Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lay Hold of Jesus

I was reading a devotional on Monday by Margaret Feinburg and it touched my heart so much I felt as if I had to share it with you all. “ The 40 days leading up to Easter can be some of the most life-giving, perspective-changing, revolutionary times of your year.  The Lenten Season marries repentance of sins and renewal of faith and is a rich opportunity to pursue God, stir your hunger for God and press your ear against the heavens so God can direct your path. This is the time to slough off the excess in our lives that we may live lighter and holier lives. This 40-day reset gives us the opportunity to live in gentle receptivity of God and create habits that we'll carry on throughout the year.  Often, however, the sole focus of the season is one simple question: “What are you giving up for Lent?”  Popular responses include everything from sugar to sodas, television to Twitter, Facebook to frenzied schedules. But perhaps we should be asking a better question as we prepare for Lent: “What do you want to lay hold of?”  A few years ago, instead of putting down the sweets or giving up the coffee, I felt compelled to read the entire Bible during Lent and invite others to join me. Thousands from around the world responded. I was left wonderstruck as pastors, churches, parents, kids, coworkers, and friends dove headfirst into the great big story of God. What I didn’t realize at the time is that many of the passages that came alive as I read would soon become my lifeline. Just a few months later we were ambushed with a heart wrenching call from a doctor. I was diagnosed with cancer.  The reading of Scripture had prepared me to fight cancer with an unusual weapon: joy, and that has made all the difference, but that might not have happened if I was only focused on what I should give up instead of what I could gain during this special time. Consider inviting your family and friends or small group to join in reading through the Gospels this Lent. Enter this time with prayer and faith that Christ will meet you, reveal Himself to you and surprise you as you seek to lay hold of more of Him.  I don’t know the one thing you should give up for Lent, but I do know the one thing you should lay hold of: Jesus.”  God Bless You All as we begin the season of Lent. Karen

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Road Traveled Less....Or Not At All

My sermon this week is entitled The Less Traveled Road.  My scripture text comes from Mark 8:31-38
Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both.  And be one traveler, long I stood, And looked down as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth;Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as far that the passing there, Had worn them really about the same. And both that morning equally lay, In leaves no step had trodden back, O, I kept the first for another day! Yet, knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh.  Somewhere ages and ages hence; Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

You know the less traveled road can be the more difficult road, but at the same time it can be the most wondrous road. The less traveled road can be filled with wonder as only a few have seen what lie in its path. The less traveled road can be filled with excitement as the unexpected can lie beyond each bend.

Jesus is talking about the less traveled road in our gospel lesson this morning. Jesus begins teaching the disciples about what is going to happen next in his ministry. Jesus tells the disciples that the son of man, Jesus himself, must suffer many things, be rejected by all the religious rulers and die and then rise on the third day.

This was the less traveled road of the cross, of suffering, of dying. This is the less traveled road of the theology of the cross. This is the less traveled road of dying for the sake of the good news.

And then Peter stopped Jesus in his tracks and said “Wait a minute. This can’t be right. You can’t be telling us that this is the way of God.” Peter is saying this because he has traveled the wrong path, the path that says success, power and glory are the way of the world and the way of God. Not death, not the cross!

Walt Wangerin in his The Book of God describes this event from Peter’s point of view, as follows:

"He [Jesus] said, "Things are going to change now." He heaved a sigh. We all were moving with him now toward the little spring of water. He said, "I have to go to Jerusalem. When I get there, I will suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and the scribes. I’m telling you now so that you need not be surprised when it happens. It will happen."

Jesus knelt down by the spring, cold from the earth. He made a cup of his hands and scooped water. Just before he started to drink, he said, "I will be killed in Jerusalem, and on the third day be raised --"  I spoke again. I said the most natural thing there was to say. Well, my feelings were so hurt by Jesus’ words. Be *killed*? Was this the gloomy thing he’d been thinking about all the time?  I grabbed his wrist and shouted, "No!" The water splashed from his hands.  "No, God won’t allow it!" I cried.  On account of my feelings, I was gripping him with all my strength. But he started to pry my fingers from his wrist. He had terrible power in his hands.  I blustered on. Surely he knew that I was arguing out of love for him! "O Lord," I said, "this can never happen to you!"

