautiful than a child of God who exudes the loving and gentle spirit that comes from knowing that you are a child of God.  

May God help each of us to cherish the lasting beauty of the gentle and quiet spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 10, 2015

You Are God's Beloved

"But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt 12:48-50 NRSV

We had an awesome dinner last night! Brothers and sisters in Christ gathered together to enjoy a simple; but, delicious meal in the church dining area at Zion. After dinner, we, the children of God, gathered in the sanctuary to worship our Lord.
 
I realize that in today's world "family" is not what it use to be. Many rarely sit down for a meal together. So many families never take the time to talk to one another; to listen to their loved ones. These are people we love. Why don't we take the time to fellowship with our families?
 
When you were baptized into Christ; you became a child of God. All who were baptized into the Body of Christ are members of God's family; brothers and sisters; children of our heavenly Father. Let us not neglect to actually be family, in more than name only
 
"And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Heb 10:24-25

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Let Your Speech Be Gracious

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Col 4:6

Each morning, I spend a few minutes reading the news online. I don't usually turn on the television because I do not like to start my day listening to commentators who do not know how to be gracious. I do not like to start my day listening to any politician or their supporters who season their speech with way too much salt and who have no clue what the words tact or graciousness mean. Listening to or reading words that show a lack of understanding of how to communicate an idea or fact really just makes for a bad start to my day. So, I pick and choose even what I will read in the mornings.

Each morning as I read the news, I stumble across at least a few errors in grammar, spelling, facts, etc.. Because of these errors false information is often given. I know and confess that I make an awful lot of grammatical and spelling errors in these daily blogs that I write. I am also not always the most tactful. I do not have an editor. I write like I speak and consequently mistakes are made. I am not a professional writer. I spend very little time in writing these blogs as they are a hobby and it is not what I've been called to do (even though some are beginning to think that it is). I do not make a living writing these blogs. However, professional reporters and editors who are paid to communicate the news to us, I believe, ought to actually edit what they are writing before they print it so that the news is communicated to us accurately and without attempts to shove their personal bias' down our throats.

Communicating properly is a gift that is greatly needed in our news media, indeed the world. Yes, a little salt in the news is a good thing. But, a little more graciousness would help others to hear and understand more clearly.  

May God help us all to be a bit more gracious when we open our mouths or place our fingers on a keyboard in attempts to communicate ideas or facts.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Just wondering how many grammatical errors I just made...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Only One Way

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NRSV

There are no short-cuts. There is no magic involved in being reconciled to our Father and Creator. There is only one way and that is through Jesus the Christ.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people will pick up new age rituals or beliefs thinking that this is going to make them more spiritual or that it will be another path toward reaching the Kingdom of God. There is only one way. The path is not always easy. There will be those who choose to get in our face and try to steer us on another road. Sometimes, we may even listen and get side-tracked for awhile. But, for those who truly believe; for those who have a relationship with God our Father and our Lord Jesus they will soon recognize that the road is leading them somewhere that they do not want to go. They will hear the good shepherd calling them and turn back to the path that he sets before them.

There is only one way to the Father. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Follow him so that you might live life more abundantly as you abide in God's presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 7, 2015

Retired and Living Life!

Howard and his trike in Beaufort, SC
photo taken by son, John Arthur Mattson
"What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live..." Eccl 3:9-12

Live life!  I can't even begin to count how many times I have told people to live life; enjoy life! I believe some think, "who is she kidding? She's a Christian and a pastor. What can she know about fun?"  My fun may not be like a lot of people's idea of fun; but, I do know about enjoying life; about enjoying the numberless gifts that God has given me.

