Monday, November 30, 2015

An Empty Barn

Almost anyway. For two months John has been closing shop on his sheep operation. Most of the equipment has been sold and picked up and all but three sheep have moved on to greener pastures - not literally, it is nearly winter in Iowa. Once the State Fair was over, John made the decision to not go through another lambing year with his flock of nearly sixty ewes. It was just too much work; he was getting worn out. He has been putting in 16 hour days for way too many years and the cold is brutal on his tired bones.

This time has been coming for several years but it finally all worked out quite perfectly this year. Most of the ewes were already off the farm being bred, leaving just the show lambs to disperse. One by one they were sorted. Most of the ewe lambs joined the rest of the flock for future breeding. The wethers were either saved for the last show in Louisville, KY mid-November or purchased to continue to be shown by someone else, or the last three remain in the barn waiting for the next trailer ride to the Colfax sale barn.

God richly blessed us during the sheep showing years. The quality of the lambs improved each year due to better rams and breeding plans. We were able to watch our grandchildren learn and improve with each new year of show lambs. They moved from being novices to winning statewide showmanship awards. We watched our boys, now fathers, teach their children the best of the techniques in shearing and showing and saw the pride in their faces as they excelled.

There was no mass exodus to watch. Instead, the barn numbers just gradually decreased to the point of being empty. I'm thankful it happened this way. It would have been very sad to watch them all leave at once. I think this helped John, too. He has only felt good about his decision and relieved to have the hard work behind him. The last of the manure has been spread and the empty barns are ready for their next use.

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7 NIV).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care" (Psalm 95:1-7 NIV).

Today all across America families gather together to celebrate with thankful hearts and minds the blessing of living in a country of freedoms. In just the past few weeks our freedoms have been challenged again by terrorists and our hope of peace seems to fade. Yet we belong to the Prince of Peace who is our Hope and our Savior. Our battles have already been won. This is our hope on a day when we lift our voices in Thanksgiving and celebrate the season of harvest.

The traditional hymn, "We Gather Together" rings in my head as I ponder the many blessings I have to be thankful for today. I'm so blessed to have most of my family close enough that we can be together and I don't take that for granted because I know many are not so fortunate. As we squeeze chairs around a table that has become too small, our hearts will be overflowing with gratitude. The food is fragrant and bountiful, the house is warm and relaxing, the company is delightful and well loved. May the words of that old hymn ring true this blessed Thanksgiving.

"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known; The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing, Sing praises to His name: He forgets not His own. Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine; So from the beginning the fight we were winning: Thou, Lord, wast at our side, all glory be Thine! We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant, And pray that Thou still our Defender wilt be. Let Thy congregation escape tribulation: Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!"
(We Gather Together, Netherlands folk hymn by Edward Kremser, 1877)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Every Day a Blessing

It is Thanksgiving week, as you know, so I'm continuing my thanksgiving writings. There is so much to thank God for every day and today is no exception. We had our first snowfall of the year on Friday, a seven inch heavy wet snow. It was especially beautiful as the snow gathered in the trees creating a winter wonderland. Gently placed snow caps topped off all the evergreen bushes and a blanket of white covered the ground. His love endures forever.

John noticed how happy it made our dog, Bella. She loves the cold weather and was frolicking through the snow like a puppy. She would bound back and forth with a big smile on her face, wagging her tail, pouncing upon imaginary snow creatures. His love endures forever.

I have noticed how light it is after dark. The moon is nearly full and the snow gives off a reflective light. I walked down to get the mail after dark and was able to see my moon shadows move across the ground. It felt just like God was walking with me. His love endures forever.

With the temperatures falling and the wind chills at or below zero this weekend it was so obvious to thank God for a warm home to take shelter in. Four walls, a roof overhead, and a floor beneath is such a blessing that I can't help but ache for those who are homeless any time of year. But even beyond the house, look at all that we take for granted inside that makes our lives so comfortable and easy. A soft bed with pillows and warm blankets, running hot or cold water at our beckon call, a refrigerator to keep cold food cold, electricity to operate any appliance you can imagine - this computer, lights to brighten the dark nights, microwaves that pop corn and zap pizza, toothbrushes that do the brushing, garage doors that open at the push of a button...and on and on. His love endures forever.