After Jesus criticizes Peter, Wangerin emphasizes these thoughts in Peter

"No, but I do care for the things of God! And I love you, Lord Jesus! This is so confusing. One minute I’m Peter; the next minute I’m Satan, but I didn’t change! How can plain love cause such outrage in the Lord?" Peter loved Jesus but could not understand this untraveled road Jesus was to embark. He could not understand that suffering was the way of Jesus. For the road that Peter traveled and wanted Jesus to travel was the road of glory, success, power and might. Jesus was supposed to be a conquering Messiah, not a dead one.  And then just as Peter is trying to understand this, Jesus turns to all of them and says: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Verse 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Jesus is telling the disciples that now they have to travel that less traveled road of sacrifice and cross bearing. Jesus is telling them to leave the worn path of success, of power, of prestige, of glory and to follow the path of sacrifice, of loosing oneself to Jesus. Jesus is asking the disciples to loose their lives in Him and in that they will find their lives.

C. S. Lewis puts it this way, "Christ says: give me all. I don’t want only so much of your time or money or work, I want you. No half-measures are good enough. Hand over the whole self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as theories you think wicked--the whole outfit. And I will give you a new self instead,"

Jesus wants us to lose our lives in him and in so doing he will give us a new life. But what kind of new life?

Some would say a life of glory and success. Some would say that if you are right with God everything in your life will be glorious.  The gospel of the twentieth century would be pleasing to Peter. We have become convinced that God has only blessings in store for us. Success without suffering; promise without pain.

We have been told, "Only believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and all you have ever dreamed of will be yours." According to Mark, Jesus has one word for these dream merchants— these preachers of a painless gospel— and that word is "Satan!"

What would this new life be like? It was will be a life of self -sacrifice, a life of giving to others, a life of putting my needs second to the needs of the suffering in this world.

Peter had it all wrong. Many in today’s churches have a mistaken idea of what it means to be in Christ. It means letting go of self and living for Christ and for our neighbors.

Living for Christ and in Christ does not necessarily mean that everything in your life or my life will be glorious. For what happens if your life is not glorious? What happens if you don’t succeed as some would have us believe is the way of the gospel? It leads to guilt, to thinking that my faith is not as good as anothers. Do we measure faith by our successes, I think not.

Faith is not measured by us or for us, but is a gift from God to be used. Our standing in life, whether we have health, wealth or prosperity is not a measure of our faith.

Faith is living by the cross and in the cross and through the cross which leads to the resurrection which gives my life meaning and purpose.

Which road will you chose on the path of life? The road that Peter wanted, or the road that Jesus taught in today’s gospel lesson?

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --I took the one less traveled by,  And that has made all the difference.  Amen



Playing for Keeps

My scripture for today is: Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Mark 8:34-36

When I was a child, one of my favorite games was the game of marbles. I don't see children playing marbles any more.  We would play outside in the dirt and the marbles would not roll well.  Sometimes we would play in the road and the marbles would move quickly out of the circle.  Some of you may not even know how to play marbles. Let me explain how we used to play marbles when I was a child.

First, you draw a big ring in the dirt. Then each player puts the same number of his own marbles into the ring. The players then take turns shooting a marble, like this, (demonstrate) trying to knock the other marbles out of the ring. When a shooter knocks a marble out of the ring, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. If his shooting marble stays inside the ring, he was allowed to keep shooting. If not, the next shooter takes his turn. When all the marbles have been knocked out of the ring, they are counted and the one with the most marbles is the winner.

Before a game of marbles begins, one player will sometimes ask the other players, "Are we playing for fun, or are we playing for keeps?" If you just play for fun, when the game is over, the winner gives the marbles back. But if you play for keeps, the winner gets to keep all of the marbles he has won.

Some people live their life as if it were a game of marbles. They spend their whole life trying to be the one with the most marbles. They think that the one with the biggest house, the fanciest car, and the most money in the bank is the winner. They think they are playing "for keeps," but when they come to the end of their life, do you know how many of their marbles they get to take with them? None of them! They spend their whole life trying to win all of the marbles, but in the end, they are left with nothing!

Jesus said that if we want to be real winners we must be willing to give up everything and follow him. When we follow Jesus, we may not have a lot of the things that some people think are important. We may not live in a big house or drive a fancy car, but we will have something that is much better than that, we will have treasures laid up for us in heaven. When we get to heaven, there will be a mansion waiting for us to move in and we will walk around on streets of gold. Best of all, we will have everlasting life with Jesus. You see, when we give our lives to Jesus, HE "plays for keeps."

Some people will give anything to get more marbles, but Jesus asked "What good will it do them if they gain the whole world, but lose their soul?"