My husband retired for the second time this past summer. He has not quite reached the normal retirement age. But, he has worked hard for a long time. Most of his years have been "on call" twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week as his first career was as a U.S. Marine and his second career was as owner/administrator of an adult foster care home. So, I finally convinced him that it was time to retire and enjoy life; to take time for himself. He has taken a few vacations since then. He is enjoying life. I know that he also took pleasure in the work that he did; but, now is his time to live life; to take the time to more fully enjoy the gifts that God has given him.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.." Eccl 3:1

It is time to truly live life!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Good Shepherd Watches Over You

"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:14-15 NRSV

The secular world has made Advent into a happy time; a time to celebrate. But, for many it is not so. It is a time when many are drawn to thoughts of loved ones who are no longer with them. The empty chair at the table draws them into even deeper sadness. Many families will take out "Christmas" loans, if they can get one, in order to provide their children with gifts for their children, simply because this is the tradition of the world. They do not want to disappoint their children and so they will go even deeper into debt so as not to disappoint them on Christmas morning. Did I mention the parties? No? Hmmm.... Well, the trouble that comes from all that "Christmas Cheer" speaks for itself. More trouble... More depression... More loneliness... More divorces... More deaths and empty chairs to grieve over during the next Advent and Christmas seasons.

Advent can be a very lonely and depressing time for many. The world thinks we should be happy, happy, happy; so smiles mask the emptiness and sadness; because that is what is expected, by the world around us.

Advent, is indeed a time for hope. But, there is little hope if we expect the world to give us answers. The only hope to be found is in the good shepherd. He is humble and he is kind. He is not full of things of this world. His concern is for you. He will care for you. While the world is busy worrying about "things," Jesus is there for  you. He is with you; watching over you. He loves you enough to lay down his life for you. What greater gift can there be than having someone love you so much they would give their all for you?

May God help us to see as the Good Shepherd sees and to live as he lives caring for others enough to be with those who are hurting; those who are alone; those who are in any need, not just this Advent season; but, all year round.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jesus Has Got Our Back!

As I walked into Walmart with my youngest granddaughter yesterday; the lights began to go out, one bank after another. My immediate reaction was to look around for danger and for a safe place. This is the way I think. Not sure why. Well, actually, I have a good idea. But, that would take a book to explain. 

I noticed after the lights went out and back on a couple of times, others in the store seemed a little more wary, as well. I wondered what everyone was thinking. My granddaughter expressed concern, a couple of times, that all of the meat in the store would spoil. She hoped that they had a back-up plan so it wouldn't get wasted.

My family gets a little irritated with me at times because of my need to consider all possible outcomes when certain things crop up; but, I just happen to think that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure and after this many years that attitude is not going to go away.

When considering our path to a greater relationship with God, I do not think it imprudent, to consider the steps we are taking or the dangers that surround us. Are we going in the right way? Have we stepped into a pit of snakes? Will we lose our way if we take the step we're considering. There really are no back up plans; there are no alternate routes to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the only way. He is God's original back up plan. Be prepared. By faith alone, in him, you shall be saved.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 4, 2015

Hibernating Like A Bear?

Like An Old Bear
Tis the season... Tis the season for me to want to sleep a lot. When winter rolls around, I start thinking and acting like a bear. My mind and body keep telling me to "go to sleep." I do not want to go outside when the sun is not shining or when it is cold outside. I just want to hibernate. I need the light.

But, life goes on and there is no sense in sleeping our days away. Our hours are most valuable. We only get so many in this lifetime and then they are gone. They are like the pennies found on the ground. Some would walk by them thinking them worthless. Yet, others might collect them and amass a small fortune. Every minute of our lives is valuable. They add up to hours and days and years. They add up to a life-time. Grasp those minutes and hours and do not fetter them away.

Fortunately, I have enough to do, deadlines to keep, to keep me awake during most of the day. I still get up early; but, I lie down to rest much earlier every evening or I can get a little ornery, just like an old bear.

There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. (Eccl 3:1) We need our rest; but, not so much as a bear. We also have been given life, so let us life it and not squander it away.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Protect Us

I know some of my congregation must wonder a bit when I share a prayer that I pray daily. You see, I pray many prayers from scripture daily and they must wonder how I have time to do that much praying. I am able because I get up between 4:30 and 5:30 every morning so that I can spend alone time with God before I attempt to start the day. Rest comes not only from sleep; but, from being in communion with God.

