Monday, March 30, 2015

Sharing a Meal

There is something special about sharing a meal together. Gathering friends and family around a table is a special occasion even when there is nothing to celebrate. Jesus knew the special atmosphere that was part of gathering with friends and family. He knew how precious time spent was and he used one such time as His Last Supper.

Imagine if it was your last supper and what you would want to say to those special people in your life. It seems there would be a lot to say, yet only the most important messages would be worthy of such a special meal together.

It was Passover so the meal was indeed special for Jesus and the Disciples. They traditionally gathered to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread for a full week. Passover was one special night. But, this one night was like no other. Jesus asked his Disciples to prepare the Passover meal, telling them that His appointed time was near. Little did they realize the significance of the meal they were about to have. Only later would the meal become one of remembrance, of sharing the bread and the cup together representing their friend and Savior's body and blood.

There was no time to mince words or skirt issues. This was the Last Supper and there was little time to help the Disciples understand the significance of what was about to happen. The foreshadowing of Christ's death and resurrection were too painful to accept as truth. This was their beloved leader, their shepherd, what was this He was speaking of? It was too much to take in at once. Only later, did the Disciples begin to see the whole picture and truly cherish sharing this meal with their Lord.

"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.' After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me'" (Luke 22:14-19 NIV).

May your hearts and minds be filled with thanksgiving as you move through this Holy Week.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cross Collection

I have a collection of crosses. This is the season of crosses. Our Resurrection celebrations would not happen without the cross. Jesus hung and died upon the cross taking with him all of our sins.

"God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13b-14 NIV).

I'm not sure when I started collecting crosses but I've always been intrigued by the cross, especially wooden ones. I remember when our youth group created three crosses of limbs of trees at Grammer Grove. We stood them up together on a hill and on Easter morning the three crosses were back lit beautifully by the sunrise. The youth put on a morning worship followed by breakfast in the park. It was cold but the scene was unforgettable. That is probably where my passion for crosses began.

I first fell in love with oak crosses crafted by the Amish in Amana, IA. I have several beautiful crosses in various sizes and finishes that came from Amana. I have crosses decorated with the crown of thorns, the name of Jesus, scripture, wheat, and praying hands. I have crosses made of cast iron, ceramic, metal, made of nails, and lined with colorful beads. I have crosses made of braided wheat, stained glass, yarn, stone, shells and even plastic. The wooden crosses are from simple and plain to ornately carved.

Each one is unique and speaks of God's love for us so beautifully. I also have a sign posted that says, "The cross made the difference for me". That sums it up completely. Without the cross we were lost and doomed to death. With the cross we are free of our sins and saved from death. What a blessing the cross is. Thank you, Jesus.

"And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27 NIV).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Memories of Bethel Grove

Bethel Grove Church has been my home church for all of my life. That's a long time. Over that many years there have been many memories. Most are not historically important. They are just part of what makes the church so special to me. Sometimes it is important to step back and review the memories you hold so you realize how special a place or group of people is to you.

One of my earliest memories was when I was three and a flower girl in my big sister's wedding. I'm sure Marcella's memories are much different than mine. I was dressed up and spent most of my time sitting down and standing up and I'd guess I didn't do any of the flower girl stuff I was supposed to do.

Another early memory was of sitting in the old basement where the kids' Sunday School was located. My Aunt Ilo and Uncle Morris May were helping with the children as we investigated the new tables and chairs and toys that had arrived. There was a toy tractor to ride, with a wagon, and baby beds with new cloth dolls. I don't remember where we got them or who made them but it was a special time in the kids' playroom.

One of my most embarrassing memories was of a Christmas program when I sang a solo. Only once. It was awful. I sang the song about the animals in the stable - I've obviously blocked this memory from my brain because I can't remember the name of the song. I just remember my voice didn't do what it was supposed to do and I was humiliated.

Fortunately most of my memories are good. My church has been a blessing to me all these years and will continue to be so for as many years as I am blessed to attend.

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Robins Return to Iowa

Finally the true sign of spring has arrived--the robins! Now I know spring is truly here though we could still have some snowflakes, hopefully the calendar and the weather will be on the same page.
Tomorrow is the first day of spring officially so the robins have good timing. It is always fun to watch them hop their way around the yard searching for worms though this year the ground seems hard and dry now that the snow has melted.

Buds are beginning to show on the trees and the tulips are up about an inch or two so far. The geese too have been returning overhead, honking their chorus as they look for familiar territory. Their formations point north as they move across the sky.

The robins' big orange chests look puffy and proud as they check out trees for nesting locations. They add color to the otherwise gray and brown setting that is just waiting to pop with a palette of green.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Granddog Lou

We're dog sitting our granddog Tallulah Lou, a miniature Boston Terrier, this week. She's got me wrapped around her little black toe and she's living a good life. Lou enjoys the farm and has enjoyed the nice weather. We take walks to the mailbox and she loves exploring. I imagine she smells all our rabbits' tracks and she is ready to go crazy wanting to follow them all.

Lou has a little whine that is almost irresistible. I don't always know what she wants but after several trips outside I figure it can't been to go potty again. Her weakness is treats; just like mine. I give her a treat after she goes outside so she wants to go outside a lot. Lou likes to be where I am, following me through the house and lying down next to me when I'm sitting down, as in typing this blog.

I know a dog is supposed to be man's best friend. What about woman's? Is a cat supposed to be woman's best friend? I wonder where that saying came from. I don't doubt that a dog is man's and woman's best friend. Dogs certainly become part of the family and are loved completely by their owners.