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Week of Weirdness

This week has been a major week of weirdness.  It all began last Friday, February 20th.  The kids had a holiday and we had an all day inservice.  I was presenting one of the sessions with three other teachers and very excited about getting to do this.  Right before we were to break for lunch I called in a lunch order so I could eat at my desk and finish up some stuff.  Right before I left to get my lunch they made an announcement for us to go directly home due to bad weather that was headed our way and affecting the trip home for some of our teachers who live in the Anniston/Oxford area.  I did as I was told, stopped long enough to pick up the Friday lunch special from the Main Street Coffee Shop and headed to the house.   Frank and I shared the loaded potato and waited for the bad weather.  Monday was a no school and the only bad weather we had seen so far was rain and biting cold.  Monday night the temperatures began to plummet and they delayed school for Tuesday by three hours.  Fourth period would be the first class of the I did not see my first through third periods.  Late Tuesday night we were put under a winter storm school was called for Wednesday. It rained all day here.  Ice did coat the roads in the northern end of the county where my school is....and the bridges (I cross two each day). Thursday school was delayed for three hours because of the ice on roads and bridges.  Again we started with fourth period so I did not see my first three classes.  At this point in the week I had not seen them since Thursday the 19th.  It was weird.  Friday dawned gloriously....there was sun....bitter temperatures and small patches of ice....but we went to school as usual.  By the time I left Wedowee (RCHS) to go to Wadley(WHS) I was exhausted.  This was our first full day this week and I taught all my classes....IT WAS EXHAUSTING!  and weird!  I will be so glad to see Spring!  I am tired of the cold!  This southern girl is over the winter concept.  BTW....on my way to school this morning...I met a car headed South on Hwy 431 with a 3 inch layer of SNOW on it.  I started to chase them down and ask if I could have enough to make just one snowball. I may be over winter....but I am still a kid at heart.  I hope you all are warm and cozy....winter will be gone soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Hodge Podge - Last for February

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge!  If you've answered the questions, add your link at the end of Joyce's post, then go see what your neighbors had to say.  Here we go-

1. Did you watch The Oscars? How many of the Best Picture nominees have you seen? (American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, Selma, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash). Do you think actors should use their acceptance speeches as an opportunity to promote their political and/or social agenda? Does that sort of speech make you more or less inclined to change the channel?  I did not watch The Oscars. I never watch award shows.  From what I saw on the Today Show the next morning the show was not at it's best.  I was especially appalled at the behavior of John Travolta. I have not seen any of the movies you mentioned yet.  I have not had time to go to the movies.  I would like to see American Sniper and Selma, especially since I live in Alabama.
2.Speaking of the movies...are you comfortable going to a movie alone? How about dinner in a restaurant (not fast foo, but an actual restaurant)? The second half of this question was posed by Carrie who blogs over at It's Not Easy Being Queen. Thanks Carrie!  I don't like going to the movies alone nor do I like dinner in a restaurant.  If I have to eat alone...I will pick up fast food or make a sandwich at home. I don't like being a party of one.
3.What's the last home repair or home improvement project you had to pay someone to complete? In hindsight was this a project you could have done yourself?  The church had the cabinets in the kitchen redone and they are gorgeous.  I would try this on my own. 
4. Have you ever had Indian food? Like it or no? If you're a fan, what's your favorite dish? Have you ever prepared this yourself at home? Is there an Indian restaurant in your current hometown?
I an take or leave Indian food. My stomach does not love spicy food so I try and leave it alone.  The first time I had it was in England and I was up sick all night. The closest Indian restaurant is about 45 minutes from here in Auburn.  We eat there occasionally.
 5. A song that reminds you of your parents?  It Is Well reminds me of my dad and What A Friend We Have in Jesus, my mom.  Together is it Tennessee Waltz.  Everytime they heard it they would dance and I loved watching them.
6. The 26th of February is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. What's your favorite, or one of your favorite, fairy tales? Do you have any childhood memories associated with a particular fairy tale?
When I was little my mom always read fairy tales to me.  Cinderella was my favorite. I also loved Snow White, Rapunzel, and the rest.... I plan to see Cinderella, the movie, soon.
7. What's a problem you solved yesterday?  Whether or not to call Bible Study tonight due to the weather.  I called it because I have several elderly members that attend and I did not want them driving in the snow and ice.
8. Insert your own random thought here.