Some of my prayers are for friends, and family. Some are for the congregation, the community, the world. Every morning and sometimes more often, I pray the Lord's prayer and the Shepherd's Psalm; not just for myself, but, for all whom I know. Every morning, I begin by thanking and praising God for all that He has done and is doing for us by recalling the various names that He is called by.

As I listened to the news this morning, another prayer that I pray daily for family and friends came to mind. Deliver us from our enemies, O my God; protect us from those who rise up against us. Deliver us from those who work evil; from the bloodthirsty save us. Psalm 59:1

The enemy prowls about and so I pray:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Num 6:24-26

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Listen to the Word

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. Heb 1:1-2 NRSV

I am always amazed by the number of people who rely on astrology or fortunetellers for a positive look at their personal futures. Sometimes, they are surprised and according to these false prophets their futures are not so bright. But, the Christian does not depend on reading the stars or listening to people who speak to the dead as these are forbidden by God. The Christian trusts in the word of God. He or she reads the word as found in the Holy Scriptures. The Christian listens to the Word who is Jesus the Christ.

In these latter days, God has spoken to us through His Son, Jesus the Christ. We know that in him and only in him do we have a future of hope.

Join us this evening, to hear His Word, as our young people lead us in worship of the only one who knows what the future will bring.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Son of Righteousness Shines

There is snow on the ground and snow on the trees; but, the sun still shines, at least for a few hours most days.

Winters in the Upper Peninsula can be cold and dark. Many retirees choose to move to warmer and sunnier locations during the winter. We call them snowbirds as they mimic the flight of many migratory birds: south in the winter; north in the summer.

For those of us who are left here; we rejoice every time the sun comes up and shines it warm light on the frozen wilderness. But, even in the darkest and coldest of days, for those who revere God's name the sun of righteousness shall rises, with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

May the Son of Righteousness shine his light upon you and in you and through you for all eternity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 30, 2015

Enjoy Work

 
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." Psalm 16:3

I have always attempted to teach my children and grandchildren to enjoy the work that they do. Work is inevitable. We must work to eat, to have shelter, to have warm clothing; and, if you really must want a lot of nice things, you must really put a lot of effort into earning that "stuff." We spend a huge portion of our lives working so we may as well enjoy it. Making a game of doing house or yard chores and doing it together helps it to me more fun.

As young people begin planning for what kind of life-long career they would like to pursue, they ought to consider what it is that they will enjoy doing. Do you enjoy helping people? How about computers or working with animals? There are so many career choices in the world today, it is impossible to comprehend them all. Whatever it you love to do; whatever talents that God has gifted you with; follow that path.

God has a plan for you. He calls you to serve him according to the gifts He gifts you. Whether it is a talent and desire to be a doctor or a hostess; God provides the opportunities to be trained in the way He would have you go. And... don't forget to commit your work to the Lord. Do all things that they might glorify your Father in heaven and you will not only do them well; but, enjoy doing them.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pray With Faith

"Whatever you ask for
in prayer with faith,
you will receive.” Matt 21:22
Pray, pray, pray and pray some more. We must be persistent, trusting in God that He will work things out according to His will and in His time. God does indeed answer prayers. Sometimes, it takes a little longer than we would like. Sometimes, it takes a whole lot longer than we would like. But, He does answer them. The answers don't always come in the way that we would like, either. But, they come. God is good and "we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28

I do love Him. God is good, all of the time!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Walk in Integrity

The righteous walk in integrity—
    happy are the children who follow them!
A king who sits on the throne of judgment

    winnows all evil with his eyes."
                                                Prov 20:7-8

My grandchildren are growing up and I am growing old. One word that they have heard from me an awful lot over the years is "integrity." I have admonished them many times to "walk with integrity" and to "speak with integrity." That is to not embellish stories so that the stories fall apart once the details of the story begin to be questioned and to not be creating drama for drama's sake.