To thank God only one time of the year is just inadequate. There are blessings every day, every hour, every minute, every second and beyond. Each breath that we take is God-given. Every thought we ponder is God-related. Every move that we make is God-created. His love endures forever.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever...Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever" (Psalm 136:1-3, 26 NIV).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Blessing of Family

I can't approach Thanksgiving without thanking God for family. Mine is not exactly the traditional family; I was child number five - a surprise to everyone but my mother, I was told. She said she wanted a baby to get her out of her church work. That didn't work out so well for her.

The Springer children span 20 years, oldest to youngest. Sister, brother, sister, sister, me. The first three: Burneta, Gerald and Marcella were a team, growing up together. It was eight years before sister Marlene joined the trio. She was the baby for 10 years before I finally came along and spoiled that arrangement.

Brother Gerald was and always will be the special one. He was the only boy. He had a delightful, fun-loving personality, and he died too young, suddenly at age 19, when I was only one. Our family can be defined by brother Gerald: before and after Gerald. Hearts remain broken even after all these years.

My heartbreak is in not getting to love him or to make my own memories with him. My sisters' grief runs far deeper, I'm sure. All that I know about brother Gerald is from others' memories. I hardly know enough to share. He was an athlete and a farm boy involved in 4-H showing calves and pigs at the fairs. He was quite a teaser and a bit ornery, I'd guess. He worked construction and went to college at William Penn. He fell in love, married and had a baby son. Then his life came abruptly to an end, crushing hearts and dreams for a future that never had the chance to become reality. Our family's lives were forever changed.

This isn't what I planned to write about today; that's the way it goes sometimes. When I think of family I'm drawn to those who are missing now: Gerald, Mama and Daddy. One blessing is that I believe they are reunited now. I'm so thankful for family, past and present. I thank God for the blessings of sisterhood and for brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews. I'm thankful for memories and cherished moments of togetherness.

"I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 104:33-34 NIV).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Blessed by the Gifts of Others

Yesterday we were blessed by the gifts of others. Our morning worship was wonderful and featured the vocal and instrumental musical talents of many and the speaking gifts of our pastor, worship leader and elders. Together they were able to spread God's grace to hearts throughout the room. The hugs and hospitality of others during fellowship warmed hearts even more and the knowledge and teaching shared in Sunday school classes helped us grow in the Word of God. The leadership exhibited in the board meeting was another gift example of administration and volunteerism.

In the afternoon we were lucky enough to get tickets to attend the BCLUW Drama Department's presentation of "The Wizard of Oz." What fun to watch a number of our church youth who were involved in every aspect of the show. From the amazing sets, costumes and excellent music the play was absolutely delightful. And oh the talent of those students involved was incredible! The dedication of these students to practice for months enabled them to perform their characters flawlessly. I could feel their relief and yet sadness as the final presentation came to an end.  We were so blessed to have experienced this grand undertaking by a small school. It truly took the cooperation and commitment of the whole community to pull off such a remarkable production. Kudos and thank you to everyone involved; we loved it.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Night Skies

It is the time of year when there is a lot of night. The darkness settles in almost before the evening news and it seems like time to go to bed before supper. But November night skies offer their brilliance as well. Being in Central Iowa offers a unique perspective on the skies. Although not visible from our house, out on the roads the horizon is dotted with blinking red lights to the northeast, along the south, and to the west. A sign of the times of renewable energy. Each blinking red light represents a powerful wind energy generator. These wind farms have only recently become part of our skyline, relatively speaking that is, most within the past five years.

The lights warn airplanes not to fly too low as the wind towers stand high in the sky, reduced only to the blinking red lights at night. The northeast flashers are the most recent, I believe; located in the Green Mountain area while the southern lights are located in the Laurel area of Marshall County. The western lights come from wind turbines located in eastern Story County. It is an interesting sight when they all surround you on the roads.