Our guard dog, Bella, is a dog for our sheep so we cannot pet her or relate to her like most dogs who are pets. Yet, we have a relationship with her based on years of learning about each other. She knows us and trusts us to a point or a distance away from her. She is loved even though we can't cuddle with her or show our affection toward her.

God has given us many animals on this earth to care for. I doubt if dogs were on Noah's Ark but maybe they should have been.

"Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate , and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth" (Genesis 7:2-3 NIV).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Day of Kindness

"Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart"(Proverbs 3:3 NIV).

Kindness warms the heart through and through. Sometimes the smallest efforts can be the biggest blessings in life. A friendly note or a warm hug or touch on the arm can change the day into one worth remembering. A pleasant phone call, laughter shared, a sweet smile and a passing hello, are all little sparks of magic that can change the mood. Taking time to play a game or cuddle can bring a smile to the face and warm you.

Some friends from church were driving by one day as I was parked in a lot unloading my groceries. They stopped so the teenage son could load my heavy bag of dog food for me. That made my day. A surprise gift of a sheep picture suddenly appeared on my work desk and I never did find out who the sweet one was. I still cherish that plaque and wish I could thank that person for the kindness. A special homemade gift is given and it is sharing a part of yourself.

It doesn't take much time at all to surprise someone with a bit of kindness. What can you do for someone else today that will turn their day around. The store clerk who wears a frown; the bus driver who has had a bad day; the UPS driver who drops off a package; the doctor who has been rushing all day; they all need a bit of kindness to lift their day. Will you be the one to do it?

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12 NIV).

Monday, March 9, 2015

Thanking God for the Routine

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

Another Monday morning with an hour less sleep for the weekend and what is there to be thankful for? Why not the routine, the ordinary, the repeated, the mundane. Nearly every morning begins the same way; get up, make the bed, shower, get dressed, got to work (or not), it's the same routine done mindlessly so why not thank God for it all. That's what I did this morning. I thanked God for every little thing that gets my day going.

Thank you that I have a bed to sleep in with warm blankets and pillows. Thank you, Lord, that I can get up and out of that bed this morning. Thank you for the energy to pull up the covers and make the bed. Thank you for the water that flows freely from my faucets, for the warm water that wakens my body. Thank you, God, that I have a closet full of clothes to choose from that I can wear today and be comfortable. Thank you that I can be at home today, choosing not to go to work, what a blessing retirement is!

Thank you, God, that I can use a computer to write this blog and send it off for people to read if they choose. Thank you that I have a home to be comfortable in and with all the "stuff" we need to live easily. Thanks for my washing machine and dryer so I don't have to go to a laundry mat to clean our clothes. Thank you for a refrigerator and pantry that store food so I don't have to go to the grocery store every day. Thank you for a car to drive wherever I need to go, for a car that runs well and has gas in the tank. Thank you, God, for sights and sounds of your nature: the geese returning north, the sunshine's warmth, the approaching season of spring. Glory to God for my life as routine and ordinary as it is.

"I thank my God every time I remember you" (Philippians 1:3 NIV).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring Fever

It is the last cold day before a week-long warmup, the weather people say anyway. We had a short snow yesterday afternoon that coated the roads and buildings with a fresh clean look. Though it isn't 20 degrees yet, the sunshine and blue sky already bring thoughts of spring fever. With lots of snow to melt it will be slushy and messy long before the grass begins to turn green. So even though I know that spring won't be here to stay, I'm excited for the season of warmth and new birth to arrive.

We have a female cardinal who must have spring fever, too. She has been attacking the windows as if trying to come inside. She doesn't slam herself but flutters into the window attempting to look inside or perhaps she sees her reflection; I'm not sure what she is doing. This isn't new. The same female has been after our windows for several years but only recently has she returned to her primarily summertime activity. I think she has spring fever.

As I type this a variety of birds have visited outside my window, looking for food as the feeder is now empty. A  bluejay and a downy woodpecker have visited the tree outside my window. The woodpecker hops his way up and down the tree trunk in search of something to eat. The bluejay apparently was checking the status of the feeder and left disappointed. We've also had a hawk standing on watch for the past several weeks. Staking out a position on a fence post, he is watching for food of some kind, smaller birds perhaps or rodents. Though I haven't seen him catch a prey while I've been watching.

It appears that winter truly challenges the strongest and bravest in nature. In spring the toughest and luckiest remain. It hadn't occurred to me that spring was also the time wars began in the Bible. Perhaps they used winter to plan and scheme attacks and fortify their weapons and armies. As spring draws closer it reminds me that God is always in control.

"In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, Joab led out the armed forces" (1 Chronicles 20:1 NIV).

Monday, March 2, 2015

In Like a Lamb

It's March and the old saying goes, In Like a Lamb... Out Like a Lion. I guess March came in like a lamb in Iowa anyway. It's been mild and calm, two prerequisites for weather like a lamb, I'd say. As I write this the outdoor ewes (mamas whose babies have been weaned) are the picture of calm and peace. They are all lying in front of the shed enjoying the sunshine, chewing their cud.

March is known for its extremes, I believe. It's the time when seasons fluctuate between winter and spring with a mixture of both. Giving us hope for the season of new birth and renewal while mixed with days of gloom and cold and even the occasional girls' basketball tournament week blizzards. It's a month of basketball madness with tournaments at both the high school and college levels. There are the highs of great wins and the lows of disappointing losses.

March is the Lenten season of preparation for a holy week like no other. With Jesus we travel to the deepest depths of sorrow followed by the highest hopes of heaven. Our hearts are broken as Jesus is hung upon the cross, sinless, unbroken, devoted. Yet, to be lifted up to delight in His overcoming in Resurrection. Our Savior, our beloved, our shepherd.

"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'"(John 21:15 NIV).