I usually do not remind anyone other than my grandchildren to walk and talk with integrity. But, that is not because I don't want to. I simply don't feel that it is my place or that it will do any good. My grandchildren, though, I have major amounts of hope for so I remind them of the way the Lord would have them go so that they might have peaceful and fruitful lives. The "others" usually just get the "eye." My grandchildren also know about the "eye." Many times over the years, when my eldest granddaughter and I have been together, she has asked me, for no apparent reason at all: What?" I will respond, "I didn't say anything." She complains that I looked at her with that "eye." That is usually when I start wondering and questioning what she is up to; what she is planning that she doesn't want me to know about. I do this because I care about her life and her future and not just life in this world; but, in the Kingdom to come.

The righteous are those who are cleansed by the blood of Jesus and because he abides with and in them, they will desire to walk in integrity, to walk in the way of his truth. Happy are the children who follow those who walk in integrity. Happy are the children who follow Jesus.

May God keep you in his truth, talking and walking in integrity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sing Psalms, Hymns, And Spiritual Songs

Sometimes, it seems, we can share the Word of God and His love with all that we have in our inner being; but, it reaches deaf ears. It is met with rudeness and even anger. There are many who just do not know how to react to genuine love.

What to do about this? We are to continue sharing the Word with all who will listen. Do not be afraid of slander or any kind of vicious attacks. Rather, continue to: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God." Col 3:15 NRSV

Remember that you are a child of God and He will be with you always, no matter what befalls you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks - Giving

Kaye bringing offerings
of thanks-giving

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever." Psalm 86:12 NRSV

As my husband and I headed out for worship last night, he asked me when Thanksgiving became a Christian holiday. That was the second time someone asked me this year about the purpose of a thanks-giving service on the eve of the Federal holiday of Thanksgiving. The question kind of floors me when I hear it. If we're not giving thanks to God, then who or what? Of course, if we're giving thanks, we ought to be giving it to God. He has cared for us and provided for us abundantly.

The service was led mainly by the choir with "The Holy City" as they helped us to remember, through both spoken and sung words, the things that God has done for us through Jesus that we might obtain the precious gift of eternal life in the Holy City, in the Kingdom of God.

Our thank offerings for the evening included food for our local food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul's in order that others might receive their daily bread and give thanks to the Lord, who is our provider.  Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and; yes, it is also about giving that which was first given us.

The question when did thanksgiving become a Christian holiday does, in fact, kind of stump me. It has always been a time set aside to give thanks for all that God has given us. I did not give much thought to my response to my husband. I just sort of shook my head and told him, "Well, since so few people want to worship and thank God for the gift of Jesus on Christmas morning, we're going to do it on Thanksgiving Eve." We did. Thanks be to God working through the Zion Choir!

May God bless you in your thanks - giving.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Due to the lack of interest in worship on Christmas morning, Zion, as well as many other Christian churches, do not worship on Christmas morning. The congregation does; however, have candle-light Christmas Eve Service both at 6 pm and 11 pm (ends a little after midnight) in order to fulfill my stubborn desire to worship on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

If We Say We Have No Sin

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 1 John 1:8-10 NRSV

Not too long ago, I had occasion to listen to someone insist that they had never stolen anything from anyone. They were totally incapable or unwilling to confess that they were guilty of taking something that belonged to another in spite of the fact that concrete evidence had been presented in a courtroom more than once; that they had been found guilty a few times; and had spent time in jail and in prison on at least a couple of occasions.

I wish that this were an isolated incident; but, it is not. Over and over again, I have witnessed this inability to confess a sin even though there were witnesses; even though confession would have helped them in the long run.

About a year ago, I witnessed two teen-age boys breaking into a house. But, they claimed that they were innocent. I was mistaken. How do you mistake someone crawling through a bedroom window? Apparently, I can! I guess they were just going to visit even though no one was home. They meant no harm. There was no need for forgiveness because they denied it; the incident was forgotten and these young people continued in the way that they had been  going. 