November nights also bring out another common sighting: deer. Now that the farm fields are mostly barren and the hunting season is on, the deer are in constant movement, seeking food, shelter, and escape from the hunters waiting in the woods. The Iowa River runs through Marshall County and along it are acres and acres of wooded ground where the deer make their home. I have only hit one deer with a car but our family has racked up four collisions in all over the years. I am all too aware of their presence - cautiously searching the ditches for shiny eyes that reflect the car lights; scanning the fields for signs of movement. Last night there were two sightings. One doe loped across the road a few hundred feet ahead of me, and one buck remained posed at attention in the ditch as I drove by.

In the darkness of night it becomes evident what a rural area I live in. Just a spattering of white lights dots the landscape until you approach a town. Yet the sky is aglow with the constellations. Who but God could create such beauty. Thank you, Lord.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:1-4 NIV).

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Ultimate Friend

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friendsYou are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:12-17 NIV).

The old hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" comes to mind immediately as I read this scripture. The song title needs an exclamation point at the end. Actually the phrase continues "All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!" Truly, we are so blessed to have Jesus as our ultimate friend in life. No matter how troubled our lives may be or how discouraged we feel, we can come to Jesus with every burden and lay it down at his feet. And he will carry it for us.

As the scripture says, Jesus calls us to be a friend to others as well. We are to open our hearts and love each other. Sometimes we may feel lonely and sorry for ourselves, thinking that we don't have a friend in the world, but that is the time we need to reach out and love others. Jesus calls us to be a friend and to share his love. Perhaps you know someone who is feeling lonely or sad. Jesus commands us to love each other. He has shown us all that he learned from his Father and he chose us to bear fruit that will last. Showing love to others creates a fruitful life.

In this season of Thanksgiving I'm so thankful to know my ultimate friend, Jesus. "In His arms He'll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there."

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gray Skies

This has been a week of morning gray skies. The clouds or fog have rolled in nearly every morning and hidden the sun from our sight. It makes me feel cold as I look over the leaf-bare trees, but the weather has been mild. The grayness just seems to beckon a chill; it is probably because the sun isn't warming me through the windows. Still, I am called to be thankful for bleak days as well as the sunny ones.

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care" (Psalm 95:1-7 NIV).

Today we have clouds that are supposed to develop into rain later in the day. In the Midwest we need a mix of sun and rain for the trees and plants to grow. Our beautiful black soil holds a bounty of vitamins to help things grow in season. God created the unique features of every land formation with His own hands. Just as we are the flock under His care, God blesses the land and the skies with what it needs to thrive.

As I look out over the fall landscape shrouded in the blanket of gray skies, I am thankful for the blessing of change. I know that when the sun next appears, I will rejoice with a thankful heart for its return. God knows what is best for us and the gray skies remind us that He is in control. I praise God for the variety He created in our lives. On bended knee I lift my praise to Him with thanksgiving; yes, even for the gray skies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November - A Month for Thanksgiving

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100 NIV).

Just as the trees stand barren without leaves, their branches reaching toward the heavens, it's time to stand tall with arms stretched in praise to God, the Maker of all things. There is so much to be thankful for during this time of year. The farmers have been blessed with good weather for harvesting. The grass remains green because of gentle rains and mild temperatures. The beauty of the changing seasons is all around us. We are blessed in Iowa to enjoy several days of 70 degree weather this week, delaying the arrival of the cold wind that often precedes the winter season.

But today I'm feeling thankful for being one of God's people. I claim His promise of love and faithfulness through all generations for myself, my children and my grandchildren. I am blessed to be the sheep of his pasture, protected and lovingly cared for! Great is our God and He is worthy of praise and thanksgiving. May our hearts be filled with gratitude this month, bringing God closer to us as we worship Him with our whole being. May we know that we are created in His image and be led to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, while lifting our voices in joyful music. Amen.