Have you ever had a Murphy's Law week?  We had a holiday on Monday.  I stayed home and did lesson plans for this week...then we had a three hour delay to school on Tuesday due to weather....and that affected three of my classes.  Today we did not have school at all....and tomorrow we have a three hour delay...looks like it is back to the drawing board with my lesson plans.  SIGH!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bundt Meat Loaf

One of my church members made and shared this recipe on Facebook.  I have had a good bit of time on my hands this week (holiday Monday, 3 hour delay Tuesday, No School Wednesday, 3 hour delay again on Thursday) so I thought I would try it out.  It was delish and I thought I would share it.  We have dinner at my church every second Sunday and this might just be a great crowd pleaser. 

11/2 lb ground beef                            
1 box stove top stuffing any flavor                            
1 c warm water                            
1 pkg onion soup mix                            
2 large eggs                            

8 potatoes                            

1/2 stick butter                            
enough milk to make potatoes smooth                            
1 jar(s) beef gravy, or one package(following directions) or make your own                            
1 Preheat oven 350 degrees. Coat a bundt pan with cooking spray.            
2 Place stuffing mix, onion soup mix and water in bowl let sit until water is absorbed. Add eggs and beef. Pour into bundt pan and bake for 1 hour.            
3 Meanwhile make the potatoes by peeling them and boiling them and mashing them with butter and milk.            
4 When meatloaf is done turn out onto a serving plate. Fill whole with potatoes and ladle gravy over top

Monday, February 23, 2015

You Are My Sunshine

My mother's favorite two songs were:  What A Friend We Have In Jesus and You Are My Sunshine.  I always wondered where the second song came from.  Today I had my mom on my mind and thought I would do a little web surfing and see what the history of the song might be.  The story I found was very touching.  "You Are My Sunshine" is a popular song written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell and first recorded in 1939. It has been declared one of the state songs of Louisiana as a result of its association with former state governor and country music singer Jimmie Davis. According to a 1990 article by Theodore Pappas, the original song was written by Oliver Hood.  The song has been covered numerous times — so often, in fact, that it is "one of the most commercially programmed numbers in American popular music." The song, originally country music, has "virtually lost" its original country music identity, and "represent[s] both the national flowering of country music and its eventual absorption into the mainstream of American popular culture.”  In 1941, it was covered by Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Mississippi John Hurt and Lawrence Welk.  In subsequent years, it was covered by Ike and Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Brian Wilson, Jamey Johnson, and Andy Williams, amongst many others.[3]
The 1940 version by Davis has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress on March 21, 2013 for long-term preservation.   
When tornado sirens rang out in Moore, Okla., teachers at the Agape Land Learning Center rushed their 15 students into the bathrooms — the safest place in their brick building. To protect their charges, the adults draped them in a protective covering; to keep them from panicking, they sang songs through the storm.
This was reported by the New York Times, they led the children in a round of “You Are My Sunshine,” which might seem gently ironic — or perhaps even subtly defiant — given the dangerous weather all around them. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” they sang. “You make me happy when skies are gray.”

That story has become one of the main talking points in the news coverage of the Oklahoma tornadoes. It shows a bit of everyday heroism in the face of great destruction, reminiscent of similar lifesaving actions at Sandy Hook. Still, what makes the story so powerful is not simply the teachers’ common-sense decision to move the students into the bathrooms. Instead, it’s the image of everybody singing “You Are My Sunshine” in the eye of the storm. It’s hard to imagine the fear and uncertainty they faced, or even how the youngest of their charges would have responded, but certainly the situation lent new gravity to that final line of the chorus: “Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Everybody knows the song. You know it. I know it. The kids in Oklahoma know it. So does everyone who reads about the Oklahoma tornadoes. “You Are My Sunshine” is so deeply embedded in the popular culture that most people can’t even remember when they first heard it. They’ve simply lived with it from the time they developed a memory. I can fondly recall my Grandmother Love singing it to me when I was 3 or 4 and I would fall asleep in her giant four-poster bed. I sang along with her, so it can’t have been my first exposure to the tune. Or perhaps I simply picked up the words and the melody as she sang them to me. It’s a remarkably simple tune, especially when you excise the verses and focus exclusively on the chorus — as almost everybody does.

Until the day my mom died it was always our parting song when I left her at the nursing home.  She would hug me and ask me to sing her song.  I would sing it to her and until Alzheimer's took her from me would sing it along with me.  I knew her time was short when she would just close her eyes and smile.  She was seeing my daddy in her mind and waiting to join Her Special Sunshine.