We all sin. But, according to St. John, it is imperative that we confess our sins so that we can receive forgiveness. Being cleansed from all unrighteousness, we can move on with our lives in a new and fruitful way that will benefit not just ourselves but others around us.

"If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Sadly, in this world there are those who feel that they do not need to be cleansed of unrighteousness. Sadly, there are those who feel that doing injustice is the way to live and to teach others to live.

Jesus died so that we might receive forgiveness and be reconciled to our Father in heaven and to the whole Body of Christ. This forgiveness is for all who would believe in him; none are excluded. Repent; turn around and follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God.

May God speak to our hearts and minds that we might all repent and turn to Him; following in our Lord's footsteps; helping and defending rather than doing injustice to our neighbors.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

He Lead Me Beside Still Waters

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
  they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
 my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
  all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
 my whole life long.
Psalm 23 NRSV
 
May your day be richly blessed with God's peace.  Pr. J
 

Monday, November 23, 2015

I Prefer To Seek The Lord's Presence

"One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Psalm 27:4

I love professional football. Not! I understand that professional football is a national obsession. I do appreciate the opportunity a few young men find in being selected to play professional ball. How exciting for them and their families. But, I personally find professional football just a bit too materialistic. I have never really been able to figure out why people who are struggling to feed their families or make their mortgages would support an organization that charges so much to see a game. I am also a little nauseated by the news that all that patriotic support for  military members that they so often display is actually paid for by taxpayers. Yes, according to a PBS News Report, the government pays for these shows of patriotism. I am not against football; just the glorification of it and all the idolatry that goes with professional football. I do attend High School football games now and then in support of the youth who play. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching football; why not take your children or grandchildren outside and teach them the game?

But, the truth is that there is something that I really do appreciate about televised football. As my husband is intent on sitting in front of the television for hours watching a game, it affords me the opportunity to retreat to a quiet place and pray. Televised football games on Sunday afternoons gives me the opportunity to intentionally come into the Lord's presence, to seek His beauty, and to inquire of Him what He would have me to; in which direction I should go.

After all; does not desiring to live in the house of the Lord mean that we desire to live in His presence for all eternity; even today?

Let us seek to live always in His presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J
 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rising Son on Sunday Morning

(Original photo by Jane Moylan VanBuren)
"When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb." Mark 16:1-2

It is a rare occasion when I am actually able to observe a sabbath on the Sabbath. Every now and then I will absolutely refuse to do anything on Saturday so that I can take a much needed rest. But, those times are rare. I infuse my days and weeks with hours of prayer so that I can rest and be renewed in God's presence.

Can you imagine the excitement of the women at the tomb on that first day of the week when they found that Jesus was risen? Even as the sun began to rise in the sky they found that the Son of Righteous had risen from the grave.

It will be a few hours before the sun rises this Sunday morning; on this first day of the week. But when it does rise, I will be off to worship. I will be off to an intentional hour of entering into God's presence; to witness the living presence of God in Christ Jesus through the Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I will gather with the saints in Skanee on this first day of the week to celebrate that our Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed!

I pray that you will join me in this celebration at your local congregation wherever that might be.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pray For Self

Every now and then when praying with someone who is suffering, I find that they refuse to pray for themselves. They are very fastidious in praying for others; but, they feel it would be selfish to pray for themselves. The problem with this is that we need to be healthy and strong in the Lord in order to serve God or others. It is not selfish to pray for our own health and wholeness. Every member of the Body of Christ needs to be well in order for it to serve in its greatest capacity.

As I discussed this topic the other night with some friends, I realized that I, too, fall into the category of someone who does not pray for themselves very much at all. My "prayer list" is so long that I rarely get to me, at least nothing personal, except for this one petition that I make daily at least in some form.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Amen (Psalm 19:14 NRSV)

May God help us to stay in perpetual prayer for others as well as for ourselves that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God's Peace - Pr. J